100 Best Albums AM feels like the record Arctic Monkeys had been building up to for the preceding half-decade. There was a sense within the group that their 2007 second album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, had been rushed and the Sheffield quartet began recalibrating how they went about things. An exploration in new sounds and textures followed, with psychedelic-tinged desert rock on 2009’s Humbug and muscular riffs and powerful grooves on 2011’s Suck It and See. It was an approach that reached a glorious culmination in 2013 on AM. An arena tour playing second fiddle to The Black Keys in the US in 2012 had seen Alex Turner and co spend their shows trying to win over disinterested crowds and the stint instilled in them a desire to make people dance. It was with this in mind that they entered writing sessions in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, California to begin work on their fifth album. There was a boldness at play too, a willingness to move away from the sound of a band playing together in a room and combine ’70s, Black Sabbath-style riffs with the sleek production of the Dr. Dre records they had bonded over as teenagers. Out of that emerged the most forward-thinking record of their career, a mesmerising blend of slick, rhythmic rock ’n’ roll with an R&B swing to it. It was a delicate balancing act, a melding of two sonic styles executed to perfection. No wonder “Do I Wanna Know?” was both album opener and the record’s chief calling card. Over its four and a half minutes, it was a flawless demonstration of everything that AM was about: soulful hooks and spiky riffs set to a beat that sounded both brawny and minimalist. Across AM’s 12 songs, there were dynamic shifts but the sonic palette remained broadly the same: Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie as rewired by Timbaland on “Arabella”, yearning indie rock meets hip-hop restraint on “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”, swirling, nocturnal balladeering on “No. 1 Party Anthem” and soulful future-disco on “Knee Socks”. Released in September 2013, AM took Arctic Monkeys to another level, selling over four million copies and becoming their most successful US album. The days of support tours were over. At the time, it felt like a second debut, the sound of a band discovering a new way forward. “It rebooted the whole thing, didn’t it?” Alex Turner told Apple Music in 2022. “At least in that it showed you that you could continue. I remember feeling as though there’s something about this record that’s just like the first record, and leaning on that thought: ‘Now it’s going to be OK.’ Going into that period [the making of Humbug, Suck it and See and AM], it felt almost as if it didn’t have anywhere to go. But after those three records, it felt like it could go anywhere.” In fact, it was actually the end of something, as if AM was a sonic vision realised so magnificently that the quartet were put off the idea of ever revisiting it. Perhaps it showed them that each record should have its own distinct sense of adventure. It certainly proved that lightning can strike twice. Arctic Monkeys had already made one of the best debut albums of all time. Here, they created their second masterpiece.

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