The first album by The Blue Nile that I really engaged with – got really hooked on – was the band’s (at this stage) last. High. I love that album. I really dig A Walk Across The Rooftops (see here for my Vinyl Countdown story about that – even though it’s really about High also) and Hats. And though it’s just about never listed as the favourite I also like Peace At Last as well. But I don’t care if it’s sacrilege: my favourite album is High.
One of the great things about music is that it’s always there – the good stuff anyway. It can still sound great if you discover it later than anyone else and I like to remind myself of that (often) in these click’n’drag days when we’re all posting links on Facebook and being sent emails with music suggestions.
I first heard High when it was released in 2004 – I knew about The Blue Nile and had heard bits from Hats and Rooftops but High was the first full album experience for me. I heard it because I was working in a music store. Someone else working in the shop decided to play it. And I loved it as soon as I heard it.
High reminded me, in some (slight) way, of Leonard Cohen’s Ten New Songs. Mostly because that album had been a favourite – but I guess I heard in it something similar in the space the lyrics were afforded; simple instrumental treatments that offered room for the singer to breathe and for the listener to engage.
I like (a lot of) music that takes its own sweet time.
I like (a lot of) music that makes you do the work; that refuses to meet you halfway – you do the work as the listener, you are required to bring something, some form of understanding.
This was the case for me when I got hooked on the Kate Bush albums.
Maybe I felt a similar way about The Blue Nile’s High (at the time) as I did about Kate Bush’s 50 Words For Snow when that was released.
Leonard Cohen, Kate Bush and The Blue Nile might not all be obvious bedfellows – then again they might be. Certainly they share a confidence and commitment in the writing – think what you want about the vocal stylings, the wafting passages of music, the fact that some of the musical arrangements are borderline-laconic – it all hangs (and hangs together) because of the writing – and for the writing.
You listen to High by The Blue Nile and you hear a bunch of songs that would feel correct to experience at 3am whether you were the only person in the room, or if you were surrounded by some of your very best friends. Alone or in company – the loveliest sound as a happy, warm experience or as a sad and blue experience. Beautiful either way.
I remember thinking that when I first heard High. And every time since. The other Blue Nile albums (especially Hats and Rooftops) have something of that sound and mood too of course. But I heard it most (and best) with High. And that won’t change. I like that.
Can you think of an artist that you arrived at very late and it’s their most recent album that remains your favourite even if it did send you back to the earlier albums? You can like the early albums too, sure, but it’s that last album that you heard first that does the trick for you. There’s no need to rush. The good music will always be there to discover and fall in love with. And when you listen to anything by The Blue Nile you get the feeling that there’s no rush at all. I like that a lot.