The Best Albums of the ’00s

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The Best Albums of the '00s

40. The New PornographersTwin Cinema
(2005; Matador)

You’re listening to Twin Cinema and you’re thinking, “Ah, another satisfying output of sunny power pop from a great Canadian collective,” when suddenly, at the fourth track, everything goes quiet. A carefully strummed guitar is slowly joined by piano, drums and the intertwining voices of AC Newman and Neko Case. You are now listening to one of the greatest “building” songs of the decade, and by the time “The Bleeding Heart Show” bursts into the hey la’s around the three minute mark, you know this album won’t be leaving your headphones for a very long time. But while “The Bleeding Heart Show” may be the most arresting track on the New Pornographer’s third album, a sense of confidence pervades the entire collection. Songs like the title track, “Sing Me Spanish Techno,” “Stacked Crooked” and Dan Bejar’s “Broken Beads” are the sound of a band full of diverse talents gelling at the top of their game. – Elizabeth Malloy

39. Of MontrealHissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
(2007; Polyvinyl)

Hissing Fauna, Are you the Destroyer? is the most fun you can have with a nervous breakdown. It features Kevin Barnes begging his moods to shift back to good again, and for his antidepressants not to make him sick, all to an impossibly catchy glam-pop sound. Halfway through, during the frantic 12-minute opus “The Past is a Grotesque Animal,” Barnes is supposed to turn into alter ego Georgie Fruit, and the music does make a slight shift to a grimier, house-influenced sound. But the hooks keep coming, and so do the beats. It’s as if the album spends the first seven songs trying to dance away the darkness, and eventually gives in, absorbs it, paints its nails and teaches it to dance too. – Elizabeth Malloy

38. Vampire WeekendVampire Weekend
(2008; XL)

It’s more than a little amusing that, as the decade began, critical attention was more focused on the artists who exuded a rough-edged cool, while in the last few years, the tragically unhip have since taken over. Vampire Weekend, much like The Strokes, arrived with an 11-song set of concise, catchy and economical pop songs, only with lyrics about Cape Cod, Oxford commas and dropping United Colors of Bennetton trou for a Peter Gabriel-serenaded sexual romp before the folks get home. Embracing their preppie status rather than casting it aside, Vampire Weekend created a thoroughly enjoyable set of near-flawless indie pop with a healthy dash of African influence (or, if you must, Paul Simon). People like to slag them for their Ivy League style, but it only takes one listen to “Walcott” or “Oxford Comma” to realize they fucking own it. – Jeff Terich

37. Daft PunkDiscovery
(2001; Virgin)

Discovery was my album of the decade. If the passive-aggressive ’90s espoused the end of history, Daft Punk’s consideration was: that’s a total lie, act accordingly. Discovery buries beautiful junkyards of unused weaponry under taffied, pullable textures of pop, kitsch, and trickery. Giant mirrors are aimed at all kinds of stories, real and imagined; what’s beamed back is a truth that’s…okay that was me trying to be deep about Discovery when mostly I just love the songs, man. It’s true that Discovery functions as a pop centrifuge, spinning through various pressures of other materials, and that YouTube may or may not have debunked its veracity. It’s also true that Discovery is a terribly fascinating collection of found objects that prefigured a decade of sketchy trademarking and mulled-over origins. AM schlock, smooth jazz, late-term R&B, Jersey house and Eurodisco swerve all over tracks like “Digital Love,” which is like a Bond film played at half-speed, and “Face To Face,” the most blissful convergence of glitched-over sensibilities since I-don’t-know-what. “Aerodynamic” and “Crescendolls” churn like insane visions of church; “Voyager” and “Short Circuit” find little funk fugues like smoke breaks with Apollonia. Oh, and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” laughing as it does at day jobs, pretty much makes any dancefloor a squatter’s paradise. There’s a reason Daft Punk manage their mystique so well; they make ghosts of songs—fancy, ineffable, ageless. – Anthony Strain

36. OutkastStankonia
(2000; LaFace)

It’s a little mind-boggling that the last pure Outkast album came out just shy of ten years ago. From the ’90s up through Stankonia, Andre Benjamin and Big Boi were reliably on time and on point, delivering Southern hip-hop masterpieces in escalating quality every two years. But then again, this was a hell of a place to slam on the brakes. Stankonia is, simply, the duo’s best album. More than a hip-hop album, it’s essentially a skewed, booming summary of pop music history filtered through an acid-tipped drawl. From Hendrix to Parliament, Sly Stone to Prince, Stankonia tips its hat to Outkast’s influences, but in the end, there’s no other album like this. They mix rock and rap the right way on “B.O.B.” and “Gasoline Dreams,” sound their most soulful on “HumbleMumble” and “Slum Beautiful,” and act downright gentlemanly on “I’ll Call Before I Come.” Some three years later, the duo would take up their own individual sides of a double album, only occasionally meeting in the middle, but it wasn’t quite the same. Stankonia was Outkast’s last true album. Stankonia is their greatest. – Jeff Terich

35. Dirty ProjectorsBitte Orca
(2009; Domino)

Dirty Projectors is/was either a pejorative name or inept: there’s nothing unclear about Dave Longstreth’s picture. As aesthetics go you don’t get much more specific than Dirty Projectors. Prior to Bitte Orca all the specificity didn’t do much besides assure Longstreth untouchable weirdo status. Then Bitte Orca became one of the best-researched concepts of its day, leaning long toward Germania, fastidious diction and the glammier R&B of the late nineties. Casting concept girls Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian as dryads, Longstreth created “Stillness Is The Move,” one of the strangest so-called indie-rock songs ever; “Useful Chamber,” which plays with meter to a ridiculous extent; and “Remade Horizon,” a study in cultivated yelp. Oh, there’s also “Two Doves” which is comically hippie until the similarity registers: “Take On Me” would you like? Focus. – Anthony Strain

34. Wolf ParadeApologies to the Queen Mary
(2005; Sub Pop)

Ominous ghost stories propelled by catchy hooks create a dynamic blend on Wolf Parade’s debut album. When word leaked that the Montreal band was working with Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock on this record, the hype and skepticism began crackling in equal measure. The resulting collection of songs – their Pixie style riffs dusted with Bowie-esque electropop, their introspective lyrics sung in the alternately plaintive and menacing voices of Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner – proved to be a darkly energetic shot in the arm of the indie rock world in 2005. The fact that the band’s influences were so familiar made it all the more fascinating. Krug and Boeckner somehow took the same ingredients as thousands of their peers, and made something unique that’s still invigorating today. – Elizabeth Malloy

33. The StrokesIs This It
(2001; RCA)

Certain people used to say there was no such thing as a Strokes fan, that they were the California/Anaheim Angels of postmodern rock. The Strokes were a spectacle gawked at by tourists from other, more windswept polarities. Or, other people said, they were the modern Monkees, fully packaged by necessity (this was before they got older girlfriends and fell in love with the keyboard.) The Strokes as an idea still run unopposed; there hasn’t been a band to look and smell and act like that since. The songs on the debut were pure trivia, held together by gummy guitars, distant vocals, and more ambivalence than you could hold down and tickle. All the pop relativism got everyone all starry-eyed about California, which was funny since the Strokes were so New York. At its height—”The Modern Age,” “Barely Legal,” the title track—Is This It found each Stroke at a perfect poised angle to the others, which is the whole reason they acquired “fans.” Rock ‘n’ roll isn’t democratic, it’s socialistic—it spreads the wealth around, and it’s more popular than you think. – Anthony Strain

32. Bloc PartySilent Alarm
(2005; Vice-Atlantic)

Writing for a couple of websites and DJ’ing for a relatively progressive hybrid of terrestrial and Internet radio afforded me the opportunity to hear not one, not two, but eight songs out of the 14 on Silent Alarm pouring from speakers for the betterment of the general public throughout 2005 and 2006. That .571 on-base percentage had Bloc Party sniffing some rarefied air: The Beatles hit such levels a few times in their catalog, but I can summon up just Nirvana’s Nevermind as a modern parallel, where seemingly only “Lounge Act” and the FCC-teasing title “Territorial Pissings” didn’t make it into a hard rock or modern rock rotation somewhere. Was Bloc Party’s secret weapon the pounding rhythm section of bassist Gordon Moakes and especially drummer Matt Tong, propelling the band like Talking Heads at double speed? Was it the earnest hybrid arrangements of plaintive atmospheres, chiming riffs, and searing emotion—”Like Eating Glass,” “So Here We Are,” “Positive Tension,” “The Price of Gasoline?” Sure, the big singles from this album, “Banquet” (with Kele Okereke and Russell Lissack’s seesawing guitars) and “Helicopter” (with Okereke’s withering commentary on the George W. Bush-Tony Blair axis of thinly veiled evil), were high points of the angular indie glut of the mid-2000s. Yet from the first guitar loop to the last, Silent Alarm had so much more passionate fuel for so many more musical fires. – Adam Blyweiss

31. SpoonGa Ga Ga Ga Ga
(2007; Merge)

After refining and perfecting the art of the rock song over the course of five albums, Spoon didn’t change all that much with their sixth album. Rather, the Austin group kept everything that worked (which was basically everything they did on the last three albums) and merely touched up the details. Some brassy Jon Brion production here, maybe some eerie vocals there, a Mikey Dread sample, the glorious twinkle of reverb and…is that a koto? It’s the minor, incidental parts that make the big picture such a stunning display, particularly when that display contains their most soulful pop song (“You Got Yr Cherry Bomb”) and their most tender ballad to date (“Black Like Me”). Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga isn’t so much a game changer as it is the sound of one of America’s best bands getting that much better. – Jeff Terich

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