Top Albums Of The Decade Or Something

Regular Bzangy readers, if there are any, will know that I was posting up a best album of the year list since waaay back when.

I say was because my life and mental state for the last few years, since my Dad died, have conspired to make me not get this done. I realised this year that I miss my best album list, purely for selfish reasons: it was a great way for me to keep track of bands I love and also check up on them to see what they’d been releasing lately.

So, as it’s the turn of the decade and we’re now heading into the ROARING TWENTIES, old sport, I thought I would present my ALBUMS OF THE DECADE OR SOMETHING. What I’ve done is to compile all the number one albums I’ve listed for the first seven years of the Tens and present them for you below, in one handy list. The last three years, sorry, you’re on your own there.

The albums below are in not particular order because they are all, frankly, stunning. There’s a mix of genres, of course but that’s because I bore easily. But I do think if you make a playlist of these albums, you’ll have some of the best music of the last decade.

1. Gojira – Magma

SO… 2016, eh?

What a fucker of a year. 

So many famous people we loved died. Then B R E X I T. Then Trump and his supporters actually sieg-heiling and the President Elect not condemning them for that.

I had all that and my Dad died in April. 

I can say that 2016 has been the worst year in my life this far. Many, many times, I’ve felt like walking into traffic or jumping off something. And one of the reasons I haven’t is this album.

That may sound like hyperbole if you’re not a music fan, if music doesn’t hit you like pure heroin, like it does me. But this year was so dark for me, so relentlessly, meaninglessly horrible that I reached out to music to make a connection. I couldn’t burden the few humans I know with the truth, the whole ugly truth of my emotions. But ‘Magma’ was waiting. ‘Magma’ didn’t require me to censor the worst parts of myself. 

I’ve loved Gojira for years but on ‘Magma’ they take all their prog skill and focus it like a laser. When they’re simple, it’s with an authority, a gravitas that is undeniable and based on their ridiculous technical prowess. You can feel that weight in the title track which pounds along after the eerie tube harmonics opening. They get pretty close to a heavy Floyd vibe here, massed monk vocals and all. 

I love that this record isn’t cartoon heavy; it’s not blast beats and invocations to silly non-existent religious entities. It’s not some Nazi fuckwit gibbering over Pro-Tools. The heaviness is adult, is real, it is comprehensible and that’s how I could connect to it. The pain in this record is where I found solace. The silence is where I found respite.

So I drove round for hours listening to it because I can have it as loud as I want in my car without disturbing neighbours. I could have it loud enough that the kicks shook my guts and that every lead line was like sheet metal being ripped next to my ear. My ears would ring afterwards but, fuck it, I’d damage myself for a hit of that shit. 

‘Silvera’ pummelled me and made me feel better. ‘When you change yourself, your change the world,’ they shouted at me. So I reversed this and changed my world, hoping to change myself. Little by little, this stopped being an album, stopped being a collection of songs recorded in a studio and became the sound inside my head. I would be walking in town and hear the double kicks inside me, I came to need to hear them to stop from panicking if I actually had to talk to a human. 

Yes, this is epic metal. It’s more machinelike than Mastodon, more melodramatic than Pelican but it shares the same blunt, calloused hands, the same familiarity with pain. When ‘Pain’ actually starts, it’s with a chirp of flute and it could be an old rave track about to kick in, under the eighths. Then the staccato kicks hit along with the toms and you’re gone. After the relatively sedate verse, the chorus is flailing fucking mayhem again, the sense of controlled violence erupting into that moment when you know you’re going to punch the wall just to see if you’ll leave a mark. Just to see if you actually fucking exist to anyone or anything any more. 

Thank you, Gojira. Thank you for keeping me alive. 

Andrew Combs - All These Dreams

1. Andrew Combs – All These Dreams

When it comes down to it, I love pop songs. And that’s why Andrew Combs is the top artist in this chart, because he’s written the best songs I’ve heard in 2015.

What’s the album like? Well, it’s pure country. It’s not alt, it’s not indie, it’s not some hipsters in Brooklyn who’ve put on stetsons and ridiculous drawls and “gone country.” Combs is a  kid (he’s only 29, recorded this when he was 27/28, I’m guessing) who’s country through and through, moved to Nashville to pursue his dream of being a proper writer.

Unlike a lot of his generation, his inspiration is classic songwriters, whether that’s Kristofferson or Paul Simon or Guy Clark. The result is an album of songs that are melancholy gems. This is the country that also the blues, it lifts you up by helping you see you’re not alone, not that strange, not as fucked as you think you are.

Here’s the end refrain from ‘Foolin’ :

I do a line have a drink

Tell the world what I think

Keep it fast keep it mean

I don’t mean what I’m saying baby

Somebody save me…

Well, we’ve all been there, haven’t we, even without the coke and JD?

When I listen to this album and Combs assured, soulful delivery I’m reminded of Nilsson and Fred Neil. When I listen to the songs, I’m reminded of Newman and Nesmith. And, sometimes, at his most keening and sorrowful, Combs channels Orbison which I would never say lightly.

This is a singer and songwriter who is already gold and only going to get more golden. And that’s why ‘All These Dreams’ is my top album of 2015.

martha


1. Martha – Courting Strong
I had the privilege of seeing Martha rule the Main Stage at Indietracks last year so I know they are one the best live bands I have ever seen. Their frantic, often ragged punk polemics are as warm and funny as they are totally, completely serious. And I love their politics, I love their straight-edgeness, I love their stupidly posicore spirit. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they can deliver a brilliant album. Will all that energy translate, will it captivate when we can’t see them jumping round like knobheads?

Yes.

Courting Strong is the best  album of 2014 because it is the complete, auteurist expression of intelligent, awesome people. Compromise, zero. Pandering, zero. Weird, fake American accents, zero. Heteronormative cliches, zero. Here, fucking finally, is an indiepop band, a punk band which remembers that those genres were founded on political bases. I see so many indiepop bands who ape the aesthetic or instrumentation of the C-86 era while conveniently ignoring everything political about those times. And, truly, who wants a bunch of Tory fucks in cardigans mewling about some imaginary girl who wouldn’t suck them off?

Take the last bit of Present Tense:

You lost your lucky purple lighter/On the Megabus to Brighton/But on the way you read a zine that made you think/You’d be a good Anarcho writer/But not even Voltairine de Cleyre/Could successfully get you there/Without a list of aspirations gushing out of your pen/As you stewed in that sticky chair/Regretting the choices that we made, 

You’re wishing your life away/Or longing for bygone days/Oh would you give me a fucking break? Cause they won’t come back/ 
So give me something that lasts/You’re searching for answers in tough circumstances but I just need something that lasts/so give me something that lasts.

It’s hardly “boo hoo, some mean girl fucked someone who wasn’t me” is it?

Couple Martha’s lyrical prowess with a gazillion pop hooks that any living motherfucker would find irresistible and you have this rare thing, a niche record that is also a proper pop record.  If Dust, Juice, Bones, Hair made it onto an advert or primetime Radio 1, it would be an instant hit. I have no doubt.

This is the pop music I love: I can sing along to it, I can dance to it and it makes me think. Most stuff I hear can manage two out of three at most. Chart pop, generally one, if that. But how often does pop music leave you musing for days after, trying to pick out what was being said or, more importantly, why?

Courting Strong is flicking vs at your mates, it’s rolling up your skirt at the waist as soon as you’re in school and your Mum can’t see, it’s oinking when you pass a copper, it’s telling the rest of the world to fuck off because this, right here, this is important. It’s as fundamentally British and Durham as it is Internationalist and intersectional. Buy it now, here.


1. Baths – Obsidian
Okay, I’m a sucker for synthpop, electro, whatever you goddamn kids call it this week. I’m also a sucker for immaculate, perfect pop songs that are as unsettling as they are catchy. That’s why Baths’ ‘Obsidian’ is my number one album of 2013. Will Weisenfeld, the genius behind Baths wraps the most painful of private confessions in the most perfect sugar coatings. If there is a modern-day heir to Gore’s ‘Black Celebration’ electro-goth noir, it’s Baths. Look, if you really want a cookie-cutter, easy-sell handle about it, imagine a very depressed, maimingly honest Postal Service with 100% more lyrics about needy erections.

This is my top album partly because it’s been the key to my lock. When you’re walking around your suburb hoping you’ll be Regina Georged by a passing bus, you need lyrics in your ears that aren’t facile. You don’t care if they’re uncomfortable or scratchy, crawling into your head and tickling alive memories you thought you’d drowned, as long as they’re real. You need lyrics like this:

“You don’t do anything with your life
Fascinating, terrible – your stupid idling mind
I can prod your hurt all night
Or resign and find
Any other stupid thing to do with my time
I was never poetic and never kind

Scared of how little I care for you
Scared of how little I care for you
Scared of how little I care for you
I am elsewhere.”

Please check out ‘Miasma Sky’ if nothing else from this album. I cannot believe any human who has ever loved pop music will be immune to its skittering, baleful charms.

Apart from that, I find it hard to single out what to recommend from an album of such riches. A lot of people have and will call this a depressing album. I don’t feel it to be. On the contrary, at my lowest ebb, this album has come to me at random times and punched me on the arm and made me feel a little less ridiculous and ugly.

“It gets all in the way, the pit in my throat
This isn’t the adulthood I thought I wrote
And I never see your face, but I just might be okay with that
I have no eyes, I have no love, I have no hope

And it is not a matter of
If you need it
But it is only a matter of
Come and fuck me
And it is not a matter of
If you love me
But it is only a matter of
My fix.”

A little.


1. Diamond Rings – Free Dimensional
If there was any justice, DR would be bigger than Lady Gaga and Maroon 5 put together. He’s got fabulous synthpop songs, a voice like a charming, adolescent bear and he’s cute too. ‘All The Time’ is pure, pure, purest pop: intelligent verses matched with seductive, let’s-take-our-clothes-off-now-please choruses. ‘Runaway Love’ was obviously a massive ‘80s anthem in some parallel universe. Why can’t we make it come true in this one? But this album if you love pop music, choruses and shaking your ass in an outrageous fashion.

EDIT:

Gojira‘s ‘L’enfant Sauvage’ should be in there somewhere but for some reason my iTunes 2012 smartlist excluded it. DAMN YOU, APPLE! Well, I’m a long-time fan of Gojira and their newie is deft, powerful, passionate metal. It’s certainly a worthy successor to 2008’s ‘Way Of All Flesh,’ which is one of my fave metal albums ever. Buy it!

1. Yelle – Safari Disco Club


I have listened to this album more than any other this year. I have driven mates barmy by hitting repeat in my car. I have watched all Yelle’s vids and of course, I’m in love with Julie and would like her to have my fat, brown babies.

This is a perfect electropop album. Nothing is wasted, everything works together. Every note hammers home Yelle’s agenda of (primarily) sexy dance fun. The synths weave around Julie Budet’s incredible voice like lovers’ arms, tickling and teasing. The beats are undeniable, every fibre of your body starts pumping in resonance.

I’ve sung along so many times to ‘Comme Un Enfant’ in my terrible French, it’s ridiculous! How can you not love these lyrics:

“J’aime les fraises tagada et je rêve d’un
Wayne’s world 3, je veux une méga happy
End enlacée dans tes bras
J’en ai pas de dents de sagesse, ça ne me
Manque pas, quand je mords la nuit à
Pleines dents pour faire la nouba
Je suis un enfant, comme un adolescent
Je suis un adulte, comme un adolescent
Faut-il vraiment choisir son camp (choisir son camp)
Le faut-il vraiment, comme un adolescent
Je chante et je pleure, comme un enfant

Je joue à me faire peur,
Comme un enfant, comme un enfant
Je pense tout et son contraire,
Comme un enfant, comme un enfant
Je danse, j’ai le coeur à l’envers,
Comme un enfant, comme un enfant”

Here, sing along for yourself:

Yelle have made the best pop album of 2011 and they have made me sad with their mastery of electropop. It means I have to try much fucking harder!

Enjoy Yelle and the rest of my 2011 albums. But hands off Julie, she’s mine! ? ???

1. Everything Everything – Man Alive


I went to see this band (click here) and even though I already loved the album, it came alive in a special way.

‘Man Alive’ covers such an enormous gamut, both musically and lyrically. Yes, it’s all indie rock / pop but there’s so much else going on here. The harmonies, the integration of the electronics (never showy, always organic), the energy that seeps out of every tiny, non-repeated noise. I hear all those things that the band have put in. And I appreciate them.

They make ‘Man Alive’ the best album of 2010. ?