Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 20-1

These top 20 records of the '00s feature some familiar faces, but also several that, over time, have grown more fondly in memory.

 
Artist: LCD Soundsystem

Album: Sound of Silver

Label: DFA

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LCD Soundsystem
Sound of Silver

LCD Soundsystem is the only band I truly regret missing. I don't fault them for calling it quits while they were at their peak -- but damn it, guys, did you have to make such great music before sailing off into the sunset? Sound of Silver is LCD Soundsystem's triumph, a brilliant collection of dance hits that could have you rolling on the ground with laughter one moment and crying the next. Sound of Silver would have been a great album just by having the monumental "Someone Great" and "All My Friends," but that didn't satisfy James Murphy and his bandmates. Instead, they made the greatest David Bowie album never made by creating their own version of "Heroes" and "Let's Dance" and stretching it out to delirious lengths, like the feverish titled track or "Us V Them". It is an album about growing up; Murphy might have focused his mid-life crisis into his music, but Sound of Silver could speak to any age group. With grooves this good and lyrics this potent, it was impossible not to fall under the spell. So head out into the night and dance yourself clean. Nathan Stevens

 
Artist: The Avalanches

Album: Since I Left You

Label: Modular

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Avalanches
Since I Left You

You know that feeling: when you hear a song's chorus or just a stray verse or maybe a chord change that is just so good, so downright powerful and undeniably cathartic that you actually feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. You can probably name only a handful of songs that have achieved this effect, but with the Avalanches' Since I Left You, they managed to maintain it over the course of an entire album.

Crafted by a group of Australian DJs out of both original instrumentation and hundreds of samples, Since I Left You cannot be classified as belonging to a single genre because throughout its hour-long run time, it literally features every single genre you could ever think of: jazz guitars melt away into indie-electronica experiments, four-on-the-four club bangers transmogrify into Osmond Brothers send-offs, and spoken-word soundbites are married to hip-hop beats, brill-building vocal choirs, country croons, and, just for the hell of it, the bassline to Madonna's "Holiday". It is a disc that is an outright celebration of music, electricity coursing through its grooves as it interpolates the sounds of opera singers and turntable scratches without even the slightest hint of effort, the entire album sounding like every record you ever loved melting together to create something that you've never heard before.

Coming out at the end of the Napster era, Since I Left You wasn't a mere mashup or Girl Talk-styled music nerd amalgam, no. Instead, it modified the DNA of DJ Shadow's Endtroducing and created something completely new out of tropes we are already too familiar with, subverting our expectations on an average of every 10 seconds. It is transcendent in its pop music pleasures, and, amazingly, after personally listening to this record end-to-end over 300 times, I am still to this day hearing elements that I never heard before. Few records in history will ever have this kind of replayability, but, to be fair, few records have ever sounded like Since I Left You Evan Sawdey

 
Artist: Basement Jaxx

Album: Kish Kash

Label: XL/Astralwerks

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Basement Jaxx
Kish Kash

Despite the early millennial success of "Where's Your Head At?", the UK house duo known as Basement Jaxx were getting increasingly bored with the modern sounds of dance music. A simple catchy chorus just wasn't enough to satiate their tastes, because in a world dominated by the likes of Paul Oakenfold and Paul Van Dyk, they were left to ask "Where is the fun? Where is the humor? Hell, where is the out-and-out weirdness of it all?"

With Kish Kash, Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe decided to not record one dance album, but about six of them, and instead of releasing all these things separately, they melted all their ideas down into these 14 songs, each one brimming with a half-dozen choruses that are basically playing over each other but somehow completely and thrillingly cohesive. Just take the Dizzee Rascal-featuring single "Lucky Star" for example, which features an exotic keyboard trill, about four different layers of shouted vocal harmonies, synth pads coloring the chorus, a furiously strummed acoustic hook that comes in right before the 3:00 mark -- hell, any one of these elements would stand as an amazing pop single on its own, but instead, they're all put into one frenetic club banger that sounds like dangerously close to exploding with overenthusiasm at any given second.

Throughout the rest of Kish Kash, the boys root their songs in electro-clash ("Cish Cash"), gospel ("Supersonic"), late '90s R&B ("Feels Like Home"), and even string-drenched Bjork-styled electronic catharsis ("If I Ever Recover"), but those simple frame works are soon filled with the duo's off-beat personalities and eccentricities. The Jaxx's insatiable, overstuffed brand of dance pop quietly influenced the decade that followed, but as their subsequent efforts proved, Kish Kash is when they perfected their sound, throwing more memorable hooks into a single song than most bands will write in their entire career. Evan Sawdey

 
Artist: Broken Social Scene

Album: You Forgot It in People

Label: Arts & Crafts / Paper Bag

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Broken Social Scene
You Forgot It in People

The diffidently-sung "Anthem for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl" will reach you, even if you're not in the targeted demographic. You will want to shout out the lyrics with the entire collective in the climax of "Almost Crimes". You will want to dance around to "Pacific Theme" while no one's around to see it, and maybe enjoy a cigarette to "Looks Just Like the Sun", "Lover's Spit" and "I'm Still Your Fag" afterwards. And that's all without mentioning "Cause = Time", with guitar and strings that suggest maybe we can do something about the situation we find ourselves in; we can fight it, we don't have to submit. Broadly speaking, Broken Social Scene, now a full-blown collective, make sure that every song is packed with detail -- things will stick to you at first because they're catchy but additional listens will reveal more -- there are more guitars going on in "Anthem for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl" than you would think. And even "Capture the Flag" that captures their entire debut album in two minutes and change or the string-laden closer "Pitter Patter Goes My Heart" are pleasures. One of the greatest gifts, musical or otherwise, Canada gave the world that entire decade. Marshall Gu

 
Artist: Kanye West

Album: Late Registration

Label: Rock-A-Fella/Def Jam

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Kanye West
Late Registration

With the benefit of hindsight, it's clear to see that Late Registration was nothing less than a statement of intent. Kanye West had gotten people's attention with The College Dropout, but one wrong turn could have easily sent him towards the commercial and critical purgatory that many throwback rappers find themselves in. With Late Registration, Kanye West aimed higher than being the best rapper of his generation, even higher than being the best pop star of his generation. He aspired to be a pop savant, the sort of individual talent that rarely comes along. He brought along Jon Brion to give his beats more intricate arrangements, and while he still used soul and R&B samples as a base, Kanye's work on Late Registration seems more grandiose, as if the ambition of "Jesus Walks" was blown up into a 70-minute epic.

Even the parts of Late Registration that seem baffling on paper (Adam Levine as a hook guy?) manage to work in practice. Less than ten years after Late Registration's release, Kanye West is regarded as one of the most controversial geniuses of his time, and many have argued that he has reached the heights of greatness that he's insisted he could reach. But it all started here, when Kanye showed the world just what he was really capable of. Kevin Korber

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