The Best Albums of the ’00s

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The Best Albums of the '00s

110. The AntlersHospice
(2009; Frenchkiss)

Hospice will be remembered as the sleeper hit of 2009. While Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear and Phoenix were getting all the attention of the indie masses, The Antlers quietly slipped on through, content with their brief burst of critical acclaim and a small but devoted group of converts. It’s easy to see why Hospice wasn’t all the talk around the water cooler like Merriweather Post Pavilion or Veckatimest: 2009 was a year dominated by joyful pop experimentation, and Hospice—a gorgeous meditation on death and loss and one of the most depressing albums released in some time—didn’t fit in. I guarantee you, though, that when critics revisit the decade in another five or ten years, Hospice will have climbed its way towards the top of this list. I don’t want to say it’s the next In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, but… – Eric Friedman

109. Yo La TengoAnd Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
(2000; Matador)

The Yo La Tengo release that most subtly and slowly reveals its abundant charms, And Then Nothing is a record of absorbing atmospheres and simple, affecting lyrics. “Our Way to Fall” and “Last Days of Disco” develop a mesmerizing intimacy, Ira Kaplan delivering detailed reminiscences of moments that seem to float above the flow of time, the music holding the listener tightly in hazy, bluish embraces. It is just as great a soundtrack to a quiet, rainy day staying in as it was on its release, ten years ago. One thing that has always set Yo La Tengo apart from indie-rock peers is their attentiveness to the power of sounds to physically affect, to induce states of dreamy introspection or overload and elate with waves of heavy feedback. And Then Nothing is their trip on the softer side of this spectrum, a gorgeous paean to music as benevolent, curative narcotic. – Tyler Parks

108. Fucked UpThe Chemistry of Common Life
(2008; Matador)

Fucked Up’s charismatic, bellowing frontman Pink Eyes promised to a San Diego crowd that he would personally set Chad Kroeger’s hair on fire if Fucked Up won a Juno Award. Pyromaniacal pranks aside, Fucked Up had been creating an incendiary sound long before that, reaching a dense and devastating inferno with their sprawling hardcore epic, The Chemistry of Common Life. To call it “hardcore” doesn’t even do it justice, really. It’s punk rock, certainly, but it’s tuneful and dense, heavily layered and complex. And it’s most certainly an unconventional kind of punk rock record, opening with the gentle sound of a flute before a muted guitar riff slowly escalates into the sledgehammer rhythm of “Son the Father.” With three guitars, a crack team of guest vocalists and a healthy mix of optimism and skepticism, the Canadian sextet plows through an epic series of intellectual throwdowns that question religion but celebrate existence, no matter how flawed or painful. But for all of Fucked Up’s sheer power and open-ended questions, Chemistry is above all things a feast for the ears. It’s rare that an album can double as headphone fodder and fight scene soundtrack, but then again Fucked Up is just that rare sort of band. – Jeff Terich

107. Neko CaseBlacklisted
(2002; Bloodshot)

Neko Case has always had something of a gallows sense of humor, having released numerous album covers depicting her own grisly demise. And when Blacklisted arrived, with Ms. Case lying clobbered on the ground after having been sidelined by a tour van, it wasn’t entirely out of character, though the album itself was far more sinister than predecessors The Virginian and Furnace Room Lullaby. Backed by Calexico and Giant Sand frontman Howe Gelb, Case tinted her gorgeous Americana ballads a few shades darker, at times recalling the gothic balladry of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Yet Blacklisted is an album that could have only been penned by Case; she harkens back to her childhood, witnessing “blackbirds frying on a wire” over the spectral shuffle of “Things That Scare Me.” She alludes to the Green River Killer on the breathtaking “Deep Red Bells,” and juxtaposes sexy and haunting on her cover of Sarah Vaughn’s “Look For Me (I’ll Be Around)”. Not that it’s all creepy; she finds confidence in a female-helmed cockpit in “Lady Pilot,” and “I Wish I Was the Moon” breaks your heart with a classic, countrypolitan arrangement. Whether summoning the ghosts of a violent past, or merely singing from the heart, though, Case delivers every line with passion and sincerity, and a voice that can’t be stopped. – Jeff Terich

106. M. WardPost-War
(2006; Merge)

With the first utterance of “one,” I was won over. As M. Ward’s scratchy and creaky voice sang the epic opening track of “Poison Cup,” something beautifully romantic took hold. Post-War was the first album Ward had recorded with a full band and while it may have left behind the intimacy of Ward’s bare voice and guitar, there was no loss in emotional weight. Rather Post-War was Ward’s most focused album, retaining the tradition of the troubadour in a way that didn’t imitate or simply pay tribute, but also expanded it. Rollicking tracks like Daniel Johnston cover “To Go Home,” “Right In the Head” and “Requiem” showcase Ward’s superb musicianship and proves that he’s just as home there as he is with acoustic storytelling. Yet, there was no loss in the lyrics department. The ache of “Poison Cup” is acutely felt, the narrative of “Chinese Translation” is deceptively simple and a wonderfully delightful yarn, and there is something so beautiful and poetic in the lyrics to “Post-War.” Post-War is an album that sounds remarkably familiar, reliable even, and perhaps that’s why Ward seems to be so underrated. It began the path that would redeem that and further cement Ward as an excellent and winning singer-songwriter. – Jackie Im

105. Justin TimberlakeFuturesex/Lovesounds
(2006; Jive)

Justin Timberlake could have been anyone. He got a huge hit out of Michael Jackson’s sloppy seconds and still said ‘nah right’. Took balls! Going into his second album, Timberlake’s goal was basically ‘I’mma be myself.’ No really! We all pretend to edit Timberlake’s N*Sync membership from his biography like it’s no big deal and not the unlikeliest image tweak since Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Seriously, do those bros hang out? NOBODY saw Justin coming, not like this. Hearing how weird Futuresex/Lovesounds turned out was like adjusting, more recently, to the unexpected greatness of Roger Ebert’s Twitter feed. From the life rattle of “Futuresex/Lovesound” to the waterboarding-by-bass (bassboarding?) of “Sexy Ladies” all the way to more faulty-transmission knocking on “Until The End Of Time” it’s like the radio breaking in the best kind of way. This being a Timbaland piece (the last time he really showed up this decade) there was plenty of great traditional radio stuff anyway—although I gotta admit I heard “Sexyback” for the first time in the smoke area of the best lesbian bar in Modesto, Calif. But so much of the record’s so migratory and desolate-sounding it was tough to imagine, initially, that you could take the boy out of the boy band and have him be so serious, son. “My Love” and “Lovestoned/I Think She Knows” are impossibly mature, longish near-epics; too much song for most. “Losing My Way” may be a hackneyed addict fantasy but it’s too crushingly pretty to be skippable. Almost all the mood swings work and as pop records go it’s gold in a brass age. A superstar in his own right, that’s who he decided to be. – Anthony Strain

104. Girl TalkFeed The Animals
(2008; Illegal Art)

Is it a classic album? Probably not. Is it a fun album to listen (and, yes, dance) to? What do you think? Greg Gillis has an almost preternatural ability to mash together songs (along with unrecognizable chunks of other songs) into an exciting and often hilarious collage of our musical consciousness from the last 30-odd years. Nirvana rubs shoulders with Deee-Lite, the Guess Who give surprising emotional heft to Mary J. Blige, and (in the album’s most inspired moment) Metallica finds themselves as backing band to Lil’ Mama, with astonishing results. And the album never lets up for its hour-long running length – if playing “Where’s That From?” doesn’t give you a thrill, just listening to how Gillis makes every piece work as part of the whole should. We know sampling is a viable creative force – now we know it’s a viable club-moving force, too. – Tony Ling

103. Death Cab For CutieThe Photo Album
(2001; Barsuk)

It’s only been eight years, but Wikipedia has now lumped every Death Cab release from Barsuk into the heading, “The Early Years.” Nothing can make you feel older than a heading like that for an album you still really love. But, although I like Plans and Narrow Stairs, they don’t hold a candle to The Photo Album in my estimation. It’s one of those albums that is incredibly solid from beginning to end, highly listenable, but also has several standout tracks. “A Movie Script Ending” and “Styrofoam Plates” come to mind, though “Blacking Out the Friction” and “We Laugh Indoors” hold special places in my heart as well. It can be argued that DCFC only upped the ante with Transatlanticism, but to me they are two sides of the same coin. – Terrance Terich

102. BurialUntrue
(2007; Hyperdub)

Rain-drenched, blood-soaked, mud-caked—everything about this secretive DJ’s second album is underground, or lifted up from it, in the most mysterious and sinister senses. Heavy with murky keyboard swooshes, shuffling and clicking percussion loops, and distorted, sad vocal samples, electronic-music mavens quickly swooped in to label it a landmark release in the burgeoning micro-genre of dubstep. The problem with that? Dubstep immediately started to mutate, subsequent artists zigging and zagging away from Burial’s allegedly signature sound. What they couldn’t recapture, or chose not to, was the emotion sublimated by the deceptively simple elements of each song on Untrue—the steady accusatory tone of the title track, the lost souls seemingly wandering around the landscape of “Etched Nameplate,” the love at stake in the monstrous single “Archangel.” – Adam Blyweiss

101. BorisPink
(2006; Southern Lord)

Boris have taken on a breathtaking variety of sounds, from epic drone to doom metal, psychedelic rock and Stooges-style raveups. And with each sonic permutation, the Japanese trio takes whatever genre or style they choose to its most extreme end, blowing out the fuzz and piledriving it in as heavy a manner as possible. Pink is no exception, an 11-track monster of crushing riffs and breakneck rhythms, a masterpiece of modern metal with more than a trace of vintage appeal. And yet it’s also one of the band’s most diverse recordings, offering a wide palette that offers bowel-distressing low end, MC5-style proto-punk and an epic shoegazer anthem in the form of “Farewell.” You could likely make a case for any number of Boris’ last four or five offerings as their best, but Pink is their most replayable, and fist-pumpingly awesome. – Jeff Terich

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