10 days ago I was challenged to do the 10 favourite albums list that’s been going around Facebook, with a slight twist of not being allowed to use albums already mentioned by members of my family. Rather than going into detail on Facebook about why I chose the albums I did, I thought I’d use the opportunity to wax lyrical about them here! I also apologise for how white this list is!
Joni Mitchell, Blue
This album has so many songs on it that make me cry. I love Joni, not only because I share my birthday with her, but this in particular is one which I’m rarely not in the mood for.
John Grant, Queen of Denmark
This album comes with a huge warning for homophobia, not on the part of John Grant himself, but because he’s very honest about his experience of growing up gay in America’s Bible Belt. It makes for very uncomfortable but very necessary listening. I first heard about it through a freebie Bella Union CD, which was probably the best free CD we’ve ever got.
First Aid Kit, The Lion’s Roar
Like most albums on this list, this was one which my dad introduced me to. It’s a beautiful collection of tracks, and the line in Emmylou about Stockholm always takes me right back to visiting Sweden for my birthday in 2016. I’ve seen them live twice, once at Green Man festival in Wales and once at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham. The Green Man performance was one of my favourite things I’ve seen, though that might have had something to do with being right at the front for it, next to two wee girls who were incredibly excited!
Belle and Sebastian, Tigermilk
Not only is this one of my favourite albums, it’s also my favourite cover (and not just because I have a signed version!) – Stuart Murdoch is one of the nicest people in music, and he is also very open about his faith. There’s also the fact that most of my blog posts are named after Belle and Sebastian songs, so I really couldn’t leave them off!
Blondie, Parellel Lines
Blondie’s Greatest Hits was a Christmas present from my dad when he was trying to convince me that the original of ‘The Tide is High’ is better than the Atomic Kitten version. He still says that was his proudest moment in parenting, and I’d probably agree with him! (This is a compliment of the highest order!) I’ve included this on my list for three main reasons:
1) in my mind Blondie mark the transition to me loving music
2) Even at a young age, seeing a woman being the frontperson of a band like Blondie was really refreshing and important.
3) It’s just a really good album!
The Low Anthem, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
Again, I’ve seen the Low Anthem live quite a few times, most recently just a few days ago at the Glee Club. My favourite gig of theirs was a few years ago at the Mac – partly because at that point, they still had a clarinettist and as someone who used to play the clarinet, that felt really cool!
I really like Smart Flesh, the album which I think follows this one, but this is my favourite by them – it’s coherent, beautiful and has one of my favourite songs on it (The Ghosts who Write History Books) – I also wanted to get in there with this one before my dad did! I’m definitely not competitive…
Nick Drake, Bryter Layter
Technically my favourite Nick Drake album is Five Leaves Left, but dad had already chosen that, so Bryter Layter it is! I’m not sure I can actually say anything that isn’t said better by the man himself on his songs. I am rarely evangelical about things, but if you haven’t listened to his albums, drop what you’re doing and listen. The arrangements, the guitar style, the lyrics – it’s nearly flawless. (I say nearly only because of Man in a Shed, because that’s the only Nick Drake song I don’t much like!)
The Decemberists, The King is Dead
I promise I didn’t just choose this album to make dad jealous about me having seen the Decemberists live and him not. It took a while after deciding I had to include them to settle on an album but I went for this one in the end. Generally, my favourite thing about the Decemberists is how they tell stories, especially in the album Hazards of Love.
Iron and Wine, Our Endless Numbered Days
I haven’t listened to this album from beginning to end for a while, but it’s a beautiful one, and deals with lots of themes I love in music (mortality and love, which along with God I’m fairly certain are the best themes in any songs – though neither the Beach Boys or Nick Cave actually made it to this final list, this is probably why I love God Only Knows and Into My Arms so much!)
Laura Marling, I Speak Because I Can
This is an album I listen to whenever it’s snowing, and the line ‘I never loved England more than when covered in snow’ is one of my favourites. The other songs on the album are also lovely, and I really like Laura’s voice.
Narrowing it down to just ten albums was really difficult, and there’s at least another ten I could have chosen – so honourable mentions to Nick Cave, Laura Veirs, Bruce Springsteen, Simon and Garfunkel, Beyoncé, Stornoway, ABBA, Elbow, Pulp and Leonard Cohen.