I decided to base this list on a few pieces of criteria:
- that they were albums I was actually familiar with (not like say Outkast or New Pornographers, because I've never listened to a full album by either of them)
- they were included for artistic merit, somewhat
- but also the effect they had on me
- and how much I enjoyed them.
warning! this post is EPIC!
30 Best Albums of the 2000s
30.) "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter"- Josh Ritter
Josh Ritter gets billed, sometimes, as the next Bob Dylan. I think this album gave that comparison credence. What a talented songwriter he is- seriously one of the best alt-country albums I ever heard. A classic of modern Americana- gorgeous, heartfelt. real and unpretentious. hear "To the Dogs or Whoever," "Last Temptation of Adam" and "Right Moves."
listen to it here:
29.) "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood"- Neko Case
This made SUCH a splash when it came out. I remember one of my friends was really into this album and it took me to forever to catch on as to why he was so hooked. it's superb. her vocals, the storytelling, the production. it's masterful. Neko sings like some voice of embittered reason from long ago and hits you like acid dumped in your face. it's an incredible feat and Neko earns her stripes as one of the best singer-songwriters out there thanks to this. Hear "Hold On, Hold On," "Star Witness" (which gave me shivers the first time) and "That Teenage Feeling," which seems to embody that perfect moment of the ever-first love we all strive for damn.
what a fierce bitch she is. PROPS.
28.) "Get Away From Me"- Nellie McKay
It's amazing how quick we forget things. we should never forget this album. a jazzy-cabaret album by a girl with a wit like a razor; even the title is a sharp jab at the Norah Jones' megahit on an album full of sharp jabs. as savvy and as intelligent as they come, this album established Nellie as a multi-talented force to be reckoned with. (and she's such a sweet girl in person!) she's still plugging out albums and writing scores as well as musicals, but Get Away From Me is basically flawless. Hear "Waitress," "David" or "Change the World."
MPEG 4 THANG NOT AN MPE: "Waitress"
27.) "Raising Sand"- Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
An unlikely duo that ended up succeeding in more ways than the critics could imagine. Seriously- a breathtaking album. every song works. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, coming from their respective realms, join together to make (I would argue) one of the best duos in modern music. their voices are seamless. this album, IT'S LIKE MILK. I didn't take it out of my computer for about three months after I bought it. Hear "Please Read the Letter," "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)" or "Trampled Rose."
26.) "Gulag Orkestar"- Beirut
Up until the day my freshman year I heard "Postcards From Italy," I'd never heard anything like Zach Condon's ambitious gypsy folk-influenced project. And from that first moment I was hooked. The whole album is one long, beautiful meander through a world few young musicians dare to delve into. It makes you want to drop out of school and bum around Europe for a while and play the trumpet. classic wandering music. None of his stuff since has matched Gulag but it's okay, because after making an album like this, you don't have to top it. You can't. Hear "Postcards From Italy," "Rhineland (Heartland)," or "My Family's Role In the World Revolution."
25.) "Come Away With Me"- Norah Jones
Don't act like you were too cool for this album, YOU WERE NOT TOO COOL FOR THIS ALBUM. Everyone fucking owned this, oh my god. And for good reason. Popularity and talent (sometimes) has a correlation. Norah also hasn't put anything quite as good out there since, but she's done some interesting stuff and she's still got a long career ahead of her. Every time I hear "Don't Know Why" since, I gotta stop and listen to it. Hear "Come Away With Me, "The Nearness of You" or, yes, "Don't Know Why."
24.) "Illnois"- Sufjan Stevens
People still come over this album. Sufjan had to abandon his 50 states project, I wonder why. But still, you've got to commend him for singing about some of the stuff he did on this album. Sufjan's voice is such a fragile instrument that works like a charm at capturing the emotions he wants to sing about it. Whether it be about comparing each of us to serial killers that put boys' bodies in their houses' framework or cops watching an UFO sighting. I don't have a lot to say about this album- just that "Casimir Pulaski Day" made such an impression on me the first time I heard it, walking home from school in the snow. Hear "Chicago," "They Are Night Zombies!" or "Casimir Pulaski Day."
MP4: "Casimir Pulaski Day" (the lyrics to this, oh my god)
23.) "Sea Change"- Beck
Perfect melancholy music. To me, Beck has never put out a better album. Just great for feeling lost and dejected. He may have turned to electronic-based "happier" music after this, but I really thought he struck a Nick Drake/Cat Stevens-like chord on this one and it resonated deeply with me. Hear "Paper Tiger," "Lost Cause" or "Sunday Sun."
Hear it all at
22.) "Knives Don't Have Your Back"- Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton
This is more of a personal choice that a lot of people wouldn't agree with. Emily Haines, spurred on after the death of her poet father, responded with this solo project, apart from her stuff with Metric. And it's really quite the contrast. Lyrically, I think it's my favorite album. Dark and unsettling- it's haunting and will remain with you far after the first time you hear it. The lyrics, though. They've ingrained themselves deep into my brain. Lines like "with all the luck you've had, why are your songs so sad?" ... ring to me something like poignant. Hear "Winning," "The Last Page" and "Nothing and Nowhere."
Hear the album at http://www.last.fm/music/Emily%2BHaines%2B%2526%2Bthe%2BSoft%2BSkeleton/Knives+Don%C2%B4t+Have+Your+Back
21.) "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not"- Arctic Monkeys
LOOK AT THIS FUCKING HIPSTER. yeah people wouldn't shut the fuck up about this album when it came out. I was one of those people. I heard "I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor" and went out and bought this, which grew on me quickly and accompanied me on many a busride. ah high school. you gotta love those accents. I almost saw these guys a few weeks ago. poop. :( Hear "I Bet You Look Good On the Dance Floor," "Still Take You Home" or "Dancing Shoes."
p.s. Alex Turner is a genius. listen to The Last Shadow Puppets for further proof. I love him.
20.) "The Greatest"- Cat Power
Another one of those big ones. Cat Power came back swinging and made this piece of work- a smoky outing with a Memphis blues band backing her. She was a woman fighting off the blues in the best kind of way. And you rooted for her, of course. But then she went out and did that second covers album UGH WHY CHAN WHY. I'd still say my favorite album by her is You Are Free but without this.... I wouldn't have picked it up, really. Hear "The Greatest," "Willie" or "Where Is My Love," which still snaps the heartstrings.
19.) "L.A.M.B."- Gwen Stefani
Seriously how did you think I would not include one Gwen solo album? By all means, I prefer the Sweet Escape, I feel like "Early Winter" and "Wonderful Life" have her best stuff yet on her own. a lot of the h8rs were like OH GWEN SOLD OUT but you can hear her having some serious 1980s-influenced fun. and it's great, because dammit IT'S MEANT TO BE FUN. I mean, Jesus Christ. "HARAJUKU GIRLS?" she always had the potential to be a pop diva and this helped her realize it. in the fullest sense. I remember how excited I was to buy this album after track practice. good times. I scratched it very fast overplaying it. HA. Hear "The Real Thing," "What You Waiting For?" or "U Started It."
AH HERE WE GO
18.) "O"- Damien Rice
There was this golden moment before the world discovered this Irish songsmith's stripped-down album in which each song was earnest and serene and wonderful. "The Blower's Daughter" was painful to hear and Damien (ESPECIALLY when paired with the husky vocals of Lisa Hannigan) was a hurricane of fresh air. Then the world discovered the album. Still good though. Got me through my big unrequited love affair of high school! Hear "Volcano," "The Blower's Daughter" or "Amie."
"The Blower's Daughter"
17.) "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"- Wilco
Wilco, arguably, one of the best bands of the decade. And this is why. They are trying to break your heart. It's been called one of the albums to hear before you die and you must, you must. Recorded pre-9/11, but in retrospect, (especially on "Jesus Etc.") there's some eerie foreshadowing going on. Every song on this album is worthwhile- I'm glad my precocious 15-year-old self had the sense to pick this up at FYE. At the time I was addicted to "Jesus Etc" but when I pick my favorite now it's the wistful "Reservations"- "I've got reservations about so many things," Tweedy sings in a small voice, and adds, "but not about you. Not about you." RIP JAY BENNETTTTTT
16.) "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix"- Phoenix
It's kind of inspiring (for me) to see the coolest indie band make a bigger jump in the mainstream world. Or not. some people say SELL OUT- now I remember It's Never Been Like That being the shit people were talking about a few years ago but I never got into that album. this, though. helped to define part of the summer for me. mainly- driving with Wenli and her forcing me to listen to "Fences" at first. that smooth, clean, friendly pop feeling of Phoenix reinvigorated to almost a funky sound. HOT. thanks Wenli! hear "Liztomania," "1901," "Girlfriend" or "Fences."
"1901" (which may sound old, but it's like waking up in 2009, for sure)
15.) "Yellow House"- Grizzly Bear (YAY WE'RE HALFWAY THERE)
lol that's not the album cover! inside joke with myself.
um this album- just take you to another place. FOLKTRONICA, before I knew what it was! I was hypnotized by it. completely memorized by the atmospherics- the boys' heavenly harmonies, etc. it's a spiritually elevating experience- telling, of course, of a relationship unravelling, mostly. CAN'T YOU FEEL THE KNIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE?
interesting story about how I got into Grizzly Bear: MySpace! really! Hear "Knife," "Easier" or "On a Neck, On a Spit" (things so much easier with you, man!)
14.) "Amnesiac"- Radiohead
Technically, I should be putting In Rainbows, because I am a tool and loved In Rainbows. But I was 14 and I was intrigued by "Knives Out," which I heard on my old alternative station The Point, gave me my first real taste of Radiohead. And then I saw the video (see below) and went O________________O. thus kick started my yearlong obsession with Radiohead. I wouldn't say Hail to the Thief was that good to me, despite what Steph insists. sorry Steph. Kid A is an album that has NEVER grown on me and the other good Radiohead albums came from the 1990s THE END.
I can't post the video here, but nothing else will do, go forth and WATCH IT- I remember sitting on my family room floor watching this on VH1 and the O____O that ensued. like, this video freaked me out for a week. I couldn't get it out of my mind. I didn't know what to think of Radiohead, really. then I went to Wal-Mart (hate me) and got this album. and I heard "Pyramid Song." LOVE. Hear "Pyramid Song," "Knives Out," "Life in a Glasshouse" or "You and Whose Army?"
13.) "Franz Ferdinand"- Franz Ferdinand
Before I heard Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs or Arctic Monkeys, even. When "Take Me Out" came out- you could not comprehend it! it was like- from a different planet. that and "Float On" were the big songs that summer, I remember, and they both had kickass videos, which is something rare nowadays (or six years ago now, I guess which makes me feel so old). Snoop Dogg calls this white people crunk music and Snoop Dogg speaks the truth. My friends and I were somewhat obsessed with this album, way back when. "In the Dark of the Matinee," "Come On Home," "Take Me Out" or "Michael" (if you like homoeroticism) if you must hear anything.
12.) "Scarlet's Walk"- Tori Amos
YOU KNEW I WAS GOING TO POST ONE TORI ALBUM AND THIS IS IT SO SUCK IT, AT LEAST I'M NOT WRITING THE LYRICS TO "SILENT ALL THESE YEARS" ON EVERYTHING ANYMORE.
okay- Tori IS a misunderstood, batshit crazy genius. we have established that. but this was a great concept album. America, as a woman, struggling to regain her composure in a post 9-11 world. if only she had just let the concept stand for one album and not every that followed. I like to have this one stand on its own. I'm still sad I couldn't see her when she played in Erie for this. Anyway- from "Amber Waves" to "Gold Dust." she should have just STAYED in this state of mind. I don't know what fucking crack she had to smoke after this. Jesus Christ Tori take some pills or something and make something like this that will make me respect you again and endure your terrifying fans to see you live again AND PLEASE DO NOT PUT OUT ANOTHER HOLIDAY ALBUM WATCHING YOU FALL APART IS MORE PAINFUL THAN LEARNING PARENT'S IMPERFECTIONS.
"Gold Dust," "Amber Waves," "Crazy," "Wednesday." 'nuff said. watch her excuse to make out with Adrien Brody here:
get it girllllll
11.) "Kala"- M.I.A.
What we do now? Car-bounce!
I couldn't make up my mind to like M.I.A. the first time I heard her. the song was "Bucky Dun Gun," obviously not on this album. A few more listens and she grew (a lot) on me. Then this baby came out, so I went out, got it. M.I.A, I think, is a legend-in-the-making. Am I presumptious in saying that? I just thing she's quite colorful and unique and doing her own thing and I respect that. And I think this album (ugh "Paper Planes") really put her out there and she NEEDS to be out there. I love this girl. KEEP DOING YOUR THING UNTIL YOU ARE OLD.
"Jimmy," "COME AROUND" or "Bamboo Banga"
in fact, here is "Bamboo Banga"
10.) (this only took me all night) "Oh, You're So Silent, Jens"- Jens Lekman (cue deep voice, MAYBE I AM, MAYBE I AM)
I could've picked any of his others, but this was what my friend sent me when I heard "Silvia" and my heart quadrupled in size and the feeling I'd found a kindred spirit from ... Sweden! (kickstarting my Swedish obsession)
Jens Lekman makes the best Belle and Sebastian records that Belle and Sebastian could never make. He sings with irony, cheesiness, a tongue-in-cheek awareness of how goofy he sounds. And for that I love him. You should hear "POCKETFUL OF MONEY," "Black Cab" or "Maple Leaves." "Maples Leaves" is seriously one of the equally most joyous yet sad songs ever. "she said the dreamer just makes believe, I thought she said maple leaves."
"Pocketful of Money" (girl who sets your heart on fire- no girl is worth setting your paycheck to flames! leave it at home with the kids!)
9.) "Anniemal"- Annie
Annie, in my mind, is the queen of pop music. This album helped give her that persona. It's a powerful lesson in dance and what it should be. "Always Too Late," "Chewing Gum," "HEARTBEAT." Every song off this album has the potential to be a radio hit. And it was in Scandinavia!
PLUS, she's a sweetheart. Seriously.
Friend her on facebook, she's so nice it kills me.
I love them they are so much smarter than us.
8.) "Quiet is the New Loud"- Kings of Convenience
They're just an extremely talented duo. My friend Claire used to compare them to Simon & Garfunkel a lot. I guess I can see that. Relaxing, mellow, acoustic, gorgeous- I always had this mental image in my mind when I listened to them of some Norwegian couple living in a cabin going through difficulties. He comes home and she's gone but her bag is on the chair, you know. the soundtrack to many a snowy drive in Edinboro, which somehow became more bearable to this. Every track his album you should hear. period.
7.) "Heartbreaker"- Ryan Adams
I love everything about this album. I love the fact I bought in on a snowy day with my mom at Media Play before it closed and I loved the fact I had it on repeat for an hour while she grocery shopped and I waited in the car. And I love the fact that at first the country sound was too much for me but soon "To Be the One" won my heart, as well as "Amy," which is immaculate (and Mark Ronson raped). I love the fact a little ad for Lost Highway records fell out when I opened it the first time and I love the album art and how Ryan Adams remains my ideal male mate ever holy shit if I ever see him in concert anyway I love this album. good for roadtrips and broken hearts and Morrissey-related arguments. and drinking binges. Ryan Adams has a pretty strong discography, but this nails it. Plus he lifted the title from a Mariah Carey song. how classy can you get?
"Amy," "To Be the One," "My Winding Wheel."
6.) "The Reminder"- Feist
I almost resent the fact she got so famous for this album, appearing with everyone from Stephen Colbert to Sesame Street, but then someone so talented couldn't be a SEEKRIT for long. I was so excited for this album- it got me through the last half of my depressing freshman year. Let It Die took me a while, mainly because I wasn't at the right place to understand it, but this was an instant win-over. Hear "So Sorry," "Limit To Your Love" or "1234," obviously.
"My Moon, My Man"
5.) "White Blood Cells"- The White Stripes
Now is not a good time to be a White Stripes fan! It's not cool to like them! Fuck that. I love the White Stripes. Jack White may be the messiah. "Elephant" I never could fully embrace- something held me back- but this was pretty damn good. This introduced me to their canon, which proceeded only to get stronger and stronger following "Elephant" ("Get Behind Me Satan" is my other favorite). "" insead of italics oops! I am sleepy. anyway, my sister and I heard "Fell In Love With a Girl" together when she just moved down to D.C. and we were lost on the Beltway and planning our joint suicide. I was carsick. this came on. I had hated it before but I got this album a week later. and I saw them at the VMAs and like everybody else I struggled with the incestuous relationship of Jack and Meg. I also used to be in love with Jack White, but like, things change and stuff. :P
Hear "The Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground," "Fell In Love With a Girl" and "I Can Learn."
p.s. I hate the Raconteurs
p.p.s. Jack's liner notes scare me!
4.) "Funeral"- Arcade Fire
Okay so this is on everyone's list but why shouldn't it be? it's amazing. it's like, I am still going to be talking about how fucking good this is with my grandkids. the sound was so innovative. everything was innovative. and they are all such astounding musicians. From start to finish, I can't talk a bad thing on it. And I remember everyone back then was agog over it, as they should have been. Jason was really my big introduction to it. thanks Jason, if you read this!
"Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" = my favorite Arcade Fire song ever ever ever.
I had a hard time tearing myself away from this in 2005/6. I still have the songs memorized by heart. no small feat, either. Fiona has a big ass lexicon. anyway, seriously. if you didn't listen to this album once, WHAT THE FUCK? I SHOULD STONE YOU. so many times in my worst moments I have played air piano to this shit. Fiona holds back the anger but in its place she brings such seething emotion you are left smaller and the better for it by the time the end comes, with the catharic "Waltz (Better than Fine)" in which you know, you're really not. MAKE ANOTHER RECORD FIONA YOU'RE SO PERFECT.
"Parting Gift," "Waltz (Better than Fine)" & "Oh Well."
2.) "Set Yourself On Fire"- Stars
It's over-the-top and unrepentingly romantic and soaring and at times ("He Lied About Death" comes springing to mind) simply unrepenting. it's the closest album, and God forgive me for sounding pretentious, relating the human experience in all its disappointment and tender beauty. everytime I hear this album, the blending of Torque and Amy's voices- neither of which hold to well on their own but are unmatched together and the sublime orchestration- I'm just floored. hymns never lift me this high. It makes me want to run into a former flirtation or friend or what have you at a party and say "I'm not sorrrrrrrrrry!" and then run away. makes me want to go on my knees it what it really wants to do. thank you Canada for making such music. Hear "Your Ex-Lover Dead," "One More Night," "Sleep Tonight" or "Reunion."
1.) "Return of Saturn"- No Doubt
YES. THIS IS WHAT I PICKED. because without THIS album, I would not have done this list. and I'm not above forgetting this.
well I hope you enjoyed that perverse trip through my mind and taste. and it wasn't too long. but it was. I know I forgot a lot of worthy albums- Kanye West, Regina Spektor, The Postal Service, The National, Andrew Bird, Interpol, Air, Johnny Cash- but these are the ones that I was most impressed by the past decade. feel free to leave yours!