Over the course of this sustained lockdown period, some friends of mine have challenged me to come up with 10 albums that influenced my taste in music by tagging me in a Facebook post.
Not one to shy away from such a task, I have decided to go about the whole thing somewhat differently. Don't call the Facebook Police on me! So, instead of posting an album cover a day for 10 days, with no explanation, no review blah blah blah you know the rules, I'm going to tell you a little about each one and why I think it played a part in shaping my taste in music. My good friend Mark Gamble did the same thing and it was an interesting read. I've always copied him. Are you reading this, Mark?
When I think back to my formative years, discovering new music was something I enjoyed doing on my own. None of my school friends really cared about music as much as I, nor did they have any interest in going to concerts — not that Lowestoft had a bustling live music scene. My mum bought me my first ever copy of the NME, my Grandad gave me a copy of Let It Be on vinyl and I'd go to my auntie's house to watch MTV2 whilst looking after my younger cousin.
Anyway, over the last few weeks I've been thinking about those days a lot, and here are 10 albums I've chosen.
The Verve — Urban Hymns
During the mid-to-late 90s, a lot of my musical interests came from going to Carrow Road to watch Norwich City matches. The pre-game music was always the same, tracks off Urban Hymns were consistently ringing through the PA system. I played this album to death, and listened to it on my mini-disc player every day whilst cycling to school. I remember a guy in my year group — who will remain nameless, said to me during a lesson "Oi, Aaron. How many cds have you got?", "Coming up to 50 now" I replied. "Funny that, I didn't think The Verve had that many albums", was his pathetic attempt at humoring the class. Idiot. Over the years I've started to prefer the sound of their earlier stuff more and more, A Northern Soul is a masterpiece of a record. I now have a big love for all of those early 90s shoegaze bands such as Slowdive, Spiritualized, Ride...
The Chemical Brothers — Surrender
Another story which involves pre-game music at Carrow Road. Hey Boy, Hey Girl would ring out around the stadium at about 2:50pm on a match day, but 14 year old me would have no idea who it was. Watching football was a weekly ritual for me back then and when moments of your life become synonomous with a specific song, it's hard to ignore how much of an impact it makes on you. Especially as a teenager. I went along to Andy's Records in Lowestoft to see if they could help me out. I sung part of the song to the guy working there, and of course he knew it was The Chemical Brothers. I ordered the album there and then. This started my phase of wanting to make electronic music on Dance eJay. Remember that software?!
Doves — Lost Souls
At the turn of the century, I was working as a paperboy earning £10 a week delivering 52 newspapers every morning before school. Back-breaking work. I could never really afford to spend money on music, as my wages would get me a return train ticket to Norwich, a matchday programme and some sweets. Compilation cds were the way forward at that time. I discovered Doves on a Q Awards cd that I no doubt bought from Tesco — just look at the tracklisting, magical stuff. Catch The Sun was a highlight, and I subsequently bought Lost Souls. Doves have remained one of my favourite bands ever since.
Radiohead — Kid A
Around the time of this being released, mates of mine would come over and we'd stick on some music, eat rubbish and play Championship Manager all day. Oh to be 15 again. "Why do you listen to this kind of stuff?" I'd often hear. I think I'd only heard The Bends before this, plus the odd track from OK Computer on the telly, and was expecting more of the same. This was an unexpected album — for me at least, to really enjoy. Its calmer, more intimate moments are what stuck and has since made me appreciate a lot of ambient, experimental music.
Super Furry Animals — Rings Around The World
The love affair with Gruff Rhys started right here. This album taught me about how music can be different. Experimental. Odd. Unpredictable, and dam right weird. I loved every minute of it, and I wanted more. Imagine how I felt when I found out this wasn't their debut album! I am now a huge Gruff fanboy, and will buy anything that has his name on it. The man is a genius.
Coldplay — A Rush of Blood to the Head
Yes, really. Coldplay. I don't really care what other people think to be honest, I loved this album. I'd write 'Make Trade Fair' on my hands, and wrap coloured electrical tape around my fingers, just like Chris Martin did. It's all true. My mate Ross Parkinson did the same. The melancholic tones which reverberate throughout, were what roped me in. Without this record, I wouldn't be able to appreciate bands such as Elbow or The National as much as I do now.
Cornershop — Handcream For a Generation
Around the time of this release, I was working on the entertainment department at WHSmith during my off-days from 6th Form. On Sundays, the store was a ghosttown and I would play whatever music I wanted to. I'd often play this record over and over. The attention to detail and the wide scope of sounds on this album, made me appreciate the production that goes into making a record. I always thought Spectral Mornings would have worked better as the album's closing track, but hey, what do I know.
The Thrills — So Much For The City
From 2003 onwards, I was listening to pretty much everything featured in the NME. Yep, I was one of those kids. Let's be honest, there was a lot of stuff out around then. Athlete, The Hives, Starsailor, The Kills, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Rapture... I could go on... Turin Brakes, Franz Ferdinand. But for me, it was The Thrills. I was obsessed with 5 scruffy, long-haired Irishmen who wore vintage looking clothes and made music that sounded like The Beach Boys, and I've no idea why. Their debut album soundtracked a summer of hanging around (see what I did there?! Nevermind) with mates, whilst doing absolutely nothing of note. This strange obsession with The Thrills would go on to last for quite a few years.
Sigur Rós — ()
I remember exactly where I was when I first heard this album. It was shortly after the last game of the Premier League season, Norwich had lost embarrassingly away to Fulham and were relegated. I was watching the game with my mate Kev Stevens in Lincoln, afterwards we went back to his house and got drunk. His older brother had recommended this album to him, so he bought it. Hardly the type of music you want to listen to after your team has been relegated, but it was like nothing I'd ever heard before. They were singing in a language I didn't understand, and I didn't care. It sounded beautiful. Of course, I went out and bought it the next day. I now had a newfound appreciation for instrumental, ethereal sounding, post-rock bands.
Shout Out Louds — Howl Howl Gaff Gaff
The 10th, and final album. This one took me a while to think of, I would have posted this weeks ago if I could have decided sooner. I wanted my 10 albums to tell a story, to have somehow made an impact on my life. Shout Out Louds are from Stockholm, and this — their debut album, was released in 2005. Again, the market was saturated with indie music back then, and I was absorbing it all. There aren't many bands from this period that are still together, making music. SOL are, however. I've travelled a lot over the years to see them perform, I think I'm on 13 or 14 times now. Malmö, Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden, Sheffield, London... they are one of my favourite live bands to see, and for as long as they keep performing, I'll be there. I even wrote a piece about them a few years back. This album will always take me back to 2005, dancing to Please Please Please in a sweaty indie club in Lincoln. Happy days.
If you've made it this far, then thanks for reading. Here's a small playlist I made on Spotify, featuring a track from each album.
Not heard any of these, but want to listen to just one of them? Then I'd suggest Cornershop's Handcream For a Generation — It's the best album you've never listened to.