wears the trousers magazine


wears the trousers albums of the decade #100-76

part twopart three | part four

As other people have already noted, among the rash of lists proclaiming the best albums and artists of the ’00s, the majority all had one thing in common: a distinct and depressing lack of albums by solo female artists and by female-fronted bands. We had anticipated a representation rate of between 20% and 30%, but it turned out to be even lower. NME and Rolling Stone awarded a lousy 12–15% of spots to women, and even Paste magazine, who often champion many of the artists Wears The Trousers holds dear, could barely scrape 14%.

In mid-November, eight Wears The Trousers writers and editors gathered around a table at the Candid Arts Centre in Islington, where we spent a long afternoon debating the 300+ nominations for albums of the decade gathered from all our contributors. More than six hours later, we had come up with a rough outline of the 100 albums we thought were worthy of championing. Inevitably, some painful sacrifices were made, evident in the fact that only three artists were permitted to have two entries in the list, and some additional fine tuning was required.

This week, we’ll at last be counting down those 100 albums, 25 at a time. Here are albums #100–76. Voice your agreement/disagreement/outrage in the comment box if you please.

* * *

100

Mika Miko
666

[Post Present Medium, 2007]

In a decade of so much negativity this teenaged five-some bopped in on a wave of fuzz and power chords, singing into an old red telephone that they’d converted into a microphone. Mika Miko’s energy was frantic, endearing and short lived, and 666 encapsulates this perfectly.

Chris Catchpole

* * *

99

Yo Majesty
Futuristically Speaking… Never Be Afraid

[Domino, 2008]

Propelled by the censor-baiting dancefloor hit ‘Club Action’, this now defunct lesbian Christian rap duo didn’t quite make the transition from internet phenomenon to unit-shifting hip-hop megaliths with their boisterous debut, but Futuristically Speaking… Never Be Afraid remains a compellingly sweaty, sleazy pleasure that never lets up on the party hysterics.

Alan Pedder

* * *

98

Au Revoir Simone
The Bird Of Music

[Moshi Moshi, 2007]

This shimmering second album saw Au Revoir Simone bring their languid brand of synth-pop into a youthful, summery focus that exuded an unpretentious girlishness and mesmerisingly pretty melodies. Those who complained it lacked darker edges were rewarded with this year’s Still Night, Still Light, but The Bird Of Music remains the Brooklyn trio’s most succinct and enjoyable album, and one that stands out among the rash of keyboard-centric music with an elegant simplicity and fresh-faced appeal.

Alan Pedder

FREE MP3: Au Revoir Simone, ‘Sad Song’ [Pacific remix, via RCRD LBL]

* * *

97

Nellie McKay
Get Away From Me

[Columbia, 2004]

Only 21 when she recorded Get Away From Me, Nellie McKay’s brassy ambition was leagues ahead of any of her jazz-schooled contemporaries. Hers was a bracing collision of old-timey musical motifs with a thoroughly modern, sarcastic sense of humour that cut to the chase with biting wit. Veering between goofy, geeky and just plain pissed off, this is McKay at her most unhinged and free-spirited. A hyperactive and messy marvel.

Alan Pedder

* * *

96

Carina Round
The First Blood Mystery

[Animal Noise, 2001]

It’s entirely appropriate that the title of Carina Round’s debut album The First Blood Mystery refers to Erich Neumann’s famous theory of feminine development. A powerful and incisive performer, Round boldly slices through the usual female archetypes with a healthy contempt for pigeonholing. Tough but tender, damaged but strangely nurturing, this seven-track mini-album still sounds as raw and vital as it did nine years ago. As a document of a young woman’s coming of age, it’s absolutely riveting and vastly underrated.

Alan Pedder

read our interview with Carina

* * *

95

Hanne Hukkelberg
Blood From A Stone

[Nettwerk, 2009]

Realistically, any one of Norwegian singer-songwriter Hanne Hukkelberg’s three albums to date could have appeared on this list: her debut, Little Things, for its playfulness; 2007’s Rykestrasse 68 for its mercurial, jazzy spark; and this year’s Blood From A Stone for its barely-tamed wilderness and intuitive, complex arrangements. After much debate, the most recent won out, not just for its instant-replay factor but for being Hukkelberg’s most enveloping and rewarding creation to date. She’s only getting better.

Alan Pedder

* * *

94

Meshell Ndegeocello
Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape

[Maverick, 2002]

Having wound down the ’90s with a commercially ignored third album that poured out of her broken heart, Meshell Ndegeocello roared back into the fray with a bang in 2002 with the dazzlingly creative and politically charged Cookie. Her days as a maker of minor hits officially ended, Ndegeocello threw pop caution to the wind with a mind-melting display of raw funk and jazz-tinged R&B shot through with elements of world music and a star-studded supporting cast that included Redman, Talib Kweli, Tweet, Missy Elliott, Caron Wheeler and Lalah Hathaway. Explosive and uncompromisingly badass.

Alan Pedder

* * *

93

Ono
Yes, I’m A Witch

[Parlophone / EMI, 2007]

Throughout Yes, I’m A Witch there’s a directness and immediacy to Yoko Ono’s writing and singing that pierces your defences. If you were a fan already then this album – an amalgam of remix disc, tribute record and collaborative project – provided you with the pleasure and excitement of rediscovery. For newcomers, it challenged any lingering prejudices they may have had about Ono’s work and most likely left them eager to hear more.

Alex Ramon

* * *

92

Missy Elliott
Miss E… So Addictive

[Elektra / WEA, 2001]

Techno meets hip-hop with a fat dollop of R&B Missy stylee. That Miss E… still sounds fresh and exciting nine years on is hardly surprising, as bubbling underneath the funking, jerking dynamics is a gleeful charisma and a masterful sense of creativity. This is “some shit that you never heard before” and then some.

Chris Catchpole

* * *

91

Josephine Foster
Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You

[Locust, 2005]

Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You was exactly what we wanted from Josephine Foster after the psych-folk rumpus of the previous year’s album with The Supposed. And what we wanted was to hear Foster alone, her songcraft distilled to its purest and weirdest, most elemental form. Hazel Eyes… delivered all that and more, its spindly, antiquated folk rattling down the centuries with a celestial clarity. There’s been nothing quite like it this decade, nor perhaps any other.

Alan Pedder

* * *

90

Laura Veirs
Year Of Meteors

[Nonesuch, 2005]

Following a trio of acclaimed albums, Laura Veirs plugged into her more experimental side for Year Of Meteors, melding ambient electro with traditional singer-songwriterisms, but crucially doing so without dropping or fumbling the melodic ball. Some skilful production from boyfriend Tucker Martine turned what could so easily have been a sonic mess into a record of great beauty.

Trevor Raggatt

* * *

89

Shiina Ringo
Heisei Fuuzoku

[Toshiba/EMI, 2007]

The Björk of Japanese pop has a peculiar approach to songcraft, fusing Sinatra, Stravinsky and an orchestra, and somehow making it work. Heisei Fuuzoku or, when translated, “Kalk, Semen, Chestnut Flower”, is a stripped-down gem and a must for anyone who is able to appreciate the certain joy that is unique to music which is free of irony and full of earnestness.

Chris Catchpole

* * *

88

Marnie Stern
This Is It & I Am It & You Are It & So Is That & He Is It & She Is It & It Is It & That Is That

[Kill Rock Stars, 2008]

Pop music in the vein of Deerhoof’s Apple O’, Marnie Stern’s second album is wildly experimental and uncompromisingly technical. The guitars are just colourful enough to be playful and not intimidating, and nothing here feels remotely ripped off. Whether this album goes down in the history books as a hit or a miss, Stern has already achieved what so many artists strive for and never achieve: originality.

Trey Cregan

* * *

87

The Indelicates
American Demo

[Weekender, 2008]

There is something very elegant and subtle about The Indelicates’ approach that allows them to hit the core of some rather dark subjects without stepping into maudlin or indeed silliness. American Demo is a thoroughly commanding, bold, amusing and often very poignant debut, this is more powerful than jangle/twee/power-pop should be, and yet exactly what it could be if it sat up and tried.

Chris Catchpole

* * *

86

Metric
Live It Out

[Drowned In Sound, 2006]

As flashy and ecstatic as it is earnest and breathless, Metric proved they had it all with Live It Out. Their first album to get a UK release, it took the dynamism of Emily Haines’s brilliantly elastic voice and Jimmy Shaw’s invigorating lead guitar lines to a whole new level of musical expressionism. Live It Out voiced the adage that modern life is rubbish in no uncertain terms with incisive rhymes and thumping purpose, and the world seemed a little brighter for their efforts.

Alan Pedder

FREE MP3: Metric, ‘Monster Hospital’ [MSTRKRFT remix, via RCRD LBL]

* * *

85

Tegan & Sara
So Jealous

[Vanguard, 2004]

Perhaps we’re risking outrage by putting Tegan & Sara’s only entry on this list so far towards the bottom, but our reasoning is simple: the Quin twins have yet to make a truly great album. So Jealous came closest to achieving pop nirvana by virtue of being the first Tegan & Sara album to harness their ear for a quirky melody and plug it into the mainstream. “We didn’t do it for the money,” they sang with impish charm, but it certainly worked. Full indie-rock anointment was granted a year later with a White Stripes cover of ‘Walking With A Ghost’, and their approval rating has only increased ever since.

Alan Pedder

* * *

84

Afrirampo
Kore Ga Mayaku Da

[Tzadik, 2005]

Listening to Kore Ga Mayaku Da fools your brain into thinking you’ve just attended a sweaty gig where your feet caught fire and, almost without will, your hands flailed euphorically. Fun and experimental do not often go hand in hand, but when they do the results can be near dangerous. Afrirampo inject an instant, untamed sense of abandon, pushing beyond the work of supposed soundalikes Melt Banana in a god-bothering shower of thunder and leopard print bodystockings. Clamorous and totally vital.

Chris Catchpole

* * *

83

Mariza
Transparente

[Real World, 2005]

There is a simple reason why Mariza has become the most famous interpreter of Portuguese Fado music, and the answer is here on Transparente. So successful was the mixture of Fado with jazz, flamenco, Latin pop and African beats that Mariza found herself at the forefront of what was described as New Fado, a moving, inspirational new form of music carried forth here with buckets of passion and mournful, enchanting grace.

Chris Catchpole

* * *

82

Mirah
Advisory Committee

[K, 2001]

Though it arrived so swiftly on the heels of 2000’s lo-fi You Think It’s Like This But Really It’s Like This, there was no chance of mistaking Advisory Committee for being a collection of leftover ideas. In terms of the production and songcraft, the leap in ambition was remarkable on all but a few songs which maintained the fuzzy edges of its predecessor, with Mirah herself acting as the album’s centrifugal force, the instrumentals spinning out around her in a candyfloss of earthy themes and raw emotion.

Alan Pedder

* * *

81

The Cardigans
Long Gone Before Daylight

[Stockholm Records, 2003]

Coming off the back of the glacial mechanics of their biggest-selling album Gran Turismo, Long Gone Before Daylight was a downy, benevolent hug of an album whose embrace was sadly not hurried into by the public at large, despite a generally positive reception from the critics. Among many fans, however, Long Gone… remains the pinnacle of the band’s achievements to date.

Alan Pedder

* * *

80

múm
Finally We Are No One

[FatCat, 2002]

The bewitching, aquatically-themed Finally We Are No One arrived at exactly the right time to take advantage of the renewed wave of interest in Icelandic music that followed the grandstanding success of Sigur Rós. Evolving from the more electronic sound of their 1999 debut Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is OK to include more folksy motifs and endearingly employed toy instruments, not to mention putting greater emphasis on the soft murmurings of twin sisters Gyða and Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir, Finally We Are No One presented múm at their most guileless and playful, and remains the strongest entry in their catalogue.

Alan Pedder

* * *

79

Invincible
ShapeShifters

[Emergence, 2008]

ShapeShifters is a brave and deeply political album with a remarkable sense of focus. Despite being loaded with what would appear to be highly uncommercial attributes, this material demonstrates that Invincible is without doubt the cream of the female emcee crop, with an ability to penetrate the heart of the broken city of Detroit, Michigan, and pull out bloody and awe-inspiring stories of obliteration and renewal that stretch beyond geographic specifics.

Chris Catchpole

read our Q&A with Invincible

* * *

78

Vivian Girls
Vivian Girls

[In The Red, 2008]

The Vivian Girls’ debut ricocheted like a winning pinball shot into the ears and hearts of tattooed indie boys and discerning punk girls everywhere with a 22-minute burst of frenetic surf-shoegaze noise. This year’s follow-up, Everything Goes Wrong, may be more technically accomplished but we’ve included the Brooklyn trio’s self-titled here because this is how they stole our hearts and inked them across their pearly white forearms.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews

read our interview with Vivian Girls frontwoman Cassie Ramone

* * *

77

Leila
Blood, Looms & Blooms

[Warp, 2008]

Eight years spent in virtual hibernation meant that Leila Arab had a lot to prove with Blood, Looms & Blooms, not least because of the poor critical and commercial reception of 2000’s Courtesy Of Choice, but the Iranian-born artist acquitted herself beautifully with, as we put it in our original five-star review, “a competent, coherent and simply chilling body of work… one that can swoon, thump and groove all at the same time.”

Alan Pedder

read our interview with Leila

FREE MP3:Little Acorns‘ [feat. Khemahl and Thaon Richardson]
FREE MP3: Time To Blow‘ [feat. Terry Hall]

* * *

76

Stina Nordenstam
This Is Stina Nordenstam

[Independiente, 2001]

After a decade of recordings that saw her lurch from the fractured, late-night torch songs of 1991’s Memories Of A Color to the desolate deconstructions of 1998’s covers record People Are Strange, via dark-folk ballads and industrial-tinged indie rock, This Is Stina Nordenstam found the Swedish singer at her most unabashed. Revealing a twisted pop sensibility previous releases had only hinted at, Nordenstam sounds almost gleeful as she guides us through a hall of broken mirrors, her ghostly voice occasionally complemented by the reedy tones of Suede’s Brett Anderson.

Alan Pedder

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8 Comments so far
Leave a comment

This Is Stina Nordenstam and not The World Is Saved? This Is is great and all, but TWIS is a masterpiece.

Comment by Sarah

Let me tell you Sarah, if it was solely up to me (Alan), it would definitely have been The World Is Saved up there on the list. I was outnumbered on this one. People should just get both, that’s the simple solution. Well, it would be even simpler if This Is wasn’t ludicrously out of print…

Comment by Wears The Trousers magazine

Fascinating list with lots of my favorites.

I think I’d pick “The Con” over “So Jealous,” “Obligatory Villagers” over “Get Away From Me” and “Saltbreakers” over “Year of Meteors.” (although those two are pretty neck-and-neck, I think Saltbreakers only triumphs b/c of the slightly more complex arrangements and coherence of its imagery).

Rykestrasse 68 is one of my all-time favorites, but I still haven’t gotten Blood from a Stone, I’ll need to make it a priority.

Comment by Tim Jones-Yelvington

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How exciting! Tegan & Sara, Mariza, Carina Round and Vivian Girls, yes..

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