Wednesday, 17 February 2010

My 50 favourite albums of the 2000s [50-46]

Since it's currently the flavour of the month to be releasing lists of the albums of the 2000s, I figured that it was a timely opportunity to post my list. Yes, pedants, I realise that the decade doesn't end until the end of 2010; that's why I said albums of the 2000s, not albums of the decade.

I unconditionally recommend any album from this list. If the description sounds interesting, don't be afraid to pick up the album (legally) and support the dying music business.

50. Bob Dylan - Love and theft (2001)

This was the 2nd episode in his so-called "comeback trilogy" (beginning with Time out of mind from 1997, and concluding with Modern times in 2006). I guess that makes this the Empire Strikes Back, Back to the future II or Godfather 2 of the trilogy; but while those movies are definitely the darkest of their respective trilogies, the opposite is true here: this was Dylan at his chirpiest we had heard him in years. Of course, it helped that the previous album was one of his darkest, both lyrically and musically.

While many Dylan albums are a product of their cohesion and sequencing, this one is more about individual moments than anything else. There's a lot of diversity on this album, from the upbeat country & western of opener Tweedle dee & tweedle dum, to the nostalgic folk-rock of Mississippi (later covered by Sheryl Crow) and the traditional blues of High water. Bob even throws in a few curve balls, with the breezy Bye and bye and crooning torch song Moonlight being unlike anything he had ever released.

While it's possible he still has another classic album in him (I'm one of the few who found his follow-up Modern times very overrated), this may turn out to be the last great album from one of the best songwriters of the last 50 years.

49. The Delgados - Hate (2002)

Scottish indie band The Delgados had a remarkable run-rate in the 2000s, releasing 3 albums (The great eastern, Hate and Universal audio) to high critical acclaim. I got into their music in reverse chronological order, which turned out to be a good move; Universal audio is probably their most accessible (or poppy) album and a great entry-point into their catalogue.

Hate (as its title suggests) is a much darker album; it lives in its own melancholic world which is both enchanting and strangely hopeful. Lead vocal duties are shared between Alun Woodward and Emma Pollock, which adds diversity to the sound and keeps it interesting over repeated listens. The instrumental tracks are lush and complex, augmented by minor-key piano chord progressions and strings to suit the mood of the songs (the eerie backing vocals on Woke from dreaming sounding like something from one of Kate Bush's more experimental albums).

The first 6 songs in particular (The light before we land through to Child killers) are some of the most beautifully subdued indie folk songs I have heard in many years. Lyrically dark and musically symphonic, this album is highly recommended to anyone who likes intelligent indie music.

48. Spoon - Kill The Moonlight (2002)

Spoon were one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the 2000s. Review aggregator website Metacritic recently gave them the crown of the top overall artist of the decade, based on the average score for all of their albums released in the noughties.

Kill the moonlight was their 4th album, and their 2nd release of the decade. If you've ever heard a Spoon song before, there's nothing particularly surprising here. The album alternates between more catchy melodic numbers -- the perfect pop of The way we get by, the beat-boxing of Stay don't go -- and more groove-oriented affair like Small stakes, Paper tiger and You gotta feel it.

Britt Daniel's nasal rockstar vocals is their biggest asset, but it's the fusion of his delivery with the tightness of the rest of the band which makes them one of the greatest bands of recent years. This is minimalistic indie rock/pop music at its best.

47. Badly Drawn Boy - About A Boy (2002)

2002 was a big year for Damon Gough, a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boy. He released his 2nd album proper (Have you fed the fish?) which was a decent indie pop album, but most would agree that it was overshadowed by his soundtrack to the film adaptation of Nick Hornby's About a boy.

Alternating between some very catchy songs (with Gough on vocals) and lush, melodic instrumentals (about half of the album is score), this soundtrack is incredibly cohesive and consistent. Some of his finest songs are on here -- Something to talk about, Silent sigh and A minor incident, which is possibly my favourite BDB song. The instrumentals are often equally stunning -- the lush I love N.Y.E. and upbeat Delta (Little boy blues) being the highlights.

The album also has the right amount of quirk and schmaltz (File me away, A peak you reach), demonstrating Damon's offbeat sense of humour without going overboard like he did on some of his later albums.

This is one of those rare soundtracks that works equally well out of the context of its parent film; music fans will be enjoying these tunes when the film is a distant memory.

46. Ed Harcourt - Here Be Monsters (2001)

My first memory of Ed Harcourt was hearing the opening song from this album, Something in my eye, on the radio. A few days later, I heard Hanging with the wrong crowd. When his name was back-announced, I realised that both songs were by the same artist.

I immediately made note of it and did some research on him. It turned out that his debut full-length album was highly acclaimed by critics, and was even nominated for the Mercury Prize. That was enough to convince me to pick it up at HMV in the city.

What I like about this album is that it doesn't sound like a debut. All of the songs are fully formed (granted, rough drafts of some appeared on his prior Maplewood EP); the composition and craft on display here sounds like the work of a songwriting veteran, not a 24-year-old releasing his debut album.

This is an album of 3 parts. The opening 6 tracks (Something in my eye to Apple of my eye) are the more accessible songs, with the gorgeous Those crimson tears in the middle to add a bit of darkness and shade. God protect my soul is the undisputed highlight of this section, and the album.

Beneath my heart of darkness and Wind through the trees provide a 15-minute breather, or mood piece, in the middle of the album. They take a while to grow on you, but eventually their beauty shines through after many listens. Ed's vocal resemblance to Glenn Richards (from Augie March) in the last minute of Wind through the trees is eerie.

Finally, the last 3 songs (Birds fly backwards to Like only lovers can) return to the accessible and melodic sound of the opening songs, book-ending the album nicely.

There isn't a dull moment on this 52-minute album -- one of the great debuts of the decade.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post Jiggy, looking forward to seeing the list. I have to correct you on one thing though, Crow actually recorded Mississippi before Dylan did. It was for her 1998 album The Globe Sessions. The story I heard was that Bob rang her up and said he has this song that he thought she might like to record. Either way, its a good track.

    I love the BDB soundtrack as well, and your description is pretty good. This album would be right up there if I had to do a top list of the 2000's. I love the song Minor Incidents, and the instrumental I love N.Y.E. is great, I even used it as mingling music prior to our wedding ceremony. Its a beautiful piece.


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