I’m no music critic, so won’t bother trying to articulate precisely why I think these albums are better than any others released in the last ten years. They have impressed me with their musicianship, innovation and emotional heft. I’ve made no attempt to keep sentiment out of my decisions; that’s largely why people make and listen to music and part of what makes a list such as this one so fulfilling is the way in which it measures and signposts my life in the 00’s.
1. The Postal Service – Give Up (2003)
Senior year of college was an undeniably fantastic time and this was the soundtrack. I first heard it at my friend John’s house and mocked it as Eurotrashy. It’s fair to say I was wrong.
MP3 – The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
2. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)
Their epic quality is a little too self-serious for some people, but I think it’s the natural extension of the old emo movement, only with lots more layers of sound, old-timey instruments, chugging percussion and talent.
MP3 – Rebellion (Lies)
3. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca (2009)
Groundbreaking stuff. Despite seeming to be an asshole, Dave Longstreth is an undeniably talented asshole. Fusing world music influences with the transcendent voice sounds of the beautiful chorus (Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian and Haley Dekle), the Dirty Projectors creations are fresh and appealing.
MP3 – Temecula Sunrise
4. Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)
There should probably be a Radiohead-only category, because that’s how good they are. My favorite band is like the musical equivalent of the Cohen brothers–moving from one genre to another and showing complete mastery of it with everything they release.
MP3 – Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
5. Grizzly Bear – Vecketamist (2009)
Creating music that is undeniably new yet familiar, Grizzly Bear are the most talented musicians I’ve seen live. They took several minutes setting up at Bonnaroo to get their equipment just right, so committed are they to their sound. The result, of course, is flawless, from Ed Droste’s rich voice right through the rest of the band.
MP3 – Southern Point
6. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001)
The song below was probably my favorite for a few years. To me, YHF was Wilco at its best, an ideal blend of folk, alt-country and experimental rock.
MP3 – I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
7. The Strokes – Is This It? (2001)
Revitalizing the pop rock scene early in the decade, The Strokes conjured some of the deepest hooks ever on this astonishingly cool album.
MP3 – The Modern Age
8. The National – Boxer (2007)
I read somewhere that this is unquestionably a drummer’s album. Having not paid much attention to drums before that, it was like hearing and loving the songs for the first time all over again.
MP3 – Green Gloves
9. Radiohead – Kid A (2000)
The pick of many for album of the 2000s, and I’m not going to argue. Imbuing sophisticated electronic sounds with powerful emotion, Kid A deserves all the praise it gets.
MP3 – Everything In Its Right Place
10. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois (2005)
On the heels of Michigan, the quirky and hugely talented Sufjan Stevens raised fans’ hopes of a 50 state opus with the release of Illinois. That doesn’t look to be on the cards anymore, though it takes nothing away from this fantastic album.
MP3 – Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Stepmother!
11. Frightened Rabbit – Midnight Organ Fight (2008)
Sometimes an artist just comes along at the right time. A few days after being completely taken in by the raw emotion of Frightened Rabbit’s music, I was down in New York City watching them in concert. That they’ve reached a larger audience since then is not at all surprising.
MP3 – Floating in the Forth
12. Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2003)
I always think the Flaming Lips are from England or Holland instead of Norman, Oklahoma. I think it must have something to do with their sophistication (no offense to Oklahomans).
MP3 – Fight Test
13. Spoon – Kill the Moonlight (2002)
If you want cool, look no further than Spoon. Britt Daniel is cool as they come and both Gimme Fiction and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga could have easily made it onto this list.
MP3 – Stay Don’t Go
14. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (2008)
Sort of the antithesis of the electronic, experimental direction of many bands, Fleet Foxes’ quiet, pastoral stylings hearken back to a time long forgotten.
MP3 – Blue Ridge Mountains
15. The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow (2003)
Having “New Slang” featured in Garden State was maybe the best and worst thing to happen to the Shins. That big break brought big expectations and to me, they never managed to recapture the magic present on Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow.
MP3 – Turn A Square
16. Islands – Return to the Sea (2006)
Fun, irreverent and in an instant shifting to earnestness and longing. The amount of personality on this album makes for a joyous and thoughtful trip.
MP3 – Rough Gem
17. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm (2005)
High tempos, heartfelt lyrics and driving guitars makes a good recipe for great music and Silent Alarm delivers on every level.
MP3 – This Modern Love
18. White Stripes – White Blood Cells (2001)
My brother Aaron played this for me when it first came out and it completely captured my imagination… probably because I was listening to LEN’s “Steal My Sunshine” and Santana’s “Smooth” before then.
MP3 – Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
19. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)
I was psyched to see Phoenix when I went to Bonnaroo and they delivered with the best concert I’ve ever seen. Their guitar riffs went right down to my bones and the crowd was absolutely bananas. They’re the quintessential rock band.
MP3 – Lisztomania
20. Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope (2006)
Though the guitar has been the preferred rock music instrument for quite a while, the piano and cello are pretty much tied for my favorite. Perhaps Regina Spektor’s aborability and musical chops will signal a sea change?
MP3 – Summer in the City
Modest Mouse – Good News for People Who Love Bad News
The Walkmen – Bows and Arrows
TV on the Radio – Dear Science
Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
Death Cab For Cutie – Transatlanticism
New Pornographers – Mass Romantic
Passion Pit – Manners
The Format – Dog Problems
Elvis Perkins in Dearland – Elvis Perkins in Dearland