wears the trousers magazine


wears the trousers albums of the decade #50–26

part one | part two | part four

Here’s the third part of our albums of the decade countdown, running from #50–26.

* * *

50

Queen Adreena
Drink Me

[Rough Trade, 2002]

Casting aside the disparaging comparisons to “Kate Bush on crack” bestowed upon her in the wake of Queen Adreena’s debut album Taxidermy, KatieJane Garside upped the ante with Drink Me, tearing whatever hinges that were still attached right off with a blisteringly manic grunge-metal fervour. Among her Wonderland’s re-energised malice, the softer moments found Garside’s raging voice shrunk mouse-high, whispering seductively as if through the keyhole, or chillingly into a void. Richly imaginative and manically enjoyable, Drink Me remains one of the decade’s most vigorous and visceral thrills, disturbing to the very last note.

Alan Pedder

read our interview with KatieJane

* * *

49

Ani DiFranco
Revelling/Reckoning

[Righteous Babe, 2001]

A rare thing happened in the year 2000: Ani DiFranco did not release a new album. Granted, she put out two in 1999, but still, this almost never happened. When she returned the following year with Revelling/Reckoning, she did so with her most ambitious and sprawling album to date – 29 tracks divided across two discs, each with a distinct theme. The taut acoustic funk of Revelling consolidated many of the musical ideas she’d been experimenting with on her recent output, to mostly triumphant effect, while the acoustic, yearning vistas of Reckoning sparkled with wet eyes, lyrical profundity and ageless beauty, proving that DiFranco could hit just as hard when playing it softly.

Alan Pedder

* * *

48

Broadcast
Tender Buttons

[Warp, 2005]

With Tender Buttons, it was as though the loss of two band members caused Broadcast to discover their aggressive side. Not aggressive in the manner of say, punk rock, but aggression delivered through a sense of urgency and a widening of size and scope. Venturing beyond the experimentation of 2003’s Haha Sound, the remaining duo hit upon a hypnotic style of songcraft that set Trish Keenan’s vocals further forward in a miasma of alien fuzz and chaos. As a result, Tender Buttons shines through the speakers like a radio transmission from a sweet, insistent otherworld.

Chris Catchpole

read our interview with Trish

* * *

47

Robyn
Robyn

[Konichiwa, 2005]

Perhaps the most unexpected comeback of the decade, Robyn is a short, sassy electro-pop marvel packed with lyrical inventiveness and hooks so sharp they could take your ear off. Our 2005 review dubbed it ‘couture-pop’ in the vein of Gwen Stefani’s Love.Angel.Music.Baby, only better realised and lacking in filler. Bereft of pretension, hugely emotive and yet ridiculously catchy, Robyn is pop music at an advanced stage. Having taken three years to reach its commercial peak, this record should have led to Kylie/Madonna/Britney-bothering heights – five years later and it still stands a fringe above the overall output of all three this decade.

Chris Catchpole

read our interview with Robyn

* * *

46

Ane Brun
Changing Of The Seasons

[Balloon Ranger, 2008]

Frosted with a resilient pathos that never seems to rub off even when ravished with greedy attention, Changing Of The Seasons is orchestrated ear candy for grown-ups, simultaneously rich and enriching, insanely moreish and deliciously indulgent. Too old to be hailed as a wunderkind, Ane Brun seemed an almost matronly figure of battered wisdom among some of the more headline-grabbing artists who emerged out of Scandinavia this decade. She’ll still peel your skin off, but she’ll do it with the precision of her glassy notes and uncommon control of her tremulous, but never timid, phrasing. At her most luminous, Brun combines her trademark vulnerability with a devastatingly fresh perception, sometimes switching between observer and narrator within the same song. It’s hard to resist being swept up in her pretty, doleful reverie.

Alan Pedder

read our interview with Ane

* * *

45

Anaïs Mitchell
The Brightness

[Righteous Babe, 2007]

In a decade where women with strikingly vibrant, somewhat precocious voices capable of emotive, literate wordplay were widely celebrated, Anaïs Mitchell has somehow remained under most people’s radar. Her upcoming album, The Music Of Hadestown, should change that, but the Vermont-born singer-songwriter deserved to hit the big time with The Brightness. Consistently touching and burning with a worldly passion, it exudes a cool serenity even as Mitchell hiccups and exalts with a somewhat childlike exuberance, her phrasing both lilting and playful. Therein a star was born, so how come so few noticed?

Alan Pedder

read our interview with Anaïs [PDF]

* * *

44

Laura Marling
Alas I Cannot Swim

[Virgin, 2008]

Wears The Trousers readers voted this album as their #1 listen in our 2008 poll, and for good reason. Dignified, playful and lyrically weighty, Alas I Cannot Swim has all the hallmarks of a singer-songwriter classic and its success was well deserved. The deceptive simplicity of the songs might belie their construction with a watchmaker’s attention to detail, but their deftly expressed and subtle fire roared into life during the young singer-songwriters several hugely acclaimed tours.

Alan Pedder

* * *

43

Alela Diane
The Pirate’s Gospel

[Names, 2007]

Light and airy yet slightly sombre and bittersweet, there is a reassuring intensity behind Alela Diane’s second album The Pirate’s Gospel, aided by her unusual mannered delivery that borders on a yodel. We described it as “a genuine classic” upon its 2007 re-release, and it really has lived up to that accolade. Listening now, it’s completely unaffected by Alela’s growing popularity or by the state of the outside world, or by anything really; it sits waiting to be picked up for future campfire singalongs and misty morning walks for a long time yet.

Chris Catchpole

read our interview with Alela

* * *

42

Gillian Welch
Time (The Revelator)

[Acony, 2001]

There’s a timeless quality to Gillian Welch’s work which appeals across the board, and it’s heartening that even in a noisy culture, music as quiet as this can have such a significant impact. From a relatively limited palette of mainly guitar and vocals, Welch and her steadfast music partner David Rawlings have fashioned bluegrass, blues, folk and country traditions into their own distinctive version of what Welch terms “American Primitive” music. The self-produced Time (The Revelator) found them exploring more esoteric lyrical territory than their previous two albums, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the sinking of the Titanic to the Dust Bowl and, er, Napster.

Alex Ramon

* * *

41

Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions
Bavarian Fruit Bread

[Rough Trade / Sanctuary, 2001]

Losing none of the earthy glamour she radiated with Mazzy Star bandmate David Roback, this acclaimed debut from Hope Sandoval’s collaboration with My Bloody Valentine’s Colm Ó Cíosóig spins a delicately hazy mixture of dreamy, emotive folk, accented by warm electric guitar and harmonica and classical touches, with piano, violin and cello lacing a track or two. Though a good eight years elapsed between this debut and recent follow-up Through The Devil Softly, Bavarian Fruit Bread was lush and lasting enough to keep fans happily satisfied, and will no doubt continue to do so for years to come.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews

* * *

40

Kristin Hersh
The Grotto

[4AD, 2003]

Kristin Hersh’s sixth solo album, released the same day as the much-vaunted Throwing Muses comeback, is as distinctly individualistic as anything else in her 18-year career. Sheared of the thrash and hardened edge of some of her work with the Muses, The Grotto is full of ethereal, subdued confessionals and reflections, with Hersh’s voice and acoustic guitar accompanied by delicate strings and piano. The emotions that inform these gently sketched songs range from joy to anxiety and jadedness, but remain shot through with Hersh’s unmistakeable, unshakeable humour and awe at the world.

Rhian Jones

read our interview with Kristin [PDF]

* * *

39

Martha Wainwright
Martha Wainwright

[Drowned In Sound, 2005]

Martha Wainwright’s impeccable family credentials – sister to Rufus, daughter of Loudon and Kate McGarrigle – ensured that her debut album arrived highly anticipated by some, but in danger of sceptical dismissal by others. This accessible but unpredictable collection of tightly arranged and arrestingly delivered songs was enough to silence the doubters, showcasing Wainwright’s astonishing vocal range and often lacerating lyrics, qualities that make it simply one of the finest singer-songwriter albums of the decade.

Rhian Jones

* * *

38

Florence + The Machine
Lungs

[Island, 2009]

Florence Welch releasing an album entitled Lungs may strike you as the equivalent of Katie Price releasing an album called ‘Boobs’: she certainly does have quite the pair. And her tremendous airbags are used mostly for the good here. This was not the album of wall-to-wall styled, messy-choppy harp exuberance that ‘Rabbit Heart’ and ‘Dog Days Are Over’ suggested, nor was it meant to be; Lungs is layered, and we can track Welch’s metamorphosis from sketchy garage outfit, through her punk phase and fledging into a shouty savant siren, all rumbling and controlled rage, dark and polished as a beetle shell. Ghoulish werewolf narratives and dubiously-conceived paeans to domestic violence notwithstanding, Welch’s greatest triumphs are her plinky harp ditties, which her voice manages to whip up into anthems. She may not have produced a bag of ‘Rabbit Heart’s, but she pulled the rabbit out the hat sufficiently to offer up a most impressive debut.

Katy Knight

* * *

37

St Vincent
Marry Me

[Beggars Banquet, 2007]

It came right down to the wire when deciding whether to include Marry Me or this year’s Actor as our St Vincent pick. In the end we went with the debut, purely because it was when we first fell in love with Annie Clark. Gifted in the extreme, Clark’s experience as one of Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoisemakers and as a member of The Polyphonic Spree lends the album a lush and grandiose feel, countered by some loose, fluid arrangements that gave the dense instrumental layering some much needed levity. But it’s the colourful and constant surprises that Marry Me offers that really earns its stripes, ultimately asserting that mannered doesn’t have to mean monochromatic.

Alan Pedder

* * *

36

Portishead
Third

[Universal, 2008]

Portishead had to return. I mean, what is a decade without a dose of Beth Gibbons in all-out aching, wailing and worrisome banshee mode, accompanied by sounds you thought you could only hear on the soundtrack to your own personal Room 101? Indeed, Third is all about the personal. Brooding and claustrophobic, it focuses inwards to find a whole lot of uncertainty. It hardly seemed possible that Third might be even more unhinged than their previous two releases, but here we even have a ukulele – who would have thought it on a Portishead record? This fabulous nightmare of a record is not even a human nightmare; it must be the product of sleepytime on another planet.

Chris Catchpole

* * *

35

Feist
The Reminder

[Polydor, 2007]

Where Let It Die provided the ideal playground for Leslie Feist’s most powerful asset, that astonishing voice, The Reminder went further, cementing her reputation as a sensitive composer. An impressive catalogue of well-crafted songs, it seamlessly spans a variety of styles, eras and moods, its undeniable pop sensibilities wrapped snugly in a thick, sultry blanket and effervescing with passion. The Reminder is an album that documents both a triumphant celebration of success and a wistful acknowledgment of weaknesses and failures. True to its title, it marked the powerful return of a unique talent and a definite indication that the last thing anyone should ever do is to let this incredible artist slip from their memory.

Rod Thomas

* * *

34

Joan As Police Woman
Real Life

[Reveal, 2007]

Already an accomplished musician and former member of Antony & The Johnsons, Joan Wasser’s own debut is an undeniable, heavyweight classic. Though she had the romantically distracting accolade of dating revered artist Jeff Buckley up until his death, Wasser’s talent for rich, piano melodies, drawling vocal narratives and elegantly poetic lyrics quickly became the most interesting thing about her. Real Life possesses a smouldering, soulful energy. Captivatingly smoky with shades of sorrow, joy, myth and reality reflecting throughout, this is strong, defiant songwriting from a natural-born artist.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews

read our interview with Joan


* * *

33

Bat For Lashes
Two Suns

[Parlophone, 2009]

The easiest way of expressing ideas too difficult to say loudly and directly is to create an alter ego and let it shout the truth into the world. That’s exactly what Natasha Khan did on her second album as Bat For Lashes, illustrating vividly the contrasts between her solitary self and a wild girl named Pearl. Two Suns is a journey back home through various epochal and artistic influences, combined into brave and post-modern romantic pop, wherein Khan evolves the imbalance between day and night, the desire for naïve fairytales and lack of illusions, into a unique reflection of contemporary women’s inner-world.

Tomas Slaninka

read our interview with Natasha


* * *

32

Kate Bush
Aerial

[EMI, 2005]

After an extended absence of twelve long years, the high priestess of all things experimental (and indeed just plain mental) returned, and wasn’t it a relief? Atop a gigantic wave of excitement rode a huge double album that refused any comparisons except with that of her own peculiar, beautiful and frightening songbook. Aerial proved that Kate Bush was as alive as ever, humming with the familiar sense of reaching out into the unknown. Displaying Bush’s undiminished ability to conjure the remarkable from the most simple of sources, this is an album of nature, love, loss and happiness that is uniquely female, her perspective and voice remaining reassuringly unique. Domestic contentment has never sounded so good, or so peculiar.

Chris Catchpole

* * *

31

The Innocence Mission
Befriended

[Badman, 2003]

Following up their 1999 cult classic Birds Of My Neighborhood must have been a daunting task for The Innocence Mission, but Befriended feels as unforced as a rainy day lie-in. Every song is a snapshot of relaxed perfection, the devotional and delicate tones of Karen Peris cascading like a clear mountain stream over wonderfully textured backdrops. Though these songs are not, at their core, especially confessional, every one feels like an imparted secret, carried on a whisper by spectral piano and subtly masterful guitar. Outstanding.

Alan Pedder

* * *

30

Hildur Guðnadóttir
Without Sinking

[Touch, 2009]

If you can name a better instrumental album released this decade than Hildur Guðnadóttir’s Without Sinking, we want to know about it. Guðnadóttir’s fascination with the formation of clouds led her to try and capture the feeling of breathing using her cello, which she wields with all the power of a maestro, like a paintbrush creating beautifully detailed portraits of unease and gloom. Make no mistake, Without Sinking is deeply oppressive. In the search for her lost breath, she’ll take yours away too.

Tomas Slaninka

read our interview with Hildur


* * *

29

Marissa Nadler
Songs III: Bird On The Water

[Peacefrog, 2007]

On Songs III, Marissa Nadler achieved a level of sophistication that went far beyond even the high watermarks of her first two albums. When an artist who has made her name on the basis of lo-fi home recordings first ventures into the studio, the results can be crushingly airless, but Songs III is nothing if not climatic, each song possessing its own small and perfect ecosystem, from the snowfall guitar arpeggios of ‘Diamond Heart’ to the subdued electric storms of ‘Bird On Your Grave’. Nadler’s vocals curl like incense smoke, drifting and resolving according to the barometric pressure of her songs, playing to all of her strengths.

Alan Pedder

read our interview with Marissa

* * *

28

Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins
Rabbit Fur Coat

[Rough Trade, 2005]

Supposedly recorded in six days flat, Rabbit Fur Coat was intended as a tribute to Jenny Lewis’s relationship with her mother and to Mama Lewis’s favourite singer, Laura Nyro. Quite an ambition, but Lewis’s sensational resumé with Rilo Kiley proved she possessed more than enough countrified white soul to carry it off. The unrivalled star of the show, she drifts, snarls and soars her way through witty and occasionally uncomfortable lyrics, leaving The Watson Twins to fill in the gaps wherever they can. A captivating, delightful and reassuring album, Rabbit Fur Coat offered an endearing glimpse into the heart and mind of a very special talent.

Alex Doak

* * *

27

Björk
Medúlla

[One Little Indian, 2004]

Of all Björk’s trademarks, the most distinctive is undoubtedly her voice. On Medúlla, she elevated this supernatural gift to a multilayered, independent instrument, searching for the core of music by stripping it to its most naked state. Almost all the tones heard on Medúlla are sounds created by the human body, returning the listener to the primitive but indispensable roots of mankind’s art. Though she made a more cohesive album this decade, Medúlla remains the pinnacle of Björk’s artistic flexibility, her ability to recreate herself every time with a unique concept never better realised.

Tomas Slaninka

* * *

26

Fever Ray
Fever Ray

[Rabid, 2009]

Retaining the mystique of The Knife and wrapping itself in the same ’80s-inflected swathes of brooding sequencers, Karin Dreijer Andersson’s solo project was one of 2009’s most justly acclaimed albums, and a late contender for this list. Uncomfortable and intriguing music that makes the listener work to uncover its melodic richness, the pitch-shifted vocals making Andersson sound huskier and older than her years as her lyrics paint impressionist themes of claustrophobia, isolation, sleep deprivation and pathologised domesticity.

Rhian Jones

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8 Comments so far
Leave a comment

This list is only getting better. I recently discovered this site, and I gotta say: Congratulations people :)

Comment by Henry

Thank you! Glad you’re enjoying it. Final part on its way.

Comment by Wears The Trousers magazine

There’s too many good ones on here for me to choose! I would have picked a different Ani album though :)

Comment by michelle

Fair point. There’s lots of good ones to choose from. I’m a big Ani fan and have listened to every album, but for me, she’s never made an album more perfect, cohesive and unflinchingly powerful as Reckoning. And I’m not even talking just this decade. I don’t even need the first disc (though, of course, it’s great).

Comment by Wears The Trousers magazine

maybe I should give it another go, I only liked two songs on it! It didn’t immediately grab me like ‘Dilate’ ‘Imperfectly’ or ‘Out of Range’. But it’s great that everyone I speak to has different favourites!

Comment by michelle

[…] two | part three | part […]

Pingback by wears the trousers albums of the decade #100-76 « wears the trousers magazine

YES for Kristin Hersh’s “The Grotto” and Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions first album, in my opinion two records that should appear on every single list of the best of the decade.

Comment by estanis

[…] one | part three | part […]

Pingback by wears the trousers albums of the decade #75-51 « wears the trousers magazine




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