In a decade where music listeners moved away from albums en masse, and towards downloadable tracks and podcasts, there was perhaps less emphasis on the musical long-player than at any period since the 1960s.
However, with more opportunities to Do It Yourself than ever before, great albums arrived in their droves. Some, like Jay-Z’s The Black Album, emerged on major labels backed by money-spinning promotion campaigns. Others, like Dangermouse’s The Grey Album, were home-made success stories that reflected the changing tides in the way people chose to consume and react to music. Tellingly, two of the albums in our final top 100 were free CDs given away with other products.
Neither Black nor Grey made that top 100. Along with other great contenders like At the Drive-in’s Relationship of Command, Superpitcher’s Here Comes Love, Jim O’Rourke’s I’m Happy… and Kate Bush’s Aerial, they fell by the wayside. Still, we’re happy with the results.
Every day this week, we’ll publish twenty of our top 100: starting with 100-80 today, and ending with the final 20 on Friday. And we’ll try not to use the word ‘noughties’ too much.
100: PARALLAX CORPORATION
A co-production between Dutch italo-fetishists I-f and Intergalactic Gary, the slyly humorous, irascibly funky Cocadisco introduced us to a whole new world of alternative electronic music. In its wake innumerable artists – from the dance underground to the pop charts – plundered 80s synth-pop, electro and disco for inspiration. To this day none have done so with anything like the aplomb of The Parallax Corporation. [Trilby Foxx]
99: LATE OF THE PIER
FANTASY BLACK CHANNEL
Nottingham glam rock, made by four teenagers dressed like Quality Street packets and produced by Erol Alkan – God this album was set up for a fall. And yet, on the strength of Alkan’s neon-filtered production and Late of the Pier’s unbelievable knack for hooks and melodies, Fantasy Black Channel succeeded, even managing to sound like Oasis’ ‘Live Forever’ (on ‘Random Furl’) and still be good. [Jay Shockley]
SHEDDING THE PAST
Shedding The Past is a haunting record, as much an elegy for techno as an affirmation of its enduring and mutable power.
From the windswept breakbeat of ‘Estrange’ and ‘ITHAW’ to the ambient exhalation of ‘Ostrich-Mountain-Square’, producer Rene Pawlowitz is at his best in reflective mode. But these melancholic passages of Shedding The Past are complemented beautifully by a number of full-heft dancefloor bombs: the rolling, positively locomotive ‘That Beats Everything!’ and especially ‘Another Wedged Chicken’, which finds Pawlowitz showing off his command of heavily swung, dubstep-influenced rhythms.
Techno will never be the same unquantifiable alien force that it was in the early 90s, and a spoken word interlude reminiscing wistfully about “true techno music” suggests Shed himself is well aware of this. But he also knows that true techno looks forward, not back – the past must first be confronted, and then cast aside. [Ben Baglin]
Dedicated to late boyfriend Tore Kroknes, Annie’s debut album was, in true pop fashion, all about the singles. That might seem like a slight, but when those singles are ‘Happy Without You’, ‘Always Too Late’, ‘Chewing Gum’ and the exemplary, euphoric ‘Heartbeat’ (love song of the decade? Probably) then they’re always going to stand out. Not as great an album as Robyn’s 2005 effort, but worthy nonetheless. [Anna Russell]
96: KARL LINDH
BORTOM E4’S HORRISONT
(STRANGE LIFE, 2005)
Released on Danny ‘Legowelt’ Wolfers’ Strange Life label and produced by Stilleben boss Luke Eargoggle, the sublimely slow and inscrutable Bortom E4’s Horrisont – which may or may not be about chess – is a world away from the Dutch electro sound we all know and love.
Subtle twilight jazz tropes – smokey double bass, electric piano – are fleshed out with willowy synth textures, electronic blips and shuffling drum machine rhythms. The mood is drowsy, lolling, hypnotic but also a little threatening – somehow reminiscent of deserted seaside resorts and amusement arcades, evacuated domes of pleasure. But this is no brooding Ballardian bore-fest – there’s wit and warmth to it. A totally unique and elliptical listening experience, Badalamenti by way of Portmeirion, Bortom E4’s Horrisont is second only to Burial in the ultimate night bus soundtrack stakes. [Kiran Sande]
95: PREFUSE 73
ONE WORD EXTINGUISHER
A hodgepodge of dayglo synths, cutting percussion, one-take verses and beautiful melodies that grew in stature as the noughties went on; taking in the best of Dilla, Dabrye, Boards of Canada and er, pre-fusion jazz, and predicting many of underground hip-hop’s movements late in the decade – but with the unbeatable rawness of a record made solely on an MPC sampler. [Jack Blake]
A bold departure from Raster-Noton’s typical digital minimalism, this dense and suspenseful record feels more like a grainy, fractal homage to the dystopian synth soundtracks of John Carpenter. Paranoid, claustrophobic and full of a vague but intense urban dread, List’s combination of advanced electronics and grindhouse swagger – replete with smudged jive-talk samples – make it one of the most bizarre and rewarding, ahem, “electronica” records of recent years. [Kiran Sande]
93: CAMERA OBSCURA
LET’S GET OUT OF THIS COUNTRY
The Glaswegian Peel favourites, well-versed in the Scottish indie heritage of bittersweet observations and comely ‘60s pop, were too often little more than a Belle & Sebastian reference in many critics’ eyes and ears – until the release of this, their third long-player. Songwriter Tracyanne Campbell’s pen began to sweep in broader strokes, and producer Jari Haapalainen employed lush orchestration and cathedrals full of reverb to give her dourly romantic outpourings the pomp and the pathos they deserved. Though their musical outlook is perhaps old-fashioned, the appeal of bands like Camera Obscura is indefatigable, and, like the timeless legacy of the pop greats that influenced it – Cobb, Spector, Greenwich and such – this album should hold its lustre forever. [Daddy Bones]
92: MISS KITTIN AND THE HACKER
(INTERNATIONAL DEEJAY GIGOLOS, 2001)
These days one tends to remember electroclash for its most lurid, pantomime aspects, and forget some of the remarkable music it threw up. Effortlessly bestriding speaker-ripping club music and arch art-pop, the near-perfect debut offering from Miss Kittin and The Hacker sounds as riveting today as it did back in ‘01. Kittin’s lyrics inhabit and skewer the slack-brained lifestyles of the rich and famous with uncommon sass and savagery: “Every night with my star friends / We eat caviar and drink champagne, sniffing in the VIP area / We talk about Frank Sinatra / You know Frank Sinatra? / He’s dead! HAHAHAHAHA! Dead.”
Elsewhere nurses, strippers and MTV automatons fall under the satirical knife, but crucially The Hacker’s jacked-up beats cut just as deep: made from a sub-heavy, acid-flecked alloy of electro-techno, EBM and synth-pop, they are, in the best possible sense, absolute filth. [Trilby Foxx]
YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT
Rejected by Reprise (who’d released every prior Wilco album under Howie Klein’s presidency of the label), Yankee Hotel Foxtrot saw band members leave, a documentary, a lawsuit, a leak (before leaks were standard procedure) and God knows what else. Without a label and tracks leaking fast, the band streamed YHF on their website in late 2001, and it turned out it was a masterpiece – unsettling in the way its lyrics and cover anticipate the September 11 attacks, and one of the great Americana albums of any era. [Tom Lea]