The complete beginner’s guide

We’ve hit something of a watershed with the last ever in the Beginner’s guide series, which was posted a couple of weeks ago. In the interests of completeness, and in order that you can go back and find the ones you missed, here’s a list of all of them.

And just in case you missed it, for completism, here’s the Beginner’s guide to the beginner’s guide. If you’re wondering if they’ll ever come back – well, maybe. But for now, this is the complete set!

Beginner’s guide to Kings of Convenience

We’ve covered Erlend Øye‘s latter career already, but when he started out he was merely a member of a rather good acoustic duo, Kings of Convenience.

Key moments

They managed a number of minor UK hits, with Failure, Toxic Girl, and I’d Rather Dance with You, but they’re definitely an album band.

Where to start

Start at the beginning with the brilliant Quiet is the New Loud (2001). If you never buy anything else, you do at least have a great chillout album.

What to buy

Follow up the debut with its companion remix album Versus (also 2001) for a very different perspective on many of the same tracks. That leaves the second and third albums Riot on an Empty Street (2004) and Declaration of Dependence (2009), neither of which quite has the charm of the first, but both have some great moments.

Don’t bother with

Any of the singles. Also, if you weren’t too sure about the second album, you might want to give the third one a miss – each one is marginally less memorable than its predecessor.

Hidden treasure

Velferd‘s free 2013 remix of unreleased Rule My World is great, if you can still find it floating around anywhere.

For stowaways

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Beginner’s guide to Joy Division

With a career tragically cut short by Ian Curtis‘s suicide, Manchester’s Joy Division managed just two studio albums and a handful of singles, but somehow managed to leave an enormous impact on the world.

Key moments

If you’re just a fan of pop music, you might have only heard Love Will Tear Us Apart, so it might come as a surprise to learn that it isn’t actually on either of the albums. There are plenty of other special moments hidden away across all their releases, so dive in!

Where to start

This is actually quite difficult. I don’t want to recommend any of the singles compilations, but a beginner should definitely get Love Will Tear Us Apart on their first foray into Joy Division‘s back catalogue. The Heart and Soul set is great, but hides the albums weirdly in amongst everything else, making it daunting for a first timer.

On balance, go with the 1998 The Best Of Joy Division compilation – even if you buy everything else, the bonus disc will give you a set of Peel Sessions to hang on to.

What to buy

Again, you could do worse than Heart and Soul, but I find I never listen to it because of the way the albums are secreted. Instead, start with Unknown Pleasures (1979), and then grab Closer (1980), before concluding with the early collection Still (1981). I’m not clear whether the remasters are worth tracking down, but the bonus discs sound more appropriate for completists than beginners.

Don’t bother with

Permanent, the 1995 singles compilation, which sacrifices space for originals to a silly new remix of their most famous track.

Hidden treasure

There are lots of hidden demos and live versions that you can look forward to tracking down later, but don’t worry about any of that for now.

For stowaways

Beginner’s guide to Asana

The chances are you won’t have come across Dave Barker‘s Asana project before, but if you like gentle, dramatic, instrumental electronic music, it has plenty to offer.

Key moments

His creative peak was probably with 1997’s Trikuti, his second album, which was produced by Andy Pickford.

Where to start

Definitely grab a copy of Trikuti, which is brilliant, either in its original form or the new remaster, which can be purchased directly from the Asana website

What to buy

If you can find Live at Jodrell Bank, that’s also worth having. Then there are two Cerulean albums from his side project to choose from – try Ectoplasm (2002). His debut album Shrine (1994) is good, but it isn’t as great as Trikuti. If you can find a copy, either of the original or the re-recorded CD-R version for not too much money, go for it, but don’t lose too much sleep if not.

Don’t bother with

There’s nothing to avoid as such, but do try sampling everything first so you can be sure it’s for you.

Hidden treasure

Despite what I said above, Shrine and Radiant are both great pieces from the first album, and East, from the live album, is very good too.

For stowaways

Beginner’s guide to Annie

Norwegian singer Annie has only released a couple of albums, and neither was even that successful outside her home country, but somehow she established herself as one of the best pop singers of the 2000s.

Key moments

Her biggest hits were Chewing Gum and Heartbeat from her debut album Anniemal.

Where to start

Start with Anniemal (2004) and get to know her when she was just starting out.

What to buy

Second album Don’t Stop (2009) is nearly as good as the first, but inexplicably doesn’t include the one-off Anthonio from the same year. Track down both.

Don’t bother with

Do bother with both albums and a few other odd bits. There isn’t anything particular you need to avoid.

Hidden treasure

Definitely track down Anthonio if you haven’t already, and Back Together from 2013’s A&R EP is brilliant too.

For stowaways

Beginner’s guide to Duran Duran

Duran Duran were one of the biggest acts of the eighties, and briefly, the nineties too. But if you haven’t come across them before, where should you begin?

Key moments

Who could forget Rio or A View to a Kill? Or the dreadful Notorious? Perhaps their early nineties comeback with Ordinary World and Come Undone?

Where to start

The compilation Greatest only goes up to 1998, but you don’t really need much of what came after that, and it’s largely comprehensive otherwise. Start there.

What to buy

Rio (1982) is, of course, essential, and there are some nice special editions to consider. Their eponymous debut (1981) is also well regarded, but there’s really nothing else that can be recommended here.

Don’t bother with

Much, actually. Notorious (1986) is largely dreadful apart from Skin Trade. Duran Duran (The Wedding Album) (1993) isn’t that great either – surprisingly, given how good the singles were. And the cover version album Thank You (1995) is every bit as awful as people said at the time.

Hidden treasure

Out of My Mind, their 1998 single from The Saint is brilliant, as was (Reach Up for the) Sunrise, from Astronaut (2004). Regardless of how much you like them, you’ll find hidden delights dotted throughout their career.

For stowaways

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Beginner’s guide to Alpinestars

With a brief two-album career an entire decade ago, you could well have forgotten about Alpinestars, so it’s worth taking a moment to remind ourselves who they are and what they achieved.

Key moments

Collaborating with Placebo‘s Brian Molko on Carbon Kid on their second album.

Where to start

Set off with second album White Noise (2002), making sure to get the UK version, which has a couple of bonus tracks (the US version has a video instead).

What to buy

Roll back to the debut album BASIC (2000) and enjoy the exquisite Green Raven Blonde. Actually, those two albums are really all you need.

Don’t bother with

Anything else. Some of the singles have nice extras, but you don’t have to go with them.

Hidden treasure

Partisan Song, the first of the two extra songs on the UK version of White Noise, which is one of the best tracks on the album.

For stowaways

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