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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.

30

Radiohead, ‘In Rainbows’

After the pay-what-you-like release hoopla died down, what were Radiohead fans left with? One of the band's best albums: expansive and seductive, full of songs they had been fleshing out live for a couple of years. You can hear the musicians' exhilaration all over the tracks, from the shivery tambourine buzz of "Reckoner" to the jagged guitar waves of "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi." These are the most intense love songs Thom Yorke has ever sung, especially "All I Need," and the warm live-percussion feel gives the whole album the vibe of a hippie jam session. One that's taking place at the end of the world, of course.

 

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2007 Review

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29

Sigur Ros, ‘Ágætis Byrjun’

Beautiful and alien, Ágætis Byrjun was like being plunged into an Atlantis where language, gender and songforms were largely indeterminate. Sigur Rós conjured magic with drones, using strings, brass, electronics and guitars that took Jimmy Page's bowing technique to new heights. But the showstopper was Jónsi Birgisson's otherworldly voice, swooping between tenor confessions and falsetto ballet. Filmmakers Wes Anderson and Cameron Crowe have since used Byrjun in their soundtracks, but it was tough to beat the movies that this music conjured inside your own head.

 

Related:
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28

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, ‘Fever to Tell’

Ladies and gentlemen, Karen O! The Yeah Yeah Yeahs' debut introduced the world outside New York to the beer-swilling frontwoman, who sounded like she'd eaten Pat Benatar for breakfast while rocking out to Siouxsie and the Banshees. The gorgeous ballad "Maps" was the surprise hit, but most of the album found O spitting fiery slogans — "We're all gonna burn in hell!" — like a crazed art-school diva. With Nick Zinner dishing thick, badass riffs and Brian Chase laying down thudding drums, this was vicious garage punk that put fear into the hearts of bass players everywhere.

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2003 Review

Photos: Karen O's Crazy Onstage Looks

27

The Flaming Lips, ‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots’

Wayne Coyne took two decades and a long, bizarre road through drug-addled metal and alt-pop before he nailed the Pet Sounds in his psychedelia. Yoshimi is a delightful iridescent bomb of buoyant electronics, imaginary Japanese animé and plaintive vocal surrender. The real war — inside the steam clouds of synthesizer and Cat Stevens echoes on "Fight Test"; under the tubular-bell sunshine of "Do You Realize??" — was between Coyne and his insecurities. The Lips' 10th album was Coyne's first as a wide-open songwriter — inviting and vulnerable — and the result was total, dazzling victory.

 

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2002 Review

The Flaming Lips Plan 'Yoshimi' Musical

Video: Flaming Lips Rehearse Trippy Version of 'Do You Realize?'

26

Cat Power, ‘The Greatest’

Chan Marshall's early career was defined by haunting tunes and onstage meltdowns that were literally showstopping. The Greatest marked a turning point for the Georgia native: Recording in Memphis with former members of Booker T. and the MG's and Al Green's band, Marshall delivered a sensuous, grooving masterpiece, driven by gentle funk, lilting country and a voice that sounded weathered by bad love and two packs a day. Songs like the rootsified "Empty Shell" drew you into Marshall's world, but instead of making you feel her pain they invited you to follow her dreams.

Related:
Rolling Stone's 2010 Review

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