The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics


9) Submarine OST (2011)

When awkward comedian and ‘IT Crowd’ star Richard Ayoade decided to try his hand at directing the film of Joe Dunthorne’s novel, one wouldn’t think he’d immediately look to the frontman an indie rock band for the soundtrack. But Alex Turner’s first (and so far last) involvement in the big-screen was a risk worth taking. The six-track EP shows a delicate, gentle side to Turner, coming as a surprise after the heavier Humbug just two years before. But Ayoade caught Turner at a good time, as it was in this phase that Arctic Monkeys were out in the desert recording Suck It And See, and the same mellow vibes are certainly felt in the soundtrack.

Whilst the lack of anything ground-breaking makes it unjust to rank this mini-album higher than any of Turner’s other work, it certainly does the job of reflecting the lament, love and struggles of a teenage boy (whose actor, Craig Roberts, looks remarkably like a young Turner?!) and compliments Ayoade’s atmospheric directing style perfectly. A stripped-back version of Suck It And See’s ‘Piledriver Waltz’ triumphantly closes the album, but it’s the heart-on-sleeve ‘Stuck On The Puzzle’ that’s a real stand-out. Although it’s one of Turner’s least talked about releases, it’s one that the fans are quite happy to keep all to themselves. (LISTEN)

8) Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018)

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is, at first, as confusing as it’s title. Coming five years after the accessible, crowd-pleasing AM, it was far from the instant hit the band were used to, despite cantering to a sixth successive Number 1 spot in the UK Albums Chart. Written almost single-handedly by Turner on a piano in a room by himself in L.A., it could easily be taken for a solo record, with the rest of the band left pretty much in the shadows of his indulgent ramblings. It’s obvious from the space-age lyrics and ’70s hue to it all that Turner has been listening to a lot of Bowie lately. At times his lyrics come across as slightly too clever and wry, leaving even the biggest of fans rolling their eyes. Yet at others, they’re pure genius. I mean, who else can get away with howling “cheeseburger” as a lyric and it sounding… good? 

TBH&C is far from a familiar Arctic Monkeys album, causing its uncertain and divisive reception. There’s no getting around it, it’s the least consistent of all of their records. But what is certain is that Alex Turner certainly isn’t resting on his laurels any time soon. And wherever this hotel and casino is, you’d be lying if you said you didn’t want to check in.

7) Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007)

It’s hard for any band, let alone Arctic Monkeys, to avoid the trap of the ‘difficult’ second album. Following the whirlwind, culture-changing success of their debut was always going to be a tall order, particularly for a band whose members were only just in their twenties. Perhaps desperate to keep a tight hold on the fans they’d gained, or spurred on after winning the 2006 Mercury Prize and some BRIT Awards (back when they counted for something), Favourite Worst Nightmare was a quick turn-around.

With the exception of a few calmer moments, it’s a quick-paced album too, retaining the urgent, jaunty riffs of their debut. But Turner’s sudden immersion into the limelight saw his writing subjects turn away from his daily life in Sheffield, to more abstract concepts; “another variation on a theme”, as he succinctly puts it in ‘Teddy Picker’. His infamous wit and sarcasm is still ever-present, especially in the tongue-in-cheek ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’. Yet the real surprise was ‘505’: from the opening organ-style chords to the distorted vocals and rousing crescendo, it was Turner’s most emotionally raw song-writing so far, and perhaps the moment we realised there’s more to him that just fly-on-the-wall social commentary. (LISTEN)

6) Suck It And See (2011)

It’s fair to say that ‘poppy’ and ‘instant’ are not adjectives that you’d expect to describe an Arctic Monkeys album. Especially when said band’s previous album was a heavy, moody affair. So when Matt Helders described the album as such in a pre-release press interview, there was a great deal of scepticism. Were they finally ‘believing the hype’ that Turner had so strongly advised against back in 2005? Had they finally been taken in by the mainstream? Well, of course not.

Whilst it’s perhaps the band’s most accessible album, Turner’s witty, poignant and increasingly absurd songwriting still prevailed on Suck It And See. Yes, we’re all still confused by the ‘minimalist’ artwork, and more hardcore fans will roll their eyes at Turner’s soppiness at times. But the trippy, nonsensical imagery in the likes of ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ and ‘Black Treacle’, combined with love songs like ‘Love Is A Laserquest’, makes for a dreamy experience. (LISTEN)

5) The Age Of The Understatement (2008)

After the success of Favourite Worst Nightmare, it was somewhat of a surprise when Turner announced in 2007 that he was temporarily pushing the Monkeys aside to pursue a side-project with his childhood pal, Miles Kane. And the album they produced, was even more of a surprise, seeing Turner take a turn for the cinematic, triumphant and downright extravagant. Whereas Arctic Monkeys’ early work was clearly influenced by contemporaries like Franz Ferdinand and The Strokes, Turner’s influences were now coming from the likes of early Bowie and Scott Walker. And their use of the London Metropolitan Orchestra just added to the grandeur of it all. Album standout has got to be the rousing title track, but other highlights come from live favourite ‘Standing Next To Me’ and the dark ‘I Don’t Like You Anymore’. To say it was one of Turner’s most show-stopping albums would certainly be an understatement. (LISTEN)

4) Everything You’ve Come To Expect (2016)

After a whole eight years of silence, we’d all come to reluctantly accept that The Last Shadow Puppets were a one-off thing of the past. Yet in summer 2015, the dream team joined forces once more, and expectations were certainly high for the duo to top the scope and pomp of their first album. But rather than trying to emulate what they produced eight years ago, they instead took things in a different direction. Citing influences from Lou Reed to Serge Gainsbourg, Everything You’ve Come To Expect took their now signature orchestral style and added a vintage, ‘70s tinge.

The opening grooving riff of ‘Aviation’ sets the smooth tone that runs throughout, with darker heavier moments like ‘Bad Habits’ and ‘She Does The Woods’ along the way. Compared to back in 2007, Kane is no longer just the unknown side-kick, but a full-fledged rock star in his own right, giving some much-needed competition to Turner’s ego. Yet this rapport only adds to the Puppets’ appeal, and paired with the lavish sound and genius songwriting, makes for an enticing, lavish and slick album. (LISTEN)

3) AM (2013)

Hanging around with Josh Homme and load of American models in the Californian sunshine is bound to have its effect on anyone’s ego. Alex Turner being no exception, he donned a leather jacket, an Elvis-esque quiff and a bought a motorbike, and it was against this backdrop that 2013’s AM was recorded. Two years after the last Monkeys record, anticipation was ridiculously high for the band’s fifth album. But when the video for lead single ‘R U Mine?’ suddenly dropped in early 2012 and then the sumptuous, swaggering ‘Do I Wanna Know?’, it was clear that it was going to be worth the wait. Although it was immediately met with smug remarks that it harked back to the simpler indie rock sound of their debut, it in fact couldn’t be further from it.

In the words of the man himself, “It sounds like a Dr Dre beat, but we’ve given it an Ike Turner bowl cut and then we’ve sent it galloping across the desert on a Stratocaster,” and he couldn’t be more spot on. From the epic, Zeppelin-esque riffage of ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ to the woozy ‘No.1 Party Anthem’, it sees Turner delving into another side of his record collection, combining heavy rock with, yes, hip-hop. Despite the heady world of this new rock-star lifestyle, Turner still managed to make a nod to his northern roots, adapting a John Cooper Clarke poem into a dreamy love song in ‘I Wanna Be Yours’. All this flitting between genres really shouldn’t have worked, yet there’s something about it that makes AM one of Turner’s most captivating records yet. (LISTEN)

2) Humbug (2009)

Arctic Monkeys fans are generally a friendly bunch, but nothing divides them more than Humbug. Experimental and progressive? Or weird and boring? And then there’s those that didn’t even know it existed. Admittedly, following the accessible indie-rock of the first two Monkeys albums, it’s unsurprising that there was a universal feeling of bemusement when Turner returned in 2009, all serious and floppy-haired in the trippy video for first single, ‘Crying Lightning’. But that shock-factor was just what they needed, at a time when they could have so easily rested on their laurels, and that factor came in the leather-clad form of Joshua Homme, who took them under his wing (or rather on the back of his motorbike), and whisked them away to the Mojave Desert in Los Angeles.

As well as a new recording setting, the boys branched out from simple guitars and drums and started experimenting with new instruments, resulting in a sound that can only be described as heavier than before. But that’s not to say there aren’t softer moments too. It’s often forgotten that among the darker ‘Pretty Visitors’ and ‘Dance Little Liar’ are the more delicate, romantic ‘Cornerstone’ and ‘Secret Door’. Although Humbug tends to be cast aside as one of Turner’s most inaccessible albums, it’s arguably his most lyrically rich and forward-thinking outputs to date. After all, if he hadn’t stepped foot into the desert in 2008, would they have gone back out there to record Suck It And See and AM? Without Humbug, it’s entirely possible that Arctic Monkeys would have settled down, produced some half-hearted recreations of their debut, burnt out and ended up on the noughties indie-rock trash heap. Thank God for Mr Homme. (LISTEN)

1) Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006)

Don’t believe the hype”. Those were Turner’s opening words before Arctic Monkeys launched into the video for ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’. Yet little did the adolescent, awkward Alex Turner know back in 2005, just how much hype he was about to create: the album that followed said single was hailed as an instant classic, and overtook Oasis’ Definitely Maybe as the fastest-selling British debut album in history. It was the album that thrust them out of their Sheffield bedrooms and straight into the spotlight. Superlatives aside, it’s the cultural impact that makes Whatever People Say… so important. Sure, we’d had northern social commentary before from the likes of Pulp, but never before had it been so relatable. Turner took us all along with him on a Sheffield night out, from the inevitable fights with bouncers (‘Still Take You Home’), to trying to get a taxi home (‘Red Lights Indicate Doors Are Secured’), and all the rest in-between.

READ MORE: Our 10th anniversary feature on Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

It was this uncanny ability to make poetry from the everyday that gave the album its charm, and significantly, its timeless quality. Although long-term fans may now groan at the likes of ‘Mardy Bum’ and ‘…Dancefloor’ that have become so mainstream now, you’d be a stuck-up fool to not look back on this album with anything but fondness. For me, and for a whole generation of teenagers, Whatever People Say… is what got us into good music, making us realise that there was more out there than Take That and ‘The X Factor’. And for that, Alex Turner, we are eternally grateful. (LISTEN)

Do you agree with our list? What is your favourite Alex Turner-related album?

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