Albums of the Decade: Part Three

This is the third and final part of my list of albums of the decade (the first two parts can be found here and here). To reiterate: this is not a list of the ‘best’ albums of the decade, because ‘best’ is impossible to define. Neither is this listed in any hierarchical order. I just scribbled down my favourite albums of the last ten years in the order I remembered them, and this is what came out…

Antony and The Johnsons – ‘I Am A Bird Now’ (2005): A haunting, melancholy collection of fragile songs that linger long in the memory, this is a remarkable and brave album from the British-born singer-songwriter Antony Hegarty. If you can get past Hegarty’s stunning but unusual voice (many can’t), I Am A Bird Now offers a beautiful and poignant insight into his unique approach to art and his experiences of a mentally and physically marginalised transgender life. Also featuring  some quite delicious guest appearances from the likes of Rufus Wainwright, Lou Reed, Boy George and Devendra Banhart, this album rightly (in my view) won the 2005 Mercury Music Prize and gave Antony’s truly beautiful music the wider audience it deserved.

Queens of the Stone Age – ‘Songs For The Deaf’ (2002): In my book, any album that features the mighty Dave Grohl on drums (and vocals from grunge legend Mark Lanegan) has to be worth a listen – and that’s an especially valid point when the album in question is as downright kick-ass as this one is. The followup to 2001’s excellent Rated R, Songs For The Deaf has slightly shinier and glossier production values than its essential and raw-edged predecessor, but it still succeeds in creating a tight, compact, crunchy, irresistibly guitar-heavy, kinetically-charged groove that pulls no punches. This is a fiercely melodic concept album with a rich, dark seam of wit and a quirky intelligence.

…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – ‘Source Tags and Codes’ (2002): Despite  the fact that I’m always itching to add that missing ‘the’ to their name (the lack of which really is irritating if your mind works like mine does!), I can’t fault the power and intensity of this jaw-droppingly epic album. Lumbered with the (possibly meaningless) tag of being an ‘art rock’ band, …Trail of Dead manage to combine a knack for tight, percussive and melodic riffs with the maintainance of a firm grip on the more arty, experimental-sounding (and often quite wonderfully screamy) stuff. This is an intense, important and satisfyingly multi-layered album, which utilises the now-legendary quiet bit/noisy bit musical meme to proper head-pounding effect.

The Ting Tings – ‘We Started Nothing’ (2008): Addictive, bouncy, edgy girl/boy pop which wears its influences very openly on its sleeve, We Started Nothing spent most of 2008 glued to my stereo and made the charts a much brighter and more cheerful place for its clever, knowing, slightly snotty presence. Katie White’s ballsy lyrical and vocal style and fuck-you (nicely) attitude make a refreshing and necessary change from the warbling autotuned pop divas who have infested our charts and our radios in recent years, and the band’s electro twitch-pop sensibilities make this album an immediate and infectious (albeit a very slightly guilty) pleasure. More please!

System of a Down – ‘Toxicity’ (2001): This is an album that gets right up in your face and screams very loudly and angrily at you in a way that metal hadn’t done for quite some time prior to its release – and this is, indeed, unashamedly fierce, highly politicised and shiny metal for the new millennium. Toxicity is, in fact, an album crammed full of serious riffage, angry, anti-establishment lyrics, and the kind of scream-a-long choruses that get you bouncing round the room. S.O.A.D are a band who tend to divide opinion, but I can’t help but to love the tightly coiled and barely contained fury of anticipation that runs through all  their music; almost as if it could all collapse into a messy, angry heap any second now and quite likely will – but never actually entirely does.

Seasick Steve and The Level Devils – ‘Cheap’ (2004): Quite fantastically, this is old-school blues, played the old-school way by a man who has lived the hobo life he sings about. Even better, this is also music played for one reason alone: the simple and all-encompassing love of music itself. All this means that Seasick Steve is definitely one of my favourite discoveries of a decade in which I learned to truly love and properly appreciate the blues. Despite having a musical career that dates back to the 1960’s, Seasick Steve (like many American musicians) only became a huge success after being noticed in the UK in the mid-2000’s, an eventuality that seems to have surprised and delighted the man himself – although, on the strength of Cheap and his other, more recent albums, he most definitely deserves it.

Dizzee Rascal – ‘Boy In Da Corner’ (2003): Vivid, raw and the sound of a young, urban London, this album is a very different proposition to Dizzee’s recent pop-inflected chart successes. Meshing grime, hip hop, electronica and ragga effectively and with great ease, this album showcases Dizzee Rascal’s distinctive lyrical and musical voice. Remarkably assured and complete for a debut release, particularly from one so young (Dizzee was a mere 18 years of age at the time), Boy In Da Corner has a fierce energy that immediately marked it and its creator out as something special. Quite a lot of other people appeared to agree with me in that assessment, and it rightfully won the 2003 Mercury Music Prize.

Vampire Weekend – ‘Vampire Weekend’ (2008): This album divided many people right down the middle. There are some who find it almost too twee and cutesy for words – and then there are others (like me) who fell in love with this irresistibly quirky album at first listen. Pulling together a hugely diverse set of influences (which include a mixture of everything from African popular music to Western classical music), Vampire Weekend create a highly distinctive and completely unmistakable sound all of their very own. This, their self-titled debut album, has a sort of endearing power about it that soon pulls the listener into a world quite unlike anywhere else.

Burial – ‘Burial’ (2006): Dark, haunting and brooding, this album seemingly came out of nowhere (south London, actually) and, although there are moments that, to me, are strangely reminiscent of the legendary Future Sound Of London (which is no bad thing), it somehow actually manages to sound like no-one and nothing else on this planet. This is a subtle, thought-provoking and strangely cinematic album of many layers which hints at many genres; simply taking dubstep as its starting point on a twisted and darkly beautiful journey into sound. This sort of eclecticism more usually results in an unholy mess of a noise but the enigmatic and mysterious Burial is in total control at all times, making this an accomplished and essential album.

Mogwai – ‘Mr Beast’ (2006): Probably one of my favourite bands, Mogwai make truly beautiful, yearning music by building up layer upon layer of intricately textured guitar sounds, until it all comes together in a powerful post-rock explosion of sound and intensity to create albums like Mr Beast. This is easily my favourite of all their recent output (although last year’s head-melter of an album, The Hawk Is Howling, came very close to making this list too, and 2001’s Rock Action is also well worth your time). This is an intelligent album full of barely hidden emotional depths and surprising twists that demands repeated listening, preferably played very loudly indeed.

Honourable Mentions: Here are a few more albums I really liked but that didn’t quite make it onto the list. All are worth your time –

CSS – Cansei de Ser Sexy (2006)

Death Cab For Cutie – Plans (2005)

Everclear – Songs From An American Movie, Vol 1: Learning How To Smile (2000)

The White Stripes – White Blood Cells (2001)

Royksopp – Melody AM (2001)

Underworld – Oblivion With Bells (2007)

Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation – Mighty Rearranger (2005)

Beck – Modern Guilt (2008)

Feeder – Comfort In Sound (2003)

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (2005)

Radiohead – Hail To The Thief (2003)

The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2004)

Rufus Wainwright – Want Two (2004)

Panic! At The Disco – A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out (2005)

Goldfrapp – Black Cherry (2003)

Patrick Wolf – The Magic Position (2007)

As always, I’d love to know what you think. What have I missed? What albums would be on your list? What would you add/remove from mine? Let me know!

Have a very merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful 2010 – thanks for reading in 2009!

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  1. Lizz

    It says so much about the way my life has changed over the past few years, that I’ve only heard of a handful of these, and actually heard about two (from the whole list!).

    I spent most of the noughties discovering the seventies :o)

    • trickygirl

      Thanks for your comment Lizz! I know what you mean about properly discovering the seventies; in fact, seventies music used to be my guilty secret – but I am, for example, now out and proud as a Fleetwood Mac fan, something I would never have admitted to as a teenager/twenty-something…

      There’s lots on my list I suspect you might like – definitely check out Seasick Steve, and both the Robert Plant albums mentioned, if you haven’t already. You may also enjoy the Isabel Campbell and Mark Lanegan album too. Oh, and the Rodrigo y Gabriela one, their amazing cover of Metallica’s ‘Orion’ has to be heard to be believed!

  2. Lizz

    I have youtubed these – Seasick Steve is definitely Rally music, I like that (although he appears to have stolen his sound from Canned Heat…). Not so sure about Rodrigo y Gabriella – I think it’s the same as I feel about Apocalyptica, it’s interesting, but not something I’m wild about. Robert Plant, well yes, can’t fault that voice :o) Campbell and Lanegan sounds very good, which surprises me as I’m not often keen on Lanegan.

    I was interested in the Observer’s list, and was pleasantly surprised to see The Streets rated so highly. Most people have looked at me very strangely for liking them, but they really are good. I’ll have a think about a top ten albums of the decade…

    • trickygirl

      I agree with you about The Streets – or at least in part. I loved ‘Original Pirate Material’; that’s a really clever, beautifully produced and well-observed album with some great tracks. I also liked parts (although not all) of ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’. Since then, however, I have to admit that there has been little that has interested me.

      There’s some excellent stuff on The Observer’s list, with a fair bit of crossover to my list, but I do think that quite a few of the albums listed by The Observer are only on there because the bands/artists in question are media darlings rather than actually talented musicians who deserve to be there on merit. But that could just be me!

      I’d be very interested to see your list :)

  3. Lizz

    Given I’ve only heard those two albums of the Streets, that’s what I based my opinion on.

    I’ve struggled to narrow down to a top ten, so a top twenty will have to do. In no particular order:

    Northern Rage – Stormwarrior
    Burlesque – Bellowhead
    The Adversary – Ihsahn
    Happy Ever After – Dogs D’Amour
    Cara Dillon – Cara Dillon
    No World Order – Gamma Ray
    United Abominations – Megadeth
    Century Child – Nightwish
    Blackwater Park – Opeth
    Fire – Electric Six
    Magic Never Dies – Power Quest
    The Dreadful Hours – My Dying Bride
    Paradise Hotel – Eliza Gilkyson
    A Grand Don’t Come for Free – The Streets
    Picture – Kino
    Heaven – DJ Sammy
    Midian – Cradle of Filth
    Deadwing – Porcupine Tree
    Beyond the valley of the Murderdolls – Murderdolls
    Employment – Kaiser Chiefs

    There’s definitely a metal bias. Largely, that’s because it’s the sort of music I see live (or did until Bloodstock Indoor finished in favour of its outdoor sister festival).

    • Lizz

      Dammit, the moment I posted this, MJ reminded me that I should have included Fancy Ultra Fresh by Freezepop – I’d forgotten it was noughties… oops!

  4. Lizz

    OK, then I went to bed, and of course thought of some others that should have been on my list…
    Alien – Strapping Young Lad
    Doomsday Machine – Arch Enemy
    Jerusalem – Steve Earle


    • trickygirl

      That’s always the way, isn’t it! An interesting list. I must admit that I kind of lost track of the whole metal scene for quite some time, so there is a lot on there that I don’t know. However, I have been getting back into metal again recently, and I certainly agree with you about Porcupine Tree and Arch Enemy. Good to see the Dogs on there too! I like Cara Dillon, and the Electric Six album is great fun. Personally, I’m not entirely sure about the Kaiser Chiefs’ album – I love the singles but the rest of ‘Employment’ didn’t really do much for me. Some good choices though :)

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