Oops, I realised that I wrote about six albums in my first post, instead of five – so here are the next four.
14. Fleet Foxes – ‘Fleet Foxes’
I’ve always been a fan of bands that use harmonies effectively. The (mostly crap) music collections of my parents and older siblings really had no influence on my own taste, but there were three tapes gathering dust in the press underneath the stereo that I discovered when I was 11 or 12, and subsequently played to death. One was Queen’s ‘Greatest Hits II’. The other was a Beatles ‘Best Of’, and the other was an Everly Brothers ‘Best Of’. I appreciated the calibre of classic songwriting and the singalong quality of the former two, but I absolutely fell in love with the close harmonies of Don and Phil Everly, and to this day, they’re a band I listen to regularly. When I first heard Fleet Foxes’s eponymous debut, I got that same feeling of warmth from songs like White Water Hymnal and Ragged Wood as I did from Cathy’s Clown and Devoted to You. We’ll still be listening to (and loving) this album in thirty years’ time because there’s a timeless quality about it. A group of young men (22 at the time of release, in Robin Pecknold’s case) shouldn’t have clocked up enough life experience in order to craft a record like this, but somehow, they managed it.
13. Franz Ferdinand – ‘Franz Ferdinand’
Think back to 2004. The British music scene was sputtering up leather-jacket clad Libertines clones like there was no tomorrow, nudging them onto the NME conveyor belt, having them declared the Next Big Thing, and promptly forgetting their name once their debut album had been released. Out of nowhere, this group of skinny, shirt-clad Scotsmen released a single called ‘Darts of Pleasure’ that was as pointed as its title suggested. Their influences were all namedropped semi-obscure acts befitting of an art-school education: Josef K, The Fire Engines, Orange Juice, Talking Heads. But by heck, forget the pretentiousness: when it came down to it, they knew how to write a pop song. This album is brimming with them; the jerky, homoerotic vim of Michael, the swinging, stylish thump of Take Me Out, the shady murmur of Auf Achse. Their finest hour.
12. Animal Collective – ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’
What? An album that’s barely a year old making an ‘Albums of the Decade’ list? Well, it just goes to show what an impact Merriweather Post Pavilion had on the musical landscape of 2009. Before they released their opus, Animal Collective had been too out-there for most people, too willfully obscure, too intense to digest in one sitting. Their eighth album was a venn diagram that incorporated their wacky innovation with a pop sensibility they hadn’t previously plumbed to its full extent. A kaleidoscope of sound that contains constant unexpected explosions and twists, but still nowhere close to flirting with the mainstream, it kept the fanboys happy while initiating newbies into their weird, intoxicating world.
11. Outkast – ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’
I once worked with someone who tried to make me feel guilty for liking this album. They were your quintessential music snob, a person who sneered at albums the populace were buying in their droves because it was a) r ‘n’ b/hip-hop and b) popular. Luckily, I got past it and immersed myself in one of the most enjoyable albums I’ve heard in the past ten years. What made Speakerboxxx/The Love Below so great was that ‘/’ in the middle of its title. This is certainly an album of two distinct halves; Big Boi’s bombastic, funky club tunes and Andre 3000’s combo of smooth, Prince-style sleaze and swaggering, self-confident hip-pop songs. It wouldn’t have worked as a one album – the sheer diversity within means that it would have been very disjointed. As a combined package, though: wow.