This week I haven’t bought any new albums, so I thought I’d do something a little differently – list my favourite bands/artists (a list that changes regularly, although these top ten are becoming fairly permanent).
10. David Gray
It’s amazing to think that the folk/pop musician and singer David Gray had, at one point, planned to quit music. Back in 1998 he released his fourth album, White Ladder, which ended with the song “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye”, a song he intended to be his farewell to the music industry. This album also contained the songs “This Year’s Love”, “Sail Away”, “Please Forgive Me” and “Babylon”, all of which helped him break the music market on the international stage, and kept him in the business after all (thank goodness). My favourite album of his? Life In Slow Motion, without a doubt – one of the most powerful albums I have ever heard.
9. Dave Matthews Band
DMB is an American rock band with a core group consisting of the usual vocals, guitars, bass and drums, but also the use of saxophones and violins which allows for more flexibility with the sound between genres. Though they’re not as huge here in Australia, in America they have five albums which have debuted at number one, and their worldwide album sales exceed 30 million. They are particularly known for their amazing live performances, which usually feature improvised renditions of their songs. My favourite album of theirs will always be their 1996 effort, Crash, which was my introduction to the band as a young teenager.
Listen to a live version of “So Much To Say” off my favourite album here:
8. Jack Johnson
This once pro surfer and now chilled out singer/songwriter has been contributing to the world of music for over a decade, and the world is a better place for it. Although many will argue his albums sound the same (which they do, though they change incrementally each time around), as far as I’m concerned this is no bad thing – I know what I’m getting with Jack Johnson, and I know I’ll like what I hear. Whether my future family like it or not, this will be my “beach” and probably my “holiday” music for the rest of my life, in much the same way that The Beach Boys would accompany family holidays when I was a child.
“You and Your Heart” is off his latest album:
7. Porcupine Tree
This band is considered to be one of the most important bands in the recent prog-rock scene. The band’s frontman, Steven Wilson, is also responsible for several other bands, including Blackfield, No-Man, one half of Storm Corrosion, and also as a solo artist. Porcupine Tree grew slowly, from bizarre, trippy psychedelia in the early 90s, to the heavier sounds in the early 00s for which they started to become well known. My favourite album by this incredibly talented and intelligent band is a tie between In Absentia and Fear of a Blank Planet.
Listen to one of my favourite PT songs, “Time Flies” (though a shortened version, but still great – it has an awesome clip):
6. Rufus Wainwright
Rufus is one of those artists who is impossible to define. His music is a complex mix of classical and pop music, and his voice is just simply huge in every way imaginable. One of the most talented songwriters around, and one who is looked up to by many other musicians, he has a habit of changing directions between albums quite dramatically – his recent upbeat pop album was preceded by a dark, brooding album which featured only his vocals and piano. My favourites albums include this piano album, All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu and also Want One and Poses.
Check out the first single off his latest album, “Out Of The Game”:
5. Crowded House
Crowded House were started back in the mid 80s by Neil Finn, one of New Zealand’s most beloved songwriters, when his older brother Tim’s band Split Enz broke up. Due to their upbeat, catchy songwriting style, they became hugely successful in New Zealand, Australia, and other parts of the world too, including the UK. They released four amazing albums between 1986 and 1993, and in 1996 performed their “Farewell To The World” concert on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. In recent years they reformed and released more albums, but for me my favourite will always be 1991’s Woodface, the only CH album to also feature older brother Tim, who co-wrote many of the songs with Neil.
Listen to their classic 1986 hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, and just try and tell me it’s not a beautiful song:
4. Ben Folds
Back in the early to mid 90s, Ben Folds and two friends wanted to form a band that rocked, but used piano instead of a guitar. Ben Folds Five was soon formed and built up a cult status, before going on to score a major radio hit with the rather depressing song Brick. After BFF broke up at the turn of the century, Ben Folds went on to release several solo albums, and has built up an enormous fan base over all these years, and now, excitingly, he has reformed BFF with the original two other members, and no doubt the new album will be blistering, to say the least. My favourite albums of his? Whatever and Ever Amen by BFF, and Songs For Silverman as a solo artist.
Listen to the new BFF song off the upcoming album (and get up and dance if necessary…I did a bit):
3. Pink Floyd
Do I really need to introduce this band? Probably not. Pink Floyd are one of the best selling and most influential rock bands of all time, perhaps most famous for their classic albums Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall. They also had number one hits in four separate decades, and survived a change of their frontman twice, from Syd Barrett to Roger Waters in the 60s, and then to David Gilmour in the 80s. For me my favourite album will always be Wish You Were Here, with the song of the same name and also the epic 9-part Shine On You Crazy Diamond.
My favourite Pink Floyd song, however, is “Us And Them” – listen to it in its entirety here and you’ll see why:
2. Led Zeppelin
Really these last two bands are tied for first spot – I struggle to pick between them. Again, LedZep need no introduction. Throughout the late 60s and early 70s they sold out stadiums around the world, sold millions upon millions of albums, wrote immortal songs such as “Stairway To Heaven”, “The Immigrant Song” and “Whole Lotta Love”, and even secured the record for the loudest ever concert (laws were passed after this regarding concert volumes). Yet for me, I have always loved the lesser-known music by this band, too, such as the folkier second half of Led Zeppelin III, the bluesier moments of their first two albums, the odd ventures into reggae and funk music on later albums. I think only when you listen to the band’s full catalogue can you truly appreciate what an awesome band they were.
The song to link to here is obvious – a fantastic live performance of “Stairway To Heaven”:
1. The Beatles
It might not be the most original answer, but for me it still holds true. I love The Beatles, and I think there’s a good reason why 50 years after they first started releasing music, we are still listening to them. They permanently changed the music landscape, influencing songwriters to this very day, and in their relatively short lifespan of 8 years they released 13 albums which changed dramatically from the pop songs of their early days to the increasingly experimental rock of their final years. Although I love many of their albums, my favourite album by them is (and always will be) Abbey Road. If you haven’t listened to this album before, go listen to it right this moment. Seriously.
For the final song, I’ve chosen “Come Together”:
What are some of your favourite bands? Do they change much as time passes?