The Best Albums of the ’00s

Avatar photo
The Best Albums of the '00s

90. Cannibal OxThe Cold Vein
(2001; Definitive Jux)

The Metropolis of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” may be the place that dreams are made of, but the Gotham of Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein is more like a nightmare. It’s lined with broken bottles and drug addicts, stained with blood and urine. And predators lurk like Morlocks to arise and terrorize the populace. Vast Aire warns in first track “Iron Galaxy,” “New York is evil at its core/ so those who have more than them/ prepare to be vic-tims.” Aire, Vordul Mega and describe with awe-inspiring clarity and menacing cadence a New York that Old Blue Eyes, Walt Disney and Michael Bloomberg wouldn’t dare touch. And even a love song, as on the outstanding “F-Word,” is a complex internal struggle with an unfortunate outcome. It’s uncomfortably dark at times, with imagery that’s a little too vivid, but it’s also a work of uncompromising beauty, made all the more incredible with El-P’s ominous production, transforming these narratives into doom-laden hip-hop symphonies. – Jeff Terich

89. Thom YorkeThe Eraser
(2006; XL)

Being a leader of one of independent music’s more recognized and beloved bands brings with it a certain amount of leniency and creative license among both band members and fans. Thom Yorke took a brief break from Radiohead in 2006, prior to their grand pay-as-you-go experiment on In Rainbows, in order to conduct an experiment of his own. Sequestered with a bunch of sequencers and synths, Yorke went and scratched the Warp Records itch he had discovered alongside Radiohead at the start of the decade on Kid A. The Eraser had bits and pieces of the band, to be sure—samples of Jonny Greenwood, reconstructed elements of songs like “The Gloaming”—but from the album art on to winning tracks like “Black Swan” and “Harrowdown Hill” this was ultimately Yorke’s baby, full of glitchy paeans to environmental disaster and infrastructure breakdown. – Adam Blyweiss

88. Joanna NewsomThe Milk-Eyed Mender
(2004; Drag City)

It’s a strange thing to realize that the spritely girl in your Intro to British Literature I course is the same spritely girl singing and delicately plucking harp-strings on The Milk-Eyed Mender. And so it was for me. By the time The Milk-Eyed Mender was released, Joanna Newsom had since left behind the eucalyptus-lined campus of Mills College (“and I walk / from a higher education“), while the rest of us was a-flutter over her peculiar yet winning voice and her beautifully simple arrangements. A fuss was made and will likely continue to be made over Newsom’s singular voice. Characterized as everything from a squawk to “somewhere between Björk and a hand-brake,” her voice isn’t for everybody but once the initial shock subsided, the whimsical lyricism, knack for wordplay and disarmingly pure instrumentation took hold, displaying a true, if albeit eccentric talent. – Jackie Im

87. InterpolAntics
(2004; Matador)

You’ll notice that Turn on the Bright Lights placed much higher on our decade list than Antics. I get it. It came first, has more of an angular, underground, Joy Division aping edge than its more radio friendly follow-up. Songs like “PDA,” “Obstacles 1 & 2,” “Untitled” and “NYC” are iconic in the band’s career. It was, if not the shock of the new, the shock of turning something revered into something updated and fresh. That’s never easy to duplicate on a sophomore release. Yet, I’ll wager that Antics did it better than any other band could have in the same circumstances. “Evil” and “Slow Hands” are two of Interpol’s best and most infectious. “Next Exit” is more than a worthy introduction, leaving me and my friends constantly quoting it, “gonna trek this shit around.” “Public Pervert” and “Length of Love,” are also incredibly notable tracks, and while the Treble writers are justified in putting Turn Out the Bright Lights atop the small pile of Interpol albums, considering how many albums were released in the decade, Antics isn’t really that far behind. – Terrance Terich

86. FeistThe Reminder
(2007; CherryTree – Interscope)

Leslie Feist’s commercial breakthrough is basically an amplification of what made Let it Die so great; not that there’s anything wrong with that, when the songs are this good. We all know the Technicolor-bright hit “1 2 3 4” and the surprisingly garage-rockish “I Feel It All,” but it’s the album tracks that impress more: “So Sorry” melds morning-after heartache to a gossamer-thin arrangement, “Intuition” serves to remind us just how incredible Feist’s voice can be and “Past in Present” gives us her more upbeat and optimistic side (“When a wrong becomes a right/ When a mountain fills with light/ It’s a volcano, it’s a volcano“), complete with “la la la” backing vocals. Every song throughout bears the stamp of Feist’s greatest attribute – her almost preternatural charm, a dazzling musical smile that makes even the heartache tolerable. Here’s to more of that charm in the future. – Tony Ling

85. Boards of CanadaGeogaddi
(2002; Warp)

Where Richard D. James used Aphex Twin (among other aliases) to reshape the landscape of electronic music at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, intending to truly make it the sound of the future, this most recent decade dawned the Sandison brothers of Scotland found in Boards of Canada a way to envelop it in atmospheres of the past. Still finding inspiration in (and often recreating or sampling) the sounds of grade-school filmstrips, warped vinyl, and government documentaries and PSAs, on Geogaddi Boards of Canada began to move away from the gurgling, giggling innocence of 1998’s Music has the Right to Children. The playful keyboard noodling from just a few years before turned into clarion calls like “Music is Math”; cheery titles were occasionally replaced with more cautionary language—”I Saw Drones,” “Beware the Friendly Stranger,” “The Devil is in the Details.” Even among the imported flutes, tom-toms, and vintage synths, within their proper songs as well as their all-important interludes, you could tell that Boards of Canada were growing up. Thankfully their adult themes, while at times creepy, were still wholly captivating. – Adam Blyweiss

84. Belle and SebastianThe Life Pursuit
(2006; Matador)

Lurking beneath the hushed chamber pop of previous Belle & Sebastian albums, there’d always been a little swagger trying to get out. The wry lyrics, the occasional funky bass lines—it all hinted at a band that secretly wanted to strut. On The Life Pursuit, Belle & Sebastian finally get in touch with their inner T. Rex, without sacrificing any of the thoughtful song-craft that earned the band a legion of devout fans nearly a decade earlier. By amping up the keyboards, fleshing out the harmonies and putting some muscle behind the guitars, the group finds a whole new way to express its ruminations of boredom, love faith and growing up. – Elizabeth Malloy

83. Sigur RósTakk…
(2005; MCA)

As the decade rolled in and Sigur Rós’ breakout Agaetis Byrjun heralded the Icelandic quartet’s rise, their follow-up ( ) was somewhat of a critic repellant that left the release of Takk …, even a quiet three years later, hanging in the balance. Much as they always have, they’re still scraping their electrics with cello bows, still relishing Jonsi Birgisson’s icy, alien vocals that feel every bit an extension of the snowbound landscape they’re from – Planet Earth even set an “Ice Worlds” montage to the anthemic “Gl ósóli” – and still clocking in at an average of six minutes per track. But if ( ) was born from polar nights and their most recent outing, Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust, a midnight sun’s nude romp through the fields, Takk … is the gradual thaw between worlds. Bright tones, pealing ivories, triumphant orchestrations and even charming brass band interludes keep the album a buoyant, inviting affair, and yet always breathing the frigid air. With a band like Sigur Rós, we need more than one word for snow. – Dustin Allen

82. Ghostface KillahSupreme Clientele
(2000; Razor Sharp-Epic)

Forget Jay, Wayne, Kanye – the best and most consistent rapper of the decade is ol’ Tony Stark, and Supreme Clientele is Exhibits A, B, and C. It never hurts when you’re blessed with remarkable production (the soulfulness of “One,” “Buck 50” brilliantly appropriating Baby Huey’s classic “Hard Times,” “The Grain” creating a hard banger out of obscure Stax records), but Ghost’s trippy stream of consciousness lyricism and absolutely remarkable flow are the real stars of the show. Lyrics like “Ghost is back, stretch Cadillacs, fruit cocktails/ Hit the shells at Paul’s Pastry Rack/ Walk with me like Darthy tried to judge these/ plush degrees, said the cow, wrap the fees” might not work on the page, but flow with almost absurd ease off of Ghost’s lips. Talk of a Wu-Tang creative rebirth has been going on practically since the first album came out, but with albums as good as Supreme Clientele the point is rendered moot. You can HAVE Iron Flag – I’ll take Ghost letting his id loose, thank you very much. – Tony Ling

81. Kanye WestGraduation
(2007; Roc-a-fella)

Google “Graduation” and this album’s Wiki entry pops up before the actual Wikipedia entry for “Graduation” does. Kanye West is bigger than finishing your education! And yes, it’s another album full of excess – too many damn songs, too many dumb lyrics, just too much at times – but what else would you expect from our hip-hop hero? These albums are meant to be events, damn it, and West gives us every bit of bang for our buck for these events. “Stronger,” “Flashing Lights,” “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” – we’d all be sick of these songs if they weren’t so good. But it’s the lesser-known tracks that draw my attention the more I listen to this album. I’m thinking of the metallic clang of opener “Good Morning,” or the laid-back piano of “Everything I Am” (with scratches by DJ Premier), or even the gospel-inflected organ stabs of hilariously named “Barry Bonds,” where he tells us “I’m doing pretty good as far as geniuses go.” Touche, sir. – Tony Ling

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Scroll To Top