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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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