06 February 2010

Best Albums of the 2000s (part 1)

Below is the first half of my Best Albums of the 2000s list, the third in a series of four posts looking back at the decade in music. Most of what I said in the intro to the Best Songs list applies here as well, particularly as pertaining to the personal and idiosyncratic nature of the list. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology (i.e., iTunes), I have a pretty good idea of how many times I've listened to various tracks over the past six years, and this data did have some effect at the margins in terms of keeping the rankings honest. I'll try to get 50-1 up no later than midweek. Until then, here's 100-51:

100. Lovers—The Sleepy Jackson

99. Party Music—The Coup

98. 100 Broken Windows—Idlewild

Early high point from promising Scottish college rockers before their (in retrospect, perhaps inevitable) descent into overproduced moderate-rock hell.

97. Confessions on a Dance Floor—Madonna

I initially dismissed this as merely Madonna’s roots move, but the sense of effortlessness here is no mean achievement.

96. Phrenology—The Roots

95. Hypermagic Mountain—Lightning Bolt

It achieves total heaviosity. But it moves too.

94. Ta Det Lungt—Dungen

93. Untrue—Burial

92. 604—Ladytron

UK-based back-to-the-future synthpoppers reflect on love and commerce.

91. One Beat—Sleater-Kinney

90. Mesmerize/Hypnotize—System of a Down

89. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb—U2

This fair-to-middling entry in the U2 catalog finds the band spinning its wheels a bit, but the group’s newfound comfort with its own grandiosity would pay dividends down the road.

88. Thunder, Lightning, Strike—The Go! Team

87. Nouns—No Age

86. From Here We Go Sublime—The Field

Envious people will tell you that anyone with access to a computer could have made this album. But of course that’s part of what makes it great.

85. Rated R—Queens of the Stone Age

84. Songs for the Deaf—Queens of the Stone Age

Dave Grohl brings the thunder, making this the band’s best album by a whisker, despite a relative lack of musical variety.

83. Neon Golden—The Notwist

82. Lungs—Florence & the Machine

81. Gimme Fiction—Spoon

80. Silent Shout—The Knife

Of the many bands who’ve borrowed from ’80s synthpop over the past decade, The Knife has been one of the most original, deploying the genre’s bouncy sounds to cacophonous, menacing effect. And the distancing devices (heavily distorted vocals, raven masks) aren’t just facile alienation effects but function to evoke buried emotions and unspoken thoughts.

79. Hail to the Thief—Radiohead

78. The Unseen—Quasimoto

This stoned underground epic takes hip-hop’s crate-digging aesthetic strain to the next level.

77. Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.—Deerhunter

Evoking classic indie/alternative sources like Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, these twin albums breathed some fresh air into a late-decade indie scene dominated by turgid hipster music.

76. Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts—M83

A consolidation, not a leap forward. But consolidations can be good.

75. Come With Us—The Chemical Brothers

74. Funeral—Arcade Fire

I remain suspicious of this band, but there are some gorgeous songs here to be sure.

73. Sonic Nurse—Sonic Youth

The second half of a productive two-album classic-rock detour with Jim O’Rourke finds the band stretching out comfortably. “The Dead are all right with me,” Thurston confides on “Stones.” As if we hadn’t known all along.

72. Beauty and the Beat—Edan

A sui generis amalgam of hip-hop and psychedelic rock.

71. Room on Fire—The Strokes

70. The Eternal—Sonic Youth

69. Magic—Bruce Springsteen

Channeling the weary-but-hopeful spirit of the ass end of the Bush administration, Magic easily achieves the political relevance that the post-9/11 The Rising audibly strained for.

68. Specialist in All Styles—Orchestra Baobab

67. Gung Ho—Patti Smith

66. Off With Their Heads—Kaiser Chiefs

Producer Mark Ronson provides some much-needed musical context for the band’s sharp-as-ever songwriting on this album, the Kaisers’ third and best to date.

65. Phrazes for the Young—Julian Casablancas

64. Girls Can Tell—Spoon

63. White Blood Cells—The White Stripes

The White Stripes made more-or-less the same album several times over, meaning that whichever one you heard first is probably your favorite.

62. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below—Outkast

Long, sprawling, self-indulgent, but almost never boring. I still think Big Boi’s disc is better, but you’re welcome to disagree.

61. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard—Paul McCartney

Forced to straighten up and fly right by producer Nigel Godrich, McCartney delivers the most disciplined album of his post-Beatles career—and one of the best.

60. Demon Days—Gorillaz

59. First Impressions of Earth—The Strokes

Not the band’s most consistent album, but an aesthetic milestone, as Julian Casablancas gives voice to the nagging realization that the world might not be worthy of his best efforts.

58. Think Tank—Blur

57. Blue Cathedral—Comets on Fire

Combining neo-psychedelic ambition, indie-rock messiness, and ear-splitting volume, this album deserves to have been more influential by now. But it’s early yet.

56. XX—The XX

55. The Cold Vein—Cannibal Ox

54. Decoration Day—Drive-by Truckers

The Truckers broke into the indie-rock consciousness with their 2001 double-disc Skynrd tribute Southern Rock Opera, but it was this follow-up that established them as a top-echelon band and Patterson Hood as a major American songwriter.

53. Up the Bracket—The Libertines

It’s a shame they couldn’t keep it together for more than two albums, but of course the feeling that it could all fall apart at any moment is crucial to this particular rock aesthetic.

52. Da Drought 3—Lil Wayne

Most people would put The Carter III here instead, but I maintain that Weezy’s mixtape work, while less polished, is a lot more interesting.

51. Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike—Gogol Bordello

It lives up to its title, and that’s all you need to know.

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