Albums of the Decade

I don’t really know where to start when trying to draw up a list of songs or albums that sum up the last 10 years. 2000 was a long time ago (10 years, in fact), and I’m not sure I can be truly objective when comparing things I’m listening to now and records that I remember being at least as important at various other points in the last 10 years. I love the new Flaming Lips album, but is it really better than Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots? Is In Rainbows better than Kid A, or was it just released more recently? And is it really possible to sum up a decade in a list of records?

My gut instinct is that no record released this year should make the list. Just because I’ve not had time to assess their importance. But at the same time I don’t think that’s fair to an album like The Hazards of Love, which I reckon I’ll still be listening to in 2019.

So without further ado, a first stab at a list of records from the last 10 years that I think people should own, and that in some way sum up the decade for me.

Radiohead – Kid A (2000) – To me this record redefined what a big selling record could sound like, and did a great job of sounding like everything I was currently listening to at the time (Tortoise, Jim O’Rourke, Miles Davies and a few even more esoteric things). Everything they released this decade would get into my top 100, but this is where they laid down the blueprint for what was to come. I bought this album the day I had my first interview to work at the University, and to me it perfectly sums up 2000.

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) – The album that introduced me to Wilco, and that marked them out as something more than just an alternative country band. It was also the first album (I think) that was streamed to listeners before it was released, and marked the first of four consecutive great albums they released between 2002-09. It was hard choosing between this, A Ghost is Born and Wilco (the album), but I think YHF just shades it, and is the one I’d recommend people start with.

The Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004) – They seemed to come out of nowhere, and to be critically acclaimed without ever being fashionable. This album was the one that really introduced me to them, and made me realise that there was something coming out of Canada that wasn’t 24 minute instrumental masterpieces or trite pop songs. I played this album to death in 2004, and still dip into it every now and again, and it is something I would recommend to anyone who likes music.

The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday (2005) – I didn’t discover this band until their 4th album (Stay Positive), but soon fell in love with their second effort from 2005. They are described as a bar band, but I see them as the 21st century version of Jack Kerouac and the best storytelling band ever. The music is loud and simple, the lyrics are narrative and hilarious, and the fact that something made in 2005 topped my listening charts for this year just goes to show it is something special.

Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid (2008) – Last year’s album of the year by a mile, and something I keep going back to when I want to be reminded of 2008 (which was generally a good year). I’ve been a fan of theirs for a while, but this is the first album where I would recommend every single song.

Albums of the year 2009

Calculated using the same algorithm as the last two years, and only including albums actually released this year.

  1. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
  2. Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
  3. The Horrors – Primary Colours
  4. Portugal. The Man – The Satanic Satanist
  5. Florence and The Machine – Lungs
  6. Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications
  7. The Big Pink – A Brief History of Love
  8. Califone – All My Friends Are Funeral Singers
  9. Doves – Kingdom Of Rust
  10. Maxïmo Park – Quicken The Heart
  11. And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – The Century of Self
  12. Robyn Hitchcock – Goodnight Oslo
  13. Editors – In This Light And On This Evening
  14. Manic Street Preachers – Journal For Plague Lovers
  15. Bear in Heaven – Beast Rest Forth Mouth
  16. Julian Casablancas – Phrazes For The Young
  17. Fresh Body Shop – The Ugly Army
  18. Atlas Sound – Logos
  19. David Byrne & Brian Eno – Everything that Happens will Happen Today
  20. Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk

Oddly enough, three of my most played (and favourite) albums of 2009 were released prior to 2009. They slot into the top 5 as follows:

  1. The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday
  2. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
  3. Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
  4. British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
  5. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive

Nothing else from before 2009 got anywhere near the top 20 (American Demo by The Indelicates being the closest by some distance).

Happy Christmas from New York

We are now in New York.

Wednesday was a very long day. We got up at 3:30am UK time, and didn’t arrive at our hotel until the sort of time we would normally be thinking of going to bed. Despite this, we went to Starbucks for a coffee (there are no coffee making facilities in our room), and then wandered to Times Square to look at the pretty lights and generally marvel at how big and alive everything feels. We then went to the restaurant next to our hotel to grab food and drink before getting a stupidly early night (8pm NY time, which felt like 1am).

Thursday (Christmas Eve) involved a lot of shopping (or rather wandering around shops and not buying a lot). We also saw lots of Christmas celebrations which made me realise how bad the UK is at celebrating Christmas. I managed to stay up until 10pm, and seem to have slipped back into a half decent sleeping pattern.

Today (so far) we have wandered around Central Park, taken lots of photographs, and eaten delicious bagels. Tomorrow we plan on doing more shopping (proper shopping this time) along with a visit to the Museum of Modern Art to see Tim Burton’s exhibition.

All in all, I think I like this city. Some things about it are strange though. I really like the hotel we’re in, but it does lack a bar (there is a mini bar, but with no price list I’m not risking it), and we could really do with a way to make coffee in the room. On the bright side, we’re a stones throw from Starbucks and about 20 places to eat and drink, so it’s hardly a massive chore to go out, explore, and try out lots of different nice food (on Wednesday I had the best pizza I’ve had for ages, and everything we’ve eaten so far has been great).

The first batch of photos should be on Facebook soon.

Moving to Google Apps

I’d considered moving my email to Google Apps for a while. Largely because most of the webspace I have here is taken up with this blog, and I found myself having to use complicated backup methods to ensure I didn’t lose mail. So on Friday night I set up with Google Apps (Mail, Calendar and Docs only at present), and I now have 8Gb of email storage (as well as a backup of everything useful from the last 5 years). I’ve also configured all my other addresses to point at the new domain, so that anything I get sent will still reach me (I had a couple of mail blips recently, the last one on Thursday/Friday), but anything new I send out will come from andy @ While I’m still using Thunderbird at present, I do have the option of the gmail interface should I choose, and I think I’ve managed to set up IMAP so it works exactly as it did before.

So yes, all change here, but hopefully a change for the better.