I’ve added this page – and its companion piece, the best albums of 2009 to the site belatedly. Bot appeared on my short-lived Livejournal site which I abandoned in favour of a decent server.
This is here purely as a marker for the future!
50. The National – Boxer
Some may argue that Alligator was the better album, but I prefer this by some margin. Matt Berninger’s swooning baritone haunts the whole record and it’s easy to imagine it being the soundtrack of dozens of regret-filled Sunday mornings
49. Low – The Great Destroyer
Low were pretty prolific throughout the decade, releasing four albums since 2001. This just about edges out that year’s Things We Lost in the Fire. Purists may argue that selecting their noisiest album misses the point a little, but the use of distortion and powerchords compliments the delicate vocals just nicely, thanks.
48. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
Also known as the point where the Hold Steady became a global concern. Great riffs, Craig Finn’s spitting lyrics and delivery, and some fine tunes.
47. Fugazi – The Argument
They certainly waited long enough to deliver a career high before fizzling out. The Argument is the best album Fugazi put their name too over the course of a lengthy career in hardcore punk, and the furthest they ever got from that genre. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it poppy but on Full Disclosure you could even detect actual melody.
46. Okkervil River – The Stage Names
This is just great. It’s American indie informed by bar-room blues, country rawk and sheer heartbreak. Will Sheff’s voice isn’t for everyone but if you can put any reservations about his cracked, overly emotive tones to one side you’ll love this. 2005’s Black Sheep Boy is also a fine piece of work worth investigating.
45. Architecture in Helsinki – In Case We Die
This came out of absolutely nowhere in 2006, a bit dance-y, a bit folk-y and laced with childlike melodies, quirky time signatures and silly percussion. Great fun all round.
44. Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf
Probably the most perfect heavy rock album of the noughties. Josh Homme had already been around for years and in 2000’s Rated R delivered a serious statement of intent that he was a major player. But it was on Songs for the Deaf – with Dave Grohl on the drumstool – that pushed him into the big league, and deservedly so.
43. At the Drive-in – The Relationship of Command
The decade kicked off with this tremendous slab of screaming hardcore punk. The groups they splintered into (Mars Volta and Sparta) haven’t delivered anything halfway as powerful as this.
42. Bat for Lashes – Two Suns
Natasha Khan is without question the best female singer/songwriter in Britain. Sorry Flossy fans, but Ms Welch pales in comparison to the second Bat for Lashes album which almost matches its outstanding predecessor right up to the last song for sheer twinkling quality.
41. Oceansize - Effloresce
My album of the year in 2003, a juddering monster of powerful riffing spread across 12 sprawling tracks.
40. The Twilight Sad – Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters
This was an unrelenting barrage of beautiful feedback, from Kilsyth of all places. They broke the States before their homeland but their Scottishness is obvious and not just through James Graham’s rough croon. Cold Days From the Birdhouse is simply magnificent and live they will make your ears bleed.
39. David Holmes – Bow Down to the Exit Sign
Hadn’t touched this for years until a few weeks back and remembered just how good it is. Homer has found fame as Hollywood’s soundtracker of choice but here he picks up the themes of urban paranoia hinted at on Lets Get Killed, adds some vocals, and turns the whole thing into a rounded, and frankly creepy, trip/hip/hop/pop classic.
38. Radiohead – I Might Be Wrong
What’s that you say… “that’s not a proper album”? A fair cop I guess, but I felt that while Kid A and Amnesiac represented a powerful volte-face they weren’t perfect. Hail to the Thief was packed with filler and while In Rainbows didn’t have a bad song on it, it wasn’t exactly brimful with classics either. This is where the modern Radiohead started to really make sense with the recordings of Everything In Its Right Place and Idioteque, in particular, capturing the frenetic energy of ’00s Radiohead live performances.
37. Sigur Rós – Takk…
Glósóli still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and Hoppípolla could reduce any man to tears despite its over-use for TV ads. I think this even surpasses Ágætis Byrjun as their finest work and everything that’s wonderful about Sigur Rós is contained within these 11 songs.
36. Mogwai – The Hawk is Howling
Mogwai unquestionably had to feature here somewhere and I reckon this, their most recent album, is their best – at least since Young Team anyway. Batcat is the heaviest thing they’ve done and you could almost dance to The Sun Smells Too Loud. Almost… but not quite.
35. Boards of Canada – The Campfire Headphase
I’d almost call this ‘falling asleep music’ but that’s not meant as an insult. 1998’s Music Has the Right to Children is an all time classic but this pushes their sound on and adds a little dash of acoustic guitar to the dreamy soundscapes. Blissed out – but still a little unsettling.
34. Elliott Smith – New Moon
Figure 8 was so-so and From a Basement on a Hill wasn’t the wonderful epitaph it was meant to be, so it was a relief to see this doubler released in 2007. It successfully captures everything that was great about Elliott Smith from his introspective vulnerability to his punky sensibilities over its 24 tracks. RIP.
33. Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
Oh-so-clever angular pop from Scotland was the order of the day in the middle of the decade. Looking back, it’s fascinating to note that the Franz were headlining festivals and selling out huge venues twice over despite the willful awkwardness of the tunes and dark lyrics. Kapranos and co really did have an ear for a catchy melody though and this is still a great album, the success of which they’re really struggling to repeat.
32. Les Savy Fav – Let’s Stay Friends
Barking but glorious punk rock delivered by a band who had been bubbling under for years. Every song here is different but it still holds together as a seamless album. I’m far too old for moshing and crowd surfing now (or am I?) but I’d have been down the front ten years ago for this.
31. Muse – Absolution
This is Muse at their absolute peak. Scorching riffs on Stockholm Syndrome, overblown bombast on Butterflies and Hurricanes and a singalong classic in Time is Running Out. 2009 finds them on the verge of being consumed by their own ridiculousness, so come on guys, enough with the Queen pastiche and strip things back a bit please.
30. Fever Ray – Fever Ray
If you’ve heard of The Knife you’ll know who Karin Dreijer Andersson is and what her voice sounds like – and you’ll obviously love it. If you haven’t, then it’s only a matter of time. This is 10 tracks of her sweetly sinister Scandinavian tones cooing over dark, minimalist electronica that makes the Knife look like Fatboy Slim. A wonderful album – the live version given away by the Guardian a few months back is a treat too.
29. Portishead – Third
Portishead successfully ditched their coffee table trip-hop reputation with their awkward eponymous album back in 1997… and promptly disappeared. How nice it was to have them back last year and in such incredible form. Beth Gibbons’ voice could easily out-haunt any ghost and Geoff Barrows shuddering arrangements were superb.
28. Regina Spektor – Mary Ann Grave Vs the Gravediggers and Other Stories
This could easily be deemed as cheating as it’s not really an album at all, rather a collection of songs from Soviet Kitsch and its two preceding US-only albums. But it feels like a coherent piece of work and really comes into its own in the second half with the likes of Lacrimosa, Chemo Limo and the magnificent Us. Begin to Hope and Far are good, but anyone investigating Regina for the first time should start here.
27. Malcolm Middleton – A Brighter Beat
Other people will doubtless pick other Malcy albums. The Skinny have talked up Into the Woods and Stuart Braithwaite picked out 5:14… as his favourite of the decade. Both are great, but I’ve plumped for his most accessible work to date. The first half is a frenetic bunch of upbeat indie rock songs; the second catches him in a more reflective mood. Great stuff, and We’re All Going To Die was the subject of the unlikeliest Christmas number one campaign EVER.
26. Cat Power – The Greatest
This record’s appeal has waned a little for me since I voted it my favourite of 2006, but there’s still no doubting its quality. Chan has tried to replicate its rough, piano bar blues feel on 2008’s covers album and her Dark Was the Night contribution but neither has come close to touching this. Perhaps its time to return to the scuzzy grunge of What Would the Community Think and get off the catwalk?
25. The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
For all my adoration of the Flaming Lips’ live shows this decade, their albums haven’t quite hit the heights, and certainly none have come close to touching The Soft Bulletin (best album of the 90s?). This is their best since then though and brought them to mainstream attention despite the album being full of songs about death, science and Japanese girls fighting giant robots.
24. The Strokes – Is This It
Thankfully the skinny tie and tight jean look never quite suited me (Too fat? Too ugly? Probably both actually) so I avoided the hipster trends that the Strokes emergence prompted. Thankfully it wasn’t all style over substance, and here you’ll find 11 glorious lo-fi NYC anthems – each and every one of them a Television rip-off, but a great listen all the same.
23. TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain
Not sure this would be many people’s favourite TVotR album but it’s certainly mine, albeit by one of Kyp Malone’s whiskers. It had everything – Bowie vocals, Massive Attacks samples, floor fillers and moody electro. Marginally better than last year’s Dear Science.
22. Idlewild – 100 Broken WIndows
Ten years ago I adored Idlewild, saw them countless times live and practically wore out my copy of this. The band went into terminal decline as they aimed for the mainstream and lost key members but this is still a pleasurable listening experience.
21. Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther
I had gotten utterly sick of this and deliberately hadn’t listened to it for a few years until I heard a few tracks recently and remembered why I liked it so much in the first place. Lovely, countrified backwoods strumming held together by Tim Smith’s incredible voice.
20. Interpol – Antics
My favourite of 2004 doesn’t quite stand up to its predecessor in hindsight (more on that later) but there’s some cracking tunes on this, and it moved Interpol from playing dark, seedy clubs up to huge venues like the Glasgow Academy. And on hearing Evil on the dancefloor I would shuffle like I’d never shuffled before.
19. And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – Source Tags and Codes
Trail of Dead have been one of my favourite bands since I heard ’99′s Madonna. They refined the feral noise of their early work onto a major label album but maintained plenty of the raw aggression to ensure that their flirtation with stardom didn’t last long – and that has to be a good thing. They still remain a hugely unpredictable but fascinating concern.
18. Brand New – Déjà Entendu
Someone must have broken Jesse Lacey’s heart pretty badly judging by the spiteful, hate-filled lyrics audible here. There’s a whiff of ‘emotional hardcore’ about the whole thing but if you can put the angst to one side, this is a fine American rock record, a million miles away from anything else badged as emo.
17. PJ Harvey – Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
Polly Jean’s career has taken some twists and turns - her last two albums, for example, have moved from minimalist piano ballads to snarly ball breaking. This is probably her most accessible set of songs – poppy, even – and still sounds fresh to this day.
16. The Besnard Lakes – …Are the Dark Horse
One of the great forgotten albums of the decade. Led Zeppelin-esque riffs, woozy rhythms and yearning vocals combined to create eight meandering epics. More people need to hear this.
15. Stars – Set Yourself on Fire
Ahhhh, Canadian indie, circa ’05. Those were wonderful times but few albums summed it up better than this. Like all the great bands of the scene, most of the players had they fingers in other pies but here they came up with terrific pop album themed around the break-up of two central characters. Deserved to be huge, but instead Snow Patrol seemed to get all the music slots on ER and Grey’s Anatomy and we all know what happened there.
14. The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America
A banging set of party tunes soundtracked Craig Finn’s tales of Minneapolis teenagers up to no good. Springsteen comparisons aside they’re undoubtedly one of the bands of the decade and Separation Sunday and Stay Positive (see no. 48) weren’t half bad either.
13. Mclusky - Mclusky Do Dallas
Weird and wonderful. Noisy and nasty. This is an outrageous album of punishing Welsh hardcore peppered with absurd, ridiculous lyrics. It’s a pity that no-one seemed to be listening at the time but they’ve become a popular cult concern years later.
12. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
With a few more years to listen to this, it could well have topped the list. For now though, I look forward to many more years of enjoying this beautifully melodic piece of work. I heard that they recently performed with the London Symphony Orchestra and I can’t imagine a more perfect way in which to capture the sweeping majesty of this album.
11. Bat for Lashes – Fur and Gold
I rather missed this until I saw it in the Mercury nominations a few years back. I’m glad I made the effort to investigate it as Natasha Khan is probably now my favourite female singer-songwriter. This is a sparse, sometimes sinister album which allows her incredible voice to soar
10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell
Let’s get one thing straight – Karen O is one of the greatest female performers there has ever been. On this, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs full length debut, she purrs like a kitten and yelps like a sexed-up banshee in equal amounts, backed by the filthiest guitar sound of 2003.
9. Elbow – Asleep in the Back
I was delighted to see Elbow win the Mercury last year – it’s just a shame that it was for their weakest album. The accolades should have been bestowed on this, their debut from 2001, an epic, heartfelt set of slow burning ballads. Every bit the five star classic and I can’t see them improving on it.
8. Battles – Mirrored
A jaw-dropping debut album from a band that features both the former drummer from Helmet AND jazz (yes, jazz!) alumni. This is one album I found pretty difficult to describe in a short paragraph first time round and it’s not much easier now. Only listening to it can truly do it justice.
7. Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight
Last year’s best album is still pretty much on repeat play. This is a fraught, emotional collection of break-up songs penned by the only great songwriter ever to come from Selkirk. The Modern Leper is one song I will never, ever tire of.
6. Aereogramme – Sleep and Release
Marginally pips the Rabbits for Scottish album of the decade. It roared out of the blocks with Indiscretion #243 and slamming riffs were the order of the day over the course of its ten tracks. But there was subtlety here too – A Simple Process of Elimination brought a tear to this glass eye when it soundtracked a short film about famine a few years back.
5. LCD Soundsystem – The Sound of Silver
I liked this on release. But nearly three years later, I absolutely love it. A dance record with cynical indie sensibilities, James Murphy put his name forward as the spokesman for a generation of jaded, thirty-something clubbing casualties. And therein lies the key reason why I keep coming back to this.
4. Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary
Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug contributed a massive body of work to the Canadian indie scene this decade under a variety of guises but nothing even came close to matching this unbelievable album. While it followed the trail blazed by Arcade Fire it chose tinny synths over sweeping orchestration to soundtrack its multi-part harmonies and in I’ll Believe in Anything they pretty much had the song of the decade up their sleeve.
3. The White Stripes – White Blood Cells
Amazingly the Detroit duo released FIVE albums in the noughties - and let’s not forget Jack White’s work with the Raconteurs, Dead Weather and various production duties. But fuck me if I’m not desperate to see him back dressed in red, white and black. The White Stripes are by far and away his best outlet and this, their breakthrough album is the pick of the bunch. The others were good too but from the feral blues of Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground to the delicate outro of This Protector it’s damn near perfect.
2. Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights
The best band to emerge from the NYC renaissance in the early part of the decade. They wore their influences – Joy Division, Bunnymen and the Smiths – right on their sleeves and turned it all into a collection of dark melodic angst, with a constant sense of foreboding. All the while underpinned with Paul Banks’ wonderful baritone even if his lyrics made fuck all sense.
1. Arcade Fire – Funeral
The winner! Head and shoulders above everything else released in the noughties and in my opinion one of the greatest albums ever made – no exaggeration. When this appeared, its bombastic, folk-infused thunder set the tone for the rest of the decade. One of the most unlikely bands ever to sell out Glasgow’s SECC but deservedly so.