Best Album Literally Nobody Knows
Albino – Bleeding Heart Yard
Albino are a band who gig around London and have never really achieved much recognition, even in obscure indie circles. They recorded this album in 2006 and it’s basically an album of near-perfect folk-pop songs and I really wish more people knew it. If a song like “Flotsam Drift” had been recorded by someone with even a tiny bit of money or publicity behind them it would have reached Coldplay-esque proportions of success…
Album I’d Be Least Likely to Give my Grandmother for Christmas
Momus – Hippopotamomus
There are two famous (in minor indie celebrity terms) stories about this album – firstly the fact that the NME gave it a 0 out of 10 after their reviewer was physically sick through listening to the song “a Dull Documentary” and that the whole album was ultimately pulped due to Michelin’s legal action over the song “Michelin Man” which compared their corporate mascot to a sex toy. For any other act this would undoubtedly be considered a bizarre piece of legal action. However – given Momus was also sued by transsexual conceptual artist Wendy Carlos for a later song speculating on her travelling through time to engage in a relationship with her pre-surgery identity Walter Carlos – he probably found it a bit more par for the course.
The album itself is basically an album of songs about sex but, rather than being erotic or deliberately shocking done with quite a childlike sense of glee and wonder. Vorarephilia, bestiality, and various other paraphilias are all covered. The overall effect is rather playful though, and there’s something very joyful about someone being as explicit as possible purely ‘cos they can. Still won’t be given it to my Grandmother for Christmas though!
Simon Turner – Sex Appeal
Simon Turner was a 70s aspiring teen pop star who never quite made it, later released a couple of great albums on Creation as the King of Luxembourg and now, as Simon Fisher-Turner, is a respected film composer on Mute Records. “Sex Appeal” is a compilation of what he terms the “awful pop music” of his early career, perhaps made a bit more contentious than it might be due to the fact that many of the songs were written by his then-mentor Jonathan King which does admittedly colour your perception of some of the more innocent songs. There’s some great offbeat throwaway pop songs on here though and I do rather enjoy it.
Most Ridiculous Claim that the First Album was Better
David Bowie – the Deram Anthology
Most people into music know the story of David Bowie – a struggling musician called David Jones who kept releasing music without success until he changed his name, changed his identity and suddenly started writing brilliant songs. Not so many people though have actually heard the records he released during that time – one album and a few singles on Deram records which are compiled on the “Deram Anthology”. It’s a strange mix of music hall, novelty songs, psychedelia and the odd moment of sweeping pop brilliance but what’s really fascinating is just listening to someone develop, try things out, fail and try again. There’s something very human about it and I’m a big fan.
Best Album With Worst Title
Final Fantasy – He Poos Clouds
I’m a huge fan of Owen Pallett and this is one of my favourite albums of recent years – perhaps even my favourite. But Christ I wish it had a different name when I recommend it to people…
Most Star-Studded Album
Rogues’ Gallery – Various Artists
Rogues’ Gallery was released in the wake of the popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean films and is basically a set of covers of traditional sea shanties recorded by one producer in four locations around the world with whoever he can get to play on the records. So far, this is probably only interesting to me, but the cast of performers is staggering – Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Lou Reed, Bryan Ferry, Martin Carthy, Warren Ellis, Richard Thompson III, Loudon Wainwright III, Anthony from Anthony & the Johnsons, Stan Ridgeway, Van Dyke Parks and, erm, Sting all feature and there’s some absolutely cracking songs. All in all, it’s amazing it isn’t more widely known…
Jake Thackray - Jake in a Box
Jake Thackray was sort of a Yorkshire Jacques Brel. He taught English in France and then starting performing songs became, oddly a staple of “That’s Life” for a few years as well as releasing some brilliantly observed warm, satirical and funny songs about Northern life in the 1960s which stand amongst the most perfect examples of narrative storytelling I’ve ever heard. This compilation contains nearly everything he ever released and is utterly superb.
Most Improbably Festive
Mickey & Bunny sing English Christmas Carols in Ukranian
I found this online (you can too here) when I was searching for music for a Christmas gig I put on three years ago. As far as I can understand it’s a 1965 Christmas album by a husband and wife duo are called Mickey and Bunny and are, erm, singing English Christmas Carols in Ukranain. There’s something very weird about hearing nostalgia-inducing songs from your childhood in an entirely different language and it’s both comforting and jarring at the same time. Слухай Як Вісник Співає (or Hark the Herald Angels Sing as it’s known in English) is definitely the strongest moment, which is odd at it’s not one of my favourite carols.
Honourable mention must also go to the 1973 album Merry Christmas from the US Navy, which I found on the same blog. Recorded just after the end of compulsory military service in the US, it was a strange mix of Christmas record and Navy recruitment ad where Navy bands playing traditional carols were mixed with then-TV comedian Danny Thomas extolling the virtues of Christmas, family, tradition and signing up for the Navy as though they all went logically together.
“In the sprirt of this glad season, the United States renews its faith in the many blessings that are ours. We are a country endowed with great natural and spiritual wealth. And ours is a people of strong minds and stout hearts, determined to rise to new heights of happiness and Nationals Security.” You don’t get that from the Queen’s Christmas message.
The "The Wrong Life" EP from Paul Hawkins & The Awkward Silences is out Monday the 1st of August on CD & Download and you can pre-order it from:
Bandcamp - free track for your troubles
Jezus Factory - you can get their complete discography from these badboys