Right, lots to get through, as I've now officially moved past the three quarter mark!
Before I get to it, I have another piece of musical literature to heartily recommend. As I've mentioned previously I'm a massive +Johnny Cash fan, so you'll probably not be too surprised to find that I've currently got my nose in Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn. It's a fantastic biography, truly enlightening and featuring plenty of "talking heads" - Cash's daughters, Marshall Grant, Kris Kristofferson, not to mention Cash himself - so that you get a very thorough, well-rounded account of his life. I'm only half way in and I'm already flabbergasted about how many scandals John put himself through, and then the strength of character it takes to turn that around. It's out in paperback in November, I suggest you track it down.
OK then, onwards with the list! I tried to round out the noughties this time around, but also wound up covering a lot of nineties stuff too, and consequently I've found that MY GOD they liked to make long albums in the nineties! Anyway, here we go...
- Devendra Banhart - Rejoicing In The Hands: This guy gets revered as some sort of American alternative icon, but I simply couldn't get past how odd his voice sounded.
- Drive-By Truckers - Southern Rock Opera
Incidentally, their new album English Oceans is also pretty ace, and their ex-guitarist Jason Isbell (who joined right after this album) is incredible as well. I saw him and his band The 400 Unit live at Gorilla in May and they were fantastic, I'd never heard someone get such rapturous reactions from an audience at a club-sized gig. His most recent album, last year's Southeastern is a heartfelt work of genius.
- Shack - HMS Fable: I adored this album. Fantastically positive and melodic, this should have been huge post-britpop, but somehow it was Travis who made it big instead. Songs as good as "Pull Together" deserve not to be forgotten.
- Metallica - S&M
Anyway, best talk about the actual album! So S&M was actually a live concert Metallica did with the San Fransisco Symphony Orchestra, where they'd play their hits with added orchestral arrangements. It's quite a heady mix, but at its best the mix of orchestral and metal really heightened the drama in Metallica's songs. The amazingly responsive audience - you can hear them singing along word for word to "Masters Of Puppets" at times - also really enhance the listening experience. Overall, an interesting experiment that comes off better than you'd think.
- Dizzee Rascal - Boy In Da Corner
- Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker: This wasn't up to the standards of Gold but was still passable. The little snippet opening the album debating Morrissey albums was interesting, I didn't have Adams down as a Morrissey fan for some reason.
- Le Tigre - Le Tigre: Hey, it's original riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna's post Bikini Kill project! This album's about as sharp, quirky and spirited as you'd expect. There's just no resisting something like "Deceptacon".
- Les Rhythmes Digitales - Darkdancer
What messes with my mind though, are three things. One, Les Rhythmes Digitales was just another alias for Stuart Price, who'd go on to produce albums by Keane, The Killers and New Order - all on completely the other end of the musical spectrum from this album. Two, this album came out in 1999(!) and three, it's most famous song "Jacques Your Body" actually came out in 1997(!!!), but didn't find an audience until it was used in that robot Citroen C4 advert years later. Crazy!
- Beth Orton - Central Reservation: Beth Orton's always been a bit of a conundrum to me. She's always managed to have some credibility with the trip-hop crowd but I've always thought of her as Dido-level supermarket fodder. Nothing here particularly helped solve my conundrum.
- Mercury Rev - Deserter's Songs: While this could get a bit twee at times, it was a really nice listen in general. Opener "Holes" is about the best example of where they got the balance right.
- Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels On A Gravel Road
- Turbonegro - Apocalypse Dudes: With a name like that I was expecting some Spanish novelty act. Instead what I found was an absolute belter of a rock record.
- Robbie Williams - Life Thru A Lens
Anyway, you can keep the Sinatra/Buble impression and the covers of the Haribo advert song, this album is how I'm going to choose to remember you.
- Death In Vegas - The Contino Sessions
- Belle & Sebastian - If You're Feeling Sinister
- The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Now I Got Worry: Very odd record that was just snippets of some cool bluesy riffs paired with some nigh on unlistenable stuff, like the "AAAAAARGH!" at the start of "Skunk".
- David Gray - White Ladder: Ah, David Gray, and his big wobbly head. Unlike Robbie, he was the target of much vitriol when I was younger for his bed-wetter anthems. Nothing's changed David, sorry.
- D'Angelo - Brown Sugar: I can't believe people have been begging this guy to come back like he made Pet Sounds or something. There's nothing here that really makes him stand out from his R'n'B peers.
- Eels - Beautiful Freak
- Maxwell - Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite: I was confused as hell listening to this as I thought Maxwell was some Swedish DJ. I realise now I was mixing him up with Axwell. Bit middle of the road in general.
- Fun Lovin' Criminals - Come Find Yourself:
- Barry Adamson - Oedipus Schmoedipus
- Guided By Voices - Alien Lanes
- GZA - Liquid Swords: Somehow I found this preferable to his work as part of Wu Tang Clan. His clan mates even sound better when they guest on songs here. I really can't put my finger on it...
- Elastica - Elastica
- Rocket From The Crypt - Scream, Dracula, Scream!
Also to my liking were
- Screaming Trees - Dust
- Sleater Kinney - Dig Me Out
- David Holmes - Let's Get Killed
- Everything But The Girl - Walking Wounded, Idlewild
- The Charlatans - Tellin' Stories
- Billy Bragg & Wilco - Mermaid Avenue
- Elliott Smith - Either/Or ("Say Yes" is just fantastic)
- The Verve - Northern Soul
While the following left a lot to be desired
- Gotan Project - La Revancha Del Tango
- MJ Cole - Sincere
- Bebel Gilberto - Tanto Tempo
- Nitin Sawhney - Beyond Skin
- Stereolab - Emperor Tomato Ketchup
- LTJ Bukem - Logical Progression
- Robert Wyatt - Shleep
- Finley Quaye - Maverick A Strike
- Khaled - Kenza
- Suba - Sao Paulo Confessions
- Tavlin Singh - OK