Seeing as I mentioned great trilogies in my last blog entry, it is about time I wrapped up my favourite albums from the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s. So, having already dealt with the first two decades, it’s the ‘00s turn.
Before we begin with the countdown, however, I would firstly like to issue a full and unreserved apology to the 1990s. If you recall entry #41 (Ooh Ahh… Just A Little Blog), I may have given the impression that the top ten selling singles from that decade were, how can I put this… shit? Whilst I still stand by that statement to an extent, it wasn’t until I considered the top ten selling singles from the 00s, that I realised how bad things really can get:
- Evergreen / Anything Is Possible – Will Young
- Unchained Melody – Gareth Gates
- (Is This The Way To) Amarillo – Tony Christie
- It Wasn’t Me – Shaggy (featuring Rikrok)*
- Hallelujah – Alexandra Burke
- Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid 20
- Can’t Get You Out Of My Head – Kylie Minogue
- That’s My Goal – Shane Ward
- Pure And Simple – Hear’Say
- Can We Fix It? – Bob The Builder
*And by ‘featuring’, they do of course mean ‘does all the singing and the hard work, while the guy you have actually heard of only has to grunt “It wasn’t me” every once in a while to get all the money’.
Anyway, when I looked at the equivalent list from the 1990s, I realised that if you removed the novelty records, any songs from film and television, and the hastily re-released ballad in honour of Princess Di, you were left with a disturbing revelation: the music buying public of the ‘90s seemed to have a fondness for unhinged female soloists – namely Cher, Britney, and Whitney (which frankly sounds like the cast of TOWIE, or the daughters of a Premier League footballer).
Sadly, it seems that the music buying public of the ‘00s didn’t have any taste either. The focus may not have been on female solo artists (apart from the truly horrible Alexandra Burke, and that pert-bottomed Aussie elfin, Kylie) but the dominance of shows like Pop Stars and The X-Factor is frightening. In fact, if you take away any Nigel Lythgoe and Simon Cowell manufactured pop-turds, all you’re left with is novelty records again, and I’m not sure I want to live in a world where Neil Morrissey is the tenth best-selling musical artist of the decade.
Oh, and as a side point, I’ve just noticed that the second most popular song from both decades was Unchained Melody – initially by Robson & Jerome in 1995, and more recently by Gareth Gates in 2002. It’s hard to decide which cover version was the worst.
Fortunately, there was still a load of great music released between 2000 and 2010 (it just didn’t sell as well), and so here are my personal favourite albums in descending order:
10. Elbow – Cast of Thousands (2003)
I mentioned in an earlier blog entry that I am not a huge Elbow fan, and this is largely because I seem to like each new album less than the one before – so much so, I didn’t even bother buying the latest one. However, if dreary, slightly depressing songs are your bag (Radiohead fans take note), then Cast of Thousands is brilliant. Not only are the tunes excellent, but Guy Garvey has a real knack of writing clever and amusing lyrics, often focussing on the North West of England (and, on one occasion, referring to my beloved Stockport County – which is sufficient grounds for a top ten placing on its own).
Best Song: Not A Job
9. The Killers – Hot Fuss (2004)
I have mixed feelings here. If Elbow haven’t quite lived up to Cast of Thousands with their subsequent albums, then The Killers are like a completely different band since their debut. Hot Fuss exploded onto the scene – and the charts – just over ten years ago, but nearly everything The Killers have given us since then has been utterly terrible. A couple of songs from the follow-up album (Sam’s Town) were average, but the third release, Sawdust, was largely unlistenable. In fact, I have only played it once. Ok, it was a B-sides compilation, but The Killers clearly aren’t one of those bands where the B-Sides go criminally unnoticed – in fact, they should have stayed unnoticed. Still, Hot Fuss is great, it’s just a shame they didn’t stop there.
Best Song: Smile Like You Mean It
8. Longview – Mercury (2003)
Longview, in contrast to The Killers, did stop after one album, and that’s a shame. In fact, they went one better and completely vanished off the face of the earth. Their Wikipedia page has gone awfully quiet of late, and despite the relative success of this fantastic debut, there has been no sign of any follow-up material, so I can only assume they have finished. Perhaps they decided to become the first band in history to play The Bermuda Triangle? Or North Korea? Whatever has happened to them, I wish them well, and thank them profusely for giving the world Mercury.
Best Song: Further
7. Idlewild – The Remote Part (2002)
Idlewild have released six full-length albums to date (although I fear they might also now be done), and this is my favourite. Aside from being a very good album, I am particularly fond of Idlewild because they seem to have aged in tandem with me. By that, I mean that each new release has mellowed to reflect my own personal tastes as I got older, so that it suited that particular period of my life. I remember buying The Remote Part around the time my wife was living in Stockport, and playing it repeatedly on the little CD player she had in her flat. A great album from start to finish.
Best Song: Tell Me Ten Words
6. Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American (2001)
Bleed American was originally released in July 2001, but following the attacks on the Twin Towers later that year, the band were concerned that the title might cause offence, so the album became eponymous, and the title track was changed to Salt Sweat Sugar. It is only in the last few years that references to the album’s original title have started to re-emerge.
All of that aside, this is the first Jimmy Eat World album I ever bought, and although it is no longer my favourite (see later), it’s still fantastic, and it brings back strong memories of listening to it as we drove from Poynton to Middlewich to look at what became our first house together. Little did I know at the time, I would be doing that very same journey past Jodrell Bank as my daily commute for several years.
Best Song: Hear You Me (if you do nothing else today, listen to this song – and especially focus on the lyrics. If you don’t get emotional, you’re dead inside)
5. Ben Folds – Rockin’ The Suburbs (2001)
I much prefer Ben Folds’ solo material to any of the albums he released as part of Ben Folds Five (although they were by no means bad), and this first offering is still his finest. Having just checked the details on Wikipedia, it turns out this album was released on the same day as the September 11th attacks, not that the title was likely to cause offence in the way Jimmy Eat World felt theirs might. The whole album gives off a sense of being recorded by Folds in his bedroom (such is the use of drum machines and the like), but that just adds to the charm. There are very few singer-songwriters out there who are as good.
Best Song: Zak and Sara
4. Placebo – Meds (2006)
I own all of Placebo’s seven studio albums, and I like each of them in their own way, but Meds is the only one where I wouldn’t skip any tracks on the way through. As with many of their releases, the opening song is superb (in fact, it just edges it as the best on the album), and there is a great mix of fast rock songs and slower ballads, which is what Placebo do best. Despite loving this band, it was only in the last few months that I saw them live for the first time, and the title track was certainly a highlight.
Best Song: Meds
3. Roddy Woomble – My Secret Is My Silence (2006)
Despite the comically-named Roddy Woomble being the lead singer of Idlewild, this debut solo album is completely different to anything he released with the band. In fact, it was only because I am such a huge fan of Idlewild, that I bought this album of chilled out Celtic folk music without hearing any of it in advance. At the time, it was not a genre I would especially go for, so I was taking a leap of faith, but My Secret Is My Silence is perhaps the album I have fallen in love with the fastest over the years. By the end of the first listen, I had to go back and play it again. And again. Even if, like me, folk music isn’t really your thing, I would still highly recommend giving this album a listen.
Best Song: If I Could Name any Name
2. Eve 6 – Horrorscope (2000)
Eve 6 produced three albums between 1998 and 2003, this one being the second and, in my opinion, the best. They then split up, but re-formed a few years ago and released the excellent Speak In Code (2012), which would have also made this top 10, were it not for the fact it came out two years too late to qualify.
Horrorscope is an album that, even though I know every lyric off by heart, I can blast it out as if it’s the first time I have listened to it, and still get the same level of enjoyment.
Best Song: On The Roof Again
1. Jimmy Eat World – Futures (2004)
Where do I start? This album is completely brilliant throughout, it contains my favourite song of all time (23), and is not only my number one album of the 00s, but it is my favourite album full stop. In fact, thinking about it, my top three from this decade are my top three ever, which is odd as I generally would have thought I preferred the ‘80s and ‘90s. Obviously not.
Anyway, the bottom line is, if our house were on fire, I’d save this CD right after I’d saved my family and the dog (Note: This is an exaggeration. You should never go back into a burning house for a CD you can easily replace. Don’t be a hero).
I can’t say enough good things about Futures to do it justice; so, since it should be clear by now that I am a sucker for good lyrics, I’ll simply leave you with this:
So go on love
Leave while there’s still hope for escape
Got to take what you can these days
There’s so much ahead
So much regret
I know what you want to say
I know it but can’t help feeling differently
I loved you, and I should have said it
But tell me just what has it ever meant?
Best Song (ever): 23.