Monday, September 5, 2011

Great Scots: Top 10 Albums From Scotland

A funny thing happened on the way to assembling my upcoming list of the '80s best albums: A few subcategories emerged, such as this one from across the pond. I have always had a soft spot for early '80s new wave and post punk from Scotland. Even though this is an all-time list, much of my top 10 falls into this narrow area. First, here are the apologies. A few bands that had at least one album I considered and passed on included Altered Images, Associates, Cocteau Twins, the Beta Band and the Waterboys. There was only one newish group I thought about for inclusion. When compared with the albums that made the list, I simply needed more time with the debut album from We Were Promised Jetpacks. Feel free to shoot me your pans and picks. When possible (yes, I'm afraid of the music police), I have tried to include my favorite song.

If the music below is up your alley, I suggest you pay regular visits to The Vinyl Villain. This Scotland-based blog is one of my favorites.

1. Aztec Camera
'High Land, Hard Rain' (Buy)
It doesn't get any better than a young Roddy Frame, and his debut album is one of the best ever. This one has been in my regular rotation for more than a quarter century.
Aztec Camera - We Could Send Letters (mp3)

2. Big Country
'The Crossing' (Buy)
This is the first of a few bands on this list that could have easily had two albums here. When asked, I would usually say 'Steeltown' is Big Country's best, but right now I'm into the bigger sound of their debut.
Big Country - Harvest Home (mp3)

3. Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
'Easy Pieces' (Buy)
I know. Most fans go with 'Rattlesnakes, and I love that record, but I feel like the non-singles on 'Easy Pieces' are a bit stronger. 'Rich' and this song are my favorite of Cole's deep cuts. Cheating a bit with this one, Cole isn't Scottish, but the band qualifies.
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions - Minor Character (mp3)

4. Orange Juice
'You Can't Hide Your Love Forever' (Buy)
Truthfully, if I only have 30 minutes to listen to some OJ, I prefer 'The Glasgow School' collection, but that would be cheating since it's not a studio album. So, I went with their debut album. I like all of their records, and '...Coals to Newcastle' might be the best box set I have ever owned. If you can afford it, go get it.
Orange Juice - L.O.V.E. Love (mp3)

5. Belle & Sebastian
'The Boy With the Arab Strap' (Buy)
Wow, something from the '90s! I didn't discover B&S until this one came out. This happens a lot. The first one you hear is the one that sticks with you forever. I have a soft spot for 'Dear Catastrophe Waitress,' but I like how 'Strap' doesn't have an ounce of commercialism.
Belle & Sebastian - The Boy With the Arab Strap (mp3)

6. The Delgados
'The Great Eastern' (Buy)
I was crushed when this band called it quits six years ago. I'm not really into their stuff before this one, but the group's last three albums were perfect.
The Delgados - Accused of Stealing (mp3)

7. Close Lobsters
'Foxheads Stalk This Land' (Buy)
There are only a handful of jangle-pop bands outside of America that have grabbed me like this C86 alum. Close Lobsters only made two studio albums, and both could have made this list. I believe both are out of print, but there is a great singles package out there called 'Forever, Until Victory!' You should get it.
Close Lobsters - Just Too Bloody Stupid (mp3)

8. The Jesus and Mary Chain
'Psychocandy' (Buy)
Twenty-six years ago, I had never heard anything like it. It was so fuzzy. Of course, now, it seems you can't go a day without hearing a new band and thinking, "yep, there's that J&MC sound... again." Of the 10 bands here, this is the one with the most pioneer spirit.
The Jesus and Mary Chain - Some Candy Talking (mp3)

9. Josef K
'The Only Fun in Town' (Buy)
Josef K is the only band on this list I didn't discover when they first hit the scene. In fact, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I didn't hear the very early '80s group until about a decade ago. I knew of them because of the Postcard Records connection, but their work was (and still is) tough to find in America. Many think they sound like Joy Division, but I think Orange Juice and Television are closer comparisons.
Josef K - Sorry For Laughing (mp3)

10. Camera Obscura
'Let's Get Out of This Country' (Buy)
Their first couple of records sounded like homages to '60s girl groups. They were pretty good, but this, the band's third album, was a polished, less lo-fi affair that can only be described as pure pop. The title track and the song below are among the best singles of the past five years.

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