Algiers' Franklin James Fisher: Five Essential Albums

Algiers (photo by Christian Högstedt/Courtesy of the artist)
by Kara Manning | 02/10/2022 | 4:00am

Algiers (photo by Christian Högstedt/Courtesy of the artist)

As FUV honors music pioneers over the next month, we also reached out to a new generation of rising artists and innovators to discuss the "Five Essential Albums" that have guided them creatively and personally.

Transatlantic gothic funk and punk rockers Algiers have seized on the anxiety and aggravated fury of a generation trying to make sense of big topics like colonialism, racism, and a world spinning out of control. Over the course of their three-album, multiple-EP career, the Atlanta and London-bred band has defied easy categorization, freely dipping into jazz, gospel, mellifluous soul, brutalist punk, and even techno as components of their unique DNA.

That intoxicating mix was very evident when the band did an unforgettable 2020 FUV Live session supporting their most recent release, the electrifying and raucous There Is No Year.

Lead singer, multi-instrumentalist and lyricist Franklin James Fisher's stark poetic lyricism is at the crux of Algiers' searching, outspoken songs, but as he explained to the Guardian a couple of years ago, his approach isn't always direct. “The political situation is complex," he explained, "so the ways of speaking about it must be complex because otherwise it’s anachronistic, and that doesn’t work for me."

And since Fisher and Algiers like to blur the lines of genre (and expectation), we loved that he took our request for "Five Essential Albums" and added his own spin.

Algiers' Franklin James Fisher: Five Essential Albums:

I decided to do five live albums that have had an indelible effect on me:

Donny Hathaway, Live!
This record was the first time I heard a seamless blending of vocals between the band and the crowd. Back in college Ryan [Mahan] used to put on these great parties at his house and whenever this record was on (particularly “Little Ghetto Boy”) our whole group of friends would rock. That feel is really built into the way we conceptualize background vocals in Algiers.

Ahmad Jamal, At the Pershing: But Not For Me
In high school we used to drive around the suburbs listening to records because there was nothing else for kids to do. After a while, you start to know the people making all the incidental noise at the bar in the background just as well as the notes in the song being played. It really gave me an appreciation for how the energy of a room can be captured and translated on a recording.

Jeff Buckley, Live at Sin-é
Buckley resonates so strongly with me because he was just a (superhumanly talented) dude who loved music. Listening to this record you get the sense that he did the same thing everyday in his apartment with the same degree of commitment, passion and playfulness. Some people can’t turn it off; it’s just who they are. The wonder and enthusiasm here is palpable and hypnotic in the way it draws you in.

Nina Simone, The Great Show of Nina Simone Live in Paris
Nina Simone is probably my all-time favorite live performer. I was always so much more drawn to her live recordings which seem so much more visceral and exposed than her more embellished studio albums. Live, she’ll take you places and you’ll follow her every move along the way. I also think hers is one of the most underrated backing bands in music (Buck Clark on drums, Henry Young on guitar, Gene Taylor on bass and Sam Waymond on organ and BVs). Similar to {Bob} Dylan, Nina would change the way a song was played based on her mood that day—with little or no notice. The band never seem to miss a beat and the musicianship is flawless.

Fela Ransome-Kuti, The Africa '70, Ginger Baker,  Live!
The first song on this record ["Let's Start"] is one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard.

Franklin James Fisher of Algiers
February 2022

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