The Besnard Lakes – Are The Black Horse: Round 98 – Tom’s Selection

homepage_large-48cd8e8b‘Inspired’ by Steve’s attempts to ‘proggify’ us at the previous meeting…and neatly tying in with Rob’s Godspeed offering as well I decided, at the eleventh hour, to take Are The Black Horse along as my choice for Nick’s supremely poorly disguised ‘bring anything as long as it’s not prog’ themed night. He couched this, in the literal sense, as ‘bring something recent’, but we all knew what he was getting at. I thought, however, that it might be fun to poke the bear and seeing as The Besnard Lakes have occasionally had the ‘P’ word used to describe their work, I couldn’t wait to see Nick’s reaction when subjected to what may be the proggiest record in my collection.

However…it turns out that Are The Dark Horse is actually not very proggy at all. In fact, I would say it leans closer to shoegaze, post-rock or psychedelia than prog, only evoking those hoary old behemoths of excessive tempo and key signature alteration during the occasional guitar solo, or in the airbrushed cover art and the ridiculously pretentious album name.

To be honest, I have never quite clicked with the music of The Besnard Lakes. Whilst they are one of those bands that I have always felt might play a blinder at some stage of their career, the two albums of theirs I do own (this and the one with the even sillier name about UFOs) are just a little too po-faced and monochrome to really draw me in. That said, there is much to admire – the swooping melodies for a start, often aching with melancholia, are beautifully realised, especially on the first two tracks of the album, Disaster and For Agent 13.

Third track, And You Lied To Me, is the album’s epic and, as such, is probably its proggiest moment, segueing from one movement to another over the course of its 7 minute duration. But this is prog 30 years on and whilst the structures may echo past glories/misdemeanours, the music has been filtered through a lineage stretching from Glenn Branca, to Sonic Youth to Broken Social Scene, so there is only the faintest whiff of the 70s art form present on this, or indeed any other track on the record. Because Tonight is similarly lengthy but is far more straightforward in construction and plays like an indie band dabbling in post-rock probably thanks, in no small part, to the influence of Godspeed You Black Emperor’s Sophie Trudeau guesting on the album. The record closes with a gorgeous Beach Boys sound-a-like in Cedric’s War, its warm bounciness and summery vocals making it very much an outlier and a welcome one as far as I am concerned.

But that’s not to say that the album needed a change by track 8, it doesn’t. The preceding seven tracks (well, with the exception of Devastation, which I have never really got on with at all) are all lovely, interesting…compelling even. It’s just that, as an album, Are The Dark Horse doesn’t really draw me to it very often and, when it does, it doesn’t tend to keep me coming back for more. I’m not entirely sure why this should be the case…all I know is I’m glad the album exists, I’m glad to have it in my collection and I super relieved it didn’t turn out to be proggy at all…apart from the fact that, for me, the album as a whole seems to add up to less than the sum of its parts (see my response to Trespass in round 97).

Nick listened: Rockier than I expected.

Van Morrison – Veedon Fleece: Round 97 – Tom’s Selection

r-1560420-1446653929-4158-jpegAt the bum end of the 1980s barely a week went by in the music press without some mention being made of Astral Weeks. It was often cited as the wellspring for much of the music that I was particularly excited by at that time; the etherealists: Spacemen 3, AR Kane, The Cocteau Twins were all claimed to have emanated from Morrison’s first solo album. Hell, the journalists even managed to convince me that the noisemakers: Loop, Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth were supposedly connected in some way.

So I was feverishly intrigued to hear Astral Weeks for the first time and I recall sitting in disbelief as the pastoral strings and gentle bass runs of the title track began to writhe around the, frankly overblown (and very high in the mix) vocals. What followed was, if anything, even more discombobulating; the free jazz ramblings of Beside You, the folk-pop ditty Sweet Thing, The Way Young Lovers Do with its brisk pace and brisk brass and the extended, Dylanesque, streams of consciousness trilogy of Cypress Avenue, Madame George and Ballerina. By the time Slim Slow Slider’s clarinet(!) was fading out to nothing I was at the point of writing to NME and MM to ask for my money back.

…but a strange thing happened. I listened to it again. And then again! And again. And then I copied it onto a C45 (with Kitchens Of Distinction’s Love Is Hell on the other side) and listened to it pretty much non-stop throughout the entire summer of 1989. And for a while, at least, if anyone had been bothered to ask me, I would have proclaimed it the best album ever made, even if it didn’t really sound like any of the music that people who knew about such things had been likening it to.

Not long after, I checked out Moondance, Morrison’s follow up to Astral Weeks and…couldn’t stand it. So I listened, and listened again, and one more time…and still couldn’t stand it! It seemed as though it had been made by an entirely different artist and its hideously smooth, easy listening landscapes felt completely at odds with Astral Weeks’ edginess and unpredictability. So I parked Van Morrison as one of those weird artists that release a single, one off, masterpiece followed by a huge pile of cack and left him alone for a while.

But a few years on a friend of mine was giving away her vinyl and asked me if I wanted to take any. In amongst the Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Tim Hardin albums were Hard Nose The Highway and Veedon Fleece, two of Morrison’s mid 70s offerings. Well, to say I had low expectations was an understatement and, sure enough, the former was terrible…in fact I passed it on to a charity shop not long afterwards. But Veedon Fleece was different and, whilst it has never made its way into my regular rotation, I have always enjoyed its pastoral tones and Irish hues. But it’s not a consistent record and, unlike Astral Weeks, it doesn’t feel as though every song is an essential part of a jigsaw – a few pieces of Veedon Fleece could be happily lost down the back of the sofa as far as I am concerned being somewhat beige and uninspiring – folk rock by numbers, if you will (opener Fair Play and side two’s Cul De Sac and Comfort You are Morrison snooze fests of the worst variety).

However, when it’s good, Veedon Fleece is spectacular. The trio of great songs that properly launch side 1 (once Fair Play has been negotiated), Linden Arden Stole The Highlights, Who Was That Masked Man and Streets of Arklow are all of the highest calibre, equal to almost anything on Astral Weeks and, to my mind, offering an Arcadian warmth that Astral Weeks misses, focusing, as it does on the scruffy urban vistas of Dublin rather than the lush green countryside of rural Eire.

But pride of place has to be the frankly awe inspiring 9 minute long meditation of You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push The River. I have no idea what he’s on about, I’m not even sure of what he’s doing musically, but I do know that it vies with Astral Weeks as the best song I’ve heard by Mr Morrison and I can’t think there are many tracks out there, by Van, or anyone else for that matter, that have the ability to elevate the listener as effectively.

Rob listened: I know little of Van Morrison, beyond owning ‘Astral Weeks’ and having had brief periods where I wanted to listen to the title track on repeat for hours. I felt very well disposed to ‘Veedon Fleece’ which seemed to me another burbling brook of an album. I love the idea that Van Morrison is like a 24 hour radio station, and each album just an hour spent tuning in to whatever is playing at that given moment. I certainly like him most when he’s at his most stream-of-semi-consciousness. Lots of nice stuff here and some stuff that did sound awfully twee, at least until Steve opened up his record bag…

Nick listened: Irish.

The Avalanches – Since I Left You: Round 96 – Tom’s Selection

the-avalanches-sinceimetyouTaking advantage of a theme free and underpopulated evening I chose, as the deadline was looming, the 1 hour and 39 seconds of aural bliss that is, it turns out, The Avalanches first (as opposed to only) album, Since I Left You.

Released in 2000, for me no other album signified the coming of the new millennium quite as effectively. Bright, busy, supremely optimistic and breathtakingly well conceived, Since I Left You seemed, at the time, to mark a new dawning, a fresh way of doing things. Surely the shape of things to come! Taking our lead from the album cover, we waited, with baited breath, for the tidal wave of copyists; the magpies, the hoarders, the new collagists, imitating the mother lode but, inevitably, never improving on it. But they never really came, sunk without trace!? So we waited for the Avalanches themselves; to follow up their gargantuan first effort…and we waited, and waited, and waited! Internet rumours came and went, as they tend to do, but the offerings were piecemeal; the odd song here and there, guest artists occasionally letting slip that they had been allowed in to have a play but still nothing. And then, just as we were giving up, Wildflower was released and finally, Since I Left You had a sibling…sixteen years on! What does it sound like? I don’t know because, I’ve never heard it! I haven’t felt enticed because, and I guess this might be partly why we waited so long, Since I Left You is as close to damn it to perfection that I really don’t feel I need anything else like it.

I realised, as I was considering writing this blog entry, that Since I Left You is probably the only album I own which I really, really love yet know practically nothing about. After all, I can only recall the names of two of the songs, and can’t really hum, or even remember anything other than the occasional musical motif, a whiff here and there, the tiniest of shards, gleaming yet gone in a flash. Since I Left You (the song) and Frontier Psychiatrist are so anomalous (in that they are recognisable as songs in their own right) from to their bedfellows that even though they are both awesome pieces of music, you do end up wondering whether they belong with the rest of the stuff on the album. Because, if they weren’t there, Since I Left You would play out a bit like a dance orientated, poppy version of one of those albums we’ve had at record club every so often (The Necks and William Basinski spring to mind) where the music twists and turns and morphs and mutates over time, shape shifting imperceptibly yet definitely. But, in contrast to the minimalism on show in these other cases, the movements here are from one beautiful groove to the next, gradually and seamlessly blissing out as the end of the trip looms into view. I own the vinyl version of the album and the only breaks in the musical theme (apart from the aforementioned singles) are the end of the sides…I almost wish I owned this in some digital format instead, just so that that continuity could be preserved!

I don’t listen to Since I left You all that often but, whenever I do, it feels like a real treat. As for Wildflower, I am pleased for the Avalanches that they have managed to move back towards, if not into, the zeitgeist but I can’t help feeling that there is something inherently cool about those rare cases in popular music where a band comes along, releases a single classic album and then buggers off never to be seen again. For sixteen years The Avalanches were one of those bands; now they just seem a little bit more ‘regular’ than their fantastic debut album would suggest.

Grimes – Art Angels: Round 95 – Tom’s Selection

59ef246fMy choice for Nick’s ‘I Can’t Believe We Hadn’t Had This Already’ round elicited a disapproving sneer from our illustrious and sage leader when he walked in, late, to the strains of Belly of the Beat…or Kill VS Main…or some such.

It appears that my choice was ill conceived in that:

a) We had already had a couple of songs played from it at the Xmas round up last year (technically only one as far as I am concerned as Realiti is not on my version of the record and I, therefore, don’t consider it as part of the whole).

and

b) It’s only been around for about ten months.

Well, I see the first point as an irrelevance (we’ve never played the album) and I see the second point as…an irrelevance too! The irony is that Grimes has been mentioned far more times at record club than the band that made Rob’s record (I’m not going to give it away by mentioning it by name) and, hence, of the two, I am much more surprised it hadn’t yet been featured at the club. As a side note, I’m not surprised at all that neither Nick or Steve’s albums had passed us by up to this point!

But, seeing as Art Angels is a work of genius, a signpost to the future of pop music, an enduring classic (I’d put money on it) in its infancy, I felt it was about time somebody did the decent thing and took it along. It is also one of only a handful of records that everyone in my family is nuts about…well, maybe not my parents, but my wife and kids seem to love it just as much as I do.

And it’s not hard to see why. Because what Grimes is doing on Art Angels is stunning. Listening closely tonight to Belly of the Beat, trying to see what it is that makes the record so special, it struck me that it is the production (Claire Boucher did everything on this album, including the engineering!) that is particularly breathtaking. One of the albums shyest tracks, Belly of the Beat is, ostensibly, an acoustic strum laid over a programmed drum beat with some typically sweet vocals floating eight miles high above the instrumentation. Strip away the production and you’d be left with something lovely…but unremarkable, perhaps. Listen closely, however, and you’ll hear the workings of what is, surely, one of the great minds working in music today. Sounds come and go in torrents, gush and then recede, swirl and distort but, crucially, never feel forced or over-considered. The song itself never really does much, there’s no rousing singalong chorus, no real hooks, but it also never repeats, never gets lazy, constantly keeps you guessing and, consequently, leaves you wanting more. And more is what you get, because each and every song (even the weird little ones, the grit in the oyster, if you will) sound amazing. Art Angels is such a complete work, 45 minutes of aural, and cerebral, bliss, art masquerading as pop. I worry for Grime’s next album because it may never appear this natural, this unforced again. With Art Angels she’s pulled back the curtain, revealed the magic and, in the process, made things very difficult for her future self.

But worrying about something that may never happen makes no sense at all and so whilst I wait to see what her next move will be, I plan to wear out my copy of Art Angels whilst regularly reminding Rob of how it’s actually a much better album than a scuzzy 50 year old relic with a banana on the front. Whoops. I may have just let the cat out of the bag!

Steve listened: No need to get all defensive…It’s a great album although I wouldn’t have said that it was a classic one that we have failed to listen to yet, whereas a certain recording with a banana cover…is. I would also argue that Mr Cope’s entry into the world of music also fits that bill. But here’s me being all defensive of the other choices when Grimes’ album is, I agree, a pop masterpiece. It’s also a possible intersection in the musical Venn diagram between my tastes and my children’s. So, I will inevitably buy it and listen to a lot…..in the car.

Rob listened: We’ve only had 8 or 9 rounds of DRC since this record was released (slowing up guys…), and 3 or 4 of those had prescribed themes. So, on balance, I can very well believe that we haven’t had ‘Art Angels’ yet.

Which is not to say that it wasn’t a welcome arrival. I bought it when it came out, on the strength of the blistering ‘Kill V Maim’. I loved the album but never really allowed it to sink it’s hooks into me, and without the early attachment, it has sunk out of sight. Hearing it again reminded me how laser bright, mercilessly catchy and gobsmackingly inventive it is. Hearing all three wrapped up in one package is very, very rare and so I concur with Tom, this is a special record.

Glad we didn’t have to wait any longer.

Robbie Basho – Visions Of The Country: Round 94 – Tom’s Selection

visions_PINAlthough I have had a healthy interest in music since I first discovered the records of the Beatles when I was about ten years of age, my obsessiveness developed into encyclopedic around the time I started university; a time which happened to coincide with my purchasing of the weekly music mags (partly as a way of avoiding my studies?) coupled with listening avidly to John Peel’s nightly radio show.

Of course, despite my voracious thirst for musical knowledge, there were many genres of music for which my research came up short, but when it comes to white American men strumming or plucking or plonking acoustic instruments, until recently I have felt as though, even though I may not have heard the music itself, I would know of the key players, the movers and the shakers…that new names would not crop up or, if they did, it would be because they weren’t particularly good! Robbie Basho’s Visions Of The Country has been a revelation and makes me wonder how many other gems are out there, flying under the radar.

Until about two months ago I hadn’t heard of Robbie Basho. Flicking through the ILX forum one day, lost for inspiration, I noticed his name as a thread title and had the thought, ‘why not actually click on the thread’ rather than do what I would normally do and dismiss it as someone not worth bothering with…simply because I had never heard of him!

There was the usual level of internet devotion on the thread, but as respondents are a self-selecting group, that’s hardly surprising…I could click on a Whitney Houston thread and find a similar level of enthusiastic devotion but she would still sound like a bunch of cats being tortured no matter how many times someone tells you she is the greatest female singer of all time! However, there was also a link to a youtube clip of Blue Crystal Fire and this had me spellbound from the off. A simple strummed acoustic guitar which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on The Palace Brother’s wonderful debut ‘There is No-One what Will Take Care Of You’, or Smog’s masterpiece ‘A River Ain’t Too Much To Love’ and that voice, kind of like Bill Callahan doing his best Anohni impression. The song was ponderous/funereal in terms of pace, repetitive, overtly earnest…and, for me, absolutely captivating. Usually a youtube clip, even of a song I like, will keep me interested for a minute, maybe two, before I see a suggested link and click on that. Well Blue Crystal Fire got about four full plays…and then I bought the album, avoiding playing anything else from it lest it diminished the impact of the first run through when the record arrived.

It turns out that Blue Crystal Fire is a bit of an anomaly, at least as far as Visions Of The Country is concerned – most of the other songs on the album involve lengthy passages of semi-improvised(?) finger picking interspersed with relatively brief blasts of Basho’s deep baritone. On many of the tracks there is no discernible repetition, no conventional song structure, it should be a formless mess, almost impossible to access and intimidating to listen to. But…it’s not. At least as far as I’m concerned!

As Nick suggested on the night, possibly that’s down to the images and atmospheres the songs evoke (the image on the album sleeve is almost exactly the image Basho’s music conjures up). The record transports the listener – perhaps to another (better?) place, almost certainly to a simpler time, perhaps a time we all yearn for where we are closer to our natural environment; where we would be more likely to take notice of the beauty of a flower or a waterfall or a deer; where there is time and space and, ironically, silence. Whilst this may sound like hippy dippy shit, Visions Of The Country avoids all those trappings by mining the source and in the process it sounds like it has always been there, just like the mountains, lakes and streams it so exquisitely evokes.

Rob listened: Blimey.

One of the beautiful things about record club, some of the most memorable, tangible moments, come when some record or other, and it’s almost impossible to predict which ones, just end up captivating us. We’re extremely capable of talking over almost anything, quiet or loud, long or short, insistent or passive, but every so often an album just captivates us. So it was with ‘Visions of the Country’. It could have passed us by. We could have been non-plussed and untouched, as we seemed to be by Tim Hecker in the previous round, as Robbie Basho also tinkled out a load of abstract, unstructured sound. But we were completely drawn in.

And yes, I was reminded of some of Will Oldham’s instrumental outings, and also some of the Derek Bailey improvised guitar stuff I’ve heard. It also reminded me of some of the abstract twinklings I like to listen to, and I also got Tom’s suggestion that it captured the same desert spirit as some of the good Captain Beefheart’s music.

But it was also wonderfully idiosyncratic and helplessly absorbing.  I’ve got a feeling I had heard of Robbie Basho before, only in that I can faintly imagine someone American saying his name in an interview. Now you can mark me down as someone actively seeking out his records. Thanks Tom, an absolute winner.

Steve listened: Blimey indeed

This was the album I talked, effused and waxed lyrical about when I got to talk about the night’s proceedings with my wife. I was most struck by the level of musicianship, and how he managed to take a 12 string guitar and play it like a sitar. This approach completely contrasts other western musicians who have embedded eastern music into a western style, almost as an add on. Here the subject and sounds seemed to blend seemlessly. Yes, thanks Tom, I will seek too.

Meilyr Jones – 2013: Round 93 – Tom’s Selection

a1595449745_10As we drove over to record club, Nick and I were chatting about one of the current Netflix offerings, Stranger Things. Initially just checking in that we both liked it and sharing our general thoughts, the conversation soon focused in on the programme’s undeniable and overt use of cliche. I had seen this as a weakness at first and, during the first couple of episodes, they had been sufficiently obtrusive as to make me question whether or not to bother continuing with the show. However, my wife did a little bit of digging around on the interweb and before long found plentiful evidence that the use of cliche was a deliberate move on the part of the programme’s directors. For me, this changed everything – what I had perceived as weakness, laziness or, at best, an extreme lack of awareness transformed instantaneously into a mixture of homage, innovation and nostalgia. Before long, I was loving all the references to 80s kidcentric schlock horror, and not long after that I realised that I wasn’t noticing them at all as the characters and story drew me in!

Which brings me to 2013 by Meilyr Jones. He performs a very similar trick here but in a musical rather than cinematographic setting. Operating within the wistful chamber pop side of things, listening to 2013 it’s as if Jones is holding up his hands and admitting that the best tunes have already been taken, so let’s nick bits from here and there, create some new melodies along the way, have some fun and, ultimately, just do it all really, really well. Throughout the album, you will hear snippets of stuff you recognise, either lyrically (Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain makes an appearance on second track Don Juan, Wild World by Cat Stevens on Rome) or musically (Smoke on the Water’s pivotal riff forms the hook in Strange/Emotional’s propulsive and surprising chorus, Jarvis Cocker’s off stage asides are echoed on the baroque masterpiece that is Olivia). Elsewhere, similarities with your other favourite artists are evident, if less direct – Morrissey’s phrasing and singing style is recalled on a number of tracks (albeit with a discernible Welsh lilt on most tracks), Jens Lekman is evoked on closer Be Soft and, unsurprisingly, fellow Welsh wizards Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci can be heard reverberating throughout. At no point, however, does Jones sound anything at all like Paul Heaton!

Whether these reference points devalue or enhance your listening experience (or have no effect at all!) is up to you, but by the time the record ends, Jones leaves you in no doubt that he knows exactly what he is doing and, for me, that makes all the difference. In fact, to my ears, 2013 is one of the freshest, wittiest and well executed pop records I have heard in ages and, in another era, songs like the poppy How To Recognise A Work Of Art and Featured Artist or the devastating Refugees (which urges you to ‘turn off your TV’) would be topping the charts rather than only occasionally finding their way onto the late night shows on 6 Music!

Nick listened: Unlike Stranger Things, which I loved, I found it difficult to get a handle on this – I think because, while the former eventually pulled me into the world of the new characters it presented, I never really got a handle on who this Meilyr guy is. Obviously talented, I get the idea he’s hiding behind all these references (oh look, the Rebel Rebel riff!) as a kind of intellectual exercise. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but a single 40 minute exposure often isn’t enough to get beneath the signifiers and discover what’s driving them.

Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer?: Round 92 – Tom’s Selection

 

aarefhissingImagine you’re watching one of those films whose opening sequence starts off with a view of a distant galaxy. The image starts to magnify and suddenly you are hurtling into an arm of the Milky Way (for it’s that galaxy), about two thirds of the way out from the galaxy’s centre. The magnification continues apace, now we’re being given a tour of the solar system, zooming past the gas giants, on through the asteroid belt and past Mars. Earth comes into view, we whizz through the atmosphere,  puncture a wispy cumulus or two to hurtle (invariably) into a suburban landscape, through an open window to focus on, perhaps, the main character of the movie. But rather than cut to the inevitable ‘get ready for school’ off camera dialogue of the protagonist’s mother, let’s continue to their record collection. The dude is an indie kid, but left field indie rather than middle-of-the-road indie and so, of course, has all the Of Montreal albums…and there they all are chronologically arranged pretty much smack bang in the middle of his alphabetically ordered albums. The camera continues to zoom in right to the heart of the Of Montreal selection, to Hissing Fauna (which is the middle album since the kid has a promo of 2016’s Innocence Reaches) and on it goes, to the centre of the album, to the gargantuan groove fuck that is The Past Is  A Grotesque Animal (track 7 out of 12), which happens to be the kid’s favourite 12 minute long existential dissection of a relationship gone bad in, like, ever. We carry on to the middle of the…I hesitate to say ‘song’ as that’s, kind of, doing it a disservice…piece, and examine the lyrics either side of the median:

‘Somehow you’ve red-rovered the gestapo circling my heart
And nothing can defeat you
No death, no ugly world

You’ve lived so brightly
You’ve altered everything
I find myself searching for old selves
While speeding forward through the plate glass of maturing cells’

and you’re amazed that something so poignant, so devastating and poetic could reside there. It’s only later, when you check out that song/opus/monster that you realise that going to its heart and finding such eloquence is not coincidence at all – dissect any part of The Past Is A Grotesque Animal and you’ll find similar, incredible, lyricism; lyricism as exorcism perhaps, as our hero, Kevin, tries to come to terms with the disintegration of his marriage, but, hell, his loss is our gain, so let’s rejoice that his world falling apart has led to such an outpouring; an outgushing if you will!

I only own the one Of Montreal album. There may be other Grotesque Animals all over their catalogue, but I doubt it. It feels so right that this is central, not just to the album, but…to everything! Listening again just now, the twelve minutes sped by. As those of you who follow the blog will know, I’m not, by nature, a lyrics kind of guy, but these, well they’re something else! Every line is quotable in isolation (in fact one of the music forums I used to follow went through a phase where pretty much every regular poster used a different line from TPIAGA as their tagline) but together they tell the tale of a man’s suffering that is heartbreaking in its honesty and breathtaking in its eloquence.

Spiraling out from TPIAGA are all sorts of kaleidoscopic goodies, pop gems mostly, skewed pop gems almost entirely! Some run off in every direction like disorientated mice, tangential to the point of abstruseness but always clinging onto the pop wreckage that Of Montreal choose to inhabit. Others, like the closing pair of She’s A Rejecter and  We Were Born The Mutants Again With Leafling are more straightforward but no less brilliant (She’s a Rejecter features the unforgettable lyric:

‘Oh no, she’s a rejector
I must protect myself

There’s the girl that left me bitter
Want to pay some other girl
To just walk up to her and hit her
But I can’t, I can’t, I can’t’

which is (a) hilarious, (b) shocking and (c) really sad). I love these songs, but they are exist in the shadow cast by their ever looming big brother and, as such, they feel like hors d’ouevres; wonderfully tasty but appetite whetters/palette cleansers.

My eleven year old son Kit described Hissing Fauna as sounding like a cross between Bowie and Prince when I played it to him the other evening. I guess what he was hearing was the same inventiveness and creativity, someone sounding as though they are not taking themselves too seriously, enjoying the process of making music that is shot from the heart, true to the self, groundbreaking yet familiar enough to be accessible. And whilst Hissing Fauna doesn’t make it onto my turntable all that often these days (it’s almost ten years old…blimey!), I always enjoy it, especially as I get closer and closer to its epicentre!

Nick listened: Emma bought this when it came out, but it kind of got lost in the hustle and bustle of other great records from 2007, which I rate as about my favourite year for music in the last couple of decades (Battles, LCD Soundsystem, Caribou, Patrick Wolf, Spoon, Stars of the Lid, Beirut, Studio, The Field, Radiohead, MIA). it wasn’t the only casualty; I got sent a promo of Boxer by The National and shelved it without listening for years. So Hissing Fauna got listened to a couple of times without penetrating what it was doing really, and then put away, eventually ending up in a box under the spare bed with hundreds of others when we cleared the bottom shelves to toddler-proof the livingroom. But I’ve dug it out now, and it’s back in the active collection.