Gaz's top ten albums 2000-2009

"Hey Gaz, do you fancy writing a music retrospective for the 2000s? Like your top 10 albums of the decade or something? I'll put it on my site."

Yet another decade is drawing ever so slowly to a close, and so comes the time of year for unnecessary and irrelevant lists about the top x number of whatevers.

But then I do so love pointless lists.

We've seen nu-metal die, we've seen pop-rap take over and disappear. We've seen a million faceless, dance remix albums and we've seen the garage rock revival. We've seen post-hardcore take over Britain and we've seen the meaning of emo get lost in the mire.

Oh, and the Cheeky Girls.

And Jedward.

But a great deal of great music has been made too; all you need to know is where to find it.

So for your delectation, here are for my money the ten greatest albums that this so-so decade has produced.

Honourable mention goes to Million Dead's stunning A Song To Ruin from 2003, which just missed making this cut.

10. Gallows - Grey Britain (2009)

Gallows' first album Orchestra Of Wolves was a brilliant piece of work that made them the hottest band in Britain. But it's with Grey Britain, almost certainly 2009's most anticipated album, that they solidified their status as one of Britain's greatest bands. One day people will be asking you where you were when this album was released. It's a staggering fifty minutes, but surprisingly enough it's not an unrelenting punk assault. Their heaviest moment ever, 'The Riverbed' is here, of course. But there's also the borderline tender first half of 'The Vulture' and the delicate, pre-war styled strings that open 'Misery.' It's not just brilliant; it's genuinely mature, especially for a band only on their second album. An extraordinary piece of work.

9. Eminem - Marshall Mathers LP (2000)

Nothing makes you feel old like remembering the release of a near decade-old album. Has it really been that long since Eminem burst into our lives? He's never bettered his sophomore masterpiece in the ensuing nine years either. A corrosive, hilarious and at times horrifying album, it showcases all of the trademarks we've come to know and love. His diss of Will Smith on 'The Real Slim Shady' is one of his funniest moments, the murder-rap 'Kim' by far his darkest and 'Stan' without doubt his greatest song. An almost Dylanesque tale of an obsessive fan, its seven-minute spiral is his individual career peak.

8. Bob Dylan - Modern Times (2006)

Having spent the majority of the nineties doing sweet nothing (i.e. covers) Dylan got his mojo back on 1997's Time Out Of Mind and 2001's follow-up "Love and Theft". Five years later came Modern Times. Produced by Dylan himself, a chameleonic producer if ever there was one, the album has a lush sound that like Dylan, seems to never really age.

7. Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker (2000)

Ryan Adams releases approximately five hundred albums a year, so it's hard to know where to start with his catalogue. But the best place to start remains where he picked up after leaving alt-country legends Whiskeytown; a solo debut which truly lives up to his name. Taking in knockabout rockers like 'To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High),' delightfully fragile ballads like 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' and swampy country like 'Bartering Lines,' the album is virtually flawless. His best song, 'Political Scientist,' may lie elsewhere, but this remains his masterpiece.

6. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

When Jeff Tweedy finished making Wilco's seminal fourth album, his record label rejected it. Tweedy streamed the whole album for free on his band's website and a different subsidiary of the same label took a chance on it instead - at a million copies sold and counting, it's still Wilco's biggest selling album. Why that is is a mystery. Cold electronic noise overlaps many of Tweedy's typically sweet melodies, and it is far from a perfect album - closer 'Revelations' is a horror. But an album need not be perfect to be truly great, much like humanity itself, and it's the heart beating beneath the electronics which gains this album its place on this list. Opener 'I Am Trying To Break Your Heart' is a car crash of acoustic guitar, piano, trash noise and glockenspiel; it's also probably the band's finest hour. Elsewhere are outright great tunes like the string-soaked 'Jesus, Etc.' or the at first impenetrable, then transcendent 'Radio Cure.'

5. Skinnyman - Council Estate Of Mind (2004)

British hip-hop will never be respected on the same level that American hip-hop is. But while Skinnyman's 15-year-plus career may have only produced this one studio album, it is without doubt the finest British rap has produced and at least as good as the majority of his contemporaries. With a spacious, at times cinematic production and a grey social conscience, the album isn't your usual rap fare no matter how you look at it. Skinnyman addresses social ills like poverty, drug abuse and casual violence all while spinning together extraordinary rhymes. Better yet, just like Eminem, Britain's best is a skinny white boy too.

4. Bob Dylan - "Love And Theft" (2001)

Bob Dylan is a contrary old salt and as epoch-defining as so many of his albums are, they're usually very serious. On 2001's "Love And Theft" (note the quotation marks. I don't know what they mean either), however, you can tell for the whole hour-plus of this raucous album that Dylan is just having a laugh. The knockabout blues rockers are infectious, the pre-war influenced balladry is sublime and even if Dylan's voice may be creaking worse than ever, he's never been funnier than he is here.

3. Glassjaw - Worship And Tribute (2002)

Glassjaw have become emo's Guns 'n' Roses with their elusive third album now seven years in the making (although frontman Daryl Palumbo made another of the decade's classic albums with United Nations). But in truth, they could've left it at this sophomore effort with their legacy intact. Where its predecessor was a collection of great songs, Worship And Tribute is a unified piece. The album is simply staggering, a fifty-minute blast of unrelenting emotional outpour. The band have never sounded as heavy, and the production may be more polished, but the riffs are still as sawn-off and brutal as ever. 'Two Tabs Of Mescaline' is an epic album closer, the satirical sports presenter on 'The Gillette Cavalcade Of Sports' is blackly comic and 'Stuck Pig' may be the hardest they've ever rocked.

2. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (2008)

You can count on one hand the number of artists who are still making albums that rank among their best past the age of 50. Nick Cave is one of them. Last year's Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! Is stripped back production wise from its predecessor, and much like 1997's Boatman's Call album every member of the band is only playing what is necessary. But the material here is much harder than that album, and infused with lust, violence, decadence and chaotic imagery ('he must have been 100 foot tall/and he only had one eye'). After all this it ends on the relatively downbeat, but nonetheless apocalyptic 'More News From Nowhere'. Magnificent.

1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus (2004)

After his comeback in 2001, Nick Cave's stock of great songs ran dry by 2003's awful Nocturama. As if somehow realising he'd made the only dud album of his entire career, Cave decided to one-up himself and released this staggering double album the following year. Separated thematically and stylistically between dark and light - or, since this is Nick Cave, filth and romance - the two discs have one thing in common; brilliance.

Abattoir Blues is the dark side, infused with hard rockers and Cave standing at his altar condemning us all to hell. It houses one of his career-best tunes in the soaring 'There She Goes, My Beautiful World,' a song he somehow wrote about having writers' block. It also has one of rock's greatest rhyming couplets on the title track - 'I went to bed last night and my moral code got jammed/I woke up this morning with a frappuccino in my hand.'

Lyre is the quieter disc, with the violence more of an undertone than a theme, hiding behind love and lust. From the hilarious flutes on 'Breathless' to the hymnal splendour of 'O Children,' this disc too is glorious from front to back.

It says something of Nick Cave's talent that he managed to conjure up not just the decade's greatest album despite hitting middle age, but also that it's a double album, a pitfall even the greats (Beatles, Dylan) have failed to navigate successfully.

Gaz's site is The Madcap Laughs

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Discussion (5)

2009-12-14 03:33:10 by sunburstbasser:

I suppose another tradition about these types of things is people complaining about it. So, I'll start: No top 10 albums of the last decade is complete without Robert Randolph and the Family Band's Unclassified.

2009-12-14 19:28:52 by Andrew:

I am sorely disappoint at the lack of a 69 Love Songs mention. It's a must-have for any music lover, especially one so involved with darker music as one such as yourself (for who else would top their chart with not one but two Nick Cave albums?). Stephen Merritt's songs are all expertly crafted, catchy, and above all soulful.

2009-12-18 05:17:19 by PacifistDalek:

"and Jedward"

And Calvin Harris, with a pineapple on his head. (And then I couldn't find the youtube link. Damn.)

2009-12-26 11:33:10 by GazHughes:

Hello folks. 69 Love Songs fell short because as much as I do adore it conceptually (and it does deserve an honourable mention, but then so did about twenty other albums which is why I kept it limited to Million Dead) I don't know it well enough to give it a place in the chart in good conscience. It's so massive a piece that I really don't know it inside out.

What I do know if it I adore, however - such as 'Grand Canyon,' which is a magnificent piece of music.

2009-12-26 21:56:32 by ishmae:

The last track on YHF is "Reservations," not "Revelations," and I'm not of the opinion that it's a horror at all.