Home Music Music Lists

100 Best Albums of the 2000s

100 Best Albums of the 2000s

Radiohead Kid A

Radiohead's Kid A

All through the last decade, you’d find a lot of people insisting that the album was dead, a victim of the MP3, the iPod and a la carte downloading. But that never happened. If anything, artists doubled down on the format, resulting in a renaissance of long form artistic statements from a wide range of artists. This list of the decade’s 100 best albums includes the work of rock revivalists (the Strokes, the White Stripes), dance floor visionaries (M.I.A., LCD Soundsystem), hip-hop icons (Jay-Z, Eminem, Kanye West) and old standbys like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and U2, who reinvented their sound without losing touch with what made them living legends. This list is not just an argument in favor of the enduring appeal of the album format, but a compelling case that some of the best music of all time came out between 2000 and 2009.

90

Amadou & Miriam, ‘Dimanche a Bamako’

A Malian guitar virtuoso and his soul queen wife team up with Manu Chao, the post-national post-punk and pop-savvy "world music" producer. Chao brings his trademark reggae grooves and cell phone-synth touches; Amadou Bagayoko cranks his guitar up, channeling Bo Diddley and Buddy Guy amid the Latin-flavored fingerpicking style of West Africa. No tribal nostalgia tripping here: on "Senegal Fast Food," the trio embrace the modern world in all its tasty, and sometimes unhealthy, contradictions.

 

 

Related:
Photos: Rocking the World Cup

Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Songs of the Aughts

Photos: Morocco's Fez Festival

89

Radiohead, ‘Hail to the Thief’

Here's something you don't find every day: an underrated Radiohead album. Hail to the Thief, like everything else the band has done, perplexed fans at first, bristling with punk anger and art-rock ambition. But anyone can hear the raw emotion, especially in the way Thom Yorke combines his fiercest political rage with fatherly devotion in eerie ballads like "A Wolf at the Door" and "I Will." The guys later claimed they should have trimmed some of the extra tracks, but what fun would that be? The dazzling overabundance of ideas makes Hail to the Thief a triumph, from the guitar monster "2 + 2 = 5" to the slow-burning live staple "There There."

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2003 Review

The Future According to Radiohead: Rolling Stone's 2008 Cover Story

Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Singers of All Time: Thom Yorke

88

Brian Wilson, ‘Smile’

The famously un-finished Beach Boys record, begun by Wilson in 1966 as an answer to Sgt. Pepper but abandoned in favor of the less-ambitious Smiley Smile, gets finished in 2004 with help from longtime co-conspirator Van Dyke Parks. Is it the album it might've been 30-plus years ago? Who knows. But it's Wilson's finest solo moment: cascading vocal arrangements, delicious melodies, and letter-perfect orchestral flourishes. A generation of vocal-obsessed indie rockers (Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes) owe him large.

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2004 Review

Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Singers of All Time: Brian Wilson

Photos and Videos: The Greatest Summer Jams Readers Poll

87

Gnarls Barkley, ‘St. Elsewhere’

Everybody went crazy for "Crazy"," the Gnarls Barkley debut smash that hovers seductively between eras and genres, hitting a chord with everyone from indie rockers and hip-hop headz to teenyboppers and their great-grandparents. But "Crazy" was just one of the pleasures offered up on Cee-Lo Green and Danger Mouse's debut. Blending spaghetti Western soundtrack music, Motown, club-savvy dance beats, rock and gospel, St. Elsewhere seemed to take like a little bit of everything while resembling nothing else out there – a primer on 20th century pop that heralded a brave new musically polyglot 21st century. Bonus: they performed in Star Wars outfits.

Related:
Video: Sneak Peek of Cee Lo's "Bright Lights Bigger City"

Rolling Stone's 100 Best Songs of the Aughts: Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy"

Video: Cee Lo Green Performs "Bright Lights Bigger City" on 'The Voice'

86

The Postal Service, ‘Give Up’

It's quaint to think of it now: Electronic musician Jimmy Tamborello and Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard named their project Postal Service because they used to send demos back and forth to each other – in the good old-fashioned U.S. Mail. In a way, that suits the glitchy, retro computer pop the duo made on Give Up, with help from Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis and Temper Trap’s Jen Wood. Songs like "Such Great Heights" – whose inclusion on the soundtrack to Garden State elevated the album's profile – and "Nothing Better" bubbled with sweet little blips and bloops and bright patches of synth-manipulated  strings whose crispness balanced Gibbard’s delicate warble.

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2003 Review

Death Cab for Cutie Grow Up On 'Codes and Keys'

Rolling Stone's 100 Best Songs of the Aughts: Postal Service's "Such Great Heights"

85

Coldplay, ‘Viva La Vida’

From the beginning, it was clear that Chris Martin and company had designs on U2-level stardom – they wanted to be the Band That Matters Most. With their fourth album, they reached that goal, delivering 10 widescreen, windswept anthems about love, war and la vida. (Longtime U2 secret weapon, producer Brian Eno, helped the cause.) "I used to rule the world," sang Martin in the majestic title track, and "used to" was the only part that rang false.

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2008 Review

Photos: Exclusive Shots From the "Viva La Vida" Tour

Video: Coldplay's "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall"

84

Eminem, ‘The Eminem Show’

On his third album, Eminem shifted from provocation to introspection, mulling fame, fatherhood and the psychic toll of being America's biggest pop star and – according to scolds on both ends of the political spectrum – number one moral menace. The rhymes were as densely packed and virtuosic as ever ("When I speak, it's tongue in cheek/I'd yank my fuckin' teeth before I'd ever bite my tongue"), but they were also poignantly confessional; the beats largely jettisoned perky hip-hop to embrace the power chords and grandeur of Seventies rock.

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2002 Review

Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Eminem's 'The Eminem Show'

Eminem: A History in Photos

83

The Black Keys, ‘Attack & Release’

If you're going to do a song called "Psychotic Girl," you may as well make it sound like it was bashed out by a couple of psychotic dudes. And the old-school blues-rock duo from Akron, Ohio, was more than happy to oblige. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney were bringing the garage-rock noise when people dismissed the sound as a fad, but by teaming up with Danger Mouse, they were still topping themselves with their fifth album. Intended as a collaboration with Ike Turner, who died before it could happen, this down-home guitar ruckus could have come from any decade — but fit right into this one.

Related:
Video: The Black Keys Reach Deep in Their Catalog at Bonnaroo

Rolling Stone's 30 Best Albums of 2010: The Black Keys' 'Brothers'

Video: Vampire Weekend and Black Keys Fight It Out on 'Colbert Report'

82

Queens of the Stone Age, ‘Rated R’

The greatest LP by these post-grunge stoners begins with "Feel Good Hit of Summer" – which is just that, providing you’re not in rehab. ("Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol!" are pretty much the entire lyrics.) The album carried the torch for song-based hard rock awesomeness during the lean years of rap-rock, cribbing as much from the Beatles and glam-era Bowie as from avant-metal kin like The Melvins. Crushing, hypnotic, and frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious – like a good buzz should be.

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2000 Review

Queens of the Stone Age Play Their Classic 'If Only' on 'Conan'

Rolling Stone's 100 Best Songs of the Aughts: Queens of the Stone Age's "No One Knows"

81

Ryan Adams, ‘Gold’

In the early 2000s, the former frontman for North Carolina alt-country also-rans Whiskeytown blossomed into a shockingly prolific, amazingly consistent song machine. On Gold, released two weeks after 9/11, he set evocations of hard loving and heavy drinking on the Lower East Side to eclectic, heartfelt roots rock. The rollicking anthem "New York, New York" could've been on AM radio in 1974, and songs like the singer-songwriter revelation "Silvia Plath" and the Hendrix-tinged boogie ''Tina Toledo's Street Walkin' Blues'' showed how diverse his talent was. Adams' character sketches of pretty young things finding themselves in a city that was still on one knee made Gold one of that autumn's most therapeutic listens.

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2001 Review

Photos: The Intimate Ryan Adams

50 Top Tweeters in Music: Ryan Adams

80

Kings of Leon, ‘Youth and Young Manhood’

The Followills came blazing out of Juliet, Tennessee swathed in enough "Southern Strokes" hype to choke a mule. But they lived up to every bit of it on their fabulous debut, one of the decade's greatest garage rock records. Stylish but downhome, punky but purdy, it veered from short, sharp tambourine-banging rockers to sultry, guttural slow burners. Caleb's cotton-mouthed delivery fell somewhere between Kurt Cobain and an alcoholic tractor supplies salesman – the perfect slop-jowled squawk for their odes to wayward  Southern girls and the fallen boys who loved them. 

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2003 Review

Video: Kings of Leon at Home

Photos: Best Music Scene, 2011: Nashville, Tennessee