Archive for the ‘Lists’ Category

The Top Ten Albums of the Year 2009

I’m sure you’re nearly as tired of festive lists as you are of eating turkey, so I swear this the last one and I’ll get back the purpose of this blog later this week, but before that, a final round up of why 2009 was a great year for music, the top ten albums according to shotwithsound.

I’ll keep this brief, and as the albums are all new -with at least one is due a special edition rerelease soon – and I plan to feature several in future posts, only number one has a sample MP3.

The image above was taken over the weekend on my new camera – more on that later but suffice to say it’s sexy – and still riffs with the theme of time related imagery I used on my best of the decade lists (compilations, songs and albums) but in a slightly different manner.

Any way, to business, shotwithsound’s top ten albums of 2009 (with the usual Amazon links for titles and iTunes button links):

10 – Outer South – Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band - Outer South
First of two Conor moments in the top ten, and his second album with his ‘solo’ project. Expect typical Conor flourishes alongside different singers and poppier flourishes than Bright Eyes.
Stand out track -Ten Women

9 – La Roux – La Roux La Roux - La Roux (Bonus Track Version)
The first of a triumvate of ‘solo’ (wonder if I can get that into every entry) female artists, and the most conciously reactionary – La Roux sounds like the eighties vomitted Chinzano and sushi into your stereo. In a good way.
Stand out track – In For The Kill (Skream’s version is better than anything else on here and features on the extended edition of the album).

8 – Actor – St Vincent St. Vincent - Actor (Bonus Track Version)
Ex Polyphonic Spree’er St Vincent is the middle of three ladies of 2009, and although she got no way near as much exposure as the others, her downtempo, electronic pop sophomore album was a slow burner on shotwithsound’s stereo.
Stand out track – Laughing With A Mouth Of Blood

7 – Lungs – Florence and the Machine Florence + the Machine - Lungs
She may get knocked as a latter day Kate Bush copyist, but Florence has more talent, charm and charisma in her little finger than most other artists in 2009′s charts (as proved by her virtuoso performance on Top of the Pops on Christmas Day).
Stand out track – Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)

6 – Unmap – Volcano Choir Volcano Choir - Unmap
Already mentioned on shotwithsound, this collab between Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Collections of Colonies of Bees produced a bizarre and blissful album of electronica’s equivalent of math rock (digital math anyone?).
Stand out track – Still

5 – Ciao My Shining Star – Various Artists Unbelievable Truth - Ciao My Shining Star - a Love Letter to Melissa: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy
Another previously featured album was the Mark Mulcahy benefit CD featuring the likes of Thom Yorke, The National and Frank Black. A sublime collection that does great justice to Mulcahy’s brilliance.
Stand out track – Thom Yorke – All For The Best

4 – Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk
Conor Oberst entry number two, this time joined by neo folk
superstars M. Ward, Jim James and Mike Mogis to make what sounds like a bad, self-indulgent joke, but actually sounds like a fully realised band making rocky little indie and folk numbers from a bar in the deep south.
Stand out track – Magic Marker

3 – XX – The XX The XX - XX (Bonus Track Version)
Chilled out Parisian sounding electro bliss pop from a bunch of south London teens sounds implausible until you hear they were schooled at the same place as Four Tet, Burial and Hot Chip and featured in NME’s hot new things list only months after graduating. A pedigree as good as that demands quality and they delivered. The only hope is that recent departure of the keyboard player doesn’t affect them too much.
Stand out track – VCR

2 – Oh My God Charlie Darwin – The Low Anthem The Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
2009 seemed to be a great year for Americana, and The Low Anthem were the best of the best. Mixing downtempo introspection and barn storming anthems, Oh My God Charlie Darwin is a debut that promises great things and in no small part delivers them. Expect to see (and hear) more of them on shotwithsound soon.

1 – Veckatimest – Grizzly Bear Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest (Bonus Track Version)
And so we reach the best of 2009 – Grizzly Bear have been a good band for years, but with the release of Veckatimest, they became a great one. Pulling the modern trick of combining folk, indie and electronica. Coming alongside a raved about album from Animal Collective (not as good as people think in my view) and a year after Fleet Foxes epic debut, Veckatimest showed one thing for sure, it’s a good time to be in an animal-referencing band!

Have a listen to the version of Two Weeks from their Maida Vale which features on the second disc of the special edition and enjoy:

Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks (Live at Maida Vale

Top Ten Albums of the Decade

Albums

So it’s the big one – on New Year’s Day itself (in case there was a late entry out last night!), the final one of shotwithsound’s best of the decade lists… This one was very difficult to do, and the first one I genuinely wanted to do a top 50.

I’ll stick up an albums of 2009 list next week I think but without the writing – justifying my picks is the hard bit after all; as Mike Skinner said, I can barely remember my opinions let alone my reasons for holding them.

The photo above was an attempt to take an arty snap of a cool clock, see if you can spot the unexpected guest in the top left…

Previous entries are here: Compilations; Songs.

10 – Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend is the most contemporary of the albums to make this list and to be honest, I’ve slightly discriminated against it on that basis. I suspect if it had a few more years proven pedigree it would be top five, but have to wait until 2025′s top 25 of the 2000s or so to check. As it is, it’s a brilliant debut exploring new avenues of indie rock and afro beat and I can’t wait to hear the follow up, Contra, next year. I have trouble picking a favourite track but I love the intro to M79, more imagination in 30 seconds than Oasis managed in their career:

Vampire Weekend – M79

09 – Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
There’s not many teenage Northern kids with the gumption, nous and pretension to name their debut album after a line from a film / novel written by Alan Sillitoe. I don’t think any apart from the Monkeys could manage to carry it off with 13 tracks of kitchen sink drama in the form of perfect four minute rock songs. In my Top Ten Songs of the Decade list I already raved about Alex Turner, so I won’t do it again here – but I suspect e might well turn into Generation Y’s Morrisey; Ray Davies; Jarvis or Paul Weller.

8 – The Postal Service – Give Up The Postal Service - Give Up
How to shoe horn albums by two of my favourite artists, Dntel and Death Cab For Cutie, into a constricted list? Wait for them to collaborate on a poppy gem of an album and feature that instead of course! Creating their own backstory with cassesttes and mailboxes, Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard and Dntel main man Jimmy Tamborello stayed together long enough to create one magnificant album and several singles and remixes before returning to their day jobs like guilty infidels. Incredibly, Give Up was Sub Pop’s best-selling album on it’s release in 2003 since Nirvana’s Bleach in 1989. The albums closer is the closest it gets to Dntel, and is my personal favourite:

The Postal Service – Natural Anthem

7 – Jay-Z – The Black Album Jay-Z - The Black Album
In musical terms, Jay-Z might just be the man of the decade. Rapper, businessman, the best A&R in hip hop (Kanye, Rihanna and Lil Wayne were his first three signings) and as he says, he’s got the hottest chick in the game wearing his chain. Not bad for a man who retired in 2002 – the year before the Black Album was released. And has done so again pretty much every year since. Most people seem to rate Blueprint more highly than the Black, but although I’d freely admit I know basically nothing about hip hop, I do know I prefer this. With stand outs like 99 Problems, Dirt Of My Shoulder and Change Clothes, the albums is built of brilliant hooks from producers Kanye West, Timbland and the Neptunes, and Jay’s uniquely delivered lyrics, one moment laconic, the next spat with vicious venom and speed.

6 – At The Drive-In – Relationships Of Command At the Drive-In - Relationship Of Command
It’s not been the greatest decade for punk music: indie, emo, dance, hip hop – they’ve all advanced themselves, diversified and evolved. Punk on the other hand, near stasis by the late nineties, all but slunk away at the start of the century. There were pockets of hope, glimmers of greatness throughout the decade, but nothing that felt like a wave: like the originals in the 70s; like hardcore in the 80s; post hardcore in the 90s. One of the rare exceptions grew out of the latter – feeding on scraps from Fugazi, morsals from Drive Like Jehru; even tit bits from The Pixies but combining it with a wider set of influences than anyone else managed. Their magnum opus was 2000′s Relationships Of Command, far and away the greatest record of the decade that would be filed in the punk and hardcore section. It was also to be At The Drive-In’s swansong, and following the blaze of exposure it bought them, they faded away to re-appear in other, lesser acts. Have a listen to the Iggy pop featuring Rolodex Propaganda and enjoy:

At The Drive-In (featuring Iggy Pop) – Rolodex Propaganda

5 – The Streets – Original Pirate Material The Streets - Original Pirate Material
Without the sucess of Mike Skinner’s witty, wilful, lyrically loquatious music, the world would most probably be without Kate Nash and Jamie C; buy then it might also have lost out on Lily Allen and Dizzee Rascal, so it’s swings and roundabouts I suppose. Another story teller in the mold of Alex Turner, Skinners witty rhymes and skitty beats tell tales of the decade. If you packaged this and Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not up in a time capsule, future anthropologists would have a pretty perfect picture of life in 21st Century Britain. The Streets seem to get lumped in with grime a lot in a pretty unjustified way I think, Skinner’s beats are fresher and his lyrics speak of a different world to those of Wiley or Kano, or even Dizzee before he was a megastar. The intelligence and social critiques displayed in The Irony Of It All sums that up for me, and it’s pretty funny too:

The Streets – The Irony Of It All

4 – Kings Of Leon – Because Of The Times Kings of Leon - Because of the Times
Good, old-fashioned rock music. I’d normally use terms like that in a perigative, slightly looking down my nose kind of way, but I honestly can’t think of a better description for Kings Of Leon’s proggy, rocky third full length, Because Of The Times. At once a tale if their past and an audible expression of the desire to leave it behind, it came before fame went a little to their heads and they became a latter day Oasis of sibbling rivalry and drunken buffoonery – not that that has stopped them selling millions if records. From the opening tale of teenage pregnancy and eloping Knocked Up, to closer Arizona’s balladry it is the best traditional ‘rock’ album of the decade.

3 – Sigur Ross – TakkSigur Rós - Takk...
In the first decade of the 21st Century, historians will remember Iceland’s premium export not as haddock, or financial collapse, not as Bjork or Eidur Gudjohnson, but as the pixietronica (I know, I know) of Sigur Ros. Their fourth album, Takk, was overplayed in the same way Moby’s play was overplayed in the 90s: in bars, clubs, adverts, living rooms, dinner parties and coffee shops. So unless you live in a Siberian cave with no access to iPlayer, it’s pretty likely that you will have heard at least twenty seconds of one of Takk’s songs. Let’s face it, there can’t be anyone alive in the UK who hasn’t heard Hoppipola. But like Play, overexposure hasn’t lessened the album’s brilliance, and it’s shimmering, almost verdant beauty still haunts me every time I hear it.

2 – Radiohead – Kid A Radiohead - Kid A
During the past ten years, Radiohead first of all changed music with the release of Kid A and then attempted to change the way we consume music with the release of In Rainbows. The jury’s still out on the success of the latter but Kid A is undoubtably a triumphant vindication of the philosophy that music needn’t appeal only to the lowest common denominator to be popular. A wonderful, wierd welding together of electronica, glitch, and indie it paved the way for much of the best music of the past decade with it’s release in 2000, mostly be succesfully borrowing from and building on much of the best music of the Nineties. Although I’ve pushed them into second for the album itself, for me, Radiohead are the band of the decade.

1 – Bright Eyes – Lifted, Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground Bright Eyes - LIFTED or the Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground
If anyone had greater vision, more creativity, wilder imagination, and certainly a better work ethic than Radiohead, in the last ten years, it was Conor Oberst. During the last decade (and remember as 2010 dawns he is still only an agonisingly precocious 29) he has released over a dozen albums, with at least four different bands and as a solo artist. Lifted – I’m not minded to keep typing out its full title if you don’t mind – is my favourite of them, coming in early in the decade, somehow at once fully realised yet naive. The album identifies ideas that would come to be Conor cliches (ridiculous title? Check. Spoken / found sound intro? Present. Massive orchestration dissolving into the most fragile and haunted whisper? Indeed.) What really gets me about the album is how few of these lists it is in – or for that matter any of his other album – I wonder if maybe Conor us to prolific for critics to take the time to realise the brilliance? On Lifted, too many of the songs are standout tracks, but any album that features Bowl Of Oranges and From A Balance Beam was always going to sit pretty high up my list of best albums. The former in paticular with it’s gambolling story telling is a minor work of art and may be where all those Dylan comparisons come from. Have a listen to my favourite Bright Eyes song (today):

Bright Eyes – Bowl Of Oranges

Top Ten Songs of the Decade

Songs

This is the second in an occasional series of lists of the past decade’s best music (according to your truly) – feel free to get into the comments if you disagree with my choices for the best songs of the decade. These are the tunes that have defined it for me… what about you?

The photograph above was taken recently in Canary Wharf, where time, I suppose, is money.

Top Ten Songs 2000-2009

10 – Sugababes – Freak Like Me Sugababes - Angels With Dirty Faces
The first single from Sugababes mark two (as any good Sugababes watcher will tell you, they’re now version 6.112 beta) and their first number one single, Freak Like Me benefited from a huge Gary Numan sample, Ruchard X at the mixing desk, and the usual barely concealed, and back then barely legal, filth that consisted of Sugababes lyrics when they were good. Now that they’re nothing more than a Girls Aloud tribute band, with no more original parts than Trigger’s brush, it’s easy to forget how good they used to be. Put this on and cast your mind back to 2003 to remember.

9 – Alter Ego – Rocker Alter Ego - Rocker
Alter Ego were one of those strange, mid-decade acts that the clash of Daft Punk, Fischerspooner and Soulwax flung up, big before dance rock, rock dance crossovers really took off, their one major club smash was the hypnotically good Rocker. The track takes me back to my second year of Uni and going to Fabric and The End to see DJs like Erol Alkan, Felix Da Housecat and Soulwax’s Dewale brothers in their 2 Many DJs guise. The version below is Josh Wink’s extended acid wig out.

Alter Ego – Acid Rocker (Josh Wink Remix)

8 – Kanye West – Through The Wire Kanye West - The College Dropout
Kanye West isn’t the decade’s best rapper (that’s Jay-Z, just like last decade and hopefully next too); he isn’t the biggest rapper (Slim Shady, um, stand up); I’m not even sure he’s the best producer (Neptunes, Timbaland?); but fair to say he’s by far the biggest and best producer turned rapper, and probably the decade’s most interesting (and bonkers!) star. Through The Wire broke him, told his – brilliant – back story, and introduced his laconic ryhmes, family friendly philosophy (try hard and you can achieve anything? Ok.), and unique productions to the world.

7 – White Stripes – Seven Nation Army The White Stripes - Elephant
From football terraces to festivals, the burring riff of Seven Nation Army has probably rung out across more stadia than almost any other tune in the past ten years. As with every one of Jack White’s best moments, the song is a startingly simple (having only two instruments and a vocal helps with that I guess!) rocker that is basically all hook. I can’t think of many other indie songs that have broken to a wider audience than Seven Nation Army, and almost every football team I’ve seen play since 2003 have used it to laud at least one of their players.

6 – Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American Jimmy Eat World - Bleed American
Emotional hardcore played by ernest boys in tight sweaters with hockey stick high Gibsons was the sound of the turn of the century, but it wasn’t until summer 2001 that the genre got an anthem of its own in Bleed American. From the subsequently psuedonymous album that held the same title for a month or two before being pulped after the attacks in New York and Washington, the song is an overwraught (in the best way) slab of screaming guitars and vocals that’s heavier than almost anything else produced by Jimmy Eat World.

Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American

5 – Lily Allen – LDN Lily Allen - Alright, Still
Like Artic Monkeys, Lily exploded as Web 2.0 went mainstream and Myspace became for music what Ebay is for fake Versace t-shirts. Leaving aside the family and the furore over file sharing, the hype and the hook ups with aging Chemical Brothers, Lily is a sublime lyricist, and I would argue with anyone that the verse:

“There was a little old lady, who was walkin’ down the road, She was struggling with her bags from Tesco, There were people from the city havin’ lunch in the park, I believe that it’s called al fresco”

is one of the most apt of the last ten years… Ldn is a happy, hooky slice of pop that celebrates a brilliant city, as it was before the financial crisis took away some of the fun: a bit dark, a lot vibrant, and the coolest place in the world on a sunny summer day..

4 – The Strokes – Last Nite The Strokes - Is This It
Even though the White Stripes are more credible, Kings Of Leon more popular, The Killers more arrogant and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club more cool; The Strokes more than any other band redefined and defined indie for the best part of the decade. Last Nite was the brittle, buzzing soundtrack to a reinvention and even though it helped to spawn ‘Peter’ Doherty and the Pidgeon Detectives, it’s so bloody good you’ve got to let it off.

3 – Artic Monkeys – When The Sun Goes Down Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
When the media needed a new story in the mid-decade slump, when file sharing hadn’t killed music, and when the biggest, the best bands in the world were polished rockers, and slick rappers, along came four boys from Shefield, too young to shave every day, let alone save rock and roll, with a sharp riff and a sharper rhyme. Alex Turner was 17 when he wrote much of what became the Artic Monkeys debut album, Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not. 17. I could barely lace my shoes at 17 and the guy was writing lyrics that better define life and living than most poets, thinkers, drinkers and philosophers manage, let alone eclipsing the work of every mid-market tabloid leader writer in history! When The Sun Goes Down, with it’s tale of Mr Inconspicuous who don’t even have say owt and the girl who don’t do major credit cards or receipts, wasn’t their first single, or even their first number one, but it was the first to highlight that there was something a little special about the Monkeys and Turner, something that set them apart from their contemporaries, let alone the landfill indie dirges that have followed it. I don’t think that either of their subsequent albums has matched their debut’s raw brilliance, although Fluorescent Adolescent is close. The crazy thing about the first album is that I think at least five of its songs could argue a case to be featured on this list (Mardy Bum, I Bet That You Look Good On The Dance Floor, Riot Van, and From The Ritz To The Rubble I reckon). A hell of thing to live up to, and on the basis they’re still only 23ish, I’m sure they’ll manage sooner or later.

2 – Justice v Simian – We Are Your Friends Justice - A Cross the Universe
A big tune. A BIG tune. One of the biggest of the decade. The recipe? Take one indie cindy tune, dirty it up with a thumping dose of hippest Parisian Ed Banger electro, leave to simmer and rise for two full years before it breaks and becomes the biggest club tune of the decade. Another Fabric tune, the type to surround yourself with when your surrounded by strangers to, the type to make a whole club your new best friends; the type to form new tribes, new indentities, new lives, to. Something special then, going from first listen shivers to over played but taking three years to get there. Justice might have proved they had more to them with the release of †, with its blend of pop hooks and bleepy, bassy electro; Ed Banger might have had other artists in Uffie and Feadz, and even a half decent one in Mehdi, but really, the band, the label, even the scene was built on this one song. A genuine smash, a sound system banger, a genre definer, an epoch – if you’ve not blearly jumped and hugged and bounced and grabbed as you screamed along “Because we are, your friends, you’ll, NEVER BE ALONE AGAIN” you didn’t enjoy the noughties as much as I did. The version below is the live one from Across The Universe, gives me a little shiver!

Justice – We Are Your Friends [Reprise]

1 – Radiohead – Idioteque Radiohead - Kid A
Saying Radiohead are ahead of the zeitgeist is like saying The Beatles had some success, The Beach Boys wrote some nice melodies, or Cheryl Cole is a little vapid. But with Idioteque, not only did they manage to meld Warp’s beats to Yorke’s breathy vocals, and invent indie glitch rock to create a truly ground-breaking pop song, they also pre-empted the pop culture embracing of the climate change cause by about five years. The song’s early-adopter support of the science and the importance of climate change means that when Thom York shows up at Copenhagen to hector the wrold’s leaders about an emissions deal, your first thought isn’t, ‘oh god, its another sub-Bono, Geldof-lite trying to sell albums by adopting a cause’, it’s ‘hmm, he might get something done’… That would be good enough for the tune, were it not for the fact that its a genuine corker of a song too. It’s rare that explicitly political songs stand alone as utterly brilliantly musically, but with Idioteque, Radiohead wrote a song so good it might go on to be not just the best of the decade, but one of the best of the century, the likes of which still haven’t even been replicated by anyone else, let alone bettered. The version below is drawn from 2001′s I Might Be Wrong live album, with a brilliant mass sing along ending. Enjoy.

Radiohead – Idioteque (Live)

You can find the previous Top Ten Compilations of the Decade list here

Top Ten Compilations of the Decade

Compilations

As the end of the decade approaches every hack writer and blogger out there is rapidly and chin strokingly (don’t try to tell me that’s not an adverb) pulling together list after list of bests of the decade. From best footballers to frocks, best musicals to museums, everyone’s getting in on the action. As a chin stroking hack myself, I don’t see why I shouldn’t conform to the Alan Patridgeness (seriously, don’t try to tell me that’s not a noun) of it all – hence the first of an occasional series of Top Ten lists over the next few weeks – set to feature albums, songs, artists. Let’s face it, to keep the post count high, I’ll probably do a best albums of 2009 too…

Each of the series will feature and image of a clock (that’s clock, with an L, this isn’t that sort of website) in one way or another… after-all, even a photograph of a clock tells the right time twice a day…

The albums’ titles are links to purchase the compilations on Amazon, where they are available, there is also an iTunes button – and as there is so much here, just a few have sample MP3s.

Top Ten Compilations 2000-2009

10 – Mod Fav Raves V1

Over the past two years there has been a huge amount of fetishising of soul, with a vast number of compilations out there celebrating the 50th anniversary of Motown, but earlier in the decade it was a little harder to find decent soul compilations of more underground stuff. There are a few good northern soul compilations out, but the Mod Fav Raves series blow the others away and the first, from 2001, is far an away the best – from the Marvellettes brilliant Too Many Fish In The Sea to Eddie Holland’s Leaving Here it’s a great set. The Velvelettes tune below is my favourite from the 20 tracks:

The Velvelettes – Needle In A Haystack

09 – Fabric 27 – Matthew Dear as Audion

Fabric have consistently put out excellent compilations, both as art of their mixed series and their Fabric Live brand. When the multi-talented head of Ghostly records Matthew Dear stepped up in his Audion guise, the result is a blend of mid-decade German minimal and glitch.

08 – Buddyhead – Suicide Sampler The Icarus Line - Buddyhead Suicide

The Buddyhead website defined the start of the decade for me, and their own top ten lists from about 2000 – 2004 were annual fixtures brimming with amazing music and caustic wit. Founded in 1997 by Travis Keller and the Icarus Line and Nine Inch Nails’ Aaron North, it wasn’t until 2000 that they started releasing music. Th eSuicide Sampler came out in 2004 and features Buddyhea bands like Ink & Dagger, Your Enemies Friends and Dillinger Escape Plan, as well as some pretty cringe-worthy prank calls.

07 – Domino – Worlds Of Possibility

More independent label brilliance at number 07 from London’s Domino Records. The home of a roster of artists that would make EMI blush, let alone its indie-brethren, despite its shoe-string start to the century, Domino has nevertheless managed to shift millions of records from the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, and The Kills – not to mention their less commerical, critically aclaimed signings like Will Oldham, Adem, and Steven Malkmus. Worlds of Possibility is a double disc selection of the label’s best from its first decade, issued in 2003.

06 – Minus – Nothing Much

Another record label that very much define the past decade is Richie Hawtin’s Berlin-based M-Nus records – already featured several times on shotwithsound (here & here), the double disc collection of Nothing Much and Something More, a mixed version featuring many of the same songs rendered unrecognisable at the hands of Troy Pierce. Stand out tracks are Pierce’s own 25 Bitches, False’s (another Matthew Dear alias) Fed On Youth, and the one below, Marc Houle’s Bay Of Figs.

Marc Houle – Bay Of Figs

05 – Location Is Everything V1

Location Is Everything is the debut sampler from Jade Tree Records, home to a blend of post-hardcore and emo acts like The Promise Ring, Denali and New End Original. The thing that unites the compilation is the rural location and distance from the cities and bright lights that each artist shares. This compilation is special for me because it was the first time I had heard one of my all-time favourite artists, Pedro The Lion, and also opened my eyes to where Americana and emo could go beyond whining about girls.

04 – North by North West

Space for a tiny bit of eighties nostalgia in my list of the Noughties: a brilliant exploration of the music of Liverpool and Manchester on two discs, all put together by the peerless Paul Morley. The selection is as good as can be expected from someone with the vast experience of Morley, but the only let down is the lack of balance between the two cities: Manchester boasts Joy Division, Buzzcocks, New Order, Magazine and even John Cooper Clarke’s poetry on its side; while Liverpool really only brings Echo and the Bunnymen and OMD. Still, the first disc alone is worth the cover price, the second and the linear notes put it in this list!

03 – Erol Alkan – Bugged Out

Of all of the DJs who found fame during the decade, Erol Alkan is probably the only one who is now known by only a name and a t-shirt and certainly the only one brave enough to fill second disc of his debut mix cd with tracks more familiar to your gran that your average Trash talking hipster. But when you have one side of music (the Bugged Out disc) that’s so epoch-makingly stunning you can afford to experiment a bit on the other (Bugged In) side. Erol is most famous for popularising the mash-up with his Blue Monday vs Kylie track that became Can’t Get You Outta My Head but here he pretty much sticks to straight up electro bangers but for the euphoric closer below, a mash-up so good it still makes me shiver when the vocal comes in.

Wink vs The Rapture – Higher State Of Consciousness / House Of Jealous Lovers

02 – Dark Was The Night Bon Iver - Dark Was the Night

Dark Was The Night is the only compilation from this year to make my best of the decade list (even the excellent Ciao My Shining Star got bumped), so to make it at number 02, it had to be pretty special. Firstly, it’s for a good cause – all profits are being donated to the Red Hot Organisation for Aids prevention and education (with nearly half a million pounds raised to date). And secondly, having been produced by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National, and featuring an enormous cast list of the indie / Americana great and good like Grizzly Bear, Yeasayer, Feist, Ben Gibbard, Conor Oberst, Kronos Quartet and The National themselves, it’s a second-to-none document of a scene so meteoric this year that it’s hard to think the sounds here won’t define the next decade as much as they have this one. The music is a mixture of covers, originals and collaborations the depth and variety of which I’ve rarely seen before on any compilation: want David Byrne working with Dirty Projectors? Got it. Jose Gonzales covering Nick Drake? Check. Anthony (of ‘and the Johnsons’) and Bryce Dessner working together on a Dylan track? Fine. Feist singing with Grizzly Bear? Yep. The track sample below shows the brilliance of the concept as Conor Oberst has a second go at his track Lua (originally from I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning) with Gillian Welch adding her vocals to his own.

Conor Oberst & Gillian Welch – Lua

01 – As Heard On Radio Soulwax Volume 2

And so to number one – the album that more than almost any other, compilation, mix, record or re-issue has defined the last decade for me and many many others. The first decade of the Twenty First Century will be remembered as the one when piracy went mainstream, when content became collaborative, when social media and web 2.0 sites made everyone an artist with a following, and when the way we create, consume and contain music changed immeasurably. While artists as diverse as Lily Allen, Artic Monkeys and Radiohead have benefited from these changes, non have quite defined them as well as the Belgian brothers Dewaele – otherwise known as two fifths of Soulwax and 2 Many DJs. Not only managing to be amongst the first to embrace the rock / dance crossover that has so coloured clubs since the start of the decade, they also pre-empted the revolutions in music making, mixing, mashing up and marketing with their As Heard On Radio Soulwax and Hang The DJ mixes. Although the only album to get a formal release was 2003′s As Heard On Volume 2, across the web around fifty other mixes, containing snippets of each other along with original tunes, remixes and mash ups. As for Volume 2 itself, at various points throughout the decade it has been very hard to enter a hip boutique, a happening bistro or a hot designer’s studio without hearing it’s bastard pop blends and beats blaring out. Plucking from a range of artists that encompasses everyone from Dolly Parton to Destiny’s Child, the Stooges to Skee Lo and New Order to Nena then melding them together in a way so original and exciting that it changed dance music irrevocably. And the most surprising thing? It’s relative lack of critical aclaim, even now. Clocking in at only number 93 of Pitchfork’s Top 200 albums of the 2000s, it barely registers elsewhere. Of course alone this doesn’t make it the best compilation of the decade, it just means I’m the only one who’s noticed!

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shotwithsound

shotwithsound is a blog about the music I love, with occasional forays into my photography, and other things that catch my eye.

You can see more of my photography on my website www.nicstevenson.com.