My Top 20 Albums – ‘Surfer Rosa’ by Pixies.

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I was deep into my Nirvana phase when a friend of mine suggested another American band I might enjoy, “They totally influenced Kurt Cobain!” he exclaimed with wide eyes. A few days later he personally hand delivered two CDs, a mini LP called Come on Pilgrim (1987) and a thirteen-track debut album by the name of Surfer Rosa (1988). “Alt-rock pioneers dude!” he told me with a face as serious as a car accident, “I’m telling you… alt-rock pioneers!’’

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My Top 20 Albums – ‘Figure 8’ by Elliott Smith.

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Anyone familiar with my reviews will be far from surprised to hear I’m a big Elliott Smith fan. Like Nick Drake before him, Elliott was a deeply troubled soul who wore his heart on his sleeve, writing immensely cathartic alt-rock throughout a tragically brief solo career. Time and time again I find myself falling for artists like Smith, tortured beings who craft breathtaking records using their own blood and guts as the cement that sticks everything together. Over the course of seven albums (two of which were unfinished and released posthumously), Elliott put it all out there, for better or for worse, no-holds-barred, his songs like open wounds.

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My Top 20 Albums – ‘Lost Souls’ by Doves.

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In the summer of 2000 I turned twenty-two and as per tradition back in those days I was treated to a bunch of CDs from my core group of music-loving friends. It was always exciting to receive a pile of albums all at once, even if I knew I’d be getting exactly what I’d asked for. There was Coldplay’s excellent debut Parachutes, Badly Drawn Boy’s Mercury Prize winner The Hour of Bewilderbeast and Super Furry Animals’ Welsh language delight Mwng. But then I unwrapped a title that took me by surprise. Lost Souls by Doves? Who the heck are Doves?

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My Top 20 Albums – ‘The Queen Is Dead’ by The Smiths.

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I have a somewhat sheepish confession to make. Now bear with me, but the first time I heard The Smiths I was not impressed. The track I’d stumbled across was Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others, a quirky little tune that appeared as simplistically self-explanatory as its title suggested. ‘‘Some girls are bigger than others’’ sings front man Morrissey, ‘‘some girls’ mothers are bigger than other girls’ mothers’’. Scratching my head, I couldn’t decide whether or not the whole thing was a joke, the singer’s deadpan vocals giving nothing away.

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My Top 20 Albums – ‘Radiator’ by Super Furry Animals.

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I can’t put my finger on when exactly Britpop became such a dirty word. A genre that once channelled such an acute sense of hope and reinvention, today it’s often referred to with an acidic dismissiveness. Cock an ear to any non-believer and you’re likely to hear buzzwords like ‘‘derivative’’, ‘‘pedestrian’’ and ‘‘false dawn’’.

Britpop was the music of my youth, the soundtrack to my coming of age, so naturally I’m having none of it. Not that I don’t see where the naysayers are coming from. Admittedly there were countless bands that sounded like inferior laboratory clones of Shed Seven. Then you had acts such as Menswear, Cast, Space, Heavy Stereo and Embrace, all of whom released records that made you wanna turn your back on music and take up trainspotting. Hell, I’ll even begrudgingly accept that Oasis didn’t turn out to be the new Beatles after all, largely failing to fulfil their potential.

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My Top 20 Albums – ‘The Bends’ by Radiohead.

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1995 was a golden year in my budding journey as a record collector. At seventeen years old I had barely twenty albums to my name but was greedily lapping up as much new music as my free time would allow. Which, as I happily underachieved my way through college, turned out to be quite a lot!

I fell for loads of bands that year, partly due to the irrepressible enthusiasm of youth. But also because there were some ******* great records! (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Different Class, The Great Escape, Stanley Road, I Should Coco, Grand Prix, Elastica, Ben Folds Five, A.M. 

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