"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
The noughties saw me in my twenties and whilst the typical angst took hold as I tried to figure out who it was that I am my love for music developed in ways I'd never have imagined. Many people helped shape my love for music and to them I am indebted. To Cesco, Cindy, Clare, Darren, Darrin, David, Eamonn, Ellen, Gemma, Grantley, James, Jason, Kim and Sarah, I say cheers.
Here's how my noughties jukebox would look:
ABOUT A BOY (Badly Drawn Boy)
An underrated film, this soundtrack highlights the lyrical and melodic genius of the nuance of Damon Gough AKA Badly Drawn Boy.
Using both the humour and pathos evident within Hornby’s source material, Badly Drawn Boy produces a work so full of feeling one cannot but help be swept away by both his lovely score work and original songs.
A fantastic film soundtrack.
ACOUSTIC SOUL (India.Arie)
Flashing seemingly out of nowhere India.Arie suffered at the hands of a stellar year for young women in the music industry as she lay firmly in the shadow of Alicia Keys who walked away with 5 Grammy awards. India.Arie, nominated for 7 for Acoustic Soul, received none. The strength of her debut album though lies in the fact that she injects a fantastic use of humour, melody and femininity in a work that stands amongst the best of the decade for the very fact that she is woman and we will hear her roar, well, purr.
A fantastic debut.
Leaving behind a failed marriage and continuing on a journey of living and growing in the public eye, Brandy released the best album of her career as she let loose on the mistakes both she and loved ones have made. Bringing a real sense of womanhood and maturity, Afrodisiac, is the crowning glory of a pretty loved popular career.
A fantastic comeback.
AHA SHAKE HEARTBREAK (Kings Of Leon)
A brilliant follow-up album to their debut, Youth And Young Manhood, Kings Of Leon bring a firecracker urgency and a fascination with sex to the fore in this quirky, energetic romp through great indie rock. Using Caleb Followill’s clearly identifiable voice to wreak havoc on the songs works wonders as their second-up effort lives long and large.
A fantastic sophomore effort.
ALAS I CANNOT SWIM (Laura Marling)
Shockingly mature and breathtakingly haunting, Marling’s debut is a wonderment of literary lyricism and careful, whistful melodies. Combining her gorgeously mellow voice to construct an album of self-discovery, Alas I Cannot Swim showcases an eighteen-year-old (at the time) in top, top form.
A fantastic storyteller.
THE ALTERNATIVE TO LOVE (Brendan Benson)
Bringing a downright smooth sexiness to his nicely modulated pop songs, Benson produced an album so much better than the more-lauded Robin Thicke and yet went largely unnoticed. Using a mild brashness Benson brings a classiness to the pop world so usually overtaken by the vim and vigour of his much-younger counterparts.
A fantastic class-act.
AMELIE (Yann Tiersen)
Regardless of whether one is a fan of the film or not, the soundtrack stands alone as a wonderfully exuberant and very French experience. Combining his folk sensibilities with a minimal use of extrinsic post-production, Tiersen exudes both charm and whimsy to match Jeunet’s original intention of his film.
A fantastic score.
AMERICAN IDIOT (Green Day)
Big, grand, brave, fierce and above all insanely catchy, this sprawling indictment of the Bush Government landed Green Day firmly amongst the big guns of the noughties. From thumping rock jams to the slower ballads, American Idiot marked Green Day as perhaps the mainstream American band of its generation.
A fantastic statement.
AS DAY FOLLOWS NIGHT (Sarah Blasko)
Confirming her status as the first lady of Australian music, Blasko brought forward the best album of her ever-maturing career as she created what amounts to an almost cinematic experience. Creating an obviously personal record of getting older, Blasko, produced what amounted to the album of its year and one of the best of the last ten.
A fantastic journey.
BACHELOR NO. 2 OR THE LAST REMAINS OF THE DODO (Aimee Mann)
Relishing the opportunity afforded her by the recognition of film director P.T. Anderson, Mann continued to create wondrous pop music and quite clearly to the beat of her own drum. Bachelor No. 2 sees a few of her songs selected from the Magnolia soundtrack combined with a slew of others to help create a story of both self-discovery and ingenuity.
A fantastic consolidation.
BACK TO BLACK (Amy Winehouse)
Notoriety aside, Winehouse has perhaps the voice of the decade as she caterwauls her way through her soul/r&b throwback album that brings forth the sheer unselfconscious nature of her music and lyrics. Rocking the heck out of some samples and using every inch of that booze-soaked tone to her voice she created a phenomenon that would lead to the likes of far cleaner but in the end far less interesting acts.
A fantastic find.
BAD EDUCATION (Alberto Iglesias)
Iglesias is the master of sexy and moving music. He’s a regular collaborator with Almodóvar and once again here he injects the film with a real sense of tension, suspense and above all a true heart. If Amélie is as French as music gets, in many ways Bad Education IS Spain.
A fantastic emotional tale.
BIRTH (Alexandre Desplat)
If any single composer has stood up as the most notable new voice of the past ten years it is Desplat. From his work on The Beat That My Heart Skipped to Syriana to Girl With A Pearl Earring to The Painted Veil to The Queen to The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button it was really Birth which got him noticed by Western audiences. For his brave, bell and flute-soaked prologue set to the running scene in the film is a testament to his ability to simply create something beautifully new. His soundtrack here is a sheer joy to behold.
A fantastic journeyman.
BRAVEBIRD (Amel Larrieux)
The fact that Larrieux is not a household name is in many ways testament to the fact that her music is by far more dense than most other r&b/hip-hop acts. Bursting onto the scene in the nineties as a part of Groove Theory she disappeared for a substantial time before releasing this, her second album, shortly after her first solo project. Bravebird is a lesson in gorgeous understatement.
A fantastic slow dance.
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (Gustavo Santaolalla et al)
If Brokeback Mountain was the film of its year it can’t be stated enough how important this music score was to helping it get that label. Those minimal guitar chords matched with those images, performances, writing and direction - a great movie made, yet it’s the combination of his beautiful scoring and the use of songs performed by Emmylou Harris, Rufus Wainwright and Willie Nelson that come together to make a spectacularly beautiful music experience.
A fantastic accompaniment.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (John Williams)
He is without doubt the most recognisable composer of the twentieth century. His Jaws and Star Wars stand together as quite possibly the most recognisable themes yet somehow he managed to again set the screen alight with his fun and energetic romp through the scam-infested world of DiCaprio’s Frank. The cat and mouse elements to his work here make Catch Me If You Can a fine addition to his already quite full canon.
A fantastic master at work.
CHAOS AND CREATION IN THE BACKYARD (Paul McCartney)
What does perhaps the most successful, well-known and loved musician of the twentieth century do at the beginning of the next one? He makes one of the best albums of his career, that’s what he does. Gorgeous melodies, quiet whispers and a wonderful sense of recollection this is McCartney in fine form.
A fantastic reminder.
CHILDREN RUNNING THROUGH (Patty Griffin)
What more to mention than that voice. Oh wait, there’re the honest lyrics, beautifully constructed melodies and those knockout stories within each few minutes. Griffin’s recollection of a childhood memory involving those burgundy shoes is worth the purchase price alone.
A fantastic storyteller.
CONDITIONS (The Temper Trap)
Combining the glam-rock elements of seventies and eighties Bowie and the noughties sensibilities of electronica MGMT, The Temper Trap appeared out of Melbourne in 2009 with those gorgeous tunes ‘Sweet Disposition’ and ‘Love Lost’. The fact that the rest of the album matches the hoopla is enough to warrant them the label of next big thing.
A fantastic one to watch.
CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (Tan Dun)
Epic in scope on the screen Ang Lee’s Academy Award-winning film features one of the most astutely emotive and pulse-inducing scores of the past ten years. With Tan Dun’s use of drums and strings the drama of it all is exacerbated by the juxtaposition of his sounds with Lee’s images to create one of the biggest soundtracks of the noughties.
A fantastic film ‘sound’ experience.
DEPARTURE (Carla Werner)
This debut album from Kiwi Werner established a singer-songwriter far beyond her years. Beautifully subtle and making full use of her soft, sultry almost effortless voice, Departure tells a story of experience and lack thereof within the worlds of love and relationship. She’s not matched it since but this certainly marked her as a voice from the land of the Long White Cloud of whom to take note.
A fantastic chanteuse.
DETAILS (Frou Frou)
Benefiting hugely from Heap’s originality, this singular release from Imogen Heap and Guy Sigsworth marked a trend in electronica that would begin to become commonplace amongst the records dominating the charts throughout the noughties. In no way particularly original in its content or even scope the album simply stands out due to both Heap’s and Sigsworth’s understanding of the relevance of the electronic sound and the possibility of it actually having depth.
A fantastic beat.
EMBLEMS (Matt Pond PA)
This was the first album released by Matt Pond PA after Pond moved from Philadelphia to Brooklyn and reformed the band with all new members. Bringing an unusual quality in his voice to the recordings, Emblems highlights what great songs can sound like with a unique voice behind them. Indie rock went through the doldrums during the early part of the noughties but by the time Matt Pond PA broke through with this effort it was right back in the game again. It’s a shame the group didn’t sneak in on the success because this one was worth a bit of a hullabaloo.
A fantastic surprise.
EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE (Fiona Apple)
Stories aside as none of them was true, Apple’s return to the soundwaves marked an artist in true control of her talents. Insanely talented, her mournful voice and her cheekily playful lyrics established this, her third album, as the most mature of her career. Her point of difference will be enough to make sure she is known long after her time, however, her credibility will only be enhanced by the continuous growth she has shown throughout each of her efforts.
A fanastic enigma.
FAR FROM HEAVEN (Elmer Bernstein)
Todd Haynes’ provocative hark back to the works of Douglas Sirk was perfectly complimented by Bernstein’s sensationally and appropriately sentimental work. From his string-drenched work to his lovely focus on the dips and rises in Haynes’ directorial choices, Bernstein’s work was universally lauded. Like its accompanying film, its a masterwork of genre.
A fantastic commemoration.
FLEET FOXES (Fleet Foxes)
How such exquisite music comes from a debut album is beyond this listener, however, Fleet Foxes managed to create a gorgeous sound with a mix of pitch-perfect harmonies and beautiful, earthy tones and melodies. Balancing that fineline between indie/folk/alternative/rock Fleet Foxes created what was without doubt an astonishing mark on the past ten years.
A fantastic arrival.
THE FOG OF WAR: ELEVEN LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF ROBERT S. MCNAMARA (Philip Glass)
Apart from the film’s assured hand and fascinating subject matter the one element that just jumped out at you from the screen was the score work by Philip Glass. That same feeling envelops the listener when listening to the soundtrack in its entirety. Typically ‘Glassian’ this is an exercise in tempo and short notes but its one that registers brilliantly.
A fascinating masterwork.
FOR EMMA, FOREVER AGO (Bon Iver)
Hypnotic, at times non-sensical yet overwhelmingly beautiful, Bon Iver’s 2008 release is an indictment on over-produced, thoughtless pop pap. His work here is an elegant discussion of relationships relying on layered versions of his vocals to create an almost ghost-like quality to his offering.
A fantastic letter of love.
FOX CONFESSOR BRINGS THE FLOOD (Neko Case)
As close to perfect as an album can be without being so, Case’s sojourn into ‘solo-dom’ again brings forth such an abundance of beauty it’s ridiculous that it exists singularly as one album. A contender to be the best album of the last ten years if not longer her work here is sheer genius as she melds her illusive lyrics with that irrepressible voice.
A fantastic album.
FRANZ FERDINAND (Franz Ferdinand)
Another fantastic debut album to emerge from the noughties, this Scottish band’s first-up effort was an energetic, sexy romp through British rock/pop. With an eighties sensibility to their sound and look Franz Ferdinand stood up as one of the big bands of the past ten years. This got them off to a wondrous start.
A fantastic romp.
FRIDA (Elliot Goldenthal et al)
Taymor’s film is a visual feast matched frame for frame by Goldenthal’s score and Taymor’s selection of music. Combining the two for this soundtrack captures everything great about the histrionics of the piece injecting passion for the ears that may have been overwhelmed by the images of the piece.
A fantastic collaboration between a visualist and an expert of the ear.
FUNERAL (Arcade Fire)
Where does one, in this case this Canadian band, get ideas like this? So extraordinarily beautiful and dense Funeral is the perfect soundtrack to just about any situation. Seemingly orchestral/indie folk/rock it just seemlessly melds into one creating a genre all of its own.
A fantastic sense of the beautiful.
GATHER, FORM & FLY (Megafaun)
Hot on the heels of the success of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes came this second album from the former bandmembers of DeYarmond Edison. A year after their former DeYarmond Edison member Justin Vernon brought forward his For Emma, Forever Ago they released this exquisite combination of folk and experimental rock. With this world of folk fast becoming more prevalent in the mainstream through the likes of the aforementioned and Shearwater, Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling it can only be hoped that this astonishing progression in this modernised form of a time-old genre continues.
A fantastic addition.
GET LIFTED (John Legend)
Emerging from the realm of the r&b world, Legend put forward a masculine addition to the growing presence of r&b in the mainstream. Letting his voice do the majority of the work, Legend tells simple stories through involving melodies and wonderful piano-work. He is truly a gifted musician and singer who may not have lived up to his initial work here, yet, however there was so much on offer here that one has to believe that he’ll hit those high moments again.
A fanastic traditional man.
GIMME FICTION (Spoon)
Kick-arse in every sense of the word, this full-length release from this darling of the alternative rock-world was a sure-fire winner from the first play through. Up-tempo beats and loud guitar-driven melodies Gimme Fiction is that rare mix of difference, quality and accessible.
A fantastic rock-out.
GOLD (Ryan Adams)
It seems unfair that an album of such strength and beauty should be shrouded by the goings on of that particular time in history but in a way Adams’ ode to his home is a perfect antidote to the immense sadness of that day and those events. His overwhelming willingness to be honest about his sense of patriotism, whether it be his love of particular places or his love of particular styles of music and particular musical influences comes off as purely just that, honest. Never does he shift into hokiness or develop a sense of being disingenuous. It may well just be his masterpiece.
A fantastic sense of adoration.
GOOD NEWS FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE BAD NEWS (Modest Mouse)
An oddity, Modest Mouse are everything indie music is about and it’s brought them success as they’ve managed to cross the border into the mainstream consciousness. This was the album that seemed to bring them the most attention and it’s quite clearly understandable why as their ability to use offbeat melodies and lead singer Isaac Brock’s manic vocals to develop this mild sense of hysteria within their music is almost palpable. Almost contradictory in its makeup with evidence of sheer balls in the likes of ‘Float On’ and ‘Bury Me With It’ and then the utter loveliness of tracks like ‘Blame It On The Tetons’, Good News For People Who Love Bad News is nothing but good news for those who love great music.
A fantastic album full of energy.
THE GREATEST (Cat Power)
In every good sense of the word, Chan Marhsall aka Cat Power, is a nutbag. In every good sense of the word, we are all the better for her being that way. If this is the quality of music she is going to produce then bring on more of the ‘nuttybaggedness’. In all truthfulness, however, Marshall’s life has not been an easy one and battling with depression and alcohol abuse has obviously given her a minefield from which to gather inspiration. The Greatest is proof of just that.
A fantastic exorcism.
HOME (Dixie Chicks)
Prior to the hoopla that surrounded Maines’ comments regarding President George W. Bush this album was a prime example as to why the Dixie Chicks were as successful as they were. Awesomely accomplished musicians making awesomely accomplished music is a delight to behold and this bluegrass-toned addition to their growing canon highlighted everything great about them as a group. From perfectly chosen covers, ‘Landslide’ and ‘Top Of The World’, to really great originals, ‘I Believe In Love’, this album marked the Dixie Chicks as the real deal.
A fantastic exhibition of talent.
HOT FUSS (The Killers)
Everything about The Killers on their arrival was perfect. They were the exact remedy to a glut of mainstream pop-rockers. Producing theatrical, catchy, delicious pop songs and being led by a truly charismatic pint-sized lead man, Brandon Flowers, The Killers brought fun to listeners’ ears. They may have begun to take themselves a little too seriously since but this eighties-inspired semi-glam debut effort was so jam-packed full of great songs that it was hard to resist.
A fantastic addition to a road-trip selection.
I AM A BIRD NOW (Antony And The Johnsons)
Who wants to willlingly listen to a sad album? Well, everyone would if they heard this one. So heartbreakingly beautiful, every single track here is a gem, polished by Antony’s voice and let to shine through a mixture of fine musicianship and writing. Music does not come much more exquisitely created than I Am A Bird Now.
A fantastic kick in the guts.
THE ID (Macy Gray)
Gray copped it critically for this follow-up to her majorly successful debut album, On How Life Is, however, everything that makes her a standalone artist sounds right here. Her songs span the spectrum from cheeky to sexy to heartfelt to downright fun and they’re all here in spades.
A fantastic crazy-arse moll.
ILLINOIS (Sufjan Stevens)
The album features quite possibly the best song of the last ten years,John Wayne Gacy, Jr, which alone would not a great album make, however, the fact that it’s surrounded by a bevy of other excellent tunes elevates this album to near masterpiece status. His ability to tell stories is phenomenal and they match his boy-next-door vocals perfectly.
A fantastic storytelling session.
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (Shigeru Umebayashi et al)
What more can be said than that the moment the music starts here images from the film simply jump into one’s mind. It’s what a soundtrack is supposed to do and Wong Kar Wai’s trust in his composers and choice of supporting songs is impeccable and deservedly rewarded. I dare you to not envision Maggie Cheung sashaying down that hallway. I dare you.
A fantastic mood piece.
LA ROUX (La Roux)
Another debut from a year of fantastic debuts 2009 saw La Roux jump onto the airwaves with a huge bunch of radio-ready electropop hits led by the unique vocals of singer Elly Jackson. From the insanely catchy ‘Bulletproof’ to the heartbreaking ‘Cover My Eyes’ this was the best mainstream pop album of its year.
A fantastic dance album.
THE LAST BROADCAST (Doves)
Brit rock never sounded so hypnotically gorgeous. Lovely, quiet songs backed by solid guitars and an interesting use of strings give an echo-like effect to what’s going on. ‘Satellites’, beautiful in its depth, just makes one yearn for more and the band delivers in spades. It’s a sensational offering from a consistently strong band.
A fantastic soundtrack to a night or weekend in.
LAY IT DOWN (Al Green)
Who’d have thought that the sexiest album to come out in 2008 would have been released by a 62-year-old legend of the soul scene? Well, that’s what happened. Every inch of this album contains Green at his absolute best as he moves in and out of his songs with a smoothness lacking from modern-day soulsters. The title track is reason enough to run out and grab the album.
A fantastic reminder.
LET IT DIE (Feist)
Leslie Feist is one of those artists that you discover and wish noone else would. She’s just so lovely and her music so intimate that whilst you wish her all the success in the world, and that came with her third album, Reminder, you just want to hold onto her for yourself. Let It Die is a perfect mix of her own songs and her own interpretations of others’. It’s also a nice antidote to the gazillions of other female artists who tend to scream in tune rather than let the melodies and lyrics speak for themselves.
A fantastic artist in her own right.
LIFTED OR THE STORY IS IN THE SOIL, KEEP YOUR EAR TO THE GROUND (Bright Eyes)
Conor Oberst is stamped all over this breakout album for Bright Eyes. From the rambling nature of the songs and Oberst’s tortured vocals, everything about it seems overblown to the point of distraction. Except that it’s not. It just all seems right. From its corker of an opening in a mammoth near nine-minute epic all the way through to its equally large conclusion Lifted… is a scene-stealer and a memory of the great that came during the early part of the noughties.
A fantastic alternative outing.
LUNGS (Florence + The Machine)
In a year for massive debuts this collaboration between frontwoman Florence Welch and her bevy of backing musicians and vocalists saw a manic, and bordering precocious, talent enter the music world. Everything about Lungs screams arty-farty claptrap, however, in the end the flowery stories and that sensational voice just make it all seem new and fresh and exciting.
A fantastic leading lady.
THE MAGIC POSITION (Patrick Wolf)
Quirky and multi-talented, Wolf emerged in the early noughties with his folk-inspired electronic pop causing quite a stir amongst critics. The Magic Position, his third album, followed with similar respect but in a more accessible way. The songs here are far more radio-friendly and his use of instrumentation, coupled with his voice, effective in matching the simpler melodies he has created.
A fantastic individual.
MARTHA WAINWRIGHT (Martha Wainwright)
The little sister of Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright emerged on the scene in the late nineties but it was not until 2005 that she releases her debut full-length album. Featuring wailing vocals and long-winded sentences her first single ‘Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole’ was indicative of the raw talent on display. Dark and moody her folk roots are on full display in this massive collection of internal emotion.
A fantastic meditation.
MED SUD I EYRUM VID SPILM ENDALAUST (Sigur Rós)
Offbeat, beautiful, weird and in Icelandic might mean that nothing in this fifth album release from the Icelandic quartet is accessible. However, this may just be their most accessible album to date. It may also be their last as the band members move onto solo projects. Whether it is or not is irrelevant when considering the beauty of this piece. Having someone whisper in your ear has never sounded so good.
A fantastic foreign sound.
Bizarre doesn’t begin to describe what’s going on on Björk’s sixth album. Constructed using mostly human voices and performed almost entirely a cappella Medúlla is an experience to behold. Verging on grotesque at times one cannot fail but be consistently interested with what is playing out. Her vocals have never been better and whilst it’s even less accessible than her previous work at times, this is no less for being so.
A fantastic left-of-left-of-centre release.
THE MILK-EYED MENDER (Joanna Newsom)
Harpist Newsom’s debut album is a clear case of divisiveness. Listeners will either lap up her little-girl voice or want to cut their own ears off. Creating nuanced and yet at time non-sensical tributes to an almost fairy-tale land Newsom manages to develop a clear understanding of what it must be like to be inside her head. From the splendid ‘Sprout And The Bean’ to the more recognisable ‘Peach, Plum, Pear’ this was another of the debut albums to emerge from the noughties signifying an artist of possible significance. Her subsequent two releases seemed to have confirmed the hype.
A fantastic oddity.
NICKEL CREEK (Nickel Creek)
Insanely talented musicians, Chris Thile, Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins, proved what skill can do in the place of massive post-production. Their second full-length album presented beautiful harmonies meshed perfectly with gorgeous musicianship and wonderfully toned bluegrass-inspired pop offerings that were immediately recognisable as their own.
A fantastic country hint.
NIGHT ON MY SIDE (Gemma Hayes)
Hayes copped a bit of flack from some critics for splitting her album into halves based almost on tempo. For this listener the album is a sure-fire winner with perfectly modulated folk-inspired pop songs that meld beautifully with her Irish folk/rock sound. Lilting her way through the album with her distinctively heavy-lidded tone to her voice, this debut long player marked an artist to watch. The fact that her two subsequent albums have failed to really make it to Australian shores says more about the state of the music industry than her music.
A fantastic mood piece.
O (Damien Rice)
Rice was another of the Irish onslaught of talented musicians and singer/songwriters who emerged during the late nineties and early noughties. With his powerful street-fueled voice and lack of fear in relying on good old-fashioned music to catch an ear he burst onto the scene with this, his debut, album. His songs tell stories and they’re stories worth listening to.
A fantastic balladeer.
ONCE (Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova et al)
The phenomenon of the film aside, this is a collection of music worth having on its own merit. Wonderfully illustrative of street music in Dublin it combines the Irish love of music and talent for it. Featuring their perfect Oscar-winning song and a host of others featured in the film, this may well be the best soundtrack ever produced.
A fantastic example of music with heart.
ONE PLUS ONE IS ONE (Badly Drawn Boy)
Damon Gough’s second album to feature here is a lovely example of unpretentious pop. With strong lyrics and his, as usual, slightly quirky and sentimental melodies make this addition to his offerings a strong contender for his best. He’s that perfect example of flexible music as this album works wonders in the back or foreground.
A fantastic piece of pop.
ONLY BY THE NIGHT (Kings Of Leon)
Fourth album in and they finally produce the one that breaks them everywhere. Featuring two killer singles in ‘Sex On Fire’ and ‘Use Somebody’ amidst a kick-ass collection of others, this album may have been more accessible and ultimately more successful but far from under par. Caleb Followill’s raspy lead vocals are in top form here again and the melodies stronger than ever.
A fantastic tour de force.
ORACULAR SPECTACULAR (MGMT)
With the best song of its year, ‘Time To Pretend’ amongst a trio of fantastic songs to hit the airwaves, MGMT’s debut album hit big and it hit big, big time. With a literary bent to their musical styling, their tendency to hark back to the psychedelic age of the sixties and seventies in a modern way, and their sheer infectious melodies, MGMT struck gold with Oracular Spectacular. The fact that the gold actually had some merit for listeners was a sheer bonus.
A fantastic curiosity.
OVERPOWERED (Róisín Murphy)
Murphy is instantly recognisable for that voice. Here, in her sophomore solo effort, she moves through a much tempered synthesised version of her Moloko days. From the title track to the telling ‘You Know Me Better’ to the deliciously cheeky and sex-laden ‘Movie Star’ Murphy’s sojourn into solo brilliance continues here.
A fantastic diva.
PICARESQUE (The Decemberists)
If James Joyce had written a song for an album that would be released in the noughties it would have been ‘The Mariner’s Revenge Song’. It’s a monster! And like the rest of the album it’s a monster of significant substance. Rich in sound and producing a depth very rarely seen in modern music, The Decemberists hit a new high with Picaresque creating what was the album of its year and ultimately one of the best of the last ten.
A fantastic exercise in literary music.
PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (Jon Brion et al)
Just as Shelley Duvall sings, ‘He Needs Me’ on the soundtrack to P.T. Anderson’s fourth film, so too does the audience realise that in fact we very much need him. For his trust in the talents of Jon Brion and the use of other music throughout the film’s running time was on point. It’s a fine collection that, like the film, is a sleeper of real depth.
A fantastic marriage between ingenues of film and music.
RABBIT FUR COAT (Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins)
From the opening wails of ‘Run Devil Run’ to the generous sound of ‘Rise Up With Fists!!’ to the sheer story-telling power of the title track, Watson brings such an energy to proceedings here that the listener is swept along with a grin miles wide and ears singing with joy. With an entertainment history as long as anyone her age, Rabbit Fur Coat marked Lewis as a true talent in her own right.
A fantastic showcase of a singular talent.
THE REMINDER (Feist)
The title is appropriate in that this offering brings forth everything Leslie Feist’s fans love about her. From the fantastically simple but perfect vocals to the use of lovely, bright melodies to her move forward to creating radio-ready mainstream tunes, this is the perfect pop album. There are so many examples of top-notch songs here it would seem silly to single out one, however, Feist herself sums it up best, “1,2,3,4. Tell me that you love me more.” And that this listener will.
A fantastic adventure in pop.
RIOT ON AN EMPTY STREET (Kings Of Convenience)
Bringing forth a real almost reincarnation of Simon & Garfunkel, this second album from Norwegian duo, Kings Of Convenience, shows how great songs, great voices and great musicians can really let the music do the talking. Featuring Canadian chanteuse Feist this collection of great pop/folk music is the definition of gorgeous.
A fantastic hark back.
THE RISING (Bruce Springsteen)
Sure it rings completely sentimental but the songs and that voice and the simple love for music just sound completely right. He is the quintessential American rocker and everything about The Rising seems like Springsteen at his best.
A fantastic ode.
Emerging in the late nineties producing very Americanised r&b/pop, Swede, Robin Carlsson, sounded like everything else of its ilk. She disappeared relatively quickly it seemed. Then seemingly out of nowhere up she popped again rocking out the r&b/pop but this time with an electronic sub-sound that made everything she was singing seem out of this world, insanely current and funnily enough questioning of the type of music she was making in her first incarnation. Whatever was going on it worked in spades.
A fantastic return.
The only thing wrong with this 2008 release from Shearwater is that noone knows about it. It’s a fine collision-course between the soft and hard of rock. Beautifully realised in its production and performance and wonderfully melodic, Shearwater’s Rook is a scream-from-the-trees recommendation.
A fantastic unfound treasure.
A RUSH OF BLOOD TO THE HEAD (Coldplay)
Coldplay seem to have fallen into the trap of self-importance, however, this sophomore album amidst their canon is by far and away the work of a true rock band. ‘The Scientist’ is sheer song perfection and ‘Clocks’ is a rousing reminder of what they can do. This will be their masterpiece it would seem.
A fantastic pop/rock record.
SELMASONGS (Björk et al)
Differing from the music in the film slightly this soundtrack of the Von Trier film is still a hugely impactful listening experience. Generally anything Björk touches turns to some form of Björkian gold and in this case it continues the form. Matching the ferocity of the film’s intensity this stands as another significant achievement in the career of that Icelandic oddity.
A fantastic music story.
SEVENTH TREE (Goldfrapp)
Oddly quiet and beautifully restrained this is the finest collection of songs put together by Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory. Applying what it is that makes Goldfrapp’s voice so tender and vulnerable in the structure of the songs brings a tenderness and accessibility to their songs somehow missing before.
A fantastic exercise in the beauty of pulling back.
SIGH NO MORE (Mumford & Sons)
Sounding a little like they’ve just walked in from a concert given by The Dubliners, Mumford & Sons rejuvenated the folk scene immensely with this nuanced and lovely hark back to a day gone by in the music scene. Moving away from the synthesised sounds of over-produced music of the noughties they managed to create real songs with real heart and all with the help of a banjo.
A fantastic revival of a near-forgotten genre.
SOME PEOPLE HAVE REAL PROBLEMS (Sia)
Small-town Adelaide girl does good here in this breakout third album. Never really achieving much in the way of success here in her home country, Sia Furler grew wings and suddenly flew right into the radar with Some People Have Real Problems. Thanks largely to the secret track, which wasn’t going to even appear on the album, ‘Buttons’, Sia garnered much in the way of airplay and finally began getting her due on home soil. It’s no wonder as everything about this soulful, playful and above all beautiful pop release is nigh perfect.
A fantastic exercise in easy-listening goodness.
SONGS IN A MINOR (Alicia Keys)
The darling of the early noughties, this debut album from Alicia Keys garnered her nearly every award under the sun. It’s probably not THAT good but it is an early window into a talent so rare in sound and skill that it is hard to tell one not to get excited by her first-up effort. From one of the song’s of the past ten years in ‘Fallin” to her simple assured delivery and that deep tone there is just something special about her work. She’s yet to deliver a true masterpiece but if there is an artist around today capable of producing one it’s her.
A fantastic r&b album.
STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN (The Funk Brothers et al)
What’s more to say than this film and its soundtrack documented the sheer awesomeness that is the Motown sound. Following the career of The Funk Brothers as they talk about the times, the music and the musicians, the film intersperses wondrous performances of those old classics by modern artists of the ilk of Joan Osborne, Bootsy Collins, Me’shell Ndegeocello, Ben Harper and Chaka Khan. The soundtrack does the music nothing but justice.
A fantastic record of days gone past.
STORIES FROM THE CITY, STORIES FROM THE SEA (P.J. Harvey)
With lyrics such as, ‘Speak to me of, Universal laws, The whores hustle and the hustlers whore, All around me, People bleed, Speak to me, Your song of greed’, Harvey lets it known her mood. Her rock energy and that bellowing voice come from somewhere deep within her tiny frame and whilst it’s not immediately obvious where it doesn’t matter much at all. Harvey is adamant that, ‘This Is Love’, and who are we to question her?
A fantastic woman in full force.
TALKIE WALKIE (Air)
It took them three previous albums but with this the French duo may have created their masterpiece. Gentle and uniquely ‘Air-ish’ the sentiment of the album is a pure one grounded by lovely melodies and a willingness to include a sense of quiet as much as a sense of noise. From the tender ‘Cherry Blossom Girl’ to their stunning ‘Alone In Kyoto’ used in Lost In Translation, this is a must-have album from the noughties.
A fantastic album for all occasions.
TEN NEW SONGS (Leonard Cohen)
Featured heavily in the Neil Jordan film, The Good Thief, is the track ‘Thousand Kisses Deep’ and it’s no wonder that it might have been the link between new listeners and the brilliance that is Cohen. More of a storyteller than a singer, his reliance on his almost spoken-word approach lends extra power to the vocals of his collaborator Sharon Robinson. An astonishing collection of adult songs this is Cohen at his best.
A fantastic over-dinner listen.
THINGS TO MAKE AND DO (Moloko)
This third outing for Moloko sees Murphy at her peak and Brydon in fine form as they produce a funky collection of electronic/dance hits. ‘The Time Is Now’ is an outstanding piece of pop given its due by Murphy’s insane vocals and it’s matched by the likes of ‘Pure Pleasure Seeker’, ‘Indigo’, ‘Remain The Same’ and the remix of ‘Sing It Back’.
A fantastic fun night in.
THUNDER, LIGHTNING, STRIKE (The Go! Team)
If kids skipping and chanting skipping songs sounds like an annoyance more than perhaps the inspiration for this collection from The Go! Team then this is one to veer away from. Fun, frothy and infectious in all the right ways this is a dance album unlike most others on the market.
A fantastic album for the drive in the car to a night out.
THE TRACKER (Archie Roach)
An astonishing accompaniment to the Rolf de Heer film this soundtrack tells as much of the story as the film does with its visuals. With Roach’s phenomenally moving voice, this will go down as one of the greatest Australian albums, potentially ever.
A fantastic example of heart, history and talent combined.
THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE (Benoît Charest)
Very French and delightfully evocative of the era and tone of the piece, Charest’s musical work here is a prime example of an inspired artist. Chomet’s animated film is a delight to behold visually but combined with the loveliness produced for the ear here it becomes a very substantial artistic feast.
A fantastic slice of French fun.
2046 (Shigeru Umebayashi et al)
Matching the intensity and sexiness of the second of Wong Kar-wai’s trilogy, this soundtrack, particularly the work by Umebayashi is unabashedly moody and wonderfully evocative of a passionate love affair. With a great ear for music Wong Kar-wai mixes the original score work with a fine mix of prerecorded songs and opera pieces, particularly Dean Martin’s ‘Sway’.
A fantastic follow-up.
TWIN CINEMA (The New Pornographers)
‘Sing Me Spanish Techno’ alone is enough to warrant the purchase of this, the third album from the Canadian The New Pornographers. Giving serious cred to pop music, this alternative/pop release combines the skills of some pretty serious talents in that of A.C. Newman, John Collins, Kurt Dahle, Dan Bejar, Neko Case, Blaine Thurier, Todd Fancey and Kathryn Calder. What evolves over the fourteen tracks is a sheer understanding that these are people who know music, live music and make bloody awesome music.
A fantastic taste of the left of centre pop world.
TWO SUNS (Bat For Lashes)
Natasha Kahn’s second album as Bat For Lashes highlights a real growth in her musical risk-taking and ability to create sweet, mysterious and at times sinister soundscapes. ‘Daniel’, one of the songs of its year, is a clear example of the juxtaposition she brings through both beauty and a questioning nefarious nature to the hook of the music. It’s a brilliant example of modern music making.
A fantastic album of significant depth.
VAN LEAR ROSE (Loretta Lynn)
An album of this quality very rarely comes from an artist at the beginning of his or her career. It’s no wonder then that in the 45th year of her music career, Lynn produces what may be her masterpiece. Working heavily with Jack White, Lynn warbles and wails and simply professes across a variety of topics given all the more depth knowing of her history. ‘Portland, Oregon’ is the centrepiece here but it’s far from the only great song. ‘Little Red Shoes’, ‘Family Tree’ and ‘Miss Being Mrs’ are all runaway hits. Very rarely do we get to listen to such uniformly strong music across a whole album.
A fantastic reintroduction to one of the all-time greats.
VECKATIMEST (Grizzly Bear)
If any group emerged as THE group of 2009 it was Grizzly Bear. Producing what is their strongest album of the three they’ve made so far, Veckatimest highlights their quirky sense of beauty in their music. ‘Two Weeks’ is the big hit here and it’s a gorgeous piece but it’s backed up by some extraordinary work in ‘While You Wait For The Others’, ‘All We Ask’ and ‘Fine For Now’.
A fantastic sense of momentum.
She is the quintessential odd-bod. She beats up rogue reporters, cuts the crazies on a regular basis and produces some of the most avant-garde music going round, yet somehow she manages to pull it altogether and produce work of astonishing power. Here her collaborations with Timbaland help tap into a market that don’t really understand her and whilst that market still won’t understand her with this release they will more than likely be aware that she exists now. ‘Declare Independence’ and ‘Earth Intruders’ are balls-bared songs of passion. Bordering on angry, they combine that electronic manic element of Björk’s work and the slightly self-righteous component to her persona effortlessly.
A fantastic album that’s even better live.
VOLVER (Alberto Iglesias et al)
She’d been around for over a decade but 2006 was the year where Penélope Cruz really broke into the mainstream attention for more than simply being one of Tom Cruise’s squeezes. Her talent speaks for itself yet it would have been far less supported had it not been for the adoring score of Iglesias. Much in the same way Umebayashi captured Maggie Cheung sashaying down the corridor in In The Mood For Love, Iglesias seems to exacerbate the sheer fierceness of Cruz’s portrayal of this cheeky, scheming and above all hurt woman. It’s another top-notch collaboration between Iglesias and Almodóvar.
A fantastic mood-piece.
WAITING FOR MY ROCKET TO COME (Jason Mraz)
Many will find Mraz’s debut a precocious, sometimes self-righteous delivery of some catchy pop-songs with a far-too-great sense of cleverness. Get past his slight eagerness to please and what is revealed is a talented singer-songwriter just beginning on his journey as a musician. From the catchy melodies to lyrics in the likes of ‘The Boy’s Gone’ and ‘You And I Both’, Mraz emerged with this album as a young male artist to keep an eye on.
A fantastic sing-a-long release.
WHAT THE SEA WANTS, THE SEA WILL HAVE (Sarah Blasko)
Blasko will go down in retrospect as one of the greatest female musicians this country has ever produced. Her evocative voice and ability to tell stories of subjects seemingly ‘storyless’ has made her an artist of unequalled importance on the Australian music scene. She lacks the sheer volume of other female singers and has a quiet, elfish presence on stage yet everything about her and her music fits so perfectly within the realm of perfection it’s hard to question the quality of her work. Her follow-up album to her much-lauded debut is a thousand steps in the right direction and shows an artist in control of her growth. Her subsequent work confirmed it. For here it would seem more appropriate to acknowledge it appears to be the case that what she wants, she will have.
A fantastic measure of growth.
WHATEVER PEOPLE SAY I AM, THAT'S WHAT I'M NOT (Arctic Monkeys)
The debut album from this English band was a kick in the face nobody even knew they needed. From the first single, ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ to the infectious ‘Mardy Bum’, there is an energy present that screams a freshness shaking away the cobwebs that had developed over the rock, particularly the Brit, scene during the early stages of the noughties.
A fantastic wake-up call.
WOMAN KING (Iron & Wine)
Beautiful doesn’t begin to describe the track ‘My Lady’s House’ nor the absolute perfection that exists within each of the six tracks on this EP from Sam Beam aka Iron & Wine. His quiet ability to tell stories using traditional instrumentation, evocative lyrics and that sweet voice make him an artist of profound literary talent.
A fantastic quiet achiever.
WONDER (Lisa Mitchell)
Who’d have thought that this Australian Idol alumni would have made such a bang in such a small music industry? Veering well away from the pop side of things Mitchell imparted that alternative/indie pop-folk feel to this, her debut, in a collection of wistful, romantic and fresh tracks. With one of the songs of its year in ‘Love Letter’ Mitchell manages to hark back to the likes of a young Emmylou Harris and in every way it works.
A fantastic surprise packet.
xx (The xx)
This was another debut in a year of debuts that simply helped the end of the noughties spring to life with a sense of freshness and vitality beyond any listener’s expectations. Gorgeously realised, this conversation-like album of songs is far beyond the expectations of performers their age and with that fact xx marks a major debut.
A fantastic suggestion of the game-changers they could be.
YOU ARE FREE (Cat Power)
The sixth album from Chan Marshall aka Cat Power begins with an absolute corker of a track in ‘I Don’t Blame You’ and it doesn’t let up from there. The album artwork pictures Marshall running through overgrown fields with arms outstretched in that manner suggesting a perfect state of care-free. Oh, how the music sounds just as good.
A fantastic collection of an already established indie gargantuan.
YOU WERE HERE (Sarah Harmer)
Kicking the noughties off with a bit of a bang was this debut album from this Canadian singer-songwriter. Melding a contemporary folk/country sound with her effortless best-friend sense of conspiracy, You Were Here features some killer tracks in ‘Basement Apt.’, ‘Don’t Get Your Back Up’, ‘Weakened State’ and ‘Capsized’ but there’s not a single turkey amongst the bunch. It’s an album that should have made her a star.
A fantastic foray into ‘solohood’.