The 2000s was a fantastic decade for music, and we here at Generic Flow had a pretty tough time choosing our ten favorite albums. So many great albums and only ten spots! How can we even begin to rank a decade worth of music that saw Radiohead transcend genres, Green Day become multi-platform celebrities, and Eminem turn into a dark-haired recovering drug addict with no sense of humor? In ten short years, we got the explosion of hip-hop, dubstep, American Idol, and fucking iTunes. Here’s each of our staffers’ attempts at picking their 10 favorites.
1. Kid A (2000) – Radiohead
A predictable (some might say obvious, or indisputable) choice. Kid A was the first (but definitely not the last) album that actually frightened me on my first listen. This album changed the way I listen to and approach music. Without it I would likely have been forever stuck with the musical tastes of my high school self. Both timely and timeless.
2. Discovery (2001) – Daft Punk
I was exposed to this album when it first came out, all the way back in 2001, and even at my young age I loved it immediately. These songs are endlessly listenable and catchy like a virus.
3. In Rainbows (2007) – Radiohead
The album that introduced me to the band, In Rainbows is as close to flawless as they come. It is hard to find words to describe such simplicity. Accessible and deep. I challenge you to dislike this album.
4. Madvillainy (2004) – Madvillain
Without Madvillainy, I would not be a hip-hop fan. Madlib’s schizoid, sample-laden production and MF Doom’s incredible flow and massive vocabulary make this album unforgettably original. Defies hip-hop conventions on every level. Short songs (few over 2 minutes) make for a frenetic experience that you’ll want to enjoy again and again.
5. You Forgot it in People (2002) – Broken Social Scene
Broken Social Scene is a band so indie that they have, at times, as many as 19 members. You Forgot it in People runs the gamut from anthemic to forlorn and everywhere in between. The first half of the album will fly by in a hook-drenched haze, while the second half could bring you to tears. There is something for everyone here.
6. Deltron 3030 (2000) – Deltron 3030
Deltron 3030 is beyond description. A rap opera taking place in the year 3030 (a dystopian future where of course hip-hop is illegal) this album is nerdy without ever being cheesy. Del tha Funkee Homosapien, who you may know as the rapper on that one Gorillaz song, mixes humor and sci-fi jargon over some of the best beats this side of Kanye West. Words can’t do it proper justice, hip-hop fans owe it to themselves to give this a listen.
7. Untrue (2007) – Burial
Now that dubstep is catching on in the States, maybe Burial will too. Untrue represents what makes dubstep such a unique and unfettered genre. Universally acclaimed for good reason, this is not the dubstep you’ve likely heard in ‘da club. This is atmospheric, ambient, and at times creepy. Challenging but oh-so rewarding. Burial’s sound is completely his own.
8. Songs for the Deaf (2002) – Queens of the Stone Age
Stoner rock for the ages! The songs are great removed from the album, but as a whole Songs for the Deaf is an affecting experience with a neat concept that is perfect for a long drive down a dusty desert interstate. If you like rock, you will love Songs for the Deaf.
9. Yellow House (2006) – Grizzly Bear
Hauntingly hollow and sparse, this album is the soundtrack to sad, lonely dreams. Totally awesome.
10. Crack the Skye (2009) – Mastodon
A concept album about a paraplegic who astrally projects into space and gets separated from his body. Yep, this is most definitely prog. But it’s the best kind of prog; the kind that is technically impressive, structurally unique and lyrically imaginative. Every song is great, even the ones that are over 10 minutes.
Amnesiac (2001) – Radiohead, Hail to the Thief (2003) – Radiohead, Bitte Orca (2009) – Dirty Projectors, Fleet Foxes (2006) – Fleet Foxes, Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009) – Animal Collective
1. Kid A (2000) – Radiohead
Clichéd? Check. Overrated? Check but deservedly so. Everything you have heard about Radiohead’s Internet Age opus is true. It’s epic, polarizing, and brilliant. Most importantly it has the songs to back it up. This album has changed the way I listen to music. It is the ultimate gateway drug to electronic music for a kid who thought rock music was the only thing worthwhile.
2. Untrue (2007) – Burial
Another album that I couldn’t fully grasp when I first heard it. I had always read about this album’s acclaim but it took me years to realize that the accolades were not misplaced. This is not easy music, its dark, foreboding, and heavy. Untrue is an album that I won’t forget or stop listening to anytime soon.
3. Madvillainy (2004) – Madvillain
Once upon a time I hated Hip-Hop and Rap. I never saw the value in it. Madvillainy changed all that. It’s the 2nd rap album I ever bought and if I had to pick only one to have, this would be it. Madvillain is rap for people who don’t like rap and, um, stoners…
4. Silent Shout (2006) – The Knife
Is the Knife pop music? Yes, but it’s some of the most insane pop music I’ve ever heard. It’s pop taken to the extreme with great results. If you fancy yourself a fan of pop music you owe it to yourself to listen to this. This album is also a testament to how weird Swedish people are.
5. In Rainbows (2007) – Radiohead
What more can I say about In Rainbows? It’s excellent from start to finish. It has everything great about Radiohead in one album. As a fan, I couldn’t ask for more.
6. Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009) – Animal Collective
Animal Collective are strange as all hell in the best way possible. Like most of my other choices, this changed my perception of music. It is one hell of a trip and hard to forget.
7. Is This It (2001) – The Strokes
Another clichéd pick. Simply put, I synced this to my iPod the first time I downloaded it and it has remained there since. Every song is great and it never gets old.
8. Third (2008) – Portishead
Third could possibly be the most difficult album I’ve ever bought on a whim. It also has become one of the most rewarding. It borders on music concrete and yet it still has great songs.
9. Bitte Orca (2009) – Dirty Projectors
Another great pop record that turned pop on its head and then teabagged it with its massive balls. Unconventional and brilliant.
10. Late Registration (2005) – Kanye West
Kanye’s first true masterpiece in my opinion. This album took hip-hop to the next level and forced everyone else in the game to rethink what was possible with the genre. Skits aside, this is grade A music start to finish.
Honorable Mentions: drukqs (2002) – Aphex Twin, Two Dancers (2009) – Wild Beasts, Mouse and the Mask (2005) – Dangerdoom, Last Exit (2004) – Junior Boys, Rated R (2000) – Queens of the Stone Age, Rounds (2003) – Four Tet, Geogaddi (2002) – Boards of Canada
1. American Idiot (2004) – Green Day
When Rolling Stone had fans vote for the best album of the decade, this won in a total landslide. Now, I know most of you will say it’s because it is so simple and appeals to the masses and it’s pop crap. Well, spare me. Billie Joe Armstrong crafted an album that was so relatable and so appropriately topical with its September 2004 release that maybe (and I know this is hard for you to wrap your head around) it became popular because it’s that good. It has endless anthems that totally captured the frustration of our political trajectory (before it was popular to do so) and told the story of apathetic suburbia in the 21st century. The nine minute rock opera ballads “Jesus of Suburbia” and “Homecoming” alone are worth the listen.
2. Funeral (2004) – Arcade Fire
I get the feeling that years from now we will be calling this the one that started it all. It takes such a large-scale sweeping sound and applies it to the most miniscule and small situations. They have songs that are pumped with all of the bravery and valor of a battlefield but are sung about neighborhoods and childhood. “Crown of Love” still chokes me up every time.
3. Rubber Factory (2004) – The Black Keys
Ever wondered what a lo-fi early Led Zeppelin would sound like? Dan and Pat describe their third album as having a “fucked up” sound. That’s the best way to put it as they relentlessly rock out old heavy metal blues anthems that sound like they are being played two rooms over. Dan Auerbach has the ultimate blues growler voice and delivers one of the best covers I have ever heard with “Act Nice and Gentle.”
4. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) – Wilco
The Great Gatsby has been called the ultimate American novel. Is it a tad overdone to call this the quintessential American album? I really don’t think so. It is a staple of everyone’s top ten lists for its epic but subtle feel combined with as poetic of lyrics as you are going to ever hear. Every star is a setting sun… indeed.
5. By the Way (2002) – Red Hot Chili Peppers
After seeing the direction that the band has chosen to go in, I think this has solidified itself as their masterpiece. They really toned down the bass lines, the funk beats and the rapping to put together a truly collaborative effort that is as intense as it is mellow. The dreary subject matter is still there but it never sounded so good.
6. In Rainbows (2007) – Radiohead
Again, a band that I flip flop on. I know it’s sacrilegious to not include Kid A on any ranking of the 2000s best albums, but I really enjoyed this much more subtle release. They take their experimental artsy style to the most chill levels they have ever been and never veer into their “weird zone” that always pushes me away.
7. Stankonia (2000) – OutKast
I’m not even crazy about hip hop and this album still sticks with me. I remember hearing it when I was ten and thinking it was really good, then hearing it again when I was twenty and being fucking blown away. The “alright alright alright alright” at the beginning of the opening track should be enough indication that it’s going to kick ass for the next forty songs or however many are on there.
8. Z (2005) – My Morning Jacket
Up until the release of this year’s Circuital, this was the best outing of one of the most underexposed bands on the planet. Come for the unbelievable guitar playing, stay for Jim James’ could-he-go-any-higher vocals and wide assortment of genre.
9. Back to Black (2006) – Amy Winehouse
Okay take the endless airtime that “Rehab” received out of it and just listen to this album. All that soulful wailing that Adele and Duffy strive for is done so naturally on this rock/jazz album that can only now depress me with what might have been.
10. The Black Parade (2006) – My Chemical Romance
The album most likely alienated the majority of people from the band and drew emo comparisons but I can’t help but love it. My Chemical Romance showed that they can seriously rock on some of their tracks (The End./Dead!) and gave me the most enjoyable melodrama since Shakespeare.
Honorable Mentions: Is This It (2001) – The Strokes, Sound of Silver (2007) – LCD Soundsystem, Neon Bible (2007) – Arcade Fire, College Dropout (2004) – Kanye West, The Marshall Mathers LP (2000) – Eminem