The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s

80-61

by PopMatters Staff

7 October 2014

 

75 - 71


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U2

All That You Can’t Leave Behind

(Island/Interscope)

75

U2
All That You Can’t Leave Behind

After the pompous excesses of U2’s 1997 album Pop and its gaudy lemon of a tour, U2 hit the reset button to record All That You Can’t Leave Behind in 2000. Turns out the dawn of the decade was an appropriate time for a resolute return to the band’s fundamental songwriting and record-making, shedding everything (electronica, dance tracks, pop irony) except that which they couldn’t leave behind: soulful anthems, sweeping melodies, artful arrangements, and brilliant performances. Back were producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, who helped incorporate elements of the band’s past glory while pushing the record into the new millennium with fresh sonic craftsmanship. A return to more traditional songs found Bono reignited, pushing his voice to the top of his range, while the Edge refreshed his iconic chiming figures into the sturdiest set of U2 songs in a decade. In fact, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, with its opening run of “Beautiful Day”, “Stuck in a Moment That You Can’t Get Out Of”, “Elevation”, and “Walk On”, would provide the heights and sound templates that U2 would continue to chase, and fall short of, on every album since. It remains the last classic from the last of the rock stars. Steve Leftridge

 

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The Bug

London Zoo

(Ninja Tune)

Review [10.Aug.2008]

74

The Bug
London Zoo


Kevin Martin’s third album as the Bug came at a time when dubstep was arguably at its peak. The genre’s bass heavy, half-step template was firmly in place. Burial had just released his second album, and the United Kingdom’s fickle audiences were beginning to tire of the familiar tropes and ideas being strung out by copycats and sound-alikes alike. Enter London Zoo, an album that saw Martin streamline and refine the murky dancehall sound that was last seen on 2003’s Pressure into something more in line with the bass heavy dubstep sound of London’s dancefloors.

Enlisting a startlingly brilliant array of vocal talent—Roll Deep’s Flowdan and Killa P, Spaceape, future King Midas Sound member Roger Robinson, Ricky Ranking, Warrior Queen and dancehall veteran Tippie Irie—to bedazzling effect, Martin completely threw all expectations of what bass music coming out of Britain’s capital could sound like. The UK’s vibrant dance music heritage has always been influenced by Jamaican soundsystem music, from jungle all the way through to today’s grime, and with London Zoo, the world was served a real reminder of how transformational London’s producers are in perverting their influences into something totally new and exciting. Al Kennedy

 

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Harvey Danger

King James Version

(Sire)

73

Harvey Danger
King James Version


The sophomore album is challenging for any band looking to exceed expectations and that was no different for Harvey Danger. Riding high off the massive success of that song, it was a question of whether or not they could maintain that momentum while continuing to build upon a solid foundation. Despite a noble effort, King James Version fell through the cracks, not only failing to recapture their debut album’s mass audience, but essentially fading from existence as quickly as it landed with the mainstream having decided that Harvey Danger had worn out their welcome, thus sentencing them to “one-hit wonder” status. In retrospect, they did exactly what a band is supposed to do for its follow up. They one-upped their song writing with biting lyrics offering thought-provoking entertainment value all their own (singer Sean Nelson remains one of the most criminally underrated lyricists alive), not to mention killer hooks courtesy of irreplaceable bassist Aaron Huffman, not afraid to lead the melody. The so-called “alternative rock band” even managed to sneak a piano ballad in there, highlighting guitarist Jeff Lin’s classical training, while also serving as a good primer for their (as of now) final album Little By Little, hinting at the direction their music would take. In essence, Harvey Danger is everything you think they’re not and King James Version is definitive proof of that. Steven Scott

 

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J Dilla

Donuts

(Stones Throw)

Review [13.Feb.2006]

  72

J Dilla
Donuts


By the middle of the decade, J Dilla, aka Jay Dee, aka James Dewitt Yancey, was a living legend among hip-hop fans and artists. He had taken the innovations of earlier ‘name’ producers—Pete Rock, Marley Marl, DJ Premier, etc—and run it in unlikely and unique new directions, flipping and warping and shirking off expectations. He did that while remaining in some ways anonymous to the general public; more a musician’s musician than a celebrity. The story behind 2006’s Donuts may have cemented the album’s reputation forever. He essentially edited it on his deathbed, from a hospital bed. It was released three days before his death. And the music itself can be read, if you’re so inclined, as a statement on mortality. Yet I’m firmly of the opinion that the music transcends the circumstances; this would be a classic of the genre in any case. No matter how many imitators and influenced live among hip-hop DJs, producers and ‘instrumentalists’, there is nothing like Donuts. It is essentially a beat tape, yes, but one that was pieced together as an infinite loop built of miniatures. It’s filled with jokes, with puzzles, with quick emotional reveries and with samples both familiar and disguised. It’s a masterpiece of hip-hop ingenuity that’s a testament to its creator’s genius but also stands in for the very spirit of the genre. Dave Heaton

 

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Doves

Lost Souls

(Heavenly)

71

Doves
Lost Souls


In the year 2000, Britpop was over in England. In America, it had never happened. Atmospheric British indie rock was making a comeback, but it had taken a decided turn toward the fey in the form of Coldplay’s Parachutes and Travis’ The Man Who. Doves, however, had a background in dance music, having released some singles under the name Sub Sub. They were from the Manchester area, whose “Madchester” scene had eventually given way to Britpop. Lost Souls brought things full circle, with a twist: it took electronic dance music’s detailed production and dynamic use of space and put it together with the melodicism of Britpop. A crucial third ingredient was a Madchester-inspired sense of swagger and groove. The result was large-scale, epic indie-rock that would have been bombastic had it not been so tender and atmospheric at the same time. It was as if the trio knew the ensuing decade was going to be trying yet not without its share of catharsis, and they were offering up the soundtrack in advance. At a time when “dreampop” was little more than a pejorative synonym for bygone shoegaze bands, dreampop was exactly what Lost Souls delivered, single-handedly making the term clean again with a volley of hard-hitting, soft-landing, unforgettably evocative songs. John Bergstrom

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