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

    80. Gorillaz – Gorillaz

    Wait, hold on a second… did that dude from Britpop band Blur start a virtual band called Gorillaz that took hip hop, punk rock, electronica, dub and other miscellaneous genres he felt like digesting, squeeze them into a trash culture blender and push the button as if he hadn’t done anything else in his life? Huh? It turned out to be quite an awesome record? Cool! –Jesper Persson

    79. Radiohead – Hail to the Thief

    After the deconstructed electro-rock of Kid A and Amnesiac, it only made sense for Radiohead to combine their newfound identity with the brute force rock of OK Computer and The Bends. With Hail to the Thief, Radiohead re-emerged as a living, breathing rock band, but not without ensuring that “the rats and the children” followed along.  –Drew Litowitz

    78. Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope

    By turns ethereal and loud-mouthed, enchanting and exciting, and accompanied by the loveliest multi-hued music video, Begin to Hope established Regina Spektor as a major talent (not to mention it made us believe in love again). –Megan Ritt

    77. M.I.A. – Kala

    Together with some of the hippest producers around, M.I.A. rose to stardom when weaving together the genre-mashing quilt that was her second album. Not just setting new standards for what “cool” and “hip” music is but also redefining the terms urban and world music, Kala was, and will remain for  the foreseeable future, one of the most original and memorable albums the 00’s had to offer. -Jesper Persson

    76. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

    Of Montreal pulled off a rare feat in 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are you the Destroyer? by creating a concept album when it seemed completely uncool to do so. Inspired by Kevin Barnes’ divorce and separation from his child, the result is a beautiful sonic journey through doubt, fear and loss. –Charles Poladian

    75. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

    One of the very best records of the year, Bitte Orca is blast of wonderfully uncertain rhythms paired with killer harmonies. And then there are those insane guitar parts that will equally satisfy fans of King Sunny Adé, Tom Verlaine, Ali Farka Touré, Arto Lindsay, and even Jimmy Page. What? Yeah, exactly. -Aaron Kelley

    74. Metallica – Death Magnetic

    Just when you thought they were over and done with, Metallica roars back at the world with a record that’s lightning fast yet melodic, lyrical but badass, potent, and simply pure metal. Death Magnetic makes up for lost time in the band’s history as the greatest in thrash metal, delivering Metallica’s quintessential coarseness, now mixed with the emotional maturity of three (sort of) aged musicians who can still rock the fuck out. –Maria Murriel

    73. Belle & Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress

    Ace 80’s producer, Trevor Horn, amplified the band’s essential sound but kept its signature charm on this spectacularly good pop album. The great “Step into My Office Baby” structurally recalls 10cc at their creative best and their homage to Thin Lizzy, “I’m a Cuckoo”, is a sheer delight. –Tony Hardy

    72. Justin Timberlake – FutureSex/Love Sounds

    The album that fully broke the tether between N’Sync and Justin Timberlake. Justified tackled clean cut pop, but his sophomore effort went dirty, sparking off a lasting creative partnership with Timbaland and penning number one hits in “Sexyback”, “My Love”, and “What Goes Around…”. Many doubted Timberlake’s longevity, but he backed it up after a four year hiatus by going ‘adult’. –Will Hines

    71. Astronautalis – Pomegranate

    Astronautalis is among the most original and exciting new artists of this century. His storytelling and lyrical prowess, combined with an arsenal of historical fiction and a knack for the theatrical make Pomegranate one of the most unprecedented albums of the decade. –Cap Blackard

    70. Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American

    The band’s fourth studio record is one of those rare albums where every song could be a single. Bleed American provides equal doses of outstanding pop songs (“The Middle”, “Sweetness”) and thoughtful ballads (“Hear You Me”, “My Sundown”). –Justin Gerber

    69. Weezer – Maladroit

    Somewhere along the past few years, Rivers Cuomo decided to be ironic, smugly musing on the perks and pitfalls of fame with campy throwaway tunes like “Beverly Hills” and “Can’t Stop Partying” (featuring Lil’ Wayne). But his quirkiness and genre hopping used to be a lot more sincere, and this is most evident on Maladroit, a wonderfully weird album that stretches itself between 70’s garage thunder (“Take Control”), sunny math punk (“Possibilities”) and um…space rock (“Space Rock”). Chocked with twisted, archaic lyrics, insane riffage, and a song whose video unabashedly celebrated The Muppets, Maladroit always sounds like the band is having fun, and for all the right reasons. –Dan Caffrey

    68. Rilo Kiley – The Execution of All Things


    Rilo Kiley’s second LP cemented the band as indie’s coolest kids and lead vocalist Jenny Lewis as one of the best storytellers of this generation. Listen to “With Arms Outstretched” to feel the simultaneous sting of fleeting time and the joy of a hopeful future-and clap your hands while you do it. –Anthony Balderrama

    67. Battles – Mirrored

    Like a nuclear blast of innovation and sound coming from another universe closely resembling a mirrored room, Battles dazzled us, intrigued us and entertained us. Mirrored is a testimony of the fun in experimental music and came across as one of the most mind-bending, wildly eclectic and unpretentiously brilliant rock records of the decade. –Jesper Persson

    66. The Living End – Roll On

    For the Australian trio’s sophomore release, The Living End continue its revved-up musical strikes from Green Day-inspired pop punk to Stray Cats-esque rockabilly and overall excellent musicianship. Guitarist Chris Cheney’s guitar roars loudly throughout the album, scorching everything in sight with the likes of “Roll On”, “Carry Me Home”, “Don’t Shut The Gate”, and the epic crusher, “Astoria Paranoia”. Talk about a rock album when it’s needed, Roll On not only delivers, but begs for immediate repeats…and this was in 2001! –Jay Ziegler

    65. Patrick Wolf – Lycanthropy

    Patrick Wolf’s precocious debut was a statement of intent. His obsession with werewolf mythology was in full swing at 19; he changed his name (nee Apps, now Wolf) and released an album loosely exploring the process of transformation. Energetic songs like “Bloodbeat” slid in amongst the more melancholy “Pigeon Song”, whilst “The Childcatcher” explored pedophilic images, establishing itself as both twisted and brilliant. –Will Hines

    64. Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy

    In all its powerful alt-folk fury, Okkervil River’s remarkable narrative centered around an assumed character from Tim Hardin’s “Black Sheep Boy” delves into sex and drug abuse, manic depression, fucked relationships, and pretty much everything that falls in between. Will Sheff always had a penchant for vivid imagery and captivating songwriting, but not until Black Sheep Boy did his ambitions and stunning style balance out so damn perfectly. –Drew Litowitz

    63. Red Hot Chili Peppers – By the Way

    By The Way proves to be a pivotal album in the Peppers’ career with Anthony Kiedis dropping his broken rapping for more consistent singing while John Frusciante is left with writing the melodies, bass lines, and chord progressions — a deviation from the punk funk fusion they had been known for previously. With tracks like “Can’t Stop” and “The Zephyr Song”, By the Way captured the ears of America in 2002. –Andy Keil

    62. U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind

    Teaming up with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanios again, U2 made its comeback in 2000 with what’s widely regarded as the band’s third masterpiece. Dealing with the essential things in life, All That You Can’t Leave Behind hits on an emotional level with songs like “Beautiful Day”, “Walk On”, and “Kite”. –Joe Marvilli

    61. The Roots – Phrenology

    Phrenology was a lean, mean machine. Focusing on hip hop for their fifth studio album, Philadelphia group The Roots took three years to come up with a new sound, all but abandoning their lighter jazz roots. They brought some brilliant featuring artists to the table, and unleashed an experimental album that was groundbreaking yet accessible. –Will Hines

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