The Top 100 Albums of the 2000s

A decade's worth of industry-shaking music to carry into the future

The Strokes, Radiohead, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jay-Z

    And we’re here… 2010. It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed us. It almost seems like just yesterday David Fincher unearthed Fight Club to confused audiences, that Tony Hawk was only a skateboarder (and not a video game mogul), and The New Radicals were still, um, new. The truth is, 1999 doesn’t seem so far away — especially when you pop in Californication or try and remember the slasher genre, namely those beloved Scream movies.

    In fact, it’s hard to believe we’re in “the future.” Hell, whenever Back to the Future, Part II comes on TBS (Don’t tell me you forgot about this!), 2015 still seems far away, even though it’s at arm’s length now. Then again, maybe it all comes down to perspective. After all, when you turn to the side and think about the eight years with President Bush, the rise and decline and (somewhat) rise again of Tom Green, and the last time you bought a CD, it all feels about right.

    But overall, it doesn’t feel like 2010. Instead of flying cars and video games that require you not to use your hands, we’re bogged down with age-old past times, like recessions, health insurance scares, and U2. Nothing seems futuristic, save for a trip to the Apple Store, and while we’re embracing the future with every inch that technology shifts forward, it all just sort of boils down to everyday mundane life.


    That doesn’t really apply to music, though. Not at all. Each year, bands both new and old throw out album after album, stuffed to the brim with sounds that take us to yesterday, today, and, most of the time, to tomorrow. It’s here where we understand the true value of time and how far we’ve come. Artists and groups like Animal Collective, Daft Punk, and even Radiohead take us by the hand into regions that suit our wildest dreams, where things happen that will never occur in our lifetime. Then there are those that keep us grounded, that help us understand our inner emotions and thoughts today, bands like Wilco, The Arcade Fire, and The Strokes. It’s like we’re sonically expanding our own dimensions. Pretty deep, huh?

    C’mon, it’s 2009! Everyone knows how vital music is nowadays, and even though we’re guilty of its absolute accessibility (e.g. the advent and success of the mp3), the past ten years have brought us new ways to celebrate its sonic brilliance. We all own iPods (or Zunes, for the five of you). We all walk and work and play with them in our ears — after all, we live for this stuff. But it’s more than that. We don’t just live for this stuff, we live with this stuff. You know, everyone has recognized again and again that albums have become just a hub for — or a collection of — songs, but few have noted that songs have become dalliances of everyday life. That’s why it’s important to go back, to look at where these songs come from, and to recognize the true power of that “hub”, or “collection”, or album!

    And that we did…

    -Michael Roffman

    100. B.B. King & Eric Clapton – Riding With the King

    When you’re Riding with the King, there can be no wrong, and two greats of the blues joined forces here to prove it. In this superb blues record full of classic B.B. King, Eric Clapton’s style seamlessly compliments the King’s thick wailing vocals and old school down-home riffs. –Maria Murriel

    99. OutKast – Speakerboxx/ The Love Below

    With this double pseudo-solo album OutKast mutually and exclusively redefined the expectations of mainstream rap. Big Boi’s expansive, but still traditional, hip hop and André 3000’s retro afro-pop experimentation are an unlikely combo, but… “Hey Ya!”, “The Way You Move” — these hits don’t lie. –Cap Blackard

    98. Andrew Bird – The Swimming Hour

    I’d once heard The Swimming Hour called Andrew Bird’s jukebox album, and the way his now defunct band jumps between genres on each track, it really makes sense. The Bowl of Fire tries out classic R&B, Country Rock and indie pop, each successfully and without pretense. –Adam Kivel

    97. Muse – Absolution

    Muse delivered a third album full of pomp and power. The sound was more refined, rapidly transforming them into stadium titans and harnessing their creativity. “Stockholm Syndrome” and “Hysteria” were whirlwinds of aggression, but the best moments leant heavily on their musicality, whether performing with an 18 piece orchestra on “Blackout” or unleashing Bellamy on the ivories for “Apocalypse Please”. –Will Hines

    96. Kittens Ablaze – The Monstrous Vanguard

    It’s no secret that this website has had an undeniable love affair with these Brooklyn rockers for some time now. The demo album that arrived in our inbox back in early 2008 was what first caught our attention, but their recently released full-length debut was what made us realize that Kittens Ablaze are not your ordinary Brooklyn based indie outfit. No, The Monstrous Vanguard was 10 tracks of indie rock bliss, fusing together the enigmatic sounds of Arcade Fire with the lyrical melancholy of early Bright Eyes while still maintaining a one-of-a-kind passion, sound, and attitude. The album’s one negative? The fact that even now it has yet to propel Kittens Ablaze to the level of popularity and critical acclaim the band so undoubtedly deserves. –Alex Young

    95. Talib Kweli & DJ Hi-Tek – Reflection Eternal

    Blistering rhymes and lethal grooves propel this 20-song collection that culls from almost every corner of the history of Black music (blues, African drumming, improvisational jazz). “Move Somethin'” (featuring Kweli’s erstwhile Black Star partner Mos Def) should be mandatory listening for all hip-hop fans. The only question left by this album: where’s the sequel? -Gillian Rosheuvel

    94. Kate Walsh – Tim’s House

    Kate Walsh is arguably the brightest star to have emerged from a plethora of UK singer-songwriters in recent years. This, her second album, marks a real coming-of-age in both a musical and emotional sense, and was famously the first U.K. No 1 album on iTunes from an unsigned artiste. –Tony Hardy

    93. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound

    Bruce Springsteen joined this Jersey foursome onstage at Glastonbury to play the title track. Need I say more? –Joshua Kloke

    92. Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs

    Death Cab For Cutie instantly ventured outside its “safe” indie poprock box the very next album after the success of their major label debut Plans. The decision was perfectly right and Narrow Stairs proved to be a significant step forward for the band as well as an irreproachable new, fresh take on all their potentials. -Jesper Persson

    91. Harvey Danger – Little by Little…

    The last of three studio albums in Harvey Danger’s swift and underrated fifteen year career, Little by Little… defied, lyrically and beyond, this outfit’s typecast alt-rock persona.  From reflections of musical adolescence in “Little Round Mirrors” to the purist bildungsroman approach on “Diminishing Returns”, Sean Nelson and his northwestern comrades wove us a grand pop finale that even Joni Mitchell cannot hope to surpass. -David Buchanan

    90. Lupe Fiasco- Food & Liquor

    Chicago’s other rapper stepped into the spotlight. Backed by Jay-Z, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, aka Lupe Fiasco, arrived with a three time Grammy nominated debut album. Showcasing brilliant production and rhymes way beyond his years, Fiasco had a hit in “Kick, Push” and stuck to his roots, quoting the Qur’an on the album “Intro”. Wholly impressive. –Will Hines

    89. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam

    Animal Collective doesn’t write songs per se. They salvage beauty from noise. With Strawberry Jam, the group proved that acid washed electronic blips can be crafted into glorious, naive pop music, and that screaming every once in a while only makes it better. –Drew Litowitz

    88. Bruce Springsteen – Magic

    Magic uses all of Bruce Springsteen’s classic aesthetics (layered guitars, R&B yelps, lots of dirty sax and crystal glockenspiel) to comment on topics that are completely modern, featuring songs that are just as much about politics as they are about relationships. Highlights include the Brian Wilson baroque pop of “Your Own Worst Enemy” and “Girls In Their Summer Clothes”, and most notably “Livin’ In The Future”, a tale of blood red doom and gloom at The Jersey Shore that is still one of the most energetic, celebratory things The Boss has ever recorded. –Dan Caffrey

    87. The Strokes – Room on Fire

    Hardly a sophomore slump here. In better ways than one, The Strokes expanded on their sound, tweaking and exploring new ways to do, realistically, the same thing they’d been doing all along. It’s just a shame “Repitilia” never took off like “Last Night” did. –Michael Roffman

    86. The Killers – Hot Fuss

    Dark-flavored dance-rock with a hint of soul, overplayed though it was, five years after its release, The Killers’ debut Hot Fuss remains endlessly danceable. Let’s face it: Everyone’s felt like “Mr. Brightside” at one time or another. –Megan Ritt

    85. Blitzen Trapper – Furr

    Blitzen Trapper’s 2008 album Furr is a lyrical accomplishment with simplistic, yet stunning lines such as, “And now my fur has turned to skin/And I’ve been quickly ushered in/To a world I must confess I do not know,” from the title track. The band’s use of the harmonica, an unfairly underrated instrument, fits the overall aesthetic and adds a folk punch, whereas the guitar work on “Gold for Bread” provides a slight southern rock vibe. –Becca James

    84. My Morning Jacket – Z

    Z, the joyous, stoner-rock record that it is, exists in its immediacy. Never harsh and overwhelming, Z is record that will have you passing your joints with a smile, though never too far as you’re always trying to soak up every last breath of this groovy masterpiece. –Joshua Kloke

    83. She & Him – Vol. 1

    Odd couple to some, M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel created an album of perfect symbiosis between the elements, a sense of harmony and well-being without becoming dull, predictable or cheesy. Most lovely indie folk pop record should be accredited to She & Him. –Jesper Persson

    82. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You

    Just a folk group elevating to a whole other level with the aid of some guy named Rick Rubin, sans blips and bleeps. It also has sweet sincerity (“I and Love and You”, “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”) capped off by infectious sing-a-longs (“Kick Drum Heart”, “Slight Figure of Speech”). –Justin Gerber

    81. Yusuf Islam – Roadsinger

    Cat Stevens, ahem, Yusuf Islam is at his finest on his 2009 album Roadsinger. “Boots and Sand”, featuring Paul McCartney and Dolly Parton, is a must hear single, with its late ’70s feel and an added country kick; the lyrics aren’t too shabby either. –Becca James

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