We recently revealed our Top 50 Albums Of 2011, but we’ve been picking albums of the year ever since 1974. Back then we plumped for Steely Dan’s third album ‘Pretzel Logic’. Decent record, shame about the artwork…
Our favourite album of 1975? Bob Dylan’s ‘Blood On The Tracks’. Hard to imagine there were many office arguments over that choice – it’s a self-evident masterpiece, featuring tracks such as ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ and ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’. Though Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born To Run’, also released that year, must have been in the running.
Dylan was our number one the following year, too, with his 17th album, ‘Desire’. That may have been a slightly more contentious choice. Also released that year: The Runaways’ self-titled debut, and the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’. Plus an awful lot of wafty prog-rock concept albums.
Our album of 1977 was David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’. Really? In the year of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’, not to mention The Sex Pistols’ ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’? Then again, NME was a bit sniffy about punk back then: it was left to rival paper Sounds to properly get behind punk.
In 1978, perhaps to compensate for overlooking ‘Born To Run’, we made Bruce Springsteen’s follow-up, ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’, our album of the year. Springsteen was a divisive figure in the office back then: a couple of years later, Julie Burchill gave ‘The River’ an absolute kicking.
In 1979, post-punk was taking over. No surprise, then, that NME went nuts for Talking Heads, making their third album ‘Fear Of Music’ the record of the year. NME’s rival music paper Melody Maker also had it as their top release that year. Also released in 1979: Gang Of Four’s ‘Entertainment’, Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’, and Neil Young And Crazy Horse’s ‘Rust Never Sleeps’.
In 1980 we went for Joy Division’s ‘Closer’ – the first time what might now be described as an indie band had made it to the top slot. Hard to argue with that choice, really, though 1980 also saw the release of what would eventually be the biggest hard rock album of all time, AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’.
In 1981 we went uncharacteristically disco, honouring Grace Jones’ ‘Nightclubbing’. Featuring hits such as ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’, the record has stood the test of time – people still rave about it to this day. Though in hindsight we could also have gone with Echo And The Bunnymen’s ‘Heaven Up Here’, or even ABBA’s ‘The Visitors’.
Our album of the year in 1982 was what turned out to be Marvin Gaye’s final studio album, ‘Midnight Love’ – the one with ‘Sexual Healing’ on. It’s not dated as well as some of the others in this list. Maybe Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’ might have been a better choice?
Back to rock music in 1983, with Elvis Costello’s eighth album ‘Punch The Clock’ getting the album of the year honour. Fair play, it did have the astounding ‘Shipbuilding’ on it, though you’d have thought the mag would have acknowledged the rise of synth-pop. Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ came out that year. (As did R.E.M.’s ‘Murmur’).
And so to 1984, when we went with Bobby Womack’s ‘The Poet II’. A strange choice: it’s not even the best Bobby Womack album called ‘The Poet’ (the first was better). Better choices in hindsight: R.E.M.’s ‘Reckoning’, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’, or even Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ debut ‘From Her To Eternity’.
Album of the year in 1985? Tom Waits’ eighth album ‘Rain Dogs’. Hard to argue with that, though it might be regarded as a rather conservative choice in a year when so much exciting alt-rock was happening, with releases by bands such as Black Flag and Faith No More.
1986 was Prince And The Love Revolution’s ‘Parade’. Featuring the massive hit ‘Kiss’, it was the first Prince album to sell more in Europe than in America. We also could have gone for: New Order’s ‘Brotherhood’, Depeche Mode’s ‘Black Celebration’, Metallica’s ‘Master Of Puppets’, or even (are compilations allowed?) Kate Bush’s ‘The Whole Story’.
In 1987 we made a hip-hop album our pick of the year for the first time: Public Enemy’s debut, ‘Yo! Bum Rush The Show’. We liked the idea so much we made Public Enemy’s follow-up our album of the year too…
1988: Public Enemy, ‘It Takes a Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’. Hard to imagine what else we could have gone for, though Sonic Youth’s now-legendary ‘Daydream Nation’ also came out that year.
And so to 1989. No, not ‘The Stone Roses’. Instead we stayed with hip-hop, tipping our hats to De La Soul’s astonishingly accomplished debut, ‘3 Feet High And Rising’. Still, Manchester bands had dominated the year, so it was no surprise that next year we gave the nod to…
Happy Mondays, Pills’N’Thrills And Bellyaches’ (1990). A worthy choice for album of the year, though there was plenty of strong competition. Also released that year: Primal Scream, ‘Screamadelica’; James, ‘Gold Mother’; Jane’s Addiction, ‘Ritual De Lo Habitual’.
1991 was the year of block-busting rock albums such as Guns’N’Roses’ ‘Use Your Illusion’ double release, and Metallica’s ‘Black Album’ – though these days it’s remembered more as the year grunge broke big. That year saw the release of Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten’, Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Gish’, and of course Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’, which was our album of the year.
In 1992 we went with an album that maybe gets a bit overlooked these days – Sugar’s melodic alt-rock classic ‘Copper Blue’. Other candidates that year: Manic Street Preachers’ debut ‘Generation Terrorists’, Beastie Boys’ ‘Check Your Head’, The Cure’s ‘Wish’, The Lemonheads’ ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’, and L7’s ‘Bricks Are Heavy’.
A worthy winner in 1993: Bjork’s ‘Debut’. Though of course Suede’s debut also came out that year, and when we recently selected our best debut albums of each of the last fifty years, it was Suede that got the nod.
No prizes for guessing which album we went with in 1994. Clearly relieved that we had some successful British bands to write about again, we made Oasis’ ‘Definitely Maybe’ our album of the year. Doubtless there were office arguments over whether this or ‘Parklife’ (or indeed Pulp’s ‘His’n’Hers’) would come out on top.
1995 was a pretty huge year for NME bands, what with the Blur Vs Oasis chart battle, and Oasis releasing the biggest album of the decade in the form of ‘(What’s The Story?) Morning Glory’. But it was also the year of trip-hop – and Tricky’s claustrophobic debut ‘Maxinquaye’ was our album of the year. Perhaps an unexpectedly downbeat choice in a year now remembered as being all about Britpop glory.
1996: Beck’s freewheeling fifth album ‘Odelay’. It’s undeniably a great record, but do people still listen to it much these days? Also released that year: The Fugees’ ‘The Score’, The Afghan Whigs’ ‘Black Love’, and Manic Street Preachers’ ‘Everything Must Go’.
People think 1997 and immediately assume Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’ conquered all, but actually Radiohead have never had an NME album of the year. In 1997 we went with Spiritualized’s ‘Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space’. The Verve’s ‘Urban Hymns’ was also a strong candidate.
And so to 1998, and the post-Britpop hangover. Air’s ‘Moon Safari’ came out, as did Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’ and Rufus Wainwright’s self-titled debut album – but we went with Mercury Rev’s ‘Deserter’s Songs’. Interestingly, Snow Patrol released their debut album ‘Songs For Polarbears’ that year. It peaked at Number 143.
Another US alt-rock choice in 1999: The Flaming Lips’ ‘The Soft Bulletin’ – perhaps a sign that British bands weren’t doing anything exciting at the time. Sparklehorse’s ‘Good Morning Spider’ and Chemical Brother’s ‘Surrender’ also came out that year. Nu metal was also getting huge, but we did our best to ignore that.
And to the present century. Coldplay released their debut album ‘Parachutes’, and Eminem released his phenomenal third album ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’. But we went with Queens Of The Stone Age’s second album ‘Rated R’: one of only three times a hard rock album has been made album of the year in NME (Nirvana and Sugar being the others).
2001 – what else? The Strokes’ debut, of course. We also could have had… well, nothing else came close, really.
2002 was the year of Coldplay’s second album ‘A Rush Of Blood To The Head’. Regular readers may have been surprised we didn’t make The Vines’ ‘Highly Evolved’ our album of the year, since we’d hyped it to high heaven in the preceding months.
2003 seems quite a no-brainer in hindsight: The White Stripes’ ‘Elephant’. Also released that year: Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Fever To Tell’, The Mars Volta’s ‘De-Loused In The Comatorium’, and Kings Of Leon’s ‘Youth And Young Manhood’.
2004: Franz Ferdinand, ‘Franz Ferdinand’. Weirdly, despite being our album of the year, Franz’s debut didn’t make even the top 100 in our albums of the decade. Admittedly the mag had a totally different staff by then, but still: that’s quite a dramatic fall from favour.
In 2005 we could have gone for MIA’s ‘Arular’, Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Illinois’, or even Editors’ debut album ‘The Back Room’. But ultimately Bloc Party’s debut album ‘Silent Alarm’ was our favourite album of the year. We’ll stand by that.
There can’t have been many arguments about making Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not’ our album of the year in 2006, though Thom Yorke’s ‘The Eraser’, My Chemical Romance’s ‘The Black Parade’ and The Hold Steady’s ‘Boys And Girls In America’ were also critically acclaimed that year.
2007 was all about Klaxons’ ‘Myths Of The Near Future’. Our original review said: “From the scattered shards of the past and of the future, Klaxons have built a magical and dangerous world all of their own.”
MGMT’s second album might have divided opinion, but their debut certainly didn’t. We all bloody loved ‘Oracular Spectacular’ in 2008 – it beat second-placed album TV On The Radio’s ‘Dear Science’ by a comfortable margin, with Glasvegas’ self-titled debut coming in third.
The Horrors’ second album ‘Primary Colours’ was so much better than their first, we just had to make it our album of 2009 – though The xx’s debut album wasn’t far behind once the votes were tallied up.