Scotland Week: Top 9 Essential Cocteau Twins Songs

Sep 08, 2014
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We have had a special theme on Under the Radar's website over the last week which we're simply calling Scotland Week. All throughout the week we have been posting interviews, reviews, lists, and blog posts relating to Scotland and in particular Scottish music. Here's a list of the Top 9 essential Cocteau Twins songs. The legendary dream pop band was founded in Grangemouth, Scotland in 1979 by Robin Guthrie, Elizabeth Fraser, and Will Heggie (who left in 1983 and was replaced by Simon Raymonde). Read our recent interview with Guthrie and Raymonde on the creation of their album Blue Bell Knoll. And read on as Mack Hayden breaks down his favorite Cocteau Twins songs.

I've always thought it was kind of fitting I first really got into Cocteau Twins after finishing David Lynch and Mark Frost's Twin Peaks. Perhaps it's because the tone of their music so closely matches the tone of that series. It's alternately dark and heavenly, making beauty out of the purgatory we most often call the planet earth.

Like Twin Peaks, Cocteau Twins always feels too off-kilter to be familiar and too comforting to be foreboding. Cocteau Twins never so much mapped out a new sound as they did use a sonic palate that was limitless and infinite. They paint with the kind of colors that fall outside the spectrum we're used to and make us feel like we're reaching beyond ourselves into some transcendent mystery. At the center of their music is Robin Guthrie's eternal and effects-laden guitar work and Elizabeth Fraser's angelic, delicate and difficult-to-understand vocal style. Together, they created music as vast and awesome as a stormy ocean and as bizarrely meaningful as the night sky's constellations. There are songs on the first couple records which sound so foreboding that they could've been played with the tentacles of Cthulhu but by the time you get to albums such as Treasure or Heaven or Las Vegas, they're coming up with tracks which would inspire Kevin Shields, Robert Smith, and God himself alike.

If you haven't dove into their work yet, here's nine songs (one from each of their records, in chronological order) that will get you standing on the shoulders of these dream pop giants. By Mack Hayden

"Blood Bitch"

Garlands

1982

"In Our Angelhood"

Head Over Heels

1983

"Aloysius"

Treasure

1984

"Sea, Swallow Me"

The Moon and The Melodies

1986

"The Thinner the Air"

Victorialand

1986

"Carolyn's Fingers"

Blue Bell Knoll

1988

"Pitch the Baby"

Heaven or Las Vegas

1990

"Evangeline"

Four-Calendar Cafe

1993

"Half-Gifts"

Milk & Kisses

1996

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Scott
September 11th 2014
7:54am

SO hard to choose, but I’ve narrowed it down to these, because they are the ones I would want a newcomer to hear first: Carolyn’s Fingers, Great Spangled Fruitillery, My Love Paramour, Blue Bell Knoll, Kookaburra, Because Of Whirl-Jack, Musette and Drums, Pink Orange Red, Road River & Rail. Sea, Swallow Me is technically a Moon and the Melodies song so that’s the only reason it is not on my list.

Luca Lodi
September 12th 2014
2:04pm

9 is too small: how forget:

- The spanglemaker
- Pearly dew-drop drops
- Kookaburra
- Frou Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires
- Alice
- Hazel Please

Luca Lodi
September 12th 2014
2:21pm

Special guest (‘cos it’s really a song which doesn’t begin to this planet), Song to the siren, where Liz sings for This Mortal Coil…a real proof of the existence of God

Scott
September 13th 2014
3:09pm

‘Summerhead’ is the best.  That song does not get the credit it deserves…

Vincent Hickey
September 25th 2014
2:00pm

Pearly Dew Drops

strom-z
January 26th 2015
10:41am

if I had to make a top 10-ish list, I would come up with something close to this:

10) A Kissed Out Red Floatboat / Ella Megalast Burls Forever (no, I can not pick the better of these two)
9) Donimo or Pur or Seekers Who Are Lovers ...
8) Carolyn’s Fingers
7) Love’s Easy Tears or Those Eyes, That Mouth (both essential..)
6) Aikea Guinea
5) Mussette and Drums
4) Ivo
3) Heaven or Las Vegas
2) Pearly Dewdrops’ Drops (The Pink Opaque version the best)
1) Lorelei

alber2410
May 5th 2015
9:05am

10) My Love Paramour
9) Beatrix
8) The Itchy Glowbo Blow
7) Five-Ten Fifty Fold
6) Tinderbox of a Heart
5) Suckling the Mender
4) Millimillenary
3) Musette and Drums
2) Hitherto
1) I Wear Your Ring