We’re in 2012. Is it too early for ‘00s nostalgia?
Oh, the first decade of the new millennium. The decade we were introduced to the iPod, the smart phone, texting and all sorts of technological advances that have made us incredibly lazy beings. We decided to start voting for our pop stars on TV, Janet Jackson torpedoed her career by showing us a nipple, and Mariah Carey went crazy and then made a comeback (but she’s still crazy). Oh, and she married a kid best known for being on Nickelodeon. On a more serious note, it was also the decade during which 9/11 gave us a major reality check, the American political system was seriously called into question and some of the most beloved pop culture icons of our time passed away. Think about it: in 2001, Michael Jackson was angling for a comeback. In 2005 he was in a courtroom facing criminal charges. In 2009, he was dead. Crazy stuff, huh?
Musically, the decade began with the industry in a massive boom period, thanks to artists like the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and *NSYNC. Hell, even the redheaded stepchildren of the boy band generation sold records. Do you know that 2gether has a gold album? Of course, the mp3 revolution was right around the corner and it stuck a dagger right into the heart of the way we appreciated recorded music. Still, the decade allowed for myriad musical treasures in a variety of genres. By the middle of the decade, the boy band boom was officially over, even if Justin, Christina and Britney made the jump into credible (I hesitate to use that word in reference to Britney Spears) artists.
Because we love lists here at Popblerd, we gathered the troops and had everyone list their favorite albums of the ‘00s. On this list, you’ll find the typically diverse mélange of music that this site has become known for. Renegade soulsters will rub shoulders with quite folkies. Leather-lunged British divas will cross paths with grunge survivors. And there will be Kanye.
So sit back and let’s take a ride through the decade that just ended with the titles that we voted as the ‘00s best albums.
100. The Roots The Tipping Point (2004)
I like brevity. What can I say? As much as I love The Roots, and their ridiculously ambitious albums, it was nice to have an album as focused as The Tipping Point was. It was really the band’s first album that left you wanting more. It was also probably their most obviously commercial work-featuring production from former Roots member turned flossy-pop producer Scott Storch, but “commercial” is relative when you’re talking about Tariq, Questo and company. “Don’t Say Nuthin'” was the first single, and the hook was mumbled. The Sly-sampling second single “Star” featured one of Questlove’s patented percussion freakouts at the end. So, yeah. Pop but not pop. And Black Thought gets extra points for fooling everyone into thinking he had Big Daddy Kane & Kool G. Rap spitting guest verses on “Boom”, when it was really just Philly’s finest doing some note-perfect impression work. Big Money
99. The Killers Hot Fuss (2004)
It’s hard to tell which Killers album time will be more kind to: debut Hot Fuss, or follow-up Sam’s Town? Both are modern relics of bygone times – Fuss patches together indie-rock and new-wave with a more pop-friendly take on the blip-on-the-’00s-radar dance-punk movement, while Town tones down the synths in favor of dustbowl mythology – but while Sam’s Town stands alone as The Killers’ most consistent (and, I’m gonna say it, best) record, Hot Fuss is a steamroller of potential hit singles. Some of the songs stand up as alternate-dimension Duran Duran – perhaps the songs Simon Le Bon would’ve sung if he’d been in a different mood one day – some shake the formula up, with a gospel choir plowing right through the center of the feverish pastoral “All These Things That I’ve Done”. And then there’s “Somebody Told Me” and “Mr. Brightside”, two of the most incisive, direct rock hits of the ’00s; they’re the sort of big-hook, classic numbers that’ll haunt radio stations for decades to come. Drew
Though not quite as strong as their 2002 release Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, The Flaming Lips continued their run of impeccable albums with 2006’s At War With The Mystics. This time around the Flips got heavily political with songs touching on how power corrupts (“The Yeah Yeah Song”), terrorism (“Free Radicals”), government oppression and a call for revolution (“The W.A.N.D.”) and a number of not so thinly veiled shots at George W. Bush, most obviously “Haven’t Got A Clue”. But Wayne Coyne also continued his incredible gift of making life affirming statements out of darker subject matter. “The Sound of Failure” touches on trying to understand and process the death of a loved one in the face of the bombardment of unrealistic, over the top pop culture happiness. And “Mr. Ambulance Driver” is a sorrowful dialogue during an ambulance ride as the singer wishes he could trade places with someone close who has passed and ponders life going forward without them. “My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion” is a call to stand strong in the face of negativity and pessimism, another of those classic uplifting Flaming Lips songs that only they can pull off without sounding corny. Mike A.
Every once in a while, a band produces a debut album that does more than just hint at what they will become, and instead already delivers the core of what they are. We’re talking stuff like Van Halen I, Led Zeppelin I, or The Black Crowes’ Shake Your Money Maker. In 2005, it had been a while since I had felt that way about a debut, but the first time I heard Wolfmother’s first release, I knew that I was listening to something new. Well, sort of. The sound was old, but not in that we’re-lifting-our-sound-from-other-bands kind of way. Instead, it felt authentic, real…so damned good that it could have been made in the mid-seventies while on loads of psychedelics. I mean, what’s not to like for a rock dude like me? It has immense sound, straight-from-fantasy song titles and lyrics, and riffs, riffs, riffs. A comfortable balance is struck throughout between the more radio-friendly tracks (“Woman,” “Dimension”) and longer, fantastical material (“White Unicorn,” “Where Eagles Have Been”). And, it’s no coincidence that makers of video games, movies, and commercials have sought out material from Wolfmother as audio content for their products (for about a year, I’m pretty sure that I heard “Joker & The Thief” almost everywhere I went), as the songs make a perfect backdrop for nearly any high-octane activity. Heck, it certainly doesn’t hurt that it has an awesome album cover as well. The recording itself also sounds great, because it goes completely old-school. It isn’t full of obvious click-track recording, but rather embraces the small tempo changes that happen naturally as energy builds in a song. The drums have that great mic’d live sound, rather than the typical sound-replacement tones (listen to any highly produced nu-metal band, and you’ll hear what I’m talking about). Guitars and vocals swirl around one another with reckless abandon, and yet you can make out every word – and sing along. If Wolfmother had been released in 1974, we’d be speaking about it in the same breath as the first Hendrix and Cream albums. For that reason, it goes into my personal favorite Top 25 debut albums. Grez
96. Massive Attack 100th Window (2003)
How did this one make the list? It was pretty much regarded by everyone as vastly inferior to their 1998 masterpiece Mezzanine. Anyway, a few of us really liked it (Obviously myself included) enough for it to make this list. 100th Window was essentially a Robert Del Naja solo record as Mushroom had left the band and Daddy G took a break (He would eventually return for 2010’s Heligoland). Del Naja is still my favorite so I was in love. Spacey and trippier than trip-hop should get, 100th Window also was the first not to feature Tracy Thorn, replaced by Sinead O’Connor whose angelic voice (especially on “What Your Soul Sings”) fit the Massive Attack mold perfectly. And for all the purists out there, mainstay guest Horace Andy even popped up on “Name Taken”. Like I said, I’m a sucker for 3D so my favorites were the Del Naja-centric “Butterfly Caught”, “Future Proof” “Small Time Shot Away” (Especially this one), and closer “Antistar”. Jesse
By the time a band is releasing their sixth studio album, it might be fair to wonder if the creative well has run dry. Incubus released Light Grenades in 2006, nine years after their debut, and while the band hadn’t made too many stylistic or musical changes (well, besides maturing from their original garage-band sound) since then, it’s still safe to say that they’re capable of releasing a good album. Most of the disc is highlighted with accessible, radio-friendly rock hits (I’m looking at you, “Love Hurts”), but there’s a few standouts scattered throughout. “Dig” definitely falls into the category of a radio hit, but that’s not really a bad thing; Brandon Boyd sings his heart out on some surprisingly sappy lyrics about friendship (“We all have something that digs at us, at least we dig each other/…sing this song, remind me that we’ll always have each other when everything else is gone”), but I can’t deny that my best friend I and count this as our “song” and regularly sing it to one another whenever the other is feeling down. “Anna Molly” is introduced with a killer guitar riff, and sounds more like older Incubus, while songs like “Oil and Water” and “Diamonds and Coal” aren’t too exciting musically, but do a perfect job of describing relationships (the former compares two people in a relationship to oil and water, with the result of them together being like mixing the two substances, while the latter makes a metaphor between a relationship starting off rough and the way diamonds are produced from coal). Again, there’s nothing quite revolutionary here, and this is definitely not Incubus’ best album, but it still holds its own, nonetheless. Brittany
94. Adele 19 (2008)
Before there was 21 there was 19. Although it was huge in the UK from the get-go, Adele’s debut album had a hard time finding an audience in the States at first. It was an appearance on Saturday Night Live in October of 2008 that finally propelled her into the American consciousness in a big way and the album skyrocketed back up the charts shortly afterwards. 19 showed the potential Adele possessed to break through to the super-stardom she now is enveloped in. “Tired” and “Best For Last” are upbeat, soulful jams, while the ballad “Chasing Pavements” was her first legitimate U.S. hit. But it is album closer “Hometown Glory” that still sends shivers up and down my spine. The beautiful piano ballad is a showcase for Adele’s undeniable vocal mastery and, to this day, her best song. Mike A.
93. Band of Horses Cease To Begin (2007)
A moonlit, quietly raucous tramp through the North Carolina woods? A wonder-and-moonshine-soaked starlight drive through the New Mexico plains? A jam-session in an abandoned barn between a few bearded friends who happen to have the same weed guy? Whatever the case may be, Band of Horses’ sophomore set, Cease to Begin, finds their Crazy Horse by way of My Morning Jacket take on Southern rock tightened up, streamlined, and most importantly, beautified. Newly-anointed fronthorse Ben Bridwell’s high, crisp tenor dominates here; with sparse, economical language, he examines the specter of a dying relationship in “Is There A Ghost” as gently arpeggiated chords slowly give way to full-on flurries of reverb-soaked guitar, and his lovelorn pledge in “No One’s Gonna Love You” is so genuine and timeless that Cee-Lo Green himself reinterpreted it as swooning soul on his 2010 record The Lady Killer, losing nothing in the translation. Elsewhere, BoH demonstrate tuneful, well-oiled takes on big-rock (“Cigarettes, Wedding Bands”) and shuffling campfire singalongs (the killer “The General Specific”). Whatever their milieu, Band of Horses make the prospect of southern rock sound like a lot more than Skynyrd twang and glorified 12-bar blues; they prefer to stay out of the country bars, instead content to spark one up and poke around in the marshes on a warm summer’s night. Drew
Flash back to 2002, with me standing in the beer line at Numbers in Houston, TX, in between sets of the opening band and Jerry Cantrell, who was touring to support his mammoth Degredation Trip album. I’m standing there next to this guy named William DuVall, who was the lead vocalist for the opening act (Comes With The Fall). He’s insanely nice, and we strike up a conversation. I mention how great the opening set was (truly, it was killer), how much I liked his voice, and we both talk band stuff as we are both vocalists who have other instrumental backgrounds (we both play keys, he plays guitar, I play drums), and generally bitch about the business and radio and Clear Channel and blah-blah-blah. Although he probably doesn’t remember it, it was just shy of a bromance moment, stuck there for twenty minutes in line. Eventually, he needs to get backstage, as he says he’s going to get a chance to play with Jerry on one song, I wish him luck, and return to my primo position for the rest of the show. The show is killer, one of the best I’ve ever seen out of the hundreds that I have attended (including Jerry personally kicking out some asshat who is solo-moshing into five-foot-two girls around him), and then he announces that he wants to do an old Alice in Chains tune: Man In The Box. Now, AIC hadn’t even played that song in basically forever, but out walks William DuVall, who proceeds to just tear this song up and blend perfectly with Jerry on all of the dissonant harmonies, something that I had previously thought no one but Layne Staley could do. Little did I know how much foreshadowing this moment was truly providing.
So, return forward to late 2009, and Alice In Chains releases their first studio album in fourteen years with new vocalist William DuVall. Many people are nervous, but not me…after all, I’ve seen this work live, even before he was an official member of the band, so I know that sonically everything will be fine. But how would the material actually turn out? The answer is great. From the swirling guitars of tracks like “All Secrets Known” and the über-epic “A Looking In View”, to the haunting-harmonies-over-acoustic-guitar sound of “When The Sun Rose Again”, this album captures all of the best elements of Alice In Chains. DuVall’s voice blends wonderfully with Cantrell’s, capturing the weird second-and-fourth harmonies for which Staley was famous, and he manages to do so without ever sounding like he’s aping Layne. If I have any complaint at all (and it’s a very minor one), it’s that there really isn’t much up-tempo stuff – no “Dam That River” or “God Smack”. Other than the lack of tempo differential, however, there’s virtually nothing to complain about…it’s a natural evolution from AIC’s previous material. Black Gives Way To Blue feels mature, combining the classic AIC sound with Jerry’s solo work. It’s still dark and deals with a lot of heavy emotional issues, similar to the rest of the AIC catalog, but what’s different here is that it also feels like there’s a spot of hope; as if Jerry is telling everyone else to hang in there, and that by living through the darkest moments, you discover the light of what is really important. Grez
It’s hard to believe this album is eight years old already. This was the album that put LOG on the map and for good reason. Where Metallica reached their commercial nadir with The Black Album, Ashes is an uncompromising set that brought the band’s sound to a wider audience and continued to kick down doors for a wave of metal acts to follow in the way of this defining album. ‘The Faded Line” is one of the greatest metal songs of all-time, and kicks ass when snowboarding too. Some seriously talented musicians who hit their high mark on this album but have not repeated since. Check out: “Omerta,” “The Faded Line,” and “Laid to Rest”. KBOX