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  • Writer's pictureJO'B

If You Don't Know Me By Now…12 albums you've probably never heard of, but really should (part 1)

Updated: Apr 1

Don't let the title mislead you, this isn't a blog about the dreadful ginger whinger that is Mick Hucknall (and anyway, the song in question was originally by the rather splendid Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes). But there are a load of albums I truly love that I doubt most people have ever even heard of. There will be some people reading this who will know them all (hello Steve Pittaway!). But even some of my most eclectic music fan friends won't know all of these. And I am sure they have a load of records I have missed too.

There is just SO much music, no wonder we miss great stuff. I read that some 42,000 albums are released in a year globally. That's a complete headf***.

So here is an occasional list of 12 albums you may have missed, do give them a spin, I am sure you will love some of them at least.

1. Girlfriend - Matthew Sweet

I loved Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, but never saw them in the 80s (I rectified this when they reformed in 2004). But I did see Lloyd Cole on his first solo tour (and many times since). On that first tour and album, he had a superb bass player and backing singer who caught my ear, Matthew Sweet. His vocals really harmonised well with Lloyd and when I read he was releasing an album himself the next year, I took a punt.

The prevailing music of the day was Nirvana, so I could not have been less hip (ok, there's my love for Marillion…). Girlfriend came out as Matthew Sweet's career and life were at a major low - two failed and not very good albums had been and gone, his marriage had ended…something had to break and with Girlfriend, that break finally came.

Tom Petty, The Beatles, Big Star, The Byrds, Fleetwood Mac were all touchstones, especially the latter as there is no doubt this is a divorce album, albeit one from someone who seemed to still be pining for his lost love.

Weeping ballads, guitar wig outs like the title track and the jangly McGuinnesque pop of I've Been Waiting, this is just brilliant and still gets a regular airing in the Back In Black(heath) household.

For fans of: Lloyd Cole, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty

2. We Are Millionaires - Pete Fij & Terry Bickers

Luminaries of the late 80s / early 90s indie scene Pete Fij (ex-Adorable) and Terry Bickers, the mercurial on/off guitarist of The House Of Love came together in 2014 to make an album, Broken Heart Surgery, which is great. But its follow up in 2017, We Are Millionaires is just the loveliest thing.

Strum is the word that always comes to mind when I hear it - gentle, strumming guitars, with the occasional understated wigout by Bickers. If The World Is All We Have still feels to me like the best Bond theme that never was.

The vocals are careworn, melancholic, as the lyrics obsess about loss, failure, clinging on hopelessly. That description may not make this sound that appealing, but trust me, it's a joy to listen to.

For fans of: Lee Hazlewood, Richard Hawley, I Am Kloot, Elbow

3. I Was The King, I Really Was The King - Animals That Swim

I missed this when it came out in 1996, just too much Britpop noise distracting me. I didn't come across this until I saw their greatest hits in a bargain bin, looking a little worse for wear with no cover, just £2 scrawled on the CD case.

I played it to death (£2 well spent!) and eventually went off and picked up this gem on vinyl. Its lead track, Faded Glamour, is as perfect a song as you will hear, with its jaded horns, jangling guitars and world-weary vocals. It was the antithesis of Oasis, I wish I had picked it up back then.

If I was asked to pick out ten quintessentially English albums, this would be one. Britpop without the misogyny and laddish bullshit,

For fans of: Pulp, The Blue Aeroplanes, Suede

4. Work - Holy Ghost!

Easter Sunday seems an appropriate day to be listening again to Holy Ghost!, a band that I had heard of as one of many that were labelled the "new New Order". I never got that and didn't give them much heed.

Now I never really listen to the radio, I was always one to find out about music by reading numerous magazines and websites. But I was in a car and heard Anxious, the lead track from Holy Ghost!'s third album, Work. I was immediately hooked, listening intently to hear who the artist was and the track name as some idiot DJ blathered on as the song faded out. I saw the album the next weekend at Rough Trade and picked up a copy there and then. I am surprised the vinyl still plays so well, as I played it over and over.

It's an album of disco/funk synth pop. Very much not my usual wheelhouse, but it's a joy to listen to. Anxious is jittery, pounding and huge fun - it's the standout. The rest of the album is bouncy, breezy, disco joy.

For fans of: Friendly Fires, New Order, Daft Punk

5. The Lord's First X1 - Lord Large

I have long believed that the Sun In The Sands pub in Blackheath is the harbinger of doom, the definitive sign that the apocalypse is coming. Over the 27 years I have lived in and around it, I have watched the letters on the side wall, which looks over the roundabout that shares its name, slowly drop to the ground. Of the original 16 letters, there are two left. When the last two fall, get out the good booze, quit the job and hold on dearly to your loved ones, as the end of the world is nigh. Though for God's sake don't go in there, it still looks rough as hell.

So when an album came out that had the lead track named after the aforementioned pub, I knew I had to pick it up. Plus it was sold as an homage to Northern Soul, which I love dearly.

The album is splendid, the work of Stephen Large, who now plays keys with Squeeze. He used to play every Sunday evening down in Greenwich at The North Pole, playing a cool mix of soul, funk and acid jazz, just him and a singer so he could practice.

The album has a great roster of guest vocalists, including Clem Curtis of The Foundations, Dean Parrish (as in There's A Ghost In My House), Roy Phillips from The Peddlers, Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze, Ashley Slater from Freakpower and more.

I saw him play this album in full at The Jazz Cafe back in 2007 - it was like the Wigan Casino had been brought to life again, especially when Clem Curtis sang The Foundations' classic, Baby, Now That I've Found You - a joyous evening.

If What Did I Do?, Left, Right & Centre, and Stuck In A Wind Up don't have you getting down with your bad self, you need to get your hearing tested.

6. Easy Dazy - Fraser A Gorman

I pretended to like Fraser A Gorman during my well documented, 14 month courtship of Mrs JO'B. This involved me going to any gig she needed someone to go with (you can laugh, but it worked!). One of these gigs was seeing Fraser at a tiny venue in East London when he came over in 2016.

I had no idea who he was, but said I liked him and tagged along with Mrs JO'B and her friend Natasha. The gig as it goes was great, and when his second album came out, I ordered it straight away. It's a quantum leap on from his debut, richer and more soulful. We saw him on our 2019 jaunt to Australia in a pub in Ballarat. This time it was me dragging Mrs JO'B (though very willingly). Dressed like a skinny 60s Dylan in smart black suit and a mop of curly hair, he belted through several tracks from this album with aplomb. I bought him a whiskey afterwards, imploring him to come to London and promising to suggest some good venues he might play (little did we know that gigs, travel and life as we knew it were all about to disappear for a couple of years).

My Only Sunshine, Ask Marcelle and Walking To Oman's all have a soulful, folky storytelling vibe, though Ask Marcelle is almost funky at times. If you like soul and folk, you'll love this.

For fans of: Courtney Barnett, Robert Forster, Teenage Fanclub

7. Endless Affairs - Ailbhe Reddy

Our first trip to Brighton's The Great Escape festival in 2017 introduced us to load of great bands and Ailbhe Reddy was the first I think we really fell in love with. She was in a tiny room above The Prince Albert and she blew us away. Hailing from Galway, she was part of that festival's Irish showcase and she was head and shoulders above the other acts that afternoon.

We've seen her a few times since - I was stood right in front of her for her 2022 return to The Great Escape, but was too shy to tell her how fabulous I thought her music was (it just sounds so rubbish to go up and tell someone how great they are - like my more disastrous attempts at chatting up a stranger - cringeworthy). She played a few songs from this, her second album. It was just her and an electric guitar and it sounded huge then.

The album is an anthology of relationship disasters, not dissimilar to her debut (see Ailbhe Reddy - Personal History), but also tributes to her late grandmother. My favourites are Shitshow (“No more staring at the ceiling waiting for the morning”) and Last To Leave (“Make the host wish they’d never met you"). If you don't like your music autobiographical and personal, this isn't for you

But if you like your music scathing, self-deprecating, fragile and sung beautifully, then give this a spin.

For fans of: Courtney Barnett, Sarah Cracknell, Lianne La Havas

8. Stellular - Rose Elinor Dougall

Mrs JO'B texted me one day to say how great this song was (Colour Of Water by Rose Elinor Dougall). As usual, she was not wrong, and by the time she was home, I had bought the album and booked us tickets to see her at The Lexington in a fortnight. Whilst I can be pretty impulsive when it comes to getting obsessed by new bands, it's been a long time since I have gone from first listen to acquiring the album and gig tickets in the space of five minutes (probably the nearest time was Love At First Sight - My First Marillion Gig).

Backed by members of the Electric Soft Parade, Rose is a former Pipette, a band where she shared the stage with the marvellous Gwenno, who now sings exclusively in Cornish - she'll be on the next of these lists!). This album is a shining slice of pop does Gothic synth - jarring, insanely catchy, melodic, ice-cold and yet warm as a hug.

Check it out, it will have you bopping away in your kitchen.

For fans of: Sarah Cracknell, Blondie, Gwenno, Jane Weaver, The Orielles

9. Crazy On The Weekend - Sunhouse

Championed by film director Shane Meadows, this album got a five star review in Uncut magazine when it came out that was so effusive, I bought it in a little alleyway stall in Soho on the way home that evening. The songs are rich, sombre, tales of singer Gavin Clark's lived-experience, desperately sad, brutally honest, real. He's the modern Nick Drake.

His songs are nocturnal, bleak, a cry for help, devastating and simultaneously life affirming. Clark suffered from mental health challenges, drug addiction and ended up delivering takeaways to stay afloat, a situation Meadows equated to ‘Bob Dylan delivering pizzas’. He briefly returned with another band (Clayhill), but again faded away, sadly dying in 2015.

This desolate album is genius and should be hailed as such, up there with Five Leaves Left, It's criminally neglected.

For fans of: Nick Drake, Noel Gallagher, Doves

10. In Cahoots - Crepes

There's an adult store on the way out to Melbourne's airport called "Sexyland". You can't miss it, it's fucking enormous. I've never been in (no, really), it would be too daunting! So, I knew I loved this Australian band, when one of their songs was named after this warehouse-sized den of iniquity.

We saw them supporting Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever in Melbourne in 2018, and they were cracking. Chilled, laconic, tight, hypnotic. In Cahoots is hushed, understated - wonky synths gurgle along, as jangly guitars run to catch up with them. There's nothing earth-shattering here, but it's an album full of space, taking its time, unassumingly delivering some great, catchy pop hooks.

It's a buoyant album, with some playful lyrics, the occasional nod to Syd Barrett (Bicycle Man) and ends with the woozy, meandering Grey Sea. Perfect Sunday morning stuff.

For fans of: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Jonathan Richman, The Go-Betweens, The Kinks

11. Patience - The Invisible

Another hazy, woozy, album, inspired by grief and loss, but in contrast, it's quite uplifting. Dave Okumu's vocals are superb throughout, supported by the likes of Jessie Ware and Anna Calvi. It's complex, soulful, merging indie, gospel, trip hop and pop.

Like others on this list, jittery is a good description - it's wildly different from my usual taste, but any band that describe themselves as 'Experimental Genre-Spanning Spacepop' deserve your attention.

For fans of: The XX, Massive Attack, Kwabs, Jungle, Bloc Party

12. Love + War - Kwabs

Of this list, this is the one album most people will know, as for a time, Kwabs seemed on his way to being huge. I saw Kwabs with my friend Sarah at the Roundhouse in 2015 and the band were stunning live. But he's disappeared since, just the occasional track here and there.

Love + War is another album defying being lumped into a specific genre. Soulful vocals, big gospel sound, pounding drums, orchestral arrangements, icy synths, the music is agile, crooning songs start as slow tracks that build suddenly into dancey bangers.

Perfect Ruin is its standout, understated, it swells so you think it will explode, but it holds its ground. It's lovely. No idea what has happened to him, but I do hope he comes back as there is so much promise here. If you don't know it, give him a blast and if you do know it, reacquaint yourself with a really brilliant album.

For fans of: Jessie Ware, Harry Styles, Maverick Sabre, Lianne La Havas, Black Pumas

And that's the first batch, but expect more when I have the time. If you know all twelve, then poor you, you are as addicted to music as I am. We should talk...

Stay safe, and if you enjoyed this, please subscribe (see link below), x

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