Best albums of 1988: The honourable mentions (aka #10 through #6)

 

Happy Thursday! And welcome back to my Throwback Thursday (#tbt) best albums series.

I know it’s been a while since the last of these but there’s good reason. If you look back at my sentiments at the time of my last series, you’ll see that I had this crazy idea of whipping through six of these things this year to catch up. Well, halfway through writing for this particular list, I hit a wall. I found the mission way too onerous and ambitious…. So I decided to take a break, take my time writing these posts, and enjoy them again. I’ve decided instead to choose years at random to do throughout future years and maybe even do some theme-based best albums lists. First, though, I wanted to share this particular list with you because I pushed through to finish it and it is a good one with a lot of important albums.

Our destination here is 1988, which is unbelievably just over thirty years ago now. I can’t really say it feels like yesterday because at the time, I was spanning my first and second years of high school. The problems of acne, getting braces, and math homework seem like another world ago. I had yet to hit my growth spurt, hadn’t yet started shaving, and I still hadn’t yet dipped my toes in the theatrical arts, something that would radically change my high school experience from then on out.

This is the second time we are touching down in the 1980s The last time we did so, I mentioned in the introductory post that I was still finding my way in the music world. The pop charts were king. AM radio and music video shows and countdowns, and whatever they played at the high school dances at which I was holding up walls. So yeah, a lot of the albums on this list were not even close to being on my radar back when they were released. In some cases, I came upon them a few years later, some of them took longer to take hold, but all of them are now staples in my collection and revered for their place in my musical education.

Yes, the ten albums in this list are all classics and I am going to kick things off with the first five below. And if you don’t know the trick by now, I will be featuring the top five, an album each Thursday, over the next five weeks. I hope you enjoy this trip back to 1988 with me.


#10 The Sugarcubes “Life’s too good”

Nowadays, we have the international sensations Sigur Rós and Of Monsters and Men but before The Sugarcubes hit the scene, we hadn’t heard much rock music from Iceland. The six-piece alternative outfit were made up of veterans of different music groups from the Reykjavik scene. They released three full-length albums in their four year existence, though none as impactful as their debut, “Life’s too good”. Admittedly, I didn’t first listen to the album until well after their former frontwoman, Björk, had established her solo career with her excellent first two records. However, I have grown to love the quirky, punk-inflected DIY rock of The Sugarcubes’ debut. And it doesn’t at all sound thirty years old.

Gateway tune: Birthday


#9 Erasure “The innocents”

Here is an album that I was definitely listening to in high school, though perhaps not as early as 1988. “The innocents” was Erasure’s third full-length album and first to hit the top 10 in the UK charts, spawning a number of hit singles. The duo of Vince Clark and Andy Bell took 80s synth pop and made a career out of getting people out on the club dance floors. I love many of their singles but this is the only one of their albums that I love all the way through. I am well aware that it could be nostalgia factor here, given that this is the first of theirs that I listened to after my friend John made a copy of it on cassette for me.

Gateway tune: Chains of love


#8 Billy Bragg “Worker’s playtime”

I got into Billy Bragg with the album after this one, 1991’s “Don’t try this at home”, during my final year of high school and only went back to discover this previous album a few years later, when one of my university housemates Meagan had it in her CD collection. “Don’t try this at home” is considered by many his attempt at pop but in 1988 Bragg was still mixing his prototypical protest songs with songs on love. He usually performs these songs live solo on stage with his electric guitar but on record, he had a full band with him, though the music is typically secondary to his words. “Workers playtime” is his third album and is chock full of classics and fan favourites like “Must I paint you a picture?”, “She’s got a new spell”, and the one below, “Waiting for the great leap forwards”.

Gateway tune: Waiting for the great leap forwards


#7 Jane’s Addiction “Nothing’s shocking”

Jane’s Addiction is another artist I was listening to by the end of high school, the introduction coming with the album following the one on this list, in this case, 1990’s “Ritual de lo Habitual”. In 1988, though, the quartet led by founding members Perry Farrell and Eric Avery, and including Dave Navarro and Stephen Perkins, were releasing their second album, their major label debut, “Nothing’s shocking”. Here, the group re-recorded a couple of tracks that appeared on their ‘live’ self-titled debut album and added some explosive new ones that mixed metal, surf, glam, funk, and punk. They were a hard-living group and it shows in the raw angst on so many of the songs here.

Gateway tune: Jane says


#6 Leonard Cohen “I’m your man”

I’m hoping that Canada’s singer/songwriter/poet, Leonard Cohen, needs no introduction to anyone that lands on these pages. His eighth studio album, “I’m your man”, was the first CD I owned by the influential lyricist, after being introduced to him by way of the appearance of “Everybody knows” a couple years later in the film “Pump up the volume”, a favourite of mine at the time. The production and instrumentation on this album definitely sound of its time but Cohen’s rich and deep vocals and excellent lyrics allow you to forgive him. So many great tracks, like the title track, “First we take manhattan”, and the aforementioned, “Everybody knows”. How could I not include this here?

Gateway tune: Everybody knows


Check back next Thursday for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Live music galleries: Ottawa Bluesfest 2019, day one – Marie-clo, Abigail Lapell, Chvrches, U.S. girls, Alt-J

(Since I’ll be too busy attending Ottawa Bluesfest over the next week or so to continue with this blog’s regularly scheduled programming, I thought I would do a special ‘live galleries’ series this week to share some pics from some of the sets I am enjoying.)

May of Bluesfest 2019 grounds

Artists: Marie-clo, Abigail Lapell, Chvrches, U.S. girls, Alt-J
When: July 4th, 2019
Where: Lebreton Flats Park, Ottawa
Some words: By my count, it’s been four years since I last bought a full festival pass to Ottawa’s Bluesfest, mostly due to increasing difficulties in finding enough in the lineup to be excited about. This year, there were two (perhaps three) bands that I was really, really jived for (and multiple others that generated a good enough amount of interest) and one of them was scheduled to play last night. Unfortunately for me (and likely many others), they were forced to cancel all of their summer shows. This removed a horrible time slot conflict with the main stage headliners for a lot of people. But for me, I would have rather seen First Aid Kit and crossed them off the bucket list. Next time, I guess.

I stopped off for dinner and a couple beers at a local brewery before heading down to the festival, factoring in plenty of time to navigate the long lines that are usual on opening night as organizers figure out their processes. Imagine my surprise to find nary a line, which made walking the labyrinth of temporary barriers superfluous. Once past the gates, I refilled my water bottle and headed in to the museum where the festival always has an intimate stage set up inside the Barney Danson theatre. Yeah, I’m very thankful that with last night’s heat, my first two shows were scheduled inside. Sweet air conditioning.

Right at 6 o’oclock was a local-ish, indie pop bilingual vocalist that went by the stage name of Marie-clo and was backed by another local band, Mal/aimé. After that, things got a bit dicey with conflicts and time slot overlaps. I caught the first half of Toronto singer/songwriter Abigail Lapell’s excellent and intimate folkie set. Then, I slipped into the middle of Scottish indie dance pop trio, Chvrches’ well-attended and high energy set on the main stage. At some point around 8pm, I hightailed it to the Videotron stage to catch the end of my happiest surprises of the night: the insanity of Meghan Remy’s art pop laboratory, U.S. Girls. I finished the night back at the City stage where the crowds had amassed even more for Alt-J. And it was brilliant.

Marie-clo and Mal:aimé
Marie-clo
Abigail Lapell
Lauren Mayberry and Jonny Scott of Chvrches
Martin Doherty of Chvrches
Iain Cook of Chvrches
Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches
U.S. Girls
Meghan Remy aka U.S. girls
Alt-J
Thom Sonny Green of Alt-J
Gus Unger-Hamilton of Alt-J
Joe Newman of Alt-J

Live music galleries: David Byrne [2018]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Like my ‘Vinyl love’ series, these posts will be more photos than words but that doesn’t mean I won’t welcome your thoughts and comments. And of course, until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts of page.)

David Byrne and brain, live on atage, September 2018

Artist: David Byrne
When: September 13th, 2018
Where: City stage, CityFolk Festival, Ottawa
Context: So I wrapped up my best albums of the year series a few days (and it already feels like years) ago so I thought I’d squeeze in one last post before the end of the year. And what better to focus on but my favourite live set of the year. Yes, David Byrne. I’ve already mentioned on these pages how surprised I was by his performance when I posted about how he managed to squeeze his way into my top ten albums for the year. I’ve been a fairweather Talking Heads fan over the years, loving some songs obsessively but never to the point of investing in more than their greatest hits compilation and certainly not enough to check out much of Byrne’s solo material. So when he was added to Ottawa’s CityFolk, I was curious but I only decided that I would see him for sure in the handful of days leading up to his set. I had no idea what to expect but it definitely wasn’t what I witnessed that night. It was a complete performance. Art and pop joined as one. Minimalist stage set but one that changed the idea of concert, a new idea of space. He had an incredible 11 piece band backing him but even they bucked against the standard ideas for what concert performers should be, equal parts marching band and stage actors. All dressed in matching grey outfits, all movements choreographed, and none tied down by elaborate drum kits or cords of any kind. Byrne was both ringmaster and lead player, running through a catalogue that pulled from his Talking Heads days, solo work and collaborations, with, of course, special focus on his latest album, “American utopia”.
Point of reference song: I dance like this

David Byrne and Chris Giarmo
The killer percussion section
David Byrne, of course
Bobby Wooten, David Byrne, and Angie Swan
David Byrne and the band
Daniel Freedman, Mauro Refosco, Davi Vieira, Gustavo Di Dalva, Angie Swan, and Karl Mansfield
Chris Giarmo, Tendayi Kuumba, Angie Swan, and David Byrne
Mauro Refosco, Davi Vieira, Daniel Freedman, and others
David Byrne and Bobby Wooten
David Byrne close up

Happy new year everyone!