We’re almost at the halfway point, guys and girls. Thanks for following along so far, and in case you need a refresher, you can check out the last 10 albums we discussed here.
Now, on with the show!
60. Talib Kweli Quality (2002)
Given the wealth of great hip-hop that dropped in 2002, it’s strange to think that Talib Kweli’s first true solo release has held up better than all the rest, but listen to Quality ten years on: that warm, soulful production, those winding rhyme schemes that don’t so much ride the beat as they coil around it like a boa constrictor and wrestle it to the ground –Quality is the sound of a killer emcee at the peak of his powers, and whether he’s rocking the party in “Put it in the Air”, pleading for black unity in “Get By”, or spewing bitter, bruised patriotism in the haunting “The Proud”, the man’s a steamroller on the mic. It doesn’t hurt that he’s enlisted some stellar help: Kanye’s evocative, electric-piano infused beat for “Get By” (perhaps the decade’s best single rap track) is the stuff legends are made of, and the then-upstart producer assembles a thrilling, suspenseful track out of little more than a lone violin with “Guerilla Monsoon Rap”, which guests Black Thought and Pharoahe Monch tear into like hungry vultures. And Kweli’s most frequent collaborators have their fingers in this thing, too: he’s made full albums with Res and Mos Def, but when the former stops by to lend a mournful chorus to “Where Do We Go”, it’s wrenching, and when Talib’s Black Star partner in rhyme drops into “Joy” just to pat his buddy on the back and offer some support from a fellow father, it’s ecstatic. Such is Quality, a record that spans the gamut of human emotions, and emerges one of the most soulful and poignant hip-hop records of the past decade. Drew
59. Deftones White Pony (2000)
Like Let’s Get It On for Cenobites. Greg
My Morning Jacket released no less than three great albums in the 2000’s, with 2005’s Z widely considered their pinnacle. The album is loaded from start to finish with songs that have become staples in the band’s catalog and is their most focused, concise work. Incorporating more keyboards than ever before, they also tightened up their material, getting away from longer jams in favor of producing their most cohesive and accessible album to date. “Wordless Chorus” remains a fan favorite to this day, “It Beats 4 U” is an unabashed love song, while reggae influences creep into “Off The Record” and “Knot Comes Loose” recalls their earlier, reverb soaked, twangy material. But the true highlight is the stunning “Dondante”, a tribute to a close friend and former musical partner of Jim James who committed suicide. I’ve had the honor of seeing MMJ perform live twice and the emotional impact of seeing this song played live has yet to be matched. One of many reasons why, for my money, My Morning Jacket remains the greatest live band currently working today. The live album and video Okonokos that was recorded during the Z tour and released in 2006 serves as proof of that. Mike A.
57. Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
People weren’t sure what to make of Eminem after his first album, The Slim Shady LP, and there was the concern that he’d be a one hit/one album wonder. It’s pretty safe to say that the Marshall Mathers LP silenced those doubts forever. It became the first hip-hop album (as well as the first album by a male solo artist) to sell over a million copies in it’s debut week. Despite the fact that I think Eminem is overrated, this remains a pretty solid album. Just know that it’s not for the feint of heart, Eminem comes out with guns blazing, going off on his mom, his ex-wife (“Kim” is by far the album’s low point), gays, boy bands, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. Key tracks include “Remember Me,” in which Em, RBX and Sticky Fingaz go out of their way to out-gross one another, “Bitch Please 2,” which features Snoop Dogg (followed by Eminem’s imitation of Snoop Dogg) and the amazing “Stan,” which by itself should place MMLP on our list. An account of a dangerously obsessed fan, this haunting track is one of the best hip-hop songs–screw it, the best songs in any genre–recorded during this decade. Big Money
One day at a previous job, I was perusing the Soundscan charts and noticed an album called The Photo Album by a band named Death Cab For Cutie had sold a pretty respectable amount of records seemingly out of nowhere. Curiosity piqued, I headed over to the Virgin Megastore near my office and low and behold there was said album sitting on an endcap at the front of the store on sale for $10, so I said what the hell and picked it up without having heard a note of the band’s music before. [In writing about the records I did for this piece, I noticed I mentioned record stores a respectable amount of times as it relates to records from the first half of the ’00s….pretty amazing how swift the record store’s decline was.]
The Photo Album reeled me in immediately. Not being terribly well versed in indie rock at the time, this album was a real revelation to me. Lyrically, it is an angry record with a lot of emotional weight hanging over it. It would seem vocalist/guitarist Ben Gibbard has had some hardships in his life and is using DCFC as a vehicle to unload his burdens. Musically though, this is, for the most part, not mopey and is hooky, melodic and has the ability to get stuck in your head like gum to the bottom of a shoe. A powerful statement of an album across the board.
The band would wind up appearing on Fox’s popular teen drama The O.C. and get name dropped quite a few times on that show and their star would go on to rise. The album after this one, Transatlanticism, would receive even more praise, higher sales and the band would go on to sign to a major. I think the majority of their work since has been rather dull and to be honest, I’ve stopped following them altogether, but The Photo Album has stood the test of time and will for many years to come. Nick
55. The Strokes Is This It? (2001)
Is This It, released in 2001, launched The Strokes into fame. Single “Last Nite” is probably still one of The Strokes’ biggest singles, with “Someday” and “Hard to Explain” following suit. The album was released in Australia and the UK before hitting America, and reached platinum status. Is This It was so successful that the band was able to go on a world tour, even though it was only their first album.
The original album cover, featuring the naked lower half of a woman, was replaced in America because it was too sexually explicit.
Another fun fact relating to the album, Stereogum produced a ten year anniversary album, featuring covers by Peter Bjorn and John, The Morning Benders, Real Estate, and many more. Cassandra
54. Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007)
Austin-based Spoon had been recording since 1996, and were nothing if not consistent. Each release seemed to improve upon the last, culminating with 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Here, the band’s songwriting peaked, churning out ten concise, efficient, and emotive rock tunes. From the defensive and slinky “Don’t Make Me a Target” to the affirmations of “The Underdog” and the melodic pop of “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb,” Spoon manged to produce a tight rock record absent any filler – a rarity at a time when most groups indulge the impulse to record 75 minute albums just because they can. With each listen, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga remains fresh, compelling and fun. As much as I played the album in 2007, it never got stale, and that remains true five years later. Dr. Gonzo
Released in September 2003 in the UK and March 2004 in the US, Absolution is Muse’s third studio album. Already having fans in the UK, Europe, and Asia, Absolution really did more for Muse’s success in America. With “Stockholm Syndrome,” “Time is Running Out,” and “Hysteria” as the singles, the album contained a different sound than the band’s previous albums. “Hysteria” even topped many “Best bass line of all time” charts. Other singles include “Sing for Absolution,” “Butterflies and Hurricanes,” and “Apocalypse Please.”
With 14 tracks, the album is also one of the most popular to play on tour. After Muse closed out Origin of Symmetry during Reading and Leeds, Absolution and newer albums will most likely fill the void.
Furthermore, continuing with the idea of a different sound, the album contains instrumental interludes and the song “Blackout,” which is an 18 piece orchestral song. Cassandra
A vivid, fresh new sound excavated from the ruins of classic rock and Appalachian folk? It all sounds like the fever-dream of a sun-starved hipster, and perhaps that’s true; still, Fleet Foxes’ formidable debut bucks the prevailing misconception of indie rock as deliberately obtuse and amelodic by simply being so intensely, beautifully musical. CSNY harmonies slowly wrap around dusky, expansive arrangements; folksy images of natural beauty and the life cycle are conjured, in the widescreen panoramics of the Foxes’ unique artistic aesthetic; everything old is new again, and Fleet Foxes imbue the dusty bones of their influences with reverent allure and artistry. And then there’s “White Winter Hymnal”; back in 2008, did any of us expect to hear a gorgeous, pastoral, threadbare arrangement like that wafting from the car speakers? Drew
A sprawling and progressive record that pinwheels ecstatically through four decades of black music, Common’s master thesis ping-pongs between spacey neo-soul ballads, crisp funk, psychedelia, and muted, sampled horn lines, all tied together by the emcee’s singular vision. The trick here is that Com never leans too heavily one style or persona, instead choosing to channel creativity into infectious, fleshed-out arrangements (courtesy of such turn-of-the-century luminaries as ?uestlove and D’angelo) and vivid, intelligent storytelling: the hilarious, self-referential “A Film Called (Pimp)” pokes gentle fun at the former Mr. Sense’s clean-cut image over rattling, bare-bones P-Funk; the starry-eyed “The Light” is as reverent and genuine as a cursory glance at its ultra-sentimental lyric sheet would suggest; G-funk rears its crisp, nodding head on “Payback is a Grandmother”, a cinematic, often-funny tale of street-level vengeance, the kind of aggressively immersive storytelling Com would later revisit on “Testify”. Still, Common saves the best for last, closing out the record proper with “Geto Heaven Part 2”, a song that cruises far above Chi-Town in a spaceship and crystallizes all the most interesting parts of follow-up record Electric Circus in five glorious minutes, and “A Song For Assata”, a stunning, heartfelt ode to imprisoned Black Panther Assata Shakur that briefly terrified Fox News last year. (See, Common doesn’t believe that Assata killed two cops, which made Sean Hannity say “Common is a THUG! He supports COP KILLERS! He makes that awful RAP MUSIC! He’s BLACK, you guys, come on!” … These quotes may be paraphrased, but just barely.) – Drew