Straitjacket Fits – Melt

straitjacket fits melt

Straitjacket Fits – Melt

Straitjacket Fits were one of the flagships of the Kiwi sound, a peculiar style of jangle pop that originated in New Zealand in the mid-80s. Melt is a photograph of the final version of this sound, more particularly, the time when in the early ’90s it emerged from the underground and embraced a fuller, bigger sound.

Melt combines acid rock jamming, jangle pop hooks and pristine late 80s/early 90s guitar sounds, with some of the best two-guitar interplays of the decade. Following the album’s tour, guitarist Andy Brough left the band in 1991.

Listen on Last.fm (partial streaming).

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My Vitriol – Finelines

finelines my vitriol

My Vitriol – Finelines

I consider this record, along with At The Drive-In’s Relationship of Command, to be the tombstone and point of no return of 1990s alternative rock.

My Vitriol’s work was labelled ‘nu-gaze’ at the time for the intensive use of guitar pedals in the making of their lush instrumental textures, but their style was actually much harder, containing elements of post-grunge and post-hardcore as well. Their songs change seamlessly, going from melancholic ambient-like instrumentals to gritty rock anthems full of teenage angst with murky space-rock intros. Once again, The Cure’s and The Smashing Pumpkins’ visions played a much bigger role shaping the style of My Vitriol than any shoegaze band.

A great album, sadly forgotten due to the band’s disappearance from the scenes, in spite of the initial success.

Listen on Spotify.

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Everything But The Girl – Eden

Everything But the girl EdenEverything But The Girl – Eden

Eden is Everything But The Girl’s first album and a milestone of the so called sophisti-pop scene. Their early production could be described as velvety indiepop with contaminations of bossa and smooth jazz. As many know, their sound was characterised by a strong alchemy: the vibrant voice of Tracy Thorn and the warm pastels of Ben Watt’s arrangements (organ, horns, piano, electric guitar, etc.).

Listen on Spotify.

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Suzanne Vega – Solitude Standing

suzanne vega solitude standing

Suzanne Vega – Solitude Standing

Suzanne Vega’s second album is simply one of the best albums of the late Eighties. The record appears to be divided between a more minimalistic part and a “rockier” part, where the influence of her session musicians and band members is more evident.

Rhythmically speaking the album is jaw-dropping, with sharp guitar harmonics rather than the usual folky strumming/fingerstyle playing, and with unusual drum patterns. This kind of writing and the sleek yet dark ’80s production make Vega’s songs different from hordes of ordinary singer songwriters’.

Listen on Spotify.

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Akina Nakamori – Fushigi

akina nakamori fushigi

Akina Nakamori – Fushigi

Akina Nakamori is a Japanese pop star. She released Fushigi in 1986 at the height of her commercial success, when she was so popular that they allowed her to release something so experimental and outside the schemes of mainstream pop music.

Fushigi is a collection of open pop songs with layers of instruments drowned in echo and reverb, giving it a dreamlike atmosphere and making it sound like a contemporary indie artist revisiting the sounds of 80s rather than a genuine 80s album. Somewhat close to the work of Bill Nelson and other UK artists that were researching Japanese music, Nakamori’s masterpiece is modern yet deeply rooted in the folk tradition of her country.

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Kate Tempest – Everybody Down

kate tempest everybody down

Kate Tempest – Everybody Down

Kate Tempest is a young English poet, Everybody Down is her debut as a rapper, and probably one of the few recent hip hop albums that I enjoy.

Tempest is an alien to the scene, and her clumsy, kind of uncool but ultimately cute way of rapping seems to highlight the gap between her work and the scum that the press sells as good rap music. Her metre and diction are superb though, and so is her storytelling, which develops through the tracks like some form of “rap opera”. Musically, the album is pretty minimal, with clattering electronics as beats.

Listen on Spotify.

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Skids – Scared To Dance

skids scared to dance

Skids – Scared To Dance

Skids were a seminal Scottish punk rock band who spawned a few anthems in the late 70s, “Into the Valley” and “The Saints Are Coming”.

What made them unique was Richard Jobson’s werewolf singing, but most of all Stuart Adamson’s guitar licks, located in a grey area between punk rock, hard rock and celtic music. This is no surprise if we consider that Adamson went to form celtic rock band Big Country, redefining the concept of the 1980s guitar hero with his unique style and reaching international success. Jobson formed the short-lived supergroup The Armoury Show.

Listen on Spotify.

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