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Top 5: Albums by 2011 Reading & Leeds Artists

With a line up spanning generations and genre boundaries singling out your five favourite albums is no easy task. The playing field is broad, what will make the cut, will it Muse’s imperious Origins Of Symmetry, The Offsprings Smash, My Chemical Romance’s theatrical epic The Black Parade or perhaps The Strokes’ Is This It will reign supreme, well there’s only one way to find out…

Rik Sharma

5. Rise Against – The Sufferer and the Witness

The quintessential Rise Against album. Featuring many of their biggest hits, from ‘Ready to Fall’ to ‘Survive’, this is an exquisite blast of punk rock, showcasing the band at the top of their game. It showcases the band at both their most catchy, despite not holding back on the melodic hardcore sound they have perfected.

Recommended: ‘Bricks’, ‘Ready to Fall’

4. Leftover Crack – Fuck World Trade

The controversial ‘crack-rocksteady’ New York punks pulled out all the stops with this abrasive but compelling follow up to Mediocre Generica. In equal parts furious and nihilistic, the band tear through hardcore songs, but also expand their repertoire with more considered orchestral moments, as demonstrated on the ten minute long ‘Operation M.O.V.E.’.

Recommended: ‘Clear Channel (Fuck Off!)’, ‘Via Sin Dios’

3. Hot Water Music – Caution

From start to finish, Caution is consistently excellent. Never a band to rest on their laurels, Hot Water Music draw from jazz, in some of the adventurous guitar lines, punk rock, in the passionate delivery and hardcore’s sense of honesty and urgency to create a modern day masterpiece. Attempting to label their style of music is difficult, and an unnecessary restriction, so let’s just call it brilliant.

Recommended: ‘Remedy’, ‘Trusty Chords’

2. Descendants – Milo Goes to College

Immature. Grubby. Unpolished. Who gives a fuck? That’s kind of the point on debut album Milo Goes to College, which hits out at targets from suburbia to marriage. The Descendents rattle through 15 songs in less than 23 minutes, each song spat out with unshakable conviction. Teenage angst never sounded so good, and the Descendents never released a better record either.

Recommended: ‘Myage’, ‘Suburban Home’

1. The National – High Violet

Perfection. From the shimmering static on opener ‘Terrible Love’ to the gorgeous waves of mournful sorrow which shiver their way over the listener on closer ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’, High Violet is a masterpiece. ‘Lemonworld’ and ‘Conversation 16’ find the band at their most beautiful, while the delicate ‘England’ offers solace, while elsewhere nostalgia, longing and hope are explored. A rare album, which one could never tire of listening to.

Recommended: ‘Anyone’s Ghost’, ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’.

Kyle Prangnell

5. Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights

Interpol’s debut effort will always be their best to me; Turn on the Bright Lights was released almost 9 years ago, and still hits me in the same way every time I hear it. Reminiscent of the likes of Joy Division, it’s understandable why this album is so good. The Joy Division similarities are not just due to the quality of the music, but the melancholic nature that the album holds throughout, starting with Untitled, and ending (and probably peaking) with Leif Erikson. A brilliant album.

4. Death From Above 1979 – You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine

I’ve heard various reasons as to how Sebastien Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler met, including at prison and at a Sonic Youth concert; neither would surprise me. You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine is Death From Above 1979’s only full album, but it is incredible; I truly believe no record collection is really complete without a copy of You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine. Opening with Turn It Out, slow piano chords transform into a huge and harsh incredible sound that I still find it hard to believe only comes from two men. From here on in the bass, synths, and drums provide a high paced masterpiece that clocks in at a little under 35 minutes if you don’t have the bonus disk (which you most definitely should), but that is all that is needed, because they’re 35 of the best minutes I’ve ever heard in a debut record.

3. Frank Turner – Love Ire & Song

Over the last couple of years, Frank Turner has gone from strength to strength, finding fame across the country after relentless touring. His most recent effort England Keep My Bones shot to number 12 in the UK album charts, and he’s reached the main stage of Reading and Leeds for the first time this year. However, before this, and after splitting up with the hardcore punk band, Million Dead, and creating his debut solo album; Turner released Love, Ire, and Song, which to me encapsulates everything the man is about, and everything you could want from a singer songwriter. It’s self-deprecating, bitter, and lonesome; all of which adds up to an incredible effort. Songs such as “Better Half” and “Jet Lag” produce great feelings of empathy, contrasting with songs such as Photosynthesis give an incredible uplifting feeling. All in all, an incredible album from Frank Turner.

2. The National – High Violet

High Violet is the fifth and most of The National’s full albums, and to be honest, they will probably never better it. That’s not to say that they are about to lose touch, or are getting old, or just can’t do it anymore; but this is an album that I’m sure will be rated very highly in my albums of the decade. The National have always been masters of creating hauntingly melodic and outright beautiful music, and Matt Berninger’s baritone voice accompanies this in an almost perfect way, but in High Violet, The National have taken this to another level. Opening with the melancholy Terrible Love, it gives a very good idea of the direction the album is going in, a direction that any band would kill to go along. I would like to pick out a few of the best moments of the album, and so I will – all of it. There is no way to describe this album other than perfection. Go out and buy it now.

1. Is This It? – The Strokes

Possibly the most obvious choice as the best album of a band performing at Reading and Leeds, but I really believe this is the only choice. Is This It? was not only the debut album from The Strokes, but also an album that was a huge pioneering step for indie music. The Strokes were the most hyped up band for years, and Is This It? was possibly a subtle (or not so subtle) way of them saying, that they were overhyped. Were they overhyped? Yes, of course. But this album is still an incredible album that has inspired the likes of the Arctic Monkeys and The Vaccines; the two bands that have faced the same fate as The Strokes in terms of hype. This hype is capable of eating a band alive, however The Strokes certainly produced an album that may not have lived up to the hype (arguably no album could live up to such hype), but all in all was a staggering impressive effort. 

Simone F

5. Cage The Elephant – Cage The Elephant

I like to dip into the US Grunge bands every once and a while, Cage The Elephant are no different, filled with tons of attitude, rebellious, loud, abrupt dirty sleazy sounds. Cage The Elephant makes people want to stand up and dance like mad men, head banging with their raw energy and passion as if the end of the world is nigh.


4. Warpaint – The Fool

These are girls who make real music, you hear me The Saturdays? Musicians not celebrity Barbie dolls.

The Fool is an album filled with nothing more than moody hypnotizing guitars with dreamy somewhat sexual tones of voice. No annoying female ‘look at me’ moments, just pure beauty powerful songs.


3. Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires

The St Albans trio bounced onto our musical radar with their ever quirky debut and the huge funky 80’s disco syncopated infested hits ‘Skelton Boy’, ‘Love Sick’, ‘Photobooth’, ‘Jump In The Pool’, ‘Kiss Of Life’ and ‘Paris’; actually, looking back every single song on the debut record is a monstrous indie groovier that works even better as part of a live performance. Friendly Fires pulled out a stomper of a debut.

2. The Kills – Midnight Boom

Midnight Boom is dark, and very brooding that sums up raw edginess The Kills have on record. The production on this record may be a little heavier than previous records, but still manages to come across as a gritty record that show cases dirty guitars, melodies, beats and Alison Mosshart’s velvety voice that make you go weak in the head while stabbing a cigarette over the nearest child’s face.

1. The Vaccines – What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?

I get it; you are thinking why would she put a band that only released their debut album this year in her top 5? I will tell you, and I will say this once only. The Vaccines created a perfect pop record; casually slotting in at less than 3 minutes per song.

The Vaccines along with their blend of post-punk and garage rock with vomitus amounts of new wave power pop while keeping the whole thing fresh. Yes, what The Vaccines are doing may not be “new” as such, but their British songs feel fresh with class heart felt story-telling lyrics. 

Tom Forster

5. Pulp – Different Class

Britpop veterans Pulp’s best and most iconic album makes my top five. It’s one of those records where there’s really not a weak track in sight, and on top of that it boasts most of the bands classic singles. This, of course, doesn’t instantly make an album, but when those tracks are as good as “Common People”, “Disco 2000″ and “Sorted For E’s and Wizz”, it certainly helps. Had I not set myself a one band, one album limit, Different Class’ predecessor His ‘N’ Hers may also have made the list, but if you only listen to one Pulp album, it has to be this.

4. Deftones – Diamond Eyes

Although many will argue that 2000′s White Pony is Deftones finest moment, their latest offering Diamond Eyes makes my five due to what represents a huge return to form after the disappointment of their self titled album in 2003 and the release of probably their worst album to date in 2006′s Saturday Night Wrist. Frontman Chino Moreno is really in his element on this album, seemingly free of his past vocal problems and once again full of enthusiasm (he described recording Saturday Night Wrist as “one of the most depressing parts of my life”). From the storming opener “Diamond Eyes” to the mellow and beautiful “Sextape”, this album holds some of the bands best work to date.

3. Mariachi El Bronx – El Bronx

It’s extremely rare that a band drops more or less everything they’ve been doing for years and drastically change their style for an album, but that’s exactly what Los Angeles hardcore outfit The Bronx did with this album. Genre switches don’t come much bigger than the transition from hardcore punk to Mexican mariachi music, but Matt Caughthran and co pulled it off to come up with this gem. A word of warning, one listen and you will know every word and the tunes may not leave your head for a long time.

2. The Bronx – The Bronx II

Not to be outdone by their Charro suit donning alter egos, The Bronx also make my list with the second album in their more familiar hardcore style, and it’s every bit as ferocious as El Bronx is catchy. From the moment the hypnotic “Senor Hombre De Tamale” gives way to the vicious “Small Stone”, you know you’re in for a treat, and the album carries on in the same vein. Every track is as pulsating as the last. Look out for the particularly fantastic “History’s Stranglers” at Reading and Leeds to close what will no doubt be another couple of top notch performances from some of modern punk’s finest.

1. Muse – Absolution

Although it would be very fitting to go with Origin Of Symmetry here, and although it was a hard choice between the two, Absolution is simply unbeatable as far as Muse albums go for me. Enough riffs to please your average rock fan, enough pretentiousness to satisfy even the biggest Muse fanboy, and more than enough anthems to take with them on their path to becoming one of Britain’s best rock bands and the stadium-filling behemoth you see today.

Lewis Lowe

5. Frank Turner- England Keep My Bones

England Keep My Bones is the newest release by acoustic Folk rocker and Reading/Leeds regular Frank Turner. Hardly an original outing the album stays true to past releases, and why not? His style is tried and tested and the fans love it. Much has to do with Frank’s endless charm, which really makes his records appealing, and ‘England keep my Bones’ is no different. It’s just such an enjoyable record with lyrics that really seem to mean something, tracks such as ‘Peggy Sang the Blues’ has a very sentimental feel which draw the listener in whilst ‘Redemption’ shifts tempo and will be a live show favourite. Definitely a great album to match his past efforts…… ah sod it, just listen to them all.

4. Deftones- White Pony

Alternative band Deftones third effort White Pony signaled the growth of the band both lyrically and musically. The album which is their biggest selling so far received widespread approval from fans and critics alike, the mature direction and the inclusion of new musical styles really made it stand out whilst singles such as ‘Elite’ kept the traditionalists happy. Re-released at the insistence of the bands record company in late 2000 to include the hit single ‘Back to School (Mini Maggit)’, the band have always regretted the decision and although no songs were removed the original version is generally considered better as it was how the band intended it to be listened to. One of the best rock records of the noughties and quite possibly the bands finest release.

3. Death From Above 1979- You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine 

The one and only LP release from Toronto based band Death From Above 1979 is an amazingly interesting record. Combining Dance-Punk with Heavy Metal influences; the drums-bass duo consisting of Sebastian Granger and Jesse Keeler launch an audio assault on the listener which is quite astonishing. Stand out tracks ‘Romantic Rights’ and ‘Black History Month’ are utter quality and the rest of the album follows accordingly.

2. Madness – One Step Beyond

Madness’ debut album One Step Beyond… is an absolute belter. Released in 1979 and sticking out more than the band do on the Reading line up, the album helped mark the explosion of British ska music which dominated the 80’s UK music charts. Named after a single by Jamaican music legend Prince Buster the record also kicks off with a cover version of the song.  Skank inspiring singles ‘One Step beyond…’, ‘Night Boat to Cairo’ and ‘My Girl’ are all ska classics and really make the album Madness’ finest effort.

1. The Streets- A Grand Don’t Come For Free

If debut The Streets album Original Pirate Material was the foundations of Mike Skinners musical career then his 2004 effort A Grand Don’t Come For Free was definitely the penthouse. The concept album tells the story of a man who loses a thousand pounds and the problems that occur because of the loss. Hugely successful singles ‘Fit But You Know It’, ‘Dry Your Eyes’ and ‘Blinded By The Lights’ were backed up by strong album tracks and helped the album reach a peak at number four on the UK album chart. One of the best hip hop albums of the decade; it really demonstrates how an artist can be entirely original whilst also gaining huge mainstream success.

Craig Brooks

5. The Offspring – Conspiracy Of One

Some would say this album was a step towards the band becoming more radio friendly and I’d probably agree. There are more than enough songs on this album which are great to have a Beer/Party too, ‘Original Prankster’ , ‘Want You Bad’ and ‘Million Miles Away’ to name my favourites.


4. Cage The Elephant – Cage The Elephant

Cage The Elephant are the band I rave about more than any other at the moment. I love the infectiously catchy guitars and energy the tracks on this album posses. The frenzied liveliness of the singer just gives this album a real standout quality for me.

3. Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American

An album rammed with so many sing-along feel good anthems. ‘Bleed American’ , ‘A Praise Chorus’ and probably the bands most well known hit ‘The Middle’ are the first 3 tracks so you find yourself hooked on the album instantly; for me its one of those classic albums that just never becomes tiresome.

2. Muse – Absolution

One of the few bands i loved as a child that I stuck with through the years. Loved this album, particularly the tracks ‘Time Is Running Out’ , ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ and ‘Hysteria’ although the album was packed with energetic anthems that got the adrenaline going.

1. Pigeon Detectives – Wait For Me 

The rest of the team will slate this pick but back when Indie was my main point of interest I loved this album. Wait For Me is full of bouncy, catchy and very easy to listen to tunes that get stuck in your head.

David Hayter

Honourable Mention: The National – High Violet

5. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles (II)

The album that transformed Crystal Castles from an amateurish and one dimensional, albeit exhilarating, art house experiment into a full-fledged artistic entity. Less 8-bit rage and harsh biting contrasts, and more cultured club grooves, subtly instrumentals, and singing, honest to goodness singing. Alice Glass became human and charismatic while retaining her sexy violent edge as Ethan Kath beefs up his sonic array, adding poignancy to their punch. A masterful follow up that transformed their live shows from hit or miss spectacles into must see events.

4. The Streets – Original Pirate Material

The Guardian named Original Pirate Material the album of the ‘00s and it’s easy to see why. Original Pirate Material brought together a series of movements that were permeating the UK’s burgeoning Garage/Grime scene and it’s electronic dance world still finding its feet in the wake of rave’s slow demise; channeling these influences through the earnest heartfelt storytelling of indie. Original Pirate Material was defiantly now, it was a modernist masterpiece, low-fi, earthy, minimalist but full of every day grandeur and heart breaking strings. The album would inspire everyone in the UK from young dub-step innovators, grime cross over success stories and a certain Sheffield scruff by the name of Alex Turner. A masterpiece that truly fulfilled it’s self impose raison d’etre to push things forward.

3. Pulp – Different Class

This was a no brainer. For all of Blur’s zeitgeist capturing brilliance and Definitely Maybe’s forthright inspirational earnestness, it was Pulp’s Different Class that made the most heartfelt connections with its audience. Its effect was smaller; it was dingier, smarter, sexier and more knowing. It wasn’t for everyone, but when it did make a connection it proved eternal.

From the oppressed intellectual anthem “Mis-Shapes” and the beautiful ode to the random but cataclysmic impact of love “Something Changed” to drug fuelled odyssey “Sorted Out For E’s and Whizz” and the willfully melodramatic “F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E”, Pulp captured and defined moments. Not moments in time, or in the Glastonbury moment sense, but Pulp crystalize finite moments in people’s lives, dingy desires, sordid thoughts and heartfelt reflections. Different Class is life and love in all it’s ludicrous, duplicitous, brilliant glory; oh and did I mention each and every track could be a top ten single? That helps too.

2. Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights

There are two albums without which I would not, 100%, no way, no how, no chance in hell, not be writing this today. I wouldn’t be writing for any number of other sites and publications. I wouldn’t have gone to journalist school. I wouldn’t work on a record label on side. I probably would never have gone to Reading for the first time. Basically if it weren’t for these two album’s I’d be diving into an archive somewhere working on my latest politic thesis or hell may be I’d still be painting and drawing instead of playing guitar. Those two albums occupy my two top spots.

So as you might have gathered I’m a little biased, but by anyone’s gauge Turn On The Bright Lights is a brilliant album. Year’s after Ian Curtis death, and yes to this very day; we’ve had to live through an army of groovy bass driven gloom merchants. Full of faux atmosphere and lacking in heart, but in 2002 one band nailed it. Interpol released an album that felt cathartic, humorous and loose but still mechanically, almost clinically tight. The guitars jerked and squeaked manically, the rhythm section rumbled and grooved and Paul Banks raved, towered, ranted and pleaded with a crackling piercing urgency. Along with my number one choice Turn On The Bright Lights inspired a generation of indie superstars, changed the face of Reading and Leeds Festival and put bleak understated anthemia firmly back in vogue.

1.   The Strokes – Is This It

Ah this album changed my life, there’s no two ways about it, but unlike Different Class or Turn On The Bright Lights it wasn’t a transformative album, instead it spoke, like two of my other 21st Century heroes LCD Soundsystem and Lily Allen, to a sense of confused apathy. Is This It was minimalist, sleek, sharp, low-fi, needy and had absolutely nothing to say. It was full of judgment of others, it was defined by what it didn’t say, by what was hard to explain, by a weight of expectation that it didn’t so much rise to as shrugged off. In a word it was cool.

Naturally enough when The Strokes wanted to they were capable of breaking hearts. “Trying Your Luck” encapsulates transient lust, pitiful acceptance, and fatalistic yearning while “The Modern Age” speaks to an unspoken futility and “Someday” offers a wry smile, a trudging nod and a longing for the good old days. Futility, reflection, retrospection and apathy; ten years on and the eerily prescient Is This It is our modern cultural crisis in microcosm.



Author: david

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