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
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.