The greatest albums of the 21st century

It’s fast approaching the end of the year and all the votes have been cast, the lists drawn up and the debates have started to rage.    With all the music publications releasing their definitive verdicts on the greatest and most influential albums of the last ten years it is interesting to reflect on what the critics think have shaped our cultural lives.

For quantitive purposes, the top twenty from five different publications – Uncut, NME, Rolling Stone, The Guardian and The Times – were analysed. During the last ten years  the music industry has become unrecognisable, imploding in the face of internet democracy and becoming a free territory, unshackled from the corporate system but unsure of what the future might hold.   This has been reflected in the explosion of artistic creativity and expression, particularly in the last 3 years.  We are definitely leaving this decade in a much healthier musical state than the last!!

The Strokes – Is this It, seems to be universally acknowledged as the most influential album in the last ten years.   Four of the publications featured it in their top five  – with only The Times placing it outside at number 6.  This is the only album to achieve this blanket acclaim.   No surprises that Radiohead feature strongly in all of the top twenty lists, constantly evolving they have  become even more adventurous and inspiring this decade than the last.   Kid A consistently features more than any other album, deservedly so, although Uncut doesn’t list it until number 25,  shame on you.   Other albums that deserve to be uttered in the same sentence as great and that keep cropping up in most of the lists are:  Arcade Fire – Funeral (although not in The Times), Amy Winehouse – Back to Black and The White Stripes – Elephant ( although NME only rate it as their 18th best album and Uncut regard White Blood Cells as better, so much better in fact that it is listed as their greatest album of the decade!)

Their were a few misplaced surprises in some of the lists.  Most notably,  The Times (again):  Coldplay – number 17 with Viva la Vida, Hot Chip – number 14 with Made in the dark and Britney Spears – number 5 with Blackout. What were they thinking?   The Guardian with Lily Allen at number 20!!   Uncut with 2 Bob Dylan albums in the top 10 – I know he’s made a bit of a return to form lately but trying to get past that sandpaper voice and old-time Americana is hard enough let alone distinguishing it as some of the best music of the last 10 years.

Another strange fact is the lack of albums from the last 2 -3 years.  Is this because they haven’t had time to filter into popular culture or that maybe the last couple of years, although challenging and exciting, has maybe been too experimental to be classified as great.  The only artists to feature from the last 2 years are:  Burial, Coldplay, Elbow and Fleet Foxes.

Noticeable absentees from the lists:

Sigur Ross – Takk – the film and television soundtrack of the last five years.

Damien Rice – O – emotionally charged and critically acclaimed at the time – although everyone seems to have forgotten this beautifully heart wrenching record.

Red Hot Chilli Peppers – By The Way – Maybe because they’re a corporate band but few artists have delivered such a warm and harmonious rock album.

Gorillaz – Demon Days ( The Guardian did place this album at a deserved number 11) – A pop classic, full of dark and cultural undertones.  Shadowed Damien’s work with Blur.

Daft Punk – Discovery – A futuristic dance album that set the electronic template for the rest of the decade, its influence has been underappreciated.

My own top twenty greats to follow…………………….


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