BEST ALBUMS OF THE NOUGHTIES
The daunting task of putting together something that you know lots of readers won’t agree with is never easy, but then we thought you could always go make your own lists. At least we had the balls…
So the 50s had rock n roll, the 60s had it’s pop and folk, the 70s it’s punk, disco and glam, the 80s it’s pop, hip hop and hair rock, the 90s it’s grunge, brit pop and dance music. It begs the question – what standout genre defines the Noughties?
In the age of the Internet, mass communication and rapid pace, it seems very few themes had a chance to settle. Whether this is a bad thing for the adoring Teen is uncertain. NME magazine were desperate to tie bands together, as we saw with their own invention of nu-rave, following the Klaxons debut.
So diluted are people’s tastes, that if you ask anyone what type of music they like, 90% will now answer, “…a bit of everything really“. We are no longer Mods or Rockers, or into hip hop or rock. We put this down to a number of cultural factors, but alongside the obvious invention of the Internet, one big influential change came with another man-made creation: Ecstasy.
This drug meant that typical fans of rock music were missing out on all this drug-fuelled fun that the dancing ravers were having, so it meant dropping your guard and embracing the ‘other’ sort of music. So it turned out that you could like rock music during the week, then pile into clubs for dance music at the weekends. And so the dilution began…
Now we all happily enjoy “…a bit of everything” and that has to be good. Gone are the clans and the cliques. However, the Teenager may have lost out on the magical feeling of being part of a genre that defines your Tribe. Are we no longer “Talkin’ bout Your Generation“?
And so to the list…gulp…
1.) LCD SOUNDSYSTEM – SOUND OF SILVER (2007) : The past, present and future all dispensed in one mind-shattering, occasionally apocalyptic, but ultimately life-affirming experience that went straight for the cerebral cortex. This is very much the property of James Murphy, but it’s ripples can be found in many other artist’s subsequent work. However, subtle ripples is all they are, as although truly great albums spawn many pretenders, nobody can repeat something as magical as this. Indie, dance, punk, electronica, funk, pop, new wave, rock, it’s all in here. At it’s peaks it is a crest of a tidal wave. At it’s depths it has songs we want played at our funeral. Truly special.
2.) ARCADE FIRE – NEON BIBLE (2007) : This Canadian masterpiece, and it is a true masterpiece, simply couldn’t have been written by anyone else. Finally, something otherworldly that wasn’t done in a self-indulgent, psychedelic way. Their strong debut, Funeral, which was a lot of people’s best kept secret, made the follow up a definitive ‘difficult second album’, but they blew the myth out of the water. Never before has an album felt so much like an all-encompassing, religious experience. This is one cult we are all better off for joining.
3.) ARCTIC MONKEYS – WHATEVER PEOPLE SAY I AM, THAT’S WHAT I’M NOT (2006) : It seems Alex Turner and co were never that keen on the limelight, which possibly dimmed with each subsequent album, but there’s no denying the consistent power of this massive debut. They were the first true Myspace generation band. Life was never the same again following those first few chords at the beginning of I Bet You look Good On The Dancefloor. Singing in your accent finally cast aside any dominant American shackles that indie music had. Cue adoring hoards, gorgeous girlfriends, and plentiful riches. Damn that limelight eh!
4.) RADIOHEAD – KID A (2000) : This is the musical equivalent of a marmite album if ever there was one. It sounded like the future, from a band that truly embraced new technology and change, during the birth of the new millenium, when the rest of us were still learning to walk with it. For a band that had showed off their talents on many previous occasions it was beautiful to see they still had this many clever tricks up their sleeve. Never has an album been so anticipated, only to surprise us all upon it’s eventual release. Amazingly, boundaries have continued tumbling with every album since. This Oxford five piece are the definition of independent.
5.) THE STROKES – IS THIS IT? (2001) : You could argue that the title’s clever question was immediately answered upon hitting play on an album that seemed to jump start the decade, just as the world was still looking for fresh ideas. Strange really, as upon first glance it seemed very retrospective with it’s 70s garage rock influences. However, this record , and it does feel like it should be called a record, had more ferocious power and lyrical comment hidden away. Oh, and every single band member looked way cooler than anybody had for years! This had an equally big impact on style as it did music.
6.) TV ON THE RADIO – DEAR SCIENCE (2008) : A tough choice, seeing as their previous attempt, Return To Cookie Mountain, was also very strong. It’s with their latest effort that we think they deserve their listing though. It’s a step up in our books. Unbelievably smart tracks, such as opener Halfway Home, or the equally original Golden Age, seem so thunderously strong that they came with a lightning bolt to the head included.
7.) GREEN DAY -AMERICAN IDIOT (2004) : Never before has a band switched from being the possession of the young to the wider acceptance of the adult music fan with such a thump as this Californian three piece’s 7th album. Yes, that’s 7th album! But this isn’t a case of monkeys writing out Shakespeare if given the time, oh no. We always knew this band had ability, it’s just that true quality often takes time to evolve, (or grow up, if you like). They kept their punk brilliance, but added in more politics and melody. It’s argued this is the only good thing to appear as a result of George Bush’s existence.
8.) BLOC PARTY – A WEEKEND IN THE CITY (2007) : Albums simply don’t get more urban than this. Songs of both losing and finding love, this album scaled the emotional heights. This was music made by people who had clearly built on the promise of their strong debut, Silent Alarm, reassuring fans that their full locker was the real deal. This was a band who you can sum up in their lyric from one of the album’s highlights, “Tonight make me unstoppable…and I will dazzle, I will outshine them all“.
9.) THE LIBERTINES – UP THE BRACKET (2002) : Like all greatness they burned bright and then exploded, or should that be imploded, leaving every teen fan gasping for air and longing for reconciliation ever since. Touted as this generation’s Lennon and McCartney combo, Pete Doherty and Carl Barat have similarly never scaled the heights as individuals that they reached when their parts were combined. Fuck Robbie Williams, in a world of pop comebacks, this is the really big, glaring omission.
10.) ELBOW – THE SELDOM SEEN KID (2008) : We know a lot of people liked Asleep In The Back, but there’s a reason Elbow’s most recent album was more commercially successful, won massive critical acclaim and scooped the Mercury Prize. Namely, it’s songs scaled heights (The Loneliness Of Tower Crane Driver), channelled raw power (Grounds For Divorce) and truly fulfilled the promise of their collective talents in one of the best show-closers of all time, (One Day Like This). Never before has reward been so deserving.
11.) THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS – IT’S BLITZ (2009) : Their debut, Fever To Tell, and the follow up, Show Your Bones, had fantastic highlights, but their latest album offered up true consistency. Adopting more electronics and synths, without dropping any of the craft we had previously witnessed, was both surprising and reassuring. It worked well with their image and they retained lots of originality, whilst still managing to pander to a wider audience. Interestingly, it’s the only entry on this list from 2009.
12.) BRIGHT EYES – I’M WIDE AWAKE, IT’S MORNING (2005) : Touting him as the new Bob Dylan perhaps over-played his impact, but he’s probably the closest any modern artist has come. No wandering songsmith has mastered the power of the lyric quite as well as Conor Oberst. This is an album of brave honesty and clever ideas. Only hearts of stone couldn’t connect to this album.
13.) KLAXONS – MYTHS OF THE NEAR FUTURE (2007) : This was one Mercury Prize winning album that truly deserved the recognition. Adventurous, refreshing and more than anything, original. Although they resisted the NME’s nu rave pigeon hole, there’s no denying this album caught the teenager’s imagination. It’s style was copied by many and it even injected colour back into the world of fashion. All eyes on what will be a very difficult ‘second album’ then.
14.) THE WHITE STRIPES – ELEPHANT (2003) : Although it’s predecessor, White Blood Cells, showed off many sparks of Jack’s genius, it was this follow up that eventually engulfed the world in red and white flames. One guitar, one set of drums, one totally colossal sound. It’s fitting that this rock duo, who plunder the genre of blues more than anything, make music that’s never been so stripped back to it’s basics.
15.) JUSTICE – † (2007) : Was this the peak in a hit and miss decade for the genre of dance? This Parisian pair of hipsters spawned a whole new sub-genre, blog house, and influenced all dance music for the next two years. Cue pandemonium in every live set. Dance had never been so rock, they even ended their gigs with a Metallica tune! Embraced by the online world, it seemed fitting that an electronic piece of cool turned us bloggers on so much, as that’s precisely what we (incorrectly) think we are! It’s the album Daft Punk wished they had made, yet it wouldn’t have existed without them.
16.) THE FLAMING LIPS – YOSHIMI BATTLES THE PINK ROBOTS (2002) : This band really are in a world all their own and for this unique album we were all transported there, (aboard a pink spaceship, captained by Wayne Coyne). A truly magical piece of work with many outstanding peaks. Alternative rock has never been so refreshingly creative. The tour that followed was equally as mind-blowing.
17.) FOALS – ANTIDOTES (2008) : OK, so the genre attached to this group was one of the most short lived in history, but these purveyors of math rock were one of the shining lights in 2008. A mangled collection of influences, this was truly intelligent music, with brilliant jarring guitars played high up the neck. It was as sharp as it was original.
18.) MUSE – BLACK HOLES AND REVELATIONS (2006) : If you could attach a scale of size to music, then this Cornish, yes Cornish (!), trio would be well off it. Their music is truly fucking huuuuge! Previous albums seemed a little trite and over the top, but interestingly this follow up was all the better for going ever further over it. Never before has a band taken such a giant, confident leap into a stadium.
19.) FRANZ FERDINAND – FRANZ FERDINAND (2004) : This showed the kids that you could dance all night long without needing electronics or Ecstasy. As British as gets, it had barrellfulls of pomp, art, intelligence and wit rolled up inside it. The instant you heard the riff drop 55 seconds into Take Me Out we were all properly hooked. You had forgotten it won the Mercury Prize too didn’t you?
20.) EMINEM – THE MARSHALL MATHERS LP (2000) : He may have exited stage left since, but this angry, little white man had the world of the white teenager in the palm of his hands and that was as dangerous as it was fair. On show was his comedic, rapid flow (The Real Slim Shady), his schizophrenic darker side (Stan) and his most biting anger (The Way I Am). All produced by the mastermind of hip hop, Dr Dre, before Jay Z deservedly stole that crown.
21.) SUPER FURRY ANIMALS – RINGS AROUND THE WORLD (2001) – This is lush, gorgeous pop at it’s kaleidoscopic best. An album has never been so multi-layered, which sometimes even made it inconsistent, but that’s the Super Furry Animals in a nut shell. It’s outstanding melodic heights, which at their best are comparable to The Beatles, are perhaps not surprising since legends likes Paul McCartney and John Cale provided cameo support on it.
22.) IAN BROWN – MUSIC OF THE SPHERES (2001) : To our generation The Stone Roses were as important as The Beatles. If a solo album was to appear after their split, there had to be some quality hidden in there. It was refreshingly found in Ian’s third solo attempt. Often bleak and minimal, often rich and tuneful, it’s the timelessness that will keep it as a favourite for many years to come. At it’s heart it’s essentially the sound of promise being fulfilled.
23.) DJ SHADOW – THE PRIVATE PRESS (2002) : So Endtroducing was possibly his best work, but this was the most accessible album from Josh Davis. From those opening warped chords of Fixed Income we were totally hooked. This was the world’s most masterful sampler at his most intricate. So wide was it’s variety you could dance to one track, then let your sofa eat you up in a stoned haze to the next.
24.) JAY-Z – THE BLACK ALBUM (2003) : Although the Blueprint series of albums, including 2009’s, are all great, it’s actually this one that made us fall for Jay-Z’s charms the most. Famous for it’s variety of producers, from Kanye West, to Rick Rubin, to Neptunes, not only gave Sean Carter the tightest album of all time, but it was a showcase of the power this ex-hustler had obtained. (It even gave birth to an album that could’ve featured on this list, Danger Mouse’s Grey Album, mashing this and The Beatles White Album to great effect). This is a hip hop master stroke, by a hip hop master, at his smooth story-telling best.
25.) LEMON JELLY – LOST HORIZONS (2002) : Original doesn’t quite do it justice! During live sets they’d play Bingo, get the crowd to hand out sweets to each other, play spot the fan by putting his face on a giant screen, sell t-shirts instead of tickets making you wear them to get in etc etc! As for their albums, this was their masterpiece. Inventive, original, but above all a shit load of memorable fun.
OK, so let us have you responses. We know you won’t agree, so vent in the comments section please. Got a list of your own? Let us know. Obviously we were missing some big artists here, so who do you think were the glaring omissions?
Doing this list was perhaps one of the biggest posts we’ve ever done, but rest assured that this was an absolute joy to do. Perhaps you too should reflect on your favourite musical highlights of the decade? Somehow, it’s reassured us that this world can still produce amazing, original and timeless music.
See you back here shortly for ‘The Best Tracks Of 2009‘ post. Nice.