Tag Archives: Daft Punk

Pharrell ‘G I R L’ – Review

14 Mar
Remember when Pharrell Williams used to make really innovative hip hop? I’d forgotten, and I had to remind myself by searching for old videos on youtube. And yep, there he is on ‘In Search Of…’ rapping over schizoid beats. There’s no doubt that the thing he was probably best known for a decade ago has been overshadowed; firstly by his unbelievable work as a pop producer with The Neptunes, and more recently as a singer of retro-soul disco. He did pop up on the biggest hip hop album of 2012, ‘Good Kid Mad City’, as well as releases by Odd Future and Frank Ocean, but Pharell Williams’ days as a futurist, experimental Hip Hop personality are well and truly in the past. He’s shaved off the surname as any pop star worth their weight has to: enter, Pharrell.
As somebody who once revived the careers of Britney and Justin Timberlake (amongst others) it’s a bit ironic that it took Daft Punk to rejuvenate Pharrell’s career, but indeed that is what was needed and that is what happened. His fairly serviceable vocal was probably the least important element of the still stunning ‘Get Lucky’ but there’s no doubt it put him back on the map. Then ‘Blurred Lines’ and ‘Happy’ came along and confirmed his position as the most ubiquitous pop star of the  year. Of course, It’s a bit odd that one of this century’s most forward thinking artists should abandon their innovative streak entirely, but that is exactly what Pharell has done over the past twelve months. Those three singles have eradicated any memory of Pharrell Williams, the innovator. In itself this seemingly populist and tacky move is actually fairly brave, but only because he achieved it with such style and success. If he had gone down the commercial route and failed, he would have destroyed any credibility he once built up. As it is, ‘Get Lucky’, ‘Blurred Lines’ and ‘Happy’ were excellent, and tapped into a seemingly endless reserve of good will. Pharrelll became an unlikely comeback kid.
It was no real surprise that Columbia snapped him up to make an LP, but it was surprising how quickly it was announced and then released; no doubt to capitalise on the success of that trio of hit singles. The rush release perhaps explains why nothing on ‘G I R L’ comes even remotely close to matching their success – yet they all follow the same formula, which makes ‘G I R L’ a predictable but surprisingly disappointing album.
Whether he was hooking up with Daft Punk and Nile on ‘Get Lucky’, Robin Thicke on ‘Blurred Lines’ or the minions on ‘Happy’, Pharrell MK2 seems only to work when paired with a slightly out of sync guest. Therefore there are a few guest appearances on ‘G I R L’ but all are obvious, and none provide the mismatched friction that spurred on those other duets.  ‘Gust of Wind’ features Daft Punk, who sing it by numbers in their increasingly confident robotic tones. As a song it falls way short of ‘Get Lucky’, and even a bit short of ‘Loose Yourself to Dance.’ Where those songs served the groove, ‘Gust of Wind’ serves the rather lacklustre melody and is all the more forgettable for it. The pedestrian pace and static string arrangement make it feel twice as long as it really is.
Justin Timberlake appears briefly on ‘Brand New’ and reminds you what an essential combination these two made on ‘Justified’, now unbelievably 12 years old. It’s sort of ironic that Justin could have used some of Pharrell’s energy and economy on last years ‘20/20 experience, whilst Pharell could use Justin’s ambition and vision here. Maybe they should swap phone numbers and make this a more regular thing. JT sounds instantly more youthful and energised than he has done in years, even if the song is really rather forgettable.
Elsewhere Miley Cyrus produces her most shocking turn yet by failing to do anything even remotely shocking on the totally middle of the road ‘Come Get It’, Jojo shows up on the most ambitious and interesting song on here ‘Lost Queen’, and Alicia Keys duets on the nice ‘Know Who You Are.’ Over ten songs Pharrell doesn’t put a foot seriously wrong – it’s all very smooth and enjoyable – but that’s because he doesn’t venture outside of a comfort zone. That makes ‘G I R L’ a likeable failure as far as I’m concerned.
After working so closely with other artists, and borrowing so heavily from other sounds, you can’t help but come to the conclusion that Pharrell hasn’t carved out enough space for himself here. The beat boxing on ‘Brand New’ reminds you of ‘Like I Love You’, the clicks and pops on ‘Marylin Monroe’ take you back to ‘Milkshake’, and the swirling falsetto melodies instantly make you reminisce about ‘She Loves to Move’ – and yet those songs had an original flair. Like JT on ‘The 20/20 Experience Part 2’, Pharrell trades on the past, both his own and pop music in general, far too often and far too casually. So many years on, these same takes on his signature moves sound as old-fashioned and snoozy as the constant Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye nods. Pharrell uses the obvious signifiers and cheats of his past but forgets that the most defining trait of his older material was the originality and attitude.
‘G I R L’ is overwhelmingly nice and pleasant and has about as much attitude as a teddy bear. If this had been a collection of ten ‘Get Lucky’s or ‘Blurred Lines’ we would be forced to look past that, but it simply isn’t. These are ten good songs, that don’t really combine to make anything significant. It may be unfair that Pharrell’s past success is hanging over him like a shadow, but when he makes the links so obvious you can’t help but compare ‘G I R L’ to the great albums he’s worked on in the past. It just doesn’t stand up because, some questionable lyrics aside, ‘G I R L’ does nothing to make you question, think, engage or react; it simply asks that you switch your mind off and enjoy.

6/10

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Daft Punk ‘Random Access Memories’ – Review

29 May
Unity is one of the most overlooked casualties of the Internet age. It’s a myth that the Internet brings us together. Theoretically It makes it a lot easier for people to communicate but practically it isolates us. We sit alone at computers as the hours pass by, staring at a screen. It’s also a myth that the Internet has opened this generation’s minds to new ideas. Sure, we have access to all kinds of Information, but do we take it in? Look at music; we now have access to pretty much every song ever recorded but does that make us intrepid explorers? Of course it doesn’t. When you go to a buffet you end up having what you know you like and in the same way when you open spotify you listen to music you know you like. We go to forums to play-fight with like-minded individuals and we visit websites we know are going to back up our arguments. The Internet has enabled us to become even more caught up in our own preferred sub-cultures. We tweet our opinions in tiny sound-bites that are so numerous and inconsequential that nobody cares to read them. We talk AT people about music but I bet we don’t talk TO people about music anywhere near as much these days. The internet has divided us.
But I think music still has the potential to bring us together, even if it’s happening less and less. Traditionally album release days have been hugely important in uniting us but in 2013 everyone listens in fragments. First there are the dodgy youtube live versions, then the leaks, then the amazon-previews and the official streams… people get their music at completely different times. The other week it was reported that Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories’ is likely to overtake Oasis’ ‘Be Here Now’ for highest first week sales, and it’s interesting to think back to the release of that Oasis album. People qued around the block for it, waiting for record stores (where are they now?) to open so they could be the first to PURCHASE (not stream it or download it or steal it) the album. They went home and listened to it at pretty much the same time on the same morning. News stations sent reporters down to Interview the fans lining up outside. In one such clip found on YouTube a young Pete Doherty is interviewed in line, along with other music-greedy teenagers, eagerly anticipating a new release from his favourite band. It’s hard not to be nostalgic on several different levels; nostalgic for teenagers with patience, nostalgic for a time when a new Oasis record was a big deal, nostalgic for physical albums, nostalgic for Pete Doherty’s innocence and nostalgic for tangible music fandom.
Music fans rarely get that excited these days. But something similar is happening with ‘Random Access Memories’. You just need to watch footage from the release parties around the world to see how excited people have been for this. Daft Punk fans are excited. People who had never previously heard of Daft Punk are excited. School Kids are excited. Their parents are excited. Their grandparents are excited. Radio 1 DJ’s are excited. Heart FM DJs are excited. Late Night Pirate Radio DJs are excited. Hard boiled critics are excited. Poptimists are excited. I’m excited. The world is excited. It feels for the first time in ages, everyone is on the same page about something. And this is no exaggeration – I’ve yet to meet a person who has heard Get Lucky and hasn’t been counting down the seconds, minutes and hours ‘till the release of this album. The amazing thing is that Daft Punk haven’t released a record in 8 years – and their last one was savaged by the press and only entered the charts at number 10! It’s been well over a decade since their last hit and last indisputable triumph and yet ‘Get Lucky’ is on its fourth week at number one. Daft Punk are in their 20th year as a band but they’ve never sounded so relevant.
Their current success is down to hype caused by a remarkable PR campaign that saw the band steal the show at Coachella with a 30 second advert, parodied at Funnyordie.com for their collaborator videos and take over a small rural Australian Agricultural festival. In the process they’ve hardly made an appearance, instead leaving it to the likes of Pharell Williams, Georgio Moroder, Todd Edwards, Nile Rodgers and Panda Bear to do the talking (and in the process drop superlatives like they’re going out of fashion). Mystique is another dying art that Daft Punk know how to create.
In fact, they’ve created such a storm AROUND the album that there’s a very real danger the music itself will be reduced to a footnote – which is the complete opposite of what they want to achieve. The whole point of this record is that it puts the focus back on pure, man-made, lovingly crafted MUSIC. It’s an album designed to unite the people.  The opening track is called ‘Give Life Back to Music’ and it plays like a working manifesto. It’s a roaring success. It’s had to express just how ALIVE the song feels. Every element of it is warm, detailed and joyous.  It sets the tone for an album that is (ironically considering their whole ‘robot’ personas) one of the most human sounding releases I’ve heard in ages.
‘Give Life Back to Music’ melts into ‘The Game of Love’ a song that shimmer’s and ripples like the most laid-back disco classic. Listen to it long enough and you can visualise the light reflecting from the disco ball in a dark club. The robots’ vocoder vocals are an object of great beauty; playful, mysterious and futuristic but nowhere near as creepy or manipulated as the auto-tuned garbage you’re used to hearing in mainstream pop. The synths almost glide; they don’t poke against the other instruments as synths usually do, instead they are used as a bed for everything else to lie on, or a bath for you to soak in. I hope I’m expressing just how warm and smooth and essential the sonic soundscape of the song is. It’s just flawless.
Over the course of 73 minutes (the absolute maximum run time of a single CD), you’ll be transported through many sounds and moods. From the theatrical oddness of the Paul Williams (dude wrote the soundtrack to the Muppets Christmas Carol) co-penned ‘Touch’, to the silky LA soft-rock of the Todd Edwards co-penned ‘Fragments of Time’, this is an album that frolics in kitsch and corn with a non-ironic smile. It’s fun and sometimes funny. It loves with an open heart and doesn’t have a discriminative bone in its body. The session musicians featured, as much as the marquee names, exude class and expertise. The ‘Billie Jean’ bounce on ‘Instant Crush’ is provided by the legendary session player J.R Robinson (he actually played on Billie Jean) and features Julian Casablancas doing his best 2013 Julian Casablancas impression (hey, it’s the best thing to bear his name in at least two years, even if he is sticking with that dreadful falsetto vocal). And it may be Pharell Williams who sings on the two singles but it’s Chic legend Nile Rodgers who provides his now staple funky riff. Elsewhere seasoned guitarist Paul Jackson Jr (whose credits include Thriller) and bass player Nathan East (co-wrote some of Phil Collins hits) sprinkle some star dust over some old-fashioned song-writing.
Despite being such a long and diverse collection, many of the songs are striking in their immediacy. ‘Lose Your Dance’ may be the slightly stodgier, slightly less groovy brother to ‘Get Lucky’ but it has summer smash hit written all over it. ‘Contact’ is a euphoric climax that takes off to the sound of an astronaut discussing some kind of alien object as seen from a distance. Best of all is the epic ‘Georgio by Moroder’. When I heard they were putting a ten minute long spoken word piece as the third track I was justifiably intrigued and perplexed. How could this possibly work? Especially so early on? Well It does. Something about his accent (‘the synthesiser‘), the ‘I Feel Love’ hook and repetitive groove make it one of the definitive disco tracks of recent years.
As a perfectly HUMAN album it’s logical that ‘Random Access Memories’ should be imperfect, which it is. The other week I spoke to a serious collector of obscure disco, a guy who really knows his stuff. I asked him what he thought of ‘Get Lucky’ and although he was as charmed as anyone else by the song’s luxurious melody and accurate recreation of the Chic sound, he was slightly disappointed. ‘I just wish they’d done it harder. Just…HARDER.’ Although I didn’t really know what he meant (he was extremely drunk at the time…possibly stoned) at the same time I knew exactly what he meant. Maybe it’s because we’re so used to drum n bass BPMs and dub-step drops, but ‘Random Access Memories’ feels very light and un-forceful. Nothing on here ever really pushes the tempo and there are one too many ballads for a dance record. I’m reminded of their own song: ‘HARDER, BETTER, FASTER, STRONGER’. Maybe they should have taken on board some of their own imperatives. The only other major flaw of the album is its length. All the classic disco albums (as few as there are) are under 40 minutes. ‘Random Access Memories’ is twice that length, and it loses focus because of it. The only discernible filler is the completely pointless, lethargic and forgettable ‘Motherboard’ but I would have also sacrificed ‘Within’ and ‘Beyond’ – two atmospheric slow jams that dull the pace a little too much.
This is such a hefty, rollercoaster of an album that it can be a little hard to comfortably digest, especially on early listens. It’s called ‘Random Access Memories because (and I’ll quote Daft Punk on this) “It helped us understand how all of these collaborators could live together, because if you look at this bizarre list of people on paper, you could be like, ‘Whoa, that’s gonna be a big mess.” Seen from this perspective the album makes a lot more sense. As a coherent, front to back record it doesn’t work well at all. But as a series of random musical, collaborative memories collected together, it does work. It works very well indeed. In fact it feels like a very important album. It’s one that most people are likely to hear at some point, in some way, and therefore most people are going to form an opinion about it. You will continue to hear ‘Get Lucky’ everywhere. Probably ‘Loose Yourself to Dance’ as well. Sure it has its flaws, but I’m pretty certain you’re not going to remember what you disliked about Random Access Memories, you’re just going to remember its triumphs. I can already imagine it soundtracking key events in 2013 and beyond: Family barbeques, birthday parties, long car-drives, DJ sets, festivals, weddings, tv shows, freshers week shenanigans etc. ‘Random Access Memories’ is going to help create some pretty epic memories.
When people left Coachella they weren’t talking about anything other than Daft Punk and I’d be surprised if people left 2013 without that name still being on their lips. In a very old-fashioned, but very 21st Century way Daft Punk have put us all on the same page again. So whether we are listening to them at festivals or on itunes, talking about them in record store ques or on blogs, thinking about how retro they are or how futuristic they are, we will be united over Daft Punk.
9/10

100 Best Albums of the Decade

21 Dec

100. Since I Left you – The Avalanches (2000) (The ultimate party album, made up of seemingly endless samples).

99. Turn out The Bright Lights – Interpol (2003) (Dark and bleak but these were not the simple Joy Division copyists they may have seemed to begin with).

98. Employment – Kaiser Chiefs (2005) (A catchy (some might say to a fault) and arresting debut album from post punk popstars named after an African football side).

97. Back To Black – Amy Winehouse (2007) (It’s amazing that this album did as well as it did, what with all the tabloid stories that plagued her (of her own doing of course). There is no denying the power of her voice or the brilliant production).

96. The Coral – The Coral (2002) (Fed off the Strokes success but kept true to their own unique and influential sound).

95. Faded Seaside Glamour – Delays (2003) (An often overlooked post Britpop, psychedelic triumph).

94. First Days of Spring – Noah and The Whale (2009) (Takes a traditional but overused theme and re-energizes it for the 21st century).

93. Modern Times – Bob Dylan (2006) (Bob’s work of the last ten years has been better than anything he’s done since the 70’s. Modern times was my favourite of the albums).

92. V – Johnny Cash (2006) (The moving final statement from Johnny Cash. Understated and magical).

91. An other cup – yusuf (2006) (After 30 years away Cat Stevens returned as Yusuf and it was as if he’d never been away. An Other Cup sounded beautiful).

90. Yours to Keep – Albert Hammond Jr (2006) (Solo album from The Strokes guitarist was better than most people would have thought. Packed with brilliant melodies).

89. Permission to Land – The Darkness (2003) (The Darkness were no joke, this had some of the biggest riffs this side of Back in Black).

88. Someone to drive you home – The Long Blondes (2006) (An album that obviously recalled Blondie but had so much more going on. Imagery plucked straight out of a film noir and some stunning melodies.)

87. Final Straw – Snow Patrol (2004) (One of the least cool bands of the decade, Snow Patrol may have spent the majority of it making sickly radio anthems but ‘Final Straw’ was an important, ambitious and heart warming stab at the big time.

86. Show Your Bones – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2006) (Fever to tell was overrated – Their second album ‘Show Your Bones’ was their masterpiece.)

85. Discovery – Daft Punk (2001) (Faceless dance pioneers make the best party album of the decade).

84. Man In The Mirror – Rhymefest (2008) (Who would have thought a tribute album to the king of pop, produced by Mark Ronson would turn out to be the best hip hop mix tape of the decade? Obviously has new significance in light of Michael Jackson’s death but this was always stunning).

83. The Grey Album – Jay Z / Dangermouse (2004) Jay Z made two classic albums this decade but I prefer the dangermouse mix that gave Jay Z’s rhymes a more cohesive and imaginative backdrop).

82. You Are The Quarry – Morrissey (2004) (Morrissey’s return was triumphant, this decade saw the release of his best album since leaving The Smiths. Possibly the best comeback (of many) of the noughties.)

81. A Rush Of Blood To The Head – Coldplay (2002) (So Coldplay, like U2 before them, represent what a lot of people hate. Yes Coldplay made some terrible music this decade, but you cannot deny the influence this album had, you can hear it everywhere. And anyway, it features some jaw dropping songs, such as ‘Clocks’ and ‘The Scientist’. Underestimate this at your peril).

80. Colour it In – The Maccabes (2007) (This was a ramshackle debut made up of seemingly endless, brilliant singles.)

79. Michigan – Sufjan Stevens (2003) (Sufjan’s first grand opus was of a more restrained album than Illinoise, but no less effecting).

78. Be your own pet – be your own pet (2006) (Raw pop punk from a band that should have been much bigger than they were).

77. Summertime – The Drums (2009) (Technically this may be a ’mini’ album but I just had to include it – this band are without a doubt the ones to watch in 2010).

76. O – Damien Rice (2002) (Sombre and moving stuff from the Irish singer songwriter).

75. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles (2008) (Innovative digi punk from two Canadian weirdos. One of the few truly original records released this decade).

74. Only By The Night – Kings Of Leon (2008) (This album alienated their old fans and brought them twice as many new ones. To me it was a natural progression from Because of the times and their success was very well deserved. This was an album it was impossible to escape for a year).

73. I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning – Bright Eyes (2005) Bright Eyes reached a creative peak with this collection of modern folk songs).

72. A Grand Don’t Come For Free – The Streets (2004) (The 21st century concept album that could be enjoyed as a whole as well as listened to in pieces thanks to some brilliant singles. Who could forget the youthful vigour of ‘Fit But You Know It’ or the tender ‘Dry Your Eyes’).

71. Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam (2006) (Grunge rock survivors returned with a politically relevant and exciting album of rock songs. This band are true masters of their craft.)

70. Wolfmother – Wolfmother (2006) (packed with intelligent and heavy riffs, ‘Woflmother’ was better than any real metal album released in the last ten years).

69. Sams town – The killers (2006) (British 80’s pop was swapped for Americana rock on The Killers red white and blue album. Greatly underrated, this album was an ambitious, swooping stab at greatness that paid off with the band soon headlining festivals and playing arenas.

68. Kala – MIA (2007) (A Very brave album from one of the decades most innovative and exciting artists).

67. Teenager – The Thrills (2007) (As definitive an album of being a teenager as I’ve ever heard. The band showed great progression from their original surf pop sound).

66. Glasvegas – Glasvegas (2008) (The Scottish Band’s debut was prone to filler but 6 of these 10 tracks were as good as anything else this decade, and Daddy’s gone in particular was one of the most effecting songs released in ages.)

65. Boy In Da Corner – Dizzee Rascal (2003) (One of the few truly trend setting British artists of the decade, Dizzee was in a league of his own when he released Boy In Da Corner).

64. Volume One – She and Him (2008) (Who would have thought that actress Zoey Deschanel would have such a distinctive set of lungs. A very pretty album).

63. All Hour Cymbols – Yeasayer (2008) (Exploring world music and western pop, Yeasayer’s debut had a truly distinctive sound.

62. Get behind me Satan – The White stripes (2005) (The follow-up to Elephant shocked many people for it’s lack of guitar, but this was an equally stunning and even more jarring album.)

61. Cross – Justice (2007) (A Dance album that got comparisons to Daft Punk – this was better than anything they did this decade. Cross was as fun as they come).

60. Black Holes and Revelations – Muse (2006) (The Follow up to Absolution was paranoid and twitchy but it didn’t hold back on the massive tunes, and they don’t come bigger than ‘Knights of Cydonia’)

59. LCD Soundsystem – Lcd Soundsystem (2004) (James Murphy did some brilliant work with his DFA label, but his own debut set the tone for what was to come in terms of dance rock and Nu Rave. Great fun).

58. Neon Bible – The Arcade Fire (2007) (A snapshot of a scary post 9/11 world, Neon Bible was the paranoid follow-up to funeral that was instantly darker and more intense, but as a result a little less enjoyable).

57. College Dropout- Kanye West (2004) (The most consistently exciting and innovative hip hop artist of this (and maybe any other) decade. A magnificent showcase).

56. Thunder Lightning Strike – The Go Team (2005) (Cut up, Mashed, lo-fi madness. This sounded like a 70’s cop show theme mixed with just about every type of music known to man).

55. A Certain Trigger – Maximo Park (2005) (It feels like A Certain Trigger has gotten better with time, maybe it’s because it sounded so similar to many other albums released that year – it’s class is now obvious).

54. 21 – Mystery Jets (2008) (Who would have thought Mystery Jets would have produced an album like this after their bizarre debut. A pop gem).

53. Puzzle – Biffy Clyro (2007) (Biffy Gave Math Rock a much-needed facelift and introduced it to stadium rock and melancholy on Puzzle).

52. Age of The Understatement – Last Shadow Puppets (2008) (This wasn’t simply Arctic Monkeys with strings. The combination of Alex and Miles was genius and they produced a stunning debut album).

51.Youth and Young Manhood – Kings of Leon (2003) (The Southern Strokes were one of the most consistently enjoyable acts of the decade, releasing 4 amazing albums in the space of a few years. Their debut is still my favourite…just).

50. Untrue – Burial (2007) (A true innovator, dubstep surely has a much larger role to play next decade, this will be looked back upon as a big step forward).

49. The XX – The XX (2009) (A unique act with a unique vision. Dark and claustrophobic but extremely passionate).

48. Jacksonville City Nights – Ryan Adams (2005) (Of all the many albums Adam’s released this decade, Jacksonville City Nights Is my favourite. Alt Country at it’s purest and best).

47. Merriweather Post Pavilion – Animal Collective (2009) (Animal Collective were truly the leaders of the pack this decade in producing innovative and out there music but it was when they conceded some things to pop that they unleashed their best work.

46. Invincible – Michael Jackson (2002) (The Last album Michael Jackson released in his lifetime was not the grand finale it should have been. But in his death we can view the album with fresh eyes, and songs like ‘Speechless’ and ‘You are my Life’ take on new meaning and beauty. It may have been too long and overblown but at it’s best this album has moments to rival anything released by Justin Timberlake or Usher.)

45. Absolution – Muse (2003) (This album was built for stadiums, from the marching intro to the grand centrepiece of ‘Time Is Running Out.’ They went from strength to strength this decade, and show no signs of slowing down.

44. Hot Fuss – The Killers (2004) (Their influences were all British and mid 80’s but there was something warmly American and very cool about this Los Angeles band. Simply they had some of the best singles released in ages).

43. So Much For The City – The Thrills (2003) (The Killers were an American band who thought they were English and living in the 80’s. The Thrills were Irish thinking they were living in 1960’s California. Keeping up! A wonderful collection of timeless songs.

42. Give Blood – Brakes (2005) (Short. Simple. Stunning).

41. Do You Like Rock Music – British Sea Power (2008) (British Sea Power went full-out rock for their third album, but lost none of the fine eye for detail that had made their other albums so good).

40. Elephant – The White Stripes (2003) (After the raw intensity of White Blood Cells, Elephant was a much more considered and powerful beast. This was stacked with riff after riff, including the magnificent ‘seven nation army’)

39. Down in Albion – Babyshambles (2005) (This received mixed reviews at the time due to it’s shambolic production, lack of editing and tabloid lyrics. Overtime these things have become a part of it’s charm and it is now assuredly a classic album of it’s era).

38. Saturdays = Youth – M83 (2008) (A nostalgic throwback to the 80’s and teenage romance, this album arrived at just the right time and benefited from the shoe gaze revival).

37. Myths of the near Future – Klaxons (2007) (So New Rave was one of the decade’s biggest failures. After a lot of interest and early promise only this record by Klaxons could match the hype, and this wasn’t even new rave. Only a few songs on here show ed prominent dance influence, the rest of the album is more in keeping with space rock or prog traditions, although there was energy to spare).

36. Your New Favourite Band – The Hives (2004) (A throwback to the garage bands of the 60’s, The Hives were one of the key plays in the garage rock revival of the early noughties. Four of these songs are as good as anything the Strokes or White Stripes did and the rest is pretty good to boot).

35. You Could Have It So Much Better – Franz Ferdinand (2005) In many respects a better album than their debut. Franz thought out of the box with songs like ‘Walkaway’ whilst staying true to former glories with the likes of ‘Do you want to).

34. 808s and Heartbreaks – Kanye West (2008) This was a truly bold move from Kanye. The world was expecting and would have made done with another Graduation but this came completely out of nowhere. Steeped in sadness and tragedy, Kanye expressed his emotion through a vocoder and 808 drum machine. Stunning stuff).

33. Who Killed The Zutons – The Zutons (2004) (The Zuton’s debut has been forgotten in recent years, if The Zutons are talked of at all it’s usualy in reference to the Amy Winehouse cover that was a big hit. But their first album was packed with tunes every bit the equal of ‘Valerie’. Just listen to ‘Remember Me’ or ‘Don’t ever Think’, two of the best pop songs released in zonks.

32. Room on Fire – The Strokes (2003) (How to follow-up a generation defining debut has stumped many bands, but The Strokes didn’t get enough credit for their second. Of course it isn’t as good as ‘is this it’ and it never could have been but ‘Room On Fire’ has it’s own charm and it still ranks as one of the best albums of the last 10 years.

31. For Emma Forever Ago – Bon Iver (2008) (An album recorded in isolation, away from the outside world – this is an old-fashioned lp of dedication and heartbreak.)

30. Album – Girls (2009) (Girls debut arrived in the final few months of the decade but it has already become a firm favourite. The band took classic melodies and themes and subverted them in a very witty 21st century way. You just need to hear ‘Big Bad Mean Mother*****’ to get my point. A classic.

29. Primary Colours – The Horrors (2009) (Strange House was brilliant no matter what anyone says – but even The Horrors biggest defenders couldn’t have expected an album as sophisticated, innovative and plain intelligent as this. It combined shoe gaze, garage rock and girl group pop, just for starters and yet despite this complexity they remained a must see, energetic live act.

28. We Are The Pipettes – The Pipettes (2006) (The Pipettes wanted nothing short of reinventing the wheel with this debut. Not deliberately ignored the usual male originated influences eg The Beatles, The Ramones and instead looked to female icons of the past. But this retro backdrop was accompanied by feminist lyrics that used humour to fantastic effect. This was great fun and hopefully a follow-up will be out soon.

27. Silent Alarm – Bloc Party (2005) (Silent alarm really was an alarm to announce that Bloc Party had arrived, and in style. This was a classy and polished debut that built upon what The Futureheads and Franz Ferdinand had done the previous year. It stands up to this day as a first class post punk album.

26. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (2008) (Vampire Weekend were a happy-go-lucky tornado that stuck the internet at the tail end of 2007. When their album proper came in 08 they ripped up everything. It was a unique sound that joined together upper class, sophisticated lyricism and African rhythms and guitar lines. ‘Vampire Weekend’ was sheer fun, and it never got boring despite many predictions that their sound would soon grate).

25. Day and Age – The Killers (2008) (A grand pop album that ticked all the right boxes. The Killers were always thinking big and after the music press gave mixed reviews to Sam’s Town , and ‘Day and Age’ confirmed the band as one of the brightest and most consistent of the decade.

24. American Recordings III – Johnny Cash (2000) (Johnny Cash made three classic albums this decade and it’s almost impossible to pick between them. American recordings IV was the sad farewell and V was the message from beyond the grave. The best though, if I had to choose, was American Recordings III as it was the last glimpse of Johnny in full form. His voice was as strong as ever and the songs chosen were impeccable, in particular U2’s ‘One and Nick Cave’s ‘The Mercy Seat’).

23. Stadium Arcadium – Red Hot Chili Peppers (2006) (By The Way was a great record but a flawed one which saw the band experimenting with breezy pop harmonies. It was a step a way from the funk sound towards something more clean. It’s follow up took an equally divulging path but a much more rewarding one. Stadium Arcadium is the sound of a band at their very peak, four of the best musicians in the world connecting over some brilliant music. At times it’s easy to think that Flea and John can read minds such is their brilliant chemistry and Anthony’s lyrics are a real step up from the early days. U2 released 2 good albums this decade but nothing that even came close to the brilliance of Stadium Arcadium; a staggering work.)

22. Favourite Worst Nightmare – Arctic Monkeys (2007) ( Arctic Monkeys were quite comfortably the decade’s best British band and where Oasis and The Stone Roses messed up Arctic Monkeys succeeded by following a huge debut with two great follow ups. It’s so hard for me to decide which one is better that I’ve put them together on the list. Favourite Worst Nightmare was a schizophrenic record that serves as a brilliant melting point of the intelligent rock of Humbug and the observational pop of Whatever, and their more recent album, whilst only a few months old, already sounds like a long-lost classic.

21. Humbug – Arctic Monkeys (2009)

20. The libertines – The libertines (2004) There is very little innovative here, there is some filler, some tracks are raw to the point of annoyance and you bet that very little time was spent over it. And yet has ever an album summed up a relationship, a period of time or a scene so well? ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ and ‘What became of the likely lads’ feature the most confessional, poetic lyrics of the decade and they are set to some unbelievably passionate twin guitar attacks. The Libertines were destined to be great, and against the odds this album has proven the test of time.

19. Wincing The Night Away – The Shins (2006) ( The Shins quietly made one of the decades most forward thinking and intelligent pop records, in fact they made three of them. Wincing the night away is my pick purely for the sheer quality of the many songs, and the ingenious sonic landscapes that the listener is dropped into.

18. Oracular Spectacular – MGMT (2008) (MGMT are often called the modern flaming lips, but at the pace they are going they will far exceed anything that band have done. Over ten tracks they collect an extraordinarily diverse set of songs all bound by a sense of adventure, fun and mystery).

17. I Am A Bird Now – Anthony and The Johnsons (2005) The first thing to hit you about ‘I am a bird now’ was Anthony’s stunning voice which instantly recalled everyone from Nina Simone to Annie Lennox. The next thing to hit you were the haunting and uncomfortable lyrics that confronted the listener on sexual taboos, abusive relationships, gender issues and parental relationships. The musical backdrop was avant-garde pop that stirred emotions in a way few albums have done. A unique talent.

16. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (2008) Fleet Foxes debut was an album of quiet majesty. Simple melodies, old-fashioned harmonies and a subtle yet intelligent group of musicians combined to make this one of the noughties most beautiful records).

15. American Idiot – Green day (2004) (Green day had fallen of the rails before their 2004 comeback that nobody saw coming. ‘American Idiot’ Captured the feeling in the air, the anger with politicians, the anger with the war in Iraq, the anger at George Bush. The songs were punky and just as catchy as anything from dookie but there was a new intelligence and strategy that hadn’t been present before, and American Idiot became their most successful record).

14. In Rainbows – Radiohead (2007) Radiohead haven’t made two similar albums in their career so nobody expected another Hail to the Thief. Neither were people expecting an album as brilliant as this, many had suggested that the band were past their best, but In Rainbows proved any doubters wrong; this was called by some their finest album yet. After the system shock of Kid A and the confusion of Hail to the thief this was a beautiful and intimate exchange with the listener that contained elements of all Radiohead’s best moments).

13. Illonoise – Sufjan Stevens (2005) (Few artists have ever been as ambitious or prolific as Sufjan Stevens, few albums as magical as illonoise. Steven’s unique style combined with lyrics about an average American state somehow melted together perfectly over an album that can only be described as a journey. From their strings and euphoria of Chicago to the sad intimacy of Casmir Pulaski day, this was a thrilling ride).

12. Sound of Silver – LCD Sound system (2007) (LCD Soundsystem provided the best dance album of the decade by some way. Whilst Basement Jaxx, Daft Punk and The Prodigy unleashed some massive singles, none of them made an album that could compete with sound of Silver as an album. Cohesive, diverse, funky, rocking, addictive – this album works well in any context be it the dance floor or the home.)

11. Hopes and Fears – Keane (2004) (Songs of subtle beauty and big chorus’s are a rare thing to find but Keane delivered 12 on one album, 2004’s biggest seller ‘Hopes and Fears’. Cool it wasn’t, popular it was (probably a correlation) but there was so much more to this album than snotty nosed critics would admit and it trumps any Coldplay album by a mile.)

10. Funeral – The Arcade Fire (2005) (Few albums were as acclaimed or influential this decade. It was an album that had it’s roots very much in the last century but seemed to fit in perfectly with American indie mid decade. Comparisons to Neutral Milk hotel were made and Funeral continues to be just as inspirational as ‘in the aeroplane above the se’a. A truly sublime record).

9. The Decline of British Sea Power – British Sea Power (2003) (A beautifully understated and oddly underrated album, this was one of the most, if not the most complex and complete debuts of the decade. BSP’s vision was, unusually for this day and age, undeniably unique. Musically they were a blend of post punk and indie but it was their literary lyrics and wildlife themed live shows that drew the most praise and attention. Most stunning of all was the chilling and epic ‘lately’ that brought the album to a jaw dropping close).

8. Up The Bracket – The Libertines (2002) (They were marketed as the British Strokes but The Libertines had been going for years before – it took Is This It to kick them into something great though. They swapped suits for leather jackets and they added some of their American counterparts fizz and sparkle. It was an extraordinarily important debut that was the first convincing British debut since ‘definitely maybe’ so many years before. In fact not since Morrissey was there a lyricist with such poetic bent, and such an artistic vision. Before his drugs meltdown Doherty was one of best talents to have emerged in a long time and his wit and intelligence are best represented on tracks such as ‘What A Waster’, ‘Horrorshow’ and particularly ‘Time for Heroes’ and ‘Death on the stairs.’)

7. The Magic Numbers – The Magic Numbers (2005) ( A slightly controversial choice for the 7th best album of the decade. Not sex pistols meets Marylin Manson controversy, in fact quite the opposite. ‘The Magic Numbers’ is such an old-fashioned, uncool and popular album that I doubt many other music writers will be placing them so high in these kinds of lists. This is an album that would have sounded more at home in 1965 rather than 2005, with it’s sunny melodies, heartbreaking lyrics and brother sister harmonies that instantly recall the likes of Mamas and Papas and The Beach Boys. The strength of the album is in it’s gorgous songs that reveal themselves overtime. Was there anything as catchy as ‘Forever lost’ or ‘Love me like you’ released this year? Was there anything as moving as ‘I see you see me’? These songs, prove that the ‘if it aint broke don’t fix it’ rule still rings true).

6. Smile – Brian Wilson (2004) (At one point nobody expected Brian Wilson to record again, let alone perform live, let alone perform Heroes and Villains live, let alone perform smile live, LET ALONE RECORD SMILE! The album that should have changed the course of musical history in the 60’s was finally released in 2004 to great acclaim and it was worth the wait. This may have been an album originally constructed for the hippie generation but it worked just as well in the noughties with its lush orchestration, beatnick lyrics and stunningly unique concept. Not quite as influential as pet sounds, but if this had been released in 67 it certainly would have been).

5. Kid A – Radiohead (2000) Kid A has been called the last traditional record and the first record of the current generation. It was probably the last anticipated album not to be leaked beforehand online (the follow-up ‘Amnesiac’ was arguably the first) whilst the digital marketing campaign was very modern and unique. This is also true of the frenzied music that sounds both distant and familiar, warm and cold, jarring and inviting. Over ten tracks they take you through every musical landscape known to man with Thom Yorke’s distorted or affected vocal being your miserable yet poetic tour guide. This was original and unexpected and it was one of the most influential albums of the decade.

4. Speakerboxxx / The Love Below – Outkast (2003) This was the white album for the 21st century. Like The Beatles, Outkast are very much a band of two distinctive personalities and musical talents. Over two discs both Andre and Big Boi have plenty of chance to shine, whether it be through hip hop, jazz, pop, rock, funk or soul. It’s best moments are Andre’ 3000’s ‘Roses’ and ‘Hey Ya’ which were fresh and catchy as hell.Big Boi’s more traditional disc is equally interesting and probably more cohesive – choosing a favourite is almost impossible, both discs offer something exciting and challenging.

3. Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand (2004) (Franz Ferdinand’s role in the development of 21st century British guitar pop has been vastly underrated. When they came along they just wanted to ‘make girls dance’ and at the height of the garage rock revival this was exactly what was needed. They were the antithesis to the scruffy Libertines, and equally as important. Bands like The Rapture had meddled with dance rock only a year before but Franz were the first band of the decade to do it really well and combine critical success with commercial success. If The Strokes were the leaders of the garage rock revival then Franz were at the front for the post punk revival that dominated the indie boom mid decade.

They were tight both musically and lyrically, they wore sharp suits, had a distinct artistic aesthetic and their riffs were perfectly angular. When they arrived the likes of NME and John Peel called them the ‘saviours of Rock N Roll’, and whilst this wasn’t strictly true you could see where they were coming from. Their sound was the type of funky, intelligent pop that the likes of Orange Juice, Gang of Four, The Smiths and Pulp had perfected and that no band had really had much luck with in years. This was one of the best albums of the decade, no doubt, and it’s influence is still apparent in 2009.

2. Whatever People Say I am That’s What I’m Not – Arctic Monkeys (2006) Alex Turner could raise a serious claim to being the most poetic British pop star of not only his generation, but of all time. Time has been kind to the words of Morrissey, Lennon, Cocker, Weller and Lennon but in 20 years time I’m fairly confident Turner will have surpassed them all. The lyrics to this debut album are the sign of someone who clearly knows what he’s doing and does it well. They deal with very Northern themes of everyday life, from dirty dance floors, taxi ranks, riot vans, pubs and women of the night. The way the words twist and turn in Turner’s mouth are brilliant and unique.

The words are the stars of the show but the music accompanies them brilliantly. It may not be revolutionary but there is energy and heart in each of these songs, the drums are manic, the bass playing is funky and the guitars are fuzzy and very melodic. Whatever People Say I Am, is in my opinion the best British album of the last ten years.

1. Is This It – The Strokes (2001) (‘Is This it’ was the most important album of the decade as well as the best. Before The Strokes came along Britpop was going through a prolonged, miserable death whilst the sappy ‘singer songwriter’ school of music and big beat dance were polluting the charts. The worst offender of all was ‘Nu Metal’ the most garish and offensive form of music ever devised by the devil. Bands like Papa Roach, Slipknot, Limp Bizkit and Linken Park somehow became popular and their blend of Metal, funk and rap infected all forms of pop culture from the charts to clothing to movies.

Clearly real music was not dead, it was just hard to find in the shops, harder to find in magazines and impossible to find on the radio. In fact to anyone without the internet or musical connections good new music was nowhere to be found. The Strokes changed this. They were good-looking and well dressed. This may seem trivial but it was very important because it differentiated them from the skater clones that head banged to Sum 41. With their skinny jeans, leather Jackets, greasy hair and model looks they were instantly a band to be beloved and copied in equal measure, and people have been copying their style ever since and their look is still impossible to escape, from high streets to Blue Peter.

Of course it wasn’t a new look – The Ramones had done it 25 years previously – but ever since grunge Baggy had been the cool fashion statement. The Strokes were different and they were cool. Of course this would have been meaningless had their music not lived up to their style. But it did. ‘Is This It’ sounded brilliantly old-fashioned and strikingly new at the same time. It had a crackly, lo fi aesthetic that made it sound like it had been buried at the back of your garden for the last 30 years. The fuzzy guitar solos and rich bass sound could be found on any number of records from New York from the 70s and it’s garage sound was first perfected back in the 60s. The lyrics were typical rock n roll fare that would excite and entice many a young listener. Their sound was retro for sure, but because it hadn’t been heard in so long it sounded new. Of course just because they were the most important band of the decade does not make this the best album. It’s the best album because it is the one that better than any other exemplifies why I love rock n roll.

It is in many ways the most perfect debut album of all time and yet It isn’t perfect – it sounds live, raw, unrehearsed, messy and exuberant. I love the mistakes, the random screams, the adlibs in ‘New York City Cops’, the blatant Tom Petty Rip off in ‘Last Night’ and the slurred vocals of the title track. I love the fact that it’s short and filler free, that the guitar solos all essentially sound the same, that the lyrics all essentially deal with the same theme. It is an album of teenage rebellion, young love, city lights, rock n roll excess and girls. These are the themes of every good rock n roll record of the last 50 years and The Strokes did it better than anyone in a long time. Is This It reinvigorated indie music and the shock waves from it’s release are still being felt 9 years later.