It took a while to finally nail down The Pop Cop’s definitive list of the best albums of the past decade, but this wasn’t a job that could be treated lightly. The only one of the top 17 choices put in any kind of order is our winner, Everything In Transit by Jack’s Mannequin, who, as is this website’s way, were presented with an award for their troubles.
The band’s frontman, Andrew McMahon, had this to say: “Oh my god, are you serious? This is amazing – wow! Thank you so much. This is such an honour, it means a lot to us.”
(2005) Jack’s Mannequin – Everything In Transit
Everything In Transit is the album that persuaded me to start The Pop Cop. If I was able to discover my new favourite band via the simple act of stumbling upon a music blog and listening to a Jack’s Mannequin song [The Mixed Tape] recommended by the writer, then I realised I could help others do the same. Everything In Transit is not a grower. It’s immediate and dazzles with the sheer force of its enthusiasm for the perfection of a pop melody. The driving force is American Andrew McMahon, a soul-bearing songwriter with an ability to make the piano seem like the most natural lead instrument in a rock band. This album will stay with you forever.
Jack’s Mannequin – The Mixed Tape
(2001) Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American
If I ever had the dedication or talent to pick up a guitar and start a band, I’d want it to sound like Jimmy Eat World. The opening track of Bleed American is a bit of a red herring, suggesting Jimmy Eat World are a bunch of thrashy, angry men rather than a group who make remarkably accessible and impeccably honest rock music with zip-slide choruses. Bleed American is still the band’s most fully realised album and sounds just as box-fresh as it did when it came out nine years ago.
Jimmy Eat World – The Authority Song
(2001) The Strokes – Is This It
Given the frenzied hype that surrounded The Strokes before anyone knew how their debut album would turn out, I was stunned by what they delivered. The New York band had eschewed the overproduced, strings-with-everything approach that symbolised the desperate demise of Britpop and turned the indie music scene on its head with a truly addictive collection of songs that sounded like they were recorded in a caravan. What many people seem to have forgotten is that before Is This It was released by Rough Trade, it was virtually impossible to enjoy genuine commercial success on an independent label, such was the enormous influence wielded by the majors. The Strokes single-handedly ripped up the music industry’s rules of engagement.
The Strokes – Someday
(2002) Damien Rice – O
Like most people, I was a late convert to O. It must have been 2003 when I bumped into a friend who had seen Damien Rice at a small venue in Glasgow and she implored me to check him out. Yet another acoustic guitar-wielding singer-songwriter, I thought, just what the world doesn’t need. I couldn’t have been more wrong. O is a true work of genius, a yearning record with some almost impossibly beautiful moments and an uncanny ability to surprise. Sometimes you just want an album to put the lights off to.
Damien Rice – Older Chests
(2002) Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
I remember the sense of anticipation I felt while standing patiently at King Tut’s ahead of Interpol’s first-ever Scottish gig. I wondered how the New York band could attempt to emulate the intricacies and dark magic of their debut album. I was right to be concerned – every song they played was a vastly inferior version of its studio-recorded counterpart. Yet I left the venue not filled with enormous regret, just privileged that I could go home and experience the wonder of Turn On The Bright Lights over and over again.
Interpol – Obstacle 1
(2003) Blink-182 – Blink-182
Until their fifth album, Blink-182 had seemed quite content peddling their very familiar brand of immature, catchy punk-pop. Who could have foreseen that they had an album this accomplished and varied in them? There are some touches of real imagination such as Violence’s spoken-word reading of a love letter Mark Hoppus’ grandfather sent to his grandmother during World War II, as well as the spellbinding contribution of The Cure’s Robert Smith on All Of This, which makes perfect sense in an album full of 80s influences and heavily-layered guitars. The best thing about it, though, is that it rocks like hell.
Blink-182 – All Of This
(2003) The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow
Take yourself back, seven years to be precise, to a time when Napster (in its original form) ruled the net. Like many others, the novelty of downloading mp3s for free was just too good to pass up. In this era without streaming, before the current ‘try before you buy’ culture, I was suddenly able to listen to the dozens of bands I had read about but never actually heard. The Shins were one such species and what was most startling about the wordy pop of Chutes Too Narrow was that an album this incredible could be released without a peep from the UK music press… which was when I realised that the UK music press didn’t know shit.
The Shins – Gone For Good
(2003) Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell
I bought this record in Missing Records on Great Western Road the week it came out for just £6.99. It was almost as though the shop was happy to sacrifice their profit margins if it meant getting Fever To Tell into more homes. What an album. Rarely has a band been able to take three creative elements of such wildly different, extrovert talents and turn it into one, cohesive art-punk record of imagination and drama. Heard in its entirety, it’s pretty much unskippable, but how can you resist playing Maps, arguably the best song of the Noughties, on repeat?
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Maps
(2004) Arcade Fire – Funeral
Funeral always reminds me of when I went interrailing throughout Europe in 2004. Meeting a load of backpackers from foreign lands day after day, the opening questions between fellow travellers were always the same: “Where have you been?”, “How long are you on the road for?”and “Have you heard of Arcade Fire?”. This shared enthusiasm for the majestic bombast of the then little-known Canadian group’s debut album felt like being party to a secret that was destined to explode into the public domain. And even though it eventually did, Funeral hasn’t lost one iota of what made it so sacred in the first place.
Arcade Fire – Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
(2005) Sigur Rós – Takk
Whenever I lose faith in the quality of music my fellow citizen is helping to put in the charts, I always think of Sigur Rós and rejoice at how this publicity-shy, wilfully awkward group with foreign tongues can enjoy such massive worldwide success. What’s probably even more remarkable is that I’ve heard Hoppípolla and Saeglopur a thousand times on adverts and trailers and would quite happily hear them a thousand more. Still the only band that can make me cry.
Sigur Rós – Hoppípolla
(2005) The National – Alligator
I obsessed over Alligator in a way I had never done with any album before. The rainbow that led me to it was All The Wine, which still sounds like it has been scientifically modified to push all the right buttons, swirling in its own fantastical imagery. God knows how many mix CDs I’ve put that song on. While much is made of how it has a more raucous feel than its successor, what cements Alligator as the masterpiece it is are the tender, slow-paced moments such as Looking For Astronauts, The Geese Of Beverly Road and Baby, We’ll Be Fine.
The National – All The Wine
(2006) Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
It really doesn’t matter that Arctic Monkeys haven’t come close to matching their debut. Bands go through entire careers trying to writing a classic pop song. Arctic Monkeys stuck at least 10 of them in this 13-track album. And let’s set the record straight over the ‘MySpace made Arctic Monkeys’ myth that the mainstream press seems to persist with. The real reason the kids knew about them a year before they signed to Domino was that fans were creating email accounts and sharing the passwords on music forums to allow others to download the band’s demos from the inbox. It proves that if you’re good enough, you don’t need a publicity machine. Fans will quite happily do that job for free.
Arctic Monkeys – Fake Tales Of San Francisco
(2006/07) Frightened Rabbit – Sing The Greys
I remember hearing these raw, riotous songs played live in the tiniest venues in Scotland and made a mental promise that I would offer to pay for Frightened Rabbit to record them if I could save up enough money. Not because I felt compelled that the whole world should hear them, I selfishly just wanted to be able to play them whenever I desired, day or night. I can’t tell you how sad I am that Frightened Rabbit have disowned almost all of these tracks from their live sets. How many other bands would kill to have the likes of Music Now and Be Less Rude in their back catalogue?
Frightened Rabbit – Music Now
(2007) The National – Boxer
Fake Empire. My god. The piano intro, the trumpet finale. What a statement of intent to herald the arrival of your fourth album. You just can’t escape how powerful the drumming is on this record. They dominate so many of the songs in a way I had never before experienced in an album. And then there’s Slow Show, so subtle, just aching in emotion and longing. How much do I love Boxer? I jumped on a plane to Norway to present The National with their Album of the Year award.
The National – Fake Empire
(2008) Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight
For most of the past decade, the music blogosphere has been dominated by namecheck-friendly American bands. The Midnight Organ Fight changed all that and finally ensured Britain, not just Scotland, had a group who would be revered – globally – for their creative talents. The record confirmed Scott Hutchison as a devastatingly sharp songwriter and Frightened Rabbit as a band like no other. The Midnight Organ Fight races the pulse and stirs emotions in ways that only the greatest pop music can.
Frightened Rabbit – Good Arms vs. Bad Arms
(2008) Hello Saferide – More Modern Short Stories From Hello Saferide
OK, so you’re probably thinking most of these selections are reasonably obvious, critically acclaimed albums which didn’t slip under the radar of the clued-up indie-rock music fan. Rest assured, however, that More Modern Short Stories From Hello Saferide isn’t sitting here asThe Pop Cop’s token obscure choice. If I actually had the bottle to order this list by preference, this album would be in the top five. Annika Norlin is the outrageously gifted Swedish songwriter at the heart of Hello Saferide and the heavenly melodies and colourful lyrics she dreams up make her second album possibly the best thing you have never heard.
Hello Saferide – X Telling Me About The Loss Of Something Dear At Age 16
(2008) Sigur Rós – Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
Let’s put into perspective just what Sigur Rós did here. They conjured up their most inventive, fascinating album after a career spanning 14 years and four previous studio records. Despite singing almost entirely in their native Icelandic tongue their words still manage to transcend the barriers of language, every syllable of emotion intact. Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust transports you to an enchanting, extraordinary place in a way that the best books and films do. It captures the sound of euphoria.
Sigur Rós – Gobbledigook