Fifty From Five

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

These are, as of Tuesday 30th October 2007, my fifty favourite records released during the existence of Stylus Magazine. Only three rules exist for this list; things must have been released between June 3rd 2002 and October 29th 2007, only one album from any given artist, and no reissues or compilations. Oh, and I must like it. A lot.

As a result you won’t find Is A Woman, Point, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Tallahassee or Original Pirate Material on this list; they all came out in the first six months of 2002. There’s no Can or Sly remasters and no Tropicalia either. And there’s definitely no fucking Blueberry Boat. Just fifty new records that I have loved during the life of Stylus. I was going to just do twenty, but it was too hard.

Here they are, in a very vague semblance of preference.

1. Bark Psychosis - ///Codename:Dustsucker
I say vague, but I think this is almost a clear favourite for me. Certainly, unlike almost any other choice here, I feel no pangs or divisions regarding whether this should be above or below this or that other record; it just stands apart. Maybe it’s that I interviewed Graham Sutton and that we’ve occasionally corresponded since; maybe it’s just the infinite depth of the actual music on this record. No, I don’t listen to it every day, and couldn’t, either; but I don’t and couldn’t with any other record on this list. They each have their time and place. In fact, I’m not sure when I last did listen to this; I just know that when I do, nothing else matters.

My Stylus review.

2. Manitoba / Caribou – Up In Flames
Whereas this… I might prefer, right now, both The Milk of Human Kindness and also, especially, Andorra, but this had such epochal impact on me when it landed that I have to pick it over them; I still remember the first listen and the crazed, hyperbole spitting ILM thread I started over four years ago. It’s a freakout, really, and though it’s perhaps a tad too frenetic, I love it, and it definitely hit hard and helped define, I think, what Stylus, and my own personal taste, was / is about.

My Stylus review.

3. Electrelane – The Power Out
Is this really my third favourite album of the last five years? I’m not sure. Is it even my favourite Electrelane album of the last five years? I’m not sure of that, either; No Shouts No Calls perhaps holds as much weight. Hell, maybe Axes does too. But this was first contact, and as such… when “The Valleys” opens up it swells something inside. And the sound! Albini magic. I wish I’d known them sooner. (As with many, many things musical, Emma got their first.)

4. Patrick Wolf – The Magic Position
I probably personally prefer Wind In The Wires as a mood mover, an emotional pipe into me, but as with Manitoba / Caribou and Electrelane, I’m picking the artist here rather than the record. And this, of the three Patrick’s produced since Stylus started, was the most anticipated and explosive, a glitterball burst of positivity that harboured just as much beauty, fragility and fractured persona as the previous two despite what people said about him going ‘pop’. And again, an interview added a further degree of personal connection. The man’s imagination and talent astound me. We’re seeing him live again soon, at the Phoenix again with a minimal approach rather than the full-on glam storm he brought to the Thekla and Birmingham Academy earlier this year.

My Stylus review.

5. Califone – Roots And Crowns
Like I say, this is a very vague semblance of preference; I don’t know this record well enough to call it as my fifth favourite of the last five years in all probability, and that’s largely because there’s so much to get to know, so know much depth, so much detail, so much space, so many hooks and strangely wrought emotions in this weird, spaced-out country headmusic. Perversely catchy too, for something so obstruse.

6. Acoustic Ladyland – Skinny Grin
Should have been epochal but wasn’t; the world in 2007 isn’t ready for jazz anymore, not jazz like this anyway (in the face of Norah Jones and Jamie Cullum), and I was always fighting as losing battle to convince fellow Stylus-ites that Acoustic Ladyland’s relentless pursuit of futurist energy and emotion was as revolutionary as it really is. And it fucking is! Wow. Noise, energy, pitch, feeling, tone, pace, scope; everything goes to the max.

My Stylus review.

7. Battles – Mirrored
As above, really, except that, this being American, NYC even, and allied with postrock or mathrock or whatever, means it got a degree of attention Skinny Grin missed. Don’t get me wrong; this is just as freaky and amazing and weird as the one above, just as wonderful, but the two aren’t that far apart. Is it too recent to pick here? Maybe.

8. The Necks – Drive By
Both vatic and profound; infinite. From casual exposure (playing it in the office) I’ve had more comments about this (“what is this?”) than any other record over the years. Just a… perfect thing. It’s like a sculpture or something; it reminds me of the mirrored cubes that used to be in the Tate Modern (probably still are?- a while since I’ve been) and which, while deceptively simple, can absorb you for hours as you walk around and through them, seeing how they corrupt light and space and time.

My Stylus review.

9. Augie March – Strange Bird
Absolutely immaculately crafted, and a touch boozily so, to add some all-important character; some cracks, wheals, chips and knots in the wood that carving, waxing and polishing can’t fully conceal.

10. Grizzly Bear – Yellow House
What a beautiful, strange, old and unexplored house, full of cobwebs and aged oak furniture full of bizarre curios, everything put together with immense skill but at an angle, an incline, a woozy displacement to where you’d expect.

11. 65daysofstatic – The Destruction of Small Ideas
Another personal link, a holistic web of influence: this album reaffirmed why I ever wrote anything in the first place; in order to try and make things better.

My Stylus review.

12. Sonic Youth – Sonic Nurse
Amazing that such messy, dirty guitars can be done with such extraordinary clarity and care; and such hooks as well! That’s what surprised me.

13. Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther
Genuinely beautiful and timeless; or as genuinely as you get. Those harmonies; people said Radiohead as pilgrim fathers but really it’s Fleetwood Mac as persecuted hermits.

14. Roots Manuva – Awfully Deep
Token hip-hop entry number one; this isn’t hip-hop though, it’s some kind of fucked-up cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s beautiful and tapped and deep, deep, deep.

My Stylus review.

15. Working For A Nuclear Free City – Working For A Nuclear Free City
Just really well done, if a little… too eager at points to flit through its record collection. Better than anything Primal Scream managed since XTRMNTR. In love with music.

My Stylus review of the expanded American release.

16. The Clientele – The Violet Hour
Jonesy did the engineering! I didn’t know that until afterwards. My sepia saviour.

My Stylus review.

17. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver
Is it just those two songs in the middle that make this mean so much? Even if it is, it’s deserved.

My Stylus review.

18. Kate Bush – Aerial
Actually physically beautiful.

My Stylus review.

19. Lift To Experience – The Texas–Jerusalem Crossroads
Undeniable; frighteningly so. Joe 65dos assures me that Josh T. Pearson is a genius. I don’t doubt it.

20. Elbow – Leaders Of The Free World
Their best? Might be. Rise, fall. Rise, fall. The last four songs or so reward so much over time. About the details.

21. Embrace – Out Of Nothing
Flawed, so flawed, but so impassioned too. Hearts in the right place; heads not always.

22. Guillemots – From The Cliffs
Pipping the album proper because… “Cat’s Eyes” and “Who Left The Lights On Baby”. As simple as that.

23. Polar Bear – Held On The Tips Of Fingers
Modern jazz but without all the nods to electronica that so much modern jazz seems to need; no less modern, though.

My Stylus review.

24. Stars Of The Lid – And The Refinement of Their Decline
Just beautiful, again, and calm, and slow.

25. King Biscuit Time – Black Gold
Grows in stature every time I play it. Pips the final Beta Band album. Steve Mason actually is a genius. I wish him well.

My Stylus review.

26. Loose Fur – Loose Fur
This and the second one both, simply, get listened to more often and enjoyed more fully than any of the “important” Wilco albums; they’re just music.

27. Spoon – Kill The Moonlight
As is this; funky, fun, different. I love his adenoids and his clumsy ass-shake. Like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’s younger, less po-faced brother.

28. Four Tet – Rounds
Pause is the one, really, but this will do. Final tracks should sound like going home. This one does.

My Stylus review.

29. The Delgados – Hate
Too bold, maybe, but those melodies and voices make up for it.

30. TV On The Radio – Young Liars EP
Love the aesthetic – drone, groove, soul – and this perhaps does it best of the choices available.

31. Final Fantasy – He Poos Clouds
Just exquisitely musical.

32. Fennesz – Venice
Austere and beautiful and strange. The review is worth a read, if I say so myself.

My Stylus review.

33. British Sea Power – Open Season
Calmer, more comfortable; some beautiful moments but still with energy.

34. Two Lone Swordsmen – From The Double Gone Chapel
The start of the new phase; dirty forest rock.

35. Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man – Out Of Season
Distant. Unlike almost anything else. Rural vocal theatre.

My Stylus review.

36. Ghostface Killah – The Pretty Toney Album
Token hip-hop two. Boy got soul.

37. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People
Can’t deny it, even if it’s not quite everything.

38. Missy Elliott – Under Construction
Token hip-hop three. Girl got pointillist digital stereophonic funk.

39. Studio – West Coast
Very recent; unsure; impressed though.

My Stylus review.

40. The Notwist – Neon Golden
Changing men; organically digital. Surprisingly strong songs.

41. Boredoms – Seadrum / House Of Sun
Ambient jazz, or something. Less frenetic, almost; more beautiful, certainly.

42. Scott Walker – The Drift
Still never taken in in one sitting. How could you?

43. Sugababes – Three
Just. Really. Good. Pop.

My Stylus review.

44. N*E*R*D – In Search Of
Second version, for chronology. Dirty drug fucks.

45. Akufen – My Way
Literally cut dance music into tiny new pieces.

46. Vitalic – OK Cowboy
Took those pieces and recast them in classic forms.

47. Rufus Wainwright – Want One
Comically grandiose; staggeringly gifted and egotistical melodicist.

48. OutKast – Speakerboxxx / The Love Below
For a little while, seemed like the best, most important thing ever.

My Stylus review.

49. Boards Of Canada – The Campfire Headphase
Over-exposed sound, more willing to communicate now. Beautiful. Another review worth reading.

My Stylus review.

50. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm
For a little while, seemed like the best, most important thing ever.

My Stylus review.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Blogger MJB - 6:49 pm

Pretty Toney is still my favorite Ghostface record; obviously Supreme Clientele came out before your window of reference, but don't disabuse me of the notion that you think Toney superior, even if it's true.

Also, I second you on Silent Alarm: that album was great, still is, and I'm a little surprised every time I put it on. Shame about the follow up, though.

Sorry to hear about Stylus, and I wish you the best of luck.

Blogger georgebutcher - 6:54 am

Great list. My favourite is number 50.


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Nick Southall was born in southwest England at the tail end of the 70s, and is the youngest of three brothers. He has a degree in popular culture and philosophy and has written about music for Stylus Magazine, The Guardian and Drowned In Sound, amongst others. He likes red wine, expensive headphones, spicy food, and the Hungarian national football team of the 1950s. His favourite record is the last one he listened to. You can contact him by email via sickmouthy @ gmail dot com should you so wish.

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