My final contribution to the NR10 feature was a collaborative piece on overlooked albums of the last ten years. For some reason, my three choices were all released in a two-year period. The last of these three short articles was not published on the site.
The Dears - No Cities Left
The Dears so nearly broke through in the UK in 2003. Critics fell for their swooning soundscapes reminiscent of the best bits of Blur and Morrissey and column inches were duly filled. But then it seems someone realised head Dear Murray Lightburn was black and from that point on, that’s all the Dears-related articles could talk about. It was the UK’s loss really, as No Cities Left is as close to perfect as a sprawling rock odyssey can get. The attention to detail in how every note is sung or played, the arrangements and production is simply astonishing. Twelve killer tunes treated with the love and care they deserve, but always willing to experiment and be innovative, whether it be the squall of jazz and feedback that opens Pinned Together, Falling Apart or the barked vocals that close Never Destroy Us. Ignore the fact that The Dears now have the kind of revolving door approach to band members that would shame Mark E Smith, No Cities Left is simply essential.
Kings of Convenience - Riot On an Empty Street
We’re well into 2009 now, yet my favourite album of the year so far is one that was released almost five years ago. Riot on an Empty Street bubbles with intrigue; something which is immediately obvious from the front cover where Erlend Øye is eyed-up by his bandmate’s girlfriend. This album is understated and sparse, yet utterly, utterly gorgeous. Comprised of mostly just acoustic guitar, piano and minimal percussion, it’s 45 minutes where you can get completely lost and just absorb the music. From the perky single I’d Rather Dance with You to the lingering The Build-Up, Kings of Convenience perfect the trick of keeping it simple whilst always remaining compelling.
Tindersticks - Waiting For the Moon
Tindersticks may have been the critics’ darlings in the early 90s, but by the time Waiting for the Moon was released in 2003 they’d largely slipped off the radar. It’s fair to say you know what you’re going to get with a Tindersticks album but that doesn’t mean Waiting for the Moon is any less stellar. Stuart A Staples’ trademark croon frames every track and they revisit the formula of their first three albums (two entitled Tindersticks, the other, Curtains) by including a spoken-word track (the harrowing and claustrophobic 4.48 Psychosis) and a male-female duet (the oddly uplifting Sometimes It Hurts). It may be slightly over-long – you wouldn’t miss the last two tracks if they weren’t there – but if you like your music melancholy, your bars smoky, your drinks served on the rocks in a tumbler and your relationships twisted and complicated, Waiting for the Moon is exactly what you need.