Monday, December 21, 2009

The best albums of the 2000s: 20-11

We've reached the top 20 alums of the decade. In celebration, from here on out, we give you two tunes per album. Enjoy!

Note: Over the weekend, Steve posted his personal top 100. So it, along with everyone else's, is now included in the sidebar for posterity.

20. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (2008)

A group of Seattle hipsters compose a lush arrangement of the most beautiful songs you're going to hear, period. A favorite of the NPR set, all of the praise heaped on this particular debut (yup, the first one) is warranted. Check out "White Winter Hymnal" and "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song." Enjoy it, because this sort of output will be hard to replicate. - RB

When I first heard “White Winter Hymnal,” it was like a hypnosis. And I have yet to break from the spell. - GC

This album is a joy and will brighten your space . - HR

Blue Ridge Mountains - Fleet Foxes
White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes

19. Arcade Fire, Neon Bible (2007)

No sophomore jinx for this Canadian band, whose 2005 debut Funeral garnered high praise for musical innovation. Springsteen-esque at times, baroque at others, the tunes on this album further display the diverse talents of these fire-starters. - AC

Not the home run Funeral was, but a hard shot into the gap with plenty of memorable tracks. - TN

A more accessible album that their debut, Neon Bible is an enjoyable experience from start to finish. - RB

This is a powerful contribution from a very talented crew. - HR

True confession: I own this album, but it’s still in the shrinkwrap. *ducks* - GC

No Cars Go - Arcade Fire

Intervention - Arcade Fire

18. The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema (2005)

Meet the new porn, not the same as the old porn. A.C. Newman, Neko Case and the rest of this collective of Canadian musicians put out their finest work to date with Twin Cinema. This is not the stuff you need to hide under your bed. Listen loud, listen proud. - AC

Twin Cinema grabs you from the opening riffs of the title track and never lets go. The New Pornographers can't make a bad album in my book. This is my favorite. - MD

Use It - The New Pornographers

Sing Me Spanish Techno - The New Pornographers

17. Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007)

Glamtastic tunes about S&M, sexual ambiguity and unrequited lust. Song titles that send you running for your European history textbooks. One relatively decipherable tune, "She's a Rejecter," includes perhaps the greatest line of the decade: "There's the girl that made me bitter/Wanna pay some other girl to just walk up to her and hit her." - AC

There don't really make words to explain bands like this. You just have to fire it up, be patient with it and see where it takes you. No matter what, I'll assure it'll be different than anything you might be accustomed to. But it'll be a good thing, I promise. - RB

Without a doubt, one of my favorite bands of the decade (Of Montreal made my list twice). I absolutely adore, adore, adore Hissing Fauna. There are wonderful sounds at play and the words will entertain - an entire conversation could be carried on based on lyrics from this record. I imagine Kevin Barnes as a parallel universes' equivalent of Homer's red-do-(voice by Johnny Cash)-spirit-guide in the chili pepper of insanity episode. - HR

Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider - Of Montreal

She's A Rejecter - Of Montreal

16. Green Day, American Idiot (2004)

Maybe more acts don't do concept albums because this one is so good? Years from now, hip history professors may assign this as testament to modern living. - TN

Just when we thought this trio of punks was washed up -- hadn't they just released their "best of" collection, International Superhits? -- they crank out their best album ever. As political polemic, American Idiot is a brilliant, bombastic indictment of the Bush-Cheney administration's failed politics of division. But this album extends beyond political commentary to tackle the vagaries of American life at the opening of a new century. American Idiot the best rock opera since Tommy. - AC

Holiday - Green Day

American Idiot - Green Day

15. Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006)

Nashville wishes it could find someone with the authenticity, booming voice and indomitable spirit of Neko Case, the Crown Princess of Americana. It would fit perfectly on any dirt road you could find to drive on or parked at a scenic place, sitting silently with someone you like a bit. Don't worry, she has the words where you can't fill them. - RB

I've already expressed my love for Neko Case elsewhere in the countdown, so I won't rattle on here. Suffice it to say that her gift for storytelling and imagery combine with that distinct voice to make one beautiful package. - MD

Such languid, Patsy Cline-inspired vocals. No other modern-day country crooner compares to Ms. Case. - AC

You know how J. Lo. supposedly has her butt insured? You better hope State Farm has assessed this lovely lady’s golden pipes, for they are truly a national treasure. - GC

This Tornado Loves You - Neko Case

John Saw That Number - Neko Case

14. MGMT, Oracular Spectacular (2008)

This album crept up with single after single. Heavily influenced by the sonic underpinnings of 1980s pop, yet refreshing modern and clear, The band formerly known as The Management bring a fresh take on electro-pop modernity in a way few would dare attempt, much less pull off. - RB

I can't help myself. This stuff makes me want to get up and dance. - AC

I just recently got turned on to this one (I'm often a little bit late). But it is damn infectious. - MD

Some of the best. Can't miss it - fell first for Electric Feel and Time to Pretend, then found favorites Weekend Wars and Of Moons, Birds & Monsters. - HR

Time to Pretend - MGMT

Kids - MGMT

13. Death Cab for Cutie, Transatlanticism (2003)

I ranked this #1 on my list because I played it more than any other this decade. I consider the bridge of the title track is one of the more transcendental moments in music. - TN

His delicate voice does some nice storytelling throughout this album. Making it through the slower pacing of many of these songs (Passenger Seat, Tiny Vessels) is really rewarding... not after the song, but during the song because you just can't wait to hear what's next. Title and Registration is probably the most cathy track, but I love the uptempo We Looked Like Giants best. - SB

Transatlanticism - Death Cab for Cutie
Tiny Vessels - Death Cab for Cutie

12. Outkast, Stankonia (2000)

What's great about these ATLliens is their ability to stand on the borders of hip-hop, but never actually bothering to cross. They infuse authenticity into all of their work and as such, this album represents what at the time was a bold treatise that no hip-hop act -- much less a duo -- could muster. - RB

The hip hop album of the decade and on my list at number three overall. - MD

Beautiful prose-poems from the streets. - AC

I traded by best friend's brother a CD for this CD and it kills me I can't remember what it was. Some of the most popular tracks (So Fresh, So Clean, Mrs. Jackson) are actually my least favorite tracks, but they're still good. I think this is the primary hip-hop album that really said to aspiring artists in that genre that it's OK to explore and experiment with anything and everything, when it comes to your sound. - SB

Bombs Over Baghdad - Outkast

Ms. Jackson - Outkast

11. The Avett Brothers, I and Love and You (2009)

Masterfully written, performed and produced. An undeniably talented combo + Rick Rubin's production skillz = easily the album of the year. - TN

Simply some of the most beautiful songwriting and guitarcraft I've heard in some time. - AC

The Avett Brothers put out some good albums before this one, but this stripped down collaboration with Rick Rubin is deserving of all the accolades it has been receiving. - MD

Surprised but happy to see this album rank this highly. It came out of nowhere with a mindblowing title track and stole me away with an entirely solid disc. The best part is, there’s a rich back catalog, to boot. - GC

Ten Thousand Words - The Avett Brothers

I And Love And You - The Avett Brothers


  1. You people and your hipster music. Pffft.

    Good job putting Stankonia ahead of the double album, though, and I'd put Green Day higher, but we'll see where the Top Ten go first.

  2. Chris - By now you probably know where American Idiot ranks on my list. But I'm just one of seven, and the consensus picks don't always fall the way individual raters would like (Hail to the Chief, e.g.).

    Thanks for following along.

    P.S. - Which do you consider the "hipster" albums. I'd say Fleet Foxes and possibly Oracular Spectacular. Others?

  3. I'm glad to see that the two songs you linked to for Neon Bible are No Cars Go and Intervention -- the two best songs on the album. Unlike Funeral, I don't like this album in its entirety. In fact, I think it'd make one of the greatest EPs in history: Keep the Car Running, Neon Bible, Intervention, No Cars Go and (Antichrist Television Blues).

    American Idiot shows range and rage that works.

  4. I am getting into regular debates about Funeral v. Neon Bible. The latter having clear supremecy in my mind with the exception of "No Cars Go." I love that song, but it didn't seem to fit well on this album.
    This band is such a great talent -- and influence on the modern music landscape -- I feel both albums are worthy of high rankings. I'm not so sure that the relegation of Neon is due strictly to its young age ...