Well, here’s part two of this behemoth; it’s sleeker, more angst ridden, more mature and more poetic. Ok, it’s none of those things but I’ve got to try and hype it in some way haven’t I? The first year we’re going to in this part was my first year at secondary school and was the age where I was originally a fan of whatever was cool for 11 year old’s to like at that time; probably Yo-Yos or something, I don’t know, I’m 22 years old, it’s been 11 years.
2001: Daft Punk – Discovery
Everyone loves Daft Punk. Everyone loves Discovery (whilst nearly everyone sadly neglects Homework, the strongest DP album) and for good reason. It’s a damn fine selection of their most popular songs that demands repeat listens. Its starts with a string of five huge tracks (5 of their most instantly recognisable tracks) and continues on with 9 really really good songs. This is one of the first ‘dance’ albums I ever listened to that I enjoyed, it’s also the soundtrack to the early beginnings of my teen years as I was just starting secondary school when I fell in love with this album. This album is 10 years old and it’s still as brilliant and unique as the day it was released with it’s deeply robotic house/post-disco sounds and utterly memorable music videos.
2002: The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
I’m not a huge fan of the majority of The Flaming Lips’ work, in fact, this is the only album of theirs I really enjoy. But there’s something so loveable about Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots that’s made me a fan of the album since I heard the title track on a late night Radio1 show all those years ago. I think I was about 15 when I actually bothered to listen to the whole album and, at the time, I didn’t really get what it was, so I deleted it from my iTunes pretty swiftly. Around the time I turned 17 was when I gave it another try and it was on that listen that it made all the sense it probably was ever going to make. It’s sort of a concept album, maybe a better description is that it’s an album that focuses on love and mortality making it a deeply melancholic outing for a psychedelic act like the Flaming Lips. It’s also an album that has one of the more positive songs about death you’re ever likely to hear in the magnificent song ‘Do You Realize??‘ that instead of making you as listener dwell on your own mortality, puts you to ease about it to a degree and leaves you happy, not depressed. This is perhaps the only Flaming Lips album I’ll ever really cherish or enjoy, but it’s one that makes them a special band to me; one that can make songs that could be throat-slittingly depressing, fun and comforting.
2003: Jay-Z – The Black Album
In 2003, I was given this album as a Christmas present by a family friend, which was pretty weird. I wasn’t exactly the world’s biggest hip-hop fan, and whatever hip-hop I listened to was primarily trash, all of which made this album a pretty lousy present at the time. I listened to it a few times and it didn’t really grab me; I liked Encore and Change Clothes, but on the whole the album was just not for me. I think I re-visited it when I was really into Kanye’s The College Dropout a year or so later and I started to appreciate lyricism within rap. This really is a great hip-hop album that’s everything the Blueprint 2 wasn’t; focused, gritty and less pop-orientated with Jay-Z back on form with his MC’ing. In hindsight, the fact that this was promoted as his final album is kind of laughable seeing as that lasted the best part of 3 years (granted, this is longer than most retirements in music), but the greatness of this album comes from Jay-Z’s reflective lyrics looking back on his early life, career and his relationship with his dad. It also gave the world 99 Problems which, for my money anyways, is one of the great rap songs of the past 20 years. This is an album that stands up there with Reasonable Doubt and The Blueprint as the definitive Jay-Z.
2004: Death From Above 1979 – You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine
This album is one of the two albums that encompassed my listening habits of my first year at university (the second is coming up in a minute or two). The raw sound of drums and distorted guitar was something that grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and kept me listening to this debut album from the cult Canadian band. At the time, it was one of the more unique albums I’d listened to in my life and it led to me listening to more music from bands that had eluded me previously. I guess it’s on this distinguished list for pure nostalgia reasons as I haven’t really given it a thorough listen in some time now, but whenever I do listen to it these days, it reminds me of my first year of university and the beginnings of my ongoing musical journey.
2005: Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
22 tracks that lead you on a continually shifting emotional roller coaster in a sea of strings, horns and general jauntiness. I fucking love this album to no end. It’s great, it’s really really great and everyone should listen to it. In fact, everyone should try most Sufjan Stevens albums, but if that’s too much of a task, at least try this. You’ll like it. Promise.
2006: The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America
With every listen, I grow to love this album more and more. It’s one I listened to first at college that eventually became my soundtrack for my half hour bike rides to and from college. I could barely help myself from singing along to “Chips Ahoy!” much to the chagrin of passers by. It’s probably one of the few out and out ROCK albums (if you excuse the Springsteen catalogue, but c’mon now, that’s Springsteen) I own and enjoy, mainly because of it’s brilliant lyrics and fine vocal delivery. Songs like Massive Nights would be ideal for some kind of Hollywood montage of fun, drunken nights out and why such a thing hasn’t happened yet is a travesty.
2007: LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
This is the first LCD Soundsystem album (I know it’s not their first album, but it is the first album they made that sounded like an album and not just a collection of great songs, if you know what I mean) and it’s one that shows the progression of LCD Soundsystem into the band we all knew and loved. They tightened up as a band and made the same standard of danceable songs whilst throwing some genuine ‘lump in throat’ moments in for good measure. A few of the songs on this album have been songs that have helped me through bad times, notably Us v Them which picked me up whenever I truly felt like useless crap and made everything feel that little bit better (especially the sudden change at 3:15) which is the story of my love of LCD Soundsystem. The true highlight of this album and their entire trilogy is All My Friends which is a song you begin to appreciate when your circle of good friends begins to move away and do their own thing. It also features one of my favourite lines ever in “I wouldn’t trade one stupid decision for another five years of life”. This may be the album I force my kids to listen to one day when I’m reminiscing about my heyday.
2008: TV On the Radio – Dear Science,
This was the other album I was addicted to during my first year at university, but unlike DFA1979, I’ve maintained my love of TV on the Radio and especially my love of this brilliant album. I’ve not listened to an album as much I have this one and I’ve probably never preached about a band as much as I have TVOTR. Dear Science is beyond classic in my opinion, it’s a landmark album in my life to the extent that I demand it be played, in full at my funeral many many many years from now.
2009: St Vincent – Actor
More people should like St Vincent. She makes really good, interesting music and she’s incredibly consistent (this year’s Strange Mercy is her best yet which is saying something), yet not a lot of people I know seem to be aware of her work. Actor is an album I stumbled upon when I was on former music blog Radiobutt back in 2009 and the writer gave it pretty high props. I really liked it at the time, but another I only really appreciated recently when I rediscovered it. Musically, it’s outstanding; quiet and gentle in parts and loud/aggressive in others but one thing is always consistent; Annie Clarke’s beautiful singing that just floors me on each song.
2010: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
I am a Kanye fanboy. I don’t think he’s ever done something that can be described as average or poor, I’m also in the camp that argues that 808s and Heartbreaks was brilliance. Whilst that album brought about divided opinions, THIS album left no doubt in any listener’s minds. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy came after the world turned on Kanye; he’d made a fool of himself at the VMAs and came across as a douchebag of the highest decree. With all this public animosity and attention on him, he came back with this ugly and unapologetic album that focuses on the theme of celebrity culture with all it’s excessiveness. I remember the first time I listened to it and I was just left in a daze from it’s grandiose sound and feel, everyone I know who listened told me it had the same effect. Musically, it’s a phenomenal album with a who’s who of hip-hop producers and musicians helping throughout, but the stand out on the album is from the massively enigmatic and intriguing character of Kanye West, who lays his life out bare for all to see on this modern classic. This is his magnum-opus and it will be really hard for him to top this. But this is Kanye, he always finds a way top his last offerings, seemingly with ease.
2011: Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
I wrote a review about this album not too long ago and after a few more months of listening to it, it really is the best album of this year. Fucked Up are a band doing something different and interesting (as they have been for some time now), it’s just a matter of time before they get the credit they deserve from the musical masses.
And so this massive journey is over; there’s been laughs, moments of poignancy and tears. I guess there’s no better way to end this than to provide you with a playlist of all these albums, loving compiled by your’s truly. Now it’s all over and done with, I see it as less of a tribute to myself (as that’s a little stupid) and more like a chance to share with people 22 albums I have really enjoyed over the years.
PS. Yes, I know this a week late, I’ve been away/ill so the idea of writing this up was far from my mind. That said, I’m back to full health (ish) and a new post should be up in the near future. A post on what? I have no idea at this current moment, it’ll come to me eventually.