23/09/2020

The ‘Waiting All Night’ singer talks to Alexandra Pollard about her life-changing trip to Jamaica, her time at a private boarding school and playing a comeback show the day after her father died

The day after Ella Eyres father died, she was supposed to play a comeback show in Camden. I didnt know what the f*** to do, says the singer, fiddling with her rings. I just didnt tell anybody. 
The few people who knew urged her to cancel the gig. But she hadnt played a show in a while not since her 2015 debut album, Feline, which arrived a few years after she broke through with the drumnbass goliath Waiting All Night, her number one collaboration with Rudimental. 
A lot of people had been waiting for this show for a long time, says the 25-year-old R&B singer, cross-legged on a sofa in her record labels office, picking at a halloumi and mushroom breakfast. Besides, she couldnt shake the feeling that her dad might be watching from somewhere. Hed never seen her perform while he was alive, and if this was going to be the first time he saw a show, I wasnt going to cancel it. So she put on a faux-fur coat and a pair of blue sequinned trousers, and sang for her dad and for her fans. It was the best thing I could have done, she says. I got so much from that gig.
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A week later, she publicly announced her fathers death but it would be a long time before she actually confronted her grief, and the guilt she felt over not having visited him more often. Theyd always been close, but her dad wasnt a regular fixture in her life he lived in his home country of Jamaica, his health often not good enough to travel, and Eyre, who was born Ella McMahon, grew up in London with her mother.
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1/50 50) Nils Frahm Spaces (2013)
Nils Frahms music feels most alive when youre witnessing it in concert, so it makes sense that Spaces, a collection of field recordings made over two years, is his most immersive and dynamic. The shifting energy is due to how no single performance is ever the same; the one constant is the German composers joy in creating sound, and the spaces in between. (RO)
2/50 49) Bill Callahan Dream River (2013)
I have learnt, when things are beautiful, to just keep on, confides Callahan on the most laconic and nuanced album of his career. Warm grains of flute and fiddle run through the rich country soul. Masterful, minimalist storytelling guides us through summers spent painting boats and long nights in hotel bars. (HB)
3/50 48) Arctic Monkeys Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018)
Twelve years after Arctic Monkeys released a debut album that shook the British rock scene out of its doldrums, the Sheffield boy wonders came up with this: a concept album about a luxury lunar resort that surgically removed the blues influences on AM and replaced them with lounge jazz and absurdist lyrics. It upset fans who wanted more of the same, and yet, frontman Alex Turners musical and lyrical meanderings mark one of the boldest moves by any rock band in recent memory. (RO)
4/50 47) Richard Dawson Nothing Important (2014)
Richard Dawson was once a heart-on-sleeve singer-songwriter, but by 2014, the Geordies outré folk had made him Britains leading avant-bard. On his breakthrough LP, malevolent instrumentals bookend a pair of 16-minute epics, bending from the ambitiously autobiographical title track to The Vile Stuff, a delirious tale of a boozy school trip gone awry. (JM)
5/50 46) Julia Holter Have You in My Wilderness (2015)
Refreshing as summer rain, the avant-garde and occasionally difficult Californian artists fourth album sees melodies splashing merrily from her keyboard. Her pretty, literate vocals spin playful mysteries of faceless lovers in raincoats and strange women on remote shores. Its lucidity! Holter teased. So clear! A ludic, lucid dream of a record. (HB)
6/50 45) Sky Ferreira Night Time, My Time 2013
Sky Ferreira did it her way. After years of label disputes about image and musical direction, the Californian finally decided to put her own modelling money towards financing her debut record, 2013s Night Time, My Time. And what a record it is: melding Eighties pop with alternative rock, it brims with a wild vivacity, as squelching synths come up against gnashing guitars, vulnerable lyrics and often distorted vocals. Everything is Embarrassing, produced by Dev Hynes, is one of the songs of the decade. (PS)
7/50 44) Alabama Shakes Boys & Girls (2012)
Combining rumbustious soul-rock with swampy blues grit, this four-piece from Athens, Alabama, were one of the most exciting sounds of 2012 thanks to their humdinger of a debut album. Gutsy and unrefined, Boys & Girls is indebted to a bygone era but somehow feels fresh. Its underpinned by powerhouse frontwoman Brittany Howards astonishing voice capable of both a piercing falsetto or a guttural roar. Barack Obama would subsequently invite the band to play at the White House. (PS)
8/50 43) Stormzy Gang Signs & Prayer (2017)
When the documentarians of the future make films about the UK in the 2010s, you can bet theyll put Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr on the soundtrack. The charismatic grime MC is bursting with all the self-aware anger, humour, confusion, vulnerability and creativity of his generation in multicultural urban Britain. (HB)
9/50 42) Todd Terje It’s Album Time (2014)
After a run of spellbinding singles, the Norse disco maverick released this synthesis of the frivolous and cinematic: an album so casually virtuosic it seemed to have dropped out of an alien supercomputer. From crate digger space-funk to dance floor ecstasy (and a Bryan Ferry feature), Its Album Time is endlessly replayable: a perfectly formed confection that requires no sequel. (JM)
10/50 41) Big Thief Two Hands (2019)
Theres a kind of telepathy that develops when a band spends as much time together as Big Thief. The indie-rock bands second album in the space of five months (the first being UFOF), was described as the earth twin and, indeed, they sound utterly grounded to each other, and to their surroundings in the arid Chihuahuan Desert of Texas, near the Mexico border. In contrast to her fragile performance on UFOF, here Adrianne Lenker sings in lusty whoops and calls on Forgotten Eyes, while Not, the records dark, brooding soul, caterwauls with feedback screeches and a merciless, two-minute guitar solo that leaves you simultaneously devastated and enthralled. (RO)
11/50 40) Christine and the Queens Chaleur Humaine (2014)
On her electropop-laden debut the UK release of which meanders between French and English Heloise Letissier explores the lonelinesses and triumphs of being queer. On Saint Claude, she steals glimpses of a feminine boy being mocked on a Paris bus, too ashamed to step in. On Tilted, she is newly defiant. I am actually good, cant help it if were tilted. (AP)
12/50 39) James Blake James Blake (2011)
Inspired by the icy altitudes of Joni Mitchells open-tuned confessionals, the dubstep producer took singer-songwriting into a compelling new landscape of minimalist clicks and autotuned emotion. He sang of testing sounds/ For the deaf and the forest cold and now describes his sparse, graceful debut as a fractured diary reflecting a lack of something. (HB)
13/50 38) Skepta Konnichiwa (2016)
In 2016, the UK was in chaos. The EU referendum produced a shock result, David Cameron resigned as prime minister, and the arguing began, as a new harder-right politics emerged. The future felt bleak. In the midst of all this, Skepta always wary of institutions poured gasoline over the whole mess and lit a match. Konnichiwa is an album heavy with contempt for authority; a sizzling brew of jungle, UK garage and dancehall into which he pours all of his anger, frustration, fear and suspicion. (RO)
14/50 37) Bon Iver Bon Iver (2011)
Where 2008s For Emma, Forever Ago was an exercise in sparse, solipsistic introspection, Justin Vernons follow-up is the sound of a man setting himself free and fully embracing the depths of his imagination. Less hermetically sealed than his debut, it’s exquisite in every way, with Vernons soulful falsetto woven into a gorgeous patchwork of jazz, folk, ambient and electronica. He would add more autotune to his voice on later albums; here its just perfect. (PS)
15/50 36) Ane Brun When I’m Free (2015)
Theres a glorious elasticity of both sound and spirit to the Norwegian singer-songwriters seventh album. Gone is the feathery folk of her early releases as she flings open the doors to big timpani, hip hop rhythms and liquid Eighties bass lines. Lyrically, she celebrated the suffragettes and her own possibilities in the face of chronic illness. (HB)
16/50 35) Jamie xx In Colour (2015)
A solo album from The xxs most elusive member was the subject of rumour for a good few years; the reality was better than fans could have hoped for. In Colour is a lovingly crafted tribute to the rave; a kaleidoscope of beats and pulsing synths that stitch together the many moods you can find on the dancefloor, from the ecstasy of a drop to the melancholy of knowing the night must, at some point, come to an end. (RO)
17/50 34) Mitski Be the Cowboy (2018)
Upon the release of Be the Cowboy, Mitski described how she had f***ed with the form, almost in ways that make me uncomfortable hardly surprising for an artist whose songs pivot between lullaby-like calm and reckless, scuzzy urgency. Her fifth album sits to the left of just about every box you might try to put it in, those signature distorted guitars joined by bright, bold synths, organs and show-tune pianos. Lead single Nobody, with its almost aggressive vulnerability, is a masterpiece. (AP)
18/50 33) Kacey Musgraves Golden Hour (2018)
Three albums in, Kacey Musgraves worried that falling in love with her husband would affect her music. I was a little wary, she told The Independent last year. I was like, Man, I wonder if Im gonna be able to write. She neednt have worried. With synths and Daft Punk guitar licks added into the mix, her fourth album, which she dubbed cosmic country, is rich and ambitious with a subtle, psychedelic gloss, winning the Grammy for Album of the Year. (AP)
19/50 32) Björk Vulnicura (2015)
For three decades, Björk has weathered professional belittlement, abuse and tragedy, always reiterating herself in song, as if it were normal to absorb so much. On Vulnicura, recorded amid a scrappy breakup, the Icelandic virtuoso snapped. Monstrous ballads meet shattered beats and siren strings, a cyclone propelled by the wisdom of age. When the dust settles, she sounds reborn. (JM)
20/50 31) Marianne Faithfull Negative Capability (2018)
A breathtakingly brave and graceful testament from the ultimate survivor of patriarchal rock. Romance and realism, love and fear are held in perfect tension as the 71-year-old conjures shimmering myths of ye olde England, then tells a friend: I do understand why you want no more f***ing treatment. (HB)
21/50 30) These New Puritans Field of Reeds (2013)
With 2010s Hidden, These New Puritans fashioned dancehall and medieval heraldry into pop overtures. They re-emerged with something improbably subtle: a dreamscape shorn of excess pomp, beats and even consonants, with Jack Barnetts voice remade as an instrument. Amid ineffable neoclassical, his shy croak elevates the record, the sound of a doomed romantic awash in the music of the heavens. (JM)
22/50 29) Anohni Hopelessness (2016)
Released before Trumps election and the Brexit vote, there was a dark prescience to this gleefully disruptive blast of electronica. Anohni jettisoned the gorgeous chamber pop which had brought her critical acclaim to make a radical ecofeminist wake-up call about the horrors of the violent patriarchy, drone warfare and global warming. (HB)
23/50 28) Joanna Newsom Have One on Me (2010)
Newsoms third album an elaborate, six-sided odyssey whose musical palette blends harp, tambura and kaval with drums and electric guitars heralded a noticeable change in her voice. The removal of vocal cord nodules had shaved the edges off its trill, and its new deeper, fuller sound suited an album as intricate and aching as this. I found a little plot of land/ In the Garden of Eden, she sings on one of its best tracks, 81, seemingly poised on the edge of religious reverence. It was dirt, and dirt is all the same. (AP)
24/50 27) Fatoumata Diawara Fatou (2011)
Why did you cut the flower that makes me a woman? sings the Malian artist on Boloko, the first African song to address female genital mutilation. Immigration and forced adoption are also challenged on a culture-shifting debut that brings a rare sweetness to the protest genre. The sensual power of Diawaras lullsome voice and her shimmering guitar patterns remain hypnotic. (HB)
25/50 26) Arca Arca (2017)
As deconstructed club music became a buzzword, electronic artists considered how to reassemble the pieces. One pitch for how that might sound somehow futuristic yet familiar came from Venezuelan producer Arca. The Björk and FKA twigs collaborators third album relaunched her zero-gravity sound world with a secret weapon: the bruised, disarmingly operatic voice of an angel in hell. (JM)
26/50 25) David Bowie Blackstar (2016)
On his 69th birthday, two days before his death, David Bowie released perhaps the most extreme album of his career. Blackstar is more alien than Ziggy; as inscrutable as the deepest corners of the universe. He refuses to go quietly, whether making a joyous racket on Tis a Pity She Was a Whore or adding eerie buzzes and whines to album closer I Cant Give Everything Away where, faced with the nearness of his own death, Bowie engages in a final tussle with his own myth. (RO)
27/50 24) Adele 21 (2011)
Earlier this year, Adele announced that she had split from her husband Simon Konecki. While some sympathised, others rejoiced at the brilliant break-up album that was surely on the cards. Bunch of f***ing savages, she joked in response to those gleeful fans. 30 will be a drum n bass record to spite you. Cruel though it was, there was a reason for the gleeful reaction Adele sings of heartbreak like nobody else. And never better than on 21, a sad, soulful masterpiece which on these shores is the best-selling album of the century. (AP)
28/50 23) Daft Punk Random Access Memories (2013)
The French electronic pioneers brought funk back for the summer of 2013 with an album drawing heavily on the sounds of the Seventies and Eighties. Pretty much everything you need to know is in the opening salvo Give Life Back to Music; Daft Punk tend to pop up at times where other artists are grasping frantically for something new. Random Access Memories restarted the party with good old-fashioned craftmanship and Le Dafts undiluted love for what they do. (RO)
29/50 22) Lana Del Rey Norman F***ing Rockwell! (2019)
It is striking that Lana Del Rey the greatest artist of her generation creates art full of meaningful observations about men and women that are deeply unfashionable outside of an Esther Perel podcast. Del Rey desires to be desired; she likes it when her man makes her feel like a child; she “wants to die”. The longing for unconsciousness is still present in NFR (“Im the void,” she sings on “Mariners Apartment Complex”) but her most playful record to date is as close to a celebration of her world-conquering status as you are ever likely to hear. (PS)
30/50 21) Sufjan Stevens Carrie & Lowell (2015)
Tiptoeing to the bleeding heart of Stevens relationship with his schizophrenic, alcoholic mother, this is an album that faces difficult truths with hushed grace. The featherlight folk acquires a remarkable bioluminescence, as the artist finds hope in signs and wonders, sea lion caves in the dark. (HB)
31/50 20) Rihanna ANTI (2016)
ANTIs botched rollout Rihanna was teasing the record for years before a leak prompted a hasty free release seems strangely fitting for an album as joyfully scattershot and unrefined as this. Dark dancehall sounds flirt with hip hop and R&B, as the Bajan singer embraces her roots and slyly rebels against the pop tropes du jour. (AP)
32/50 19) Arcade Fire The Suburbs (2010)
Having released arguably the Noughties defining rock album in Funeral, the Montreal six-piece began this decade with a record bathed in nostalgia. Loosely inspired by frontman Win Butler and his brother Wills childhood on the outskirts of Houston, The Suburbs has much in common with Bruce Springsteens Born in the USA, with its themes of familial responsibility and personal crises. The sound is expansive; there are lyrical and musical motifs throughout. If 2007s Neon Bible was a little portentous and po-faced, this album offers moments of levity in tracks such as the shimmering synth-pop masterpiece “Sprawl II”. Nothing theyve done since has been as good.
33/50 18) St Vincent Strange Mercy (2011)
St Vincent, AKA Annie Clark, has a tagline for each of her albums. This one, her third, was housewives on pills, though that does little justice to a record that marries uncomfortable intimacy with a cool detachment, its obtuse stories of grief, loss and lust told through angular art-rock, frenzied guitar solos and bold melodies. (AP)
34/50 17) Nick Cave Ghosteen (2019)
When his 15-year-old son died in 2015, Cave thought public grieving would be impossible. But he found unexpected relief in sharing his feelings with his fans. This ambient double album plays like a warm cloud of solace: direct about the agony and inevitability of loss, in awe of the love that helps us survive it. (HB)
35/50 16) Taylor Swift Red (2012)
Red is the last album Swift released before it became impossible to discuss her work without mentioning the narrative around her as a person, not just an artist. Her turn of phrase already impressive for an artist so young improves immeasurably from opener State of Grace and leads the listener to the greatest song of her career to date: All Too Well. The analogies and references are less spelt out, too. Then theres the song structure, the way these songs unfurl as she dissects with scientific scrutiny the most intimate details of a relationship, in order to find out where it all went wrong. Red shows Swift with a newfound confidence and at times, weariness that can only come with experience. (RO)
36/50 15) Frank Ocean Blond (2016)
Brilliantly confounding, Blond keeps the spotlight fixed firmly on its creators voice. Tracks are stripped of any unnecessary embellishment, anything that might distract from Oceans hypnotic musings on love, sex and death. Every day counts like crazy, he sings on Skyline To few lyrics capture quite so well the suffocating feeling of being dragged through life at breakneck speed. Blond is far less cohesive than its predecessor, Channel Orange, but does that really matter? Life is messy and confusing; Ocean makes all of it sound beautiful. (RO)
37/50 14) Leonard Cohen You Want It Darker (2016)
A passing comment in a New Yorker profile about being ready to die forced Leonard Cohen to tell fans that reports of his imminent death had been hugely exaggerated. Yet the album he was promoting, You Want It Darker, is as powerful a last testament as any artist could hope to release; Cohens weary utterances Im ready, my Lord are delivered in that fathomless baritone, and his meditations on mortality are bleak, even for him. The fact that Cohen did in fact die just three weeks after its release makes those themes, although it didnt seem possible at the time, even more poignant. (RO)
38/50 13) Solange When I Get Home (2019)
The decades second great Solange album churns several deformed, jazzy aesthetics including Brainfeeders gloopy electro-funk and the concoctions of DJ Screw into a lustrous cloud of R&B. The result hints at Seventies soul voyagers like Stevie Wonder yet retains its future-shock, celebrating Houston futurism without pandering to fans of its explicitly political predecessor. (JM)
39/50 12) PJ Harvey Let England Shake (2011)
The spooky piano and PJ Harveys keening howls on the opening, title track of her eighth studio album are enough to signal this album isnt a barrel of laughs. Yet her finely wrought arrangements echoing guitars, beautiful melodies and samples that wrongfoot the listener with their cheerfulness form a superb kind of juxtaposition with the albums themes. Across 12 brisk tracks, she casts a despairing eye over everything from the conflict in Afghanistan to the mass casualties of the First World War; she sings in a kind of pleading tone, all the while knowing that humans are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. (RO)
40/50 11) Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
West has always been a complicated, divisive, frustrating sort of genius. Never is that more on display than on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a maximalist, genre-crushing album that looks both outwards and inwards self-aware even in its most crowing moments it breaks apart the myth of the American Dream. The system broken, the school is closed, the prisons open, he sings on Power, one of the best protest songs of the century. Later, he adds, They say I was the abomination of Obamas nation/ Well thats a pretty bad way to start a conversation. So far, West has yet to write anything half as sharp about Trumps nation. (AP)
41/50 10) Robyn Body Talk (2010)
Robyns magnum opus barely even charted when it was first released at the dawn of the decade. Its almost a compilation album of the three great EPs she released in one year, Body Talk Pt 1, Pt 2 and Pt 3. But, nearly 10 years on, it is rightly one of the most influential pop albums of the 21st century. Every popstar tries (and mostly fails) to emulate the silky dance-and-cry beauty of songs such as Dancing on My Own and Call Your Girlfriend. (AP)
42/50 9) A Tribe Called Quest We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (2016)
After an 18-year break and within months of co-founder Phife Dawgs death there were mixed expectations for ATCQs return. It arrived in the hubbub of election week, but the group rode into the melee like angry gods on horseback, firing out thunderous rebukes. The hip-hop odyssey delivers Americas existential reckoning, one equally suited to street protests or a recuperative headphone voyage. (JM)
43/50 8) Lorde Melodrama (2017)
When you experience your first heartbreak, you feel as though youre the only person to have ever felt pain like it. On Melodrama, written when New Zealand musician Lorde was 19 and on the cusp of adulthood, she indulges her heartache, grief, and self-pity with both tenderness and reckless abandon. This is pop music at its most precise every synth and drumbeat fired off like a bullet from a sniper but at its most unbound, too, finding brutal, beautiful new ways to sing about the most saturated of subjects: breaking up. (AP)
44/50 7) Kendrick Lamar DAMN (2017)
Kendrick has always been a superb storyteller, but the Pulitzer Prize-winning DAMN is his odyssey, an album where he presents evidence of his greatness via a series of challenges: tests of loyalty, will, faith and perseverance. Its an epic punctuated by schizophrenic changes in pace and track structure; all the while Kendrick raps as though he doesnt need oxygen, and you realise his greatest battle has never been with his fans, or another rapper hes competing against himself. (RO)
45/50 6) D’Angelo Black Messiah (2014)
After hit album Voodoo, DAngelo almost died by various means, including addiction and a car crash. Fifteen years on, its follow-up arrived suddenly one Christmas: a grungy, deathly reanimation of the sexy, Soulquarian R&B he helped pioneer. Its #BlackLivesMatter-referencing lyrics reveal a man renewed yet still fluttering in the crosswinds of passion and vulnerability. (JM)
46/50 5) Beyoncé Lemonade (2016)
When footage leaked of Solange Knowles hitting and kicking Jay Z in an elevator at the 2014 Met Gala, word was that the rapper had cheated on his wife, and was receiving the full force of her sisters wrath. Two years later, Beyoncé seemed to confirm the affair as only she could: not with a statement, but with an astonishing concept album and accompanying 65-minute film. Dipping into genres as though theyre a dressing-up box, the singer traverses the whole spectrum of emotions as she grapples with the betrayal: My lonely ear pressed against the walls of your world, she sings on opener Pray You Catch Me. Suck on my balls/ Ive had enough, she sings on Sorry. (AP)
47/50 4) Frank Ocean Channel Orange (2012)
A few days before this albums release, Frank Ocean released a Tumblr post where he spoke about how, aged 19, he fell in love with his friend, a boy. At the time, many interpreted the letter to mean Ocean was coming out as bisexual, when in fact he has never felt a need to put a label on his sexuality. Channel Oranges ever-shifting nature the lolloping bass and his meanderings between that exquisite falsetto and richer timbres is a beautiful statement about the paradoxes we can find in our own identity. (RO)
48/50 3) Lana Del Rey Born to Die (2012)
Its easy to forget that before Lana Del Rey came along back when Billie Eilish was barely in double figures lo-tempo sad-pop was not the chart-hogging phenomenon it is today. Born to Die, a minimalist masterpiece, languid and lachrymose, changed that. The month of its release, a shaky performance on SNL prompted naysayers to write the singer off as a flash-in-the-pan, but the album full of beauty, gloom and strange subservience had staying power. As did Del Rey. (AP)
49/50 2) Solange A Seat at the Table (2016)
Solanges third album is so meticulous, so modernist in its approach to space and structure, that early listens could feel like walking admiringly around an exhibition. Then the lights go out, and a distant scream draws you into the shadows. Anguish is the true pitch of this quiet masterpiece, yet its impossibly graceful: an R&B battle cry of black art against white supremacy. (JM)
50/50 1) Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)
By 2015, Kendrick Lamar was already a grandmaster stylist. But with To Pimp a Butterfly, the Compton rapper became a cultural institution, as if summoned by the decades converging flash points. There was the murmur of creeping fascism, the roar of a re-energised black rights movement, and its roots in racist police shootings broadcast and protested across an infernal social media landscape.
This all collided with a resurgent jazz sensibility in rap brass, blue notes, manic freedom, melancholy primarily via LA beat scene luminaries Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington and Thundercat. Each contributes to this modern classic, as despairing and murky as it is lucid and fireball bright. Centrepiece Alright is now a civil rights anthem, but To Pimp a Butterfly plays less like a statement than a bad dream: conflicted introspection, vexed empathy and political irreverence meet pitch-black humour that jolts you awake, with the sense that without this music, wed be lost. (JM)
1/50 50) Nils Frahm Spaces (2013)
Nils Frahms music feels most alive when youre witnessing it in concert, so it makes sense that Spaces, a collection of field recordings made over two years, is his most immersive and dynamic. The shifting energy is due to how no single performance is ever the same; the one constant is the German composers joy in creating sound, and the spaces in between. (RO)
2/50 49) Bill Callahan Dream River (2013)
I have learnt, when things are beautiful, to just keep on, confides Callahan on the most laconic and nuanced album of his career. Warm grains of flute and fiddle run through the rich country soul. Masterful, minimalist storytelling guides us through summers spent painting boats and long nights in hotel bars. (HB)
3/50 48) Arctic Monkeys Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018)
Twelve years after Arctic Monkeys released a debut album that shook the British rock scene out of its doldrums, the Sheffield boy wonders came up with this: a concept album about a luxury lunar resort that surgically removed the blues influences on AM and replaced them with lounge jazz and absurdist lyrics. It upset fans who wanted more of the same, and yet, frontman Alex Turners musical and lyrical meanderings mark one of the boldest moves by any rock band in recent memory. (RO)
4/50 47) Richard Dawson Nothing Important (2014)
Richard Dawson was once a heart-on-sleeve singer-songwriter, but by 2014, the Geordies outré folk had made him Britains leading avant-bard. On his breakthrough LP, malevolent instrumentals bookend a pair of 16-minute epics, bending from the ambitiously autobiographical title track to The Vile Stuff, a delirious tale of a boozy school trip gone awry. (JM)
5/50 46) Julia Holter Have You in My Wilderness (2015)
Refreshing as summer rain, the avant-garde and occasionally difficult Californian artists fourth album sees melodies splashing merrily from her keyboard. Her pretty, literate vocals spin playful mysteries of faceless lovers in raincoats and strange women on remote shores. Its lucidity! Holter teased. So clear! A ludic, lucid dream of a record. (HB)
6/50 45) Sky Ferreira Night Time, My Time 2013
Sky Ferreira did it her way. After years of label disputes about image and musical direction, the Californian finally decided to put her own modelling money towards financing her debut record, 2013s Night Time, My Time. And what a record it is: melding Eighties pop with alternative rock, it brims with a wild vivacity, as squelching synths come up against gnashing guitars, vulnerable lyrics and often distorted vocals. Everything is Embarrassing, produced by Dev Hynes, is one of the songs of the decade. (PS)
7/50 44) Alabama Shakes Boys & Girls (2012)
Combining rumbustious soul-rock with swampy blues grit, this four-piece from Athens, Alabama, were one of the most exciting sounds of 2012 thanks to their humdinger of a debut album. Gutsy and unrefined, Boys & Girls is indebted to a bygone era but somehow feels fresh. Its underpinned by powerhouse frontwoman Brittany Howards astonishing voice capable of both a piercing falsetto or a guttural roar. Barack Obama would subsequently invite the band to play at the White House. (PS)
8/50 43) Stormzy Gang Signs & Prayer (2017)
When the documentarians of the future make films about the UK in the 2010s, you can bet theyll put Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr on the soundtrack. The charismatic grime MC is bursting with all the self-aware anger, humour, confusion, vulnerability and creativity of his generation in multicultural urban Britain. (HB)
9/50 42) Todd Terje It’s Album Time (2014)
After a run of spellbinding singles, the Norse disco maverick released this synthesis of the frivolous and cinematic: an album so casually virtuosic it seemed to have dropped out of an alien supercomputer. From crate digger space-funk to dance floor ecstasy (and a Bryan Ferry feature), Its Album Time is endlessly replayable: a perfectly formed confection that requires no sequel. (JM)
10/50 41) Big Thief Two Hands (2019)
Theres a kind of telepathy that develops when a band spends as much time together as Big Thief. The indie-rock bands second album in the space of five months (the first being UFOF), was described as the earth twin and, indeed, they sound utterly grounded to each other, and to their surroundings in the arid Chihuahuan Desert of Texas, near the Mexico border. In contrast to her fragile performance on UFOF, here Adrianne Lenker sings in lusty whoops and calls on Forgotten Eyes, while Not, the records dark, brooding soul, caterwauls with feedback screeches and a merciless, two-minute guitar solo that leaves you simultaneously devastated and enthralled. (RO)
11/50 40) Christine and the Queens Chaleur Humaine (2014)
On her electropop-laden debut the UK release of which meanders between French and English Heloise Letissier explores the lonelinesses and triumphs of being queer. On Saint Claude, she steals glimpses of a feminine boy being mocked on a Paris bus, too ashamed to step in. On Tilted, she is newly defiant. I am actually good, cant help it if were tilted. (AP)
12/50 39) James Blake James Blake (2011)
Inspired by the icy altitudes of Joni Mitchells open-tuned confessionals, the dubstep producer took singer-songwriting into a compelling new landscape of minimalist clicks and autotuned emotion. He sang of testing sounds/ For the deaf and the forest cold and now describes his sparse, graceful debut as a fractured diary reflecting a lack of something. (HB)
13/50 38) Skepta Konnichiwa (2016)
In 2016, the UK was in chaos. The EU referendum produced a shock result, David Cameron resigned as prime minister, and the arguing began, as a new harder-right politics emerged. The future felt bleak. In the midst of all this, Skepta always wary of institutions poured gasoline over the whole mess and lit a match. Konnichiwa is an album heavy with contempt for authority; a sizzling brew of jungle, UK garage and dancehall into which he pours all of his anger, frustration, fear and suspicion. (RO)
14/50 37) Bon Iver Bon Iver (2011)
Where 2008s For Emma, Forever Ago was an exercise in sparse, solipsistic introspection, Justin Vernons follow-up is the sound of a man setting himself free and fully embracing the depths of his imagination. Less hermetically sealed than his debut, it’s exquisite in every way, with Vernons soulful falsetto woven into a gorgeous patchwork of jazz, folk, ambient and electronica. He would add more autotune to his voice on later albums; here its just perfect. (PS)
15/50 36) Ane Brun When I’m Free (2015)
Theres a glorious elasticity of both sound and spirit to the Norwegian singer-songwriters seventh album. Gone is the feathery folk of her early releases as she flings open the doors to big timpani, hip hop rhythms and liquid Eighties bass lines. Lyrically, she celebrated the suffragettes and her own possibilities in the face of chronic illness. (HB)
16/50 35) Jamie xx In Colour (2015)
A solo album from The xxs most elusive member was the subject of rumour for a good few years; the reality was better than fans could have hoped for. In Colour is a lovingly crafted tribute to the rave; a kaleidoscope of beats and pulsing synths that stitch together the many moods you can find on the dancefloor, from the ecstasy of a drop to the melancholy of knowing the night must, at some point, come to an end. (RO)
17/50 34) Mitski Be the Cowboy (2018)
Upon the release of Be the Cowboy, Mitski described how she had f***ed with the form, almost in ways that make me uncomfortable hardly surprising for an artist whose songs pivot between lullaby-like calm and reckless, scuzzy urgency. Her fifth album sits to the left of just about every box you might try to put it in, those signature distorted guitars joined by bright, bold synths, organs and show-tune pianos. Lead single Nobody, with its almost aggressive vulnerability, is a masterpiece. (AP)
18/50 33) Kacey Musgraves Golden Hour (2018)
Three albums in, Kacey Musgraves worried that falling in love with her husband would affect her music. I was a little wary, she told The Independent last year. I was like, Man, I wonder if Im gonna be able to write. She neednt have worried. With synths and Daft Punk guitar licks added into the mix, her fourth album, which she dubbed cosmic country, is rich and ambitious with a subtle, psychedelic gloss, winning the Grammy for Album of the Year. (AP)
19/50 32) Björk Vulnicura (2015)
For three decades, Björk has weathered professional belittlement, abuse and tragedy, always reiterating herself in song, as if it were normal to absorb so much. On Vulnicura, recorded amid a scrappy breakup, the Icelandic virtuoso snapped. Monstrous ballads meet shattered beats and siren strings, a cyclone propelled by the wisdom of age. When the dust settles, she sounds reborn. (JM)
20/50 31) Marianne Faithfull Negative Capability (2018)
A breathtakingly brave and graceful testament from the ultimate survivor of patriarchal rock. Romance and realism, love and fear are held in perfect tension as the 71-year-old conjures shimmering myths of ye olde England, then tells a friend: I do understand why you want no more f***ing treatment. (HB)
21/50 30) These New Puritans Field of Reeds (2013)
With 2010s Hidden, These New Puritans fashioned dancehall and medieval heraldry into pop overtures. They re-emerged with something improbably subtle: a dreamscape shorn of excess pomp, beats and even consonants, with Jack Barnetts voice remade as an instrument. Amid ineffable neoclassical, his shy croak elevates the record, the sound of a doomed romantic awash in the music of the heavens. (JM)
22/50 29) Anohni Hopelessness (2016)
Released before Trumps election and the Brexit vote, there was a dark prescience to this gleefully disruptive blast of electronica. Anohni jettisoned the gorgeous chamber pop which had brought her critical acclaim to make a radical ecofeminist wake-up call about the horrors of the violent patriarchy, drone warfare and global warming. (HB)
23/50 28) Joanna Newsom Have One on Me (2010)
Newsoms third album an elaborate, six-sided odyssey whose musical palette blends harp, tambura and kaval with drums and electric guitars heralded a noticeable change in her voice. The removal of vocal cord nodules had shaved the edges off its trill, and its new deeper, fuller sound suited an album as intricate and aching as this. I found a little plot of land/ In the Garden of Eden, she sings on one of its best tracks, 81, seemingly poised on the edge of religious reverence. It was dirt, and dirt is all the same. (AP)
24/50 27) Fatoumata Diawara Fatou (2011)
Why did you cut the flower that makes me a woman? sings the Malian artist on Boloko, the first African song to address female genital mutilation. Immigration and forced adoption are also challenged on a culture-shifting debut that brings a rare sweetness to the protest genre. The sensual power of Diawaras lullsome voice and her shimmering guitar patterns remain hypnotic. (HB)
25/50 26) Arca Arca (2017)
As deconstructed club music became a buzzword, electronic artists considered how to reassemble the pieces. One pitch for how that might sound somehow futuristic yet familiar came from Venezuelan producer Arca. The Björk and FKA twigs collaborators third album relaunched her zero-gravity sound world with a secret weapon: the bruised, disarmingly operatic voice of an angel in hell. (JM)
26/50 25) David Bowie Blackstar (2016)
On his 69th birthday, two days before his death, David Bowie released perhaps the most extreme album of his career. Blackstar is more alien than Ziggy; as inscrutable as the deepest corners of the universe. He refuses to go quietly, whether making a joyous racket on Tis a Pity She Was a Whore or adding eerie buzzes and whines to album closer I Cant Give Everything Away where, faced with the nearness of his own death, Bowie engages in a final tussle with his own myth. (RO)
27/50 24) Adele 21 (2011)
Earlier this year, Adele announced that she had split from her husband Simon Konecki. While some sympathised, others rejoiced at the brilliant break-up album that was surely on the cards. Bunch of f***ing savages, she joked in response to those gleeful fans. 30 will be a drum n bass record to spite you. Cruel though it was, there was a reason for the gleeful reaction Adele sings of heartbreak like nobody else. And never better than on 21, a sad, soulful masterpiece which on these shores is the best-selling album of the century. (AP)
28/50 23) Daft Punk Random Access Memories (2013)
The French electronic pioneers brought funk back for the summer of 2013 with an album drawing heavily on the sounds of the Seventies and Eighties. Pretty much everything you need to know is in the opening salvo Give Life Back to Music; Daft Punk tend to pop up at times where other artists are grasping frantically for something new. Random Access Memories restarted the party with good old-fashioned craftmanship and Le Dafts undiluted love for what they do. (RO)
29/50 22) Lana Del Rey Norman F***ing Rockwell! (2019)
It is striking that Lana Del Rey the greatest artist of her generation creates art full of meaningful observations about men and women that are deeply unfashionable outside of an Esther Perel podcast. Del Rey desires to be desired; she likes it when her man makes her feel like a child; she “wants to die”. The longing for unconsciousness is still present in NFR (“Im the void,” she sings on “Mariners Apartment Complex”) but her most playful record to date is as close to a celebration of her world-conquering status as you are ever likely to hear. (PS)
30/50 21) Sufjan Stevens Carrie & Lowell (2015)
Tiptoeing to the bleeding heart of Stevens relationship with his schizophrenic, alcoholic mother, this is an album that faces difficult truths with hushed grace. The featherlight folk acquires a remarkable bioluminescence, as the artist finds hope in signs and wonders, sea lion caves in the dark. (HB)
31/50 20) Rihanna ANTI (2016)
ANTIs botched rollout Rihanna was teasing the record for years before a leak prompted a hasty free release seems strangely fitting for an album as joyfully scattershot and unrefined as this. Dark dancehall sounds flirt with hip hop and R&B, as the Bajan singer embraces her roots and slyly rebels against the pop tropes du jour. (AP)
32/50 19) Arcade Fire The Suburbs (2010)
Having released arguably the Noughties defining rock album in Funeral, the Montreal six-piece began this decade with a record bathed in nostalgia. Loosely inspired by frontman Win Butler and his brother Wills childhood on the outskirts of Houston, The Suburbs has much in common with Bruce Springsteens Born in the USA, with its themes of familial responsibility and personal crises. The sound is expansive; there are lyrical and musical motifs throughout. If 2007s Neon Bible was a little portentous and po-faced, this album offers moments of levity in tracks such as the shimmering synth-pop masterpiece “Sprawl II”. Nothing theyve done since has been as good.
33/50 18) St Vincent Strange Mercy (2011)
St Vincent, AKA Annie Clark, has a tagline for each of her albums. This one, her third, was housewives on pills, though that does little justice to a record that marries uncomfortable intimacy with a cool detachment, its obtuse stories of grief, loss and lust told through angular art-rock, frenzied guitar solos and bold melodies. (AP)
34/50 17) Nick Cave Ghosteen (2019)
When his 15-year-old son died in 2015, Cave thought public grieving would be impossible. But he found unexpected relief in sharing his feelings with his fans. This ambient double album plays like a warm cloud of solace: direct about the agony and inevitability of loss, in awe of the love that helps us survive it. (HB)
35/50 16) Taylor Swift Red (2012)
Red is the last album Swift released before it became impossible to discuss her work without mentioning the narrative around her as a person, not just an artist. Her turn of phrase already impressive for an artist so young improves immeasurably from opener State of Grace and leads the listener to the greatest song of her career to date: All Too Well. The analogies and references are less spelt out, too. Then theres the song structure, the way these songs unfurl as she dissects with scientific scrutiny the most intimate details of a relationship, in order to find out where it all went wrong. Red shows Swift with a newfound confidence and at times, weariness that can only come with experience. (RO)
36/50 15) Frank Ocean Blond (2016)
Brilliantly confounding, Blond keeps the spotlight fixed firmly on its creators voice. Tracks are stripped of any unnecessary embellishment, anything that might distract from Oceans hypnotic musings on love, sex and death. Every day counts like crazy, he sings on Skyline To few lyrics capture quite so well the suffocating feeling of being dragged through life at breakneck speed. Blond is far less cohesive than its predecessor, Channel Orange, but does that really matter? Life is messy and confusing; Ocean makes all of it sound beautiful. (RO)
37/50 14) Leonard Cohen You Want It Darker (2016)
A passing comment in a New Yorker profile about being ready to die forced Leonard Cohen to tell fans that reports of his imminent death had been hugely exaggerated. Yet the album he was promoting, You Want It Darker, is as powerful a last testament as any artist could hope to release; Cohens weary utterances Im ready, my Lord are delivered in that fathomless baritone, and his meditations on mortality are bleak, even for him. The fact that Cohen did in fact die just three weeks after its release makes those themes, although it didnt seem possible at the time, even more poignant. (RO)
38/50 13) Solange When I Get Home (2019)
The decades second great Solange album churns several deformed, jazzy aesthetics including Brainfeeders gloopy electro-funk and the concoctions of DJ Screw into a lustrous cloud of R&B. The result hints at Seventies soul voyagers like Stevie Wonder yet retains its future-shock, celebrating Houston futurism without pandering to fans of its explicitly political predecessor. (JM)
39/50 12) PJ Harvey Let England Shake (2011)
The spooky piano and PJ Harveys keening howls on the opening, title track of her eighth studio album are enough to signal this album isnt a barrel of laughs. Yet her finely wrought arrangements echoing guitars, beautiful melodies and samples that wrongfoot the listener with their cheerfulness form a superb kind of juxtaposition with the albums themes. Across 12 brisk tracks, she casts a despairing eye over everything from the conflict in Afghanistan to the mass casualties of the First World War; she sings in a kind of pleading tone, all the while knowing that humans are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. (RO)
40/50 11) Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
West has always been a complicated, divisive, frustrating sort of genius. Never is that more on display than on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a maximalist, genre-crushing album that looks both outwards and inwards self-aware even in its most crowing moments it breaks apart the myth of the American Dream. The system broken, the school is closed, the prisons open, he sings on Power, one of the best protest songs of the century. Later, he adds, They say I was the abomination of Obamas nation/ Well thats a pretty bad way to start a conversation. So far, West has yet to write anything half as sharp about Trumps nation. (AP)
41/50 10) Robyn Body Talk (2010)
Robyns magnum opus barely even charted when it was first released at the dawn of the decade. Its almost a compilation album of the three great EPs she released in one year, Body Talk Pt 1, Pt 2 and Pt 3. But, nearly 10 years on, it is rightly one of the most influential pop albums of the 21st century. Every popstar tries (and mostly fails) to emulate the silky dance-and-cry beauty of songs such as Dancing on My Own and Call Your Girlfriend. (AP)
42/50 9) A Tribe Called Quest We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (2016)
After an 18-year break and within months of co-founder Phife Dawgs death there were mixed expectations for ATCQs return. It arrived in the hubbub of election week, but the group rode into the melee like angry gods on horseback, firing out thunderous rebukes. The hip-hop odyssey delivers Americas existential reckoning, one equally suited to street protests or a recuperative headphone voyage. (JM)
43/50 8) Lorde Melodrama (2017)
When you experience your first heartbreak, you feel as though youre the only person to have ever felt pain like it. On Melodrama, written when New Zealand musician Lorde was 19 and on the cusp of adulthood, she indulges her heartache, grief, and self-pity with both tenderness and reckless abandon. This is pop music at its most precise every synth and drumbeat fired off like a bullet from a sniper but at its most unbound, too, finding brutal, beautiful new ways to sing about the most saturated of subjects: breaking up. (AP)
44/50 7) Kendrick Lamar DAMN (2017)
Kendrick has always been a superb storyteller, but the Pulitzer Prize-winning DAMN is his odyssey, an album where he presents evidence of his greatness via a series of challenges: tests of loyalty, will, faith and perseverance. Its an epic punctuated by schizophrenic changes in pace and track structure; all the while Kendrick raps as though he doesnt need oxygen, and you realise his greatest battle has never been with his fans, or another rapper hes competing against himself. (RO)
45/50 6) D’Angelo Black Messiah (2014)
After hit album Voodoo, DAngelo almost died by various means, including addiction and a car crash. Fifteen years on, its follow-up arrived suddenly one Christmas: a grungy, deathly reanimation of the sexy, Soulquarian R&B he helped pioneer. Its #BlackLivesMatter-referencing lyrics reveal a man renewed yet still fluttering in the crosswinds of passion and vulnerability. (JM)
46/50 5) Beyoncé Lemonade (2016)
When footage leaked of Solange Knowles hitting and kicking Jay Z in an elevator at the 2014 Met Gala, word was that the rapper had cheated on his wife, and was receiving the full force of her sisters wrath. Two years later, Beyoncé seemed to confirm the affair as only she could: not with a statement, but with an astonishing concept album and accompanying 65-minute film. Dipping into genres as though theyre a dressing-up box, the singer traverses the whole spectrum of emotions as she grapples with the betrayal: My lonely ear pressed against the walls of your world, she sings on opener Pray You Catch Me. Suck on my balls/ Ive had enough, she sings on Sorry. (AP)
47/50 4) Frank Ocean Channel Orange (2012)
A few days before this albums release, Frank Ocean released a Tumblr post where he spoke about how, aged 19, he fell in love with his friend, a boy. At the time, many interpreted the letter to mean Ocean was coming out as bisexual, when in fact he has never felt a need to put a label on his sexuality. Channel Oranges ever-shifting nature the lolloping bass and his meanderings between that exquisite falsetto and richer timbres is a beautiful statement about the paradoxes we can find in our own identity. (RO)
48/50 3) Lana Del Rey Born to Die (2012)
Its easy to forget that before Lana Del Rey came along back when Billie Eilish was barely in double figures lo-tempo sad-pop was not the chart-hogging phenomenon it is today. Born to Die, a minimalist masterpiece, languid and lachrymose, changed that. The month of its release, a shaky performance on SNL prompted naysayers to write the singer off as a flash-in-the-pan, but the album full of beauty, gloom and strange subservience had staying power. As did Del Rey. (AP)
49/50 2) Solange A Seat at the Table (2016)
Solanges third album is so meticulous, so modernist in its approach to space and structure, that early listens could feel like walking admiringly around an exhibition. Then the lights go out, and a distant scream draws you into the shadows. Anguish is the true pitch of this quiet masterpiece, yet its impossibly graceful: an R&B battle cry of black art against white supremacy. (JM)
50/50 1) Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)
By 2015, Kendrick Lamar was already a grandmaster stylist. But with To Pimp a Butterfly, the Compton rapper became a cultural institution, as if summoned by the decades converging flash points. There was the murmur of creeping fascism, the roar of a re-energised black rights movement, and its roots in racist police shootings broadcast and protested across an infernal social media landscape.
This all collided with a resurgent jazz sensibility in rap brass, blue notes, manic freedom, melancholy primarily via LA beat scene luminaries Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington and Thundercat. Each contributes to this modern classic, as despairing and murky as it is lucid and fireball bright. Centrepiece Alright is now a civil rights anthem, but To Pimp a Butterfly plays less like a statement than a bad dream: conflicted introspection, vexed empathy and political irreverence meet pitch-black humour that jolts you awake, with the sense that without this music, wed be lost. (JM)
After he died, she buried herself in work. She released the platinum-selling Sigala collaboration Came Here For Love a few months later. A handful of other singles followed Ego, Answerphone and the payday anthem Just Got Paid all of them tied together by their punchy hooks and a distinctive voice that is rich, raspy and pleasingly adenoidal. But she was running away from things.
I didnt really grieve, didnt really give myself time to get over it or even think about it, she says, I just worked and worked and worked. I worked myself up into this really tight space where I was so anxious and stressed and also very clearly upset about what had happened, but hadnt dealt with it. It caught up with me. I wasnt able to write as well. I was just feeling frustrated.
She decided she needed to face it. I need to just rip the band-aid off and see what happens, she told herself, and booked a trip to Jamaica, thinking it might be a disaster. It wasnt. As soon as she landed, and connected to that part of my bloodline again, that creative force came rushing back. She set up camp in three studios one a converted gym, one a converted bedroom, and one an actual studio and got to work writing.
This time, it wasnt an avoidance technique, but a creative wellspring. After months, if not years, of writers block I can be my own worst enemy and tend to sabotage sessions the songs flowed out of her. An as yet unreleased song called Rain In Heaven, set to feature on an album thats in the works, was inspired by the monsoons that poured down on the idyllic surroundings. New Me, her excellent, Jamaican dancehall-inflected new single, which was released on Friday, is a defiant reflection on a toxic situation. 
Ella Eyre performing at the Troxy in October 2019 (Rex)
It was a relief to finally have things to write about again, her creativity unlocked by reconnecting with her roots. You can get so caught up in this hurricane of work and this pressure that if youre not working, its going to dry up, she says. But actually finding the strength to do things for myself benefited me creatively. My first album was my friends and my nights out and my life experiences I had growing up, and Id lost that because I was fully in artist mode. I was on tour, I was doing interviews… I wasnt actually living.
It wasnt just the songs that suffered from constant touring, it was her friendships. I missed all of my friends 18th birthdays and 21st birthdays, she says, because I was, you know, living the dream. She says those last three words with a sigh. She adored performing, but just as with real dreams, she cant actually remember a lot of it. It makes me sad when my band go, Do you remember that show in Romania? and I have to really rack my brains, she says. Because so much of it is a conveyor belt. 
She struggled, too, with the attention. It wasnt so much the sleazy tabloid headlines Thats the world we live in, she shrugs but the comments from normal people online. Someone once mentioned how thick my thighs were, she says. If a newspaper outlet said that, Id be like, Pfft, whatever, theyre trying to sell newspapers, theyre trying to get reactions from people, but if somebody actually says that, and its, like, Debbie from Hull whos got a cat, youre like, Daaamn Debbie, why did you do me like that? Theres something a lot more personal about it. Theyve said that comment and they never think about it again, but I might spend hours reeling over it.
You wouldnt know it to talk to her. In conversation, Eyre is both easy-going and extremely focused. She sometimes discusses her own career as if its a military operation not for nothing did her manager once say she runs her business like a CEO but shes bubbly and informal, too, chatting away about her boyfriends mums cooking skills and the time she broke up with an ex under the advice of a tarot card reader. 
Ella Eyre performing at the Roundhouse in 2018 (Rex)
She says she has a good relationship with her body now (I love how thick my thighs are), and everything else is slotting into place as well. Shes once again writing songs shes proud of, and has grown close to her old friends again. She met most of them at Millfield, the private Somerset boarding school she attended from the age of 11. I know a lot of people hated it, she says. But I genuinely feel like boarding school was the best five years of my life.  
Eyre has mixed feelings about having been privately educated. I have quite a posh accent, she says, so people assume that I came from a privileged background, but my mum could not afford to send me to boarding school. She got there by earning a massive swimming scholarship, and her mother remortgaged the house to pay for the rest of it. It was an eye-opening environment to be in. There were stables there. Squash courts, too.  
A lot of my friends were really wealthy, she recalls. And the houses Id go to at the weekends were like nothing Id ever known. But she wasnt daunted by it. I loved it. I was actually inspired by it. I was like, Wow, I want my kids to have this, and I want to live like this. Rather than being intimidated by it, I was like, Nah, Ive got big plans. 
Still, she wasnt particularly academic. In fact, I was a little s***, she says with a laugh. But I was mischievous, I wasnt malicious. I just liked to make people laugh. I liked working out ways to enjoy school more, which meant smoking and boys. 
Ella Eyre and MistaJam at the Mercury Awards in 2018 (Rex)
At 16, she won a place at the Brit School a performing arts college that boasts Adele, Amy Winehouse and FKA twigs among its alumnae and left Millfield. It was, she says, a weird one for me. She didnt make the kinds of close friends she had at boarding school, and she regretted opting to study musical theatre.  
I love going to watch shows and stuff, she says. But I had a lot more to say than singing f***ing Wicked or whatever. Playing a character, singing someone elses lyrics, didnt serve me. She was also pressured to conform to a style of singing that didnt suit her. It was only after a year, she says, that one teacher finally said, I dont think we should be ironing out this husk.
That teacher was right. They put up a video of her singing Crazy by Gnarls Barkley, in which she was wearing a horrendous one pound jumper Id bought from a charity shop in Somerset, she says with a shudder. The jumper didnt put off the manager who saw the video and signed her, or the major label that did the same. 
Waiting All Night blew up as much for that voice as for its earworm hook. But the songs success threw a spanner in the works. Eyre had been working on her debut album, which she envisaged as a soul-pop record, but certain people became convinced they needed to change tack. The album got massively delayed, because after Waiting All Night it was like, Ooh, we must do a drumnbass album, she says. So my soul-pop record ended up being, like, a soul-pop, drumnbass record, and it felt a bit confused. 
Shes proud of that album, but this time around, I want all the songs to be consistent with each other. Shes not interested in anything less than perfect. I want to be the best version of my artist self, she says. I would much rather be confident in the knowledge that Ive put absolutely everything into this music, or Im not interested. Ill just go build houses instead.  
Ella Eyres new single, New Me, is out now