• Category Archives Top 100 Albums of the 2000’s
  • Top 100 Albums of the 00’s: 91-100

    100. CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH!- CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH! (2005)

    Buy Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

    Buy Clap Your Hands Say YeahAmazon

    Philadelphia’s CYHSY is both a true recipient and a true victim of the internet hype machine.  In 2005 they generated a huge buzz by posting their 4 song demo on the net and were quickly touted as the hottest unsigned band in America.  They were literally packaging thousands of their full length cd’s a week and selling them out of their own apartments.  Soon the band couldn’t keep up with demand and finally signed a distribution deal.  After the hype began to die down and more  people had heard the actual music the inevitable backlash set in, which the the band didn’t help by releasing a comparatively very weak follow up album two years later.  But upon even further review their debut is a damn fine album.  There is certainly a heavy Talking Heads and Neutral Milk Hotel influence and lead singer Alex Ounsworth somewhat whiny voice can take some getting used to but if you can get past the voice it works very well with the music- much like yelping vocals of Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse.  And the tunes are great.   Don’t believe the backlash!

    Buy The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

    Buy Details of the War – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah



    99.  MADVILLAIN- MADVILLAINY (2004)

    Buy Madvillainy – Madvillain

    Buy MadvillainyAmazon

    Madvillain is a collaboration between underground L.A. rap DJ Madlib and MC M.F. Doom, originally of the little known but much loved early 90’s rap group KMD.  Doom also released several very underground solo projects after KMD called it quits.  “Madvillainy” is a very unconventional rap record.  Its 22 tracks (including skits) fly by in under 45 minutes, one track blending into the next, with Madlib’s beats coming out of leftfield- he samples such things as chamber music, ukuleles & the “jazz” music from old school cartoons.  Doom’s lyrical subjects are often comic book characters and his abundant humor is straight out of “Adult Swim”.  The album’s constant pace shifting and the lightning quick segues make it a blink-and-you-missed-it listen.  You will be rewarded more and more with each repeat play.

    Buy America’s Most Blunted – Madvillainy

    Buy Accordian – Madvillainy



    98.  IRON & WINE- CREEK DRANK THE CRADLE (2002)

    Buy The Creek Drank the Cradle – Iron & Wine

    Buy The Creek Drank the CradleAmazon

    Iron & Wine is the solo project of folkie singer songwriter and beardo Sam Beam, a very talented southerner who is originally from South Carolina and currently resides in Miami, Fl.  “Creek Drank the Cradle” is his debut album and is stripped down to the bone-  you hear nothing on the album but Beam’s hauntingly beautiful voice, his acoustic guitar and some occasional slide guitar and banjo.  He fits right in with the freak-folk movement which happened early to mid-decade even though he really wasn’t a part of it.  As under-produced as the record is, Beam knows his way around a hook and these songs are extremely catchy.  It’s not a challenging listen like a Joanna Newsom album. The most apt comparison would be to Bon Iver though obviously Iron & Wine came first.  Beam’s next album “Our Endless Numbered Days” is practically as good and just missed this countdown.  “Days” raised his profile considerably and really was the album to put him on the indie-map. but I still prefer the majestic beauty of the debut by a nose.

    Buy Southern Anthem – The Creek Drank the Cradle

    Buy Lion’s Mane – The Creek Drank the Cradle



    97.  THE NATIONAL- BOXER (2007)

    Buy Boxer – The National

    Buy BoxerAmazon

    “Boxer” is the follow-up to The National’s breakthrough album “Alligator” from 2005.  This Brooklyn band of late thirty-somethings has earned its success the old-fashioned way.  After two practically self-released albums they were signed to Beggars Banquet, a more prominent indie-label for “Alligator”.  While “Alligator” came out to little or no fanfare, over the next few years a buzz began to build around the album and the band to the point where “Boxer” was one of the most pre-hyped indie album releases of 2007.  Rather than build on the momentum of hard rocking tracks like “Mr. November” and “Abel” from “Alligator”, The National made “Boxer” a mellower, more somber, more socially conscious, more adult affair- and somehow gained even more listeners and critical adulation as a result.  The National seems to have captured the zeitgeist and the ennui of what it means to be a middle class, urban adult male in the early 21st century.  They also managed to meld the personal with the political at a very strange time in American history.

    Buy Mistaken for Strangers – Boxer

    Buy Fake Empire – Boxer



    96.  BLITZEN TRAPPER- FURR (2008)

    Buy Furr (Bonus Track Version) – Blitzen Trapper

    Buy FurrAmazon

    This Portland, Oregon band has been kicking around since 2000, but only came onto my radar with “Furr” their first album for prominent indie label Sub Pop.  “Furr” shows Blitzen Trapper perfecting an varied mix of different styles.  Though they can easily be lumped in with other indie/Americana bands like My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses and even Wilco, their sound is much more all over the map.  You get folk-pop, folk-rock, loose, jammy psychedelic music, southern rock, prog and country-rock harmonies all on the same album- each song is very unlike the next one.  Somehow the album still sounds cohesive and there is not a weak track on it.  Though I would still recommend this band mainly to fans of roots rock and the more Americana side of indie-rock, those listeners should all be prepared to be surprised.  This is no paint-by-numbers roots album.

    Buy Furr – Furr (Bonus Track Version)

    Buy God & Suicide – Furr (Bonus Track Version)



    95.  BEYONCE- B’DAY (2006)

    Buy B’Day – Beyoncé

    Buy B’DayAmazon

    It’s mind-numbing to me that “B’day” is the least seller out of Beyonce’s three solo albums.  It contains no singles as big as “Crazy in Love”, “Single Ladies”, or “Halo” with the exception of the massive hit “Irreplaceable”.  Despite its lower sales “B’Day” is far and away her best solo album and it’s consistently better song for song than any of Destiny’s Child’s albums as well.  Endless 15+ minute closer “Resentment” aside, “B’day” is filled with killer funk tracks like “Get Me Bodied”, “Upgrade U”, “Freakum Dress”, “Ring the Alarm” and “Suga Mama”- all either minor hits or should have been singles.  Every other Beyonce and DC release contains more than its fair share of syrupy ballads that weigh down the albums and make for an very uneven listening experience.  But put on “B’day”, delete “Resentment”, and see why Beyonce was the best pop star of the past decade.  I hope she makes another album as good as it again.

    Buy Upgrade U – B’Day Deluxe Edition

    Buy Suga Mama – B’Day Deluxe Edition



    94.  RAEKWON- ONLY BUILT FOR CUBAN LINX II (2009)

    Buy Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2 – Raekwon

    Buy Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2Amazon

    Though the exact subject matter of “Linx II” does not really justify its sequel status, one gets the feeling that Raekwon naming this album after his first great solo album was less a marketing ploy and more a statement of purpose.  With the notable exception of Ghostface Killah, the Wu-Tang Clan had spend most of the 00’s decade floundering in disappointing releases.  Sure enough Rae and company step up their game to deliver the best non-Ghost Wu release since ’96 or ’97.  Though most of the subject matter focuses on mafia & selling cocaine none of the songs are direct continuations of anything from Linx I.  Rae and every guest rapper is in top form and the beats on the album are the best heard in years.  Other than main Wu-producer RZA – Pete Rock, the Alchemist, Dr. Dre & the late J Dilla are at the helm as well.  Everything seems to work perfectly.  Again Ghostface and Raekwon compliment each other beautifully as they always seem to do- Rae’s soft spoken but burning intensity is the perfect juxtaposition to Ghost’s ecstatic shouting.  Let’s hope the Wu have several left in them that are this good!

    Buy 10 Bricks (feat. Cappadonna & Ghostface Killah) – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2

    Buy House of Flying Daggers (feat. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah & Method Man) – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2



    93.  ARCTIC MONKEYS- WHATEVER PEOPLE SAY I AM, THAT’S WHAT I’M NOT (2006)

    Buy Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not – Arctic Monkeys

    Buy Whatever People Say I Am Thats What I Am Not Amazon

    The Arctic Monkeys were probably the first internet phenomenon before they even released their first official album.  Due to a handful of free MP3’s the Monkeys built up such a buzz that this, their debut album, became the fastest selling debut in the history of the U.K.  The band was certainly not reinventing the wheel.  They took their musical cues from mostly past British guitar bands like The Clash, Blur & Oasis & more recently The Libertines, The (non-British) Strokes & Franz Ferdinand.  The band itself, made up of boys in their late teens, is extremely solid and tight as a drum- no loose jammin’ with nary a missed note.  The most exciting thing about them is singer/lyricist Alex Turner, who adds a new take on the classic late teen/early 20’s concerns of club hopping, underage drinking, hookups, getting into fights and in trouble with the law and other tales of debauchery.  He borrows Julian Casablancas’s (of The Strokes) sense of detachment and has a amazing eye of detail for such a young writer.  All of the songs on the album are filled with musical stop-starts, and packed full of riffs and words.  Though the album is slightly overrated as per usual with the British hype machine it was certainly a great debut from one of the most promising new bands of the decade.

    Buy I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

    Buy A Certain Romance – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not



    92.  IRON & WINE- THE SHEPHERD’S DOG (2007)

    Buy The Shepherd’s Dog – Iron & Wine

    Buy The Shepherd’s Dog Amazon

    “The Shepherd’s Dog” is Sam Beam’s 3rd studio album as Iron & Wine, not including their nice collaboration with Calexico- “In the Reigns” released in 2005.  Beam undergoes a drastic change in sound with this album- rather than just him and an acoustic guitar  as on his previous records, he has surrounded himself with a large cast of musicians and instruments-  not just drums, bass and electric guitars, but piano, vibes, harmonica, organ & accordions.  The high quality of the music proves that his previous stripped down sound was anything but a gimmick.  The increase in production and instrumentation does nothing to diminish his sound- in fact I think this is his best record.   Though the album sounds entirely different than his previous output the overall vibe is similar.  Beam’s amazing voice still gives the songs a eerily, mysterious tone and the album feels south gothic.  Is there anything this guy can’t do?

    Buy Peace Beneath the City – The Shepherd’s Dog

    Buy Flightless Bird, American Mouth – The Shepherd’s Dog



    91.  TED LEO & THE PHARMACISTS- HEARTS OF OAK (2003)

    Buy Hearts of Oak – Pharmacists & Ted Leo

    Buy Hearts of OakAmazon

    An early forty-something, intelligent, diminutive, vegan, hard-core politically left-wing Brooklynite, Ted Leo is the current torch bearer for straight forward punk rock influenced by the Jam, the Kinks, the Clash along with the post-hardcore of groups like Fugazi and err… Thin Lizzy- you see he’s also quite the lead guitarist as exhibited by his searing solos in the middle of nearly all of those tracks.  I guess he needs to bring the classic rock to the middle of all that punk.  He can also spin quite a story ala Lizzy’s Phil Lynott.  Check “Oak’s” The Ballad of a Sin Eater” if you don’t believe me.  Though Leo has consistently released good to great albums for the past ten years, I find “Hearts of Oak” to be his best by a fairly good measure.  It is both his most diverse and hookiest album with his best songs- among the best in his catalog including “Sin Eater” (from above), Specials nod-“Where have All the Rude Boys Gone?”, the title track, “The High Party” and “Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead”.

    Buy The Ballad of the Sin Eater – Hearts of Oak

    Buy Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone? – Hearts of Oak



  • Top 100 Albums of the 00’s: 81-90

    90.  MISSY ELLIOTT- MISS E… SO ADDICTIVE (2001)

    Buy Miss E…So Addictive – Missy Elliott

    Buy Miss E… So AddictiveAmazon

    After her extraordinary and game changing debut “Supa Dupa Fly” in 1997, Missy’s follow-up “Da Real World” was a comparative disappointment.  For “So Addictive”, her third release, she along with fellow Va. Beach native and super-producer Timbaland, were officially back in business.  Lead single “Get Ur Freak On” was perhaps the single of the year for 2001 and a party jams for all times.  Follow-up “One Minute Man” is not far behind it and the rest of the album is filled with fun, sexed up, club ready jams.  Missy is a triple threat with wicked rapping, along with her writing and singing and Timbaland was simply the most influential producer in rap and r&B and the turn of the millennium with the possible exception of the Neptunes.  This album may be his definitive production statement.

    Buy Get Ur Freak On (LP Version) – Miss E…So Addictive

    Buy One Minute Man (featuring Ludacris) (LP Version) – Miss E…So Addictive



    89.  THE DISMEMBERMENT PLAN- CHANGE (2001)

    Buy Change – The Dismemberment Plan

    Buy ChangeAmazon

    The D-Plan is fairly unknown except for indie-kids of a certain age and/or music lovers in the D.C. Metropolitan area.  I wish that everyone knew them as they are one great band.  The drummer actually went to my high school and the bass player my college though I really didn’t know either of them.  “Change” is their fourth and last album.  It may not be quite as good as 1999’s “Emergency & I” but “Change” is their second best full length by a mile.   They were emo before emo became a laughing stock.  They took their cues from everyone from Fugazi and Rites of Spring to Prince and The Talking Heads.  They told indie kids stop standing around and start dancing years before it became de rigeur.  That said this is their darkest album- it seems made for broken hearted young men to listen to well after dark.  Hopefully many more people will discover this amazing band- it would be criminal for a band this good to fade away into obscurity.

    Buy Time Bomb – Change

    Buy Superpowers – Change



    88.  ROBYN- ROBYN (2005)   (U.S. Release 2008)

    Buy Robyn – Robyn

    Buy RobynAmazon

    Robyn is a 30 year old Swedish woman who has been an International pop star since she was a teenager and even had several U.S. hits, though she certainly wasn’t anything close to a star here.  Robyn is also a complete badass.  She reworked and updated her sound  away from teen pop and toward a combination of American R&B, electro & club music and the indie-pop currently prevalent with so many bands in her native country.  It is absolutely criminal that at least several songs on this record weren’t playing alongside the best U.S. pop of this decade.  “Be Mine” should have been getting airplay right between “Toxic” and “Crazy in Love”.  Robyn also writes her music, is very involved in production and runs her own label- Konichiwa Records.  If you like your pop music with tons of attitude, fun & accessibility but still outside of the traditional pop machine, then Robyn is your girl.  Just don’t mess with her.

    Buy With Every Heartbeat (With Kleerup) – Robyn

    Buy Be Mine! – Robyn



    87.  LES SAVY FAV- LET’S STAY FRIENDS (2007)

    Buy Let’s Stay Friends – Les Savy Fav

    Buy Let’s Stay FriendsAmazon


    “Let’s Stay Friends” is LSF’s first album release after the career spanning singles compilation, “Inches” from 2004, which easily would have made this countdown if it weren’t for my self imposed rules against compilations.  While “Inches” certainly remains the best introduction to this great band, “Friends” is a very worthy follow up.  Les Savy Fav was doing the dance punk/Gang of Four revival thing in New York City in the late 90’s- certainly a few years or so before anyone else did.  “Friends” sees the band drifting away from the sound & the scene they helped start into more mature and more polished territory.  Though this often creates a mellower, trippier vibe than their usual fare, the music never gets boring.  Piano, horns and dub reggae bass are added to the mix and the vocals are sung rather than shouted.  But take one look at the gleam in maniacal frontman Tim Harrington’s eye and you know that this is a band that will always continue to bring the noise as long as they are still around- there will be no growing old gracefully for them!

    Buy Brace Yourself – Let’s Stay Friends

    Buy Scotchguard the Credit Card – Let’s Stay Friends



    86.  FUGAZI- THE ARGUMENT (2001)

    Buy The Argument – Fugazi

    Buy ArgumentAmazon

    As of this date “The Argument” is this D.C. post-hardcore institution’s sixth and final full length album and it does not disappoint.  I consider each Fugazi release a necessary purchase- with the possible exception of 1998’s “End Hits” which I’ve still somehow never heard.  While the band uses the same template of emotional, shouted vocals, anti-corporate, socially conscious lyrics and thrashing guitars, they change up their sound on every album and never repeat themselves.  With “The Argument” their songs are more melodic and catchier than anything they’ve done since the “13 Songs” days.  They also add texture with strings and piano on several tracks.  If this album ends up being the last word of Fugazi then they’ve gone out well.

    Buy Cashout – The Argument

    Buy Full Disclosure – The Argument



    85.  PJ HARVEY- STORIES FROM THE CITY, STORIES FROM THE SEA (2000)

    Buy Stories from the City – Stories from the Sea – PJ Harvey

    Buy Stories From the City Stories From the SeaAmazon

    “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea” is PJ Harvey’s fifth full length album and her most commercial sounding.  Gone is the uncompromising, aggressive lo-fi punk of her first two albums as well as the eccentric singer-songwriter style of her third and fourth.  As it turns out this album was not a permanent turn toward the commercial for Harvey, but just another stylistic shift that she experimented with before moving on to other styles later in the decade.  The album chronicles PJ’s times living in New York City- far away from her home in the English countryside.  The writing is tight, the production is big and the songs for the most part sound great.  It’s a pleasure hearing PJ’s amazing voice sing behind songs you could actually imagine being played on the radio- even if one of them ever were.   Tracks like “This Mess We’re In” and “You Said Something” took on new meaning after 9/11 with their imagery about New York City buildings and helicopters.  Art imitates life, life imitates art.

    Buy You Said Something – Stories from the City – Stories from the Sea

    Buy The Mess We’re In – Stories from the City – Stories from the Sea



    84.  MASTODON- CRACK THE SKYE (2009)

    Buy Crack the Skye – Mastodon

    Buy Crack the Skye Amazon

    I’ve listened to plenty of aggressive music in the last two decades; not much outside of the occasional Boris or Tool release (that’s what she said) would really even be considered Heavy Metal.  Well Mastodon is my Metal band.  And they are unapologetically Metal.  And I am on board.  “Crack the Skye” is their fourth album release and probably their most varied and proggy (though I’ve yet to hear their debut).  Mastodon always seems to go high concept- this album is based on Tsarist Russia but you need not be a student of history to enjoy the thundering power of tracks like “Oblivion” and “Divinations” or the sweeping epics like the 13 minute “The Last Baron”.  Like Metallica (way) before them, Mastodon doesn’t want to be put in a box.  At times they can sound like thrash or death metal, and their singer has aggressive howling vocals but he has far more depth than the typical cookie-monster vocalist so typical in Metal these days.  And the band while aggressive and heavy as all get out, can also change time on a dime; slowing the music down to either convey creeping doom (again like old Metallica) or go into instrumental passages of intense beauty.

    Buy The Last Baron – Crack the Skye

    Buy Divinations – Crack the Skye



    83.  RYAN ADAMS- HEARTBREAKER (2000)

    Buy Heartbreaker – Ryan Adams

    Buy HeartbreakerAmazon

    In a career made up of a zillion album releases, former Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adam’s solo debut “Heartbreaker” is his one masterpiece.  It’s an ode to both sadness and the American South.  With the exception of a few Whiskeytown-style rockers, and the great upbeat leadoff track “To Be Young (Is to be Sad, Is to be High)”, “Heartbreaker” is made up of all ballads.  But fear not, there isn’t a single radio ready power ballad in the bunch- the songs are all rooted in old school country- Emmylou Harris even duets on the terrific “Oh My Sweet Carolina”.  This is a beautiful, sad, drinker’s lament album to be played in the wee small hours of the morning.  Adams remains prolific to this day, but has yet to match the quality of “Heartbreaker”.

    Buy To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High) – Heartbreaker

    Buy Come Pick Me Up – Heartbreaker



    82.  THE EXPLODING HEARTS- GUITAR ROMANTIC (2003)

    Buy Guitar Romantic – The Exploding Hearts

    Buy Guitar RomanticAmazon

    The Exploding Hearts were an extremely fun, loose power-pop meets punk group from Portland, Oregon.  Though they had obvious influences- namely the Buzzcocks, the Undertones & early Clash, their sense of glee at bashing out a great hook, and their overall tunefulness and excellent song-writing made them stand out from the pack.  This is my favorite true punk record of the 00’s- simply better than a more popular album like “Vendi, Vidi, Vicious” by The Hives which actually barely missed the cut.   In the days of the current trend of blending many different musical genres, the Exploding Hearts keep it simple- writing mostly 2-3 minute tunes that make up a barely 30 minute album.  As soon as the album’s over you’ll want to press the reset button/move the needle back to the front of the record.  Tragically ¾ of the band were killed in a bus accident in 2006 and there was never a proper follow-up other than a compilation of the group’s non-album single releases.  They are missed.

    Buy Modern Kicks – Guitar Romantic

    Buy Sleeping Aides & Razorblades – Guitar Romantic



    81.  THE FLAMING LIPS- EMBRYONIC (2009)

    Buy Embryonic – The Flaming Lips

    Buy EmbryonicAmazon

    “Embryonic” is a return to these twenty + year vets earlier days as acid-drenched, psychedelic indie-freak shows.  However, in the old days the Lips went lo-fi by necessity and “Embryonic” is a nod to Pink Floyd’s brain melting albums of the seventies like “Dark Side of the Moon”, using all of the modern technology at a major label’s disposal.  The Lips even managed to cover “Dark Side” in its entirety as their follow-up release to “Embryonic”.  The album is packaged as an old school double album with two distinct sides, even though each disc barely runs over thirty minutes and would have easily fit onto one cd.  Though there are many layers to the music, and it hardly announces its accessibility on first listen, with any luck scores of future heads will revere “Embryonic” the way Floyd is revered today.  It’s a future classic for the 2020’s!

    Buy Watching the Planets – Embryonic

    Buy Silver Trembling Hands – Embryonic



  • Top 100 Albums of the 00’s: 71-80

    80.  BADLY DRAWN BOY- THE HOUR OF THE BEWILDERBEAST (2000)

    Buy The Hour of Bewilderbeast – Badly Drawn Boy

    Buy The Hour of Bewilderbeast Amazon

    This is the phenomenal debut album from musical wunderkind Damon Gough (aka Badly Drawn Boy)- he writes, sings, produces, arranges, programs and plays guitars, keyboards and piano; the debut plays like an Elliott Smith album though even it’s even more Beatlesque and at least as ambitious.  The album is slightly overly-long with multiple musical interludes messing up what could have been a near-perfect tight, 12 track album.  But Gough is not about being perfect and we, the listeners, are forced to endure the messiness surrounding an otherwise wildly successful album of lovely baroque folk-pop songs.  Gough won the coveted U.K. Mercury prize for this album- unfortunately he has since been unable to duplicate the success of the debut either artistically or commercially ever since.

    Buy Camping Next to Water – The Hour of Bewilderbeast

    Buy Everybody’s Stalking – The Hour of Bewilderbeast



    79.  NO AGE- NOUNS (2008)

    Buy Nouns – No Age

    Buy Nouns (W/Book) (Dig)Amazon

    No Age is a very young, very lo-fi Los Angeles duo who had previously become the house band at the hipster, vegan, all-ages club “The Smell”, which has since launched a series of other likeminded groups like Abe Vigoda and Lavender Diamond.  No Age create two minute, simplistic songs filled with plenty of white noise and beautiful feedback and with the vocals buried deep in the mix.  All of the thrashing & rattle is still unable to mask the fact that the band is hooky as hell- even the vocals are accessible if you can make out what they’re saying..  This is stripped down post-hardcore rock- guitars, drums & vocals without a hint of the blues.

    Buy Sleeper Hold – Nouns

    Buy Teen Creeps – Nouns



    78.  MASTODON- BLOOD MOUNTAIN (2006)

    Buy Blood Mountain – Mastodon

    Buy Blood Mountain Amazon

    Whereas Mastodon’s second album “Leviathon” was a concept album about Moby Dick, its third album “Blood Mountain” seems to invoke and ancient. mythical world where men fought each other to the death among dragons & sorcerers (yes- think Dungeons & Dragons).  The band is practically flawless technically, and drummer Brann Dailor is simply one of the best in the business.  “Blood Mountain” hits harder than “Crack the Skye” but still has elements of prog & even hardcore that most modern Metal bands don’t even go near in this day and age.  Mastodon can play as fast or as aggressively as any band but they never come off as dull or homogenous.  It is highly intelligent METAL music that will unveil its deeper layers with each listen while it crushes your skull and breaks your neck.

    Buy The Wolf Is Loose – Blood Mountain

    Buy Crystal Skull – Blood Mountain



    77.  GHOSTFACE KILLAH- SUPREME CLIENTELE (2000)

    Buy Supreme Clientele – Ghostface Killah

    Buy Supreme ClienteleAmazon

    Every other major member of the Wu-Tang Clan (with the possible exception of Ol’ Dirty Bastard) experienced a major artistic and commercial drop off with their second solo album, after standout debuts.  After the Wu absolutely dominated the rap game in the middle part of the nineties they had quite a dip in quality after 1997’s “Wu-Tang Forever”.  Well, Ghostface saved the day with his stellar second album “Supreme Clientele” and while he stumbled with his third album a year or so later, he would prove the be the most dependable member of the Wu throughout the decade.  Ghost (AKA Tony Starks) brought the weirdness to hip hop with insane lyrics that sometimes seemed nonsensical but somehow fit together (the hip hop Bob Dylan?).  He is an amazing story teller as well with a unique style- he is a master at creating tension with his aggressive shouting, but can deliver a quick about face and fill his very next verse full of humor.  He’s one of a kind.  The album has tons of bangers including ugh “Wu Banga”, “One”, “Nutmeg”, “We Made It” and the Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band sampling “Cherchez La Ghost”- one of the funniest samples & song titles I’ve ever heard.

    Buy Cherchez LaGhost – Supreme Clientele

    Buy We Made It (featuring Superb) – Supreme Clientele



    76.  THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS- FEVER TO TELL (2003)

    Buy Fever to Tell – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

    Buy Fever to TellAmazon

    Along with Interpol, the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s were the “It” band in the indie world in the wake of The Strokes/White Stripes/Hives so called garage rock revival.  They had just one exciting EP to their name before the release of this debut album in 2003.  They were a bunch of New Jersey transplants living in arty Williamsburg and taking New York City by storm.  Though signed by a major after a label bidding war, they were able to maintain credibility with the hipsters with their uncompromising noise rock and singer Karen O’s amazing stage presence.  While “Fever to Tell” isn’t a perfect album, it does have perfect moments like the lovesick ballad “Maps”- to me one of the definitive songs of the decade, the one-two punch of openers “Rich” and “A Date With the Night” and the beautiful “Y Control”.  O has the ability to sell her raunchiest songs with a guttural howl or a high register screech, while also singing purely and sweetly on the YYY’s straighter songs.  This band is pure attitude, but they also know their way around a hook and a good song.

    Buy Maps – Fever to Tell

    Buy Y Control – Fever to Tell



    75.  THE DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS- SOUTHERN ROCK OPERA (2001)

    Buy Southern Rock Opera – Drive-By Truckers

    Buy Southern Rock Opera (Dig) Amazon

    The Drive-By Truckers and “The Southern Rock Opera” album especially have quite an intriguing back story.  The band formed in the south in the late 90’s by college buddies Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley and includes a cast of Alabamans and Georgians.  Hood’s father was a session player in Rick Hall’s great Muscle Shoals studio in the 60’s and 70’s.  After two minor albums, the DBT’s created “Southern Rock Opera” as a homage to 70’s southern rock and the band Lynyrd Skynyrd in particular, and used the subject matter as a jumping off point to explore many of the racial issues, contradictions and strife of the American South in from its distant past to the modern day.  The album requires quite a commitment from the listener.  It’s 90 minutes along and unfolds like a classic old-school double album from the days of yore.  Any fan of southern rock, alternative country or great rock n’ roll in general should not be disappointed.  The DBT’s used this album as a launching pad on their way to becoming perhaps the most consistently good, and one of the biggest, alt country bands of the decade and have made many very good albums since.

    Buy Ronnie and Neil – Southern Rock Opera

    Buy Let There Be Rock – Southern Rock Opera



    74.  PASSION PIT- MANNERS (2009)

    Buy Manners (Bonus Track Version) – Passion Pit

    Buy MannersAmazon

    “Manners” is the the full length debut for Boston’s Passion Pit, after their very promising “Chunk of Change” EP from 2008.  They are fronted by impossibly high voiced Michael Angelakos- he sings and writes all of their songs.  This is modern synth-pop as its finest.  Many of the songs deserve a place on the radio- tracks like “Little Secrets” and “The Reeling” would have been all over the airwaves in the 80’s.  It’s a shame that modern day radio playlists are so tight and homogenized.    And like many classic bands, Passion Pit manages to combine the sugary sweet, giddiness of the music with much darker lyrics which gives the band some depth that it wouldn’t otherwise have.   The inclusion of the best song from their EP “Sleepyhead” on this album raises it yet another notch.

    Buy Sleepyhead – Manners (Bonus Track Version)

    Buy Little Secrets – Manners (Bonus Track Version)



    73.  THE XX- THE XX (2009)

    Buy XX (Bonus Track Version) – The XX

    Buy XXAmazon

    A young English indie-pop trio who are as minimalistic as Young Marble Giants, early Depeche Mode or Yaz and like Yaz have a soulful bent to them.  Their influences run deep- Post punk, R&B/Soul, dubstep, techno. The songs and album are short and tight without a raised voice, squealing guitar or any superfluous notes.  Though the album never even comes close to rocking, there is a nervous edginess to the vocals and beats.  Each sung word and instrument is given so much space that it creates a very sexy, mysterious vibe.  It doesn’t hurt that every lyric also seems to be about sex & romance. It’s rare that a band this young comes so fully formed and sounds so unique.  Though they certainly have their influences, the XX only really sounds like itself.  And at least half the tracks on the album already sound like classics.

    Buy Shelter – XX (Bonus Track Version)

    Buy Islands – XX (Bonus Track Version)



    72.  THE SHINS- OH, INVERTED WORLD (2001)

    Buy Oh, Inverted World – The Shins

    Buy Oh, Inverted WorldAmazon

    The Shins are the classic west coast (though they are originally from Albuquerque) sunny, guitar pop band, the -modern version of a direct line that spans from The Byrds and latter day Beach Boys to Badfinger and Big Star in the 70’s (neither a West coast band) and underground bands like Guided By Voices in the 90’s- the grunge era had pushed the power pop bands even further underground and out of sight  so The Shins were a quite a breath of fresh air when they emerged on the scene at the beginning of the 00’s.  After Natalie Portman claimed that the Shins would “change your life” in the zeitgeisty coming of age flick “Garden State” the Shins became a household name- at least with anyone around or younger than thirty who even cared a little about music.  But the Shins are hardly a retread.  James Mercer has a beautiful, high register and immediately identifiable voice and he and the band write short, sweet and fantastically hooky songs without being at all generic or rip off artists.  They would end up being one of the best bands of the next decade.

    Buy New Slang – Oh, Inverted World

    Buy Caring Is Creepy – Oh, Inverted World



    71.  BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE- YOU FORGOT IT IN PEOPLE (2002)

    Buy You Forgot It in People – Broken Social Scene

    Buy You Forgot It in PeopleAmazon

    Broken Social Scene is an indie-rock collective out of Toronto, whose main members are Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning and whose extended members include a revolving cast of Canadian musicians including Leslie Feist, Emily Haines (of Metric) and Amy Millan (of Stars).  “You Forgot It in People” is there de-facto debut album (their actual 2001 debut “Feel Good Lost” is still almost totally unknown) and came out of absolutely nowhere to take the world (o.k. the blog world and nerdy music critics) by storm.  It’s a pop album made by art people.  The songs are filled with both hooks and with experimentation.  Eight years later, after two more very good albums and a Kevin Drew solo release, it still stands are there definitive statement and has not aged a day.

    Buy Cause=Time – You Forgot It in People

    Buy Almost Crimes – You Forgot It in People



  • Top 100 Albums of the 00’s: 61-70

    70.  BOB DYLAN- LOVE AND THEFT (2001)

    Buy Love and Theft – Bob Dylan

    Buy “Love and Theft”Amazon

    While hardly the legendary Bob’s greatest album, “Love and Theft” sits alongside his previous album, 1997’s “Time Out of Mind” as his best album since 1976’s “Desire” and confirmed that his late period comeback was not a mirage.  “Time Out of Mind” was a very dark record, obsessed with mortality and filled with apocalyptic visions, where “Love and Theft” is a much breezier, fun album (at least for Dylan).  Dylan touches on all of the styles that he has been influenced by (and  has influenced!)- country-blues, folk, absurdist poetry.  He has assembled a top notch band who keeps things loose and both Dylan and his band sound like they are having a absolute blast.

    Buy Mississippi – Love and Theft

    Buy Po’ Boy – Love and Theft



    69.  PETER BJORN & JOHN- WRITER’S BLOCK (2006)

    Buy Writer’s Block – Peter Bjorn and John

    Buy Writer’s BlockAmazon

    “Writer’s Block” is the  third  album from the trio from Stockholm, Sweden is a treat from start to finish.  This group was completely off my radar until this release so this album had me listening to them with completely fresh ears.   Many of you already know the world conquering lead single “Young Folks” with guest vocals from Victoria Bergsmen of The Concretes.  Trust me you’ve heard it- you’ll know as soon as you hear the first whistle.  But the rest of the album is high quality as well- PB&J blend 60’s pop, 70’s power pop, early 80’s new wave and modern indie-rock to create hook filled songs filled with heartache and heartbreak.  Their follow-up release was a comparative disappointment.  Here’s hoping such a talented band will again find their footing.

    Buy Young Folks – Writer’s Block

    Buy Objects of My Affection – Writer’s Block



    68.  JENS LEKMAN- NIGHT FALLS OVER KORTEDALA (2007)

    Buy Night Falls Over Kortedala – Jens Lekman

    Buy Night Falls Over KortedalaAmazon

    What is it about Sweden lately?  Well it is a country that greatly values and grants subsidies to its artists so maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that they have come up with more quality music this past decade than almost any other country in the world.  Jens Lekman is another one of Sweden’s budding musicians.  “Night Falls Over Kortedala” is his second album and a great leap forward over his solid debut album along with some excellent EP’s that he had recorded over the prior three or four years.  Lekman is a true romantic- not afraid to sound bombastic or overly sappy, but also with a wicked sense of humor.  More than any other musician I liken him to Honathan Richman, but his music is much less stripped down.  While with Richman it’s normally just him, his guitar and a tom tom drum,  Lekman is not afraid of big orchestrations and heavy production;  he also often incorporporates recording samples in his songs.  This album is filled with catchy, sweet pop tunes about love sung in a rich baritone by a sensitive young Swede.  If this sounds like your thing, hop on!

    Buy And I Remember Every Kiss – Night Falls Over Kortedala

    Buy A Postcard to Nina – Night Falls Over Kortedala



    67.  THE HOLD STEADY- SEPARATION SUNDAY (2005)

    Buy Separation Sunday – The Hold Steady

    Buy Separation SundayAmazon

    “Separation Sunday” was my first Hold Steady album.  The Brooklyn “bar” band, made up of former members of the Minneapolis band Lifter Puller had made a very good debut album in 2004 but not many heard it.  I didn’t hear it until years later.  Singer and lyricist Craig Finn, already then in his mid-thirties, takes the writing of Bruce Springsteen on his first two albums as his template- instead of writing about blue collar kids from Jersey, he writes about going-nowhere kids from the Midwest.  Like early Springsteen, his writing is incredibly descriptive, tells a great story and is full of clever twists of phrase.  Critics could call it verbose but I find it refreshing.  However, if you’re looking for tight songs suited for radio playlists these are not them.  Luckily the Hold Steady hits hard musically and plays these songs up as the arena-rock anthems they need to be despite their lack of structure and big choruses.  The Hold Steady would go on to become one of the most consistently good bands of the decade and a nice touchstone for those who appreciate the sound of old school rock n’ roll.

    Buy Your Little Hoodrat Friend – Separation Sunday

    Buy Hornets! Hornets! – Separation Sunday



    66.  THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS- ELECTRIC VERSION (2003)

    Buy Electric Version – The New Pornographers

    Buy Electric VersionAmazon

    It’s tough to choose the better album between the one-two punch of The New Pornographer’s debut “Mass Romantic” and their similarly sounding follow-up “Electric Version”.  I went with the latter.  With “Electric Version” the NP’s sound like a tighter band rather than just a one off super-group recording.  “Electric Version” is a bit slicker and more polished than the debut but I also find it to be the more consistently good album. Their debut was top heavy with great songs but also had some weak moments, while EV is stellar from start to finish.   With this album the NP’s proved that their lovable power-pop was here to stay.

    Buy The Laws Have Changed – Electric Version

    Buy All for Swinging You Around – Electric Version



    65.  THE DECEMBERISTS- PICARESQUE (2005)

    Buy Picaresque – The Decemberists

    Buy PicaresqueAmazon

    “Picaresque” is the third, and I say best album to date from this eccentric, yet extremely reliable band of theater geeks from Portland, Ore.  It amazes me that a band that on paper seems so out of left field can be so consistently good.  They sing tales usually set in time periods at least two hundred years ago, use over the top SAT words at a constant rate, and are as theatrical and unsubtle as a cheesy Metal band with a juicy dollop of feyness.  They also know their way around good hooks and medley and stand out above much of the indie riff-raff because of both their ability and their own uniqueness.  The only band I can even think to compare them to is Belle & Sebastian but B&S at least still seems lyrically rooted to modern times (for the most part).  “Picaresque” reigns supreme for me over their other excellent albums mostly due to the standout tracks “16 Military Wives”, “The Sporting Life”, “We Both Go Down Together” and “The Engine Driver”.  Although I truly dig every album they’ve made so far none of the other ones sport a top of the order quite like “Picaresque”.

    Buy 16 Military Wives – Picaresque

    Buy The Sporting Life – Picaresque



    64.  RADIOHEAD- HAIL TO THE THIEF (2003)

    Buy Hail to the Thief – Radiohead

    Buy Hail to the ThiefAmazon

    “Hail to the Thief” is what I consider to their weakest album since their debut “Pablo Honey” so the fact that it still places on my top 100 of the 00’s list is quite a statement of the awesomeness of Radiohead- at least to me it is!.  Radiohead is an unstoppable force. The narrative on “Hail to the Thief” is that it was their return to a more rock, song oriented format, after the experimental “Kid A” and “Amnesiac” albums.  This is true up to a point.  Though several songs do rock anyone expecting a return to the post-grunge/brit pop rock of “The Bends” will be disappointed.  And there is still plenty of experimentation going on here as well.  After the cohesive conceptual masterpieces of “OK Computer” and “Kid A” and the still cohesive Kid-A outtakes “Amnesiac”, “HTTT” feels like a stepping stone album to the next phase of Radiohead’s career.  But don’t let that stop you from listening.  Though the album is a bit long and some of the more experimental songs don’t really work, there are plenty of winners here too- “2+2=5”, “There There” and “A Wolf at the Door” in particular are three standout tracks to add to an already mighty canon.

    Buy 2+2=5 – Hail to the Thief

    Buy There, There – Hail to the Thief (Collector’s Edition)



    63.  PORTISHEAD- THIRD (2008)

    Buy Third – Portishead

    Buy Third Amazon

    It’s a rarity when a band can come back from such a long absence and deliver a great album.  Even rarer is when a band does so along with drastically changing up their sound yet somehow still sounding unmistakably like themselves.  Over ten years separate “Third” and Portishead’s second self-titled album.  Gone is the trip-hop sound that Portishead practically invented and that was pretty much done beaten to death by countless pale imitations throughout the rest of the nineties and beyond.  Where the old Portishead was spooky, but chilled out, Portishead 3.0 is more psychedelic, industrial, uptempo and abrasive.  There are still many moments of beauty, mostly due to Beth Gibbons’ haunting voice but the music can be relentless and unforgiving.  A depressing sen timent but you could say it’s a perfect album for these times.

    Buy Machine Gun – Third

    Buy Silence – Third



    62.  ARCADE FIRE- NEON BIBLE (2007)

    Buy Neon Bible – Arcade Fire

    Buy Neon BibleAmazon

    “Neon Bible” is a very worthy follow-up to one of the best albums of the decade and one of the best debut full length albums of all time.  Certainly “Bible” lacks the surprise factor of the debut but this intense band from Montreal refines their sound enough to move themselves forward- sounding almost like an indie-rock version of Bruce Springsteen while the debut had more in common with “Disintegration”-era Cure.  The debut was more focused on familial and personal issues while “Bible” focuses on worldly events- unsurprisingly The Arcade Fire are full of condemnation and spite for our lovely (not so much) modern times.  A light, joyous ride this is not but if you like your music intelligent, beautiful, angry and righteous buy it up.

    Buy No Cars Go – Neon Bible

    Buy Keep the Car Running – Neon Bible



    61.  LOS CAMPESINOS!- HOLD ON NOW, YOUNGSTER (2008)

    Buy Hold On Now, Youngster… – Los Campesinos!

    Buy Hold on Now Youngster Amazon

    Los Campesinos!, a seven piece Welsh group of Cardiff University students, came out of nowhere in 2008 to put a big, wide grin on my face.  They are lo-fi, bratty, witty, angsty and self aware in a way that reminds me of the beloved Violent Femmes.  “Hold on Now, Youngster, is non-stop fun from start to finish.  It’s wordy, sloppy and frantic and has wonderful boy/girl call and response vocals.  Not a boring moment on the whole album.  Full of punk rock energy but with no male bravado.  It has the nerdiness and manic intensity of the great eighties band The Feelies but sounds much more fun-loving and high spirited  Though Los Campesinos! Have had two very fine releases since, neither reaches the heights of this debut.

    Buy Death to Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster…

    Buy You! Me! Dancing! – Hold On Now, Youngster…



  • Top 100 Albums of the 00’s: 51-60

    60.  THE LIBERTINES- UP THE BRACKET (2002)

    Buy Up the Bracket – The Libertines

    Buy Up the BracketAmazon

    The Libertines were the late great entry to the garage-rock revival of the early 00’s; after most notably the Strokes, the White Stripes & the Hives.  “Up the Bracket”, the band’s debut album, was in my opinion the definitive British take on the scene.  While The Strokes took their cues from pre-punk late 60’s early 70’s NYC bands, The Stripes from the blues and Led Zep, and The Hives from garage rock 60’s Nuggets, The Libertines were mainly influenced by British punkers like the Jam & the Clash as well as the undefinable, mighty Kinks.  Though they are clearly a derivative band, The Libertines songs are fun, fast & loose and they are sung and played with a reckless sense of danger missing from most modern music.  Twin vocalists, Carl Barat and Pete Doherty sound like they could fall over at any minute and the music practically slides off of the rails at times but underneath all the sloppiness and punk attitude is some real detailed street poetry.  And musically the songs, while under-produced and aggressive, are at heart tuneful and filled with melody.  Unfortunately the band burned out after just one more album, likely due to the increasingly erratic behavior and drug problems of co-lead singer Pete Doherty.  Their debut will stand as their definitive statement.

    Buy Up the Bracket – Up the Bracket

    Buy Time for Heroes – Up the Bracket



    59.  MY MORNING JACKET- Z (2005)

    Buy Z – My Morning Jacket

    Buy Z Amazon

    “Z” was the first attempt at accessibility by Louisville, KY’s My Morning Jacket and it is hugely successful. The band had previously been kicking around for the better part of a decade honing their chops and becoming one of the best live bands around with a sound which was a mixture of the folk-rock and vocal-stylings of Neil Young & The Band & the southern rock of Lynyrd Skynyrd and blues of the Allman Brothers.  But before “Z” they had yet to record a great album.   “Z” pares down the lengthier jam-band qualities and massive amounts of reverb of early MMJ and adds in some funk, soul & reggae elements. The songs are tighter and rock harder than on previous efforts.  MMJ embraces probably as many different styles of music as Mr. Young himself which is a great part of their appeal.  They have so far been unable to duplicate the critical success of “Z” while their reputation as a phenomenal live act has only increased since ’05.

    Buy Off the Record – Z

    Buy Wordless Chorus – Z



    58.  BLACKALICIOUS- BLAZING ARROW (2002)

    Buy Blazing Arrow – Blackalicious

    Buy Blazing Arrow Amazon

    Inventive major label debut rap album from Northern California’s Blackalicious- one of the very best groups to emerge from hip hop’s second golden age of conscious rap of the late 90’s.  “Blazing Arrow” is an incredibly diverse and innovative album- songs of straight hip-hop funk merge straight into lighter R&B tracks as well as tracks that contain rapid-fire breakneck lyrical rapping.  There are also tracks that serve as the musical equivalent of progressive rock/rap- they sound like nothing heard before on a hip hop album.  Although it sounds like a big mess on paper the brilliant production holds the whole 74+ minute album together.  There are also many notable guess rappers & singers including Saul Williams, Ben Harper, Zack De La Roche of Rage Against the Machine, the legendary Gil Scot-Heron and members of likeminded Northwest coast crews Dilated People’s and Jurassic 5.  This is the most musically inventive rap album I heard all decade outside of Outkast’s “Stankonia”.

    Buy 4000 Miles – Blazing Arrow

    Buy First In Flight – Blazing Arrow



    57.  CUT COPY- IN GHOST COLOURS (2008)

    Buy In Ghost Colours – Cut Copy

    Buy In Ghost Colours Amazon

    Australia’s Cut Copy sounds to me like New Order updated for the 00’s.  They were not previously on my radar at all- “In Ghost Colours” is actually their third album release- and from what I’ve read by far their best. Cut Copy’s trick is to do dance music in the context of a rock song.  No track on the album runs over five minutes long and most use the normal verse chorus verse structure typical of rock & pop radio.  They don’t break musical ground like New Order did in the 80’s by merging post-punk & House.  Instead they are all about refining the best elements from various forms of dance music- electro, house & early 80’s New Wave and combines them to make breezy, fun dance-rock (should-be) hits.  This is a deep album.  By my count at least six tracks on “Ghost Colours” should be either big club or big radio hits- depending on city/country & station.    It’s a shame modern radio playlists are not more ambitious-if they become so we will be living in a Cut Copy world.

    Buy Hearts On Fire – In Ghost Colours

    Buy Lights & Music – In Ghost Colours



    56.  THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS- TWIN CINEMA (2005)

    Buy Twin Cinema – The New Pornographers

    Buy Twin CinemaAmazon

    “Twin Cinema” is the third and best (so far) album release by this Vancouver super-group made up of of members from Zumpano, Destroyer, The Evaporators and solo alt-country singer Neko Case.  Anticipation for this album was at a fever pitch after their first two excellent full-length releases “Mass Romantic” and “Electric Version” and band leader AC Newman’s very good solo album “The Slow Wonder” released in 2004.  And “Twin Cinema” delivers in spades.  The album takes the basic power pop blueprint of the first two albums and expand on it by adding additional instruments and more intricate arrangements.  “Cinema” may not contain the sugar rush of the previous releases but it stands as a more mature album.

    Buy Twin Cinema – The New Pornographers

    Buy Sing Me Spanish Techno – Twin Cinema



    55.  THE KNIFE- SILENT SHOUT (2006)

    Buy Silent Shout – The Knife

    Buy Silent ShoutAmazon

    Two words you don’t see beside each other too often are ‘scary’ and ‘synth pop’ but that is the best and most basic way I can think of to describe The Knife, which is a brother/sister combo from Sweden who have been around since the early part of the decade; but were previously only noteworthy for their amazing single “Heartbeats”, (also covered  very well  by Jose Gonzalez).  Olof and Karin Dreijer hide behind their creepy masks and keep their public identities fairly cryptic even though they are now big stars in Sweden.  They supposedly put amazingly theatrical live performances though they are upfront about lip synching.  On record their vocals are often manipulated to the point where they sound dehumanized- along with the menacing, icy synth beats the strange bugged out vocals create a beautiful and haunting sound  It will make the hairs on your neck stand up straight.

    Buy Silent Shout – Silent Shout

    Buy We Share Our Mothers’ Health – Silent Shout



    54.  THE THERMALS- THE BODY, THE BLOOD, THE MACHINE (2006)

    Buy The Body, the Blood, the Machine – The Thermals

    Buy Body the Blood the MachineAmazon

    This Portland based trio’s third album is a scathing indictment of organized religion, right-wing politics and the Bush agenda released smack dab in the middle of Bush’s second term and helped land-mark (at least for me) the steep decline of Bush’s poll numbers primarily brought on by his mishandling of Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq war (and then later the economic collapse etc.. etc.. etc…). “The Body, The Blood” is a very satisfying blast of earnest pop punk and is over in under-forty minutes.  Though it’s much less mainstream it’s just as tuneful as “Dookie”- era Green Day, but with much more mature subject matter.  It’s a pissed off album, primarily focused on the lies and deceit of the religious & political right- an album I needed very much at the time (and still do).  Along with Bill Maher and Jon Stewart it helped me feel sane.

    Buy Here’s Your Future – The Body, the Blood, the Machine

    Buy A Pillar of Salt – The Body, the Blood, the Machine



    53.  EMINEM- THE MARSHALL MATHERS LP (2000)

    Buy The Marshall Mathers LP – Eminem

    Buy Marshall Mathers LpAmazon

    Eminem was already one of the biggest figures in rap after his multi million selling debut in 1999. But “The Marshall Mathers LP, his second album, really launched him into the stratosphere-  after it he became one of the biggest stars in the music world all together.  The album is filled with violence & misogyny, social commentary & toilet humor  But that’s why Eminem is so controversial- he constantly pushes buttons.  He takes violence, misogyny & homophobia to cartoonish extremes leaving the listener doubting his sincerity.   While the targets of many of his rants has certainly already aged the album, his more universal commentary still rings true.  He has his finger on the pulse of the trials and tribulations of lower middle class white kids for better or for wors.  He is also a brilliant rapper with almost peerless flow & diction and a completely unique style at the time- his style has now been imitated to death.  His often clever and poignant social commentary includes songs about adult & societal hypocrisy towards drugs (Drug Ballad) and modern day fandom and the desperate hero worship (Stan).  With Eminem you have to take the good with the bad.  You’ll miss out on too much if you dismiss him completely.

    Buy Stan – The Marshall Mathers LP

    Buy The Real Slim Shady – The Marshall Mathers LP



    52. ART BRUT- BANG BANG ROCK N’ ROLL (2005)

    Buy Bang Bang Rock & Roll – Art Brut

    Buy Bang Bang Rock & RollAmazon

    Art Brut is a band who on paper looks like an indie-rock version of Spinal Tap at worst, or a joke that could wear thin rather quickly at best.   Thankfully the ironic wit of singer Eddie Argos and the band’s hook-filled songs leave me smiling and rockin’ even five years later.  Though their subsequent albums have proven less and less noteworthy, this debut is a banger from start to finish.  They manage to celebrate the joyousness of rock n’ roll through virgin ears- like a teenage boy who is just discovering it, while at the same time hilariously taking the music apart by exposing its clichés.  At their best they boil rock n’ roll and youth in general down to its essence like The Ramones 30 years before them.  “Formed a Band” is about forming a band!  “Good Weekend” is the exuberance a teenage boy feels about his very first sexual encounters (“I’ve seen her naked twice!”).  “Emily Kane” perfectly captures the feeling of a presumably pre-sexual encounter first crush.  Awesome stuff!

    Buy Emily Kane – Bang Bang Rock & Roll (Bonus Track Version)

    Buy Good Weekend – Bang Bang Rock & Roll (Bonus Track Version)



    51.  THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS- IT’S BLITZ! (2009)

    Buy It’s Blitz! – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

    Buy It’s Blitz!Amazon

    “It’s Blitz!” is the NJ/Brooklyn (now L.A.)  YYY’s 3rd full length album (to go along with 4 EP releases) and their most fully realized to date.  Though their first two albums had many great moments, including contender for song of the decade “Maps” off of “Fever to Tell”, both albums were too scattered to match the high level of consistency shown on “Blitz!”  That is not to say “Blitz!” doesn’t contain its fare share of brilliant moments as well.  “Zero” is a full-on anthem and one of their best songs.  “Heads Will Roll”, “Hysteric”, and “Dragon Queen” are among their best as well showing their quiet side ala “Maps” but dominated more by the synthesizer.  In fact the whole album is driven by synth and techno beats.  Karen O’s sex appeal is still front and center as is Nick Zinner’s inventive guitar licks, but gone is the noisy guitar thrashing and skronking of their earlier years. The YYY’s have been able to show growth without losing their sound or who they are.

    Buy Zero – It’s Blitz! (Deluxe Edition)

    Buy Dragon Queen – It’s Blitz! (Deluxe Edition)



  • Top 100 Albums of the 00’s: 41-50

    50.  AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD- SOURCE TAGS & CODES (2002)

    Buy Source Tags & Codes – …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead

    Buy Source Tags & CodesAmazon

    This former indie-band from Texas with the crazy cool name crafted quite an epic in “Source Tags & Codes”, their major label debut.  Like At the Drive-In but less punk and more prog metal (yet thankfully not going as  prog as post At The Drive-In band ‘The Mars Volta’), “Source Tags” hits you with power, beauty & force.  The drums are absolutely hammering and the guitars surround you in sheets of noise.  Though most of the songs can also stand by themselves they are conceived on the album as a cohesive whole- one song runs right into the next.  AYWKUBTTOD may have completely blown their wad with this album as they have not even come close to doing anything as good since- not even by half.  But if you are a fan of hard charging, epic rock check this out.

    Buy Another Morning Stoner – Source Tags & Codes

    Buy Relative Ways (EP) – Source Tags & Codes



    49.  PHOENIX- WOLFGANG AMADEUS PHOENIX (2009)

    Buy Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – Phoenix

    Buy Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix Amazon

    This French indie group hit pay dirt the old fashioned way.  They recorded and toured over a ten year period, getting better with each release, and then finally exploded into the mainstream with “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”- their 4th studio album release.  Phoenix has had great moments on each of their albums- particularly the very good “It’s Never Been Like That” in 2006, but W.A.P is a banger from start to finish.  Their songs are immediately catchy and hook-filled.  They both make you rock out and make you dance- for both the boys and the girls with absolutely no nods to cock or mook-rock.  The two huge singles (listed below) are the standouts but the album runs deep as well and is prone to repeated plays.

    Buy 1901 – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

    Buy Lisztomania – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix



    48.  JAY-Z- THE BLACK ALBUM (2003)

    Buy The Black Album – Jay-Z

    Buy The Black AlbumAmazon

    2003’s “The Black Album” was at the time said to be Jay-Z’s last album.  We now know that not to be true, but it would have been a hell of a way to go out.  While falling a bit short in quality of “Reasonable Doubt” and “The Blueprint”, “The Black Album” is his third full length album release that can be deemed a hip-hop classic.  Jay moved further into the mainstream with big hits “Change Clothes”, “What More Can I Say”, “Dirt off My Shoulder” (even referenced by Obama in a press conference!) & “99 Problems”, but was still able to maintain his respect on the street.  In fact “The Black Album” cemented his status as the biggest rapper in the world- a status that he has still not given up to date despite three less spectacular follow-ups.

    Buy Dirt Off Your Shoulder – The Black Album

    Buy Dirt Off Your Shoulder – The Black Album



    47.  RADIOHEAD- AMNESIAC (2001)

    Amnesiac – Radiohead

    Buy AmnesiacAmazon

    “Amnesiac” is often not-totally-unfairly dismissed as an album of “Kid A” outtakes.  While it came just a year after “Kid A”, mines a similar sound, and doesn’t flow as an album quite as well as “Kid A” (then again what does?), if these are outtakes they are some of the best ever!  It’s true that all of the songs were recorded during the “Kid A” sessions but the reason they were not included were not because they were necessarily weaker but because they didn’t fit the album thematically.  “Life in a Glass House” is one of the best tracks the band has ever done and a perfect album closer.  And songs like “Pyramid Song”, “I Might Be Wrong” and “Packd Like Sardines…” are standouts as well.  What an amazingly fertile period for arguably the best working back in modern music.

    Buy Life In a Glasshouse – Amnesiac

    Buy Packt Like Sardines In a Crushd Tin Box – Amnesiac



    46.  BON IVER- FOR EMMA FOREVER AGO (2008) (SELF RELEASED 2007)

    Buy For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver

    Buy For Emma, Forever AgoAmazon

    Still one of the best stories of the decade- unknown Wisconsin singer-songwriter Justin Vernon has a terrible breakup, retreats solo to a log cabin in the Wisconsin woods (during Winter!!) and records an album full of stark, heartbreakingly beautiful songs that are an ode to his failed relationship.  He self releases the album in late 2007, it gets picked up by an indie label the following year, and the album actually sells astounding well- at least for an indie release.  Though the songs were recording using just Vernon’s gorgeous voice and acoustic guitar, horns, drums and backing vocals were added later.  The end result is a thing of beauty- Vernon’s falsetto pulls you in even further.  You have to have a heart of stone not to feel this music emotionally.

    Buy Skinny Love – For Emma, Forever Ago

    Buy Re: Stacks – For Emma, Forever Ago



    45. GRIZZLY BEAR- VECKATIMEST (2009)

    Buy Veckatimest – Grizzly Bear
    Buy
    VeckatimestAmazon

    This somewhat sleepy Brooklyn group became an unlikely indie sensation with “Veckatimest” somehow selling over 100,000 albums and helping to create a trend in music toward slow moving, brainy, fussed over and musically sophisticated albums.  If it sounds like a drag it certainly isn’t.  Though the album doesn’t rock and you won’t find any beats to wiggle your hips to, it is gorgeous throughout with otherworldly harmonies and songs that require intense concentration but your enjoyment of them will increase with each  listen.  Some of the tracks even gathered some radio airplay.  At the rate they’re going Grizzly Bear may turn out to be the Crosby, Stills & Nash of this generation- without the whole supergroup thing attached.

    Buy Two Weeks – Veckatimest
    Buy
    While You Wait for the Others – Veckatimest



    44.  HERCULES AND LOVE AFFAIR- HERCULES AND LOVE AFFAIR (2008)

    Buy Hercules and Love Affair – Hercules and Love Affair
    Buy
    Hercules & Love AffairAmazon

    This is a flat out disco album and a great one at that.  It also owes a debt to House Music and all forms of club music that have thrived since the decline of disco.  Despite its mining of dance music’s past “Hercules” sounds totally of its time.  The group is led by NYC twenty-something Andrew Butler who does all of the songwriting, some of the production (along with DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy), plays keyboards and one is of the vocalists.  The instrumentalism on the album is very strong overall and in addition to Butler, three additional vocals are present on the album including the incomparable Antony Hegarty from Antony & the Johnsons.  This is a tight album with not a wasted note.  Be forewarned- if you like your music straight up masculine this is probably not for you.  It’s a gay themed album made by gay people with gay people in mind as the main audience- it’s extremely gay! But straight people give it a try.  You’ll be o.k. Really!

    Buy Blind – Hercules and Love Affair
    Buy
    Raise Me Up – Hercules and Love Affair



    43.  KANYE WEST- COLLEGE DROPOUT (2004)

    Buy The College Dropout – Kanye West

    Buy College DropoutAmazon

    “College Dropout” is the debut album from middle class Chicago rapper Kanye West.  West had previously made his name as the main producer of Jay-Z’s now classic album “The Blueprint” in 2001 putting his stamp on tracks like “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and challenging others like Timbaland, The Neptunes & Premier for best producer in the game.  Despite his noteworthiness as a producer, Kanye’s MC skills were roundly dismissed in the early part of the decade.  He certainly doesn’t have smooth or acrobatic flow but he is an original lyricist which much to say.   and quite a chip on his shoulder to prove all of his naysayers wrong.  “College Dropout” made Kanye the most talked about new rapper and also one of the first to successfully straddle the fence between backpacker conscious rap and the more celebratory rap coming from the hood. Kanye questioned everything.  He was often perplexing (is it really worthwhile for a black person to have a college education.  Say waaaah?) but just as often thought provoking and well meaning (Why is there so much homophobia in hip hop).  He was a breath of fresh air and would climb to more prominence in the rap and music scenes which each subsequent album release.  “College Dropout” is one of the definitive debuts in rap’s history.  My only big complaint is that I wish that he would just drop most of those annoying skits.

    Buy Through the Wire – The College Dropout

    Buy All Falls Down – The College Dropout



    42.  THE STROKES- ROOM ON FIRE (2003)

    Buy Room On Fire – The Strokes

    Buy Room on FireAmazon

    “Room On Fire” is the prototypical “follow up” album.  Like “Strange Days” after “The Doors” or “All Day and All of the Night” and You Really Got Me”, it doesn’t really offer anything new but it reaffirms (with an exclamation point) why you love the band in the first place.  “Room On Fire” may showcase The Strokes ambition or eclecticism but it certainly put to rest the notion that they were a one hit wonder.  The album is chock full of as many good songs as “Is This It” without quite reaching that albums heights.  They did add some minor tweaks to their earlier formula- keyboard-heavy lead single “12:51” sounds like an early 80’s song by the Cars and gorgeous ballad “Under Control” is practially (indie) blue-eyed soul.  Mission accomplished Strokes.  The only question was could they keep it up the winning streak?

    Buy What Ever Happened? – Room On Fire

    Buy Reptilia – Room On Fire



    41.  KANYE WEST- GRADUATION (2007)

    Buy Graduation – Kanye West

    Buy GraduationAmazon

    “Graduation”, Kanye’s third album, was delivered at the height of his own popularity as not only one of the biggest rappers, but one of the most popular artists in music  “Graduation” to my ears is Kanye’s most consistent album and cements his status as the most noteworthy new rapper of the decade.  While it may not contain the high points of his two previous releases, it is edited much better- without the long running time, the superfluous skits and the endless final track.  Rather than using his trademark sped up 60’s and 70’s soul samples, Kanye this time mines from both classic rock (Steely Dan in “Champion”) and techno music (see “Flashing Lights” and Daft Punk in “Stronger”.  Love him or loathe him, Kanye is never boring and keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering what he will do next.  “Graduation” is yet another great listen.

    Buy Flashing Lights – Graduation

    Buy Good Life (feat. T-Pain) – Graduation



  • Top 100 Albums of the 00’s: 31-40

    40.  SLEATER-KINNEY- THE WOODS (2005)

    Buy The Woods – Sleater-Kinney
    Buy
    Woods Amazon

    “Woods” is the great Sleater-Kinney’s swan song- though we are still holding out hope that a reunion eventually comes to fruition- if anyone can avoid tarnishing their legacy with a reunion album it should be them.  “Woods” is the least punk album the band ever made and the furthest they have drifted from their riot girrrl roots.  It’s their nod to the “epic” of the seventies cock-rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple & The Who at their heaviest.  With the thunderous drumming of Janet Weiss (one of the very best in the business) and the lead guitar & vocal interplay of Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker SK pulls off the aping of 70’s guitar hero bands in spades.  Vocally you can liken Tucker to  Robert Plant’s banshee howl, and Carrie Brownstein has the licks and rock star moves of a female Pete Townsend.   “The Woods” sticks  the most among all of the albums in the SK catalogue  It’s quite a different album and sound for them but it really works.  Despite the classic hard rock sound “The Woods” is still plenty diverse (another nod to Zep?) with two of the best songs in “Jumpers” and “Modern Girl” being more melodic- “Modern Girl” is really a flat out ballad.  “The Woods” is an excellent epitaph for a brilliant career… so far.

    Buy Jumpers – The Woods
    Buy
    Entertain – The Woods



    39.  THE HOLD STEADY- BOYS AND GIRLS IN AMERICA (2006)

    Buy Boys and Girls In America – The Hold Steady

    Buy Boys & Girls in AmericaAmazon

    “Boys and Girls in America” is the more song-oriented follow up to their 2005 critical breakthrough “Separation Sunday”.  “Sunday” was filled with detailed, barroom poetry- half sung & half spoken.  It was a very polarizing sound- much like early Springsteen, with its sloppiness and verbosity.  If “Sunday” was the Hold Steady’s “Greetings from Asbury Park”, “Boys and Girls” is their “Born to Run”.  The production on the album is much cleaner and immediate- the guitars and vocals (now fully sung) are now more front and center and the choruses are more fully fleshed out.  The result is more epic songs- songs that you can sing along to, with a chance of even hearing them on the radio.  The lyrical focus of the songs are still American Midwesterners but they seem agines to be slightly older than the college-age kids who populated “Separation Sunday”.  Rather than just focusing on the townie-life as on previous albums, travel and the open road  constantly pop up as themes on “Boys & Girls” as well as the band’s ever-present Catholic imagery.

    Buy Stuck Between Stations – Boys and Girls In America
    Buy
    Massive Nights – Boys and Girls In America




    38.  TV ON THE RADIO- DEAR SCIENCE (2008)

    Buy Dear Science – TV On the Radio
    Buy
    Dear ScienceAmazon

    The follow up to one of the best albums of the decade, “Dear Science” is a quite a standout even if a slightly more low key affair than its predecessor.  The Brooklyn art-rock trio sounds more optimistic that ever beforeon “Science”-  the key track is even called “The Golden Age”, which looks toward an imagined future utopia, just in time to harness some of the good feeling (at least among their likely fanbase) of Obama’s election.  Much of the rest of the album focuses on sex.  TVOTR managed to capture the sound of the oughts better than any other band with their EP and first two album releases- the sound of frustration, paranoia & dystopia.  Here’s hoping that the sound of “Dear Science” portends to better times ahead.

    Buy Golden Age – Dear Science
    Buy
    Halfway Home – Dear Science



    37.  SPOON- GA GA GA GA GA   (2007)

    Buy Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Bonus Track Version) – Spoon
    Buy
    Ga Ga Ga Ga GaAmazon

    Spoon, from Austin, TX, have been around since the mid 90’s and has yet to make a less than stellar record (though I must confess that I haven’t yet heard 1996’s “Telefono”).  Ga X 5 may just be their best effort to date. The best description of Spoon is straight forward rock n’ roll with an indie bent.  But they always add enough tweaks and flourishes to distinguish themselves from middle of the road rock bands.  And their stuff is so high quality that there is no way they wouldn’t stand above the rest of the pack.  On their previous record they flirted with an R&B/Prince-like sound with lead single “I Turned My Camera On”, but with lead single on “Ga”“The Underdog”, they went with full blown soul horns and found themselves with a minor crossover hit.  While “The Underdog” is maybe the best song on the album it is by no means the only great song here.  “Don’t Make Me A Target”, “Don’t You Evah” and “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” are also would-be hits if the state of mainstream radio weren’t so horrid.  Spoon are a straight up indie-rock band incredibly dedicated to their craft.  They have remained true to their sound their whole career, while tweaking each song and album enough to stay interesting and relevant.  Their dependability doesn’t detract from their greatness.

    Buy The Underdog – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Bonus Track Version)
    Buy
    Don’t You Evah – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Bonus Track Version)



    36.  SLEATER-KINNEY- ONE BEAT (2002)

    Buy One Beat – Sleater-Kinney
    Buy
    One BeatAmazon

    My favorite album by one of the most consistently good bands of the mid 90’s to mid 00’s.  “One Beat” was SK’s 9/11 record and called out W. Bush’s pathetic handling of the 9/11 and its aftermath and the lead up to the Iraq war.  During a time when everyone’s patriotism was being called into question for not marching in lockstep behind the Bushies, this album and it’s sentiment was sorely needed at the time (at least by me).   Good art should find itself two steps ahead of the media and SK should certainly get credit for speaking their minds.  Despite the political bent, “One Beat” is loads of fun as well.  It rocks hard and the riffs and choruses of songs like “Step Aside”, “Far Away” and “Light Rail Coyote” are the most triumphant they’ve sounded since “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone”,

    Buy Light Rail Coyote – One Beat
    Buy
    Far Away – One Beat



    35.  THE FLAMING LIPS- YOSHIMI BATTLES THE PINK ROBOTS (2002)

    Buy Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots – The Flaming Lips
    Buy
    Yoshimi Battles the Pink RobotsAmazon

    “Yoshimi” was The Lips very successful attempt to combine the more direct and song oriented sound of their career pinnacle “The Soft Bulletin” with their more bugged out psychedelic earlier days.  Though “Yoshimi” didn’t quite measure up to “The Soft Bulletin” as a whole parts of it exceeded even the heights of “Bulletin”.  The beautiful first single “Do You Realize?” is perhaps the finest song they have written to date and could likely serve as their definitive statement.  It’s a perfect example of how this band of crazy Okies is somehow able to take such a depressing topic (death) and make it not only epic but full of sweetness as well.  The first part of the album is a good vs. evil struggle (Pink Robots= blue meanies?) which was very poignant in the early 2000’s, coming right after 9/11 and during the false justifications for the Iraq War by the Bushies.  Sometimes it takes a band full of playfulness, wackiness and tomfoolery to make the grandest statements.

    Buy Do You Realize?? – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
    Buy
    Fight Test – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots



    34.  BELLE & SEBASTIAN- THE LIFE PURSUIT (2006)

    Buy The Life Pursuit (Bonus Tracks) – Belle and Sebastian
    Buy
    Life PursuitAmazon

    “The Life Pursuit” is Belle & Sebastian’s poppiest album by far and leaps better than 2003’s “Dear Castastrophrophe Waitress”- a fine record in its own right which was then hailed as their return to form after some slip ups at the turn of the new century.  Stuart Murdoch, the leader of the band, again takes more control over the songwriting after a more democratic approach on previous albums.  The result is a higher quality album with much less missteps.  The production on the album is less folky with more flourishes-  horns and flutes are added to the mix and the choruses are much catchier.  Despite the punchier and more rockin’ sound, B&S is as literary as ever and the album deals with subjects such as faith & religion, and the lack thereof, along with the the gift that music can give you to make sense of your life during difficult times.  Loving Belle & Sebastianmay no longer be like joining a secret club  as it was in the mid to late nineties, but “The Life Pursuit” proved that they could change their sound enough to show musical growth while hanging on to all musical integrity that they had built during the earliest part of their career.  But we’re still waiting for the proper follow-up!

    Buy We Are the Sleepyheads – The Life Pursuit (Bonus Tracks)

    Buy Another Sunny Day – The Life Pursuit (Bonus Tracks)



    33.  FRANZ FERDINAND- FRANZ FERDINAND  (2004)

    Buy Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand

    Buy Franz FerdinandAmazon

    With its nod to Brit-pop groups like Blur and Supergrass and its propensity to get you dancing, the Glasgow quartet Franz Ferdinand fit perfectly into the zeitgeist of the mid-2000’s dance-punk scene while at the same time moving it forward.  They arrived a bit late to the party of the dance punk movement but became one its  biggest successes- more on the punk than the dance of things appealing to those indie-rockers who were just figuring out how to stop “doing the standstill”. Their debut contains the worldwide cross over smash single “Take Me Out”- an amazing song and one of the best indie ‘hits’ of the entire decade, but hopefully when all is said and done FF will be remembered for far more than that single as the album is filled with gems- many of which were also crossover singles in the U.K. in their own right.

    Buy Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand

    Buy Jacqueline – Franz Ferdinand



    32.  GHOSTFACE KILLAH- FISHSCALE  (2006)

    Buy Fishscale – Ghostface Killah

    Buy Fishscale Amazon

    By far the most reliable performer of the Wu-Tang Clan during the 2000’s, Ghost delivered perhaps his very finest album with 2006’s “Fishscale”.  He is probably the best story teller in rap since Slick Rick, spinning off-the-wall yarns full of incredible detail and rapped in his frantic style which somehow never loses perfect flow despite him sounding like he could go off the rails at any time.  The excellent production is laden with trademark old soul samples and doesn’t suffer at all in the absence of The RZA, head of the Wu and Ghost’s main producer on most of his previous successful albums.  “Fishscale” is diverse as well- with full out bangers like “Be Easy” sitting among long narratives like “Shakey Dog”, wacked out old-school philosophical parenting methods like “Whip Me with a Strap” and an excellent cross over featuring Ne-Yo in “Back Like That”.  Ghost had become an elder statesman of rap but was now more relevant than ever.

    Buy The Champ – Fishscale

    Buy Shakey Dog – Fishscale



    31.  ERYKAH BADU- NEW AMERYKAH PART ONE: THE 4TH WORLD WAR (2008)

    Buy New Amerykah, Pt. 1 (4th World War) – Erykah Badu

    Buy New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War Amazon

    Erykah Badu’s first major album release since 2000’s Mama’s Gun, “New Amerykah Part 1” truly delivers the goods and is by far my favorite of her album releases to date.  Badu veers away from the neo-soul movement that she helped popularize in the late 90’s and takes the looser, funkier approach of “Gun” and her 2003 EP “Worldwide Underground” to extremes- closer to the sound of Parliament-Funkadelic & latter period Sly Stone..  There are only ten tracks listed (track #11 is the single “Honey” and is hidden) but many of the tracks seem to contain two or three different songs within them.  Although some of the tracks deal lyrically with personal issues, others are seen through a political lens- referencing many of the problems the black community is facing in modern day society.  Her political views may be off-putting to some but there is much to learn by trying to see things from someone else’s vantage point.  To me the sound and vibe of the album encapture the last 2000’s much like “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” (Sly & the Family Stone) and “Maggot Brain” (Funkadelic) captured the sixties hangover, during the “Law and Order” Nixonian-era of the funked-out early seventies.

    Buy Honey – New Amerykah, Pt. 1 (4th World War)

    Buy Soldier – New Amerykah, Pt. 1 (4th World War)



  • Top 100 Albums of the 00’s: 21-30

    30.  MODEST MOUSE- GOOD NEWS FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE BAD NEWS (2004)

    Buy Good News for People Who Love Bad News – Modest Mouse

    Buy Good News for People Who Love Bad News

    “Good News” was Modest Mouse’s commercial breakthrough album after they had spent nearly a decade of steadily building a fanbase getting a bit bigger with each album.  Lead single “Float On” was a full blown cross over hit which even hit top forty radio- one of those amazing songs that just comes out of the woodwork and resonates with the larger public even though it isn’t really stylistically different than what the band had been doing all along.  Modest Mouse’s agressive guitars and the off-beat yelping vocals of singer Isaac Brock  made the songs commercial appeal seem ever stranger.  Some of the bands longtime rabid fans boringly dismissed this album as a bit of a sell out- or at least not equal to the bands former work but despite a couple of duds the album is fantastic.  Lyrically Brock deals with the deepest of issues- questions of mortality and our relationship with the universe at large and the always tight band plays with real urgency and rocks it out.  May the mainstream have more bands like them!!

    Buy The World At Large – Good News for People Who Love Bad News

    Buy Float On – Good News for People Who Love Bad News



    29.  OF MONTREAL- HISSING FAUNA: ARE YOU THE DESTROYER?  (2007)

    Buy Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Bonus Track Version) – Of Montreal

    Buy Hissing Fauna Are You the DestroyerAmazon

    “Hissing Fauna..” is the 11th album by this long-running offshoot of the Atlanta-based Elephant 6 psychedelic collective- an assortment of talented and eccentric musicians who play together and apart in like-minded bands.  Of Montreal is led by freaky frontman Kevin Barnes and “Hissing Fauna” is a concept album about his bitter split with his ex-wife.  A quick examination of the album lyrics will tell you he is one pissed-off dude but the music is anything but morose.  Barnes throws everything but the kitchen sink into the production and the funkiness along with his vast ambition reminds me of a mid-eighties Prince album.  I only have two other Of Montreal album and this one trumps both of them by miles.  It’s not to be missed and has only gotten better with age.

    Buy Suffer for Fashion – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Bonus Track Version)

    Buy Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Bonus Track Version)



    28.  RADIOHEAD- IN RAINBOWS (2007)

    Buy In Rainbows – Radiohead

    Buy In RainbowsAmazon

    The story behind this record almost threatened to overshadow the actual music.  One of the biggest bands in the world decides to go without record label and announces out of the blue their intention of releasing and selling an album through the internet pretty much right away at no specific price point in an age when not only release dates but entire albums were leaked to the public with alarming frequency.  They actually asked their fans to pay whatever price they were willing to pay for the record and due to all of the good press and good will (and amazing music) were even able to sell over a million units of the physical cd released a few months later.  Amazing!  And only a band as good and with as much cred as Radiohead could pull it off.  Though this is not my all time favorite Radiohead record- it probably comes in fourth- the music on it is astoundingly good.  Like their last record,  “Hail to the Thief”, “In Rainbows” is a more song oriented release than 2000’s “Kid A” or 2001’s “Amnesiac” but the songs are much stronger and morebeautiful than on “Hail”.  Although Radiohead decided to be more innovative in a marketing rather than a musical sense the songs didn’t suffer a bit for it.

    Buy 15 Step – In Rainbows

    Buy Jigsaw Falling Into Place – In Rainbows



    27.  ANIMAL COLLECTIVE- STRAWBERRY JAM (2007)

    Buy Strawberry Jam – Animal Collective

    Buy Strawberry JamAmazon

    Animal Collective had already been making music for most of the decade, with each album trumping the last in both quality and accessibility.  “Strawberry Jam” was their commercial release up until that time by a long shot, but you still won’t be hearing this music on any top forty radio station.  The busy, noisy and borderline obnoxious sound of the band is still in tact, but on “Strawberry Jam” the Collective bring in techno loops creating a dancier vibe than on their previous more records which had more of an acid-folk feel.  The album still gives off the optimistic modern-hippie aesthetic vibe that the Collective are known for.  The two song writers complement each other excellently.  Panda Bear has a very sunny feel that sounds like a late period psychedelic Beach Boys, while Avey Tarey has a more versatile instrument and a darker, more spastic tone.  This was my favorite AC album at the time of its release only surpassed since by their follow up “Merriweather Post Pavillion”.  An amazing band still experiencing their creative upswing.

    Buy Fireworks – Strawberry Jam

    Buy Peacebone – Strawberry Jam



    26.  THE STREETS- ORIGINAL PIRATE MATERIAL (2002)

    Buy Original Pirate Material – The Streets

    Buy Original Pirate MaterialAmazon

    Mike Skinner, AKA The Streets is arguably the 4th white rapper to mean anything (the Beastie Boys as a group, the dudes from 3rd Bass & Eminem being the first three) and he may be the most unique one of the lot.  Straight outta Birmingham, England he is a skinny, working-class then twenty-something kid who rose out of the U.K. garage & grime scenes.  He makes all of the beats on his album and they are beholden to club music rather than the funk & soul music of American hip-hop.  He speak-raps in a thick (though purposefully exaggerated) cockney accent and has no discernible flow whatsoever.  The self deprecating lyrics are filled with hard-luck but stories of women, weed & lager and are an incredibly descriptive look into the street life of modern U.K. urban life at the dawn of the 21st century.  In his native U.K. he was the voice of a generation to young, working class Brits.

    Buy Original Pirate Material – The Streets

    Buy Weak Become Heroes – Original Pirate Material



    25.  DIRTY PROJECTORS- BITTE ORCA (2009)

    Buy Bitte Orca – Dirty Projectors

    Buy Bitte OrcaAmazon

    The Dirty Projectors weren’t on my radar until 2007’s “Rise Above”, their 5th album, which was a totally unrecognizable cover of Black Flag’s seminal 1981 album “Damaged”.  Seriously, without reading the press on the record a big Black Flag fan could even be forgiven for not noticing that the tracks are cover versions.  The DP’s are eccentric and experimental to say the least.  The band is really a long term art project of Yale University dropout and current Brooklyn dweller Dave Longstreth.  As interesting an album as “Rise Above” was “Bitte Orca” is significantly better and one of the best album releases of 2009.  The beautiful harmonies and amazing musicianship of the DP’s is counterbalanced with surprising time signature changes and atonal noise.  They seem to be equally influenced by R&B/Hip Hop, Indie-rock, free jazz and out-there music like Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa.  The music requires a lot of its listeners but there is an intense beauty to it once you dig a bit deeper into it.

    Buy Stillness Is the Move – Bitte Orca

    Buy Two Doves – Bitte Orca



    24.  THE WHITE STRIPES- ELEPHANT (2003)

    Buy Elephant – The White Stripes

    Buy ElephantAmazon

    “Elephant” was the White Stripes first release from the mainstream stage after breaking through with their third album “White Blood Cells”.  They were already rock stars during the recording of “Elephant” and practically became world-beaters once the album hit- a rarity for a band starting their career at a very-indie label. “Elephant” contains their biggest hit to date with “Seven Nation Army” and the album as a whole has left the biggest cultural and commercial mark on the public.  The album contains less filler than even “White Blood Cells” despite the lengthy blues workout “Ball & Biscuit” (which is actually quite fun) and the jokey album ender “It’s True that We Love One Another”.  If it doesn’t quite achieve the highs of some of their other work it still stands as their most consistently good album.

    Buy There’s No Home for You Here – Elephant

    Buy The Air Near My Fingers – Elephant



    23.  GIRLS- THE ALBUM  (2009)

    Buy Album (Bonus Track Version) – Girls

    Buy AlbumAmazon

    The Girls debut album keeps growing in stature for me with every listen since its fall 2009 debut.  Frontman Christopher Owens has a heartbreaking back-story about being raised in the “Children of God” cult where his brother died because of the cult’s lack of belief in medical care, his father abandoned his family and his mother was eventually forced to prostitute herself to make financial ends meet.  Owens grew up a street kid in Texas and was only able to start his career and move to San Francisco after a local millionaire took an interest in him began to support his art with financial backing.  Owens’s sadness shows in the hiccupy quiver in his voice, bringing to mind past greats like Buddy Holly, Elvis Costello & Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes.  The songs feel sun drenched and bohemian.  Pissed-off but free spirited but heart breaking.  These kids are trying to navigate their way through tough living conditions and messy relationships as well as they know how and are trying to have as much fun as they can in the meantime.

    Buy Lust for Life – Album (Bonus Track Version)

    Buy Hellhole Ratrace – Album (Bonus Track Version)



    22.  KANYE WEST- LATE REGISTRATION (2005)

    Buy Late Registration – Kanye West

    Buy Late RegistrationAmazon

    “Late Registration” is the second and best album from the most interesting and best new face in hip hop music of the 00’s (with apologies to Lil’ Wayne).  The beats are better and the songs are stronger than on Kanye’s also excellent debut “College Dropout”.  This is really where Kanye was able to cement himself as a huge mainstream artist with the enormous hit “Gold Digger” that even your grandma has probably heard.  West also takes plenty of artistic chances here including adding non-mainstream Houston chopped & screwed rapper Paul Wall to the track “Drive Slow” (actually one of the best tracks on the album) and getting dubious Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine to sing the chorus for single “Heard ‘Em Say”- it somehow works beautifully.  As a gifted producer he obviously has quite an ear for talent and what works musically.  It seems that almost everything he touches turns to gold.  Unfortunately as his stature grew later in the decade he would become a human gaffe machine.

    Buy Touch the Sky – Late Registration

    Buy Gold Digger – Late Registration



    21.  AT THE DRIVE-IN- RELATIONSHIP OF COMMAND (2000)

    Buy Relationship of Command – At the Drive-In

    Buy Relationship of CommandAmazon

    This album hit me like a thunderbolt the first time I heard it- similar to the way I felt when I first heard “Appetite for Destruction” and “Nevermind” though I didn’t expect “Relationship of Command” to change the world like the other two albums.  While the sound of the record was not completely unlike the nu-metal and emo which was fashionable at the time, the music felt both more aggressive and more passionate.  It has a punk edge that is heartfelt and not a put-on like so many of the other emo bands.  The musicianship is top notch- filled with awesome riffs and tempo changes throughout.  Though “Relationship” was my introduction to this great band, it would end up being their last album- the members would split and go on to form the much proggier band The Mars Volta and the more mainstream rock band Sparta.  Neither compared to the original.  Please come back ATDI.  We miss you!

    Buy Enfilade – Relationship of Command

    Buy One Armed Scissor – Relationship of Command



  • Top 100 Albums of the 00’s: 11-20

    20.  MODEST MOUSE- MOON & ANTARTICA (2000)

    Buy The Moon & Antarctica – Modest Mouse

    Buy Moon & Antarctica (10th Anniversary Edition )Amazon

    Major label debut by the Northwestern indie-faves which finds the misanthropic guitarist/singer Isaac Brock focusing on life’s most important questions- death and the afterlife.  The sprawling nature of their previous albums is now stripped down and focused- this is one case in which a major label contract has seemed to pay off artistically.  The production is inventive with lots of backwards guitars & drums ala The Beatles during the “Revolver” era and the lyrics are intelligent and thought provoking.  This is an incredible album which I am still trying to wrap my head around ten years later.  It reveals itself more of itself with each listen.

    Buy Gravity Rides Everything – The Moon & Antarctica

    Buy 3rd Planet – The Moon & Antarctica



    19.  M.I.A.- ARULAR  (2005)

    Buy Arular – M.I.A.

    Buy ArularAmazon

    Sri Lankan born and London bred Maya Arulpragasam burst out of the gate with “Arular”- a hybrid of hip hop, Brazilian baile-funk, reggaeton, dance hall, Indian music, punk & house music.  Her sound to my ears is the most unique new sound of the decade- along with TV On the Radio.  Her songs are a mixture of in-your- face progressive politics (offending even staunch liberals at times) and fun, joyous music that gets you throwing yourself around the dance floor.  As opposed to the esoteric, crate digging, I’ll-bet-you-can’t-guess-this-sample production by amazing producers like DJ Shadow, M.I.A. and her main collaborator Diplo wear their influences on their sleeves- in fact she shouts them out at the beginning of the album.  “Arular” is a blast from start to finish and M.I.A. may end up being the most important figure in  “World Music’ since Bob Marley.

    Buy Galang – Arular

    Buy Bucky Done Gun – Arular



    18.  SUFJAN STEVENS- ILLINOISE  (2005)

    Buy Illinois – Sufjan Stevens

    Buy IllinoisAmazon

    “Illioise!” is Stevens’ second concept album about an American state (his home state Michigan being the first) and we’re still waiting with bated breath for the other forty eight!  The brilliant, shy Brooklyn-ite focuses his writing on events and people (both heroes and villains, fictional & real) who helped shape the character of the state of Illinois, the midwest, and America..  He sings and plays in a folky style but his music is quite complicated with very elaborate production.  Elements from both rock & classical music are added as well as full orchestrations on many of the tracks.  The lyrics and vocals are both intimate and empathetic and show Sufjan Stevens to be greatly humane and thoughtful about the world at large.  This is a long album that requires a lot of its listener but the listen is well worthwhile- it’s an album you will continue to learn from and come back to again and again.

    Buy Come On! Feel the Illinoise! – Illinois

    Buy Chicago – Illinois



    17.  JAY-Z- THE BLUEPRINT  (2001)

    Buy The Blueprint – Jay-Z

    Buy The BlueprintAmazon

    With “The Blueprint” (release date  9/11/01) Jay-Z cemented his status as not just the king of New York but the king of the whole rap game.  To this day there is no rapper in the world that is more of a household name than Jay-Z..  “The Blueprint” contains one of Jay-Z’s biggest hit singles in “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” as well as one of the best dis songs of all time in “The Takeover” (Nas & Mobb Deep bear the brunt of the slams).   Kanye WEst put himself on the map as well by producing the majority of the album hereby introducing the world to his brilliant sped up soul samples.  Every track on the album is killer- lacking the clunkers peppering all of Jay’s albums since “Reasonable Doubt”.  Jay has still never bettered “The Blueprint” and maybe never will- “The Blueprint” will likely always stand as one of the all time classics of rap & hip hop.

    Buy Izzo (H.O.V.A.) – The Blueprint

    Buy Takeover – The Blueprint



    16.  TV ON THE RADIO- RETURN TO COOKIE MOUNTAIN (2006)

    Buy Return to Cookie Mountain – TV On the Radio

    Buy Return to Cookie Mountain (with Bonus Tracks)Amazon

    “Cookie Mountain” was an incredibly great leap forward after the very good but not quite classic “Young Liars EP” and the “Desperate Youths, Blood Thirsty Babes” debut album.  No band seemed to capture the sound of the new millennium and the depression and malaise of Bush’s second term better than TVOTR.  Their songs are built on loops of noise and techno squalls by producer/band member Dave Sitek but counterbalanced by the gorgeous vocals of co-singers Tunde Adebimpe & Kyp Malone.  As experimental as their sound is their songs somehow come off as accessible- like “Daydream Nation”-era Sonic Youth.  Their lyrics deal in both the sexual and the political-often within the same song.  This is a passionate, romantic band with an extremely unique vision.  Every one of their future releases should be worth checking out.

    Buy Wolf Like Me – Return to Cookie Mountain

    Buy I Was a Lover – Return to Cookie Mountain



    15.  THE WRENS- MEADOWLANDS  (2003)

    Buy Meadowlands – Wrens


    Buy Meadowlands Amazon

    “Meadowlands” is the first album release in seven years and only third overall by this down on their luck band of thirty-something Jersey-ites.  After their promising second album “Secaucus” in 1996 they were beset with record label woes of Big Star-like proportions, not even getting the rights to put that record back in print for over 10 years.  Much of the band are family men with day jobs which inevitably slowed the pace for the making of the album.  These guys are true believers in the power of music and it shows up in their songs which are also filled with sadness, hopelessness and desperation.  Many of the tracks are first hand accounts of what they have gone through as a band.  But there is no sign that they will give up- even though they seem resigned to never “making it” at least in the commercial sense.  They won’t stop rockin’ because they just can’t help themselves- they are too in love with the music they make.  This is an album for anyone with talent, intelligence, passion and the heart of a lion who feels knocked around and beaten down by the world but still unwilling to give up.

    Buy Everyone Choose Sides – Meadowlands

    Buy This Boy Is Exhausted – Meadowlands



    14.  THE SHINS- CHUTES TOO NARROW (2003)

    Buy Chutes Too Narrow – The Shins

    Buy Chutes Too NarrowAmazon

    The second and best release by the “band that will change your life”.  “Chutes Too Narrow” came out a year before the band’s profile was significantly raised with the big shout-out in the mega-successful (at least with twenty-somethings) movie and soundtrack “Garden State”.  “Chutes” carries on with the same sunny but breezy (despite the band’s pacific nw location) indie-pop of their debut, but this album feels leaner with more killer and less filler.  Lead singer James Mercer has a beautifully distinct high register voice that somehow almost recalls the Beach Boys and he is a wonderfully concise songwriter.  The album is over in just over thirty minutes and you just want to play it again and again.

    Buy Kissing the Lipless – Chutes Too Narrow

    Buy So Says I – Chutes Too Narrow



    13.  THE WHITE STRIPES- WHITE BLOOD CELLS  (2001)

    Buy White Blood Cells – The White Stripes

    Buy White Blood CellsAmazon

    The red and black duo’s third and best album release to date.  “White Blood Cells” came at a tipping point of the return-to-rock revival led by the Stripes and the Strokes.  While The Strokes oozed New York city cool, the Stripes have a much more stripped down, bluesy punk sound- with the band consisting solely of ex-husband & wife (and pretend brother & sister) Jack (Guitar & Vocals) & Meg White (drums) it’s tough to get any more stripped down than that.  The album, however never gets boring or stagnant.  They throw in furious garage punk stoppers (Fell in Love with a Girl), blues wailers (Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground), touching, tender ballads (We’re Gonna be Friends, The Same Boy You’ve Always Known) and even country-tinged punkers (Hotel Yorba).  The Stripes are still always good for a handful of great songs per album release but “White Blood Cells” still stands as their finest moment.

    Buy Fell In Love With a Girl – White Blood Cells

    Buy Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground – White Blood Cells



    12.  CLIPSE – HELL HATH NO FURY (2006)

    Buy Hell Hath No Fury – Clipse

    Buy Hell Hath No FuryAmazon

    Over four years went by between Tidewater, Virginia based Clipse’s 2002 hit album “Lord Willin’” and their major label follow up “Hell Hath No Fury”.  In between they released two successful underground mix tapes and were dicked around constantly by their record label.  Despite being collaborators with fellow Virginia-based production team The Neptunes- who at the time were the biggest producers in the rap game (along with Timbaland), Clipse’s sound is uncompromising and not very commercial.  The major subject of all of their rhymes is dealing cocaine which obviously could present a bit of a moral quandary for listeners. However, they don’t glamorize the drug itself but describe the highs and lows of the lifestyle around selling it.  Listening to the album plays out like watching a really great gangster film- it’s celebratory, cold hearted and morally educational at the same time.  Their slang and turns of phrase are compelling and the Neptunes bring some of their sickest &  iciest beats to the album.  This likely gets my vote (just ahead of The Wrens) as the most underappreciated album of the decade- rap or otherwise.

    Buy Trill – Hell Hath No Fury

    Buy Hell Hath No Fury – Clipse



    11.  VAMPIRE WEEKEND- VAMPIRE WEEKEND (2008)

    Buy Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

    Buy Vampire WeekendAmazon

    Upper-middle class Ivy League preppie New Yorkers (by way of Columbia U) release their debut album to simultaneous mega-hype and mega-backlash.  Their musical chops are fantastic despite them being such a young, unproven band.  Their main sound is a white liberal’s take on African pop (similar to what Paul Simon did especially on his “Graceland” album) with eighties new wave, particularly the Talking Heads, throwen in for good measure.  Their appropriation of African culture along with their clean cut look, high class name dropping and usage of  S.A.T. words have managed to piss off many.  Denying this album is the moss of its detractors. It’s filled with fresh, amazing songs without a stinker in the bunch.  The songs are catchy as hell- probably 2/3 of the album is filled with could-be singles and the characters and places mentioned are well sketched and extremely detail-oriented.  Over two years after it’s released the record is still an absolute pleasure for me to listen to- the rare record where you never even want to press the skip button once.

    Buy A-Punk – Vampire Weekend

    Buy Mansard Roof – Vampire Weekend



  • Top 100 Albums of the 00’s: 1-10

    10.  INTERPOL- TURN ON THE BRIGHT LIGHTS (2002)

    Buy Turn On the Bright Lights – Interpol

    Buy Turn on the Bright LightsAmazon

    This much-hyped but note perfect debut album is the hipster, NYC -based Interpol’s definitive statement so far- and by a long shot.  Interpol plays like a more muscular Joy Division and they brought a sexy darkness to indie-rock in the wake of the ascendance of bands like The Strokes and The White Stripes a year before- Interpol was post-punk to the Strokes/Stripes more straight up punk.  Despite the gloomy vibe and constant tension created by the throbbing bass-lines and esoteric lyrics the majority of the record rocks your ass off.  And ballad “NYC” was held dear by many a music lover as an ode to the aftermath of 9/11 to the city they loved for better or for worse.

    Buy Obstacle 1 – Turn On the Bright Lights

    Buy NYC – Turn On the Bright Lights



    9.  FLEET FOXES- FLEET FOXES  (2008)

    Buy Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

    Buy Fleet FoxesAmazon

    Seattle’s Fleet Foxes are a sixties-throwback without being a slave to any of their influences (think CSNY, The Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, Flying Burrito Bros.).  Though they certainly carry a hippie-vibe and are an amalgam of folk, classic rock & late 60’s/early 70’s country rock they really do have their own distinct sound.  Everyone in the band can sing and sing well and the band’s gorgeous harmonies are probably the band’s biggest draw, though their music is also full of wonderful compositions and instrumentation.  It’s unbelievable to me that this is the Fleet Foxes debut album and that lead singer Robin Pecknold was only in his early twenties when they made the record.  Both he and the band seem to be “old souls”- the album sounds like it has existed for much longer.  This is likely my pick for the most flat-out beautiful album of the decade.  And they get bonus points for releasing an amazing EP (with no songs overlapping) just months before in the same year called “Sun Giant EP” that can be listened to as a companion piece to the full length.  The songs on the EP are equal to the songs on the full length.   Check it out!

    Buy White Winter Hymnal – Fleet Foxes

    Buy Blue Ridge Mountains – Fleet Foxes



    8.  WILCO- YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT  (2002)

    Buy Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – Wilco

    Buy Yankee Hotel FoxtrotAmazon

    YHF is my #1 favorite out of off the great albums have released in their illustrious career.  Wilco had already After developed  their sound away from their alt-country beginnings with their last album “Summer Teeth”. “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” finds them moving toward a more experimental-rock sound with the help of eccentric Chicago musician and producer Jim O’Rourke.  As a result the band created its artistic masterpiece. However, the band lost key contributor & main guitarist Jay Bennett due to artistic differences during the recording of the album. The album was also rejected upon delivery by their label Warner Bros/Reprise for being to un-commercial only to be released close to six months later on the Nonesuch label (another label within Warner Music Group).  The joke was on Warner/Reprise.  Though the production on the album is indeed “unique” and experimental, the songs most of the songs are quite accessible- many of the band’s “greatest hits” are found on it.  Ironically it ended up being Wilco’s biggest commercial seller by a landslide.  The songs are gut wrenchingly beautiful, full of longing and sadness and projecting an unease about the modern world.  Though the entire album was recorded pre-9/11, some of the lyrics on the album seemed to eerily predict the twin towers collapsing.  For me the album was a cathartic listen during such a difficult time.

    Buy Jesus, Etc. – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

    Buy Ashes of American Flags – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot



    7.  RADIOHEAD- KID A   (2000)

    Buy Kid A – Radiohead

    Buy Kid aAmazon

    “Kid A” was a hugely anticipated, much debated,  screeching left turn by Radiohead after their brilliant epic “Ok Computer” in 1997.  After “OK”, they slowly became one of the biggest bands in the world- certainly artistically if not commercially.  Though the music on “O.K Computer” was incredibly complex and challenging, with “Kid A” they took “challenging” to a whole new level.  They risked alienating their entire fanbase by almost completely doing away with the rock element of their previous sound and eliminating choruses- their new sound was a strange new hybrid of rock & techno largely influenced by groups like Authechre and The Aphex Twin.  EVen among techno/electronic music these were not groups that dealt in techno “hits”.  Anyone expecting a new take on The Chemical Brothers or The Prodigy was very disappointed.  Though “Kid A” did had many detractors who wanted them to return to their rock oriented roots, their new sounded suited them well- conveying their dystopian worldview and capturing their overwhelming feeling of post-millennium tension.

    Buy The National Anthem – Kid A

    Buy Everything In Its Right Place – Kid A



    6.  THE STROKES- IS THIS IT   (2001)

    Buy Is This It – The Strokes

    Buy Is This It Amazon

    The Strokes debuted with the freshest sound in rock since Nirvana, saving America from the wrath of nu-metal, rap-metal & emo the way that “Nevermind” saved us from hair metal a decade earlier.  The “fresh” sound was ironically a second generation take on the NYC punk and pre-punk of the Velvet Underground & Television while even taking some riffs and cues from the likes of The Cars and Tom Petty.  That said it sounded, and still sounds wonderful.  The whole album goes by in the blink of an eye (it’s barely over thirty minutes) and is a blast the whole way through- no bad songs on it.  The U.S. version of the album came out right after 9/11 and the carefree songs about love, partying and city life in your twenties helped lighten the mood during such a heavy time.  Their U.S. label decided to take the song “NYC Cops” off of the album for PC reasons which would be a precursor of times ahead where most Americans feared looking at all unpatriotic.  In hindsight the decision was ridiculous- the song wasn’t even derogatory toward the police.  Those types of overly cautious, knee-jerk decisions in the wake of 9/11 were the embodiment of very strange and confusing time.

    Buy Hard to Explain – Is This It

    Buy Barely Legal – Is This It



    5.  ANIMAL COLLECTIVE- MERRIWEATHER POST PAVILLION (2009)

    Buy Merriweather Post Pavilion – Animal Collective

    Buy Merriweather Post Pavilion Amazon

    “Merriweather Post Pavillion” is the pinnacle (so far) of a career which to me to has shown vast improvement with each album.   The Collective brought together the crazy experiments and general noisiness of their earlier albums with a poppier, latter day Beach Boys influence, creating a new sound more fit for mass consumption. The way they were able to bring such previously inaccessible music to the masses evokes what Radiohead did with “Kid A”  But where “Kid A” was steeped in gloominess and paranoia, Animal Collective sound is dreamy but joyous-  the harmonies of the Beach Boys combined with the repetitiveness of krautrock and the instrumentation of a techno-loving jam band.  It was tough for me to rate this ahead of the other albums below it in the top ten, as the album was only released a year and a half ago, but so many of the tracks already have a classic feel when I hear them and I expect this release to continue to grow in stature as time marches forward.

    Buy Summertime Clothes – Merriweather Post Pavilion

    Buy My Girls – Merriweather Post Pavilion



    4.  M.I.A.- KALA (2007)

    Buy Kala (Bonus Track Version) – M.I.A.

    Buy KalaAmazon

    Though “Kala” didn’t offer the same amount of surprise as M.I.A.’s brilliant debut “Arular” did in 2005, it has a better sound, stronger songs & even a national top ten hit with “Paper Planes”- to my ears one of the best songs of the decade, which also providing M.I.A. with a taste of larger, mainstream success.  On “Kala” M.I.A. works primarily with dirty-house producer Switch rather than Diplo, her main collaborator on “Arular”.  She brilliantly incorporates lines & beats from “Where is My Mind” by The Pixies, “Straight to Hell” by The Clash, “Roadrunner” by The Modern Lovers and even “Rumpshaker” by the forgettable Wrecks-n-Effect, showing her excellent taste while confidently announcing her proper place in the musical pantheon of greatness.  “Kala” is pretty much killer from start to finish with only one minor misstep in “Mango Pickle Down River” and is THE great “World Music” album and one of the most original sounding albums of the 00’s.

    Buy Paper Planes – Kala (Bonus Track Version)

    Buy Boyz – Kala (Bonus Track Version)



    3.  LCD SOUNDSYSTEM- SOUND OF SILVER (2007)

    Buy Sound of Silver – LCD Soundsystem

    Buy Sound of SilverAmazon

    LCD Soundsystem is a one man bad consisting of James Murphy- like Nine Inch Nails is to Trent Reznor..  Murphy moonlights as CEO of DFA Records, one of the best and most influential indie-dance labels of recent times.  Though Murphy and LCD had put out a series of brilliant 12” singles and a more than decent self-titled first album, “Sound of Silver” was his/their giant leap forward.  It is record collector rock done by a normal looking guy in his late 30’s- a sum of all of his influences…and there are many.  Though “Silver” really is full-on dance music, it is dance music done by a guy who obviously grew up on rock, incorporating elements of punk & post-punk and especially the early ambient techno of Brian Eno.  Though Murphy lacks a traditional singing voice, often mimicking the flat, sneering vocals of Mark E. Smith of The Fall, his instrument has improves with age- he is able to convey emotions vocally that his songs call for which is certainly outside of the detached irony of his earlier records.   His overall song writing has also improved immensely-  both “All My Friends” and “Someone Great” are two of the very best songs of 2007 and the decade as a whole.  “All My Friends” captures the essence of aging while trying to maintain true to your ideals as an adult and “Someone Great” is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard about losing someone of utmost importance.

    Buy All My Friends – Sound of Silver

    Buy Someone Great – Sound of Silver



    2.  ARCADE FIRE- FUNERAL  (2004)

    Buy Funeral – Arcade Fire

    Buy FuneralAmazon

    This beautiful, mysterious & haunting debut album by husband and wife-led Montreal band Arcade Fire to me perfectly captured the mood of  fear, hope and despair surrounding the presidential election of 2004.  The album feels desperate, isolated and snowed-in but you never get the sense that the characters in the songs will give up.  There is hopefulness in their stubborn will to carry on.  It mirrors the situation that so many of us are in modern times- we have to keep fighting the good fight regardless of what is happening around us.  Various members of Arcade Fire experienced deaths to very close members in their family in the few years preceding the release of this album (hence the title).  “Funeral” is an intense, bittersweet album about coping with death and crises and trying to find and make beauty out of desperate situations.  It stands tall among every album release in the 2000’s as a modern masterpiece.

    Buy Rebellion (Lies) – Funeral

    Buy Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) – Funeral



    1.  OUTKAST- STANKONIA  (2000)

    Buy Stankonia – OutKast

    Buy StankoniaAmazon

    Outkast released three increasingly fantastic album releases in the nineties but in 2000 the Atlanta rap duo hit perfection with “Stankonia”, and they will likely never better it.  “Stankonia” plays like an old sprawling double album from the 70’s- think a rap version of “Physical Graffiti”- its running time is over seventy minutes and they throw everything but the kitchen sink on there.  Though not every track is a five star song all work in the context of the album.  And the highlights are many.  “Ms. Jackson” is the heartbreaking- yet danceable mega-hit about a separated father who still wants to do right by his kid(s) and ex-wife. Club music with a conscience!
    The pissed off and politically poignant “Gasoline Dreams” comments astutely on the dimming hope in the “American Dream” and our relationship with oil and the Middle East.  “Humble Mumble” (Feat. E. Badu), “So Fresh, So Clean” and “We Luv Deez Hoes” are all funky smooth standout tracks with absolutely ridiculous beats and grooves.  And “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)” is the best track of all and my very favorite song of the entire decade and certainly one of my top 5 raps ever.  The rapid fire vocal interplay between Andre 3000 and Big Boi.  The amazing gospel choir.  The  rap, techno & metal hybrid that would foretell all of the musical blending to come later in the decade.  Not to mention the title strangely predicting the Iraq War a few years before it even happened.  Just amazing.  In August of 2001, some friends of mine were driving me to my wedding- a short 5 minute ride from the hotel to the church.  They asked me to pick a song for the ride- the last one I would hear as a single man.   My answer- Bombs Over Freakin’ Baghdad!

    Buy B.O.B. – Stankonia

    Buy Gasoline Dreams – Stankonia