Tag Archives: Keane

Keane ‘The Very Best of Keane’ – Review

8 Dec

You have to wonder why greatest hits exist in 2013. Thanks to Itunes and Spotify, we are perfectly capable of putting our own compilations and playlists together in a matter of minutes. We are our own curators. We are in charge of what we want to listen to, not labels. I guess they still serve a useful purpose in that they allow fans and critics an opportunity to reflect on an artist’s achievements collectively. They also serve as an entry point into an artist’s carear for new comers – which is certainly needed in the case of somebody like Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan (both of whom have released ‘best ofs’ recently). Even In the case of The Killers, who released ‘Direct Hits’ last week, that concise and carefully selected greatest hits felt meaningful, as the pop-minded band had spent so long working towards it – every single they’ve released seemed to have one eye on that inevitable milestone.

However In the case of Keane, ‘The Best of Keane’, feels redundant. For starters it is neither concise nor carefully selected. I’m a Keane fan but I would struggle to sit through 20 of their songs in a row – and that’s only the one disc edition! As a result, it’s inevitably hard work, made harder by the odd selection of songs. Only two tracks represent last year’s impressive ‘Strangeland’ and two more come from the underated and ambitious ‘Perfect Symmetry’. On the other hand, seven songs (seven!) are taken from the hit and miss ‘Under the Iron Sea’ – that’s over half the original album. Included in that selection are blatant album tracks like ‘Hamburg Song’ and ‘Atlantic’ both of which drag this compilation down like iron tonnes.

Another hinderance is the sequencing. The story of Keane is told chronologically, which puts everyone at a disadvantage. The first half of the album consists of the ballads they made their name on whilst the second half (barely) represents the more colourful and interesting styles they have since experimented with. A more imaginative approach to sequencing would have been to mix the old songs with the new, bringing out the best qualities in each song, balancing light and shade, finding the common elements that make Keane songs Keane songs. Instead a rather depressing narrative unfolds, in which Keane are introduced as bland miserablists who evolved into a confident and ambitious pop group, failed to find hits, and reverted back to a tired version of their original persona. But Hopes and Fears really isn’t as dreary as the songs that represent it here make out, and ‘Strangeland’ is so much more interesting than ‘Silenced by the Night’ suggests.

Actually, each Keane album is worth exploring. Of the four released to date, ‘Hopes and Fears’ is the one that stands out as a classic. But It’s one of those albums that remains as unloved by critics as it is adored by the public. ‘The Very Best Of’ will do nothing to alter that perception critics have of it. Strung together at the start of a greatest hits these 2004 singles may lack the necessary punch, but they’re still great songs. For me, Keane nailed the post-Radiohead anthemic ballads that were oh-so on trend a decade ago. There is more emotional complexity explored on ‘Hopes and Fears’ than Coldplay managed over the course of a decade – let alone Snow Patrol, Athlete or Starsailer. These were songs that dealt with growing up and growing apart honestly, directly and with bags of emotion. But unfortunately we only get a glimpse of that here.

Of course ‘The Very Best Of…’ does just enough for the public at large, which is all the label probably wants. They care about ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ getting a few extra downloads (a song that is currently number one thanks to Lilly Allen’s bland cover) but they don’t care about presenting Keane in a new light. They’ve chosen to emphasise the slow ballads people know the group for and virtually ignore the more ‘experimental’ side. Which is a shame mainly because ‘experimental’ Keane are still wholly accessable and emotionally forthright (and really not that experimental anyway!). If that’s the Keane we choose to remember then I suggest we forget about ‘The Very Best Of’ and get our own playlists together.

6/10

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Keane ‘Strangeland’ – Review

20 May

Mums like Keane so critics don’t. Their music is inoffensive, they’re from a middle class background and they don’t have a guitarist. But the Fact is Keane are extremely good at what they do; when they are firing on all cylinders they are better than Coldplay or Snow Patrol for starters.  Unfortunately what they do is loathed by the influential music press despite being loved by the public. There is a correlation between these two facts as popular bands often make popular targets – notice how the press raved about Kings of Leon, Coldplay, Kaiser Chiefs, Snow Patrol, The Killers etc (the list could go on) until they started bothering the charts? But as Keane pointed out last week, they have never been popular in a trendy trendy way and, despite what you might hear, they’ve never stuck to one particular style or sound. Listening to their albums in a row again recently, I was surprised at the variety contained in their older albums.

So what exactly is it that Keane do well? Firstly, praise needs to be given for how BIG their records sound. A couple of years ago they released a deluxe edition of ‘Hopes and Fears’ which included some old demos; these demos featured the same instruments that were eventually used on the album but in comparison the songs sound sparse, flat and lacking. Somewhow, on all their albums, Keane manage to make Voice, drums and piano sound epic, and I’m not entirely sure how they do it. On ‘Strangeland’, despite minimal and unffussy arrangements, these songs sounds fully formed, anthemic and never undercooked. In particular, the Springstein-esque ‘Sovereign Light Cafe’ sounds dramatic and widescreen despite featuring only a handful of instruments.

Secondly, Keane manage to make your heart yearn with frankly rather soppy and cliched lyrics. On paper some of these lines read like bad sixth form poetry, but when Tom Chaplin wraps his vocal chords around them they are more than effective. Everyone knows what he means when he says ‘I Feel like I just don’t know you anymore’ or ‘I want to love the way we did back then’. When he’s not messing about with cheesy metaphors, Chaplin has a potent way of hitting the nail on the head.

The name of the album is ‘Strangeland’ but a more appropriate one, had they not already used it, would be ‘Hopes and Fears’. Whereas their debut was more pessimistic, focusing on the fears, ‘Strangeland’ concentrates on hope.’ We’re gonna rise again’ he sings on first single ‘Silenced by the Night’. Elsewhere he croons ‘Your whole life lies ahead, it’s just around the bend’ then ‘though it seems so far away, the day will come’. Critics will (and have) argued that these lyrics are trite or obvious, but they have positive qualities these critics are overlooking. These lyrics are uplifting, they are inclusive and they are ambiguous without being vague (take note Coldplay).

Keane pushed the boat out successfully on their 2008 album ‘Perfect Symmetry’, and then they pushed it out too far on their 2010 mini album ‘Night Train’. I remember thinking that they weren’t playing to their strengths, they were playing to the critics and I couldn’t see why they would want that. Thankfully on ‘Strangeland’ they are harking back to that classic debut album. It’s obvious before you even put the record on – the cover features the same typography as the debut, and the band’s logo is positioned squarely in the centre of the cover, as it was on the debut and there is a focus on melodies rather than experimentation. ‘Disconnected’ has a particularly catchy melody and it should have been chosen as first single over the slightly bland ‘Silenced by the Night’.

Whilst Keane have largely (and thankfully) stuck to what they’re good at, there have been subtle changes, and not necessarily for the better. Tom Chaplin’s voice is deeper and stronger but I rather liked his fragile falsetto, and it’s rarely used here (although ‘Sea Fog’ is a beautiful example of it in full action). Keane seem to have developed a tendency to want to crank everything up to the maximum, and not just vocally. There are none of the ambient interludes that were so compelling on ‘Hopes and Fears’ and ‘Under the Iron Sea’, and too often the band belt out songs that require a more delicate touch. I wonder if this is something the producer should have spotted and fixed – a little light and shade would take ‘Strangeland’ from a great album to their best one yet.

Mainstream pop in 2012 is a very different world to 2004, and Keane are more underdogs than ever. ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, ‘Everybody’s Changing’ and ‘Is It Any Wonder’ were big hits, but none of the songs on ‘Strangeland’ will bother the charts, which is a shame because this is filled with fantastic tunes. ‘Day Will Come’ sounds like a long lost classic and ‘On the Road’ proves that the band can do energetic songs just as well as ballads. Their fondness for cliches and uplifting lyrics will never endear them to critics but their fans are passionate and dedicated. It’s this audience that Keane are now playing for, and that is a wise decision. ‘Strangeland’ may not better ‘Hopes and Fears’ but it may be their best album since.

8/10

Keane ‘Night Train’ – Review

11 May

A few months ago Keane reissued ‘Hopes and Fears’ in a new legacy package only five years after it was first released. Releasing an anniversary edition so soon into their career was possibly a very arrogant assesment of their own initial impact, but it was also a sign that people held that record very dear. Personally I would agree – I know Keane get a lot of stick for what they do, but I loved that album.

The two follow ups were also very solid albums, but neither sold as many units as the debut and neither was as good. However they certainly expanded the band’s sound past piano and drums, and their new mini album ‘Night Train’ is the end result. Keane finally sound like a full band, with a bass, guitar and even trumpets on one song! This is the type of stuff they experimented with on ‘Perfect Symmetry’ but it sounds more natural now, like they have worn the sound in.

Whilst a part of me likes this new look, new sounding Keane, a part of me wonders if they haven’t lost something in the process. The melodramatic balladry of the debut is something I usually can’t stand, but they had a subtlety and honesty that their weepy peers (i.e Coldplay, Snow Patrol, The Fray etc) just didn’t have. It disgusted as many people as it attracted but there is none of that emotional rawness here. ‘Stop For a Minute’ and ‘Looking Back’ are happy pop songs but any band could have made them. Keane’s debut had a distinctive sound, with the falsetto vocals, the Yamaha keyboard and no guitar. Everyone is trying 80’s synth pop right now, and whilst Keane do it well, they’re hardly going to set the world on fire. The final track ‘My Shadow’ is more like the Keane of old, and it’s probably no coincidence that this is the best song on here. Who wants to hear a rapper on a Keane album anyway?

But I suppose bands have to keep moving forwards and there is certainly promise in these eight tracks, all of which makes you wonder why they stopped here. There is enough quality to suggest that this could have been extended by a couple of tracks to make a full length LP. They have said that the material is too scattershot to be considered a proper album, and that Universal probably wouldn’t release another one just yet anyway. If it’s true, that this is only a mini album because of record label pressure, then that is a shame. Still Keane fans will enjoy this until album number four comes along. If you loved Keane there is a chance you won’t anymore, but if you hated them then you may well have your mined changed. Personally I can’t see anyone not smiling along to this.

7/10

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.