To mark our 14th anniversary, the DiS team recommend one album every DiS reader should (re-)investigate.
We only started this website in order to recommend the music we love, so this "listicle" felt like an apt way to mark becoming another year older.
These are just the personal choices from our staff, rather than some democratically chosen list, so please don't get uppity about what has been excluded. You can tell us one record you think everyone should hear over in this discussion thread if you so wish.
Sean Adams: Released back in 2006, this record picked up a nice a 8/10 review from DiS scribe Alex Snax. Whilst 8s aren't exactly rare around here, we don't dish out marks above a 7 too readily either. DiS writers have free reign to write whatever they like and if the words justify the score, then it's fine. It isn't a perfect system but it has worked pretty well for the past 14 years. However, in this instance, I wanted to send the writer a note to tell them to listen to the album again as it's far better than an eight out of ten!
Khaela Maricich is one of those cult heroes that isn't quite a cult hero (yet!). She makes Portlandian bedroom-pop, that has a girl-group swoosh and some Le Tigre electronic-grrrr, beneath lyrics that twist and twirl somewhere between Miranda July's vivid prose, River Cuomo's pity party observations and Uffie's snarkier one-liners. It's a record about city life in the 00s, with neighbours fucking through thin walls and boys being a disappointment... and so much more. It's a record that I've come back to time and time again and as the final beats slink out I'm almost always left wondering whether if the stars had aligned differently or if her timing of wandering onto The Scene was luckier, whether Paper Television coulda-shoulda-woulda been a LCD/Lorde/Lena Durham-like phenomenon, because boy-oh-boy does she sure have the hooks in these second-hand book scented songs.
A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS
Dom Gourlay: Rewind back to May 2008. It was my first experience of the brutal force of A Place To Bury Strangers in the flesh. Indeed, anyone in Nottingham's Bodega venue that evening hadn't seen or heard anything like it before. Here, amidst a selection of tracks off their 2007 self-titled debut - effectively a compilation of their initial recordings rather than a preconceived album - would be the first time these ears were subjected to three songs ('Dead Beat', 'Ego Death' and 'I Lived My Life To Stand In The Shadow Of Your Heart') that would go on to become the centerpieces of its follow-up, 'Exploding Head'.
Released in October of the following year, 'Exploding Head' dispelled any criticisms its creators were merely shoegaze revivalists. Instead, revelling in a brutality Kevin Shields or Trent Reznor would be proud of, it cemented A Place To Bury Strangers as one of the most innovative bands to emerge from their native Brooklyn since the turn of the millennium. Not least due to main man Oliver Ackermann's intrepid adventures in sound, whereby his penchant for building then utilizing an array of effects pedals and sequencers would asseverate the aural assault contained within the record's ten nihilistic compositions.
"Sonic annihilation," is how Ackermann described his band when asked in an early interview, and even today five years after its release, 'Exploding Head' sounds like the musical equivalent of manslaughter. Striking a perfect balance between melody and visceral white noise, its largely held up as a benchmark for guitar bands today, and rightly so.
We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed
Robert Leedham: Gareth Paisley is prone to wondering what might have happened had Los Campesinos! done a radio edit of 'You! Me! Dancing!'. Could his Cardiff-born collective have been daytime radio big with a neat three minute trim of that song which Budweiser liked so much?
Had this Sliding Doors decision been made, We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed wouldn't exist. According to LC! themselves, this 10 track offering of grotesque, guttural pop isn't even an album. It's an EEP (extended EP) that came packaged as a CD/DVD boxset with extra liner notes, poetry and drawings. If you own a copy, it may well be the most indie records in your collection. It will certainly be one of the best.
Stuffed full of irresistible hooks and sardonic witticisms, I'm have no idea why it's not celebrated like the weird sibling of Up The Bracket and Silent Alarm. Especially since neither of those albums have a football reference that's as good as this one: "You asked if I'd be anyone from history / Fact or fiction, dead or alive / I said I'd be Tony Cascarino, circa 1995." No matter though, LC! were a band born for cult status and with We Are Beautiful..., they damned well earned it.
News and Tributes
Paul Brown: For a lot of people who grew up in the North-East around the time I did, The Futureheads were and are really bloody important. Perhaps inevitably, their dizzying gut-punch of a debut has proved to be their most fondly remembered record, but I’ll always have a massive soft spot for its unexpectedly disparate follow-up. News and Tributes is home to a number of their greatest (but also least vaunted) moments, like the gorgeous Burnt, the deceptively huge Back to the Sea and the truly exhilarating Worry About it Later, and this diverse richness is what brings me back more than any other ‘Heads record. As it turned out, it also heralded the end of their record deal, but this in itself created a new dawn for them as pioneers of the DIY movement, inspiring another generation of North-East kids to believe that they could make a go of it themselves. An entirely accidental consequence, sure, but no less important for that.
Every Six Seconds
J.R. Moores: How can I pick just one overlooked album from the past 14 years? Sod it, I’ll go for one as early as possible (September 2000, a month before DiS’ launch) and I’ll be as regionally patriotic as I can muster (Yorkshire). I choose Every Six Seconds by Doncaster’s Groop Dogdrill. It’s a concept album about sex. But it’s not all lecherous and misogynist like those prize arseholes Motley Crue. It’s full of anxiety, emasculation, empathy, self-disgust, confusion and shame. Its lyrical reference points range from Planet of the Apes and Twin Peaks to St Peter’s execution and Sigmund Freud, all yelled by a gloriously gravelly throat over Motorhead-worthy punk-metal riffs. If I remember correctly, it got a 5-K rating in Kerrang! but still failed to set the world on fire, which isn’t fair. The band got dropped, couldn’t get signed by any other label, so split up. Dogdrill frontman/guitarist Pete Spiby went on to form the more stoner-y Future Ex-Wife and now leads the fun-but-a-little-cheesy-for-me Black Spiders. But Every Six Seconds is his masterpiece and it deserves wider recognition. Forget that muted Mclusky reformation, anyone got £200,000 knocking around to persuade these three scuzzy geniuses to reform?
Sammy Maine: Vocalist Sam Cook-Parrott speaks of love in the most familiar way, with his cracking, powerful and poignant delivery letting us know that we're not alone. "This is a record about the relationships you encounter throughout your life. It’s about how sometimes you find the Perfect Person and the circumstances of your lives keep you apart. It’s about how long and weird and crazy life can be, how sometimes it feels like it never ends and you never learn anything new. This is not a happy or idealistic album," he explains. "I want it bad enough; show me what you’re made of. I’m yours but not by name," sings Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield on 'Blue Gown,' reminding us all that love is complicated and crappy and sometimes, we can never do anything about it.
The album speaks of situations we all know too well but with such a comforting essence and beautiful execution, it seems like everything is going to be okay. 'Fireworks' is a song I've had on repeat since I first heard it, with guitarist Cynthia Ann Schemmer bringing forward this utterly devastating poetry with the kind of sincerity that would make Elliott Smith proud. "You looked at me like I was your answer, I looked at you like you meant something. Do you miss me? Why don't you call me?," she asks – and once again, Radiator Hospital triumph in hitting you right in the chest. The Fireworks reprise right at the end of the record once again proves 'Torch Song' to be a record that asks to be listened to from start to finish – that the art of the album is far from dying out. The simple melodies, the impeccable and frantic drumming, the garage rock influences, the raw integrity of each song... 'Torch Song' a tale that we can all relate to and one that you'll want to relive again and again.
THE GOOD LIFE
Help Wanted Nights
James Skinner: There are so many albums from the last 14 years I could choose that I’ve loved, that I think are underrated, that never got the attention they deserved. But I’ve gone for one that I’ve found myself playing again lately, as I do every once in a while. Help Wanted Nights is a record that was released to relatively little fanfare in 2007, likely because it is, in some ways, a fairly low-key affair: low-key in terms of the album that preceded it, 2004’s ranging Album of the Year; certainly low-key when held against the works of Cursive, Tim Kasher’s other band. Its ten songs detail “roughly a week in a bar in a small town where a stranger’s car breaks down,” and though none of them exactly roar out of the starting gate, the soft, pleasing tones they match to Kasher’s elegant, sometimes devastating wordplay form a sublime cohesive unit. Beautifully packaged by Zack Nipper (in a set of storyboards for a related screenplay that never saw the light of day), Help Wanted Nights is a document of a band perfectly in tune with each other, a rendering of American backwaters at once desperate and oddly hopeful, and an(other) absolute triumph of a “concept” piece from Kasher and company. It is also the last thing the group have put their name to, but given that they’re lumbering up for some live dates across the pond at this very moment, I’m hopeful it won’t stay that way for long.
Jazz Monroe: What with all the righteous energy that goes into crediting PC Music as 2014's original voice, it'd be easy to forget that, a year earlier, pop’s postmodern takeover had already found its Napoleon. As a rock record Borrell 1 is merely flawed, but as a symbolic portrait of the death of rock’n’roll (which represents capitalism) and self-awareness (which represents reality) it becomes transcendent. Sneer all you like, but I like Borrell's LP the same way others enjoy Swans: sometimes overwhelming, often hard to stomach, but pick your mindset and it’s pure magic.
MARK KOZELEK & JIMMY LAVALLE
Perils From The Sea
Dave Hanratty: Benji looks likely to chart high on many a critic's end of year list and deservedly so. It's arguably the most complete Sun Kil Moon album in years. That's provided you look past last year's collaboration with The Album Leaf's Jimmy LaValle. What could have easily amounted to hollow gimmickry - the pairing of Kozelek's world-weary musings with LaValle's glacial electronica - resulted in renewed focus for both men alongside some of the finest-written songs of their respective careers, most notably 'What Happened to My Brother' and 'Baby in Death Can I Rest Next to Your Grave'. Both exhaustive and exhausting, Perils From The Sea is always searching, unflinchingly honest, disarmingly tender and, in that typical Mark Kozelek way; strangely beautiful.
Peter Yeung: Greg Edwards' pungent, distorted riffs, Eugene Goreshter’s intoxicating lullabies, and Carla Azar’s mesmeric percussion poetry align like a magnificent solar eclipse on Autolux’s debut album Future Perfect. It is a brutal and beautiful tour-de-force – even when occasionally at a sloth-slow pace, it remains fascinating – emulsifying impeccable influences: from Slowdive to Sonic Youth. It’s hard to know whether the album induces a sort of cerebral enchantment, or whether that’s just from listening to it countless times, when falling into a state of REM. These Angelenos created a visceral shoegaze that seems impervious to innumerable listens; made even more poignant by the fact its follow-up was a pale silhouette in comparison. How did no one care?
Grab That Gun
Matt Langham. The space year of 2004 brought us The Killers’ day-glo bombast, Arcade Fire’s undeniable ubiquity and Keane doggedly beigeing everyone into submission. The prevailing aesthetic was the surety of more as more; more choruses! More noise! More schmaltz! More... err, more! Amongst this, Vancouver’s The Organ quietly released a debut of snaking poppy post punk in North America that summarily sank without trace, only gaining some traction via a wider release in 2006. An unassuming sublimation of anything from the 80s indie underground that had meaning - The Smiths, Cure, Siouxsie - with a propulsion - and, yes, plenty of organ - that belied its lacerating contents, it’s that rarest of beasts: funny, dramatic and beguiling, not to mention consistently essential. Grab That Gun's smarting 30 minute attack, which writhes like a patient resisting sedation, should've been the start of something even greater, but the band’s career was sadly buried by mental illness, band politics, exhaustion and record company wrangles - singer Katie Sketch still technically lives under threat of litigation should she release anything new, but we’ll always have this record of undimmed brilliance.
Bang Bang Rock & Roll
“Yes, this is my singing voice. It’s not irony, it’s not rock n roll: we’re just talking... to the kids.” Formed A Band
Gemma Samways: Lo-fi art-pop examining music snobbery, erectile dysfunction and obsolete forms of foreign currency? Yeah, Eddie Argos and co were probably never going to win the Mercury Prize with Bang Bang Rock & Roll. They did, however, make being in a band sound like the most fun in the whole world. From the TOTP-referencing call to arms of ‘Formed A Band’ to a mildly-psychotic paen to a playground crush called Emily Kane, every track here is so strong it plays like a greatest hits. So what if they never ended up writing “the song that makes Israel and Palestine get along”; they still managed 12 tracks that continue to have me grinning from ear to ear. Oh, and Hard Fi got nominated for the Mercury Prize that year. Go figure.
DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
Codes and Keys
Joe Goggins: The circumstances surrounding this record were the lazy critic’s dream; a press release replete with references to maturity, frontman Ben Gibbard’s marriage to a movie star and replacement of alcohol with marathon-running and an unabashed love song of an album closer by the name of ‘Stay Young, Go Dancing’ all conspired to form a critical consensus that said pretty much nothing about the music. No, this wasn’t Death Cab’s ‘happy record’, and no, Gibbard’s move away from his ‘depressing’ past disposition wasn’t necessarily something to be mourned (many of the same critics that raised that latter point were similarly lukewarm in their reception of the unrelentingly-bleak Narrow Stairs, this album’s predecessor.) Instead, Codes and Keys was about emotional balance; insecurity and nervousness permeated the title track and ‘Some Boys’, whilst ‘Unobstructed Views’ and ‘St. Peter’s Cathedral’ merely advocated acceptance of uncertainty and imperfection rather than anxiousness. That’s to say nothing, too, of the ambitious sonic direction; guitarist Chris Walla did a typically sparkling job of the production and worked with a cleverly-adjusted sonic palette, using the guitars only for colour and punctuation, experimenting with electronics and even channeling Eno’s ambient releases at points. Now that Gibbard’s divorced, Codes and Keys will likely continue to be seen as a Deschanel-tainted misstep; it’d be a legacy that would do a huge disservice to the assurance and verve that runs through the album start-to-finish.
Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)
Joseph Rowan: Coming almost 20 years after their most successful material (and, perhaps not unrelatedly, when they stopped being a touring band) the album that would turn out to be XTC's last received little recognition except for an unusually large presence in the first season of Gilmore Girls. It may have only have two original members present but Andy Partridge's songwriting is, by turns, as clever, funny and beautiful as ever. Plus, in terms of swan songs, 'The Wheel and the Maypole' is a final statement up there with Pink Floyd's 'High Hopes'. A fitting farewell from a generally highly underrated band.
Jordan Dowling: It has no words, no guitars, no bass and barely any percussion but what ...And Watercycles, the second and final full-length by Japanese trio Motoro Faam, does possess is a musical palette that is far richer for its shunning of these typical elements. Cellos silhouette, synthesisers crescendo and treated recordings of waves, birds and pens create an otherworldly ambiance that may contain slight traces of the work of Aphex Twin and Ryuichi Sakamoto but at its heart and its soul is as unique as music can be in the 21st century. That an album of such majesty and ingenuity has sold less than 100 copies in the UK is criminal.
Sean Thomas: There are plenty of records that I feel deserve more love, but few of them sound truly unique. I've never heard a band that sound like KaitO before or even since; uncompromisingly unorthodox (so much so that the third (brilliant sounding) 3rd album never got the label release approval), they made sounds that sounded like my entire record collection being played at once, astounded live and were true mavericks in a genre of their own. Good to see a part of that living on a decade later through Nik Void's work in Factory Floor.
NOAH & THE WHALE
First Days of Spring
Luke Beardsworth: Sandwiched in-between their anorexic debut album Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down and mainstream breakthrough Last Night on Earth, sits this tragic gem. It's essentially about breaking up with Laura Marling, which one can imagine would be about four times as devastating as your average break-up. As the album progresses, you can feel the healing process that anyone goes through after parting ways with someone. It's not the most positive album but if you're wearing those (probably ethically-sourced) shoes then you'll find a slice of comfort in your echoed thoughts. Shame about pretty much everything else they've done, especially that song with the ukulele.
Share your favourite lesser know album over in this discussion thread.