I’m totally going to put this one out there without too much thought. I was driving home and two of the following list came on shuffle and I decided I would tell you all my top seven uses of harmony/backing vocals. Odds are I’ve forgotten something crucial, but the internet’s such a transient place that I don’t suppose it will matter. Today’s top seven lists are tomorrow’s discarded clickbait. Not that this place is very good at being clickbait, but you know what I mean.

(By the way, I know seven is trendy and only for clickbait, and I was originally going to do five. But then it turned into six. And then seven. That’s the way it goes folks. Sometimes I’m accidentally trendy. But never accidentally clickbait. Or deliberately.)

Anyway, there’s not much I do that isn’t harmony/backing vocal ridden. With Roo’s Radio in particular we’re all about the vocal layers. So here’s my favourite harmony/backing vocal moments in history. As ever, in no particular order.

Ben FoldsFred Jones, Part 2
This is a gorgeous song, whichever way you cut it, but when John McRae (from Cake, y’all) kicks in with his harmony I fall over. Metaphorically.

RadioheadBlack Star
Another beautiful song, with very few backing vocals actually (just the barely audible chorus one). Then in the 3rd verse the electric guitars depart leaving just bass, drums and vocals and out of nowhere this incredible harmony pops up and floors you. I realise this is another way of saying “I fall over”. And the harmony starts on the line “I keep falling over”. See how well I plan this shit?

Nitin SawhneySay Hello
Good grief I love this song. Honestly I just want to tumble into this song and float away. Then at the end you get the chorus with its multi part vocal AND this guy singing in Indian (?) comes in and then the song wins at everything.

Five Iron FrenzyOn Distant Shores
Dennis Culp is a harmony genius. If you need proof, listen to the chorus of On Distant Shores. I love this song anyway, but I have to loop the chorus (since it only happens the two times) as the backing vocal is so stunningly creative. Zoinks!

3dBs Down – (pretty much any of them)
Speaking of Zoinks, I couldn’t talk harmonies without mentioning the dBs. That I’m in a band with three lead singers is almost entirely down to them. And their arrangements are fantastic fun, very creative and so full of energy that I don’t want to fall over. I’m struggling to narrow this down, but let’s go for Quick Fix, Greatest Day or Fish Hook as prime examples. Well, if you’re going to push me, let’s go for the chorus after the solo in Fish Hook where the instruments cut out and all three vocals collide splendidly over a big fat pick scrape.

Poor Old LuSlow
I just love Aaron Sprinkle’s backing vocal part that comes in at the end here. So much so that I think I partly stole it for the end of Dream Again. Oops. That’s all I really have to say about that.

Imogen HeapHide & Seek
This song is basically all harmony. It’s lovely. My favourite part? “Ransom notes keep falling out your mouth”. Amazing.

Ok I’m all done. Did I get it wrong? Think I’m an idiot with an idiot coating? Got better suggestions? Better start a blog of your own because I turned off comments. Shazam!

Oh, also, I’m not linking you to youtube videos of these. I don’t have time. If you care, you know how search engines work. I’m a giver.

Twelve albums

There is a post going round on the social medias at the moment… Actually, I say “at the moment”, for all I know, it’s been going round for years, but I digress… again… anyway, the post is about listing twelve albums that have “stayed with you” without “over thinking or trying to be cool” and then making other people do it so that it perpetuates itself in the manner of DNA. I don’t know why twelve albums and not ten. Perhaps because you go back in time to think about the albums and Bruce Willis goes back in time in Twelve Monkeys?

I believe I have expressed my dismay at social media in general, but allow me to do so again. DISMAY. This one did make me ponder though, so I decided to do my own version on here, in my own way by actually explaining my choices a little – this basically means less people will read it, but I am very ok with that. Hi mum.

I’m not exactly known for under thinking things, so no promises there. And we all know that I don’t need to try to be cool, so we’re good there. Ho ho.

I will briefly say at this point that I do feel in certain ways my teenage years – which should be a time for glorious musical exploration – were a little hindered by a decision to “only listen to christian music”. I’m not going to explore that decision here (not yet, at any rate), but I think it was misguided and full of hypocrisy – fortunately as it turns out – in that I somehow managed to still listen to a fair amount of all kinds of music. But to my mind, at least, not enough.

I’ve decided to limit this list to only pre-2000 music (or music I heard pre-2000 I should say) as “staying with me” implies some kind of longevity. Also that makes this easier, to a certain extent.

So, in absolutely no order whatsoever:

Nirvana – Unplugged in New York
Nirvana, Unplugged in New York - CoverSadly, I first listened to Nirvana post-1994, courtesy of a copied tape of Nevermind that my dad had. This album remains my all time favourite Nirvana album. I had a copied tape of this (I have since bought the CD *and* DVD, you’ll be pleased to know) given to me by a girl I liked. Better people than me have written better things than I could about this album, but I think it’s gorgeous and vulnerable and amazing.

dc Talk – Jesus Freak
dc Talk, Jesus Freak - CoverGiven what I said earlier, this might seem a little bit of a lame and obvious choice as it’s probably one of the biggest christian albums of all time. However, I was gobsmacked when I first heard it, and I still love the songs. There’s some weird bits, and some cheesy bits, but it’s still a great album.

Peter Gabriel – So
Peter Gabriel, So - CoverThis was another of my dad’s cassettes that got a LOT of plays on the old walkman. Again, a pretty obvious choice, being PG’s “brief intersection with the life of pop stars”, but that’s the way it goes. I first paid attention to Peter Gabriel as a result of Red Rain on the Rainbow Warriors album (more of which next) and this was the album with Red Rain on it.

Various – Greenpeace: Rainbow Warriors
Various, Greenpeace: Rainbow Warriors - CoverThis is perhaps the maddest choice – a compilation album. But honestly, listening to this album was one of the first times I can remember thinking that this was what I wanted to do with myself. And there’s some corking tunes on here. Very 80s, which I’m generally not so fond of, but I’ll make an exception this time. And did I mention this was another cassette filched from my dad’s study? Doesn’t seem to be online, but I did the legwork for you and made an Apple Music playlist. Couldn’t find Balance by Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul though. EDIT: My dad made a spotify playlist in case you don’t Apple. It doesn’t have Little Steven either, but it also doesn’t have Peter Gabriel.

Paul Simon – Graceland
Paul Simon, Graceland - CoverSomeone asked me in 99/00 whether I’d heard Graceland. I said I hadn’t and was duly lent a copy, only to find out I knew it very well. I can only assume from it being played in the house/car when I was younger. I can always go back to this and enjoy it. Yes yes.

Radiohead – OK Computer
Radiohead, OK Computer - CoverI’m a fan of all stages of Radiohead. And I think all of their albums will follow me around, but OK Computer still has a special place. There’s a reason it gets held up again and again as an all time great album. The one-two punch of Electioneering followed by Climbing up the walls gets me every time.

Model Engine – The Lean Years Tradition
Model Engine, The lean years tradition - CoverHaving bemoaned my teenage music embargo, it did lead me to some of my favourite ever albums, so, as ever, it’s swings and roundabouts. Model Engine were pretty short lived, unfortunately. This was their only album (although they recorded another album and an EP in an earlier incarnation, Black Eyed Sceva), but it’s an utter stunner. Full of smart lyrics and clever music, there’s not a bad song on here.

Switchfoot – The legend of chin
The legend of chin, Switchfoot - CoverAs with Radiohead (and Five Iron Frenzy – see below), it’s theoretically tricky to pick just one album for Switchfoot. But my limiting this to pre-2000 helps. And in any case, this album is a winner. It’s forever linked with summer in my head for some reason. And it’s just full of great songs that never get old.

Meat Loaf – Bat out of hell II: Back into hell
Meat Loaf, Bat out of hell II: Back into hell - CoverI don’t remember when or how or why I had this tape, but it was one of the earlier albums I owned and I loved it. Sure, some of it is cheesy as hell (cheese out of hell?) and some of it is inexplicable (Wasted youth anyone?), and of course I imagine the first Bat out of hell is regarded as the classic of the two, but this popped into my head again recently and I had a listen and it’s still a stupidly splendid album. So it makes the cut.

Poor Old Lu – Sin
Poor Old Lu, Sin - CoverMight be running out of steam with the descriptions. Or maybe just running out of adjectives. Hopefully I haven’t repeated myself. Hopefully I haven’t repeated myself. Anyway, Poor Old Lu are a long time favourite of mine, and I bought this album without having listened to it (I did read a review) and was instantly pleased that I did. It’s very engaging from start to finish and the guitar solo on Sickly is one of my favourite ever.

Five Iron Frenzy – Our Newest Album Ever!
Five Iron Frenzy, Our Newest Album Ever! - CoverPretty much my all time favourite band. This was the first album I owned of theirs and I think the first album ever (possibly the only album ever) that I could sing to myself all the way through without the album playing (got me through a lot of long hours working at McDonald’s I can tell you). I think their latest album might just be my favourite, but this one will always be special. And the artwork is baller.

Elliot Smith – XO
Elliott Smith, XO - CoverOk, I’ll admit it, this is a bit of a cheat. I heard Waltz #2 when it was Mark and Lard’s song of the week (they were Radio 1 DJs back in the day, remember that?), but I don’t think I bought the album until after 2000. Whatever, this is a hauntingly beautiful album and Waltz #2 is almost as perfect a song as I can imagine a song being.

Well there you go. It’s good to note that this list differs from my top ten albums. But that’s definitely a matter for another post. I would like to also mention The Beatles here. My parents had the “red” and “blue” albums on vinyl and I played them a lot. And a lot of those songs have stayed with me, but I can’t say that those albums in particular stayed with me.

Bosh, done.

(All artwork images assumed to be fair use. Copyright remains with the original artist or publisher, except the cover of Graceland which is considered to be public domain)