This year sees the decade-anniversaries of a tonne of amazing albums: 50 of them, by our count. Here they are, from MIA’s head-spinning debut ‘Aruler’ to Gorillaz’ ‘Demon Days’…
LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem: Two years after he'd lampooned his own fading cool on 'Losing My Edge', James Murphy made the coolest album of the decade, a swaggering mix of punk, funk, punk-funk, techno and new wave, packing a lysergic blues classic in 'Never As Tired As When I'm Waking Up'.
Devendra Banhart – Cripple Crow: It was a stellar year for folk singer Banhart, who also appeared on Antony & The Johnsons' garlanded 'I Am A Bird Now'. 'Cripple Crow' itself turned out to be one of Banhart's best, an epic 23-song odyssey through blues, protest song and raw funk that persistently threatens to fall to pieces but is held together by the sweetness of Banhart's personality.
Franz Ferdinand – You Could Have It So Much Better With…: Difficult second album syndrome? Ha! Franz Ferdinand thumbed their collective nose at the old folk tale by rushing out a second set as quick as poss and essentially filling it with the same rigorous new-wave darts of pleasure all over again, the unabashedly pop 'Do You Want To' just a brassy swerve off the beaten track.
MIA – Arular: A relatively late-starter in the pop sphere, MIA had cut her teeth on fine art courses, eventually designing Elastica record sleeves before she managed to make her personal statement. 'Arular', named after her father, Tamil activist Arul Pragasam, made it all count in a flurry of political babble and radical hip-hop beats, a day-glo whole as lurid as its sleeve.
Arcade Fire – Funeral: Came out in 2004 over the other side of the pond, but Europe didn't get it until 2005 so put that green ink away. 'Funeral', although the result of a pretty grim period in their collective lives, is one of those life-affirming records that can only be the launchpad to great things. From 'Wake Up' to the hectic rush of 'Power Out', it's an album that continues to glow.
Animal Collective – Feels: The Baltimore psychedelicists' sixth album is the last first-phase Animal Collective record. Call it the no-hits-whatsoever period, before 'Strawberry Jam' and 'Merriweather Post Pavilion' turned them into laser-guided pop stars (well, nearly). That doesn't mean 'Feels' is no fun. There's a vein of Beach Boys harmony amid its layers of noisenikery.
Ladytron – Witching Hour: Somehow, against the odds, Liverpool's Ladytron managed to pick their way through the wreckage of Fischerspooner's dreams and escape the electroclash scene. Third album 'Witching Hour' is no less-indebted to 80s synth-pop and new wave but found a new dream-pop shimmer too, taking them into shoegazing territory. They'd finally made it to the cusp of the 90s.
Low – The Great Destroyer: The Minnesotan slowcore – that's generally all about making music that's, well, on the sluggish side – band were on their seventh album here, refusing to set the world alight even with modestly acclaimed single 'California' and keeping things mesmeric. 'The Great Destroyer' is Low's biggest hit to date, nosing into the UK Top 75, a credit to its refined sheen.
Caribou – The Milk Of Human Kindness: Robbed of his Manitoba name by a lawsuit from Handsome Dick Manitoba, Canadian auteur Dan Snaith went with a nom de plume that was at least the equal and got on with bashing out his bedroom indie. 'The Milk Of Human Kindness' is a vague shift towards the electronica that sees Snaith so feted now, but recognisably folky too.
Antony & The Johnsons – I Am A Bird Now: Remember when the Mercury Prize judges used to lash out 20 grand to the least likely album on the list? Nobody was entirely sure Antony Hegarty was even British, but no matter – ''I Am A Bird Now' might have bamboozled Joe Public but its blend of torch song and emotive Broadwayesque epic enthralled anyone who happened upon it.
Kaiser Chiefs – Employment: Parva were never destined for indie god status, but Ricky Wilson and the boys had a bit of a rethink and came up with the goods. Terrace anthems for people who didn't fancy the terraces, 'Employment''s standout tracks ('Oh My God', 'I Predict A Riot', you name 'em, you sing 'em) were everywhere, bellowed out across the generations.
Isolée – We Are Monster: German microhouse chap Rajko Müller doesn't overuse his Isolée pseudonym – 'We Are Monster' was its second album in five years, and there was barely a peep until 2011's 'Well Spent Youth' – but he makes the most of it when he eventually stirs. 'We Are Monster' is still the pick of Müller's various albums and EPs, an addictive, minimal house paragon.
Jamie Lidell – Multiply: When Jamie Lidell was doing his electronica thing, it didn't seem quite so unusual that he was signed to Sheffield's Warp label. But when he revealed he'd been a throaty-roared trad soulman all along, he appeared quite the anomaly. 'Multiply' played it absolutely straight, recasting Lidell as our very own blend of Al Green and Marvin Gaye.
Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine: Fiona Apple's second LP was more famous for its title than its songs; you know, 'When The Pawn does something or other for another 30 words'. Her third was more famous for its difficult gestation, recorded then scrapped then recorded again. Still, it betrays none of that in its confident, vaudeville-esque songs, 'O Sailor' the pick of a glorious bunch.
Kate Bush – Aerial: Let's gloss over those bits with Rolf Harris, shall we? Kate Bush's return after 12 years out of the game bringing up her son Bertie is a captivating, sprawling joy that covers two discs (A Sea Of Honey, A Sky Of Honey), updates Citizen Kane, hymns her boy and her mother, and manages to draw an entire song out of pi's decimal sequence.
Art Brut – Bang Bang Rock & Roll: The cult Berlin-based rock semi-legends released their debut album on my birthday. Possibly a coincidence, that. Trailed by swashbuckling single 'Formed A Band', 'Bang Bang Rock & Roll' lives up to its title, churning out blistering arty rawk, all fronted by the swaggering Eddie Argos, a beetle-browed god in a nice shirt.
Babyshambles – Down In Albion: Was Pete Doherty finished after the tragic, romantic demise of The Libertines? Not a bit of it. He'd already been larking around with his mistress Babyshambles and their debut album lived up to ramshackle, haphazard early promise with essential backing vocals from Kate Moss on 'La Belle Et La Bête' and a cult fave single in top 10 hit 'Killamangiro'.
Madonna – Confessions On A Dancefloor: In 2005, Madonna was still getting away with reinventing herself without inviting a load of dick-free keyboard warriors to twist their knickers about what a mum her age should be doing. 'Confessions...' was heralded by the outstanding 'Hung Up', which proved the incumbent Queen of Pop could even sample ABBA without a stain on her disco smarts.
Goldfrapp – Supernature: Named after French disco playboy Cerrone's epic single (and the band would do similar with 'Cologne Cerrone Houdini' on 2007's 'Seventh Tree'), Goldfrapp's third album found them fusing electroclash elements with glam rock and Alison Goldfrapp's theatrical horse's tail. Singles 'Ooh La La' and 'Ride A White Horse' were sexy, slinky and playful.
Kanye West – Late Registration: Our Lord Yeezus took just 18 months to follow up bravura calling card 'The College Dropout' and showed no less chutzpah on the second effort. 'Late Registration' was another sprawler, dipping into dark places, but had pop hits too in the Curtis Mayfield-sampling 'Touch The Sky' and clever Jamie Foxx collaboration (and single of the year) 'Gold Digger'.
Richard Hawley – Coles Corner: This is the one the Arctic Monkeys thought should've won the Mercury Prize instead of their debut in 2006. Ex-Longpig and auxiliary Pulp member Richard Hawley had reinvented himself as Sheffield's own Roy Orbison, crooning gorgeous, careworn songs with an added sheen of Sinatra-esque romanticism.
Bloc Party – Silent Alarm: The saviours of indie (it says here) had already made a splash with 2004's 'Bloc Party EP', and fan faves 'Banquet' and 'She's Hearing Voices' were reprised for this debut album. But there was more to Bloc Party than angular, choppy guitar attacks and Kele Okereke's panicky yelp. 'So Here We Are' revealed a softer side of a band in it for the long haul.
The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan: It might have been a tough call to follow 2003's 'Elephant' and its gargantuan lead single 'Seven Nation Army', but Jack and Meg were up for the challenge. Instead of trying to match the previous album's bite, they changed it up, emphasising piano, particularly on the rattling 'My Doorbell', and introducing mandolin and marimba for a fuller sound.
Missy Elliott – The Cookbook: By 2005, Missy wasn't quite hitting the supa dupa heights of 'Miss E... So Addictive' or 'Under Construction', but 'The Cookbook' nevertheless showcased her athletic rhyming in floorfilling form. The take-home track is 'Lose Control', powered by a Cybotron sample and guest spots from new R&B kid Ciara and, yep, lead chickenhead Fatman Scoop.
My Morning Jacket – Z: The Louisville psychy folksters' fourth album was produced by John Leckie (of Stone Roses and Palma Violets fame), dirtying up a sound that had become a touch over-polished. New member Bo Koster brings a greater reliance on synthesisers, but My Morning Jacket's rootsy origins are still evident on a record that switches through the styles with inventive abandon.
Boards Of Canada – The Campfire Headphase: Astonishingly prolific... no, hold on, that's The Fall. Instead, Scottish ambient-glitch pioneers Boards Of Canada always take their time squeezing albums out. 'The Campfire Headphase' kept their found-sound bandwagon rolling with another peerless set that kept fans going for, what, another seven years?
Sleater-Kinney – The Woods: Sleater-Kinney might have been winding down to a hiatus that looked a whole lot like a split at the time, but 'The Woods' is no whimper. It seethes with the fuzzy-guitar assault that always made the band stand apart and, in 'Modern Girl', it's got its own sunshine-pop classic, albeit one that'll eventually make your ears bleed.
Spoon – Gimme Fiction: Cerebral Texan art-rockers Spoon have been tinkering around the alt.rock margins for a couple of decades now, but picked up particular acclaim for fifth album 'Gimme Fiction' where they fleshed out the sound a little – strings, a few extra piles of keyboards, you know the thing – but never at the expense of their studied, distinctive style.
The Books – Lost & Safe: Never hugely successful but occupying an influential undercurrent, New York folktronicists The Books – Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong – honed their sparse, glitchy sound on their third album, combining radio samples with fidgety, soft and ever-absorbing tunes. You have to suspect that Alt-J have heard one or two of their records.
Bright Eyes – I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning: Half a dozen albums into his Bright Eyes career, 'I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning' was released alongside the more electro-leaning 'Digital Ash In A Digital Urn', but this is the more persuasive album and one of the best of the year, folk music that engages as forcefully with the political as the personal, all wrapped up in fine melodies.
Field Music – Field Music: Sunderland bros David and Peter Brewis rack up the outlets for their boundless creativity, recording individually as School Of Language and The Week That Was as well as popping up with local pals Futureheads, but this is where it all started. Field Music's rapturously received debut mixes calculated lyrical smarts and baroque arrangements beautifully.
Clor – Clor: One of those 2005 bands heavily indebted to late-70s new wave, but also the more quirky edges of early-80s new pop, Clor burned brightly (at least in critical circles) but then disappeared. Guitarist Luke Smith has since produced Foals' 'Total Life Forever' and this lone album graced our very own Greatest Albums You've Never Heard back in 2010. Have you heard it yet?
Roisin Murphy – Ruby Blue: The demise of tricksy techno-pop duo Moloko left Ireland's greatest disco diva high and dry, so Roisin Murphy chose to do a complete about-face and record a thorny jazz-glitch album with off-kilter electronica producer Matthew Herbert. 'Ruby Blue' set the tone for a hit-free decade, but one graced with effortlessly classy dance music. Everyone else's loss.
Sigur Rós – Takk: The fourth album from Iceland's best-known exponents of post-rock is where it all happened on a worldwide scale. Now a near-million-seller, 'Takk…' owes much of its success to its ubiquity in adverts, soundtracks and BBC idents, with the unavoidable 'Hoppípolla' hogging the limelight. Listen to it now and all you can see are blue whales cavorting around.
British Sea Power – Open Season: Brighton's BSP have a bracing quality about them – all walking boots, aran sweaters and frostbitten, windswept anthems – and 'Open Season' has the right kind of title. Their second album pares back some of the noise of their debut to reveal songs that could conceivably be heard on the radio, and 'It Ended On An Oily Stage' made it all the way to the Top 20.
Broadcast – Tender Buttons: Steering away slightly from their radiophonic, library-music obsessed first couple of albums, Broadcast's arguable career triumph places greater emphasis on the songs and the late Trish Keenan's sweet but authoritative voice, with arrangements stripped back a layer. 'Tender Buttons' retains experimental elements but adds accessibility, flirting with pure pop.
Girls Aloud – Chemistry: Well, this was where Britain's premier girlband really hit their stride, the perfect fronts for some of production/songwriting crew Xenomania's finest moments. 'Biology' and 'Long Hot Summer' have more choruses between them than some bands manage in a lifetime, but they're just two highpoints of an album brimming with the ecstasy of pure pop inspiration.
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois: For just a while, it seemed as if it was going to be easy. Sufjan Stevens' second state (after 'Michigan') in his projected 50-album meisterwerk further whetted the appetite for what could have been the greatest creative cycle of our times. The project eventually went no further than 'Illinois' but, both heartbreaking and redemptive, it's an album for the ages.
Test Icicles – For Screening Purposes Only: Dev Hynes has moved through a few phases, hasn't he? Folk-rock troubadour, Noughties Prince, songwriter and producer to pop stars who'll never be (sorry, Sky)… and then there's this, where it all started. To be honest, he got out of nu-rave in the nick of time, but 'For Screening Purposes Only' is still a cacophonous delight if you're in the mood.
Depeche Mode – Playing The Angel: 'Playing The Angel' found Depeche Mode stretching their wings. For the first time, frontman Dave Gahan got a writing credit after years of stepping aside for first Vince Clarke and then Martin Gore; otherwise the Mode sound continued to evolve, electronica muscling up.
The Mars Volta – Frances The Mute: When history looks back upon At The Drive-In, what will it value? The original youthful brio, the brief flash of reconciliation, afterthoughts like Antemasque? Or how about the ludicrous prog adventures of main splinter group The Mars Volta? There's no taking away from the pomp-rock rapier of TMV's ace second coming.
Editors – The Back Room: It was like 1979 all over again. What did we have then: Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Maximo Park, Interpol etc, all acting like Paul Morley was writing about them. Editors in particular, who were inspired by Joy Division right down to Tom Smith's Ian Curtis baritone. Still, whatever the obvious touchstones, 'The Back Room' had a gloomy grandeur all of its own.
Danger Doom – The Mouse & The Mask: One was a mouse, the other was a geezer behind a mask – when they got together it was moider. Brian Burton/Danger Mouse added new textures to MF Doom's smart-guy, cartoon hip-hop, creating something a little bit day-glo, a little bit stupid, but a great slab of fun. Includes suitably garish cameos from Cee-Lo Green and Wu-Tang's Ghostface Killah.
Gorillaz – Demon Days: The mid-00s were a very Danger Mouse kind of time, and on 'Demon Days' he discovered a different gang of cartoon characters from the ones larking about in MF Doom's head. Damon Albarn knew what he was doing, harnessing the endlessly surprising, devilish invention the Mouse showed on his 'Grey Album' mash-up, and taming it for his own dusty hip-hop ends.
Eels – Blinking Lights And Other Revelations: The dizzyingly prolific Mark 'E' Everett clearly decided we hadn't had enough Eels albums this century, so furnished us with a double. It's a two-parter that lingers around the singer's difficult home life and the deaths of his sister and father, but still manages to come up with some of his most beautiful tunes yet.
Maximo Park – A Certain Trigger: Produced by Paul Epworth, the debut album from Newcastle's finest is one of the best to come out of the early 21st century new wave revival. All jags and elbows, it's spiky in the right places but enhanced by great songs in 'Apply Some Pressure' and 'Going Missing', and topped off by Paul Smith's wry lyrical dexterity. And his hat, naturally.
The National – Alligator: By their third set, The National had really got this downbeat, literate, quietly saucy thing in the bag. Cincinnati's leading (possibly only) purveyors of fiercely intelligent classic slackcore could do this in their sleep, and maybe they did occasionally. Standouts are the intermittently sweet 'Karen' and 'Baby, We'll Be Fine'.
Vitalic – OK Cowboy: French house don Pascal Arbez eschewed the filter-disco dynamics of Daft Punk and cohorts to produce beats with a harder edge, floorfillers with a bit more stomp. 'OK Cowboy' was his first album under the Vitalic name (there have been two more since) and is crowned by the two-part 'Poney' and 'Polkamatic', a song which – bizarrely – does exactly what you'd expect.
Martha Wainwright – Martha Wainwright: Of course, everyone remembers Martha Wainwright's debut for 'Bloody Motherf***ing A**hole', her delicate tribute to Loudon Wainwright III, but the record's overall patina is tough-edged Fleetwood Mac, an accomplished pop style found in its best light on 'G.P.T.'
Common – Be: Chicago rapper Common executed an alarming about-turn after the psychedelic, free-form (and Stereolab-guesting) hip-hop of 2002's 'Electric Circus', but everything turned out OK. 'Be' might have seemed a rather trad comedown after all that, although with rapidly rising star Kanye West in the producer's seat it had its own fluid, soulful groove, exemplified by single 'Go!'.