As the first month of the new decade draws to a close the staff at RoomThirteen have taken a few moments out to reflect on the last ten years in music; sharing their thoughts on those albums they consider to have been influential or those that have made a personal impact on them.


The year 2000 brought us some cracking albums like Relationship Of Command by At The Drive In, Rated R by Queens Of The Stone Age and White Pony by Deftones, not a bad way to start the new decade.

Ross Pike starts off our review of the noughties by giving us his pick for 2000:

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Lift Your Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven

For this writer “Lift Your Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven” demonstrates the ongoing vitality and relevance of rock music some sixty years after its murky birth in the Southern states of America. Godspeed You! Black Emperor may have twisted the template into new shapes with different sounds and contributing instruments but the youthful ideals and democratic form remain the same. GY!BE cut through the fat of so-called ‘political rock’ to leave the essentials in place. The sound is symphonic yet punk - instrumental music interspersed with samples out of the mouths of everyday proles and society’s outsiders that connect the listener to the subject on an elemental level. By cutting out the lyrical polemic and elitist ranting of other acts, GY!BE made a grand statement with a hopeful sweep over the two discs of “Lift Your Skinny Fists…”.

The Montreal based collective had given indicators they were about to deliver something monumental with previous recordings “F♯A♯∞” and the “Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada” EP. These records laid down the GY!BE sound and manifesto and “Lift Your Skinny Fists…” took that template and blew it up to previously unheard proportions over two CDs and four movements. Over the course of 90 minutes the nine members wield drums, percussion, cellos, violins, horns and guitars to turn the mood from tranquil calm to crackling maelstrom and everywhere in between (drone, indie, punk, folk you name it: it’s here). The result is an album of strident confidence and purpose which, although based on strong leftist political convictions, didn’t leave anyone behind.


For 2001 David Harfield brings us his views on

Ryan Adams

Full of pills, panache and promise, alt. country's golden boy burns up hard and bright.

So, what makes Gold the album of the decade? Could it be the delicate strains of Ethan Johns' Hammond organ 'anathematizing' the gutter-beat rap of the opening track 'New York New York'? The ramshackle harmonica that clatters over the bar room brawl that is 'Firecracker'? Having your heart broken into a million and one pieces at the first note of 'When The Stars Go Blue', then pieced back together bit by bit during the three and a half minute torch song for any new lovers?

Well, obviously it's all these things and more, but what really makes “Gold” the album of the decade is the fact that it held such potential for the young songsmith, showcasing a prodigious talent for melody, arrangement and lyricism that is so sorely missed in many of today's artists. However, record label entanglements, YouTube-documented public spats with other musicians, not to mention a drug habit that could rival any Blue Peter presenter's prevented Adams from achieving the critical and commercial success that was within his grasp.

The beauty of looking back at what could have been, is that it allows us the luxury of infinite possibility, the only boundaries being housed by our imagination; would “Gold” have the same impact for us now had Adams become the star that he always threatened to become?

Well, as prophetic album closer, 'Goodnight Hollywood Boulevard' says, “You wanted the honey, but you were only just stinging yourself, it's hard to watch...” Hard to watch, indeed, but to listen to? Pure gold.


2002 was another full year for fantastic albums and this included some great debuts: with My Chemical Romance, Alexisonfire and Coheed and Cambria all releasing theirs. The Second Stage Turbine Blade defined the Coheed and Cambria sound and had critics champing at the bit to declare them the next most original thing. Concept albums aren’t a new idea but Coheed and Cambria as a band wrapped up their identity with the story, each new album a continuation of the Coheed and Cambria legend. They really gave the fans something to get their teeth into, but the best thing about this album (and the band as a whole package) is at that at their core, the tunes are all great pop songs, sure they may be coated in flashy metal riffs and all finished off with a prog edge but the album works so well because the melodies are so memorable and so good to sing along to (and of course the band play those complex riffs so well). The Second Stage Turbine Blade is packed with tunes like ‘Devil In Jersey City’ which literally wrench you to your feet; uplifting, melodic, emotional and the start of the C & C journey, definitely one of the most memorable albums of the decade.


In 2003 Cursive released their breakthrough record The Ugly Organ (obviously using ‘breakthrough’ in its loosest sense as Cursive still pull in a fraction of the fans in the UK that they do in the US for some reason, but nevertheless), the record seemed to encapsulate their sound as earlier releases hadn’t. With the addition of cello they suddenly found their groove; rich, jagged and darkly poppy but without losing any of their abrasive corners and retaining Tim Kasher’s brilliant but brutally honest lyrics. Cursive are a band always evolving but managing to keep their core sound from album to album; you can always immediately tell it’s them but you can never tell what the next record will bring; will they add new instruments or strip back to basics, will it be a concept record or a bare bones emotional rollercoaster? This album still stands as their shining moment though, where every note, every whisper and nasty riff just fits • every song a winner.


Moving onto 2004, Jim Ody tells us why he got stuck into

The F'Ups
The F'Ups

This debut album is packed full of short, sharp, shots of catchy Punk Rock. Most of the songs are anthems in their own right from the opener, 'Lazy Generation', to 'Screw You', 'I Don't Know' and 'No, No, No'. This is teenage angst at its best which is not sugary sweet but hard-edged and snotty. 'Look At Your Son Now' is a great blast at a parent, and 'Crack Ho' is a tale of innocent lust in a trailer park, whilst we also have a fantastic cover of 'All The Young Dudes' which is better than the original. This is not musically ground-breaking or technical, and the lyrics are a little throwaway, but this is what The Ramones could've been if they were young and more gritty. This is exactly what I want from a Punk Rock album.

Unfortunately the band were dropped from their label (Columbia) a year after the release due to poor sales, but the band have recently re-formed and are looking to record the long-awaited follow up album!

Jess Austin floats away with

The Magnetic Fields

The Magnetic Fields have thrown out some truly wonderful slices of lo-fi pop in their 21 years on the alternative scene but it's the concept album 'I' released 2004, which tastes the most satisfying. With its mix of acoustic laden guitars and cello, centred, as usual, on front man Stephin Merritt’s continued obsession with odes to love and loss, the 14 track wonder may be for niche palettes only, but if you get what it’s all about, you get it in abundance.
'I Wish I Had An Evil Twin' is arguably the most thrilling here. Its dark laments to the alter ego are told through the deep resonation of Merritt's voice and the flowing echoes of a cello and it’s this track which sums up the concept of ‘I’ so well. It’s about the ego, about the self and throughout the whole album there’s the sense of that personable experience; where you and you alone are enjoying the songs, contained in the shelter of guitar, drums and cello.

And to round off 2004 James Stant puts in a solid case for

Brian Wilson

If anyone thought that the wait for “Chinese Democracy” was long, imagine a 38 year period between the conception and release of an album. Brian Wilson’s masterpiece, “Smile” began in 1966; a time in which popular music was dominated by The Beatles and Wilson’s own band, The Beach Boys.

The 2004 album is divided into seventeen unique tracks that effortlessly flow from one to the other, opening with the glorious a cappella piece, ‘Our Prayer’ and culminating with the well-known Beach Boys single, ‘Good Vibrations’.

Although the inclusion of whistles, power drills and farm animal noises may sound intriguing additions to the typical instrumental forces used by Wilson, they have been used with charm and proficiency, shaping a fascinating aural journey for the listener.

“Smile” is a truly amazing musical experience and a definite highlight of early 21st Century popular music.


Andy Reilly tells us why he loves

The Great Destroyer

It is hard enough to build a reputation but to destroy that reputation in one fell swoop and create a bigger legacy takes some doing. When rumours started building that Low were plugging in their guitars and turning the amps up to 11, many long time followers were horrified. The band had made their name through quiet and melodious albums, how would they deal with the volume being racked up?

‘The Great Destroyer’, released in 2005, indicated that Low could have made the switch even earlier; such was the consistent strength and beauty of the record.

With hindsight, this record will be viewed as the soundtrack to Alan Sparhawk’s battle against depression and the signs were there. ‘When I Go Deaf’ is a cry for help of a man railing against the pressures in his life and ‘Walk into The Sea’ is fairly self-evident.

It is not a downbeat record though, in fact, it is probably one of the most uplifting albums of the decade. The shimmering summer pop of ‘California’ sits well alongside the melodious joy of ‘Just Stand Back’ should be enough to hook in any casual listener or serious indie kid.


In competition for our writer’s affections in 2006 we have two solid records Avril Simister gives her views on her album of the decade

The Answer

Very few people are privileged enough in this short life to have had that moment of pure musical understanding that spark in the brain when you hear “your” band for the first time. There are very few bands who, in their brief existence, will be privileged enough to be looked back upon from somewhere in the distant future and remembered as being part of such a moment. Thanks to ‘Rise’ The Answer are likely to be remembered by a generation of disenchanted young people desperate to believe their heady brand of blues-rock that harks back to the dizzy heydays of Humble Pie or Deep Purple.

This isn’t just another Led Zep cover band. We’re talking modern, original blues-rock anthems that come together to form an album where every single track could be a potential single. From the opening blast of ‘Under The Sky’, ‘Rise’ fuses the best heavy rock (‘Come Follow Me’, ‘Into The Gutter’), power ballads (‘Always’), and traditional blues (‘Memphis Water’, ‘Preachin’’). They even issued a Special Edition full of great material that there wasn’t space for on the original record but too good to consign to a vault somewhere.

The band work together so naturally that it’s impossible to pinpoint precisely what ‘makes’ The Answer’s sound; Cormac Neeson’s blue-eyed soul voice, Paul Mahon’s note-perfect riffage, Micky Waters’ intricate bass work, or James Heatley’s powerful drumming.

Ultimately the only thing I can say is… just listen…

...and Omar Soliman tries to win us over with

Arctic Monkeys
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Think back to the summer of 2005 and the charts were beginning to show signs of an R ‘n’ B takeover. By chance I’d stumbled upon a band that seemed destined to change the scene, Arctic Monkeys. Even then it seemed a god-awful name but one your nan would know by February 2006.

The background work to their debut album had been done months in advance with demos downloaded to alarming extent. Thankfully, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, lived up to the hype and seemed to hit a chord nationwide. Whether prepubescent or hardened album critic, the naive yet playfully poignant song-writing of Alex Turner gained gushing praise. Indeed, what set the album apart was Turner’s lyrical sensitivity of his own immediate environment and one that listeners could instantly relate to. Their sound was akin to that of many indie bands but production values from Alan Smyth and Jim Abbiss were key; with Andy Nicholson’s bass given as much prominence as Jamie Cook’s grinding guitar lines and Matt Helders’ relentless drumming.

“Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” remains the UK’s fastest-selling debut album by a band.


As the decade started to close there was still time for a few more classic moments, from 2007 Jenni Wallace goes with

Avenged Sevenfold
Avenged Sevenfold

Avenged Sevenfold had been known in the metalcore scene for a while before their self-titled album. However it was the 2007 release that made the real mark. A mainstream success, it charted well and produced four solid singles, and with it the five highly stylised, heavily tattooed Southern Californian's brought catchy, well written and accessible heavy music into the mainstream.

For many fans who discovered metal in the late 2000's, 'Avenged Sevenfold' features highly on their list. This was an album that introduced a whole new set of people to the joys of deep, heavy sounds. Hit single 'Afterlife' with its sing along chorus, heavy beats and a string orchestra sits neatly next to songs such 'Critical Acclaim' which is pure rock and riff heavy. Even lighter songs like 'Dear God' do their part in bringing people into the Avenged Sevenfold world and putting them on the path to enjoying metal. With their extreme styles and crazy names many underestimated their seriousness, but put on any track of this album and you instantly discover well crafted songs created by highly talented and passionate musicians.

'Avenged Sevenfold' is an album that is a gateway to a world of heavier, deeper music.


Sian Jennifer Smith closes our review with her thoughts on

Guns n' Roses
Chinese Democracy

Probably the most anticipated album of the noughties was Guns n’ Roses’ album, Chinese Democracy. I say Guns n’ Roses, but anyone with any prior knowledge of the GnR sound would agree that this is more like an Axl Rose solo album (the rest of the original line-up left in the 90’s). The number of instrumentalists featured on the album is massive; credited on opening track Chinese Democracy alone are guitarists Paul Tobias, Robin Finck, ‘Buckethead’, ‘Bumblefoot’, Richard Fortus, bassist Tommy Stinson, drummers Frank Ferrer and ‘Brain’ as well as keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman.

Seventeen years in the making, this controversial album divided music fans everywhere. But love it or hate it, the album is technically quite incredible. It’s not the type of album you’d play at a party; most of the songs on the album are reflective and full of regret, but Axl’s matured voice is full of genuine emotion and it really does feel as if Chinese Democracy is giving you an insight into the life of a man who has been dubbed ‘crazy’ throughout his colourful career.

Axl Rose definitely didn’t disappoint with Chinese Democracy - huge respect to the musician and the man.

Roll on the new decade and plenty more of the same to come...