XL Recordings are celebrating their 25th anniversary by releasing a compilation ‘Pay Close Attention’. Over the years they’ve released some incredible albums – some well known, others not. Here’s a look at some of the best, including 2011’s ‘We’re New Here’ – Gil Scott Heron and Jamie XX a sublime remix album, Jamie xx slickly reversioning Gil Scott Heron’s ‘I’m New Here’.
‘Goblin’ – Tyler, The Creator 2011
The Odd Future main man’s debut solo album was a brutal introduction to his warped world. Featuring the genius ‘Yonkers’, as well as ‘She’, with its Frank Ocean cameo, it made for a stark turning point in contemporary hip hop.
‘The Bravest Man In The Universe’ – Bobby Womack 2012
The late Bobby Womack’s first album of new material in almost two decades, ‘The Bravest Man In The Universe’ was co-produced by Blur’s Damon Albarn and marked a stunning new direction for the acclaimed soul singer. Sadly he passed away in the summer of 2014.
‘On A Ragga Tip’ – SL2 1992
A hardcore classic, ‘On A Ragga Tip’ blew up the UK charts on its release, introducing a world of Top Of The Pops viewers to day-glo rave and gabba inflected beats.
‘The Fat Of The Land’ – The Prodigy 1997
The Prodigy’s third album was the UK’s fastest ever selling record. Featuring the mega singles ‘Firestarter’, ‘Breathe’ and ‘Smack My Bitch Up’, it was XL’s first bonafide success story.
‘Paris’ – Friendly Fires 2008
Friendly Fires gracefully surfed the post new-rave wave to produce some flawless party tunes. “Friendly Fires are on an unstoppably stratospheric trajectory,” said NME upon the release of their self-titled debut album, which the giddy ‘Paris’ featured on.
‘Paper Planes’ – MIA 2007
Sampling The Clash’s ‘Straight To Hell’, NME voted MIA’s finest single the fourth best song of the noughties. “This track was always destined for greatness,” we wrote. “Peppered with gunshots and confrontational lyrics, ‘Paper Planes’ is one of the most commercially unviable tracks going and yet it’s been unavoidable.”
‘Sweet Harmony’ – Liquid 1992
Self-released in 1991, XL took on Liquid’s hardcore classic and re-released in 1992 to huge acclaim and lots of stupid dancing. With more breakbeats than you can shake a massive stick at, its synth swells and rave ready piano house pangs make for one of the scene’s finest tracks.
‘Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon’ – Devendra Banhart 2007
Featuring cult folk singers Vashti Bunyan and Linda Perhacs as well as Nick Valensi of The Strokes and Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes, Devendra’s experimental psych-folk showed yet another side to XL’s varied roster.
‘Journey To The West’ – Damon Albarn/UK Chinese Ensemble 2008
The soundtrack to Damon Albarn’s first opera is XL’s only release in the Mandarin language. “Here then, is what happened when Albarn and Gorillaz illustrator Jamie Hewlett flew out to China with the plan to write a modern stage production about the 16th century legend behind the 1970s TV show Monkey,” said NME.
‘Piper’ – Jonny L 1997
A stone cold drum and bass classic, Piper was the work of producer John Lisners, who went on to form garage act True Steppers, working with Victoria Beckham and Dane Bowers on 2000’s ‘Out Of Your Mind’. Grooverider’s Piper remix is just as good – maybe even better.
‘Six Feet Beneath The Moon’ – King Krule 2013
A south London amalgam of Jamie T, Thom Yorke, Burial and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Archy Marshall’s bedroom soul-jazz debut was XL through and through – experimental, innovative and atmospheric.
‘In Rainbows’ – Radiohead 2007
One of the biggest bands on XL’s roster, after Radiohead put out their 2007 debut themselves online, XL backed up the physical release. The two have been close allies since releasing Thom Yorke’s solo debut, ‘The Eraser’, in 2006.
‘The Colourful Life’ – Cajun Dance Party 2008
Cajun Dance Party’s only album was recorded with former Suede man Bernard Butler. Members of the teenage group later went on to form Yuck, but the youthful vigour of this one-off was unmatchable.
‘BTSTU (Edit)’ – Jai Paul 2011
Receiving an official release in 2011 after scooping up online hype the previous year, London vocalist Jai Paul’s smooth yet crunchy soul pop went on to be sampled by everyone from Drake to Beyonce.
‘Aluminium’ – Richard Russell and Joby Talbot 2006
‘Aluminium’ was as weird and as interesting as it sounds – a collection of orchestral reworkings of White Stripes songs by XL head Richard Russell and The Divine Comedy’s Joby Talbot.
‘Acousmatic Sorcery’ – Willis Earl Beal 2012
The debut album from ‘found’ singer-songwriter Willis Earl Beal was the sound of a modern day Tom Waits kicking around the Chicago hinterlands. An overlooked contemporary wonk-soul classic, Beal proved to be as enigmatic as his tunes.
‘The Airing Of Grievances’ – Titus Andronicus 2009
Titus Andronicus should be massive. Their debut was a ragged collection of New Jersey punk rock that was rawer than The Gaslight Anthem, but still plugged into that unmistakable heartland Springsteen groove. XL reissued it in 2009 after a smaller 2009 release on the Troubleman Unlimited label.
‘The Ghost Who Walks’ – Karen Elson 2010
An album by a model? Wait, come back! Karen Elson’s debut was released in conjunction with then hubbie Jack White’s Third Man, and was a engaging collection of gothic folk with a 1960s country soul swagger.
‘Be Your Own Pet’ – Be Your Own Pet 2006
The debut album from teen tearaways Be Your Own Pet has now been largely forgotten, but its brilliantly brutal take on bubblegum punk was equal parts The Donnas and The Stooges.