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Top 5 “N” Artists

July 24, 2014

It appears that “N” is a letter where I enjoy a lot of groups but with the odd exception, I don’t necessarily have a major emotional attachment to any of them.

As a result, artists have been flying in & out of this Top 5.  So as of clicking publish, Nine Inch Nails & Nada Surf are temporarily out, this current batch is in!


5. Newman, Randy
You mean the guy who sings about what he sees?

The ever-brilliant Chuck Klosterman had an essay about coolness where he argued artists like Randy were so uncool, they became cool.  Most people my age or younger know him from Pixar soundtracks but he’s been going strong for 40+ years, including a pair of records on the 1001 list.


4. N.W.A.
Not quite as durable as ol’ Randy – but certainly burst Straight Outta Compton with one of the angriest debuts I’ve heard.


3. New Order
Regret is one of my favourite 90s tunes.

2. New York Dolls
I’m relatively late to the NYD party – but to quote the Irish Rovers, Wasn’t That a Party!


1. Nirvana
Over-hyped/overrated/overplayed? Sure.

And yes, my early 90s viewing glasses aren’t merely rose-coloured, they’re practically opaque.

However, even if Nirvana wasn’t all that and a bag of crisps, Nevermind helped inspire Rivers Cuomo to write two of the finest records of all time (see his lyrics to Heart Songs).

More importantly, their Unplugged in New York epitaph confirmed that Nirvana/Cobain wrote some great songs.  To borrow a title from my #3 “M” artist, at the end of the day, Nothing Else Matters.


Early 70s records by the Dolls & Mr. Newman are on tap for this week, enjoy!

From → Uncategorized

  1. Nirvana had to be number one. Well either them or N*Sync 😉

  2. Although I don’t agree with all of your inclusions here it’s still a very good (and diverse) list. In looking at my collection I realize that there are no “N” artists I’m super passionate about. I’ve come around to Randy Newman in the last couple of years and he definitely deserves to be in the Top 5. I also can’t argue about Nirvana & New York Dolls even though I’ve only ever been a casual fan of both.

    If I attempted my own Top 5 “N” artists I would have to choose from: The Neville Brothers, Willie Nelson, Harry Nilsson, Nektar, The Nice, Gary Numan and New Pornographers.

    • Rich I’m consistently impressed with your awareness of some great CanCon – good choice with New Pornographers. I have a friend who lives for them – them and Joel Plaskett, who would be a Top 5 for me in most letters but “P” might be the strongest in the alphabet!

      Nelson, Nilsson, and Numan all have at least one on the 1001 list. I don’t think I’ll be able to get to it this week, but I found a $2 copy of Willie Nelson’s “Stardust that I’m looking forward to eventually hearing.

      • I’ve got plenty of great Canadian artists in my collection. In fact, I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of the latest album from Saga. Never heard of Joel Plaskett but I’ll look into his music.

        I only own a fraction of Willie Nelson’s discography (there was a point where it seemed like he was releasing an album a month) but I have some good ones. Stardust is very good but for me it’s not in the same league as Red Headed Stranger or Phases And Stages. Both of those are highly recommended.

      • Red Headed Stranger is his other album on the list – and despite hailing from Canada, I’m under-educated about Saga!

        Plaskett’s got a couple tunes you may recognize (Nowhere With You, Extraordinary) and if you’ve seen the film One Week (which I’d certainly recommend), he plays the role of a busker and sings his own song ‘million dollars’ in a very moving scene.

      • Saga appeals to a very particular segment of music fans so I’m not surprised that they’ve mostly slipped under your radar. They had a few hits here in the US in the ’80s (I discovered them when they opened up for Jethro Tull, if I remember the show correctly, and World’s Apart had just been released). They’ve been pretty consistent throughout their career, which is now more than 3 decades long. Pretty impressive.

        Glad that Red Headed Stranger is on the list so you’ll get to it eventually.

        Thanks for the info on Plaskett. Never saw One Week.

  3. I would have done a Newman and Nilsson double I think!

  4. Interesting list again. My 5 Ns would have to be… Napalm Death, Nazareth, Nile, Nuclear Assault and THE NUGE.

    • Sometimes I find shortforms unnecessary – I once heard Slipknot called “The Knot” – that one extra letter was just too much.
      Not so with The Nuge – I’m almost disappointed when I hear the full name!

      • I agree. It’s a rare case of an acceptable shortform. I’d usually use the full name. For example I wouldn’t say Yngwie Malmsteen without adding his middle name: “fucking”

      • haha – GNR could also sound incomplete without a similar middle name!


    • And they’ve got 2 albums on the list, Low-life & Technique!

      • Those albums are great! Technique is fantastic!

      • Good to know – I only had republic & then was reasonably well versed in the singles.
        I shall start with Technique!

      • Technique is a great blend of techo with acoustic guitar. For a while it was my favourite album (and I had the t-shirt, too lol).

      • Is that t-shirt also listed for $330.80 these days?!

      • I just saw where my t-shirt sold for $200 on ebay!

        I lost this shirt – not sure if at summer camp, or a friend’s house…but I lost it.

        Other new order shirts I had, but since gave away to goodwill (I know, I know…)

        New Order Concert T-Shirt Front

        And one with this blue thing from inside the Substance album on the front with “New Order” and tour dates on the back (I’ve never seen them in concert:

        I don’t have any of them any more 😦

      • Hopefully you still have some photos of you in the New Order gear? I remember that was the consolation when my Pavement & Meat is Murder shirts bit the dust, at least I have a photo or two of me proudly sporting the shirt!

      • Also wanted to add how I love how that CD is packaged. The liner notes contain 4 loose pics of the band on cardstock, enveloped in tracing paper. Very cool (if you ever get your hands on a copy, that is. I have my copy, but it isn’t available for loan lol). Peter Saville did most of their graphic design and I thought he was great. Almost became a GD because of his work.

      • Darn it! I meant to say the Low-Life album is packaged with the cardstock. My gawd woman! Read what you write. sigh

      • Not to worry!
        New Order’s one of the groups I’ve struggled to find used – nobody wants to get rid of them!
        I like when groups put effort into the packaging – I always smile when I see the Pet Shop Boys Very ‘orange bumps’ cd case on a shelf

  6. Why is Nine inch nails out?… I would have added Neil Young and Nina Simone, but I’m glad to see Nirvana at #1!

    • Not to worry, Neil will make a cameo in the Ys.
      I quite like Nina’s voice but I fear “S” might be one of the strongest letters, a tough one to crack the top 5!

  7. Nice. Still love Nirvana. I’d add Nine Inch Nails and maybe Nick Cave.

    • Or would Nick come under C anyway? But then if it’s the band name – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, surely that’d be N … Confuzzling!

      • haha – confuzzling indeed! The list I’ve been working from had it as Cave, Nick & The Bad Seeds. Not sure how the paper copy of the book categorized it but since I arranged my excel sheets based on a list I got from the web, I’ve been sticking with that.

  8. Ovidiu Boar permalink

    Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is one of those albums that had a huge impact on my life. I can barely listen to it anymore, it’s that intense. Will you be writing about it?

    • Alas it’s not on the list – but I’ve just been reading reviews for it, one said Sgt. Pepper mixed with early 90s lo-fi. Recorded at ‘Pet Sounds Studio’ – this sounds right up my alley.
      So I won’t be writing about it for the 1001 list but I think I definitely have to explore it and maybe do a post someday about significant omissions!

  9. Just to add a few more Ns…
    Nash, Graham
    National Health
    Numan, Gary

    • Good choices, Bruce. I meant to add Neu! and National Health to my previous list (which also included Gary Numan…great minds, as they say). Much as I love Graham Nash, I think his best work has come as part of Crosby & Nash, CSN, CSNY and The Hollies. His solo work has been too spotty for me to include him.

      • Quite agree re Mr Nash. I was envisaging his quite extraordinary career from being a young Blackpool lad onwards… hence the inclusion. I guess this sort of thing is also why I don’t have much time for lists these days. That, and being a curmudgeonly old bustard!
        And yes, quite fun to see the overlap, Mr K!

      • I enjoy punctuation in band names, so naturally I approve of Neu!
        So far, I’ve still only heard ’75 but it was a good one.

        I should confess the darker purpose of the Top 5 lists – agreements with my choices are nice, but learning about other worthy artists might be even better!

  10. The question of how and where to encounter ‘new’ artists is a good one, Geoff. I guess the alphabet approach could yield some dividends once you get a sense of who your regular contributors are and how their tastes align with yours. It’s that old chestnut of needing to know who the critic is before giving what they say any credence. Is it working for you so far?
    BTW, here’s the first of the Vinyl Connection pieces on Neu!
    PS. Bands with punctuation is an amusing criterion. Got me thinking…

  11. Got Straight outta compton on CD by my brother for my 22 birthday. Fuck da Police!

    The only one of this 5 I didn´t like is Nirvana. I would replace it with NME or Nirvana 2002

    • Fair enough – Nirvana tends to be one of those groups that people either love or find heavily overrated.

  12. Nilsson was mentioned. His Nilsson Sings Newman is one of my favorite records of all time.

    • That sounds promising – Nilsson Schmillson is on the 1001 list. I would be keen to hear what Newman songs sound like by other performers – I find he has such a distinct voice, it would be interesting to hear another take on the already good songs.

  13. One-time Animal Alan Price did 5 Randy Newman songs on his album This Price Is Right, and Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis has a couple. Worth hearing.

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