Neile's Favourite Music of 1998

This is my list of top discs of 1998. Warning--it's very long.


Neile's Top Favourites of 1998

Pepper Acton--marrow

I've gone on about this disc before--but I just wanted to confirm that it has stood the test of time. Emotionally evocative, this is delightfully stripped down as far as production goes (mostly just Pepper and her piano), but rich and full as far as sound and emotion goes. Highly recommended.

Tori Amos--from the choirgirl hotel

I've been quite silent about this one so far. It's Tori, one of my favourite musicians of all time, and while I love all the songs individually, this album doesn't seem to add up as much as I'd expect, and I tend to forget about it. Maybe it's just a reaction to how strongly Boys For Pele obsessed me--that album particularly was so much more than the sum of its parts that I've come to expect that from Tori. Still, I love the songs individually, and it's Tori's crazy genius all over it.

Eliza Carthy--Red Rice

This is going to be one of my all-time favourite folk albums. I love the combination of the two albums in this--the more traditional Rice and the more experimental Red, and Eliza Carthy's voice just gets stronger and more evocative with every recording. This is a classic.

Cat Power--Moon Pix

Bluesy, dreamy, edgy--I love this, those I do think there are some weaker songs, but I could play "Cross Bones Style" forever--it's one of those songs that evokes an indefinable yearning for something. There are other haunting songs like that on here, too. A wonderful discovery I thank the ecto list for.

Susan Court--High Relief

I've talked about this charming album more than once already but can't resist mentioning it again. Susan is greatly talented and is a distinctive songwriter. Lovely.

PJ Harvey--Is This Desire?

PJ Harvey just gets better and better with every album for me. I love this album--it's far more subtle than she has been before but just as gripping.

Imogen Heap--I Megaphone

I loved this album even before I heard her live. I think she's one of the most talented newcomers out there--she mixes the experimental side with pop and comes up with something a little like Tori Amos' heavier songs but also some ballads. I love everything I've heard of hers so far, including some fine b-sides off the singles.

Kristin Hersh--Strange Angels

Less compelling than Hips and Makers, but still strong and beautiful.

Margot O'Breslin--That's the way it is today

A more cohesive, more direct and directed Boys for Pele? But somehow more in-your-face. This is strong stuff, and amazing that it's an indie debut album. Beautiful and fierce indeed.

Happy Rhodes--Many Worlds Are Born Tonight

I think this is my favourite Happy album after Warpaint. I loved it immediately, and have only grown to like it more as I've gotten to know the songs and the richness of the production better. This is some of Happy's best songwriting, and wonderful, mature work.

Margot Smith--taste

Definitely one of the best albums of the year. Dark and a little messy. A deeper album than Sleeping with the Lion with all of its musical hooks, this proves Margot Smith's talent for me, and I play it often. I can hardly wait to hear more of her or even to hear this album again.

Emma Townshend--Winterland

This was a real surprise to me, as I had no idea what the daughter of Pete Townshend would sound like, but after hearing a couple of recommendations on ecto, and I bought this and have enjoyed it over the year. Odd, quirky pop with interesting melodies. I swear woj would love this if he'd just listen to "The Last I saw Sadie" and "Five-a-Side Football" a few more times. They were both songs that made me hit the repeat button over and over again.

Very Cool Stuff

12 Rounds--my big hero

Dark gothic bluesy trip-hop/acid jazz goes bad and I love it. This is evil--EVIL I tell you. Yum.

Astrid--Boy For You

Haunting pop songs, ranging from the bittersweet to bitter pop. Astrid's raspy voice and hook-ridden songwriting gets under my skin.

Sara Ayers--Voices

Sonically, lyrically, and vocally intriguing--what more could you ask? Lovers of the female voice will love this mixture of music and vocals and some spoken word.

Iva Bittova--Iva Bittova

Strange and wonderful--a doorway into an unusual mind and world. I've been listening to some of these songs for several years now on another album and am delighted to see them get a wider release. Iva Bittova is a genius. It's out there, but truly delightful and haunting.

Cordelia's Dad--Spine

Somehow this isn't as great an album for me as Comet and I'm not sure why, maybe I just don't like these particular songs quite as much but damn I love Cordelia's Dad's stripped down traditional American folk. There's nothing quite like it.

Sandy Denny--Gold Dust: Live at The Royalty

At last, a professionally produced live concert disc of Sandy Denny, who has once of the richest, most beautiful voices of all time. This is a recording from one of her last concerts and focuses mostly on her own songwriting. A gift that it actually was released. Too bad it's U.K. only--worth importing, though!

Kim Fox--Moon Hut (1997)

I probably had more fun playing this disc than I did with any other this year. And I sang along most of the time. I don't do that much any more. Delightful fun, but also with haunting emotional moments.

Laurie Freelove--The Invisible Invisible (CD-R)

At last, new music from Laurie Freelove. It's not widely released, but at least it's available. I've had these songs on a demo tape for a while. Anyone who likes Laurie Freelove's earlier work, especially Songs from the Nineline will love this. These versions are a little more produced, but definitely not overproduced. I love the dance tunes here, and as always I love Laurie Freelove's vocals and her overall sense of how to make a song.

Gjallarhorn--ranarop/call of the sea witch

Fans of Garmana and of early Malicorne, rejoice! Here is something you will love--lively music with hurdy gurdy and plaintive vocals.

Kristin Hersh--Murder, Misery and Then Goodnight

I didn't think I'd like this at first but it has really grown on me. Almost the perfect vehicle for Kristin Hersh's sensibilities.

Penelope Houston--tongue

Penelope Houston rocks out like never before. This won't be released in the U.S. until 1999, but I couldn't resist listing it here. This is Penelope Houston's folk/rock but leaning farther from folk and more toward rock. It's something that I think will impress her old fans and make her new ones. A vast step up from Cut You, which I actually liked quite a bit.

Susan James--Fantastic Voyage: a double album

Susan James is a guitar goddess, and she has a strong voice and songwriting skills as well. Like her previous albums, this took a while to grow into my head, and to my surprise one of my favourite songs here is a country-ish song. How did she pull that one off? Anyway, this is great. Both discs are fascinating music. The song disc is pretty straightforward hook-laden rock, while the instrumental disc is slightly experimental and musically intriguing.

Alison Faith Levy--The Fog Show

A disc deserving of far more notice than it has received thus far. Mellow, melancholy, melodic, with strong vocals and great flowing songwriting. Lovely

Martha and the Muffins/M+M--Then Again: A Retrospective

Wonderful to have these songs available again, and on cd. I'm especially delighted to have the Dansparc songs as our vinyl copy of this album is wearing out. I have to admit though, that the new song "Resurrection" doesn't do all that much for me. It's a great retrospective, though. More Dansparc, please.

Massive Attack--Mezzanine

This was a real surprise for me, as it's not something I expected to like, but I enjoy almost the whole album--even the cuts with male vocals! (No one faint, ok?)


Though it took me a while, this album did grow on me and I now like it very much. It's far more melodic than I thought at first, though its edginess hides that at first.

Portishead--roseland nyc live

In only a few songs are there real departures from the album versions, but still I'd recommend this live album for the wonder that they can re-create that sound live in the right circumstances, and as well for the different and wonderful version of "Sour Times."

Rasputina--How We Quit The Forest

This starts off more noisy/dissonant than their first album, Thanks for the Ether, and at first I was worried that I wasn't going to like it as much, but after the first few songs it does sound like more Thanks for the Ether. Delightful, especially their cover of "You Don't Own Me". Ha!

Kerri Simpson at others--Confessin' The Blues

This isn't really my kind of music, but I would listen to this woman sing the phone book. I'd recommend getting her other discs before this, but this is a wonderful blue album! Well worth sending to Australia for.

Sully--I Have Much to Report

This is technically a debut, as they have a previous album no one I know of has ever heard. This is a Nettwerk group a little like Seely, Broadcast, or Laika--sort of ethereal techno pop. A wonderful album.

Emma Townshend--Winterland

I'm a little surprised that more people haven't been taken with this lovely, quirky album. Emma Townshend is an artist I feel certain I will continue to listen to for a long time. This album is delightful in its own right, and shows considerable promise.

Throwing Muses--in a doghouse

Yes, they were great even when they were teenagers. Can this be fair? Anyway, rejoice that this music is more widely available.

Kathleen Yearwood--Little Misery Birds

This album is her most experimental and least melodic thus far, but it still draws me in. It's powerful and beautiful and desperate at the same time. At last available on cd.

Highly worthy of mention

Gogh Van Go--Bliss Station

This definitely isn't as delightful as their 1993 debut, but despite being heavier--or at least a little less frothy--than their debut recording, it is still pretty infectious.

Noella Hutton--Noella Hutton

Raspy voiced and broken hearted--highly listenable pop/rock with catchy tunes.

Morcheeba--Big Calm

This is almost too smooth for me, but I do love the lead singer's Sade-like voice and renditions of songs. It's trip hop leaning farther into mainstream jazz than most bands exploring this territory.

Pineforest Crunch--make believe

Great altpop by a Swedish band.

John Renbourn--Traveller's Prayer

John Renbourn is an amazing guitarist, and I love his take on traditional songs and tunes. This isn't my favourite of his more recent recordings, but any John Renbourn is welcome to my ears.

Kate Rusby--Hourglass

Highly recommended for fans of traditional folk. I really enjoy her voice and her take on songs I've heard elsewhere. She's not as powerful as Sandy Denny, but certainly her renditions are more lively than the smooth uninteresting prettiness that dominates most of this genre.

Kate Rusby & Kathryn Roberts--Kate Rusby & Kathryn Roberts

I didn't like this quite as much as I thought I would. This is a duo's take on traditional songs, and the renditions are quite pleasant and traditional folk lovers will probably enjoy this a lot. Me, I think I'd rather listen to Kate Rusby's solo disc, or Anita Best & Pamela Morgan's duo album, or, of course, the Silly Sisters. Just not quite enough oomph here. Pretty, though.

Shotgun Wedding--a big world of fun

Well, I can't say that I like this as much as The Moon Seven Times' recordings--Henry Frayne's absence takes much of the individual atmosphere out of this, but I do love Lynn Canfield's vocals. This is even farther toward mainstream pop than The Moon Seven Times' last album, but still remains individual.

Rachael Sage--smashing the serene

Lots of people on the ecto list are going to really love this pop, but I can't listen to it without wanting something a little different, a little less obviously earnest and self-obsessed. She sounds so much like Ani Difranco that I miss Ani's sense of fun. Good ear for catchy tunes. Try her.

Stereolab--Aluminum Tunes

A third collection of b-sides and other rare tracks from Stereolab. This is essential for fans and has some wonderful things for more casual Stereolab listeners, too. Probably not a good introduction, though, for new fans.

Jenn Vix--Hope Springs Nocturnal

I didn't like this much until I turned it up loud then it clicked for me. Fun lyrically and musically and shows off Jenn Vix's rough-ish strong voice. The songs are varied but quite driven.

Best debuts

Wow--a lot of competition here! I can't believe how many of these albums I spent a lot of time listening to this year.

Pepper Acton

(see comments above)

Sara Ayers--Voices

(see comments above)

Susan Court--High Relief

(see comments above)

Imogen Heap--I Megaphone

(see comments above)

Alison Faith Levy--The Fog Show

(see comments above)

Margot O'Breslin--That's the way it is today

(see comments above)

Bic Runga--Drive

Nice pop music with enough of an edge to keep me interested. I don't like the whole of this album that much, but have definitely found it worth listening to, if overshadowed by other releases this year.

Sarah Slean-Universe

The tape version of this was on my list last year, but I can't help mentioning this again. Great songwriting, and something that I've played over and over again without tiring of it.

Sully--I Have Much to Report

(see comments above)

Emma Townshend--Winterland

(see comments above)

Jessica Weiser--What Has Happened EP

Fun/melancholy pop with a lot of promise. The overall sound seems to owe much to Tara McLean, Emm Gryner and Juliana Hatfield but has its own feel. I will be looking for more work by Jessica, and for now I'll enjoy this.

Old stuff just acquired

Virginia Astley--All Shall Be Well
Virginia Astley--Hope In A Darkened Heart

She is amazing. Bright, dark-edged experimental sunny pop like nothing you've ever heard before. Easy to mistake for for something less than it is until you listen.

Jerry Burns--Jerry Burns

A lovely pop voice. It's smooth pop in many ways, but she has a lovely voice and an inflection that carries most songs above the ordinary.

Doug and the Slugs--Cognac and Bologna / Wrap It

Two of the most fun albums of the '80s, together on one cd. I couldn't be happier.

Kathleen Yearwood--Dead Branches make a noise (cassette only, damn)

Gut wrenching, like all of Kathleen Yearwood's work. The lyrics here are her most bluntly hectoring and didactic, but the music makes them transcendent. Wow.

Lal and Mike Waterson--Bright Phoebus (LP)

An utter classic of bare bones neo-traditional folk.

Things I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't listened to more

Are these disappointments? Maybe, but I'm not ready to admit that yet.

Lisa Germano--slide

Is this as wonderful as my previous Lisa Germano favourites? I don't know yet. Does this mean it's not as good? I have had this for several months.

Lida Husik--Faith in Space

One of her more space-oriented recordings, I hear that it's one that grows on the listener. I need to give it time to do so.

Dana & Karen Kletter--dear enemy

Sadly this hasn't managed to demand much time in my player, which leads me to suspect that I don't like it as much as Dana Kletter's work with blackgirls, though I know I like it more than her work with Dish, except perhaps that great ep Dish did before the album. Anyway, strange individual harmonies almost-but-not-quite Roches- or McGarrigle-like.

Kolrassa Krokridandi--drapa ep (CDS)
Kolrassa Krokridandi--Kold Eru Kvennarad

I've managed to track down two more discs by this amazing Icelandic altrock group, who are also known in the U.S. as Bellatrix (one album was released with the title Stranger Tales by a U.S. label. This is strong stuff and takes much listening to appreciate--I need to spend more time with this, but I love Stranger Tales and the Icelandic version of that same album enough to be certain that I will spend that time.

Love Spirals Downwards--flux

I love this band's early work, but their later stuff just doesn't seem as compelling. Still, this is lovely.

Barbara Manning--In New Zealand

This has been competing for space in my cd player with way too many other discs, but I do intend to listen to it more.

Kate & Anna McGarrigle, etc.--The McGarrigle Hour

I love Kate & Anna McGarrigle, and have enjoyed my few listenings to this. Still, I'd prefer another Heartbeats Accelerating or Dancer with Bruised Knees, or hell, a re-release of Pronto Monto.

Susan McKeown and Lindsey Horner--Through the Bitter Frost and Snow
Susan McKeown--Bushes & Briars

I don't know why I haven't listened to these much, especially considering my experience with Susan McKeown's Bones, which I grew to love after I'd just listened to it enough. I'm not a big seasonal music fan, which might explain why I haven't listened to Through the Bitter Frost and Snow, but that doesn't explain why I haven't listened to Bushes & Briars, especially considering my love for traditional music and the way Susan McKeown sings it live.

Pram--North Pole Radio Station

I've loved all the Pram I've come across--I love the odd sense of their strange pop sound conglomerations and their vocalist's sweet tilty lyrics, but this one just hasn't had much air time.


Heather Nova--Siren

I confess that the production on this one bugs me a lot, but I do like the acoustic versions that have appeared on various singles, so it's not the songwriting. Heather, break free!

Perfume Tree--feeler

I love Perfume Tree's older dreamy trancey crunchy pop, but this is entirely forgettable.

1995's favourite discs § 1996's favourite discs § 1997's favourite discs § 1998's favourite discs § 1999's favourite discs § 2001's favourite discs

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