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 TopĀ 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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