Saturday 4 January 2020

A Decadal Round Up

Right ... the end of a decade.
Or is it?
The Calendar went from 1 BC to 1 AD, meaning there was no Year 0.  Therefore, a decade with a year ending in 1 and concludes with a year ending in 0.
But this would muck up the naming of decades a la Roaring 20s, Swinging 60s, Cheesecloth 70s, Non-descript Noughties etc.
So, for the sake of simplicity, sheepishness, and to match the media celebrations of "The Best (whatever) Of The Decade", I've looked back over previous lists, spreadsheets, CD shelves and the big pile of un-shelved CDs next to the stereo and arrived at the following 10 albums representing the best of each year.

I entered the decade 7 months shy of my 40th birthday, and with my CD shelves full to over-flowing.
I exit the decade 7 months shy of my 50th birthday, with additional CD shelves that are full to over-flowing, and writing guff on a computer screen.
So what have I learnt?

  1. You can do nothing about chronology - your destiny is to get older (it doesn't mean you have to grow up though)
  2. Ikea have had a fair bit of cash out of me buying new shelves (they may have had less, but they kept changing the colour schemes and designs).  I'll be back there later this year to buy some more
  3. A transition to Streaming Services may solve the storage problems, but THAT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! More physical product please.
  4. Over 10 years, I've bought around 800 "things" (some new, some old, some picked up for 50p at a charity shop, some donated to me from those clearing out/downsizing (I like people like this - all donations gratefully received) - of all of those, I would guess only around 10% have been consigned to the "play once, never again" pile.  Not a bad hit rate
  5. (the serious bit)  Writing this blog thingy has been a help to me personally.  It has given me something to focus on, think about, and get away from "pressures".  I'm not suggesting that I have had major issues, but some mental health issues have reared their head recent times (I think it's my age, maybe I'm due a full on mid-life crisis soon?).
    I also read/follow other blog doo-dahs and chuck a few comments on there.  I am happy to say I have never been chased away, and it has given me a bit more confidence with the stuff I write on here.
    I'm not fishing here, but receiving positive comments is always welcome - indeed it makes me feel like I'm not shouting in the darkness, and what I am saying/writing is not complete twaddle. To those that have commented on my past ramblings, I thank you.
    You've made a happy man very old.
So ...

10 Albums From 10 Years:
Is it simply a case of revisiting my year-end posts and picking number 1?
In most cases, Yes.  But (a) I didn't start writing this rubbish until 2012, and (b) not all the chosen number 1s remain the chose number 1s anymore (many do, but the outstanding features of other choices have blossomed further)

2010: John Grant - Queen Of Denmark
John Grant's debut is one of those unimpeachable debut albums - see also The Ramones, The Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, Joy Division and a fair few others (but maybe not Paul Young?).
A collection of songs mixing confessional, anger, wit and dark humour.  Sadly - although later songs have hinted at it - this is a peak he has not yet re-climbed.
Track: "Queen Of Denmark"

Other contenders:
Iron Maiden - 'The Final Frontier'
Len Price 3 - 'Pictures'
Manic Street Preachers - 'Postcards From A Young Man'
P J Harvey - 'Let England Shake'

2011: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
When Oasis imploded in 2009, it was another 2 years before the Gallagher name returned.  Liam's attempt was (in fairness) sub-Oasis, whilst Noel took his Oasis past, add a little more to it and threw out a confident and assured solo debut.  He's continued to push on from here - always sounding much the same, but with enough tweaks to the sound to remain interesting.
Track: "Stop The Clocks"

Other contenders:
Noah and The Whale - 'Last Night On Earth'
Pierces - 'You & I'
Ron Sexsmith - 'Long Player, Late Bloomer'
Vaccines - 'What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?'

2012: Paul Weller - Sonik Kicks
Paul Weller has been around for a fair few years and the albums are always rewarding.  Always pushing forward and never one to rest on his laurels, 'Sonik Kicks' found him going down the Motorik drumbeats route with even a touch of Chemical Brotheres and Hawkwind for good measure.
'Sinik Kicks' remains (for me) the best of the Weller solo outings (above 'Stanley Road' and 'As Is Now')
Track: "That Dangerous Age"

Other contenders:
Dexys Midnight Runners - 'One Day I'm Going To Soar'
First Aid Kit - 'The Lions Roar'
Public Image Limited - 'This Is PiL'
Richard Hawley 'Standing At The Skys Edge'

2013: Steve Mason - Monkey Minds in the Devil's Time
A concept album (or at least a continuing musical arc) that sustains interest from moment one, despite containing some relatively downbeat and melancholic moments.  The musical "journey" is just right lifting to joyousness when required, and mixing a whole raft of musical styles together.
Track: "Oh My Lord"

Other contenders:
Frank Turner -'Tape Deck Heart'
Paul McCartney - 'New'
Public Service Broadcasting - 'Inform, Educate, Entertain'
Steven Wilson - 'The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)'

2014: Stiff Little Fingers - No Going Back
11 years since their last album and the return of original bass player Ali McMordie saw Stiff Little Fingers release an album as strong as anything they've done before and as valid to current times as any other band around them.
Funded through (the now defunct) PledgeMusic, this album hits it funding target within 24 hours.  They may not be the most well known band in the world, but they've probably got the strongest and most loyal fan base.
Track: "Since Yesterday Was Here"

Other contenders:
Ben Watt - 'Hendra'
Henry Priestman - 'The Last Mad Surge Of Youth'
Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott - 'What Have We Become'
Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey - 'Going Back Home'

2015: Public Service Broadcasting - The Race For Space
The first PSB album took Public Information Films and mixed the narrative with purpose-written tunes to create an insight to a pat world of progress and triumph.
A Similar conceit was employed here against a backdrop of the US/Russia Space Programmes and the eventual triumph (As promised in the opening dialogue from JFK) of the Moon Landings.
Track: "Go!"

Other contenders:
Cathal Smyth - 'A Comfortable Man'
Courtney Barnett - 'Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit'
Iron Maiden - 'Book Of Souls'
Public Image Limited - 'What The World Needs Now'

2016: Madness - Can't Touch Us Now
Another act from the late 70s showing others how it can, should and will be done.  National Treasures In Waiting returned with an album that properly followed 'Norton Folgate'.  Prime, accessible songwriting, top notch tunes and performances to match.  Live they remain a fantastic event.
Track: "Don't Leave The Past Behind You"

Other contenders:
Iggy Pop - 'Post Pop Depression'
Ruts DC - 'Music Must Destroy'
Steve Mason - 'Meet The Humans'
White Denim - 'Stiff'

2017: Conor Oberst - Salutations
World weary tales delivered in rich melodies matched with emotion and brittleness.  It can sometimes be a tough, but ultimately rewarding listen.  Warmth shines through the delivery, and the songs soar and never tire.  Generally received middling reviews, but this is the standout release of the year for me, and still (in 2019) makes regular re-appearances in the CD player
Track: "Gossamer Thin"

Other contenders:
Duncan Reid & The Big Heads - 'Bombs Away'
Len Price 3 - 'Kentish Longtails'
Sparks - 'Hippopotamus'
The Professionals - 'What In The World'

2018: Wreckless Eric - Construction Time & Demolition
Not getting sucked into the media circus after his big moment (1978's "Whole Wide World") has given Wreckless Eric the freedom to persue his craft, and then come up with a lo-fi classic like this one.  Chock full of tunes and delivered by a voice of experience.
Track: "Gateway To Europe"

Other contenders:
The Damned - 'Evil Spirits'
Manic Street Preachers - 'Resistance Is Futile'
Spiritualized - 'And Nothing Hurt'
Suede - 'The Blue Hour'

2019: Richard Dawson - 2020
Folk troubadour meets Indie meets Captain Beefheart meets Ken Loach, complete with tales of modern life (and often an anguished modern life).  Every track tells a story - some make you think (for at least a second), others just make you marvel at turn of phrase, a seemingly humdrum or non-sequitor type lyric.  Most songs mange to do both.
Is this an album of songs or a sociology lecture from the future?
(yes, this is a copy of the 2019 Musical Things text posted a couple of weeks ago)
Track: "Game Of Two Halves"

Other contenders:
Liam Gallagher - 'Why Me? Why Not?'
Mattiel - 'Satis Factory'
Fontaines DC - 'Dogrel'
Specials - 'Encore'


  1. Good stuff RD
    I have been on a similar trajectory but a few years older than you age wise
    I do my blog for exactly the same reasons and also have shares in IKEA
    I only have about half a dozen of the albums you list and none of your albums of the year but it is always good to be exposed to new stuff.

  2. Excellent. I was pleased by how many of those I own. A few more will be investigated. I suppose I should do something similar... maybe next year. ;-)