4AD 1987

Listen to 4AD 1987 on Spotify.

This isn’t complete, unfortunately. The Fat Skier mini-album by Throwing Muses doesn’t exist on Spotify. Three of the tracks appear on various compilations, and I’ve included them on the playlist, but you’re missing some wonderful songs like And A She-Wolf After The War, Pools in Eyes and Soap and Water.

Hey, 4AD people! Get the rights for this thing and get it on Spotify already!

The songs from the Frazier Chorus EP Sloppy Hearts are included in the playlist, but they are the re-recorded versions from their debut album, and not the versions from the EP. The differences aren’t huge, though.

4AD didn’t release that many releases in 1987, but it was a momentous year, anyway. The three major releases:

Lonely is an Eyesore is a label sampler, but it’s the best one ever. All the bands contribute new songs, not featured anywhere else, and they contribute top shelf items. Almost any of these tracks would have been standouts on their respective bands’ albums, so you have to wonder how label head Ivo Watts-Russell managed to wrangle those tracks out of them. And it’s such a striking, excessive release (it was done in several formats, one of which was in a wooden box in an edition of 100) that it further cemented 4AD as being a “thing” more important than the individual artists (in many people’s eyes).

And while there are ten tracks on the album, two are from Dead Can Dance, and three of the tracks (by Clan of Xymox, Dif Juz and Colourbox) are from groups that would release barely nothing after this release. So in a way it’s an (unplanned?) epitaph of an era of 4AD instead of a celebration of it.

The second thing of particular import is the first album (well, mini-album) by Pixies. Not only was it a shock to the system: It’s such a wild, ferocious thing, but a whole genre was spawned based on somebody in Seattle getting a copy of it and the subsequent album. (I’m talking about grunge.)

And then there’s Pump Up The Volume by M|A|R|R|S, which is basically one of the guys from Colourbox trapped in a studio with the guys from A. R. Kane. Who didn’t do much except bitch, apparently, until Martyn Young made the song (recollections differ greatly), which was Ivo’s basic plan to prod Young into making something. It was a huge, huge worldwide hit and 4AD’s best-selling release. I remember visiting my sister in Portugal during the summer of 1987, and we were walking around the old part of Lisboa and hearing that song streaming out of somebody’s window and everything was perfect.

The commercial success of the song had all kinds of negative repercussions, though. A. R. Kane sued 4AD and or Colourbox because they wanted more money, and some of the people sampled on the song did likewise. Martyn Young basically dropped out and didn’t write a single track afterwards, and the process was a time and energy drain on 4AD and Watts-Russell.

Less distressing was Sleeps With The Fishes by Pieter Nooten and Michael Brook: It’s an album I never grow tired of listening to.


Throwing Muses — Chains Changed

Finished, Reel, Snail Head, Cry Baby Cry

The Wolfgang Press — Big Sex

The Wedding, The Great Leveller, That Heat, God’s Number

Various — Lonely Is An Eyesore

Crushed, The Protagonist, Cut The Tree, Frontier, Hot Doggie, Acid Bitter And Sad, Muscoviet Musquito, Fish, No Motion

A. R. Kane — Lollita

Lollita, Sado-Masochism Is A Must, Butterfly Collector

Dead Can Dance — Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun

Anywhere Out Of The World, Windfall, In The Wake Of Adversity, Xavier, Dawn Of The Iconoclast, Cantara, Summoning Of The Muse, Persephone (The Gathering Of Flowers)

Throwing Muses — The Fat Skier

Garoux Des Larmes, Pools In Eyes, A Feeling, Soap And Water, And A She-Wolf After The War, You Cage, Soul Soldier

M/A/R/R/S — Pump Up The Volume

Pump Up The Volume, Anitina

M/A/R/R/S — Pump Up The Volume (Remix)

Pump Up The Volume (Remix), Anitina (Remix)

Frazier Chorus — Sloppy Heart

Sloppy Heart, Typical, Storm

Pixies — Come On Pilgrim

Caribou, Vamos, Isla de Encanta, Ed Is Dead, The Holiday Song, Nimrod’s Son, I’ve Been Tired, Leviate Me

Pieter Nooten / Michael Brook — Sleeps With The Fishes

Several Times I, Searching, The Choice, After The Call, Finally II, Instrumental, Suddenly II, Suddenly I, Clouds, Finally I, Several Times II, Equal Ways, These Waves, Several Times III

Xymox — Blind Hearts

Blind Hearts, A Million Things, Scum

This post is part of the chronological look at all 4AD releases, year by year.

4AD 1986

Listen to 4AD 1986 on Spotify.

1985 was a good year for 4AD, but didn’t have many surprises. 1986 ramps things up considerably.

First of all, we have Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares. I don’t think anybody saw that coming or were prepared for how beautiful these Bulgarian songs could be.

And Cocteau Twins decided finally release a new “proper” album… but this time without any drums, which made people go “hm” all over the world. And then they did a collaborative album with pianist Harold Budd, but instead of using a moniker like “Cocteau Twins feat. Some Twinkly Piano” and selling boatloads of records, they used the less commercial name “Budd / Fraser / Guthrie / Raymonde”. Such kidders.

Some people don’t think that Cocteau Twins’ Treasure is the best thing 4AD released, but instead think that Filigree & Shadow by This Mortal Coil is better. These people are right.

The first This Mortal Coil album was charming, but it was (especially on side two) just a collection of random songs. The new album is a masterpiece of sequencing. Every of the four sides has an ebb and flow and a logic to it, and in addition to that, it also has an all-over logic, climaxing in Drugs near the end of side four. It’s a brilliant artefact, filled with beautiful music.

And it added to the resentment between Cocteau Twins and Ivo because Simon Raymonde (co-)wrote many of the interstitial atmospheric songlets, but were paid off as if a session musician.

So all that well and good (well, brilliant), but the most important development in 1986 is, in my opinion, the first Throwing Muses album.

4AD label boss Ivo Watts-Russel had a policy of not signing bands that weren’t in his vicinity, so that meant bands in the UK (or in Holland). But he was so taken by Throwing Muses’ demo tape that he kept calling a teenage Kristin Hersh and telling her how much he loved it, but that he just couldn’t sign them. She must have been somewhat nonplussed.

And then he signed them, and opened up a new sub-chapter in 4AD’s history.

Not only were Throwing Muses fabulous, and would release a string of wonderful albums (still at it to this day), but Throwing Muses led to Pixies, and Belly, and The Breeders eventually. And that’s the US college market, basically, and opened up a new commercial reality for 4AD, for better or worse. Mostly worse, really, but with a lot of great music before it all collapsed.


Richenel — L’esclave Endormi

L’Esclave Endormi, L’Esclave Endormi

Cocteau Twins — Victorialand

Lazy Calm, Fluffy Tufts, Throughout The Dark Months of April And May, Whales Tails, Oomingmak, Little Spacey, Feet-like Fins, How To Bring A Blush To The Snow, The Thinner The Air

Bulgarian Voices — Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares

Pilentze Pee, Svatba, Kalimankou Denkou, Strati na Engelaki Doumansche, Polegnala Pschenitza, Messetschinko Lio Greilivko, Brei Yvane, Erghen Diado, Sableyalo Planinata, Mir Stanke Le, Schopska Pesen, Polegnala e Todora

Colourbox — Baby I Love You So

Baby I Love You So, Looks Like We’re Shy One Horse, Shoot Out

Colourbox — The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme

The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme, Philip Glass, The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme

The Wolfgang Press — Standing Up Straight

Dig A Hole, My Life, Hammer The Halo, Bless My Brother, Fire-Fly, Ghost, Rotten Fodder, Forty Days Thirty Nights, I Am The Crime

Throwing Muses — Throwing Muses

Call Me, Green, Hate My Way, Vicky’s Box, Rabbits Dying, America (She Can’t Say No), Fear, Stand Up, Soul Soldier, Delicate Cutters

This Mortal Coil — Drugs

Drugs, Come Here My Love

This Mortal Coil — Filigree & Shadow

Velvet Belly, The Jeweller, Ivy And Neet, Meniscus, Tears, Tarantula, My Father, Come Here My Love, At First And Then, Strength Of Strings, Morning Glory, Inch-blue, I Want To Live, Mama K (1), Filigree & Shadow, Firebrother, Thais (1), I Must Have Been Blind, A Heart Of Glass, Alone, Mama K (2), The Horizon Bleeds And Sucks Its Thumb, Drugs, Red Rain, Thais (2)

Cocteau Twins — Love’s Easy Tears

Love’s Easy Tears, Those Eyes That Mouth, Sigh’s Smell Of Farewell

Budd / Fraser / Guthrie / Raymonde — The Moon And The Melodies

Sea Swallow Me, Memory Gongs, Why Do You Love Me?, Eyes Are Mosaics, She Will Destroy You, The Ghost Has No Home, Bloody And Blunt, Ooze Out And Away Onehow

Dif Juz — Out Of The Trees

Hu, Re, Mi, Cs, Gunet, Heset, Diselt, Soarn

Clan Of Xymox — Medusa

Theme I, Medusa, Michelle, Theme II, Louise, Lorrentine, Agonised By Love, Masquerade, After The Call, Back Door

This post is part of the chronological look at all 4AD releases, year by year.

4AD 1985

Here’s 4AD 1985 on Spotify.

In 1985, there weren’t really any major revelations: It’s business as usual, but, oh, what a business.

The Wolfgang Press finally (after a complicated band story that started with Rema-Rema, the first “official” thing 4AD released as a label in 1980) came into their own after five years. With a string of EPs collected as The Legendary Wolfgang Press And Other Tall Stories, they were pretty great.

And the same can be said for Colourbox, who had released some pretty neat singles, and finally had enough material to release a proper album (which would turn out to be their only album). It’s a wonderful release, I think, brightening up 4AD otherwise more sombre schedule.

And speaking of which, 4AD added Dutch group Clan of Xymox whose music can be summed up as “picture 4AD in 1985”. But not in a bad way! They’re great! But it’s definitely nothing that would shock fans of Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil…

And speaking of Cocteau Twins: Instead of releasing a proper album this year, they released three EPs instead, two of which (Echoes in a Shallow Bay and Tiny Dynamine) were released back-to-back and was subsequently released on a single CD. So you have to wonder… why?

An album is a “proper release”: It gets written up in all the magazines and it’s something that can be exported and sold in other countries. EPs are commercially not the most clever choice, even if artistically they’re brilliant, I think. Perhaps Cocteau Twins were just insecure about making a followup to the universally-lauded and beloved Treasure album?

And speaking of EPs… 4AD was one of the few record labels that used the EP as an aesthetic choice. Other labels were also sometimes releasing significant EPs around this time, but none to the extent 4AD did. Instead, a 12″ would usually just be a single with three B sides; discards from recording an album.

This isn’t the case with the EPs 4AD released: They were recorded as EPs, and they are almost all uniformly brilliant in the format they are. Four songs (usually) that fit together perfectly. A shock of greatness instead of the slog of a full album.

I think it can be argued that some of the bands on 4AD had their greatest release be an EP. Think Mad Love by Lush, which is just astounding. Or Garden of Arcane Delights by Dead Can Dance…


Cocteau Twins — Aikea-Guinea

Aikea-Guinea, Kookaburra, Quisqouse, Rococo

The Wolfgang Press — Water

The Deep Briny, Tremble (My Girl Doesn’t), My Way, Fire Eater

Clan Of Xymox — Clan Of Xymox

A Day, No Words, Stumble And Fall, Cry In The Wind, Stranger, Equal Ways, 7th Time, No Human Can Drown

Clan Of Xymox — A Day

A Day, Stranger

Dif Juz — Extractions

Crosswinds, A Starting Point, Silver Passage, The Last Day, Love Insane, Marooned, Two Fine Days (And A Thunderstorm), Echo Wreck, Twin And Earth

The Wolfgang Press — Sweatbox

Heart Of Stone, I’m Coming Home (Mama), Muted, Sweatbox

Colourbox — The Moon Is Blue

The Moon Is Blue, You Keep Me Hanging On

Colourbox — Colourbox

Sleepwalker, Just Give ‘Em Whiskey, Say You, The Moon Is Blue, Inside Informer, Punch, Suspicion, Manic, You Keep Me Hanging On, Arena

Colourbox — Colourbox

Edit the Dragon, Hipnition, We Walk Around The Streets, Arena II, Manic II, Fast Dump, Sex Gun

Cocteau Twins — Tiny Dynamine

Pink Orange Red, Ribbed And Veined, Pain Tiger, Sultitan Itan

Cocteau Twins — Echoes In A Shallow Bay

Great Spangled Fritillary, Melonella, Pale Clouded White, Eggs And their Shells

Dead Can Dance — Spleen And Ideal

De Profundis (Out Of The Depths Of Sorrow), Ascension, Circum Radiant Dawn, The Cardinal Sin, Mesmerism, Enigma Of The Absolute, Advent, Avatar, Indoctrination (A Design For Living)

 CAD CD513
Cocteau Twins — The Pink Opaque

Pearly-Dewdrops’Drops, Pepper Tree, The Spangle Maker, Wax And Wane, Musette And Drums, Hitherto, From The Flagstones, Millemillenary, Lorelei, Aikea-Guinea

The Wolfgang Press — The Legendary Wolfgang Press And Other Tall Stories

Heart Of Stone, I’m Coming Home (Mama), Sweatbox, Tremble (My Girl Doesn’t), My Way, Fire Eater, Respect, Deserve, Ecstacy

This post is part of the chronological look at all 4AD releases, year by year.

4AD 1984

The B-side to Kangaroo, the single by This Mortal Coil with the confusing name “It’ll End In Tears” is not included here, because I can’t find it on Spotify. It’s basically a short instrumental version of Kangaroo, though, so it’s not a catastrophe, I guess. But it’s a nice version. Somebody should fix that on Spotify.

But here’s 4AD 1984 on Spotify.

While 1983 was a year of change for 4AD, saying goodbye to many artists that had released music through 4AD in the early years, 1984 is firmly “new 4AD”. 1984 was the year that really signaled to the world that 4AD was an aesthetic thing: From the beautiful covers created by Vaughan Oliver/23 Envelope featured on almost all the releases, to music that sounded like nothing else.

Significant releases of the year are the first Dead Can Dance album, which is perhaps let down by indifferent production work. They fulfil all their potential with the 12″ that follows on its heels, Garden of the Arcane Delights, and I think everybody was won over.

As a thing that made 4AD a “thing” in people’s minds, This Mortal Coil was very important. If you want to look at it crassly, it’s basically label boss Ivo Watts-Russell and 4AD go-to producer John Fryer getting all the various 4AD artists into a studio and recording covers of Ivo’s favourite songs. This, along with the record design, gave 4AD an intimate club atmosphere… but perhaps too intimate, since some of the artists started resenting being looked upon that way.

If you’re a musician, you may want people to listen to your music and consider you as an independent artist, not part of some label collective. If you read interviews with Robin Guthrie from Cocteau Twins, this is a theme he seems to return to again and again, so in a way, This Mortal Coil existing may have been instrumental in Cocteau Twins leaving (well, being fired, sort of) from 4AD later. (And that people were offering up gobs of money to use Song to the Siren in various film, sung and played by Cocteau Twins but appearing on the This Mortal Coil album, and Ivo refusing all comers, didn’t help the relationship.)

But it’s a lovely album… and speaking of lovely albums:

Many consider Treasure by Cocteau Twins, released late in 1984, to be the best thing 4AD ever released, and some consider it to be the best album released by anybody ever… And why not? There’s nothing like it. Elizabeth Fraser is in peak form here, with her increasingly mysterious lyrics, hovering perfectly on the border of intelligibility, and Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde’s wall of beauty behind her is something to behold.

But I have to say that wonderful as it is, the drum sound gets on my tits, and it always has — even when it was brand new. The drum sound is just so… 1984.

Anyway, a class year for 1984, and basically from now on, until the early 90s, they would release no music that wasn’t excellent. This is 4AD’s imperial period.


Modern English — Chapter 12

Chapter 12, Ringing In The Change, Reflection

Modern English — Ricochet Days

Rainbow’s End, Machines, Spinning Me Round, Ricochet Days, Hands Across The Sea, Blue Waves, Heart, Chapter 12

Colourbox — Say You

Say You, Fast Dump

Dead Can Dance — Dead Can Dance

The Final Impact, The Trial, Frontier, Fortune, Ocean, East Of Eden, Threshold, A Passage In Time, Wild In The Woods, Musica Eternal

Cocteau Twins — The Spangle Maker

Pearly-Dewdrops’Drops, Pepper Tree, The Spangle Maker

Colourbox — Punch

Punch, Keep On Pushing, Punch, Shadows In The Room

Xmal Deutschland — Tocsin

Mondlicht, Eiland, Reigen, Tag Fur Tag, Augen Blick, Begrab Mein Herz, Nachtschatten, Xmas In Australia, Derwisch

Dead Can Dance — Garden of the Arcane Delights

Carnival Of Delight, In Power We Entrust The Love Advocated, The Arcane, Flowers Of The Sea

The Wolfgang Press — Scarecrow

Respect, Deserve, Ecstacy

This Mortal Coil — Kangaroo

Kangaroo, It’ll End In Tears*

This Mortal Coil — It’ll End In Tears

Kangaroo, Song To The Siren, Holocaust, Fyt, Fond Affections, The Last Ray, Another Day, Waves Become Wings, Barramundi, Dreams Made Flesh, Not Me, A Single Wish

Cocteau Twins — Treasure

Ivo, Lorelei, Beatrix, Persephone, Pandora (for Cindy)|=Pandora, Amelia, Aloysius, Cicely, Otterley, Donimo

This post is part of the chronological look at all 4AD releases, year by year.

*) Missing from Spotify.

The Best Albums of 2018

“Best album” has been decided by Emacs which keeps track of what albums I’ve listened to most, so this is a totally objective list that objectively literally lists the best music this year.

Except for the bits where I just edited by hand, because I’ve been listening more to old music than new music this year. There hasn’t been a single new “wow, this is the best album ever” in 2018, I think, but just a huge quantity of really kinda good stuff. I think 2018 has been a stronger year than what we’ve seen recently. Music goes in waves…

Anyway, here’s the best song of the year, which is John Brown by Marc Ribot (feat. Fay Victor):

And here’s the list:

Marc Ribot

Songs of Resistance 1942-2018

Tracey Thorn



This Behavior

John T. Gast

BTEC Version #2

B. Fleischmann

Stop Making Fans

The Breeders

All Nerve

Lost Girls


Laura Jean


Peter Zummo

Frame Loop



Actress x London Contemporary Orchestra


Oneohtrix Point Never

Age Of


Be the Cowboy

Yves Tumor

Serpent Music

Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois

Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois

And here’s the best new old music I’ve bought this year, and it’s really this stuff I’ve been listening to. The Bookends album by Simon & Garfunkel is just so weird, and nobody mentions how weird it is. The Wild if the Wind album by Nina Simone is absolutely fantastic, from start to finish, and is so much better than any of those “greatest hits” things I’ve been listening to all these years. And Bobbie Gentry! Oh man. Geez. And that Westbrook Blake album… Wow…

Old music roolz this year.

Simon & Garfunkel


Nina Simone

Wild is the Wind

Bobbie Gentry

Ode to Billie Joe

Joe Jackson Band


The B-52’s

Wild Planet

David Allred


The Westbrook Blake

Bright as Fire

David Allred


Simon & Garfunkel

Sounds of Silence

The Beatles




Grace Jones

Warm Leatherette

Richard and Linda Thompson

Hokey Pokey

John Martyn

Inside Out

New Musik