This list is taken from the End Of The Decade issue of NME magazine (on sale November 18th) where each album included is reviewed again from a 2009 perspective, alongside brand new interviews and a look back at the defining musical moments of the past 10 years.
90Orchestra Of Wolves
Read the original NME review from 2006:
Yes, yes, ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’ has been out for ages. But since that day, fortune has smiled on Gallows in extreme ways. Their debut now amounts to a year zero for, if not music in general, then certainly British hardcore. Thing is, ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’ is increasingly beloved of people who would normally prefer a bout of scrofula than a date with that genre – their prejudices blown away by the sheer force of nature that this band whip up live.
Gallows were so easily the toast of South By Southwest it was embarrassing. And while singer Frank Carter laughed off suggestions of a mega bucks deal with Warners, that’s exactly what happened. Predictably, the album’s been reissued with a few extras and a big marketing spend. So this is where we shit on Gallows’ hardcore ethics and find a new genre to revive, right?
Wrong. First, this is simply too good an album to be left in an ideological ghetto; and second, the re-release solves their intrinsic problem, of how recorded music could ever match up to the shows. Disc Two offers loosened-up BBC radio session versions of six album tracks that, if anything, better the originals. Then there’s two all-new tracks, which expand their blueprint without ever spoiling it. ‘Sick Of Feeling Sick’ intriguingly points their mast toward melodic radio rock and ‘Black Heart Queen’ crushes it tighter. It’s for all these reasons that ‘…Wolves’ makes NME history by getting a higher mark just months after being reviewed. It rounds off with a cover of ‘Nervous Breakdown’ by Black Flag. There’s never been a UK punk band to hold a candle to them. Gallows could be it.
89The Midnight Organ Fight
Read the original NME review from 2003:
Woe betide anyone who’s had the misfortune of things “just not working out” with a member of Frightened Rabbit; the Selkirk quartet’s second album cuts to the quick of love, fornication and general co-habitation with the opposite sex so fiercely that, after just six songs, celibacy seems the only sensible option. Yet, bleak though ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’ is, it’s also utterly beautiful. By turns scathingly honest (“I’m armed with the past and the will and a brick”, coos cuckolded frontman Scott Hutchison on ‘Good Arms Vs Bad Arms’), darkly hilarious (check out ‘The Twist’’s brilliant, disco-flecked post-mortem on the first flushes of attraction) and impossibly grandiose, anyone who’s ever had their soul squashed like a grape by a heartless partner will be able to relate to these tales of love, loss and general despondency. It’s a dark tunnel, but this record is worth it.
88The Letting Go
Read a biography of Bonnie Prince Billy:
Will Oldham, a.k.a. 'Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (born 24 December 1970 in Louisville, Kentucky), is an American singer, songwriter, and actor. From 1993 to 1997 he performed and recorded under variations of the Palace' name, including the Palace Brothers, Palace Songs, and Palace Music. From Wikipedia
87For Emma, Forever Ago
Read the original NME review from 2003:
There are times everyone feels the need to get away from the bustle of their lives and get it together in the country. Well, Bon Iver, aka Justin Vernon, did it so you don’t have to. Recorded solo during a three-month stay in a Wisconsin log cabin, ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ positively drips with isolation. Led by spectral half-chords and knackered guitars underpinned by Vernon’s high, plaintive voice, the songs – particularly the opener, ‘Flume’ – sound like a collaboration between Grizzly Bear and Band Of Horses. Gospel influences and junkyard percussion also feature on tracks like ‘The Wolves (Act I And II)’ and ‘For Emma’. This album’s strength is also its weakness: there’s too little variation in the tracks and some, such as ‘Skinny Love’, aren’t quite strong enough to bear the stripped-down production. However, if it’s melancholic and spiritual solace you’re after, there are worse places to spend 35 minutes.
86Forget The Night Ahead
Read the original NME review from 2009:
Two years after their lauded debut, [a]The Twilight Sad[/a] are attempting once more to inject real emotion and excitement into that sometimes clinical post-rock genre. So while they might seem to share [a]U2[/a]’s fondness for heart-tugging, epic choruses, thankfully that’s where the comparisons to the grande dames of arena rock end.
Indeed they’ve sacrificed some of the warmth of [b]‘Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters’[/b] for a much darker ambience, with big melodies and vast romantic landscapes. Opener [b]‘Reflection Of The Television’[/b] swaggers in on a wave of [a]My Bloody Valentine[/a]-style glide guitar and pounding, insistent drums, as James Graham’s thick Scottish burr veers from fearful ([i]“There’s people downstairs”[/i]) to threatening ([i]“I’m more than a fighter, you know”[/i]). [b]‘I Became A Prostitute’[/b], meanwhile, for all its imagery of money, blood and exploitation, is their most accessible moment so far, treading the line between melody and noise with skill and creating a well-layered sense of angst. Balancing the fiery post-rock cacophonies are passages of introspective tenderness. [b]‘The Room’[/b] grows from gentle beginnings, built on the pulse of a bass drum and piano, while the lyrics document a disintegrating relationship ambiguously, laying denial on thickly as the noise rises ominously. [b]‘Made To Disappear’[/b] positively drips with emotional depth, propelling cathartic, distorted guitar shredding against Graham’s impassioned hollering. His accent is so thick it’s hard to actually catch what the man is saying some of the time but, rest assured, it’s suitably deep and poetic.
[b]‘Forget The Night Ahead’[/b] walks a fine line between drippy sentimentality and rough-edged realism. It’s the vividness of the lyrical themes and rich, poetic words that ultimately carries the record over, but unfortunately so much attention is paid to crafting the perfect setting for Graham’s brooding lyrics that they all too often become lost, a nuisance among an overly eager wall of sound. Which is a real shame because when they are audible – [i]“There’s a girl in the crowd, and she’s bawling her eyes out/The only girl in the town with her fingers in eyelids”[/i] ([b]‘I Became A Prostitute’[/b]) – they take a standard album to a different level.
[i]What do you think of the album? Let us know by posting a comment below[/i]
85Run Come Save Me
Read the original NME review from 2001:
You have to love a rapper who says 'frig' more than he says 'fuck', and Roots Manuva is very lovable indeed. His first album, 1999's superb 'Brand New Second Hand' introduced the concept of the British rapper as a "bruk pocket Frank Sinatra" and set unprecedented standards for UK hip-hop. 'Run Come Save Me' shows even greater imaginative flair. The single 'Witness(One Hope)' may have missed the charts, but it deserves to live in eternity for its video alone, a hilarious revenge fantasy in which the grown-up Roots sabotages his old school's sports day, competing against some enraged little kids and winning every race where he once came last. You have to love a rapper who says 'frig' more than he says 'fuck', and Roots Manuva is very lovable indeed. His first album, 1999's superb 'Brand New Second Hand' introduced the concept of the British rapper as a "bruk pocket Frank Sinatra" and set unprecedented standards for UK hip-hop. 'Run Come Save Me' shows even greater imaginative flair. The single 'Witness(One Hope)' may have missed the charts, but it deserves to live in eternity for its video alone, a hilarious revenge fantasy in which the grown-up Roots sabotages his old school's sports day, competing against some enraged little kids and winning every race where he once came last.
That impulse to rework the past and make new sense of his surroundings runs right through 'Run Come Save Me'. On 'Dub Styles' Roots reckons he's "French kissing the chaos"; his endlessly allusive wordplay is that of a sensitive 'geez' carefully negociating a confusing and hostile world. Roots is a worrier - about whether there's a god ('Sinny Sin Sins'), whether he drinks too much ('Stone The Crows'), whether MI5 might have a file on him ('Ital'), and about whether he and his girlfriend might be "walking down a primrose road to nothing" ('Dreamy Days'). But there is of course hope and confidence too, expressed in striding beats and rugged arrangements that sound like the work of a stockwell RZA.
It's vunerable and absolutely real, with a totally English attitude which sets it apart from almost any other hip-hop act you can name; not just in the references to "cheese on toast" and "ten pints of bitter" but in Roots' strange mix of anxiety and playfulness. Musically there are cheeky lifts from Craig David's 'Seven Days' and Destiny's Child's 'Independent Women (Part 1)' in the dope-celebrating 'Highest Grade', but otherwise the tracks are dark and spacious, the opposite of the lavish arrangements of fellow south Londoners Bassment Jaxx, but even more evocative of that thrilling, if troubled part of the UK.
"I feel sensual and every now and again I feel a sense of woe", confesses Roots over the marching beat and military whistles of 'Join The Dots'; 'Trim Body', meanwhile, is a strangely sad ode to a girl seemingly declaimed through a megaphone. It all adds up to a deep-focus, multi-layered shot of Roots' world, an elaborate but instantly recognisable universe of the lost and found.
Read a biography of Regina Spektor:
Regina Spektor (born February 18, 1980) is a Soviet-born American singer-songwriter and pianist. Her music is associated with the anti-folk scene centered on New York City's East Village. From Wikipedia
83Alas, I Cannot Swim
Read the original NME review from 2008:
If the last 12 months will be remembered for the laddish, LDN alcopop of Lily and Kate then the forthcoming year promises more sober thrills. Put it down to the burgeoning underage scene (boasting Bombay Bicycle Club and The Onlookers), but 2008 promises to trade stage-school schtick for a more heartfelt audio verité. Chief among them is Reading’s Ms Marling. A fan of Earl Grey tea, Philip Larkin and Radio 4 she is, at 17, too young to smoke, let alone frequent The Hawley Arms (she wasn’t even allowed into her own gig at the Soho Revue Bar).
Yet, comparing her smoky tones on ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’ to the affected enunciation of, say, Kate Nash, is like comparing gold with lead, a lullaby to a ringtone. Take opener ‘Ghosts’: an acoustic broadside to a would-be boyfriend, it sees her dismiss marriage out of hand (“Lover please do not fall to your knees/It’s not like I believe In ever-lasting love”) over a chilly backdrop of tinkling piano and brushed drums. ‘Old Stone’ is a Jeff Buckley-esque allegory about pleasure and permanence while ‘Captain And The Hourglass’ is a dream-like sea shanty, creaking and groaning like some ancient clipper as Marling spins a tangled yarn of love and loss. We’re pulled in yet have no idea where she is taking us.
‘My Manic And I’ initially seems to be about a dysfunctional relationship; however, as the tumbling waltz reveals itself, it changes into something else entirely: a rumination on a co-dependent, substance-fuelled and emotionally damaged union. It’s stirring stuff. “I woke up and he was screaming” she sighs on ‘Night Terror’, conjuring up images of nocturnal fevers on Shepherds Bush Green. Not exactly “You’ve gone and got sick on my trainers”, then.
If her antecedents lie as much in anti-folk luminaries Jeffrey Lewis and Diane Cluck as Karen Dalton and Judee Sill, the spirit remains the same. It’s pop as confessional, sung from the heart and stripped of artifice. Well, almost. A schmaltzy mid-section where Marling re-writes Dylan’s ‘Lay Lady Lay’ (‘Tap At My Window’), goes all hurdy-gurdy (‘You’re No God’) and – shudder – imitates Dido (‘Cross Your Fingers’) suggests both label pressure and the very real fear that she could be kidnapped by Radio 2 at any moment.
Right now, Marling may still be a bashful bohemian, but ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’ marks the arrival of a major talent, brave enough to swim against the commercial tide.
Not raving, but drowning.
82Mclusky Do Dallas
Read the original NME review from 2005:
With Puddle Of Mudd currently starring in 'Grungesters, Inc' - the Disney reanimation of Nirvana's most commercial moments - i's good to know that there are bands tapping the other spirit of 1991. Cardiff's Mclusky are steeped in the grimy residues of the early-90s US underground, wilfully channelling The Jesus Lizard, Mudhoney, Girls Against Boys and the ghost of every Amphetamine Reptile T-shirt into the frequently hilarious 'Mclusky Do Dallas'.
Sticky with gibbering guitars, unhinged lyrics and the kind of unwholesome attitude that could do with a ladle of sheep dip (titles include 'Fuck This Band' and 'The World Loves Us And Is Our Bitch') it's surprisingly inventive. The Voidoids-like scramble of 'Chases'; the stained Six By Seven dynamics of 'To Hell With Good Intentions'; 'Collagen Rock', apparently featuring David Yow and a waste disposal unit: Mclusky sound like they've crawled out from under rock itself. Forget the spotlight: in a faintly unpleasant way, the dark is rising.
Read the original NME review from 2005:
Two brothers, one school friend and 12 brilliant songs. It’s a superfluous fact that Field Music guitarist/drummer Peter played drums in the original line-up of The Futureheads, as is it that’s younger brother, David, was at the helm for the recording of the ‘Heads’ debut single. However, inking in the dots on the Wearside rock family tree does illuminate the fact theat the brothers Brewis share the same allegiance to brilliant brainpop as their hometown buddies.
Roping in piano-playing school chum Andrew Moore, the trio have created a debut offering of preposterously ace swoon-pop. Peter sings the soul-tinged ‘If Only The Moon Were Up’, David the yearning, pastoral pomp of ‘Luck Is A Fine Thing’, while they both muck in on the genius, two-minute psychedelic-folk shangbang that is ‘shorter Shorter’. These are songs of intricate beauty and resonant truth and further evidence of Sunderland’s inspiring pop gene pool.