5. LOST SOULS – DOVES (2000)
Best Ever Albums Rank: 1079
As has often been mentioned in the press, Doves’ evolved from English ‘90s dance act Sub-Sub, and while the indie-rock sound of Doves is considerably different from the trio’s earlier incarnation, they still retained some hefty beats on their Doves’ work, starting off with their first album ‘Lost Souls’. There is a definite 11pm feel to this album, starting with the instrumental ‘Firesuite’, which kicks into the chiming piano of ‘Here It Comes’ and drummer Andy Williams spookily intonating ‘This is the day/this is the time/to stare at the skies in wonder’. ‘Sea Song’ has an even darker imploration to ‘Drown with me …’, but just as the listener feels they might be dragged down into the murky depths, up pops the glorious ‘Rise’, whose sun-drenched sound hides the fact that it too is making references to drowning and being in the sea belly up. Somewhat perversely though, Doves reserved the second half of ‘Lost Souls’ for their singles, which come as a one-two-three punch towards the end, starting with the terrifically infectious pop-rock of ‘Catch The Sun’, and continuing into the morose, late night lounge sound of ‘The Man Who Sold Everything’. But even these pale in comparison to the magnificent ‘The Cedar Room’, a seven and a half minute epic of regret and longing with the heftiest drum beats of all and a beautiful backing vocal. Without being complex, Doves presented a mature alternative for indie rock fans coming out of the Britpop era.
Best tracks: The Cedar Room, Catch The Sun, Here It Comes, Rise, Sea Song.
4. SOURCE TAGS AND CODES – … AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD (2003)
Best Ever Albums Rank: 968
Owners of the greatest band name of all time … And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead gained popularity not long after other literate, semi-hard US rock groups At The Drive-In and Queens of the Stone Age had helped sweep away the puerility of nu-metal. They seemed like less of a ‘musos’ band than the latter though, and less like they had swallowed the Oxford Dictionary than the former. Their album ‘Source Tags and Codes’ is almost perfect rock – no track stands out, but every track is listenable, with even the Middle Eastern-tinged interludes holding up to repeated listening. Tracks like ‘Heart In My Hand’, ‘Monsoon’ and ‘Days of Being Wild’ positively embody the phrase ‘tooth and claw’, while ‘Baudelaire’ captures the decadence of its subject, and ‘Relative Ways’ and ‘Another Morning Stoner’ encapsulate the lazy days of 20 year old indie kids hanging out in the Texan suburbs. Lyrically and musically this is a dense album, and one that still stands resolute atop its thick stone pillars long after the reputations of less substantial discs from the early 2000s have crumbled into dust.
Best tracks: Days of Being Wild, Monsoon, Relative Ways, Baudelaire, Heart In My Hand, How Near How Far.
3. THE LAST BROADCAST – DOVES (2002)
Best Ever Albums Rank: 1278
If Doves’ first album ‘Lost Souls’ was, like its cover, like being closed off in a dark room with faint lights, then their second album ‘The Last Broadcast’ is also representative of its cover of a massive flash of light through dark clouds overhanging the city. From the moment the guitar and keyboards kick in on second track ‘Words’ Doves’ whole sound expands and soars beyond areas only faintly glimpsed on their first LP. ‘There Goes The Fear’, at almost seven minutes, goes even higher (with vocalist Jimi Goodwin saying to ‘Think of me when you’re coming down’), ending with what sounds like a Brazillian drumming exhibition in its final minute. Doves retain this stratospheric position as they fly into ‘N.Y.’ and look up to the stars for the slowly burning ‘Satellites’. Strangely enough, the best track is possibly the most earthly – ‘Pounding’ pumps along like a track that has somehow jumped its start, though it pulls itself together in time to also end with more of the bands’ ethereal vocals. Doves would come back to ground level with their next album – the excellent ‘Some Cities’ – leaving ‘The Last Broadcast’ behind as an uplifting example of what can happen when musicians aim for the skies.
Best tracks: Pounding, Words, There Goes The Fear, Satellites, N.Y., Down By The River.
2. HIGHLY EVOLVED – THE VINES (2002)
Best Ever Albums Rank: 1143
It is all a matter of personal taste of course (and some will claim I have none by making this statement), but for me the first eight tracks on the Vines’ first album, ‘Highly Evolved’, is about the most perfect twenty minutes of rock-pop music since the Beatles’ ‘Revolver’. It had raw, freaky (and short) punk rock tracks in ‘Highly Evolved’, ‘Outtatheway’, and the most viciously snot-nosed of them all, ‘Get Free’, gorgeous Beatlesesque ballads in ‘Autumn Shade’ and ‘Homesick’, bouncy, pseudo-Europop in ‘Sunshinin’’, semi-nonsense white reggae in ‘Factory’, and a cracked, porchside ‘roots’ tune in ‘Country Yard’. Every moment of it is compelling, and through all of it you have singer Craig Nicholls’ double and triple-tracking his vocals as if his mind is about to split apart at any moment. Of course, it all went horribly wrong after this, and nothing they subsequently did was a patch on what they achieved on this album. But I don’t care what anyone says, this was an awesome record. (Pity they couldn’t come even close to approximating it live though.)
Best tracks: Get Free (link to review), Homesick, Highly Evolved, Autumn Shade, Outtatheway, Country Yard.
1. IN GHOST COLOURS – CUT COPY (2008)
Best Ever Albums Rank: 1005
Is ‘In Ghost Colours’ the definitive Melbourne album? On every listen, it brings to mind summers on a cool, calm beach, walking through alleyways, hopping through bars and clubs, and even using the city’s ice-skating rink (see ‘Out There On The Ice’). Australians – and particularly Melbournians – have often been good at taking the best elements from pop in both the US and UK, and ‘In Ghost Colours’ reeks of cosmopolitanism on every one of its tracks. It also reeks of doomed romanticism – with lyrics like ‘don’t let it tear us apart/even if it breaks your heart’ on ‘Out There On The Ice’, ‘all the girls I’ve know are crying’ on ‘Feel The Love’, and ‘I fall in your dreams tonight’ on ‘So Haunted’ – except that Dan Whitford delivers it all in a voice that is so matter-of-fact that all that potential outpouring of twenty-something emotion is held just beneath the surface. It doesn’t fit in with the image of rough and raw Australian rock like Midnight Oil, AC/DC, or (god help us) Cold Chisel, but not all of Australia’s youth are out there on the land; indeed, many of them are young urbanites who don’t spend their nights out in the open skies, but rather spend them winding their way through narrow city streets. Cut Copy’s ‘In Ghost Colours’ perfectly captures that mood, and that for me makes it the best Australian album of the new millennium, even if there are relatively few others that may recognise it as such.
Best tracks: So Haunted, Feel The Love, Out On The Ice, Lights and Music, Hearts On Fire, Unforgettable Season.