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.
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’.
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’.
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’.
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.
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).
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.
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.”