Posted in Listed

Favourite Distant (Re)Discoveries 2020

5. Isobel Campbell – Runnin’ Down a Dream (Song): When the first round of COVID hit in March of this year, it was not uncommon to see streams of people walking down our otherwise quiet street. I joined the walkers, as I always do, and this track was a main listening experience at that time. The great Tom Petty song gets redone with a hovering synth that sounds like a drone and Isobel’s barely above a whisper vocals.

4. Alice Boman – Don’t Forget About Me (Song):  My favourite track of the year that was actually released in 2019. It likely popped up on an Apple playlist early in the new year and was instantly slotted in as a constant listen. The two beat percussion that appears a handful of times is a subtle highlight but it’s the lyrics that really hit. “I don’t want to ruin this illusion/by saying something wrong/so I say nothing at all” – Devastating.

3. Bjork – Debut (Album):  At some point in the 90s I owned Bjork’s Debut album. And at some point in the 90s I sold it just to buy it back in the last year. I didn’t really get it all those years ago and it took a lot of listens to get it now. But when I did, it stuck. The dreamier second half which is what I ended up listening to the most. A great album by an extraordinary artist.

2. Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (Album):  For the last two years in a row I’ve listened to Van Morrison on bitterly cold winter walks in January. The expert folk, rock and jazz musical bed creates a hazy world where Morrison speaks to you and tries to tell you his dreams. It’s an otherworldly listen that is breathtaking each time. “You breathe in/you breathe out”

1. The Beastie Boys – Beastie Boys Music (Album) – The Beastie Boys released this single disc greatest hits in late October of 2020. For some, this music has always been with us. Hearing “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” on a cheap ghetto blaster as an 11 year old in hockey dressing rooms, “Sabotage” at Lollapalooza in the early 90s, “Intergalatic” banging out of club speakers in the late 90s, and back to “Paul Revere” in a Vegas lounge side room to a small handful of partygoers. The Beastie Boys have never been too far from the stereo over the years but hearing this collection of songs brought their greatness back to the forefront. A must have for all 40 year old rock, rap, and alternative music fans.

Posted in Album Reviews

Bjork – Debut (1993)

Bjork first caught the ears of alternative music fans in the late 80s as a member of Icelandic band The Sugarcubes who’s 1988 single “Birthday” became a hit with DJ John Peel listeners. Upon that band’s break up in 1992, Bjork moved to London and began working on her solo debut studio album also called Debut.  Many of the songs were already around in some form at that time but were transformed when she started working with producer Nelle Hooper (Soul II Soul, Sinead O’Connor).

The eclectic album starts off with the powerful tribal drums of first single “Human Behaviour” where listeners are introduced to Bjork’s impressive vocal gymnastics. The dark clouds of that track are blown away by the bright percussion of “Crying” before the clattering beat and luxurious strings of “Venus As A Boy” appear. The track floats with Bjork singing “he believes in beauty”.

The original version of “Big Time Sensuality” comes in half way through the album. It would take the Fluke remix to really set this off as one of the best singles of the 90s but the slinky beat of the original helps push the track before Bjork exclaims that “it takes courage to enjoy it” in the chorus.  More powerfully is when Bjork sings that she “doesn’t know my future after this weekend, and I don’t want to”, words that virtually every 20-year-old can relate to as they dance the weekend away.

While many of the bolder tracks are reserved for the first half, the second half of Debut takes on a dreamier side with the chill beats of both “One Day” and “Come To Me”.  Forty-five seconds into the last single “Violently Happy’ an irresistible club beat is introduced before the jazz horn stabs of “The Anchor Song” close out the original version of the album.

Depending on where you live, the reviews of the album went from ecstatic in the UK to a laughable review from Rolling Stone. The album is a wonder of musical styles that hold together exceptionally well. From here, Nellee Hooper went on to work with such superstars as Madonna and U2.  Bjork would spend the next 25 years releasing critically acclaimed albums to a devoted fan base. Debut is an remarkable release by an adventurous and consistently groundbreaking artist.

10/10