Way back in the mists of time, when I was an eager-to-please and obsessively completist young blogger with an exciting and fast-moving sidebar (oh, we all had them!), I made a habit of providing brief descriptions of the albums in my we listen chart, which would pop up as mouseover text for each individual link.
After Firefox came along, with its pleasure-denying limit on the maximum number of characters for mouseover text, the fun ceased. (Also, to be honest, the code was a right old faff to maintain. So I’m not complaining or anything.)
However, if I were still providing these “pithy capsule reviewlets”, as I skittishly dubbed them, then they might have looked something like this.
1 (2) Tender Buttons Broadcast
Although initially abrasive/austere/unyielding, repeated listens (and a superb live show) have revealed an unexpected inclusive warmth buried at its heart. Sparse, fractured space-age-gone-wonky pop songs, as picked up by a dodgy shortwave radio from a parallel universe.
2 (5) Supernature Goldfrapp
Starts off as pure electro-glam pop, but it’s by no means not all pop. Mingling the best elements of the first two albums, Goldfrapp are finally ready for the mainstream; and I for one respect their all-too-rare lack of unseemly haste.
3 (6) Held on the Tips of Fingers Polar Bear
Energetic yet tightly focussed drummer-led contemporary jazz, scored rather than improvised, discreetly innovative.
4 (-) Feels Animal Collective
The first half is as gleefully bull-in-a-china-shop bonkers as their previous Sung Tongs; the second half is quieter, dronier, more expansive, and (in the nicest possible way) vaguely prog.
5 (10) Coles Corner Richard Hawley
Old-fashioned orchestrated balladry (Roy Orbison & The Bad Seeds?) with a lugubrious, tender-hearted sentimentality; texturally fantastic, even when the songs wear a little thin towards the end.
6 (29) The Magic Numbers The Magic Numbers
Having largely left me cold for months (they promised me warm California sunshine, not dour indie-lite Camden drizzle), something is finally clicking. Maybe it’s the sheer class of the songcraft, as it emerges, shaking its mane, from that woolly heap in the corner.
7 (3) Chavez Ravine Ry Cooder
Its first half affectionately celebrates the vibrancy of a long-vanished Los Angeles community, now buried by bulldozers; its second half is an extended elegy for it. Both halves are equally ravishing.
8 (8) Ceasefire Emmanuel Jal & Abdel Gadir Salim
North Sudanese veteran meets South Sudanese rebel rapper, in the name of national unity. Initially disappointing (I’m so over African hip-hop), but this is now slowly sneaking up on me.
9 (13) Noah’s Ark Cocorosie
Sorry, got to say “fractured” again. Like a faulty musical box from a Victorian penny dreadful, as exhumed by a pair of New York arthouse Wyrd Sisters. Features Antony from the Johnsons, if that’s any indication.
10 (7) The Rough Guide to Franco Franco
You can’t have a serious African music collection without a bit of Franco for historical perspective, you know. Them’s the rules.
11 (9) You Could Have It So Much Better Franz Ferdinand
It’s all a bit routine, isn’t it? But not without its charms. Then again, I’m biased (sigh).
12 (28) In the Heart of the Moon Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate
Despite being more than a tad Incidental Music In New Age Gift Shop, these improvised guitar/kora noodlings are beginning to find their place – even if that place is mostly in the background, over a nice piece of chicken, with puy lentils and an agreeable tangy reduction.
13 (1) Orientation Thione Seck
Recorded in Dakar, Paris, Cairo and Bombay over several years, this ambitious spiritual cousin to Youssou N’Dour’s Egypt is nothing short of a masterpiece. Best heard loud, through bloody good speakers.
14 (22) Clor Clor
Herky-jerky-quirky power-pop, of the Futureheads/early-XTC variety. I’m seeing them in a couple of weeks, supporting Sons & Daughters.
15 (-) Without You Masters of Persian Music
A perfect atmosphere-enhancer for the Monday morning drive back to Nottingham, as dawn breaks over Carsington Water and the dark silhouettes of the geese rise over us in airborne shoals. You wouldn’t think it, would you?
16 (16) Stars Of CCTV Hard-Fi
Ee, there’s hope for the younger generation after all. All across the land, fortysomething dads with Jam and Specials albums in the attic are beaming with approval as they pass their sons’ bedroom doors. And why not.
17 (-) Come & Get It Rachel Stevens
Frisky, intricate, sophisticated electro-pop, all but wasted on dull FHM-babe cipher.
18 (11) Kitty Jay Seth Lakeman
Foxy twentysomething dude from Dartmoor breathes fresh new life into boring old folk Sensation! Recorded in bedroom! Mercury nominated! (See also Spiers & Boden.)
19 (18) Legends of East Africa Orchestra Makassy
Twenty years old, still sounds marvellous, contains first African track I ever bought (Mambo Bado).
20 (25) Ruby Blue Roisin Murphy
Her out of Moloko, as produced by Matthew Herbert. Some have slagged this off for being a bit Smooth Jazz Wine Bar, but I beg to differ.
21 (17) Crying at Teatime Alfie
Just as I finally get round to buying one of their albums, they go and split up on me, due to “lack of interest”. Bah. Lightweights. They’ll be wanting a living wage next.
22 (4) Dimanche à Bamako Amadou & Mariam
Proper pop stars in France, where Manu Chao’s production influences must have helped nudge them into the mainstream. Sure it’s Crossover, but “authenticity” has always been overrated. Unquestionably the soundtrack to our Summer, and still on light rotation even now.
23 (19) The Understanding Röyksopp
It hasn’t made the same waves as its rather more stylistically unified predecessor, but there’s plenty of goodness here none the less.
24 (12) Humming By The Flowered Vine Laura Cantrell
I wouldn’t normally go for this sort of thing, but she was great live, like Nanci Griffith before she went Cheesy Showbiz; 14th Street is especially lovely.
25 (21) A Certain Trigger Maxïmo Park
“Solid” guitar band, who have hooked me in a way that so many of their 2005 contemporaries have failed to do. (Hello Bloc Party!) There’s nothing wrong with “solid”, you know. Same goes for the Doves, if you must know.