Favourite Albums of the Last Ten Years – the Final Four (and the Winner!)

So today – the semis and the grand final of our favourite albums of the last ten years play-offs. (Please read this for the background and this for the quarter-finals).


Semi-final 1: Laura Marling  vs Christine and the Queens

Of course, by this stage, these are all albums I love. Laura Marling has produced a body of work in the last 12 years that few singer songwriters have matched, whatever their genre.  However, one might argue that she has yet to produce her magnum opus, the album that will define her genius. I Speak Because I Can is very good, but it isn’t her Blood on the Tracks or Court and Spark. And one test of a song-writers genius is how many other artists cover their work; arguably Marling is not quite in that legendary category.

Chaleur Humaine was Christine and the Queens’ 2016 debut in the US and UK, but she was already well established in France, and although this was a “debut” she was able to choose songs based on several years of playing them to increasing crowds in France even before a similar album was released there in 2014. That shows; virtually every song here is truly memorable and strong. She can create a mood even though the arrangements tend to be sparse, and she is an under-rated vocalist too.  So, two brilliant women to choose from; but on the grounds of the tunes above all else, it is Christine and the Queens that goes into the final.

Semi-Final 2: Hurray for the Riff Raff vs Vampire Weekend

As we said yesterday, The Navigator is a criminally under-rated album, full of good songs spanning country, rock, Latin, soul … all tied together in this story of immigrants and immigration.  Alynda Segarra (who is Hurray for the Riff Raff really), a US-born songwriter of Puerto Rican descent, sings and writes with passion, but she can do soft and vulnerable too. A huge talent and a brilliant album.

Vampire Weekend was a band loved by many and hated by many (rich frat-boys, claimed the detractors) before Modern Vampires of the City was released. It pretty much shut up the naysayers as the band moved away from their somewhat corny Afro-beat sound of the first two albums with this collection of varied songs. Many are clever, even intellectual at times (Ya Hey is basically an argument with God), but they avoid tipping over into arrogance or pretension.  There are strong tunes, but these are songs you can listen to many times and always take something new from the music and the lyrics. So ,this is a very tough choice, but Vampire Weekend takes the place in our final.

THE FINAL - Christine and the Queens vs Vampire Weekend

An almost impossible choice here. My immediate family (wife, daughter, son in law) were pretty happy with these as the two finalists, but I should say they voted unanimously – just not for the winner I have chosen!

Chaleur Humaine is a great album which will be listened to for as long as music survives. And Christine (Héloïse Letissier) comes across as simply an amazing human being, the best new pop star of the decade without a doubt (as well as being fancied by both gay and straight boys and girls … quite an achievement!)  The album sounds very contemporary yet timeless too; another clever trick. This video from the BBC show Later was the first time many of us in the UK saw her - and immediately went "wow"!

However, although the words have never been as important to me as the music, Vampire Weekend’s lyrics here just tip the balance for me. Sure, their music is amazing, just as Christine is a pretty fine lyricist too; but the depth and ambiguity of the songs on the 2013 Modern Vampires of the City makes it even more an album that you can listen to again and again. So Vampire Weekend takes the prize as my favourite album in the 2009-19 period.

So that’s it – the end of this competition and the end of my rather weird combination of procurement and music on Spend Matters UK/Europe.  I hope you enjoyed my musical recommendations and discoveries over the years, and thanks to everyone who contributed their own ideas.  I am sure I will find somewhere to write my occasional thoughts on music though, so do follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter and I’ll let you know when and where my further musical ramblings might be available!

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