Category: music

Continuous Hit Music: Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On the Edge of Town

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ’em all here.

Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Title: Darkness On the Edge of Town
Original Release: 1978
Label: CBS
Store: Rozelle Markets, 663 Darling Street  Rozelle NSW 2039
Price: $10
(Original US printing)

Markets. More than ever, they seem to be the place to pick up the odd record. Records have deeply fallen in with the vintage crowd. And Rozelle markets, a medium sized affair, has three or four dedicated record stalls. And then some of the stalls have a random pile of records in the corner somewhere too.

There’s a lot of these guys doing the rounds. Some have eBay stalls as well. But I see the same faces and the same records at some of these stalls. One guy in particular has been trying to flog off a Easybeats compilation with a great sleeve but horrible scratches at about four markets I’ve been to.

Maybe if I get to these markets earlier there would be a better selection. But I doubt these guys dig out their finest stuff for the markets. What they do have a lot of is mid-level finds. And I can never have more mid-level finds.

Despite Sony’s work in recent years, Darkness At the Edge of Town is not one of Springsteen’s more famous albums. It doesn’t have any of his big radio singles. No ‘Born To Run’, ‘Born In the USA’, ‘Dancing In the Dark’, ‘Hungry Heart’ etc. For a casual fan, looking at the tracklisting might lead them elsewhere.

In fact, it is kind of an unassuming album. Born To Run (1975), which came before this, was a revival of a dying career. A dramatic, commercial turn. The River (1980) that came after, was the ambitious double. Every album after has been an event. Where as Darkness came out after a long (and well documented elsewhere) break, and on the surface, offered more of the same.

I am a Springsteen fan. So I love this record. What it lacks in the big story, Springsteen offers us some of his finest songs. It’s his vision unencumbered by making some bigger point. That said, ‘The Promised Land‘ is probably a big an anthem as he’s ever made. But my personal favourites are the more tender moments, like ‘Racing In the Street‘.

Sony reissued Darkness a couple of years ago in a lovely book form. There are plenty of reviews online to read if you want to decide for yourself. If you’ve not heard much Springsteen before and are keen to, I wouldn’t start here. I would go with Born To Run.

Interestingly enough, this is my first Springsteen album on vinyl. I always see the stuff around, I guess because they made so much of it. It’s so regular I figured I’d get around to it one day. Good thing about this blog project that that day is now.

One final thought on this album – one that has always bugged me. The album cover is terrible. In the middle of a run of iconic album covers, he doesn’t even look like he thought about this one. The back cover is pretty much the same photo without the jacket. Who thought of this? Anyway, another reason this album is just short of a classic.

Continuous Hit Music: Donovan – Greatest Hits

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ’em all here.

Artist: Donovan
Title: Greatest Hits
Original Release: 1969
Label: Columbia
Store: Rick Rack Retro, Summer Hill, 136 Smith St, Summer Hill
Price: $10
(Original US printing)

Rick Rack Retro seems to be one of a thousand cool second hand knicknack places. King St in Newtown is full of them. The growingly trendy suburb of Summer Hill has a couple too. And amongst the retro clothes and vintage kitsch cutlery, most of them have a box of records somewhere. Who knows how this stuff got there, but most of the time they have something worth buying.

The choice this time around was between a copy of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Volume 1, or this Donovan collection. Poor Donovan. Even in a box under some clothes in the suburbs of Australia, he’s up against Dylan. You’re lucky the Dylan sleeve was slightly more worn.

I should like Donovan more than I do. I very much enjoy all the songs of his I’ve come across. But even on CD, I only own this Greatest Hits title. If I could, I would like to blame the people at Sony Legacy for this. With no box set or deluxe reissues, my money went elsewhere, to newer reissues that seemed to be more important. Fuck, I’ve bought My Aim Is True like 5 times. God I’m a sucker.

Speaking of the CD, and blaming Sony Legacy, what the hell is wrong with the tracklisting? Looks as though the CD has mixed up sides 1 & 2 completely! Compared the the vinyl, the CD runs tracks 7-12, then 1-6 (then some extra tracks). I assume because the album cover lists the songs in another order again, that someone at Sony got confused and went with it. Poor Donovan.

The vinyl of this album, as I have also now discovered, features the superior ‘band’ version of ‘Catch the Wind’ and ‘Colours’, that were recorded for this album. Sony went and replaced them with the earlier versions on CD. The version of ‘Catch the Wind‘ when the big drums come in is THE version. The original clearly marks him out to be the sub-par Dylan he was to begin with. Poor Donovan.

Whatever the order, these tracks are still fantastic. There were so many cheap folkies in the 60s, but Donovan transcended that. He was trippier and a bit weirder. Which I guess mistakens his music for being softer, as it doesn’t sound very trippy today. Austraian fans have also had ‘Mellow Yellow’ ruined by that TV ad for Caramello chocolates. Poor Donovan.

Mismanagement and history aside, the songs are still fantastic. In addition to ‘Catch the Wind’, there is ‘Sunshine Superman’, ‘Wear Your Love Like Heaven’ and more. For a distilled, punchy, 12 track collection, it’s hard to go past it.

I see that Sony released a deluxe version of Sunshine Superman last year. Maybe it’s time I found out more about his catalogue. I have many friends who love him. Noel Gallagher named his kid after him. And there doesn’t seem to be a Bob Dylan reissue on the horizon.

Continuous Hit Music: Uncle Tupelo – Anodyne

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ’em all here.

Artist: Uncle Tupelo
Title: Anodyne
Original Release: 1993
Label: Sire
Store: Jelly Sounds
Price: $28.96
(Rhino reissue – 2010)

Firstly – Jelly Sounds. I have no idea who these guys are, and many of my vinyl mates have not heard of it either. Based out of Queensland, it is the best stocked and cheapest new vinyl site I can find. Even the shipping is cheap. They are cheaper than almost every Australian eBay seller I can find. Reliable, quick, and a great selection.

If you buy vinyl in Australia, I suggest you check it out.

And they stocked this record, Anodyne. For a few years it was my favourite album of all time. It is still well and truly up there. Rhino finally put out a excellent vinyl edition in 2010. I’m not even sure it ever came out on vinyl the first time around.

The story of this album is all over the internet. It is, along with maybe Son Volt’s Trace, the high watermark of this genre that came to be known as alt-country. It’s beautiful. It rocks. It has Doug Sahm. Most importantly, it is the last word on one of the greatest somgwriting partnerships of all rock. The riches of music that came from the bands that followed – Wilco and Son Volt – started here.

In a pub in London with a new super-boss, he asked the entire team what our favourite albums were. A highly inappropriate question, I think. I said it was Wilco’s Being There (still true, I guess). Michael commented that it would either be that or Uncle Tupelo, depending on how obscure I wanted to get.

The album has dated extremely well. So many bands still want to sound like this. Jay Farrar’s songs in particular hold up. Full of mystery and sadness, they still reveal new secrets almost 20 years later. It’s his use of words that is his greatest power. The album was called Anodyne for god’s sake. Not a popular word in popular music.

It is one of maybe 20 albums where I know all the chords and lyrics to. I played many of these songs in teenaged bands. Forcing people to learn them. I learnt harmonies listening to ‘New Madrid’. This record is a very big part of me.

It is a thrill to finally have it on vinyl. It’s a big gatefold record, and a nice quality pressing. It has been treated with priority care, like a new Wilco record.

If you’ve not heard Uncle Tupelo, or the rich well of ‘alt-country’ records that came before 2000, then this is the place to start. May it lead you to the Old 97’s, the Jayhawks, the Bottle Rockets, Slobberbone and all that.

When Wilco first toured Australia, I got to meet them, and we discussed Tupelo. Jeff said they couldn’t play the songs because Glenn, then the new drummer, didn’t know them. But Glenn said he would learn them if he had time. And yup, next show, they kicked into two songs from this album – ‘New Madrid‘ and ‘We’ve Been Had‘. I’ll never lose that memory.

Continuous Hit Music: The Rolling Stones – Hot Rocks 1964-1971

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ’em all here.

Artist: The Rolling Stones
Title: Hot Rocks 1964-1971
Original Release: 1971
Label: ABCKO
Store: Egg Records, 3 Wilson Street, Newtown, Sydney
Price: $19.99
(Original US pressing)

Egg Records in Newtown. I wrote about them before but not this year. A great place to find rare records in the hub of Newtown. Occasionally their website will announce, excitingly, that a new shipment of US records has come in.

And there they are, a bunch of boxes in the middle of the store, and a bunch of folks on their knees, going through them all. It’s usually the same old 60s and 70s American rock. They probably pick em up for under and tenner and sell them for double. There must be millions of Help! in the US.

But I finally decided to pick up Hot Rocks. It’s not an uncommon record, and you can probably find it for under $20. But this was in pretty good condition, and lately, I’ve just been loving the Rolling Stones.

Hot Rocks is the greatest. Every song on here are amongst the greatest works in popular music. It is also the best summation of the early Rolling Stones. If you for some reason feel like you only need one Rolling Stones title, this is the one. Of the dozens of Rolling Stones hit collections, this is easily the best.

It’s the story of the Rolling Stones I know best. It opens with Time Is On My Side. It’s gospel pop, and from that mid 60s baroque period they had. The first of this double album is full of them. Ruby Tuesday, As Tears Go By, Play With Fire, etc. And they start there!

Here’s the thing about the Rolling Stones. One too many shit, bluesy rock song, and people forget how great a pop band they were. Nowadays they are like AC/DC, rememberd for their big anthems that are variations of a musical theme. That It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, Start Me Up, Love Is Strong thing. But they were capable of stunning beauty. Yet, it’s hard to imagine them writing Ruby Tuesday today.

So for me, the Rolling Stones were always the band that did those thick sounding pop records (usually produced by Andrew Loog Oldham), and then did a bunch of great records in the early 70s. How can you deny such impulsive, urgent, nasty songs like 19th Nervous Breakdown and Paint It Black? How can you say these guys are just dumb rock ‘n’ rollers?

Album 2 collects tracks from their three greatest albums – Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers. You know the songs. Sympathy for the Devil. Gimme Shelter. Brown Sugar. Wild Horses.

Which is why I love this collection. One half is a collection fo 12 60s pop songs that are as good as any. The other is a snapshot of an band at the peak of their emotive powers. And it stops before it descends into parody and recycling.

The album cover was always odd, but makes more sense on vinyl – big and arty. The inner photos are great also, but how Mick’s face is so big on the inside cover, I don’t know. Surely Keith would have had a word?

Continuous Hit Music: Ben Folds – Best Imitation Of Myself: A Retrospective

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ’em all here.

Artist: Ben Folds
Title: Best Imitation Of Myself: A Retrospective
Original Release: 2011
Label: Legacy
Store: Red Eye Records, 143 York Street, Sydney
Price: $44.98

Red Eye is a Sydney institution. I started going there in the early 90s, after school, buying You Am I singles. I still go there, nowadays to chat to the staff and buy records. It is the only physical store I go in Sydney to buy new music.

They moved recently, and they cut down the room for their CDs, but still kept a generous record selection – both new and second hand. The selection of new vinyl is probably the best in Sydney. The only problem is stuff sells out so quickly. It’s often frustrating how quickly new titles sell out.

I would say that the only place that would stock this album on vinyl in Sydney would be Red Eye. If anyone knows one otherwise, I would like to know! And it’s the importance of physical retail because I wasn’t sure if I would pick up this record. But the hefty double vinyl just drew me in.

I love Ben Folds. He will be an evergreen artist for me, as long as I live. I loved Underground in 1994 (my introduction to augmented chords), and lived through and loved through every album since. (His last album, with Nick Hornby, has been well worn in my house/ipod)

But I was hesitant about this best-of. Just because I had it all. And this order of songs is not my order of songs. It’s not even my songs. My 20 favourite Ben Folds songs come from personal moments, and not singles that charted. I didn’t think I need this. Especially in the iPod era, I can just shuffle Ben Folds.

But if any point is left in compilations, then this is a good reminder. It’s Fold’s own tracklisting for you. Opening up this lovely double gatefold record, you are greeted with personal notes on every song. It’s great to read the songs that are important to him.

Two songs about his kids take prime position – and the contrast between the two songs (one defiant and big, the other sweet and small), tell a new story. I’ve never thought much of “The Luckiest”, but reading Folds’ notes on it give me a new perspective. There’s Always Someone Cooler Than You, never a single, is rightly included.

Better still is just that it’s a sprawling double album. I lovely afternoon sitting in a sun chair, reading liner notes, looking at photos and playing this record – there is nothing more pleasant. It was like a lovely concert. A playlist, a journey for the listener.

It’s easy for me to say there’s not a bad song on here. But I would probably say you need to get all the albums, if you want good music. But if you want a reason why big sprawling double best-ofs should exist, then this a good start.

Continuous Hit Music: Charlie Rich – Behind Closed Doors

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ’em all here.

Artist: Charlie Rich
Title: Behind Closed Doors
Original Release: 1973
Label: Epic
Store: An antique shop on Richlands Rd, Taralga, NSW
Price: $5

Amazing how I can spend money just about anywhere. Having headed to Taralga over the holidays for a wedding, some time was killed perusing one of the 5 shops in this small country town. One was a secondhand/oldwares shop. It had a box of records hidden away under some old board games and things. And even there I could find a couple of pieces worth having.

Technology is improving, and maybe one day, it will be easy and make financial sense for a small store like this to put their inventory online. Until then, there are treasures to be found. Not that this album is particularly rare either. Although the 7” of The Flame by Cheap Trick was a find. But I’ve deciding to just write about albums here.

I don’t know much about Charlie Rich really, outside of this one album, and a couple of other tracks. It seemed that when I started reading Gram Parsons and Elvis Costello drop country artist names, I went for George, Buck and Merle. But I picked up this album because everyone says it’s a classic.

Certainly there are classic songs on here. The title track is rightly regarded as a masterpiece. But it’s the little songs in this album. is about as sad a song as I’ve ever heard. Contrast it with The Most Beautiful Girl, a clear eyed love song, as sweet as ever been brewed.

The album was produced by Billy Sherrill. The man is Nashville through and through, famously distrusting Elvis Costello’s intentions when he came to Nashville to record Almost Blue. It’s 70s Nashville too – a bit croony, and a fair bit of schmaltzy strings. Sometimes it gets a bit much, and it certainly sounds dated. When Sherrill dials it back, like on I Take It On Home, it works better.

That said, you wouldn’t trade the strings or the crooning or anything for something as great as We Love Eachother. Big, sentimental and lovely – sometimes schmatlz works. It’s my favourite song on this album. Why be coy?

This seems like an American copy with an one of the more obscure Epic logos (three circles shaped like a lowercase “e”). Charmingly, it’s owner wrote his name on the back of the sleeve in pen. ‘Ray Goodlow, Dec 74”. I wonder if young Ray imagined the record would end up in Marrickville, 38 years later.

Continuous Hit Music: Graham Nash – Songs For Beginners

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ’em all here.

Artist: Graham Nash
Title: Songs For Beginners
Original Release: 1971
Label: Atlantic
Store: Landspeed Records, 30 Garema Place Canberra ACT 2601
Price: $10

Poor Canberra. There doesn’t seem to be much going on in terms of records. It used to be quite a place – until many of it’s indie stores sold up, and JB Hi-Fi rolled into town. It seems like the only place to get decent records is the last indie shop in town – Landspeed Records.

Landspeed is quite a cool shop. They do more than just CDs and records – they have clothes and some merch. It’s kind of the way of the future for music retail. There’s not a big collection of records, but there is some nice second hand stuff. It is pretty much the only record stop in Canberra.

And poor Graham Nash. I used to love this record but it hasn’t dated well. I saw Crosby, Stills & Nash live a few years ago, and it descended into parody. Outdated 60s ideals – still peddled. It was an oldies show. It sounds pretty good, but Military Madness, We Can Change The World and Chicago have dated badly. He’s stuck in the 60s, and it’s too bad.

But then there’s Sleep Song. A classic. So very Graham Nash. I would say it’s his best song. It’s yet another song he wrote for Joni Mitchell. And I love Joni and Graham together. I think they inspired the best out of each other. Probably the best two people have ever inspired eachother in the history of music.

The tender moments on this record are still great. Rightly so, this was Nash’s biggest solo album, and came right at the peak of his career. He never really achieved solo success again after this, and rolled happily into the plomp and bombast of endless CSN reunions.

It’s not a terribly uncommon vinyl find, but an original European pressing, with the classic Atlantic label, is definitely worth the $10.

Continuous Hit Music: The Big Chill – Soundtrack

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ’em all here.

Artist: Soundtrack
Title: The Big Chill
Original Release: 1983
Label: Motown
Store: Dirty Jeans Emporium & Antique Market, Bowral
5/391-397 Bong Bong Street, Bowral NSW 2576
Price: $15

A summer drive around country NSW, and an attempt to find records in the Southern Highlands, finally led to a decent find. The Dirty Jeans Emporium & Antique Market in Bowral is a big old warehouse full of antiques. It’s split into individual stalls, and there is a decent selection of good records, well bagged and graded. It was the only place I really found with a decent vinyl collection in the area. Some really big collection of records here and there, but usually badly looked after, low rent titles. I could have walked away with plenty of pieces.

I have never seen the Big Chill, but I love this soundtrack. It was my teenage entry point into Motown (and surrounding suburbs). It is simply a collection of some of the biggest 60s singles of all time. My Girl by The Temptations. I Heard It Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye. You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin. And my favourite song of the lot, A Whiter Shade Of Pale by Procol Harum.

In the CD era, it’s extra running time was packed with extra Motown hits (the original album being released on Motown), but it’s stripped back to just ten timeless tracks on the LP.

I used to listen to this album all the time. And like a good compilation that you love, I still hear this tracklisting running in order. Yet, I’ve bought more comprehensive Motown collections, Aretha Franklin albums and even Procol Harum best ofs. So it’s been a while since I reconnected with this compilation. I’m not even sure I even have the CD of this anymore. And certainly not the several CD reissues of this album.

So I’m happy to have found this on vinyl. I don’t usually make my way through the soundtrack section of a record store. Maybe I should do it more. Did they ever put the Forrest Gump soundtrack on vinyl?

Best Albums of 2011 part 3: 2 & 1

1. The Damnwells – No One Listens To the Band Anymore
(Pledge Music)

An incredible, incredible record. One that hits immediately, and never lets up. The best songs I’ve heard, roaring impassionately from my mp3 player, breaking your heart, making you dance, stealing your breath and opening your mind – sometimes all in one song.

And what an origin. Three albums in with no deal, the band went onto crowd sourcing site PledgeMusic, and put a call out to their fans directly. The fans funded the album, and gave the band the freedom to do what they wanted. What they wanted was to make a straight, thrilling, rock ‘n’ roll record.

The way I feel about this record is the same way I feel about some of my favourite albums ever. I’ve been walking around the streets of Sydney with these songs swirling in my head. I’ve been listening to tales of sad eyed girls and big scary cities. And how it’s us against them, and we have the music and the smarts. We are talking rock ‘n’ roll fundamentals here.

For a self funded recording, it sounds like a million bucks. It never gets too clever, but it’s never dumb and easy. Contemporary trickery is thrown out for the timelss wonder of a great chrous, a sweet lyric, and a killer singer in main Damnwell Alex Dezen.

At this point, I can just list songs, because there’s no better way to describe this feeling. If you want a place to start, I recommend “Werewolves”, “The Great Unknown”, “Feast Of Hearts” and, well, all of them.

Look, I know no one knows this band. I was afraid of putting this number one for fear of looking-like-a-cock reasons. But it’s pretty undeniable that I kept returning to this album all year. And when I saw the bloggers at Popdose pour their love into this album, it made me feel like I wasn’t alone.

What else can be said. There’s no way that a number one album of the year is not just tied in with personal feelings and events in the year that no amount of explaining can make sense of. That’s what’s this album does, so I’ll leave it there.

Except! That being self funded, all the film clips are shit. Here are two, both terrible, for great songs.

She Goes Around

The Great Unknown

Werewolves acoustic


2. Fountains of Wayne – Sky Full Of Holes
(Yep Roc)

Two little snippets before I start.

One. Around the “Born To Run” era, Springsteen said he put behind childish notions of love behind for something more rounded and sophisticated. It set him onto a path to write 10 or so albums filled with character studies.

The other. In Barney Hoskin’s authorative biography on the Band, he makes a strange case in the beginning that goes something like this – pop music and all that is fine when you’re young. But it’s natural to grow out of it, like growing out of junk food, and lean towards a musical diet of more timeless nutrition. Meals like the Band, Hoskyns would claim.

I’ve known a lot of older music fans/snobs. For them, it had to be a little country, or a little soul, to be a little timeless. Pop music has always been throwaway – a snack. They don’t write about adult things. And when you look at bands who are stuck in their youth (hello Smithereens), they still cover the same old grils, cars, blah and blah.

It’s very slow, but pop music is finally growing up. I point to people like Aimee Mann, the production work of Jon Brion, and people who are making excellent pop music, without being simplistic. And that’s a very, very long trip to get to this Fountains Of Wayne record, their 6th since 1996.

Sky Full Of Holes is number 2 on this list (in fact, last week it was number 1). I have been living in this album and wearing it out. It’s a perfect pop record – finely recorded, but not pro-tooled to death. The choruses, the sounds, the feel – all top notch.

But it’s the songs – they unwrap over each listen. I guess any chance of commercial radio play at this point, so the guys are just writing what they want. Stories of amazing characters – the scamsters in “Richie And Ruben”, the poor middle age woman in “The Summer Place” – mix with some straight ahead sentiment done right – the holiday freedom feeling of “A Dip In the Ocean”, the lonely tour ballad “A Road Song”.

Importantly, the wit is still there, but no huge jokes. No “Stacy’s Mum”. No note perfect country pastiches. Just perfect, refined songwriting.

It probably isn’t for everyone. Not everyone loves lyrics, or story-telling, in their music (especially, say, Australian radio). But at some point you have to put away childish notions, and eat a decent meal.

Here’s “A Road Song”, a wry smile on the lonely highway.

..and The Summer Place.

Best Albums of 2011 part 2: 5-3

3. Noah And the Whale – Last Night On Earth

I didn’t expect much from this album. I picked up N&TW’s first two albums, listened to them a few times, and dumped them. And isn’t it lovely about music, and the world of music, that the only reason I gave this band another chance was I thought the album cover was kick-ass. Just look at it. Looks so cool. (It looks like Jim Jarmusch’s “Night On Earth” actually) It’s metropolitan. It’s modern. It’s exciting. That’s just the album cover.

Then the music. It’s basically Springsteen mixed with LCD Soundsystem. And yes, that sounds like high praise, but it’s true. The Springsteen thing is that rock ‘n’ roll escapism. “Tonight’s the kind of night where everything could change”. The idea that your dream is in reach, it’s just around the corner, and lets sing anthemic rock songs until we get there.

Then there’s the samples, the bubbles of synths and clatter of beats that gives the songs such urgency and excitement. It’s a long way from the folk rock of their first album. At 10 songs, it’s a short sharp adrenaline hit. The kind of album that would make a pop fan leave their home town and start a band.

And then an extra special mention to “Just Before We Met“. Every line is killer. The best song on this fine, fine album. You should hear it.

So these guys might still be second rate. Good records happen to bad bands all the time. But maybe not. I feel like the world needs more records like these. I know I do. If there’s one thing I need music for, it’s to remind me about the the greatness that is life if you’re brave enough to grab it.


4. Nick Lowe – The Old Magic
(Yep Roc)

For those not paying attention, Nick Lowe has been making some of the best music in the world for the last twenty years. Feeling his age, and not wanting to be an old man with long punk rock hair and reliving past glories, he decided to use his age to advantage. With silver hair, nice suits and classy, jazzy, dramatic songs – it is about as hip as music ever gets.

It is all about the songs. Gorgeous torch ballads about broken characters, shuffling through the rain, falling out of love, dealing with loneliness and joy in equal measure. Lowe has always been a great wit, and his lyrics continue to amaze. The stunning opener, “Stoplight Roses”, is a masterwork in paired down lyrics. It’s a vivid character study in 3 minute pop – and maybe the best song all year.

Like Gillian Welch, he’s found a sound and does it better than anyone else. It’s at once familiar and new. It’s retro, but hip. It’s old, but new. It’s all part of a reinvention that started with 1994’s “The Impossible Bird”, and Yep Roc saw it and reissued three albums from this period into a box set. I will even say that when the dust is settled, Lowe will be mainly remembered for his work in the last decade, not his 70s stuff. That’s how good this album is.


5. Laura Marling A Creature I Don’t Know

My favourite album of 2010 was Laura Marling’s “I Speak Because I Can”. Another single (the far out cover of Jackson C Frank’s “Blues Run the Game”, produced by Jack White) and a whole new album came in 2011. It’s quite a pace, but maybe that’s right. Laura (or as I call her, Lozza), seems like the kind of artist that should have 20 albums under her belt.

This certainly feels like a “late-era” kind of album. Everyone compares her to Joni Micthell, but it took Mitchell til about album album number 8 (“Hejira”) before she gave up on writing pop hits in favour of following who restless muse. Marling has done it in three.

Sure, it’s weird. But wonderful. That muted organ, trumpet and cello that opens “I Was Just A Card” leads into a beautiful, jazzy place. Its one of many songs that occasionally stops dead. I hate reviews that talk about scales and keys and deep musicology – but if you like that stuff, this album is a banquet.

And she is still singing songs as if she is at the end of her life. She sings of children, old ladies and life’s biggest questions. And I guess that’s what makes her an important artist. But more interesting is how intimate these songs are. If you’ve not jumped on the Marling bandwagon, I suggest you start with “I Speak Because I Can”, and I’ll meet you at album 4 some time next year.