I didn’t include the following albums in my best-of-00’s list purely because I didn’t feel I knew them well enough at the time, or through pure oversight. Either way, like the ones on the decade list, these deserve to be heard.
- M83 – Saturdays=Youth
There are few moments of 80’s synth-pop worth remembering; Anthony Gonzalez has clearly fallen in love with the very best parts and declared it loudly with ‘Saturdays=Youth’. Even though it’s clear where M83’s influences lie, it sounds surprisingly individual and atmospheric. It sounds like it could soundtrack a brilliant old-school coming of age movie involving a group of lonely teenagers picnic-ing in cemeteries and drinking Blue Nun. Obviously in this case the soundtrack would be better than the movie; partly because Paramount rejected my script and partly because ‘Saturdays…’ is largely excellent and makes 80’s pop music seem like something worth reminiscing about.
- 65daysofstatic – One Time For All Time
Majestic, thrilling, unearthly: three words which don’t do 65daysofstatic justice. Thacking, crunching, racing allovertheplace drum patterns and guitars which are both melodic, emotional and often jet-propelled. Those along with strange meddlings with space and time all combine to sound like something that should be playing on the Tardis’ PA system if the Doctor had better taste. ‘One Time For All Time’ however is greater than the sum of its parts and makes for an increasingly addictive and engrossing experience.
- Sigur Rós – Ágætis Byrjun
This wasn’t in the other list purely because I thought it was released in 1999. Turns out it was, but internationally, it’s just about qualifies. Pretentious as hell, and the same applies to most things that are written about it, but unfortunately, ‘Ágætis Byrjun’ really is wonderful. Haunted guitars (often played with a cello bow), feather-light pianos, whirring organs and other things weird-n-wonderful are thrown in with Jonsi’s elfish vocals which somehow work very well. It’s pretty beautiful on its own, but there’s a lingering scent of sadness about it. This is what gives it the edge over other records of its kind (not that there’s much to compare it with). Plus this marks the final point where the lyrics are in Icelandic; their later albums are sung in “Hopelandic” – which is essentially gibberish (no, seriously) which they call their own language. Embarrassing as that is, ‘Ágætis Byrjun’ makes it difficult to slag them off.
- The XX – The XX
There’s something weirdly romantic and epic about The XX’s debut. It almost sounds like a bleak near-future set against greystone council flats. It doesn’t portray gritty life on the street; that’s best left to hip-hop. ‘The XX’ sounds like trying to escape from a dreary modern life in music, films, solitary cigarettes and people close to us. Most of the melodies are very simple which is both a welcome change and one of the reason for its success; it does so much with so little. One bass, one guitar, drum machine, one or two keyboards and two singers (male and female); a lot of bands can take this formula and make a lot of noise. The XX strip it back and let it breathe and it takes on a unique quality. It’s the sound of the brief moments of quiet in life roaring with noise.
- Radiohead – Amnesiac
People thought the band had lost it; they had been praised too much with the consequence of thinking that they could make any old crap and people would eat it up. ‘Kid A’ was uncompromising. ‘Amnesiac’ didn’t know what compromising was. ‘Kid A’ was like a machine-led, lonely human world. ‘Amnesiac’ is full-blown dystopia. Paranoia and mistrust flows through nearly every track. It’s also their most cinematic; it feels like a musical of ‘1984’. The damaged book on the cover looks like a treasured possession of someone who is too young to know where it came from. The songs themselves are among Radiohead’s darkest such as the gracefully brutal ‘Knives Out’ or the semi-conscious jazzy funeral song ‘Life In A Glasshouse’ (featuring Humphrey Lyttleton on trumpet). It’s most beautiful moments however, come from trying to escape the nightmare through dreams, like in the unearthly ‘Pyramid Song’. A difficult album, putting it lightly, but given time, it becomes mesmerising.
- Atlas Sound – Logos
Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox’s second solo album ‘Logos’ is the sound of watching your life flash before your eyes after collapsing from heat stroke. Everything is a slow motion rush; a blur of colour, but if you squint they still sound like pop songs. It’s one of those rare records which you can completely lose yourself in and feel disconnected from the world. Woozy ambient trips, weightless shoegaze and warped summer drifts; there’s something about ‘Logos’ that’s not quite right. It doesn’t belong in this world, but it rarely sounds sad, just pleasantly oblivious.
- The Low Anthem – Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
In a sea of clean-faced folk imitators, The Low Anthem are a breath of fresh, bearded and musty air. ‘Oh My God Charlie Darwin’ harks back to rusty country, folk, rock and hints of secular gospel and is the most authentic piece of musical Americana for a long long time. It shows a snowy, soulful America raised on Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan on the cusp of change, shown from the opener ‘Charlie Darwin’ which depicts a Christian country sliding into uneasy social revolution in the light of the religion-damning theory. However, The Low Anthem shed the detrimental areas of tradition and hold up the things that are still relevant and resonant, like road trips, love and history and the like. When you listen to ‘Oh My God…’, you feel like you’re living through a period in history which will one day be significant. As an added bonus, the band use a WW1 pump organ, brooms, filing cabinets and Tibetan singing bowls alongside the guitars and the like; not your average folkie record.
There’s the list. Get listening.