It has been a startlingly good decade for music. Every decade is, if you are prepared to listen. In fact it has been so good that I haven’t even found room for albums by many of my favourites: Adam Green, Pure Bathing Culture, Maximo Park, Avi Buffalo, My Bloody Valentine, nothing, Slowdive, Goldfrapp, Tame Impala and Robert Forster to name but ten.
Twenty albums from a whole decade is a tough ask, but here goes with mine…
Beach House – Bloom (2012)
Fine tuning their sound in the most subtle way over seven albums now, Bloom came in the middle of that run and is just stunning – the decade’s equivalent of Cocteau Twins, a band so apart from every other that they sound like they are from another planet. Definitely my most played album of the decade and the best. But don’t get too excited – my list isn’t ranked in order, however, this one had to be first.
The Cribs – In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull (2012)
For their fifth album, the brothers Jarman teamed up with legendary producer Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev) and the result was as thrilling as that combination promised. A rougher sound than their previous records, but the tunes sparkled, from the call to arms of ‘Come On, Be A No-One’ to their finest achievement to date ‘Glitters Like Gold’.
Pinkshinyultrablast – Miserable Miracles (2018)
A subtle move from their usual guitar-led shoegaze sound to a more synth-based approach, Pinkshinyultrablast managed to actually improve on their first two albums with their masterpiece. Standout track was the beguiling ‘In The Hanging Gardens’
The Pastels – Slow Summits (2013)
A new album by The Pastels is always cause for celebration, and this one (still their most recent) is no exception. Lead single ‘Check My Heart’ is as good as anything they did – when Stephen Pastel’s vocal comes in to join Katrina Mitchell on the song, that is the very essence of Pastelism distilled into one moment. ‘Illuminum Song’ is actually just as good, but Pastels purists will tell you that it wasn’t on the original album. It’s nice to see it added to the digital versions though as it really is a gem. I think we need links to both songs on this one!
Melody’s Echo Chamber – Melody’s Echo Chamber (2012)
Boasting the best song of the entire decade, ‘I Follow You’, Melody Prochet’s genius was enhanced by Tame Impala‘s Kevin Parker, who is the perfect foil for the artist. The way Prochet sings ‘I follow you / Pretend you want me to” is one of the most heartbreaking deliveries in music. The first comment that comes up on YouTube is “This is literally the best song I’ve ever heard in my entire life”. Nicely put. The rest of the album is pretty good too!
Anne – Dream Punx (2011)
I have Rich in Birmingham’s Ignite Records (go there and buy stuff) to thank for this one. On one of my visits to his shop, he correctly deduced that I would love the perfect shoegaze sound of this album. Dream Punx is technically a compilation album so may not officially qualify for this exercise, but what are you going to do?
Splashh – Comfort (2013)
After releasing two incredible albums (this one and 2017’s Waiting A Lifetime), Splashh unfortunately decided to split last year, possibly due to the difficulties of sustaining a band where two members were based in the UK and the other two were from Australia. But there are more gems in those two albums than many bands manage in a long career. Comfort just gets the edge, with it’s tuneful, scuzzy pop.
Josh Rouse – The Happiness Waltz (2013)
On his ninth album, Josh Rouse delivered one of his strongest sets to date. It was a toss up between this one and last year’s synthpop delight of Love In The Modern Age, but this album might just be the one I would reach for if asked to demonstrate the brilliance of Josh Rouse.
Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow (2011)
Kind of a Christmas album, but maybe more of a winter album, opinion was divided on Bush’s 2011 effort, but to me it is absolutely spellbinding. The first three songs have an average length of over 11 minutes but feel immersive rather than overlong. ‘Wild Man’ is also the best Kate Bush single ever. Not even Elton John can ruin ‘Snowed In At Wheeler Street’, though he appears to do his best.
The Go! Team – Rolling Blackouts (2010)
Bursting into life with the appropriately named T.O.R.N.A.D.O., the band’s third album has a good shout for being their greatest achievement. Mixing styles has always been The Go! Team’s thing, and Rolling Blackouts has rap and C86 indie sounds sitting happily together on a record that maintains its energy and charm from start to finish.
Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People (2015)
Everything came together perfectly on Furman’s 2015 record – ‘Lousy Connection’ would have been Number One for sixteen weeks in any sane world and Perpetual Motion People was his strongest set to date, ranging from the punky energy of ‘Hark! To The Music’ to the more refractive likes of ‘Can I Sleep In Your Brain?’ and the pleasantly off-kilter ‘Wobbly’.
Marika Hackman – We Slept At Last (2015)
From my whole list, it has been harder to make a selection for Marika Hackman than any other artist – she has released three incredible full-length albums and a truly 10/10 mini-album. I have gone for We Slept At Last as it is one of the best debut albums I have ever heard, from the haunting majesty of ‘Claude’s Girl’ to the more playful ‘Animal Fear’. That’s she resisted the temptation to include any previously-released material shows the depth of Hackman’s catalogue. Breathtaking.
The Strokes – Angles (2011)
One of the most unpalatable opinions I come across is that The Strokes only made one or two good albums. Everything they have released is touched with magic, and Angles is no exception. For a band to seal a sound that is so them using just the same instruments that a million before them used is the mark of genius. The production as ever is full of little details yet so uncluttered at the same time.
Radar Bros. – Eight (2013)
‘Criminally underrated’ is maybe an over-used term, but it applies to this Californian band perfectly. A little like Beach House or Tindersticks, they don’t make huge changes in their sound from record to record, but are always interesting. On Eight, they expanded their line up to a six piece which, as expected, led to a fuller sound, and they even dabbled with the concept of the uptempo song. The hauntingly beautiful ‘Ebony Bow’ is absolutely the best thing they have ever recorded.
Kelis – Fleshtone (2010)
Another artist for which it was difficult to choose an album, though Kelis only has two albums that are eligible for this chart. I almost chose 2014’s excellent Food, but in the end have narrowly gone for Fleshtone. The opening track, with the throwaway title of ‘Intro’ (and not even the only Kelis song called ‘Intro’!) is an absolute master class in how to start an album, and the singles ‘Acapella’ and ‘Fourth Of July (Fireworks) are among her very best.
Andy Burrows – Company (2012)
I have to say that the prospect of a solo album by Razorlight‘s drummer didn’t fill me with excitement…and I actually like Razorlight. However, Burrows showed himself to be a wonderful songwriter and followed up his album under the name of I Am Arrows (well ok, that was a solo album too really) with the brilliant Company. The yearning title track starts things off wonderfully and then it’s nothing Earth-shatteringly original, but great songs all the way. ‘If I Had A Heart’ was significantly re-worked from its single version and the lovely ‘Hometown’ featured in The Snowman and The Snowdog, so is now one of those songs associated with Christmas that isn’t really a Christmas song at all (like ‘The Power Of Love’).
Chris Cohen – As If Apart (2016)
Cohen’s second album was in some ways more of the same stuff that featured on his debut ‘Overgrown Path’, but even better. I was so obsessed with the song ‘Torrey Pine’ that sometimes I would just listen to it five or six times in a row. Cohen is a perfectionist; every detail is thought out and As If Apart is a stunning piece of work from start to finish.
Meilyr Jones – 2013 (2016)
Anyone who has come across Meilyr Jones will know that he is unbelievably talented, one of those people who can just pick up any instrument and play it at will. The former Race Horses front man released a debut album called 2013 in 2016 and it was an incredible record – from the almost Pulp style opener ‘How To Recognise a Piece Of Art’ to the gripping orchestral drama of ‘Return To Life’ and the poptastic ‘Featured Artist’, 2013 and the himself were very easy to love.
Mass Datura – Sentimental Meltdown (2017)
From seemingly nowhere, Mass Datura arrived perfectly formed with an absolutely gripping seven track album called Sentimental Meltdown – even the title is great. Opener ‘Dream Thief’ immediately sets out their manifesto which appears to be hook-laden glam pop with a futuristic slant. Sometimes this makes it difficult to decide whether the album was recorded in 1972 or 2022. ‘Feel Me Human’ and ‘Temporary Halo’ make up one of the best three-track opening salvos of an album of all time. Seriously, Sentimental Meltdown is THAT good.
Sweet Baboo – The Boombox Ballads (2015)
Some albums (often the best ones) take a bit of perseverance before their greatness emerges. One listen to The Boombox Ballads and I had it down as a potential 10/10 record. It’s an album that works best when listened to in its 39 minute entirety; the man also known as Stephen Black concocted the perfect mix of warm-hearted lyrics and killer tunes. ‘Two Lucky Magpies’ is probably the pick of a very strong bunch of songs. He even followed it up with 2017’s Wild Imagination, which is actually almost as good.