Let’s be clear about this. My criteria for what constitutes a great album has not changed since I was a teenager: it’s an album I want to listen to again and again. I wonder if my increasing failure to capture this in the 21st century is a symptom of my advancing years? No, it doesn’t compute, because when I do find an album that’s great I still find myself listening to it again and again and again. It’s plausible that I am becoming fussier in my forties, but this does not stop me loving the records that I love. Nor am I declaring the album a dead artform when I say that, again increasingly, I find myself enjoying one-off songs, or “tracks”, more than I do complete albums.
In the past, and I mean the distant past of the 70s, 80s and early 90s, if I fell for a song, it usually led to a more profound relationship with the parent album. This happens less now. Clearly, what follows is not only a personal list in terms of taste, it’s a list based upon what I’ve heard, which is, necessarily, not everything. Like the Pope, I am fallible. However, working at 6 Music, and reviewing for Word means that most albums of critical note pass across my desk, and frankly, if I’m not paying attention at track 3, unless I’m reviewing, I take the disc out and put the next one in.
When I heard the first bars of The Psychedelic Furs by The Psychedelic Furs, or It Takes A Nation Of Millions, or This Nation’s Saving Grace, or even, from before my time, Dark Side Of The Moon, Diamond Dogs, There’s A Riot Goin’ On, Let It Bleed or Freewheelin’, I was hooked in … and haven’t stopped playing these albums yet. Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs had this exact same effect on me in 2010, as did the others on this list. I’m relieved that this can still happen to me. But disappointed that it doesn’t happen so often. Feel free to leave comments demanding why your favourite album isn’t on my list, but I’ll pre-empt these with the answer: either I haven’t heard the album, or I didn’t get through it, or I never came back to listen to it again. I’ve put them in order of preference, but frankly, having battled to fill up a Top 10, and now finding myself with a Top 13, they’re all important. And a hello to Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest, which I tried listening to on Spotify, but my wi-fi kept cutting out, and to The Defamation Of Strickland Banks by Plan B, which, again, I have only belatedly invested in.
ARCADE FIRE The Suburbs
DAN LE SAC VS SCROOBIUS PIP The Logic Of Chance
HOLY FUCK Latin
MASSIVE ATTACK Heligoland
KANYE WEST My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
EDWYN COLLINS Losing Sleep
GORILLAZ Plastic Beach
THE FALL Your Future Our Clutter
THE NATIONAL High Violet
THE ROOTS How I Got Over
BEN FOLDS and NICK HORNBY Lonely Avenue
CHRIS T-T Love Is Not Rescue
PAUL WELLER Wake Up The Nation
More Top 13s to follow. I shall probably do “tracks” next. I look forward to hearing about your favourites. There is no definitive list.