Right, we’ll get it out of the way nice and early: Balearic is a mindset more than a rigid, definable sound. This church is a broad one, welcoming everyone from Status Quo to The Orb, Marvin Gaye to Dire Straits, the Cocteau Twins to Mike Francis.
Ever since young Brits looking for something outside the 18-30 experience stumbled upon the likes of Alfredo, Jose Padilla, and Ricardo playing anything and everything at Amensia, Ku, and Cafe Del Mar, the UK’s become a home from home for the spirit of Balearic music.
Trapped here under grey skies, we’re constantly questing after those longed-for sunny days that bleed into deep purple nights. We want Harvey or Moonboots transport us into a world where we’re constrained by nothing but our own desires.
Join us out here, somewhere between Radio 2 on a Saturday afternoon and the pool at Pikes on a Sunday morning, as we delve into twenty of the best Balearic records to ever come out of this miserable pissy island.
Mark BarrottBaby Come Home
The International Feel boss is more than aware that the best Balearic records – Let Me In by Mike Francis, say, or Sueno Latino’s Sueno Latino – can leave even the hardiest of party-goers weeping with delight, tears running down their tastefully crumpled linen shirt. A panpipe-heavy lilting groover, Baby Come Home is an almost indescribably perfect piece of music that truly sounds like joy squeezed onto polyvinyl chloride. Play this to a Balearic-sceptic and watch them melt into a puddle of unbridled joy. An unimpeachable modern classic.
QueenYou Don’t Fool Me
Queen are a lot of thing. Irredeemably OTT theatrical cock-rockers; the group responsible for a long-running West End abomination; unlikely Balearic one hit wonders. Yes, you read that right – Freddie, Brian and the other two revealed themselves capable of crafting the kind of creamy (bordering on cheesy) AOR that sounds best when accompanied by a perfectly executed double somersault straight into a strawberry daiquiri. The Balearic mindset: a church so broad that even Queen can be admitted.
Penguin Cafe OrchestraAir à Danser
Imagine the best day of your life. Waking up late, but not too late, you enjoy a coffee on a balcony, before breaststroking through a calm and considered 40 lengths in an infinity pool that overlooks a pristine and private beach. After a long, languorous lunch of langoustines, you take a lilo out to sea. Hours wash by. A gourmet dinner follows, and drinks follow that, and a nightclub follows still. You feel, for the first time in weeks, months, years, maybe ever, something like contentment. Something like happiness. You feel how this effervescent 1981 screamer sounds.
I-LevelIn the River
A Ku classic straight from 1984, this loose, wonked-out, avant-Britfunk mini-masterpiece navigates a rarely mapped territory, somewhere between dub’s austere low-end rumblings and the juicy synthesism of early electro. The result sees the intrepid explorer peering the contours of an slinky number custom-built for the balmiest of evenings. Follow-up single In the Sand is a Lexx favourite, for good reason, too.
The fact that Test Pressing – arguably the best Balearic resource on planet earth, outside of Alfredo’s living room – sell a whole bunch of Chris Rea-related merchandise tells you all you need to know about the gravel-gargling Mackem’s status in the pantheon of sunkissed-soother-merchants, and Josephine is his gold-plated White Isle calling card. An almost absurdly uplifting slice of lithe Radio 2 pop with just enough of a melancholy edge to dispel images of a topless Steve Wright boogying the night away at Amnesia.
CantomaEarly till Late
Former Cafe Del Mar resident Phil Mison is an integral figure in the post-80s development of Balearic, and his trio of albums under the Cantoma moniker are must-haves for those of us out there with a penchant for golden sand and Klaus Schulze b-sides. Early Till Late sees him in contemplative, chilled form, producing a track of such spectral beauty that it could easily soundtrack an arthouse film or a really good M&S advert.
Wham!Nothing Looks the Same in the Light
Thanks to the Club Tropicana video – shot at Pikes – Wham! have always had a bit of a Balearic funk hanging over them. While that song really does sound like the untrammelled giddiness of your first package holiday with friends, Nothing Looks the Same in the Light is the aficionado’s choice. One of George Michael’s most subtle vocal performances wraps itself around a bassline that could easily be described as “cheeky”. Yin meets yang somewhere in deepest Palma.
People like to make jokes, don’t they, about how you never see goths on holiday. The jokes are always very funny because they are based in truth and that is what makes a good joke. No one has ever seen a goth in Ibiza, but they’ve sure as hell heard a track or two by The Cure, a group who’ve long been embraced by the fatigue pant wearing Balearic dad mafia. The extended mix of Lullaby is a creepy crawling low slung highly textural slinker. Maybe, just maybe, a goth wouldn’t fare so badly out there on the beach…
Smith & Mudd24/7
Paul ‘Mudd’ Murphy’s Claremont 56 imprint is one of the most reliable on the scene, and his collaborative work with Ben Smith is always worth checking out. This super-sunny cut from 2008 sounds like something that you might hear in the background of an episode of Relocation, Relocation set in Mallorca, and that’s the point – at its best, Balearic music is a vessel for mental travel, escapism on wax, a means of hopping from Eastleigh to Es Vedra.
John MartynCouldn’t Love You More
Balearic is, as Mark Barrott likes to remind people, ‘heart music’, and few songs in the canon are as downright devastating as this Eric Clapton and Phil Collins-assisted broken-down ballad. The sound of a watching someone you love walk away forever in slow motion as blue turns to orange and the temperature drops and all you have left is music, memory, and half of whatever it was that someone slipped into your back pocket in a backroom at Pikes.
SadeHang On to Your Love
The first lady of British Balearic, Sade remains the voice of open-shirted hedonism. She sounds like yachts mooring at dusk, like flutes of champagne clinking under mid-afternoon heat on perfectly manicured lawns, like paradise itself. We could have easily filled this entire list with Sade screamers, but in the end the toned and taut Hang On to Your Love gets the nod.
Cliff RichardSome People
Other things that are as Balearic as Some People by everyone’s favourite vineyard owning God botherer: chilled glasses of rose, Birkenstock Arizona sandals, masses of pine needles, weather-worn Fiat puntos abandoned roadside sometime in the late 1990s, the smell of Piz Buin mingling with cigarette smoke and lager, Atmosphere by Russ Abbott, grilled freshly-caught sardines doused in lemon served with nothing more than some crusty bread and aioli, eaten under a palm tree at Los Buccaneros, Binibeca, Menorca.
Ruf DugThank You Wally (Andi Hanley Remix)
Two of Manchester’s finest meet somewhere in the French Caribbean of the Lesser Antilles on this super springy ode to Compass Point All Star legend Wally Badarou. A direct dose of pure, unadulterated vitamin D to be ingested on those days when it feels like the whole of Chorlton’s about to be eaten whole by a low-hanging cloud. Balearic magic for mind body and soul.
Tom of EnglandCambridge Man First and Last
Transplanting one of the finest disco deviants to ever crawl out of the dykes and drains of the Fens straight into the maelstrom of an Ibizan nigh teetering on the edge of total implosion, this rollocking edit of early-Ibizan favourites the Woodentops’ Everything Breaks sees longterm DJ Harvey collaborator Thomas Bullock crafting the kind of indie disco anthem you’d never actually hear in an indie disco. A bona fide bliss bomb of a record.
Steve Cobby & Rich ArthursBushfarmer
A kind of contemporary re-rub of Tangerine Dream’s unimpeachable Love on a Real Train for the post-pinger generation, this elongated epic weaves around a lollopping bassline for a good ten minutes, with curlicues of melody squeezing themselves in and out of view, the horizon ebbing further and further away as the seconds melt into nothing, and time reveals itself to be little more than an illusion. Easily the most Balearic thing to ever come out of Hull.
ApientoThe Orange Place
Released on Andy Blake’s rave-leaning World Unknown imprint, The Orange Place is a peak-time chunk of mystic disco that’s just as at home ping-ponging around the wet walls of a dank warehouse in deepest south London as it would bleeding into the ether at the end of another perfect day in paradise.
WaterboysWhole of the Moon
Look, it was this or Lady In Red by Chris De Burgh, so you’ve got the (slightly) lesser of two evils here. Except, really, there’s nothing evil at all about this churning, thunderous, open-hearted STOMPER. Imagine, if you can, how it felt to be there way back when, before the present became the past, back when ecstasy was new and the world was in its infancy and there was just you and 5000 people wailing along to a celtic-folk record, your hearts fit to burst, your smiles so wide you thought they’d never end. Imagine. Imagine. Imagine.
Robert PalmerEvery Kinda People (Extended Remix)
Robert Palmer is an unlikely Balearic icon but then Balearic is unpredictable by its very nature. Possessing the kind of blue-eyed soul voice that suits everything from budget cruises to working men’s clubs and high-end yacht parties where the guests inhale mounds of cocaine from oyster shells, Palmer’s loucheness gives him that all important laid-back sensibility. This track is about as Balearic as it gets: synthetic Spanish guitar, mobile phone advert chill-out chirrups, a lazy pedalo ride of a bassline, and a shivering of calypso marimba.
Mandy SmithI Just Can’t Wait (The Cool and Breezy Jazz Version)
Featured on scene defining compilation Balearic Beats – Vol. 1, produced by Stock Aitken Waterman, played by pretty much every single DJ who’s ever navigated the puke and empty pint pots on the San Antonio strip, we’ll round off with this, an original first-wave Balearic masterpiece. Chunky piano chords, a yearning vocal and squealing Spanish guitars all add up to a thing of almost ineffable beauty. I Just Can’t Wait is a glossy, Vaseline-smudged, soft focus love letter to love itself, that’ll never, ever sound anything other than proof that sometimes mankind can get things right. File it alongside it A Bigger Splash and Fox and His Friends as a highlight of 20th century art.