On Rotation: The Boo Radleys, Fiona Apple, Sheila Chandra

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The Boo Radleys – Giant Steps (1993)

I don’t listen to this one too closely because I feel like I’ll have lost something if it stops surprising me. It’s better to stay uncertain about what’s going to float up out of the distortion and fuzz. A sweet melody, a sad little lyric, a triumphant burst of sound, or a sinuous bass line… Off-beat guitar stabs, layer upon layer of wistful voices, or something that could have been nabbed from The Pop Group’s “Wise Up Sucker”… It might be anything, and that’s what makes this a truly great psychedelic album.

Favourite track: “Upon 9th and Fairchild,” mostly because of its sense of repressed anger, especially in the contrast between the pissed-off guitar riff and Martin Carr’s lethargic repetitions of “This is my life too” on the chorus.

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Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine (2005)

I’m happy to listen to this one at any given time, but hadn’t done so in far too long.

Favourite track: “Waltz (Better Than Fine).” For all the kerfuffle over Jon Brion’s production of this album, the only two songs that still bear his credit, this and the title track, are nonetheless its best.

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Sheila Chandra – Weaving My Ancestors’ Voices (1992)

I finally bought something by Sheila Chandra after seeing her perform on Later… with Jools Holland, oh, probably a decade ago. Weaving is a sparse album, comprising only Chandra’s voice and the occasional accompanying drone, but it’s such a consummate blending of many vocal traditions that it’s a rich album, too. Someone buy me all her others, please.

Favourite track: “Speaking in Tongues II,” for the way it displays Chandra’s vocal dexterity, and for its resolute mysteriousness.

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