100: Future of the Left – The Plot Against Common Sense (2012)
It feels odd that the decade is ending with a McLusky reunion, and it perhaps risks overshadowing Future of the Left a bit. The latter were the more prolific band in the end, with Andrew Falkous’s ferocious imagination and knack for unexpected imagery giving both bands their distinctive identities – that, and a very great deal of noise. The title of this record turns out to have foretold the path of British politics with chilling accuracy.
99: Juanita Stein – Until the Lights Fade (2018)
After their debut album, I suppose I was a bit unclear about what type of band Howling Bells were, or were trying to be. They released a succession of decent records with some great songs, but nothing seemed to cohere, or capture critical acclaim, quite like their first album. Juanita Stein’s solo career has had a clarity to it that contrasts with that: both albums have had a distinctly American sound, the first more overtly country-influenced and this second one more clearly rock, and produced with quite a sheen. Almost in a Springsteen tradition in places? Maybe faintly. The effect is pretty grabbing, either way, and Juanita’s voice is showcased to good effective both as a singer and as a writer.
98: Edwyn Collins – Losing Sleep (2011)
One of three albums released this decade, along with Understated (2013) and Badbea (2019), Losing Sleep was Edwyn Collins’ first album written and recorded after the cerebral haemhorrage he suffered in 2005. I saw his now semi-legendary headline slot at Indietracks in 2011, when the extent of his physical limitations was very evident. But his voice retains a hugely pleasing depth and timbre, that anchors the songs here delightfully. Really, any of those albums could happily have gone here, but on a repeat listening I found myself most drawn to this one, by a smidge.
97: Phantastic Ferniture – Phantastic Ferniture (2018)
Julia Jacklin came to prominence as a major talent in the second half of the decade, and has released two good albums. For me, I really connected with about half the songs on each and quite liked the rest, so there’s a great album’s worth of material there, but that’s not how this list works. Instead, this side project band with two friends seemed to enable Julia to hit the highs really consistently, at least to my taste – it’s an enjoyable record with plenty of oomph, and a slight slacker rock sound that’s absent from Julia’s solo work but really suits the songs.
96: The Loves – …Love You (2011)
Going to Indietracks for the first time felt in many ways like re-connecting with the music I’d followed closely around the turn of the century and had kept only partly in touch with since I’d graduated and John Peel had died. The Loves were the most direct embodiment of that – a Peel-supported band that I’d never seen at the time, and who were in fact gearing up to release their final album ahead of a long-planned split on Valentine’s Day 2011. This is a short record – under half an hour – but listening back to it, it’s got a striking hit rate in terms of the quality of the songs.
95: Black Kids – Rookie (2017)
It seemed hard to believe it was ten years since Black Kids had released their bouncy, jangly heartbreak single I’m Not Going To Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You… and it seemed even harder when Rookie emerged, and they didn’t sound a day older in either their sound or their subject matter. For all that they’re not rookies any more, this is still lyrically a set of songs from and about young people, rather than reflecting any sort of changed outlook as you might expect after a decade. And really, I liked it all the more for that – ten years on, and still an irreverent bunch of fun.
94: Badly Drawn Boy – It’s What I’m Thinking Pt.1 – Photographing Snowflakes (2010)
Ten years ago my write-up of Badders’ decade was a pretty sad one: having loved his shows around the time of Bewilderbeast, and the record itself, I watched as he tried and repeatedly failed to achieve the same alchemy again, each time falling short by a seemingly longer distance. I haven’t dared see him live since 2007. By 2010 he had done more soundtrack work and reportedly recorded and then ditched an album’s worth of material, so this record seemed like a somewhat tentative toe back in the water of ‘full’ albums after a bit of a gap. In the event, it turned out to be probably his most successful record, artistically anyway, since The Hour of the Bewilderbeast, with some charming and reflective songs, attractively arranged – all a bit understated, but well crafted for that. It boded well for the second and third instalments of the apparently planned trilogy of albums… which then didn’t emerge. Since then, Badders has continued to play live, done a bit more soundtrack work, traded on some nostalgia for his debut album, and gone grey. It might seem like a bit of an underachievement, but let’s not overlook the strength of this album.
93: PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (2011)
It’s hard to know what to make of art that focuses on England right now. By association, it feels like it must be guilty of… something. We didn’t have a de facto English nationalist government in 2011 though, so it wasn’t quite so much of an issue. And to be fair, Polly Harvey’s England is often as faded and tattered as it is enchanted and beguiling. She pulled off a neat trick here of making music that was distinctive and idiosyncratic, but at the same time accessible rather than alienating. The only Mercury-winning album on this decade’s list.
92: Hard Skin – Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear? (2013)
Bit of an oddball record, this one – but curiously endearing. As a twist on their new record, On The Balls, Damaged Goods punk veterans Hard Skin released a second version of the album with a variety of female punk and indie singers performing the lead vocals. The result includes Beth Jeans Houghton and Manda Rin showing off their potty mouths.
91: Allo Darlin’ – Allo Darlin’ (2010)
Indiepop was accelerating into a strong phase at the start of the decade, and this was the album that confirmed there was something going on. Allo Darlin’ leapt fairly immediately into the status of poster child, with a run of main stage Indietracks appearances that culminated in a memorable headlining set in 2014. This record’s songs were the mainstay of their sets throughout, and with a few exceptions were seldom bettered by tracks on their subsequent two albums. The band crossed over a bit, with some decent support slots and fairly regularly popping up as background music on Bargain Hunt for a while. Er, I’ve been told. But they clearly got as far as was possible on the redoubtable Fortuna Pop!, and their final show at the end of 2016 was a convincingly joyous farewell.