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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.

55

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, ‘Raising Sand’

One of rock's great voices meets one of country's great voices, tackling an inspired, roots-minded songbook with sonic guru T-Bone Burnett. Krauss sounds bluesy, even lusty; when she sings "I could never kill a man" on Gene Clark's "Through the Morning, Through the Night," you’re actually not 100 percent sure. Plant, meanwhile, dials it down so far, it’s often hard to identify the dude who sang "Black Dog." Yet the nuance in his vocals is as impressive as it is unprecedented. Tender, haunting, brilliant.

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54

Norah Jones, ‘Come Away With Me’

Though its surprising success (eight Grammys, 20-plus million copies sold) overwhelmed it, this seductively modest little record is a marvel of mood and invention. The songwriting and arrangements are sophisticated, often jazzy, yet full of catchy hooks. And Jones' vocals are silken and perfectly turned, setting a seamless mood that could soundtrack high-end restaurants and low-rent make-out sessions alike. And the sexy double entendre of the hit "Don't Know Why" ("…I didn’t come") still sounds sly as hell.

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Norah Jones Charges On

53

Kings of Leon, ‘Only By the Night’

How soulful is it? Ask Beyoncé, who has covered "Sex On Fire" live, and Trey Songz, who does an impressive "Use Somebody." Those songs were the album's trumps. But the whole package burns with agitated good-ol'-boy hormones and lazily anthemic, unzip-those-jeans guitars. Add killer hooks and Caleb Followill's slurring down-home tenor, and you have rock enormity that isn’t supposed to happen anymore. Don’t call them the southern Strokes – call them the American U2.

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52

M.I.A., ‘Arular’

M.I.A.'s 2005 debut is both politically and musically radical, with the British emcee delivering biting, often nihilistic revolutionary rhetoric over tracks that blend rap, dancehall, club music and harsh British electronica into some of the most raging bangers of the decade. It's dark stuff, but M.I.A. has a wicked sense of humor, dropping bitter zingers into intense tracks such as "10 Dollar," "URAQT" and the single "Bucky Done Gun."

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51

Spoon, ‘Kill the Moonlight’

Though it came out in 2002, this masterwork of spiky texture and bummed-out sentiment seems even more appropriate for 2009, when a dismal economy makes college grads scramble even harder for jobs they hate. But Spoon's Britt Daniel made his gnomic soliloquies about directionless youngsters both humane and hooky, and he and his bandmates got tons of mileage out of a spare, signature sound, tossing in rollicking piano, sax and cold-eyed stomp. And not even the Shins or Death Cab came up with anything as insanely gorgeous as "Paper Tiger," a cryptic-but-sweet love song with budget-Radiohead sonics.

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