The late ’00s are rarely a period of music looked back on with much fondness. In an era of bands being hyped one minute and forgotten the next amid a saturated market, music formats were changing and we hadn’t quite accepted it yet. Social media was beginning to get a grip on our lives too, and the biggest ‘artist’ brewing was the Great Recession, though still in his underground ‘Credit Crunch’ phase at this stage.
Still, there’s always wheat among the chaff and a mixture of veterans and newbies did their best to make ’08 great with these memorable albums that, I shit you not, are about to hit double figures.
1Sigur Ros – Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
Definitely their cheeriest album to date, from the upbeat naked frolicking of ‘Gobbledigook’, to the wonderful chiming of ‘Inní mér syngur vitleysingur’. ‘Ára bátur’, complete with a full orchestra, really hits the heartstrings, and the album even saw the Icelanders venture into English for the first time with ‘All Alright’
2Portishead – Third
Their first album in just over a decade – does that mean another is due soon?
‘Third’ maintained the spine-tingling, horror film-like aura we had come to expect from Portishead from their ’90s predecessor albums, with opener ‘Silence’ an unsettling concoction of dissonant guitars, Beth Gibbons’ haunting tones and a curiously sudden ending. Elsewhere, influences seemed to have moved away from Bristol hip-hop and towards industrial and krautrock, most notably on ‘Machine Gun’.
3Foals – Antidotes
It was very hip to like these in 2008, so given I’m the type of person who uses words like ‘hip’ without a hint of irony, I’m not sure what I was doing listen to them.
Fast-paced, math rocky and insanely catchy, some might argue Foals have developed their sound since, but I find this debut to be their most enjoyable and probably original work.
4M83 – Saturdays = Youth
A synthpop exploration of both the happy (‘We Own The Sky’) and troubled (‘Graveyard Girl’) aspects of youth, this is one of those albums that somehow feels at the same time nostalgic and futuristic.
As the title suggests though, the album makes you yearn to be young, carefree and with plenty of time on your hands. The fact that it’s now nearly a decade old only adds to that quality!
5Fuck Buttons – Street Horrsing
When it came out, this album intrigued and frankly frightened me.
The best way I can describe it is to say it’s like a relaxing ambient album that someone is trying to hijack. Fairly gentle and hypnotic tones are interrupted with urgent loops, monotone beeps and vocoded screeching, giving it the effect of watching daytime TV only for it to be interrupted by an emergency broadcast.
Who’d have thought that just four years later, these avant-garde droners would be featured in the soundtrack to the Olympic Games opening ceremony?
6R.E.M. – Accelerate
Four years on from the fairly lacklustre ‘Around the Sun’, Michael Stipe and co. returned sounding invigorated on their 14th and, as it turned out, penultimate album.
It’s really nothing radically different from what they’d always done, but the songs are there, and when that’s the case it’s always going to be a very strong R.E.M. album.
7Mars Volta – Bedlam in Goliath
I always found the Mars Volta quite frustrating and exhausting. When they just went mental, they were great, but their albums were pretty much always bloated.
So was this one, but it was structured too, and ‘Wax Simulacra’ showed they could cram all their complexity into under three minutes.
8The Fall – Imperial Wax Solvent
The late Mark E. Smith deserves his place in one of these lists. With a steady line-up for once, The Fall hit a bit of a purple patch in the late noughties, with 2007’s Reformation! Post-TLC and this follow-up both cracking albums, even if MES did take up 11 minutes telling us how old he was.