Top 20 albums of the decade 2010-2019

The end of the decade brings a nice opportunity to reflect on the good and the truly exceptional. If you happen to have missed any of these, I implore you to give them a listen – needless to say every one is a gem in its own way…

1.) 65daysofstatic – We Were Exploding Anyway

This album opened my mind to a whole new genre of instrumental music and is one of the all-time best driving records.

2.) Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!

A graceful masterpiece that captures both the innocence of youth and the humility of ageing. Forget the Mercury-winning Seldom Seen Kid, this is Elbow at their finest.

3.) Gang Of Youths – Go Farther In Lightness

The only album on this list that I discovered late (so it doesn’t feature on any of my album of the year lists), Go Farther In Lightness is a sprawling epic, capped off by one of my all-time favourite songs, Perservere.

4.) Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

I was very excited when Pat Smear rejoined the Foo Fighters and sure enough this record sees them scale the heights of their previous record with him, The Colour and The Shape (still my #1 album of all time).

5.) Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

Cinematic in its scope and acutely observed, Win Butler’s world-weary lyricism instantly transports you to suburban Texas. A massively underrated album due to the lack of a standout single and perhaps the quintessential grower.

6.) Dry The River – Shallow Bed

The peak of the new-folk movement, Dry The River’s debut is a blissfully brilliant listen and made for a fantastic live show.

7.) Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones

In an era when English national identity has become something of a thorny issue, the warmth and honesty of this album is something to be cherished.

8.) Arctic Monkeys – AM

After two hugely underwhelming albums (Humbug, Suck It And See), this record heralded the rebirth of the Arctic Monkeys and made Alex Turner the coolest man in Britain.

9.) Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Daft Punk don’t release many albums (only 4 in their 22-year career) or play many live shows, but when they do it’s pretty special and makes the world sit up and take note. Of all the cameos on here, Nile Rogers’ collaboration seems like a match made in heaven.

10.) Biffy Clyro – Opposites

Most double albums leave me wishing the band had trimmed it down to one amazing record. Not this one, which is arguably the best of its kind. One of my biggest live music regrets is not shelling out to see them headline Reading with this wonderful noise.

11.) Public Service Broadcasting – Every Valley

12.) Mystery Jets – Curve Of The Earth

13.) Band Of Skulls – Himalayan

14.) Twin Atlantic – The Great Divide

15.) Dive Dive – Potential

16.) Idlewild – Everything Ever Written

17.) Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know

18.) Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

19.) Canterbury – Dark Days

20.) Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

Thanks to those of you who have followed my blog for the past 10 years – here’s to the next decade of fantastic music!

Top 20 albums of the year 2018

My first post in over a year* is the compulsory albums of the year round-up. Read on to listen to my top picks from the past 12 months…

1.) The Vaccines – Combat Sports

A perfect half-hour of pop rock delights from “the last of the great romantic poets”. The ideal soundtrack to the hottest summer in living memory.
Stream: Out On The Street, Rolling Stones

2.) Press To Meco – Here’s To The Fatigue

Croydon power trio hit the big time with Marshall Records and supremo producer Gene ‘Machine’ Freeman.
Stream: Familiar Ground, A Place In It All

3.) Eels – The Deconstruction

E lays his heart bare once again, taking in everything from fatherhood to divorce.
Stream: Sweet Scorched Earth, Today Is The Day

4.) The Go! Team – Semicircle

A dazzling smorgasbord of instrumentation and genre-bending, even better than their 2004 debut.
Stream: Mayday, All The Way Live

5.) Editors – Violence

Brummy quintet bring real electro swagger to their latest offering.
Stream: Belong, So Low (Hallelujah)

6.) Muse – Simulation Theory

So garish, so kitsch, so much fun. Their 2019 world tour can’t come soon enough.
Stream: Pressure, Propaganda

7.) Fatherson – Sum Of All Your Parts

This Kilmarnock trio have been lauded as the next Frightened Rabbit, and whilst they may not be at that level just yet, their third album is a huge step forward.
Stream: The Rain, Oh Yes

8.) Art Brut – Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!

The archetypal comeback record from Eddie Argos and co. Feat big brass.
Stream: Kultfigur, Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!

9.) LUMP – LUMP

Laura Marling/Mike Lindsay collab shimmers with chilled-out brilliance.
Stream: Late To The Flight, Curse Of The Contemporary

10.) Ash – Islands

Tim Wheeler’s break-up album is packed with hidden charms.
Stream: Incoming Waves, Buzzkill

11.) Orchards – Losers/Lovers
12.) Smashing Pumpkins – Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.
13.) Frank Turner – Be More Kind
14.) Black Foxxes – Reiði
15.) Thrice – Palms
16.) Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
17.) Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. – Young Adult
18.) Trophy Eyes – The American Dream
19.) Alkaline Trio – Is This Thing Cursed?
20.) The Magic Numbers – Outsiders

Looking forward to 2019, we can expect more pop-rock silliness from Weezer’s Black Album, comebacks from Millencolin and Doves, as well as the rumoured reincarnation of Creeper. In the meantime, I leave you with my video of the year – guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

*Convenient excuse – I became a dad!

 

Five of the best debut albums of the 21st century

On Saturday night at the HMV Forum, Funeral For A Friend called time on their 15-year career by playing their seminal, genre-defining debut album Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation in full. So with the final chords of Novella still ringing in my head, here is my run-down of the five best debut albums to come out so far this century.

5. Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – The Chronicles Of A Bohemian Teenager (2006)

Crossover maestro Sam Duckworth has dabbled in many styles throughout his ten-year career, from afrobeat to bossanova, but he has never sounded so fresh and so relevant as back in 2006 when it was just acoustic guitar, electronic samples and the odd flourish of brass.

4. Mr Hudson & The Library – A Tale Of Two Cities (2007)

Fans of Ben Hudson’s recent collaborations with Kanye West and Kid Cudi would barely recognise this musichall-influenced debut. Scattered with delicately beautiful vocal performances, virtuoso piano solos, drug-fuelled love songs, and introverted reflections on life in London, this album is a fine reminder of what he is truly capable of.

3. Dry The River – Shallow Bed (2012)

Some debut albums are so intimidatingly successful that a band will only be able to manage one attempt to surpass it before throwing in the towel (see Hope Of The States). Sadly for fans of rustic indie folk, this was exactly the case with Dry The River, who called it a day at the tail end of last year. However, this majestic album stands as a lasting testament to their ability to conjure up orchestral swells and towering choruses.

2. Hell Is For Heroes – The Neon Handshake (2003)

Powered by one of the most urgent voices in rock, Hell Is For Heroes’ debut swept all contenders before it and won Rock Sound’s album of the year in 2003. Emo is a much-maligned genre these days, but the utter conviction of Justin Schlosberg’s vocals mean that this record hits home just as hard today as it did back then.

1. Hundred Reasons – Ideas Above Our Station (2002)

A whirlwind album that set the bar for a new wave of British alt-rock bands coming through in the early 00s. Straight out of the blocks with the irrepressible I’ll Find You, Ideas Above Our Station set the standard by which Hundred Reasons (and many other bands of their ilk after them) would come to be judged.

Honourable mentions must go to the debut albums by Adequate Seven, Bloc Party, Finch, Saosin, Tall Ships and Rival Schools. Feel free to chip in with your favourites in the comments.

Six albums to get psyched about in 2016

The year is barely a fortnight old and the annual flood of new album announcements has begun in earnest. There’s no better way to brighten up your January than to listen to some new music, so here’s my round-up of six of the best albums to look forward to over the next 12 months:

Explosions In The Sky – Wilderness (April 1)

The Texan post-rockers seem to have had their fill of soundtracking movies and are returning for their first full-length LP in three years.

The first hint of what’s to come is Disintegration Anxiety, which is a more contained effort than anything on their previous album, but still retains the soaring ambition that has seen this instrumental rock act book a headline show at the Royal Albert Hall.

The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come To Expect (April 1)

Alex Turner and Miles Kane have joined forces once again for a follow-up to 2008’s Age Of The Understatement.

And if new track Bad Habits is anything to go by, they have kept the orchestral arrangements, but fitted them into a more rough-and-ready style.

Tall Ships – 2nd Album (coming soon)

The long awaited sophomore effort from the South Coast quartet is finally on the horizon if a recent Facebook update is to be believed.

Let’s just hope they’ve included the uplifting 2015 release Will To Life, which deserves to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their best efforts to date.

Biffy Clyro – 7th album (coming soon)

2015 was very much a year off for the Biffy boys, with just the one UK gig. But if you’re only going to play once, you might as well make it a headline set at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations.

That show gave us a big hint that another album is in the pipeline, with new track On A Bang nestled in amongst a greatest hits setlist. And given their relentless work ethic, you can safely bet that plenty more new tunes are on the way soon.

Sonic Boom Six – The F-Bomb (Early 2016)

Losing their drummer, a marriage within the band, these distractions would be enough to finish most bands, but Sonic Boom Six seem energised to take on 2016.

Never ones to shy away from the big issues, the Manchester ska-punk collective appear to be honing their sights on feminism if the title of album number five is anything to go by.

Travis – Everything At Once (April 29)

Having long since lost the pressure of being a chart dominating act, Travis finally seem to be embracing the freedom to try something new.

Comeback single Everything At Once is like nothing we’ve ever heard from Fran Healy and co – this could be one of the most intriguing releases of the year.