11. Hot Fuss - The Killers (2004)
AS if the synthesiser had never been relegated to dance music, as if the post-punk era had never gone away, The Killers burst out of Las Vegas with an album that sounded like a modern missing link between The Cure and U2. But more than that, Hot Fuss was so heavy with hits-in-waiting that every song could have been a single. Still, they had to combat brickbats at almost every turn, thanks mostly to an elitist frown directed at their then-unique sound, those synths, and Brandon Flowers unashamedly Brit-loving vocals (not helped by his bouts of braggadocio in interviews). But the passage of time has shown this to be the landmark album the masses new it was upon release. The best song is All The Things That I've Done, with its anthemic gospel refrain "I've got soul but I'm not a soldier" - it's a joyous singalong moment that has few rivals in the decade, and the way it builds and builds is magical. But then there's the rest of the album, which is almost as amazing at every turn. The first six tracks - Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine, Mr Brightside, Smile Like You Mean It, Somebody Told Me, All These Things That I've Done, and Andy, You're A Star - feature great choruses, with the latter being a brilliant combination of resounding vocals, woozy keys, lazy guitars barrelled together into a surprisingly polished gem. Synths were back, but the ear-catching thing here is the damned good tunes.
12. Because Of The Times - Kings Of Leon (2007)
IN a decade of great Kings Of Leon albums - the rough-as-guts Youth & Young Manhood, the maturing Aha Shake Heartbreak, the adventurous Because Of The Times, and the stadium-ready Only By The Night - it's Because Of The Times that stands head and shoulders above the rest. This is the album where they graduated from young upstarts to a '00s force to be reckoned with, finally developing their songwriting and musicianship into a powerful yet finessed weapon and finding the production to give their songs the new-found width and breadth they deserved. Their opening ballad of teen pregnancy - Knocked Up - is the perfect indicator of those blossoming talents as they craft a brooding soundscape to back Caleb Followill's impassioned howl between bursting into surprising choruses. Despite it being a mostly straight-ahead rock album, the touchstones are hard to find. Black Thumbnail is as simple and direct as they come but elsewhere things are harder to pin down - Ragoo is part stadium rock/part reggae-rock, Fans is slow-burning anthemic awesomeness, On Call is an unshamedly alt-rock radio-ready, and then there's the deceptive downer-beauty of The Runner, which recalls their early days as preacher's sons as seen through the prism of the devil's music (that would be rock 'n' roll). Drummer Nathan Followill steals the show on the fuzzy McFearless and the nu-new-wavey My Party (although his drumming throughout is awesome), but the focus is on the band's unifying ability to rock, which it does... hard.
13. Silent Alarm - Bloc Party (2005)
THE building blocks (pardon the pun) of Bloc Party's debut are as follows: propulsive basslines, ridiculously awesome beats, guitars that range from delicate to noisy, and Kele Okereke's mix of staccato talk-singing and golden chorus melodies. But there's more to it than that - yes, all those things intertwine to make this album awesome, but the way it's all put together that create something special. The stop-start riffing and arranging and the way the songs can go from liquid to spiky in a heartbeat makes the title such a fitting one, as its that juxtaposition of calm and alarm that creates such a surprising and exhilarating ride. Throw in some nifty soundscape flourishes and the fact you can dance to nearly every track without drummer Matt Tong having to resort to 'pea-soup, pea-soup' beats all the time, and you've got a winner. In fact Tong's drumming is a highlight, with the compressed snare and kick sounds recalling '80s dance music but his frenetic playing is flat-out rock. Add all these elements, and some nice lyrical turns as Okereke examines modern life and love amid global concerns and you get such winning tunes as the arpeggiated moment in time So Here We Are, the personal darkness of Like Eating Glass, the political Price Of Gasoline, the syncopated guitar chop of Banquet, the entangled wires of Helicopter and the scenester rant of Positive Tension.
14. Elephant - The White Stripes (2003)
ROCK need salvation at the start of the decade, as nu-metal, rap-rock, emo and pop-punk dominated the charts while mostly decimating the genre. The saviours came in the form of an army of Strokes, Vines, Hives and White Stripes, with the latter sitting at the bluesier end of the spectrum. With one foot still in the garage and the other preparing to land at the top of the charts, The White Stripes followed their minimalist announcement that they had arrived (White Blood Cells) with a resounding thunderstorm that confirmed their credentials. While continuing their credo of no bass, sparse arrangements and really average drumming (sorry Meg White), they manage to paint in a surprising range of colours that belied they red, white and black outfits and stage decorations. Seven Nation Army's key riff was so good you couldn't believe no one had done it before, their version of I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself was as surprising as it was awesome, while the unashamed garage-blues Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine was a unique lyrical treat. But even when the tempo dipped, they still impressed - In The Cold, Cold Night, I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother's Heart and You've Got Her In Your Pocket were honest, clever, strangely familiar, fresh and touching all at the same time.
15. Young Modern - Silverchair (2007)
WITH every album, Silverchair have pushed the boundaries of pop and rock further, moving away from their long-forgotten Nirvana In Pyjamas tag and maturing into innovative soundmakers who create truly unique albums. This lush, colourful fifth effort is even more mature and inventive than even their fans predicted they could be, harnessing the widescreen orchestral panoramas of Diorama and merging it with super-produced pop of frontman Daniel Johns' side project The Dissociatives. Johns' songsmithing stretches across new horizons as his remarkable voice sails over improbable progressions, while Ben and Chris (the other two) are relegated to sidemen behind Johns' demented ringleader. But it doesn't matter when the end result is so amazing (the same can be said of Johns' overly cryptic and indecipherable lyrical sentiments). From the distilled power-pop beauty of Straight Lines to the crazed circus/marching band of If You Keep Losing Sleep, from the sprawling magnetism of the album's three-piece suite to the deranged riffing of Mind Reader and Insomnia, this album surprises at every turn in intriguing and exciting ways.
16. Good News For People Who Like Bad News - Modest Mouse (2004)
THIS Seattle group honed the experimental nature of their previous record The Moon & Antarctica into a bundle of art-rock awesomeness for their break-through album. Singer Isaac Brock recalled Talking Head's David Byrne, Pixies' Frank Black and Television's Tom Verlaine, not just in his ragged ramshackle delivery but also in his intelligent yet cryptic way with a bon mot or two (favourite lyrics: "I crashed my car into a cop car the other day/well he just drove off - sometimes life's okay" or the title... actually there are so many great lines on this record). Musically there are also hints of those three bands - Bury Me With It is the best Pixies song Pixies never wrote - but elsewhere they touch on indie-pop (The Ocean Breaths Salty), mood rock (The World At Large), garage rock revivalism (Dance Hall), disco-punk (The View) and Tom Waits-ish antique-ing (the double-shot of Bukowski and This Devil's Workday). It's a rich tapestry of guitars (both angular and rounded) and augmenting instrumentation, which helps them cover the wide range of rock and pop feels. The darkly humourous closer The Good Times Are Killing Me (featuring kindred spirits The Flaming Lips), winning single Float On, and the quiet-loud rocker Bury Me With It are stand-outs, but only barely because everything is so good, no matter what pace and sentiment they're riding.
17. Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not - Arctic Monkeys (2006)
THESE bratty Brits snuck onto the world stage through a back door no one knew was there (the then un-exploited domain of MySpace) and delivered a masterful debut that packed more punches than a bar-room brawl. The storming clang of I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor was the first sign that these guys had it all - blitzkrieg guitars, live-playing energy, and a snappy street-wise poet in frontman Alex Turner. His tales, whether they mocked the false stories or pretenses of others or came from late-nights out with the lads, were intensely knowing and strangely literate, despite being delivered in 'the vernacular' and a refreshingly honest Sheffield accent (which allowed Turner to inventively rhyme 'hats' with 'laugh' and 'something' with 'stomach' and not sound like a prat). Drunken teenage antics (the gently told Riot Van), the lives of a hooker and her trick (the dark When The Sun Goes Down), and the backlash against their own rise (the stuttering grunge of Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But...) all get an airing on an album that bursts with both raw youthful exuberance and the thoughtfulness and intelligence that should come with experience. Plus you can practically smell the stale beer and sweaty jumping bodies of the small rock venues where these guys honed their craft - something usually near-impossible to capture on a record.
18. Broken Boy Soldiers - The Raconteurs (2006)
THERE'S a theory (okay, it's just Musicology thinking out loud) that everything has been done in music and all that's left to do is put the old pieces together in new and exciting ways. Case in point: The Raconteurs blisteringly old-schooly debut. A jigsaw of garage rock moments, '70s-style analogue production magic, almost-too-familiar riffs, and some delicious power-pop choruses, this is the musical equivalent of a jacket bought at an op-shop - you know its old and used, but goddamn it fits perfectly and is cool as hell. The album is covered with nice vocal duelling from Brendan Benson and Jack White, who harmonise over juicy grooves (Level), driving rock-outs (Intimate Secretary), Zeppelin-esque wig-outs (Broken Boy Soldiers), proggy dabbles (Store Bought Bones) and even a couple of delightful pop flourishes (Yellow Sun, Together). But the apex is the song that kickstarted it all - Steady, As She Goes - which is both the record opener and the first track Benson and White wrote together. And, if nothing else, this album is awesome for the sheer fact you finally get to hear White's full potential with a bass player and a decent drummer.
19. The Dissociatives - The Dissociatives (2004)
THIS weird and wondrous collaboration between Silverchair's Daniel Johns and Aussie electro king Paul Mac is a dichotomy. On the one hand its a truly bizarre record that's bafflingly adventurous and downright dark and eerie in place, while on the other hand it features some of the most joyous melodies and beautiful passages in Aussie pop. And that's what it is - at its heart, this self-titled abberation is a pop album, but it just happens to be the most oddball and dazzling piece of freak-pop you've ever heard. Lifting The Veil From The Braille and Forever And A Day are as straight-ahead as the album gets but still have their left-of-centre moments. Meanwhile Horror With Eyeballs and opener We're Much Preferred Customers have their uplifting singalong hooks but are flat-out strange. The glue binding it all together it remarkable songwriting and some truly dazzling production.
20. The Marshall Mathers LP - Eminem (2000)
THE facts: Eminem is the biggest-selling artist of the decade and this is his best album. His flow is second to none and his verbal gymnastics are at their peak on this record. While much of it deals with the fallout of his previous release, but it also delves deeper into the many sides of Marshall Mathers. There's the humour, which he delivers in spades, but there's also the dark-side, all dished out with intelligence. The controversy around his supposed bigotry, misogyny, homophobia and impact on kids is all dealt with cleverly (and occasionally hilariously), particularly on Stan and Who Knew. It's the former that is the best song on the album - hell, it's the best rap song ever - and shows Eminem as more than just the conservative-baiter or shock-meister many wrote him off as. On Stan, he's a true story-teller, with innovative ideas and lyrical approaches. Rappers were getting lazy until this album - it's a true game-changer.