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Album anniversaries: Three records to celebrate in February 2024

Album anniversaries: Three records to celebrate in February 2024
Album anniversaries: Three records to celebrate in February 2024 Copyright Domino, Capitol, Matador
Copyright Domino, Capitol, Matador
By David Mouriquand
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From feverish indie soundscapes to 90s Californian alt-rock via melodic stadium anthems, here's our pick of the three albums celebrating a major anniversary this month.

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Every month of 2024, Euronews Culture takes a trip down memory lane and handpicks a trio of albums celebrating a major milestone.

(January's trio, in case you missed them, can be found here.)

These are the three records you should choose to (re)discover as they respectively turn 10, 20, and 30 this February.

Turing 10 in 2024: Wild Beasts – Present Tense

(Release date: 25 February 2014)

Wild Beasts - Present Tense
Wild Beasts - Present TenseDomino

British indie rockers Wild Beasts lasted a solid 16 years together, and it’s no hyperbole to state that they were once one of the UK’s most distinctive talents. The dualling voices of members Tom Fleming and Hayden Thorpe are missed, but the band left behind them five stunning albums to show for it, each with their own merits and always boasting immaculate production. And this year, perhaps their most accomplished album turns 10.

After 2011’s excellent and smooth-sounding 'Smother', the band’s fourth album, 'Present Tense', saw Wild Beasts polish their synthy leanings, but this time with a more lyrical sensibility. In fact, 'Present Tense' could be their most emotional album, as the band's sharp observations on masculinity, sex, and sensuality are met with an added dose of romance that contrasted at the time with the lad-rock that made countless NME covers. Not that 'Present Tense' saw them lose their signature swagger, as their sleek R&B-indebted pop feels incredibly foreboding. The feelings are there, but there’s a directness on this record that was absent from 'Smother' and their second album, 'Two Dancers'.

The track that gets the most attention is the opener ‘Wanderlust’ and its soft growls that feel menacing yet inviting. Further down the tracklist, songs like ‘Daughters’, ‘Mecca’ and the mesmeric ‘Nature Boy’ show a band at the height of their powers, with their talent fully aligning with their ambitions.

Wild Beasts’ final album would come two years later with the underrated 'Boy King', which was a fitting swansong, despite the poor reviews in 2016. However, if there’s one album you’d do well to start with should Wild Beasts have passed you by, it’s ‘Present Tense’. It’s dense but never impenetrable, and its feverish collection of songs collide with one another to immerse you in a dirge unlike any other.

Yeah, we’re fans. Can you tell?

Also turning 10 in January: Hurray For The Riff Raff’s superb ‘Small Town Heroes’; Beck’s Grammy Award winning twelfth album ‘Morning Phase’; arguably St. Vincent’s best album, ‘St. Vincent’.

Turning 20 in 2024: Melissa Auf der Maur – Auf der Maur

(Release date: 02 February 2004)

Melissa Auf der Maur - Auf der Maur
Melissa Auf der Maur - Auf der MaurCapitol

An obvious pick for an album turning 20 this month would have been German-born British composer and pianist Max Richter’s ‘The Blue Notebooks’, a post-classical masterpiece that topped our ranking of the Best European Albums of the 21st Century...So Far. However, we like to shake things up here, and thought it best to shine the spotlight on an album that perhaps never got the praise it deserved. We’re talking about Melissa Auf der Maur’s eponymous debut album, which celebrates its two decades.

Prior to ‘Auf der Maur’, the Canadian musician was best known as the bassist extraordinaire for the bands Hole and The Smashing Pumpkins, having replaced D’Arcy on the Pumpkins’ line-up in the early 2000s. Once the band’s Sacred and Profane tour was over, they broke up (only to re-emerge four years later... and they’ve never been quite as good since). Auf der Maur apparently did not have plans to continue her music career, but gave it a good go anyway – and we’re glad she did.

'Auf der Maur' is a riff-filled gem that contains stomper after stomper – the sort of guitar-driven, arena-scale beast that never backs down, or lack oomph or melody. While the themes and lyrics can often betray the fact that this is a debut album, you'll be too busy having a great time with an impressive amount of rock tunes.

Auf der Maur’s sensual vocal delivery is perfect to cut through the riffs, and the guest musicians and collaborators, including The Smashing Pumpkins’ James Iha, Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, and Kyuss' Brandt Bjork, lend the record a powerful kick. Their bands’ influence runs deep throughout, but Auf der Maur makes it her own.

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The album, it has to be said, is a little top-heavy, with the first half delivering the majority of the goods. Standout tracks include ‘Real a Lie’, ‘Skin Receiver’ and the more mellow ‘Taste You’, featuring guest vocalist Mark Lanegan. This last one is positively dripping in sex, and if you can find a French copy of the album, you’ll be treated to Auf der Maur’s vocals in French, which somehow work so much better à la française than in the original English version. 

Check it out for yourself:

Also turning 20 in February: The aformentioned ‘The Blue Notebooks’ by Max Richter; Kanye West’s ‘The College Dropout’.

Turning 30 in 2024: Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

(Release date: 14 February 1994)

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Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked RainMatador

Much like Wild Beasts, Pavement didn’t last, and only gave us five albums over the span of their decade-long career. However, the idiosyncratic Californian rockers made the most of it, releasing records that encompassed a 1990s spirit that make Stephen Malkmus and his merry bunch unavoidable when it comes to stellar underground pop-rock of the beloved decade. 

Often described as emblematic of the slacker sound (or what could now be described as proto-hipster), their brand of lo-fi / alt-rock has so much more going on behind the surface.

While there’s no shortage of love out there for the likes of 'Wowee Zowee' and their debut 'Slanted And Enchanted' in particular, our favourite has to be Pavement's sophomore release, ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’.

While ‘Slanted and Enchanted’ is a joyful statement of intent, there’s no denying that the follow up is better in every way: the songs are richer (‘Elevate Me Later, Range Life and Fillmore Jive’ are particular favourites), the focus is sharper, the cohesion greater, and it even gave the band its biggest mainstream hits - ‘Cut Your Hair’ and ‘Gold Soundz’. They probably weren't looking for hits - especially when you consider the all-out weirdness of songs like ‘Hit The Plane Down’ and ‘5-4=Unity’ - but hey, who’s complaining?

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What else is there left to say when you just want to give an album full marks? Perhaps that 'Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain' is warm when it needs to be, catchy when it wants to be, and irreverently obtuse when it feels like it. 

All in all, a perfect indie masterpiece, and the quintessential Pavement record.

Also turning 30 in February: Ben Harper’s debut album ‘Welcome to the Cruel World’.

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