Monday, 7 December 2009

Another joyless list that is definitely worthwhile

Some weeks ago, NME published its carefully considered and logically thought-out best 50 albums from the past decade. The roll of honour can be found here.

It goes without saying that it got ripped to pieces, which is both the function and the fate of any list like this. But it must be remembered when directing any extreme, rage-filled criticism at the much-maligned, continuingly failing publication, that NME is a populist magazine aimed at people consuming music through a relatively blinkered lens, choosing to whittle their experience down to limited styles from a specific point in time and a often a specific place. And that’s fine: the magazine is still relevant in catering to that.

That however, doesn’t excuse this list of apparent 'innovators' set to pave the way for the future, published in May 2009. There is so much, so wrong, most of which is covered in the comments beneath.

Anyway, that most recent NME list put me in mind of an interesting exercise the Guardian undertook in 1999. They decided to put together the best 100 albums of the millennium, but deliberately discounted a whole bunch of ‘classic’ albums that always get wheeled out when such debates emerge.

Studying best album lists from a host of publications, they named 150 albums that could not be considered by the critics who arranged this new list. So it was that half a dozen albums each by The Beatles, The Stones, Zeppelin, Dylan and others were rendered ineligible, along with Radiohead, The Smiths, Joy Division, Oasis and more.

Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter came top (an album that if a similar list paying tribute to less celebrated artists was made today, would surely warrant exclusion), and the full list can be perused here.

Taking a cue from the Guardian, here is an alternative list of the best 50 albums from the past decade. An NME enemy list, if you will. The only conditions were that no album from the NME list could be included, and there could be no more than three albums by one artist. Albums from the NME list that might have earned a place in this one include those by Wilco, Brendan Benson, PJ Harvey, Bright Eyes, Sufjan Stevens, LCD Soundsystem, Grandaddy and The Shins.

Here we have 10 albums from 2008, eight from 2004, seven from 2007, six from 2006, six from 2005, four from 2009, three from 2001, three from 2000, two from 2003 and one from 2002.

There are 30 American artists involved, four from the UK, three from Canada (counting the Wainwrights as Canadians), three from Australia and New Zealand (Neil Finn and Crowded House not being regarded as separate artists) and one from France.

I make no claims of originality.

1. From A Basement On A Hill – Elliott Smith (2004)

2. Poses – Rufus Wainwright (2001)

3. To Find Me Gone – Vetiver (2006)

4. Cold Roses – Ryan Adams (2005)

5. A Ghost Is Born – Wilco (2004)

6. Dropping The Writ – Cass McCombs (2008)

7. Want One – Rufus Wainwright (2003)

8. 29 – Ryan Adams (2005)

9. Digital Ash In A Digital Urn – Bright Eyes (2005)

10. One Nil – Neil Finn (2001)

11. Ash Wednesday – Elvis Perkins (2007)

12. Figure 8 – Elliott Smith (2000)

13. Abbattoir Blues / Lyre of Orpheus – Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (2004)

14. Heartbreaker – Ryan Adams (2000)

15. Want Two – Rufus Wainwright (2004)

16. Oh, Inverted World – The Shins (2001)

17. Time On Earth – Crowded House (2007)

18. Directions To See A Ghost – The Black Angels (2008)

19. Merriweather Post Pavilion – Animal Collective (2009)

20. Personality… One Was A Spider, One Was A Bird – The Sleepy Jackson (2006)

21. Food & Liquor – Lupe Fiasco (2006)

22. Fly Or Die – N.E.R.D (2004)

23. II – Espers (2007)

24. Andorra – Caribou (2007)

25. Dos – Wooden Shjips (2009)

26. The Trials of Van Occupanther – Midlake (2006)

27. Fort Nightly – White Rabbits (2007)

28. Spoils – Alasdair Roberts (2009)

29. Ys – Joanna Newsom (2006)

30. Phrenology – The Roots (2002)

31. Smile – Brian Wilson (2004)

32. The Letting Go – Bonnie Prince Billy (2006)

33. De Stijl – The White Stripes (2000)

34. I Need You To Hold On While The Sky Is Falling – Kelley Polar (2008)

35. Old Growth – Dead Meadow (2008)

36. Consolers Of The Lonely – The Raconteurs (2008)

37. Satanic Panic In The Attic – Of Montreal (2004)

38. Martha Wainwright – Martha Wainwright (2005)

39. The Week That Was – The Week That Was (2008)

40. Lookaftering – Vashti Bunyan (2005)

41. Motion To Rejoin – Brightblack Morning Light (2008)

42. Cassadaga – Bright Eyes (2007)

43. Sky Blue Sky – Wilco (2007)

44. Saturdays = Youth – M83 (2008)

45. Waiting For The Sunrise – David Vandervelde (2008)

46. Limbo, Panto – Wild Beasts (2008)

47. Fits – White Denim (2009)

48. Z – My Morning Jacket (2005)

49. Strays – Jane’s Addiction (2003)

50. Confessions – Usher (2004)

Three songs: 'Rolling Home' by John Martyn, 'Step Away From The Cliff' by Blue Eyed Son and the fantastic 'Intergalactic Solitude' by Bachelorette.

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