27. System of a Down, 'Toxicity' (2001)
Skittish, temperamental, emotional and purposefully unhinged, System of a Down's exquisite 2001 sophomore release provided a perfect soundtrack to post-9/11 anxiety. Turn on the LP and a chunky riff drops in between drawn-out pauses before singer Serj Tankian whispers, "They're trying to build a prison." The Armenian-American band touched on everything from Charles Manson's stances on the environment ("ATWA") to the United States' faulty justice system ("Prison Song"), as each song creatively explores musical moods, variously evoking jazz, Middle Eastern and Greek music, as well as all known subgenres and mutations of hard rock. Beyond System's political statements, the ever-entertaining Tankian sang about group sex ("Bounce") and groupies ("Psycho"), but the band's unique musical spasticity (on glorious display on signature single "Chop Suey!") makes Toxicity feel like a cohesive work. "I don't understand why we have to be just one thing," Tankian told Rolling Stone in 2001. "If I write on one side of this lampshade, 'The metropolis is too dense. It causes fear,' that's a social statement. And on this side I write, 'Blow me.' And then here it says, 'I'm hungry.' And here it says, 'Gee, what a splendid day.' Now those are four different things. We're all just turning the lampshade." B.S.