IT’S NOT too late for an Albums of the ’00s post, is it? I didn’t have a blog at the end of 2009, y’see, so I couldn’t bore you with my individual choices. I contributed to The Ticket’s poll, but as that was an amalgamation of three peoples’ choices, I couldn’t get too personal.
So I’m going to take a leaf out of Darragh‘s book and run through my Top 20 Albums of the Noughties over the next couple of weeks, just because I can. Here’s #20 – 15, and why I love them.
20. Elbow – ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’
The first time I saw Elbow, I was 16. It was at Dublin’s HQ (now The Academy), they were touring their debut album Asleep in the Back, and I had to beg the doorman to let me in. He eventually conceded, on the proviso that if he saw me near the bar, I’d be out on my ear (drinking at gigs hadn’t even occurred to me at that point). I’d become quite enamoured with Guy Garvey and co.’s songs that were strange and beautiful and stark, and followed their career with a sort of detached interest over the next few years; their subsequent records had some great tracks, but never really felt like cohesive, fully-formed statements. That all changed with The Seldom Seen Kid. It was the first album that Elbow had released that made sense all the way through; they’d dabbled with the political on Leaders of the Free World, and the epic on Cast of Thousands, but it seemed like love was the theme that best suited the Bury band. Well-paced, expertly produced and tenderly played, it took four albums for them to reach their zenith – but when the end result contained songs like The Bones of You and The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver, the wait was forgivable.
19. The Strokes – ‘Is This It?’
An obvious choice, maybe, but it deserves a place on any Albums of the Noughties list. Not necessarily because it was an ‘influential’ force on bands that followed, or because Julian Casablancas and co. were updating the ’70s CBGBs leather-jacket-punk-cool for a new generation of hipsters – but because they had the tunes and the attitude and they knew how to implement both to make the maximum impact. There’s a reason why songs like Last Nite and Someday are indie disco staples almost a decade after they were released. I remember hearing Hard to Explain for the first time, and that two-second pause after Casablancas sputters ‘The joke is on you, this place is a zoo, your ride is through…’ was perfect. Simply a great album, and one that they haven’t come close to emulating since.
18. Basement Jaxx – ‘Rooty’
I love Basement Jaxx. I don’t get why they’re seen as a novelty act or a guilty pleasure by some people. Their first album Remedy was a hit-and-miss affair for me: I loved Red Alert and Bingo Bango but it felt like there was a bit too much filler between the big floorfilling tunes. Rooty, now – that was a different story. It’s still an album I can listen to from start to finish: Romeo, Jus 1 Kiss, Get Me Off, Where’s Your Head At?, Do Your Thing – the sound of a good dance crossover band becoming a really great one.
17. Ryan Adams – ‘Heartbreaker’
Ahhh, Ryan Adams. I can take him or leave him these days, but back in the day – before he became a self-indulgent numpty, started believing that everything he touched turned to gold (coincidentally, after the success of Gold) and releasing 25 albums a year, he made this amazing record. There was no fraternising with that goon from Counting Crows on this album. He worked with the cream of the alt-country realm – Dave Rawlings, Gillian Welch, even Emmylou Harris – and produced a debut album that was better than anything he’d done with Whiskeytown and anything he’s done since (perhaps with the exception of the very underrated Demolition). It was a record buoyed by humour and energy, but one with its embers stoked by heartache. It’s aged very well and still sounds great a decade later. What happened, Ryan?
16. The Streets – ‘Original Pirate Material’
You can thank Mike Skinner for this album, or blame him. Personally, despite the some of the profoundly tragic musical acts that have been spawned as a direct result of Original Pirate Material and the impact it had on the UK’s urban music scene, I’m in the former camp. There was nothing that Original Pirate Material was really comparable to at the time; the stream-of-consciousness thoughts of an early twentysomething Brummie set against the backdrop of a soundtrack that mixed hip-hop, drum ‘n’ bass and two-step to brilliant effect was totally, well, original. I re-listened to it a few weeks ago and surprisingly, it still sounds box-fresh. Tracks like Let’s Push Things Forward and Don’t Mug Yourself could still trouble the upper echelons of the charts if they were released in 2010 – but the question is, would the charts sound quite the same if this album had never been released?
15. Cathy Davey – ‘Tales of Silversleeve’
I loved this album from the very first time I heard it. It’s rare that that happens with me, but when records like Tales of Silversleeve come along, you sit up and take notice. Cathy Davey had previously barely registered on my radar; I knew and liked her debut Something Ilk, but it was hardly a favourite. But man, this second album wove magic into the seams of some superb songs. Her sense of rhythm within pop was brought to the fore, her voice sounded equally fragile and feisty, the musicianship and production was just right on every level. There were slow-builders that stretched their musical tentacles to the stars (Sing for Your Supper), short, snappy tunes that were impossible not to jig your shoulders to (The Collector) and songs tailor-made for radio play and festival singalongs (Moving). I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of this album.