As we hit the mid way point of the year, and best albums ‘so far’ lists start to flood in, we’ve done something a little different.
It has been very tough sifting through some superbly designed and crafted albums over the last ten years. Here are twenty that I believe are the best that have ever graced peoples ears.
Coldplay – Mylo Xlyoto (2011)
Coldplay have been one of the greatest pop bands of our generation – even if some people think that they are terrible. Their 2011 album Mylo Xlyoto (“My-lo Zy-letoe”) – which finished 5th in the UK album chart – is the best they’ve created overall. Every song from the album was punchy, exciting and action packed with divine beats, to watch ‘Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall’ and ‘Paradise’ in a huge arena would be a dream come true, their live performances are incredible. And, if a collaboration with Rhianna in ‘Princess of China’ didn’t get you interested, then you certainly missed out on one of their greatest creations yet.
Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)
Radiohead’s seventh studio album, In Rainbows, is their strongest album of the noughties which was concurrently calm and raging, yet ethereal and grounded. Fusing gravelly human lyrics with classic incarnations of the band’s fuzzy, vigorous guitars, ambient backdrops and eccentric time signatures.
Bombay Bicycle Club – I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose (2009)
The debut album from London’s curry house-inspired named quartet is still arguably their best album out of the four they produced before they announced they were to have a “break” whilst they peruse their solo careers. I Had The Blues… was produced by Jim Abbiss, the man behind the Arctic Monkeys, Adele and Kasabian’s debuts showed that they meant business. ‘Always Like This’ and ‘Evening / Morning’’s terse vocals and punching guitars show off Jack’s unique voice developing musical maturity.
Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)
Grammy Award Best Alternative Music Album winner Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix from French indie poppers Phoenix drew a huge mainstream audience with the upbeat disco pop music. From ‘Lasso’ and ‘Lisztomania’ the band was attracted to the US for a huge tour with an album full of tunes that were as dreamy and danceable as anything from a classic John Hughes soundtrack, yet totally inscrutable.
The Black Keys – Brothers (2010)
The Black Keys’ 2010 album Brothers showcases the best of garage and blues rock combined, backed up by winning two Grammy’s, including Best Alternative Music Album in 2011. ‘Tighten Up’ was its music fame on FIFA 11, so it is safe to say that Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney completed blew 2011 out of the water with their typical boom-kick drum beats setting the scene back to the 50s with some good old blues.
Royal Blood – Royal Blood (2014)
Following similar suit to The Black Keys, Royal Blood’s impressive debut album left a lot of people speechless. Everyone fell in love with Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher instantly, their hard-core rock music gave a breath of fresh air when released in 2014. The scuzzy riffs and blistering energy has set the bar high for their upcoming sophomore album, but c’mon, they’ll smash it.
The Wombats – A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation (2007)
It was very hard to pick which album was better, the debut or the sophomore, but I think by a narrow margin their decade old album wasn’t exactly anything outrageous or ground-breaking but each song processes an infectious indie-rock beat that snuggles up nicely into catchy melodies.
Foals – Holy Fire (2013)
By far the Yannis’ best creation, Holy Fire was just the perfect guitar driven rock album with tracks ‘Inhaler’ and ‘My Number’ manages to capture both sides of the fans brains and hearts. Gorgeous hooks and lively punk-rock makes it their best work to date, but don’t get me wrong What Went Down is an absolutely class album, but it never caught my attention as much as Holy Fire did.
Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (2008)
American indie rock outfit’s self-titled debut album was simple indie pop, yet had its own quirky vibe. Hit single ‘M79’, named after a New York bus route, features violins and a cello, complementing their traditional pop/rock sound in ‘A-Punk’. Whilst ‘Oxford Comma’ cemented their music fame at a time where interest was growing in clean-cut, dirty indie-pop.
Slaves – Are You Satisfied? (2015)
The perfect debut album from Slaves has set them to become one of the best live bands currently in the UK. Slaves prove that rock music isn’t a dying breed and certainly competes with the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian, with just a guitar and a drum kit it’s all you need to create some of the best adrenaline fuelled punk-rock this country may ever see for a long time.
The 1975 – The 1975 (2013)
The best debut album I’ve listened to, Matty Healy won over the millions of teen girls by their heels combining the dark youthful themes of love, sex and fear with ethereal alt-rock music. ‘Sex’, ‘Girls’ and ‘Chocolate’ gleam, modular synth rock set the four-piece up from Worst Band by NME to mainstream fame winning Best Group at the Brits this year. Suppose NME got this one massively wrong.
Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city (2012)
Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City is a record more about homeboys than celebrity friends, that connected with black Americans and won the award for Album of the Year at the 2013 BET Hip Hop Awards with daring sprints into the hip-hop unknown. This not a record committed to its vision and story but Lamar has bypassed the norm by producing an album that’s damn near impeccable.
Tame Impala – Lonerism (2012)
Australians Tame Impala are the pioneers of bringing modern, heavy synth driven psychedelic pop back into the mainstream world. Lonerism is one of the best albums from 2012, with its oddity sound that is incredibly catchy. ‘Endors Toi’, ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ and ‘Elephant’ include the trippy synths, guitars combined with modern sample deconstruction.
Sundara Karma – Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect (2017)
We had to wait a long time before the Reading four-piece released their debut album, but it was well-worth the wait. This album has redefined the expectations of a debut album. 12 anthemic tracks are filled with passion. ‘She Said’, is reminiscent of 90’s Britpop; a great chorus, a storyline and a drop of melancholy.
Blossoms – Blossoms (2016)
One of the best-selling debut albums of 2016, the Stockport lads reached number 1 in the UK album charts and took the UK music scene by storm. ‘Charlemagne’ and ‘At Most A Kiss’ capture Blossoms energy and ferocity which you can encapsulate at a Blossoms gig. Staying faithful to guitar-pop with an intriguing mix of 80s electro pop whilst remaining quintessentially British indie rockers sets them in good stead for the future.
Adele – 21 (2011)
The Queen of pop. Adele spectacular voice created one of the best albums the 21st century has seen at the incredible age of 21. Whether she’s holding notes with the strength of a suspension bridge or enjoying a “whoo-hoo!” Adele shows warmth, control and openness, sometimes in the same note. It’s an album that lets you decide your level of emotive involvement, and it doesn’t overpower you any more than it needs to.
Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History (2011)
The Irish trio burst onto the scene in 2009 with singles ‘Something Good Can work’ and ‘I Can Talk’ in preparation for their debut album, which took jangly guitar pop to another level. The album was mixed at French producer, Phillipe Zdar’s newly built studio, Motorbass – Two Door Cinema Club were the second band to use Zdar’s studio – brought to life their enthusiastic, likeable and catchy mixture of ingredients. It’s not exactly the most unoriginal album but it’s enjoyable, addictive and extremely irresistible.
Frank Ocean – channel Orange (2012)
Frank Ocean has quickly established himself to be among the most talented singer-songwriters of his generation. Channel Orange swings from Stevie-style keyboard elegance to 90s R&B to mystical psych rock to crunching funk without thinking twice. It is as stunning as it is baffling, but when Ocean reins himself in, slipping his words and melodies into tighter verse-chorus structures, the songs have astonishing force.
Kings Of Leon – Only By The Night (2008)
Kings Of Leon just produce stunning album after another, but their best work by far has to be their 2008 album, Only By The Night. Undoubtedly one of the best rock albums of the noughties, winning three awards at the Grammy’s, two Brit Awards and the third best-selling album of 2008, you can’t deny that this album is on another level!
Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007)
The kings of rock and roll, Arctic Monkeys sophomore album is one of the best follow up albums of the 21st century. Punchy, head bopping rock music captured the hearts of the world securing their world domination in music and brushing off that second album syndrome persona. With their debut album – and majority of their albums – every second of every song in Favourite Worst Nightmare is spot on. ‘D is for Dangerous’, watch out for their new album hopefully coming at the end of this year.
Words by Alex Pearson