The NME got in on the act early. This Sunday the Observer Music Monthly publishes its top 50. So I thought I might as well have a go. I wanted to get mine done first and see how much common ground I’ve got with the OMM seeing as its my favourite music mag. It’s harder than you’d think to select just 50 albums that span 2000-2009. I’ve had to leave out some records I really like. But here we go… Please comment as you feel necessary!

50 – Daft Punk: Discovery.

49 – Bob Dylan: Modern Times.

48 – Camille: Le Fil.

47 – Arctic Monkeys: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.

46 – The Blue Nile: High.

45 – New Order: Get Ready.

44 – Mercury Rev: All Is Dream.

43 – R.E.M.: Accelerate.

42 – Fionn Regan: The End Of History.

41 – The Beatles: Love.

40 – The Avalanches: Since I Met You.

39 – Badly Drawn Boy: The Hour Of Bewilderbeast.

38 – Roots Manuva: Awfully Deep.

37 – Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever ago.

36 – Mark B & Blade: The Unknown.

35 – Coldplay: Parachutes.

34 – Malcolm Middleton: Into The Woods.

33 – Seafood: When Do We Start Fighting…

32 – Doves: The Last Broadcast.

31 – Duke Special: Songs From The Deep Forest.

30 – Morrissey: You Are The Quarry.

29 – Guillemots: Through The Windowpane.

28 – Bruce Springsteen: The Rising.

27 – The Gaslight Anthem: The ’59 Sound.

26 – Billy Bragg & Wilco: Mermaid Avenue Vol. II

25 – Richard Hawley: Coles Corner.

24 – Fleet Foxes:  Fleet Foxes.

23 – Athlete: Vehicles & Animals.

22 – Spin Doctors: Nice Talking To Me.

21 – Sigur Ros: Takk…

20 – Goldfrapp: Felt Mountain.

19 – Maxïmo Park: A Certain Trigger.

18 – Delirious?: Glo.

17 – The Shins: Wincing The night Away.

16 – Ben Folds: Rockin’ The Suburbs.

15 – Green Day: American Idiot.

14 – Neil Young: Living With War.

13 – Ray Lamontagne: Til The Sun Turns Black.

12 – Death Cab For Cutie: Narrow Stairs.

11 – Idlewild: The Remote Part.

10 – Johnny Cash: American IV: The Man Comes Around

An extraordinary achievement for a man in his final year. Johnny Cash’s last ‘proper’ album has the power to bring me to the edge of tears. I bought it the week he died in 2003 and played it a lot. A mixture of originals and covers, Rick Rubin’s brilliant production means there’s pathos dripping from every track. ‘Hurt’ is one of the songs of the decade which couldn’t even be ruined by that dire Nike advert. When I first heard ‘I Hung My Head’ it stopped me dead in my tracks. Just like most of the rest of this awesome album.

9 – Interpol: Turn On The Bright Lights.

I think there’s a good case to be made for Interpol as the band of the decade. To my shame I’m yet to see them live but their three dark, brooding and melodic albums demand that I get round to it soon. I think their debut is the pick of the bunch. Starting with ‘Untitled’ which takes its cues from the shoegazing bands of the early 90’s, the album goes onto channel the best of My Bloody Valentine, Joy Division and classic Krautrock. I suppose it can be said about all the records in the list but I can’t listen to this album too many times. It sends me to sleep, it wakes me up and generally soundtracks my life.

8 – Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend.

The drums alone deserve some kind of award. Chris Tomson is, for my money, the best drummer in a rock band at the moment. But this isn’t Keith Moon fury, or John Bonham theatrics. He sees the drum kit as a melodic and harmonic instrument. The kit is a lead instrument here and when allied to fantastic songwriting, it’s a winning combination. The African influence if overstated (this isn’t even the noughties’ Graceland, let alone Fela Kuti or Ali Farka Touré). However, the hints of afrobeat are enough to make this stand out from the crowd. Walcott is a great track – but there aren’t any duds here.

7 – Grandaddy: The Sophtware Slump.

This outstanding record is often compared favourably with ‘OK Computer’. Well, I’ll put my cards on the table. There’s only one winner; and it isn’t Radiohead. Grandaddy are impossible to categorise, but this record combines the best bits of alt-country, electronica and post-rock. The audacity of a 9 minute opening track has been matched by many bands. The difference is they’ve not made a song as arresting as ‘He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s The Pilot’. ‘The Crystal Lake’ is among the best songs of the decade while ‘Undreneath The Weeping Willow’ showcases a brilliant knack for melancholy. Released at the start of the decade, very few records have got anywhere near matching Grandaddy’s Magnum Opus.

6 – The Hold Steady: Boys And Girls in America.

‘Best bar band in the world blah… blah… blah’ said the music press. Talk about damning with faint praise. The Hold Steady are one of the greatest bands of the 21st Century, full stop. And though their earlier albums are packed with gems, this breakthrough album sees their manifesto fulfilled. How many bands could start a record quoting Jack Kerouac but never fail to be fun? The sound was compared to classic E Street Band and that’s probably as close as you can get to describing this joyous racket. Craig Finn’s lyrics are always interesting and frequently brilliant. So looking at our checklist we’ve got superb music, superb lyrics and some guys that seem delighted just to be playing rock and roll. It’ll do for me.

5 – Elbow: The Seldom Seen Kid.

I suppose too much has already been written about this album. It’d be easy to include ‘Asleep In The Back’ to prove I’ve liked Elbow since I used to play them on student radio in 2000. But that would miss the point: for once, the awards committees, journalists and hype-merchants got it right. This is an amazing album. There’s not an average track in sight in an hour’s running time. Picking highlights almost seems crazy, but ‘Grounds For Divorce’ and ‘On A Day Like This’ have deservedly grabbed the headlines and soundtracked a million daytime DIY programmes. But some of the less well know tracks contain stunning music and lyrics. When Guy Garvey croons “We kiss like we invented it” on ‘Mirrorball’ it’s enough to melt your heart.  We await their next move with eager anticipation.

4 – Midlake: The Trials of Van Occupanther.

Take a moderately successful Texan indie band and give them a copy of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’. Stand well back and light the blue touch-paper. Doesn’t sound promising does it? How wrong could we be??? This was THE album of 2006. Inventive harmonies, layered synths and lyrics pining for the antebellum South came together to produce a stunning record. The guitar solo that comes halfway through ‘Head Home’ is one of my favourite musical moments of the decade, but this album contains several contenders for that title. The real genius of ‘…Van Occupanther’ is its ability to keep you on your toes. Just when you think it may slip into mid 70’s FM rock pastiche, the band pulls out a track like ‘Young Bride’ which forces you to admit this is a record which is far more than the sum of its considerable parts.

3 – Damien Rice: O.

David Gray is a perfectly decent singer songwriter. The same can’t be said for the likes of James Morrison and James Blunt. But how any of them came to be spoken of in the same breath as Damien Rice is beyond me. The irishman deserves to be in far better company (Jeff Buckley for example). This debut album was a slow-burning word-of-mouth behemoth that managed to retain artistic dignity while being offered on 2-for-1 deals in Tesco. Its strengths have been repeated endlessly, but any blogger who can’t find room for Lisa Hannigan’s beautiful vocals, the stunning string arrangements or the strange re-working of Silent Night is a fool. If this album has a flaw, I’m yet to find it. I can’t pick one track as a highlight because the others simply look at me reproachfully and say ‘actually we’re all rather lovely’. And they truly are.

2 – My Morning Jacket: It Still Moves.

This album sounds like the best party you’ve ever been to. If you want to label it I suppose it’s alt-country. But what on earth does that matter when the music is as much fun as this? Don’t get the idea this is some kind of comedy record though. Howling vocals, squealing guitars and pounding drums fuse together to create a brilliant racket. ‘One Big Holiday’ has a guitar hook to die for, but this isn’t an album of simple pleasures. The genius of the songs reveals itself slowly. The first time you hear it, it sounds like these are well crafted and edited jams. But like Led Zep at their peak, the tracks are more cunningly moulded than that. Crazy Horse are another reference point and when talking about a rock and roll band there are fewer bigger compliments than that. It’s a long record (71 minutes) but unusually for an album of that length, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Superb.

1 – Stephen Fretwell: Magpie.

I’m annoyed I couldn’t find a decent picture of this album without the parental advisory sticker on it. Ok, maybe it doesn’t make an ideal present for a toddler, but any parent who’s doing their job properly should be investing in this if their child shows any kind of serious interest in music. It’s as close to a perfect record as its possible to get. At the start of the decade, Scunthorpe’s Stephen Fretwell found himself in Manchester as a promising singer-songwriter. A little while later, he was in a recording studio creating some of the most beautiful music that great city has ever produced. By 2004 it was ready for release. In reality, the Manchester thing is a bit of a red herring. Fretwell owes little to the genius of the Smiths and Joy Division or the more prosaic talents of Oasis. He’s just a good old-fashioned acoustic troubadour. So who are the key influences here? I’d guess Neil Young, Bob Dylan et al. But that doesn’t tell you much about this record’s greatest strength. Fretwell’s gift for melody is astounding. Songs like ‘Emily’, ‘New York’ and ‘Rose’ are beautifully crafted and sung. But there isn’t a track here which leaves you cold. You may know ‘Run’ as the Theme of ‘Gavin and Stacey’ but don’t stop there. Investigate it immediately. Buy it and love it. There’s only one album of the decade after all; whatever the Observer says!

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