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My Albums of the 2000s

January 5, 2010

Towards the end of the year just gone, a few friends and I had a bit of an email list orgy, where we compared Albums of the Decade lists, and bleated self-indulgently about why these 10 records (it was only 10 – sorry) mean so much to us. Here, with any overt references to the people I was emailing edited out, is my contribution. It was written quite quickly, and from a very personal point of view, so bear that in mind.

First, some honourable mentions in no particular order:

Ellen Allien & Apparat – Orchestra Of Bubbles
Fugazi – The Argument
Viktor Vaughn – Vaudeville Villain
Deftones – White Pony
Liars – They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top
Apparat – Walls
At The Drive-In – Relationship Of Command
Deerhunter – Microcastle
Ikara Colt – Chat And Business
The Field – From Here We Go Sublime
Shackleton – Three Eps
F*ck Buttons – Street Horrrsing
Idlewild – 100 Broken Windows
Elbow – Asleep In The Back
TV On The Radio – Dear Science
Yeah Yeah Yeah – Fever To Tell
Lightning Bolt – Hypermagic Mountain
The xx – xx
LCD Soundsystem – s/t
Future Of The Left – Travels With Myself And Another
Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Belle & Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress
No Age – Weirdo Rippers
The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
Boxcutter – Glyphic
Radiohead – In Rainbows
Portishead – Third
Holy Fuck – LP
Midlake – The Trials Of Van Occupanther
!!! – Myth Takes
Boards Of Canada – Geogaddi
Sigur Ros – Agaetis Byrjun
LCD Soundsystem – s/t
QOTSA – Songs For The Deaf
Skream – Skream!
The Rapture – Echoes
Martyn – Great Lengths
David Holmes – The Holy Pictures

OK, enough of that. Here’s the top 10:

10. The Knife – Silent Shout (2006)

The first I’d heard of The Knife was with all the chatter about Jose Gonzalez’s version of ‘Heartbeats’, but I hadn’t heard them until I happned to see the video for ‘We Share Our Mothers’ Health’ on MTV2 one night. It completely floored me. Off the back of that and reading reviews, I took a punt on Silent Shout and it was a fine decision, helping to get me into a fair bit of other electronica along the way (including Orchestra Of Bubbles by Ellen Allien & Apparat, which just missed out on the top 10). The album is quite varied in terms of tempo, but it’s still very much of a piece. There’s a spooky, icy atmosphere than the Anderssons can summon up that puts them ahead of nearly everyone else in a similar sphere (see the Fever Ray album for proof). It’s really transportive stuff.

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9. mclusky – mclusky Do Dallas (2002)

I think I stumbled across mclusky on Amazon, maybe through reading reviews of Pixies records. Anyway, everything I read about them made them sound like they’d be right up my street, and so it proved. This album was like a cross between Big Black’s Songs About Fucking and Surfer Rosa – unsurpisingly it was produced by Steve Albini. It rocks like fuck of course, but there are plenty of hooks too, as well as Andy Falkous’ unmistakeable potty mouth and sense of humour. It’s got all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but I love it so.

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8. Burial – Untrue (2007)

This album was a gateway drug for me, and it is almost single-handedly responsible for my love of dubstep and other bass-heavy electronic music. I got hold of it because of the deafening buzz online, and it turned out to be totally justified. As with Silent Shout, atmosphere is what makes Untrue such a great album. There’s a desolation there, and an acute detachment that is often described as being the sound of inner London at night. Others would be able to tell better than me whether that’s true, but it makes for uniquely evocative listening. And the combination of two-step garage beats, cavernous bass and Burial’s trademark chewed-up vocal samples works like a dream. He’ll do well to top it.

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7. British Sea Power – The Decline Of British Sea Power (2003)

I have BANG magazine to thank for this one. The mag was amazing until a few issues in, when they decided to basically copy Q‘s dadrock editorial slant. A couple of issues later they had folded. A terrible shame. Anyway, they wrote some very nice things about BSP, and then I saw the album for £8.99 in HMV in Lancaster (where I went to university) in its week of release. I bought Hot Hot Heat’s Make Up The Breakdown at the same time, I seem to remember. I got it home, listened, and very soon fell in love. I hadn’t come across such an interesting band since Pulp and their mix of influences and lyrical and visual eccentricities really appealed to me. They, along with mclusky who I discovered around the same time, were a band to get behind; to invest emotional energy in. I certainly did that for a few years. I’m still a big fan (the last record was one of my favourites of 2008) but I’m not the superfan I once was. The Decline still stands up, though.

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6. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver (2007)

No lucky punts here. I think my good friend Ric first turned me onto LCD when ‘Losing My Edge’/’Beat Connection’ came out but I hadn’t given them that much attention until ‘Yeah!’ and subsequently the first album. By the time Sound of Silver emerged, though, I was a genuine fan. Of all the dance-punk acts of the 2002-4 era, they are the most enduring (followed by !!!), and that’s precisely because James Murphy is too savvy, too experienced and too goddamn talented to be defined by one sound. That was already apparent on the first album, but Sound Of Silver showed another side to him – proper heart and soul. You can’t imagine Moving Units coming up with something as life-affirming as ‘Someone Great’ or ‘All My Friends’, can you? And yet Murphy still managed to break out the dancefloor stormers – ‘Get Innocuous!’ is a proper statement of an opener, and then you have the tense and itchy ‘Time To Get Away’ and ‘Us Vs. Them’, which is just unstoppable. James Murphy is a fucking genius, y’hear?

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5. Why? – Alopecia (2008)

This was another case of believing the hype. I’d been vaguely aware of Why? and had enjoyed the video for ‘Sanddollars’ off their previous album, but it was the shouting and yelling of online strangers that led me to download and subsequently buy Alopecia. The best way to describe it in terms of other bands is The Shins’ sense of melody and lyrical dexterity with a bit of Pavement’s slacker style and the indie hip-hop of early Nineties Beck. But it’s all about Yoni Wolf – his lyrics are chock-full of “the kind of things I won’t admit to my headshrinker” as he puts it. It’s a head-spinning journey through his innermost thoughts – some enlightening, some funny, many uncomfortable – set to the best melding of indie-rock and hip-hop I’ve ever heard. Chiming indie-pop, head-knocking beats and quotable lines galore. The best album of 2008 by quite a distance.

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4. Primal Scream – XTRMNTR (2000)

My first memories of this album date from before I’d even heard it. In 2000 I had (foolishly) switched from the NME to Melody Maker. I was a late developer in terms of music taste, and I think their Godspeed and Aphex Twin covers freaked me out a bit. MM was safer. They liked JJ72. But despite me swapping sides, I was aware of what NME were doing (they advertised in MM every week) and I was somehow cognisant of the fact that they had been jizzing themselves over XTRMNTR. Never having been interested in Primal Scream, and at this point scornful of the NME and its (then, to my immature mind) muso slant I had no intention of hearing the album. But then I heard ‘Swastika Eyes’ on the Radio 1 Evening Session, and saw the band perform on Jools Holland, and I began to take notice. A short time late I did eventually buy it (along with Moon Safari by Air – good trip, that) and it has been a constant of my listening habits ever since. I’ve never gone through a period of being obsessed by it, but it’s always been there, and when it came to compiling this list it belatedly occurred to me that it had to be up there. I’m still not a Scream fan, and I still think Bobby Gillespie is a pillock, but there’s something about the marriage of naïve sloganeering and all-out sonic warfare on this record that is just impossible to deny. You try listening to ‘Exterminator’, ‘Swastika Eyes’, ‘Shoot Speed/Kill Light’, ‘Kill All Hippies’ or ‘Accelerator’ and see if you can sit still. It’s unbelievably exciting – aural speed.

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3. The Bronx – The Bronx (I) (2004)

Speaking of exciting records… Again, this was an online recommendation and in my Soulseek days I grabbed three tracks and left it at that. Then came Reading 2004 and I saw them play an early in the Radio 1 tent. Gig of the weekend if I’m not mistaken. Hardcore is a genre I’m less than knowledgeable about, and that hasn’t changed, but I’m pretty sure I will love this record until my dying day. Pure fury from an absolutely shit-hot band, and it sounds absolutely ENORMOUS. In fact, the production is one of the main reasons I love it so much. Guaranteed to get the blood pumping every time.

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2. Radiohead – Kid A

I have a confession to make – I only rarely listen to this album. But my relationship with Radiohead is a strange one. I’ve never really given their albums heavy rotation except for when Hail To The Thief and In Rainbows came out, I’ve hardly ever in the mood to listen to them and yet I revere them over pretty much any other band. OK Computer is in my top five albums of all time (at least) and here we have Kid A at #2 in my list. For all that, when it comes to ranking it, it’s difficult to say that almost anything else is actually better. Maybe I’m being influenced by their critical canonisation, but I don’t think that that’s the case. It’s just that their music is so perfect and so intense that it is just not made for casual listening. It demands a certain mood and even a measure of preparation. But when those conditions are satisfied, there aren’t many better musical experiences than listening to Kid A. You don’t need me to tell you what it sounds like or how good it is. But that’s why it’s at #2.

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1. Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights (2002)

This is the album that defined my university years, but why have I put it at #1? I mean, it’s nakedly derivative of several bands (Joy Division, The Cure, The Chameleons), the lyrics are oblique to the point of being complete nonsense (and it contains that “her tales are boring and stuff, she’s always calling my bluff” line) and by all accounts the band members are complete pricks (my ex-editor at AU says Carlos was one of the most unpleasant interviewees he’s ever had), but despite arriving 24 years after the birth of post-punk, the band have refined that aesthetic as far as it will likely go.

There is nothing about the instrumentation that I would change. The interplay between bass and drums borders on genius. Kessler and Banks’ guitars take The Chameleons’ template and perfect it. Banks’ vocals have just the right combination of intensity, desperation and vulnerability (and make Editors’ Tom Smith sound like a karaoke contestant). And the songs… my god. I mean, ‘The Specialist’ didn’t even make it on for fuck’s sake. The whole album is a procession of classic after classic, and it is sequenced to a tee. It’s like what I was saying about Silent Shout – it’s of a piece, with an overarching atmosphere that means that all the songs just sound as if they belong together. Antics was great too but it didn’t have the same magic. Our Love To Admire was a crushing disappointment. But we’ll always have the autumn of 2002.

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One comment

  1. Good list. Decline of British Sea Power’s a great album. If you haven’t OD’d on lists already, you might want to check my top 10 of the decade post. Cheers!



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