Here’s 25 great albums from 2000-2010, alphabetically, with one album per artist. Now I’m not saying these are the greatest 25 records from this period, or that they’re even my favourite top twenty five as I'm sure to have missed something out, but...well, I love them anyway...
Other People – Angels Of Light (2005)
Michael Gira’s 2005 masterpiece. Well I think it’s a masterpiece anyway. I’m just not sure anyone else does. I wasn’t a huge Swans fan by any means, and I hadn’t heard any of Michael Gira’s other post-Swans stuff before, but this is superb. Gira sings over an acoustic backing, but there’s nothing whimsical about tracks like Michael’s White Hands where Gira bellows, “Bring destruction and bring the end, feed the gas into my lungs.” Dadrock it’s not!
Cripple Crow – Devendra Banhart (2005)
I’m a sucker for Barnhart’s Tyrannosaurus Rex-era Bolan-like warblings. Thankfully he has the songs to back it up. The lovely Heard Somebody Say is one of his best whilst the rather silly Chinese Children creases me up as Banhart tells us that if he lived in China he’d have some Chinese children. And if he lived in India, he’d have some…Chinese Children. And if he lived in Ireland, you name the country, he’d still have Chinese children. Now I like to think that this is Banhart pleading for world unity in his own weird way, but he could just be having a laugh. Whatever, when he mentions ‘Spainland’ and ‘Greeceland’, it brings a smile to my face every time.
Andorra – Caribou (2007)
Andorra might have been a very different creature to the excellent The Milk Of Human Kindness, being altogether less Krautrocky, more melodic and somewhat 60s psychedelic pop influenced, but it proved to be a real grower and one that I was in danger of playing to death. And check out the Four Tet remix of Melody Day that was issued as a single, as it’s a beautiful piece of work that finds Kieran Hebden giving it a finger picking, almost folky treatment.
No More Shall We Part– Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (2001)
I remember buying No More Shall We Part at the time and immediately knowing that I wasn’t going to hear too much better all that year than the opening track, As I Sat Sadly By Her Side. And so it proved. That said The Sorrowful Wife has since turned into one of my fave Cave songs, God is in the House features some typically fine lyrics and was simply sublime on Later on UK TV, whilst Been Down This Road is beautiful in a melancholic kind of way.
Again – Colder (2002)
I bought Colder’s albums the wrong way round, purchasing their second album Heat before I ever heard this one. Consequently, as is often the case, I preferred the one I heard first despite folk telling me that the debut was the best! It turns out they were right as this album got better every time I played it until I eventually realised that this was actually a bit of a classic. Electronic pop, some ‘up’, some quite foreboding, with lots of great beats and some nice dubby moments.
Black Sheep – Julian Cope (2008)
Now that Cope has called his latest band Black Sheep and divided opinions with some lengthy political rants, this album of the same name that predated the group is in danger of being sadly forgotten. Personally I find this rather tragic as it was his best album in years with Cope being the Cope who used to release oddball b-sides like Christ Vs Warhol and Warwick The Kingmaker way back when rather than the Rock God wannabe of recent years. Come The Revolution, which opens the album is a fabulous slow acoustic stomp with a slightly unsettling verse and killer chorus, but he keeps the best till last. Some folk may argue that I Can Remember This Life doesn’t really have to be eleven minutes long and you could point out that the bassline is nicked from Decades. On the other hand when something is this good why not milk it for what it’s worth, and isn’t Decades one of the greatest tracks ever anyway?
Miracle Kicker – Dark Captain Light Captain
Is no-one else here listening to these? Great tunes, some nice grooves and lots of tasty harmonies to round things off, Dark Captain Light Captain are undoubtedly one of my favourite discoveries of the last couple of years.
The Real New Fall LP (aka, Country On the Click) – The Fall (2003)
Country on the Click opens spectacularly with Green Eyed Loco-Man, Mountain Energei and the classic Theme From Sparta FC and if Mark E Smith and gang could have kept this standard up throughout the whole set we could well have been talking about the greatest Fall album ever. However, as always with The Fall there are some lesser moments, although in fairness they’re thin on the ground here. I particularly love Proteinprotection which opens with some real trademark/vintage (almost Dragnet-like) hollering and features some excellent backing vocals, although I can’t help wishing it was longer than three minutes. Love Xexagon is another highlight with the almost obligatory great riff, a great thumping garage band beat and that rarest of things on a Fall track – harmonies, albeit quite warped sounding harmonies which I take is MES’s own weird tribute to the much reviled Beach Boys singer. And I especially like the way he mentions Good Vibrations in a rather silly, wobbly jelly sort of way!
The For Carnation – The For Carnation (2000)
This is probably my favourite album of the 21st century so far. I was introduced to the For Carnation via a free CD with Uncut magazine. I knew immediately from hearing that one track, Emp. Blues, that there was something potentially special here, and so it proved because that track is just one of four tracks on this album that are simply awesome (and the other two aren’t bad either). It’s the closing number Moonbeams, however, that is the pick of the lot. It’s a lengthy, dense yet spacious thing that has a certain stillness about it, and when the former Slint member Brian McMahon’s voice rises slightly near the end it really is a wonderful thing. To give it a glib description, it’s sort of like Joy Division on sedatives, but as a piece of music it genuinely moves me every time. I've been extolling this albums virtues for years now. One day someone will listen!
Rounds – Four Tet (2003)
Rounds might verge on the noodly, but there’s something about all the beats and piano tinkling that is really rather beautiful and heartfelt. She Moves She is especially moving, whilst As Serious As She Gets first worms, then drills its way to your heart.
Tarot Sport – Fuck Buttons (2009)
Street Horrsing was promising enough, but this more dancey Andrew Weatherall-produced follow up was a giant leap forward. Fabulous.
Black Cherry – Goldfrapp (2003)
Black Cherry is guaranteed to appeal to anyone who likes both glam rock and electro. The first single Train sounds like a cross between Portishead, Soft Cell and Gary Glitter and was initially the highlight for me, along with its almost identical follow-up Strict Machine, but they’ve since been superseded by the throbbing, snaky Tiptoe as my favourite track on this electro disco glam stomp feast. Try saying that after a few pints...
Faking the Books – Lali Puna (2004)
God. I love this so much. Such great tunes and production, with Grin And Bear being the highlight with its drop-dead gorgeous girlie singing. There was a time when I needed a daily dose of this.
Things We Lost In the Fire – Low (2001)
Things We Lost in the Fire opens with the wonderful Sunflower, which is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard. Like A Forest isn’t far behind it, whilst Dinosaur Act and Whore are also career highlights.
You Are the Quarry – Morrissey (2004)
After a lengthy silence, this was a comeback we Moz fans could only dream about. It all started with Irish Blood English Heart, an almost Brechtian-like number that almost immediately sounded like a classic 45 with its excellent finger-picking intro, a Hawkwind-like noise that drops in from nowhere, and the most bizarre pronunciation of Oliver Cromwell possible. It was also where Morrissey finally answered those NME racist slurs with “I’m dreaming of the day when to be English is not to be baneful, to be standing by the flag not feeling shameful, racist or partial”. Yes, this was the Manchester bard at his most defiant, with a Jerry Finn production that added a metallic sheen to his new steely person. The next single, The First Of The Gang on the other hand was pitched somewhere between There Is A Light and Suedehead and is quite possibly the poppiest thing he’s ever done albeit in a Leader of the Pack morbid kind of way! Elsewhere there was I Like You with its classic “I like you because you’re not right in the head” chorus, and - forget the contentious title - I Have Forgiven Jesus which is a truly great song and not just Moz being provocative. When he asks “Jesus do you hate me?” towards the close it really is spine-tingling stuff, and might just feature his best vocal performance since The Smiths' I Know It’s Over.
Ever After Monkey – Neon Electronics (2007)
The Neon Judgement’s Dirk Da Davo’s comes up with the goods on this album that’s chock full of cracking beats and great throbbing synths.
Neon Golden - The Notwist (2002)
This album – which I’ve previously described as Tarwater’s poppier younger cousin – sounded totally unremarkable on first listen, but its slightly off-kilter take on pop and gorgeous melodies just wormed their way into my brain until I eventually came to the conclusion that this is one of the greatest albums EVER. The closing track, Consequence, is as good as it gets for me. Sumptuous.
Chain Gang of Love - The Raveonettes (2003)
Chain Gang Of Love is a deliciously melodic set that is almost buried beneath a barrage of noise. Choose your description...The Brill Building on fire. The Beach Boys as a garage band. The Velvets meet Abba. The JAMC with The Shirelles on backing vocals. It’s all of these things and more, and in That Great Love Sound, The Raveonettes created one of THE great 45s of the last ten years which with its classic pop sensibility, feedback and pretty Scandinavian blonde was designed to appeal to a mid-life crisis male like myself.
Tomorrow Today – Seeland (2009)
Another great, slightly off-kilter pop LP. A bit of Dalek I, a bit of early Human League, the odd Motorik beat, and some top, top tunes.
( ) - Sigur Ros(2002)
Lil Beethoven – Sparks (2002)
I hadn’t bought a Sparks album since the seventies, but for some reason I decided to take a punt on their 2000 LP, Balls. What a great decision. It’s fabulous. After this I was hooked (again) and the follow-up Lil Beethoven was even better. I'd heard that it was a 'difficult' album, but that's the not the case at all. It's ambitious, typically off-the-wall, but I liked it straight away, especially the superb opening track and The Rhythm Thief with its wonderful orchestration (the bonus instrumental version on the deluxe version shows just how 'classical' that track is). They didn’t stop here though. What with Hello Young Lovers and Exotic Creatures Of The Deep carrying on where this and Balls left off, Sparks have released four great albums this century alone.
Margerine Eclipse – Stereolab (2004)
My favourite Stereolab LP since Emperor Tomato Ketchup, this found them doing away with the loungey stuff - and not dabbling with, say, drum’n’bass - and just doing what they do best. Their own brand of pop. Great production, too.
American Supreme - Suicide (2002)
Funk Alert! Our heroes returned after the obligatory lengthy hiatus with a somewhat different take on their sound. Although it’s still typically Suicide, I’m not exaggerating when I say this is one of the most seriously funky albums I have ever heard! And Wrong Decisions is definitely one of my fave Vega/Rev moments.
Animals Suns & Atoms – Tarwater (2000)
I was introduced to the mighty Tarwater, c/o of All Of The Ants Have Left Paris being featured on a free Uncut cd. I loved it straight away and bought this album soon after. Sounding like a meeting of German ‘old skool’ act, Can, and early 80s electronic pop, Tarwater have now become one of my favourite current bands, but this is still probably my favourite album of theirs with Seven Ways To Fake A Perfect Skin and the aforementioned Ants being especially fab.
Send - Wire (2003)
It took me a while to think of Send as an album its own right rather than a compilation of the two Read & Burn EPs and the odd new track, but it’s a great collection of relentless, thrashy numbers where tunes might be considered an added bonus. One reviewer described it as a ‘new punk classic’, saying, “It is, quite simply the most punk rock album I have heard in years”, and he has a point. It may lack the mystique of Wire Mk I stuff, but this is a steamrolling version of the band, moving all from the path in front of them. It certainly doesn’t get much better than Spent. It’s ferocious! Elsewhere Being Watched has a T.Rex swagger whilst Comet has a fabulously poppy ‘And the chorus goes ba ba ba bang’ chorus.