Five great non-jazz albums

by Henry on October 11, 2003

“Tom”: posted a few days ago on fifteen great jazz albums; I’m ashamed to state that I know next to nothing about jazz – or classical music. My tastes tend to be more lowbrow – rock, pop, some country, and lots of experimental electronic music. In that spirit, I’ll offer a list of five of my favourite quasi-obscure albums. Only quasi-obscure, mind you; you should be able to find all of this stuff in yer local Tower if the spirit moves you.

*DJ Marky – Movement: The Brazilian Job*

Tyler Cowen blogs a lot about the positive effects of mix-n-match globalization for culture; I reckon that this album proves his point. Drum and bass with a distinct Brazilian tinge. It’s a great mix album, ranging from samba-inflected jungle to UK darkcore (Ed Rush and Optical) and somehow, somehow, making it all gel together. A minor masterpiece.

*The Boo Radleys – Giant Steps*

Forgotten by all except by fans of early 1990’s British indie, this is one of my top 5 albums of all time. A little like My Bloody Valentine (but far less heavy on the reverb), a little like ‘OK-Computer’ era Radiohead; a lot like the Beatles, if the Beatles had come from another planet. Fuzzy guitars, distortion, understated vocals and savage lyrics. Their other albums range from quite good (Everything’s Alright Forever) to not very good at all (Kingsize).

*The Handsome Family – Through the Trees*

Murder ballads like you’ve never heard them before. A couple performing country music with a wry twist. Songs about Cologne Cathedral, madness, little sisters dying of snakebite, how “drifting neutrinos fall through the trees.” The whole gamut.

*David Holmes – Let’s Get Killed*

Belfast DJ wandering the streets of New York, talking to random crazies, recording their conversations with a DAT recorder, and setting them to compelling beats. Especial kudos for “Gritty Shaker,” (which appears in a slightly different version on his soundtrack for _Oceans 11_) and his majestic reworking of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Don’t Die Just Yet.”

*Amon Tobin – Permutation*

It’s hard to choose just one Amon Tobin album; but this is the one for me. Jazz hits drum and bass, but _not_ the usual wuffly noodlings of jazz’n’bass. Instead, _Permutation_ is something nasty; sleazy, lithe, iridescent, disturbing. An album that bites – standout tracks are “Sordid,” “Switch,” “Like Regular Chickens,” and “Nova” (which was later used as the background music for that Bebel Gilberto song which was playing all over last year).



brayden 10.11.03 at 8:01 am

Definitely liking the David Holmes pick. Another great Holmes’ album (I believe he produced it) is the Out of Sight soundtrack.


Duncan 10.11.03 at 9:21 am

The Handsome Family are fantastic – they’re supposed to brilliant live as well. (fits in well with Ted’s Golden Gate post further down!)

Would go for “Loveless” over “Giant Steps” though.

Another question – why is it that virtually none of the British indie bands of the past 15 years or so have been capable of making more than one or two great records?


Nabakov 10.11.03 at 11:14 am

In the spirt of this post, can I offer my five alltime makeup albums (tested under combat conditions) in no particular order.

“Moon Safari”, Air: Puts yer date in the mood to discuss the original Duran Duran’s breakthrough technology.

“What’s Going On”, Marvin Gaye. Still works even now, although sometimes the wrong name gets utters during key moments.

“Sex”, The Necks. Only one track which lasts for 50something minutes. You can see where this is going.

“Return of the Duritti Column”, Duritti Column. Works a treat with poli-sci studnets once you explain the antecedents of the name.

“Lovage”, Nathaniel Merriwetaher et al. A PoMo pisstake on the whole idea of makeout music and so just right for inserting tongies in cheeks.


Nabakov 10.11.03 at 11:17 am

Before anyone hurts themselves, I’d better clarify that “tongies” should read “tongues’.


Nabakov 10.11.03 at 11:31 am

And in the very first para, “makeout” not “makeup”. !??%%#*!@$%%!!!


Abiola Lapite 10.11.03 at 2:34 pm

“I’m ashamed to state that I know next to nothing about … classical music”

Philistine! And how are you going to be able to stake your claim to being a member of the pointy-headed liberal elite if you don’t know a madrigal from a mazurka?

PS – For the extremely humor impaired, I’m being facetious!


Henry 10.11.03 at 4:48 pm

Duncan – I agree with you that Loveless is better than Giant Steps, but decided not to stick it in the list because it’s still quite well known. I still hope against hope that Kevin Shields is going to emerge from the darkness and produce that great third album. His MBV Arkestra remix of Primal Scream’s If They Move Kill ‘Em was nothing short of extraordinary, and indicates that he still has it in him (although his Mogwai remixes were a bit duff).

Haven’t seen the Handsome Family live; I’ve heard the same thing though.


Henry 10.11.03 at 4:52 pm

And how could I have forgotten to put the Blue Aeroplanes’ “Swagger” in the list. Bloke intoning cod-poetry over six to eight guitars, hammered tiples, mandolins, and whatever you’re having yerself – should have been just dreadful, but was (for the most part) sublime. Their follow-up album “Beatsongs” is also great as are b-side compilations Friendloverplane I and II – but the rest of their output confirms Duncan’s Law.


Jimmy Doyle 10.11.03 at 6:23 pm

I assume the omission of Guided by Voices’ Bee Thousand was merely an oversight.


Laura 10.12.03 at 1:38 am

I have to say that while the Handsome Family is good live, and their live show made me appreciate their recorded material more, I still think they’re overrated. For some reason their music seems to spur music critics to really outrageous heights of pretentiousness. Maybe that’s part of why I hear the music itself as pretentious, but I kind of do. He has a fabulous voice, but the lyrics and some of the tunes are so self-conscious bordering on precious.

Now that I’ve ensured that a good part of the people reading this are totally hostile to me, I’ll say that if you want murder ballads, you should listen to anything by Tim Eriksen or his band Cordelia’s Dad.

These days though my actual favorite CD is Kasey Chambers “Barricades & Brickwalls” or “The Captain.” Or really anything of hers.


ChrisL 10.13.03 at 7:21 pm

i did a similar list last week. i was a little shocked to see that most of my favorites came from the time span from when i started college to when i got married.

Loveless was on my list :)



Paul 10.14.03 at 3:10 am

I thought a bit and here’s five of my favorite, relatively recent, “quasi-obscure” non-jazz CDs:

Derek Bailey/Min Tanaka – “Music and Dance” – Tananka’s Butoh dance steps backed with Bailey’s improv guitar recorded on a rainy day in a leaky French warehouse. Very soothing. Really.

Lo Jo – “Boheme de Cristal” – Franco-African-Gypsy folk-funk. What am I, some kinda frog-lover?

Nina Nastasia – “The Blackened Air” – Rural-gothic country-rock. Cellos, mandolins, violins, all that good stuff. If you like The Handsome Family, you’ll love this.

Ute Lemper – “Punishing Kiss” – Fabulous cabaret diva meets Nick Cave, Elvis Costello, The Divine Comedy. Arty, theatrical pop.

King Sunny Ade – “Best of the classic years” – Early work. Steel guitars, dance beats from the master of Juju.

And a not-too-recent, not to obscure 6th: Galaxie 500 – “This is our music” – Possibly my favorite. band. ever.

Laura is otm re: the Handsome Family. I love Brett’s voice (“Twilight” has a wonderfully chilly winter sound); but sometimes they sound just a little too Pro-Tooled and a little too precious. Still, it’d be a shame to lose them.

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