The Best Albums of the ’00s

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The Best Albums of the '00s

140. Damien RiceO
(2003; Vector)

Damien Rice is fairly anti-cool / anti-indie, even though his debut solo album was indie to the core. Rice is dramatic, emotional, temperamental and somewhat self-involved. Then again, aren’t all musicians? Rice is just an extreme version, I suppose. He’s the next in a long history of Irish troubadours, and with O, he made his mark on the landscape. With a sometimes stoic and sometimes playful cello player and a winsome backup singer in tow, Rice’s acoustic tales of love, heartbreak and drunkenness seemed par for the course, but there was something special about the cliché. Rice’s songs seemed cut from a very special cloth, evoking incredible imagery, provoking intense feelings, and revealing his own dark secrets for all to see. For some, it can be too much, slightly uncomfortable, but for others, the songs on O were a revelation. The first song I heard from the album was “Volcano,” and I was immediately curious to hear more. “The Blower’s Daughter” and “Cold Water,” rhyming unintended, are two of most dynamic acoustic songs of the decade. – Terrance Terich

139. Deltron 3030Deltron 3030
(2000; 75Ark)

Put Dan the Automator and Del tha Funkee Homosapien in a room together, and chances are they’ll come out with something mesmerizing, or at the very least, highly entertaining. And if Damon Albarn is involved, all the better. Shortly before they scrapped the concept of genre with Gorillaz, Del and Dan, along with Kid Koala, constructed an aurally expansive, concept-oriented hip-hop symphony under the title of Deltron 3030. Abandoning his everyman raps in favor of science fiction and cartoon deviousness, Del unleashes some of the tightest, not to mention colorful, rhymes of his career, set to a dense backdrop laden with orchestral samples, chipmunk vocals, psychedelia and future funk. Follow along as Deltron Zero wages his one-man war against evil corporations, or simply let the eye-popping sounds wash over you. – Jeff Terich

138. Why?Alopecia
(2008; Anticon)

It’s easy to understand why most listeners tend to congregate on either side of the fence with this band, leaving a smaller, confused middle ground to scratch their heads and wonder if this is indie rock or hip-hop (or if they even like it enough to figure that out). But it doesn’t seem to bother Why? in the slightest as they continue to prove that they’re capable of capturing something from various genres, all the while becoming increasingly difficult to categorize. Like all of their records, it took me a few listens to really be sure of how I felt about Alopecia, but once it sinks in this album reveals itself as an absolute masterpiece of dejected absurdist-pop. Yoni Wolf’s dark, spoke-sung (and occasionally rapped) poetry swirls around cascading piano, catchy guitar riffs, droning synth, and an arsenal of intricate percussion, seeming to be engaged in a constant balancing act between laughable hyperbole and painful honesty, the bright and humorous and the morbidly depressing. To try and cut through Alopecia‘s deft genre-bending, I guess you could go ahead and call the music indie pop, but this is more interesting and original than most anything bearing that label today. As unpredictable in mood as its accompanying lyrics – jumping from pessimistic skulk, to bubbly, nostalgic bounce, to soaring anthem, and back – the resulting record is like a languid walk through Wolf’s subconscious, at one moment worthy of a chuckle or beaming grin, the next of a shudder or legitimate concern. Should we be worried? Should Yoni Wolf be sharing these thoughts with a shrink? Maybe, but for our sake, let’s hope making records remains his therapy of choice for at least a little while longer. – Derek Emery

137. BaronessBlue Record
(2009; Relapse)
136. BaronessRed Album
(2007; Relapse)

Georgia has a fine heritage of heavy metal, with the likes of Harvey Milk, Kylesa and Mastodon among its headbanging alumni, each one having forged their own unique variation on good old American sludge. Their Savannah brethren in Baroness have done likewise, with a strong adherence to melody and epic soundscapes washing over their ever-present murk. With a pair of outstanding long-players in Red Album and Blue Record, Baroness offer up two albums that serve as strong statements individually or as companion pieces. Where Red finds the band focusing more on spacious sonic depths (with a healthy dose of Fugazi-style post-hardcore sneer), Blue is their kick-ass rock record, all shout-along choruses and harmonized solos. This space could have been occupied by merely one of the band’s two monolithic LPs, but combined, their force is just that much more unstoppable. – Jeff Terich

135. WhiskeytownPneumonia
(2001; Lost Highway)

By the time Lost Highway had released Whiskeytown’s third album, Pneumonia, the band had been broken up for two years. Their last record was released two years before that, and Ryan Adams and Caitlin Cary had since moved on. And listeners couldn’t really be blamed for doing likewise. But when the album was finally released from its two-year limbo, its arrival certainly took a few fans by surprise, and not just because it was released, but because of the band’s temporary transition from alt-country rockers to brilliantly beautiful pop group. Their roots were still showing, of course, lending a glorious twang to standout tracks like “My Hometown” and “The Ballad of Carol Lynn,” but the headlining acts were pop gems like “Don’t Be Sad,” the big and brassy “Mirror, Mirror” and rugged rocker “Crazy About You.” I like to tell people that this is my favorite Ryan Adams album, and I have yet to disagree with myself. – Jeff Terich

134. Sleater-KinneyOne Beat
(2002; Kill Rock Stars)

Sleater-Kinney always had musical chops, top-notch songwriting skills and a pair of powerful voices in the nigh operatic Corin Tucker and her more straightforward foil Carrie Brownstein. In 2002, however, they took their unflappable strengths to the next level, releasing an album that proved they were the best rock band in America, or at the very least in the top ten. That’s a bold statement, I realize, but the band’s flawless performance on One Beat is a force to be reckoned with. They sounded bigger, louder, more confident and confrontational, not to mention more playful and experimental. In the title track, Corin Tucker sings from the perspective of an abstract concept that could change the world, while, not coincidentally, Janet Weiss maintains a constant, if skewed rhythm. The trio sounds their most soulful in “Step Aside,” most bluesy and heart-wrenching in “Sympathy,” and their most pointedly pissed off in the simultaneously abrasive and beautiful protest anthem “Combat Rock.” That they actually managed to one-up this record is practically unfathomable; rock music doesn’t get any better than this. – Jeff Terich

133. Junior BoysLast Exit
(2004; Kin)

While they weren’t the biggest, most ubiquitous or popular group of the last ten years, no band better represents the changing aesthetics and attitude toward music in the ’00s than Canadian electro-pop duo Junior Boys. Blending new wave, blue-eyed soul, modern R&B and two-step into a sleek and curiously alluring package, their debut album Last Exit is practically a beginner’s guide for poptimists. And yet, it’s also a remarkably mature and gorgeously detailed record, enticing the listener with a slow seduction rather than an immediate hook (they would save that for breakout single “In the Morning”). Simultaneously their weirdest and most aesthetically captivating release, Last Exit traces a path between Timbaland and Hall & Oates on “High Come Down,” while injecting New Order’s post-punk dance routines with a bit of stutter step beats on “Birthday.” And on the album’s best song, the climactic “Teach Me How to Fight,” they trade danceability for gut-wrenching emotion and epic melody, all the while maintaining their delicate, graceful sensibility. Though Junior Boys never lost their penchant for chilling, romantic pop, they haven’t made a record like this since. – Jeff Terich

132. ClipseHell Hath No Fury
(2006; Jive)

A pet project of Pharell from The Neptunes, paired up with Justin Timberlake on his hit single “Like I Love You” before dropping their official debut record Lord Willin’, and signed to a major label, Clipse decisively entered the rap game with the odds in their favor. But after putting in work on a follow-up, the sibling duo of Malice and Pusha T faced resistance from executives of their label Jive Records, who were skeptical of the album’s marketability – a far too regular occurrence in hip-hop. After being pushed back several times, anticipation growing with each delay, Hell Hath No Fury finally saw the light of day in 2006. To say it lived up to the hype would be an understatement, but one could also see why Jive might’ve had concerns. Lord Willin’ was full of characteristic Neptunes beats and playfully balanced Clipse’s coke talk with occasional party vibes, big name feature spots, a love song (!?), and general pop appeal. On Hell Hath No Fury, the Neptunes’ production work is virtually unrecognizable, distorted into cold and austere minimalist soundscapes that frame horrifically bleak tales of dealing crack cocaine. Pusha and Malice report from the front lines in stunning detail, their verses full of energy, raw emotion, biting commentary, rich character development, and endlessly impressive wordplay (“Open the Frigidaire, 25 to life in here / So much white you might think your Holy Christ is near / Throw on your Louis V Millionaires to kill the glare / Ice trays nada, all you see is pigeons paired“). Nope, this is definitely not your typical coke-rap record. Actually, this isn’t your typical rap record, period. With considerable conceptual depth – Clipse cover life as a drug dealer from nearly every perspective, exploring even peripheral aspects with insight and care – and production that is forward-thinking and often downright experimental, Hell Hath No Fury is unlike anything that came before it. – Derek Emery

131. Ted Leo and the PharmacistsThe Tyranny of Distance
(2001; Lookout)

Ted Leo is an indie rock veteran, an eloquent wordsmith, one badass mofo of a guitar player, and an all-around likeable personality. But part of what makes Leo so damn endearing is that, deep down, it’s hard to shake the notion that he’s one of us. Just check his cover medley of “Since U Been Gone” and “Maps” for the most blatant evidence of his geek love. Or, better yet, give a good, long listen to his second album, The Tyranny of Distance. Named after a lyric from a Split Enz song that he would then cover a few years later on, Tyranny is a smorgasbord of ebullient rock `n’ roll gems, recalling the likes of Thin Lizzy, The Clash, Elvis Costello, The Jam and The Pogues, sometimes all within the same song. Recorded with different musicians at different times, it has a fractured nature, but somehow still flows perfectly, with one standout topping another, from the graceful opening overture of “Biomusicology,” to the magical riff factory of “Timorous Me” and furious jangle of “Parallel or Together.” And while a great record collection can only get you so far, Leo’s chops are the real draw, and Tyranny has them stacked to the sky. – Jeff Terich

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