The Best Albums of the Tennies (kind of…) Part One

Has this even been a decade? Like, other decades were definitely decades, weren’t they? The 70s were definitely a decade, I’ve seen pictures. It was all flared jeans and Ashton Kutchers. I remember the 80s, it was all primary colours and He Man toys. Except I’m 29 years old, which now unfortunately means I was born in 1990, so I don’t actually remember the 80s. Shame.

Yeah, I know, the Megadrive version was better…

The NINETIES though! Remember the NINETIES?! That was an unarguable ‘decade’! There was a undeniable vibe to the 90s. The 90s was the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air doing the Macarena after scoring the winning penalty against Ginger Spice in the Euro 96 quarter finals. Remember that? It definitely happened and was definitely 90s!!

I turned 16 (or possibly 10) three days before the year 2000, and since then life doesn’t really deal in decades or conveniently distinct periods of time anymore. Every decade, every year, every day is now a seemingly unending trudge through hideous adulthood. Life and popular culture just trundles off in a different direction and your major marking points become all the more onanistic and self-centred. I started getting fucking old. And when you’re fucking old you’re beaten down by capitalism’s endless rat race that you don’t even fucking care what year it is.

Suddenly, 2014 isn’t the year that Flappy Bird was universally agreed to be the final wining answer to the question of whether computer games could be considered art, or the year everyone was wearing Pharell Williams hats. No, 2014 is the year that you had emergency surgery on your prostate, or the year you wore white trousers to your cousin’s wedding and everyone could see that you didn’t shake properly when you last went to the toilet. You are now an adult, so therefore you are too busy tackling the never ending tidal wave of shit that’s adult life to care about trends in popular culture.

Plus, since some time roughly in 2001, everything in the world just became extremely serious. All of a sudden, there was real stuff going on. I’m not sure what it was that happened in 2001 that suddenly bummed everyone out, maybe the release of the first Fast and the Furious movie gave everyone a chilling glance at what the future held. Since 2001, the world hasn’t been about embarrassing dances and cringeworthy fashions, it’s been about war crimes, online abuse*, sexual assault, defending fascists and disregard of human rights. And flossing, yes, there’s been a lot of that too.

(*and, y’know, actual and continued real life abuse. ‘IRL AbuseBantz’, as the kids call it)

Sigh, but these kind of lists are expected, aren’t they? The internet has connected the world together like no other period in human history, but rather than asking for my opinion on the rise of sectarian politics in Lebanon, or what I think of Sri Lanka’s new president naming his own brother as his first Prime Minister, you’re more interested in whether Sky Ferreira’s 2014 debut sands the test of time, aren’t you?

Yes. Yes it does.

Fine, I’ll take the bait. My main attention is on 2019’s Necessary Evil, because nostalgia is cancer and we will only evolve if we consider the present and contemplate the future rather than mythologise the past (Make Albums Great Again), so I don’t have the time to consider every dumb album that’s been released in the past 119 months for you entitled mouth breeders. However, a shortcut desirably convenient to a lazy dingus like me presented itself. My albums of the year. We don’t know 2019’s yet (or rather, you don’t know), so if we start with 2010’s album of the year we’ll have

2010 – 2018 gives me nine albums of the year. Ooh! But 2013 was awarded twice after the original winners were stripped of the award! We got ourselves a good and proper top 10, ladies and gentlemen!

10. Frank Ocean: Channel Orange

(2012’s best album)

OK, I promise to try and keep the personal anecdotes to a minimum in what is otherwise a strictly scientific run down of the decade’s subjectively best albums, but 2012 was just one of those years where I… perhaps… wasn’t… fully… engaged…

I was with a woman I loved (love is good- we’ll come back to that- but rather distracting), and any odd second that my nonsense mind wasn’t being satiated by her presence I was drinking a lot. I know that any former drunk is supposed to refer to such periods of intense intoxification as ‘dark times’, but that’s not necessarily the case. Have you ever been drunk? It’s fucking awesome, isn’t it? Well imagine feeling like that all of the time! I rest my case.

I might have named this my album of 2012 because, honestly, I’m not sure I listened to another album that year. I’m also not sure I’ve listened to it since 2012. I revisited it for this list expecting an explosion of nostalgia, long lost memories dry humping my cerebral cortex until I was revved into a new orgasmic state of longing.

But… No…

Of all ‘The Tennies’* albums of the year, ‘Chanel Orange’ is the one I have formed the least emotional attachment to. To be honest, aside from Pyramids I really didn’t have any memories of this album. Sonically, it’s far closer to ‘Blonde’ than I remember (and than it’s widely considered), and while I didn’t absolutely adore ‘Blonde’, it was a far more successful demonstration of the kind of ideas floated on ‘Channel Orange’. So much so that, in retrospect, it comes across as a markedly inferior record.

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Tell me about it, Spanky…

 

(*Does anyone else use that phrase? Am I the first to call this miserable decace the ‘tennies’? Can I trademark that? Seriously, I need to monetise something on this blog)

Seriously though, I’ve just checked what other albums were released in 2012, and I think the only other one I listened to was ‘Death Grips’ maybe twice. ‘Channel Orange’ is a very, very, very good album. I’m just saying that, even if it was dogshit, it’d likely win album of the year by default.

Follow-up Album: ‘Blonde’ (2016), no.13

 

9 Arctic Monkeys: AM

(2013’s best album*)

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(*later rescinded**)

Sigh… There’s a reason that when I uploaded 2013’s countdown to this dumb website that nobody reads (2013 was the last year where the countdown was simply emailed off to a few weirdos that I know) I referred to it as ‘Necessary Evil’s Chris Benoit’. For those of you not cultured enough to follow wrestling to an adequate degree, Chris Benoit was one of WWE’s most celebrated and technically accomplished wrestlers of the late 90s and early 00s. Him winning his first world title in the main event of Wrestlemania 20 was celebrated as one of the most heart warming and inspirational tales told in WWE for some time. He wasn’t the typical WWE wrestler, he wasn’t a good looking beefcake with his own rap album and cancelled television show, he was a funny looking Canadian with less teeth than is usually expected. He made it to the top based not because of a rambunctious, larger than life personality and appearances on kids’ TV shows, but because he was possibly the best wrestler in the world who performed with amazing intensity, like he legitimately wanted to beat the shit out of his opponent. That crowning achievement at the end of Wrestlemania 20 was one of WWE’s greatest moments.

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(**is ‘rescinded’ the correct word. The greedy twats had it taken off them. Sounds like the right word, doesn’t it?)

Yeah anyway three years later Chris Benoit killed his wife, suffocated his 7 year old son to death and then hanged himself. I don’t mean ‘allegedly’. All that shit actually happened, it was fucking gruesome and was maybe the most infamous wrestling new story ever. Apart from maybe that time The Rock took a picture of him in a pool holding two French Bulldog puppies. I’m not going to bother linking to the picture, it’s already your screensaver. Now, WWE simply never mentions Chris Benoit. He is an accepted dark, dark, dark part of their history and a part they understandably want erased. It’s occasionally awkward for third party commentators, because Chris Benoit was legitmately one of the greatest wrestlers ever, or at least of the last 20 years, and played a part in some of the greatest ever matches (including ones that I have previously written about). Now, whenever his name comes up in lists of the greatest wrestlers/matches/Canadians/Chrises ever, whoever writes the list now is forced to add the inelegant caveat ‘Yeah, but, like, him viciously killing his wife before mercilessly slaughtering his 7 year old son was, like, totally uncool, and I’m totally against that, yeah?’.

What I’m saying is: Arctic Monkeys are exactly the same as Chris Benoit.

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Cunts. And basically murderers

 

Soon after ‘AM’ received the Necessary Evil trophy, unquestionably the greatest and most prestigious prize in music, it was revealed that they were dirty, rotten, greedy tax cheats. The award was taken from them and instead given to a far more conscientious and worthy artist (we’ll get to them, we’ll fucking get to them! Patience, young one, fucking patience!!). A lot of idiots didn’t understand quite why I was so disgusted, why I acted as if each band member had bound the limbs of their significant other, wrapped their bodies in a towel, then pressed a knee into their backs while pulling on a cord around their necks, causing strangulation (also leaving a copy of the by their body). ‘It’s not that bad!’, idiots would squeal at me.

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Alright, so maybe being revealed as a Gary ‘Cunt’ Barlow style tax dodger isn’t quite up their with drugging their seven year old mentally disabled sons with Xanax before strangling them in their sleep, but it honestly did a comparable amount of damage to the band’s image. Previously, they were a band of the people, a relatable bunch of kids from a Northern town who sung about everyday relatable struggles and narrated witty tales of growing up in 21st century working class Britain. But no, they were quick to ensure that all the proceeds from their millions of fans, people who wouldn’t be able to even exist without the state that taxation pays for. But no, these sons of teachers and nurses, who would have starved to death as an infant if they survived childbirth were it not for the tax funded state, unanimously decided they were somehow too good to give back. Seriously, fuck these guys…

“Singer Alex Turner may have ascended to the elite, dating models and living the high life, but taxation paid for the hospital where he was born, the school where he was educated and the schools which paid his (teacher) parents’ wages, the street lamps that lit his way home from rehearsals, and the benefits that sustained his bandmates when they were out of work.”

Simon Price

It’s… it’s not just that though…

‘AM’ is a really, really, really good album. Some tracks are as good as Chris Benoit’s ladder match at the 2001 Royal Rumble. It’s about as good a rock album as you’re likely to hear.

But… album of the year…? It’s so… obvious, isn’t it?

I regret naming it album of the year not just because it soon became apparent that the band were basically part of the Bullingdon Club, wiping their arses on £50 notes in front of the local  Job Centre Plus while taking it in turns to stick their cocks into a dead civil servant’s eye socket*, but because it stands out as the least imaginative Necessary Evil winner. I mean, fuck, I think Heat Magazine named it as their album of the year. I was in hospital for much of 2013, so maybe I gravitated toward the album because it was safe and predictable. I might never be able to walk again, but there will always be expertly crafted indie music with killer choruses. Maybe everything will be alright…? I never felt more like a pathetic little white boy.

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L-R: Alex Turner; The guitarist from The Shins; Miles Kane; Ricky Wilson; the one from The Black Keys who isn’t Richard Osman; The Kasabian bloke who plays football, Sergio Pizzaloo or some shit?; the drummer from Catfish and the Bottlemen; Alex Kapranos; Luke Pritchard and Pete Doherty

 

(*allegedly)

TLDR: Fuck the Arctic Monkeys, nothing special about this album.

The other entries won’t be as long, I promise.

Follow-up Album: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018) did not chart

8 Hjaltalín: Enter 4

(2013’s ACTUAL best album)

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…so I kind of went to the other end of the predictability scale when I chose to re-award the trophy. Hjaltalín* were originally number 5 on 2013’s list, but by the time Arctic Monkeys revealed themselves to be gross little cheats it had become obvious that ‘Enter 4’ was actually the best album of the year. So I informed everyone by sending off an email. It was a weird time. Hjaltalín became by some distance the most obscure act to win Necessary Evil. I haven’t heard this album in quite some time, I listened to it again wondering if it will forever stand as some strange anomaly, only receiving 2013’s trophy as a desperate attempt by me to prove my credibility and overcompensate for the ultra conservative (with both a small and large ‘c’) choice of the Arctic Monkeys? Does this silly little album stand up at all?

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(*I still to this day can never get their name right. Oh, and by the way, it’s getting copied and pasted every fucking time so I always get that accent right)

Wow. It absolutely does. If I were including every album released in the Tennies™ then I think ‘Enter 4’ would still rank similarly high. It’s a gorgeous and progressive masterpiece, and not just 2013’s greatest album by default. Nothing released in the last ten years or before sounds quite like ‘Enter 4’. It’s an arresting and captivating sonic exploration into mental illness, yet legitimately contains some of the most heartstoppingly beautiful pieces of music you’re ever likely to hear. There are so many fucking moments on this album that will pierce your very fucking soul and force you to stop you in your tracks whatever you’re doing and just melt/orgasm. Don’t worry, you’re not having a stroke, you’re just hearing that first chorus in We.

And in retrospect, naming it the album of the year may be one of this blog’s greatest achievements. While I love droning on about all the wonderful music that’s being created all around us all the time, my greatest hope is always to introduce people to wonderful music that they might not have heard. If you’re reading this blog, you probably like music and so are well aware how great the new Nick Cave/Kendrick Lamar/Fever Ray/Tove Styrke/Ariana Grande album is, and to be honest you’re likely to find articles that explain their majesty far (slightly) better than me. But maybe you’ve never heard of Hjaltalín, maybe reading this inspires you to investigate this album further, maybe you discover some of the greatest music you’ve heard in a long time, maybe you find a new favourite band. Maybe, this dumb blog that nobody reads has a purpose…

Fuck, maybe should have put this album higher. It’s better than the next album. Maybe the one after that too. Not better than The Manics though, obviously

Sorry: spoiler alert.

Follow-up Album: is coming soon!! Their first album in seven years! Buy it, you useless cunts

 

7 The Weeknd: House of Balloons

(2011’s best album)

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In 2019, suggesting The Weeknd made an album of the year contender, never mind the clear and obvious winner, seems almost laughable. The Weeknd! The fuckin’ Weeknd!? That guy with the dreads who’s all over the telly and recently released an EP detailing how much he missed shagging some girl from the Disney channel?? Who got album of the year in 2012? Fuckin’… fuckin’… fuckin’… fuckin’ Fetty Wap or some shit??

Firstly: no, Fetty Wap didn’t win in 2012. Frank Ocean did, I already told you that, are you not even reading this post, bro?

Secondly, it’s difficult to imagine now quite how revolutionary The Weeknd’s first album was when it first appeared in 2011. How breathtaking it was. How exciting it was. Now we’re used to Abel Makkonen Tesfaye popping up on every other song (this isn’t the only album on this list that he appears on) and being a big, inescapable, pretty frigging annoying legitimate celebrity, winning Grammy Awards and shagging models, but in 2011 he was the most mysterious musical genius since Burial*. This mixtape seemingly out of nowhere to critical orspasms (an ‘orspasm’ is the medical term for when you orgasm and are simultaneously overcome with involuntary muscle spasms), it seemed like the mysterious sound of the future and came from some anonymous savant we knew nothing about.

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(*’member Burial? That was something we all cared about for a while, wasn’t it? I predicted he’d win the Mercury Music Prize a while back. He didn’t. Wonder what he’s up to now *Googles* Oh. Released quite a few EPs. Nobody cares)

And, believe it or not, looking back in 2019 it’s clear that this actually was the sound of the future. If you listen to ‘House of Balloons’ in 2019 it may well just sound like a very well made but essentially run of the mill heavy R&B album. There are millions of records that sound just like this in 2019, aren’t there? I mean, that whole ‘I’m taking loads of drugs and shagging loads of fanny but still feel empty inside’ schtick is done by everyone these days, isn’t it?

Yes. Yes it is. And that’s all because of this album. If you asked me what 21st century albums had the biggest influence on mainstream music

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I would honestly put ‘House of Balloons’ as a close second behind Kanye West’s ‘808s & Heartbreak’. And both Mr. West’s album and ‘House of Balloons’ are almost impossible to appreciate if you hear them for the first time in 2019, because all music sounds like this now!

And yes, Mr Tesfaye wasn’t interested in staying as a mysterious genius, and soon eagerly grasped at the fame he believed his talent deserved, all the while releasing records that slowly chipped away at that genius. But, fuck it, he’s earned whatever he wants, ‘House of Balloons’ is one of the most important records released in recent years, and nothing he does will change how amazing tracks like Loft Music and House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls still are.

And, come on, I Can’t Feel My Face, anyone? He can still show glimpses of genius every now and then. probably pays his fucking taxes as well.

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Seriously though, Selena Gomez is, what, thirteen years old?

The Follow-Up: Eeeeesh, ‘House of Balloons’ was the first in a trilogy of gradually less interesting mixtapes. Then he… released other stuff… I guess… He was no.46 in 2013

 

6 Perfume Genius: No Shape

(2017’s best album)

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Well shit, I  guess we done entered the beautiful section of this list, ain’t we?

Love gets a bit of a bad press in musical circles, doesn’t it? I mean, we love songs about getting dumped, we love songs about being cheated on, we love songs about cheating on somebody, and we love songs about how love, basically, stinks.  Sure, you can lust after love, we love songs about wanting to be in love, we love songs about  unrequited love driving you crazy, about hoping the gamma-hydroxybutyrate kicks in so those lines of consent get a little blurred, and we, of course, like songs about raw, emotional fucking. Or heroin. These subjects are interchangeable. We also love, as occasional outliers, songs about loving someone so much that you stove their skull in with a rock.

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Guys, what the fuck was going on in 2013…?

 

But music about being in love?? Who the fuck wants that? What, so you’re going to write songs about how happy you are and how wonderful some other person is?? The fuck is this, the fucking Wiggles? You fuck.

When a decent artist releases some dogshit music, we occasionally blame it on them being in love. Necessary Evil 2019 Spoiler alert, but Chance the Rapper‘s 2019 album is probably most accurately described as 77 minutes of auditory fecal matter committing atrocious human rights abuses to your tympanic membrane, and the most disappointing thing to have done by an American citizen since the Abu Gharib prisoner abuses. Few banging tunes though.

But do the reviewers call out this stanky stank session as the stankfull of stank it really is? No, ‘The Big Day’ is ‘the sound of a man in love‘, like being in love just naturally makes someone absolutely fucking shit at everything. Like actual love is simply a cancer to the artistic mind, removing all of the pain and suffering we truly believe to be essential components of the creative process, because we are all insufferable emo edgelords at heart and are only truly happy when we are assured that even the most distinguished artistic genius are traumatised emotional disasters.

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“Yeah, Thom Yorke might make millions from his music and earn an extortionate living from making art that he loves, but he totally hates himself, man, that life is actually really miserable. He’d much rather be a Senior Aisle Coordinator at Wickes, like me. And, when you think about it, he dreams of being as good at that job as me. Really, I win, however you look at it.”

 

This is,of course, first grade poppyshitting nonsense. Love isn’t a bad thing. Love’s an amazing thing. It inspires you to become a better person and makes you forget how shit the rest of the world is. If love makes you angry, if it makes you scream and weep and howl at the fucking moon, then you just have a drinking problem. Love’s/LSD’s great, everyone’s a fan, if you disagree then you’re just bitter ever since your wife left you in 1994 for the door to door blinds salesman. While… while he was on LSD… or something… Sorry, the analogy really fell away at the end there.

The only problem with love is the same as the problem with LSD- it’s amazing, everyone who’s experienced it will attest to that and the only people who disagree are those who’ve never done so and are subconsciously bitter. But… why is it amazing…? Very few people have been able to explain. We can look at the science at it and explain what lights go off in what particular part of the brain,  but what the frig does that feel like?? In a Reddit thread asking people to explain what love/LSD feels like we get ‘like being a little kid again’ and ‘simple things excite you and bring you joy’ and ‘like turning off autopilot and learning to fly’ and ‘like you pushed the reset button in your brain’. Clearly, explanations run from ‘entirely fucking useless’ to ‘bad Jefferson Airplane lyrics’. Though, to be clear, every single one is far better than anything from ‘The New Day’.

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You know those two fucked right after this shoot

 

Well, ‘No Shape’ is the freaking sound of love/LSD. Mike Hadreas doesn’t just explain beautifully how important love is, why exactly it’s important how much he loves this (very, very lucky) other person, how much love has inspired him to become a more powerful and creative person and fueled this masterpiece. the music of ‘No Shape’ is also coated in the very essence of love/LSD. I honestly think if it were an instrumental album it would still be my favourite (and the scientifically proven, subjectively best) album of 2017. Even without its achingly beautiful and unashamedly smitten lyrics, the orgasmic orchestration and euphoric arrangements are still the greatest explanations of the rapture of true love released this decade.

And like with a lot of love/LSD, I wasn’t quite able to handle it at the time, and had to improve my very architecture in order to properly appreciate it. My old speakers/headphones simply couldn’t handle the beauty, and I was forced to upgrade to lossless musical tracks in order to accommodate the experience. ‘No Shape’ changed the very way I consume music. I also now make sure I order my LSD that little more  pure.

The Follow-Up: not much yet, though according to Wikipedia, ‘In 2019, the track Otherside was used in the trailer for the film The Goldfinch, adapted from the Donna Tartt novel of the same name’. Give him a break, yeah, he’ll come back with something amazing when he’s good and ready

 

Fuck, 4075 words? This is going to have to be a two parter…

4 thoughts on “The Best Albums of the Tennies (kind of…) Part One

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