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The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

60. Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker [Bloodshot]


The dawn of the 21st century found Ryan Adams venturing into venues armed with little more than an acoustic guitar, a harmonica, and a music stand hastily overflowing with scribbled pages of lyrics. As opposed to the cavernous theaters he now regularly sells out, Adams at the time was still playing to crowded and noisy rock clubs filled with loud drinkers and casual nightlife enthusiasts who often enjoyed the sounds of their own conversations more than the sounds emanating from the stage.

Amongst this uninviting environment though, Adams took little time shushing the crowd into rapt silence with his disarmingly stark and frankly intimate collection of songs, most of which were being debuted (hence the music stand) for the first time. Then, it was unclear if these songs would make their way onto the next Whiskeytown album or if they were earmarked for a solo project, but regardless, it was clear that Adams was a charismatic and commanding troubadour who likely was on the cusp of an immensely talented future, band or no band in tow. That future began in September of 2000 with the release of Heartbreaker.

Fifteen tracks of longing, regret, and wistful rumination, purportedly influenced by a heavy breakup, Heartbreaker featured appearances by some of Adams’ finest influences (Welch, Richey, and Emmylou), initiated his longtime partnership with producer Ethan Johns, and even inspired Elton John to get back in touch with his 1970’s singer-songwriter roots. Filled with raw and unfiltered emotion, the album plays as the perfect soundtrack to those dark and lonely nights everyone experiences at one time or another, and remains to this point, the definitive album of Adams’ long and winding career. — Jeff Strowe

59. Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose [Interscope]


While the current trend of legendary artist/younger, worshipful producer team-ups can be traced back 20 years to Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin’s American Recordings sessions, the subgenre’s apotheosis is, without a doubt, Loretta Lynn and Jack White’s unimpeachable 2004 offering, Van Lear Rose, the decade’s best country album by a — uh, country mile. White gave the 72-year-old icon Lynn the opportunity for a near-perfect victory lap, simply by reminding everyone what made her so great in the first place: she’s fun (“Portland, Oregon”), committed to family (the campfire rave-up “This Old House”; the soaring title track), and hell on wheels if you mess with her (“Family Tree’s” evisceration of the homewrecker who’s “burning down our family tree”; gleefully hunting down a delinquent husband on “Mrs. Leroy Brown”). Lynn and White are having a blast making music together, and that joy shines through on every track.

Plenty of other fine albums have sprung from the fertile collaborative ground sown by Van Lear Rose — Mavis Staples/Jeff Tweedy’s One True Vine, Dr. John/Dan Auerbach’s Locked Down, Wanda Jackson/Jack White’s The Party Ain’t Over — but nothing will match the enduring spirit of the best album that either Loretta Lynn or Jack White have made. — Steve Haag

58. Sun Kil Moon – Ghosts of the Great Highway [Jetset/Caldo Verde]


Mark Kozelek is easily the most prolific songwriter of our time. After the defunct Red House Painters ended their reign of indie soft rockers, Kozelek formed the much-hailed Sun Kil Moon and toggled between solo albums and full band albums, raking in an impressive 30-plus studio albums, live albums, singles, limited-edition EPs, and vinyl exclusives. However, Sun Kil Moon’s debut album Ghosts of the Great Highway is the perfect encapsulation of Kozelek’s best work. Preceded by the timeless single “Carry Me Ohio”, Ghosts of the Great Highway remains one of the best albums released in the musically diverse landscape that was the 2000s. And despite Kozelek’s having released an album practically every year since Ghosts remains an unparalleled feat of brilliance. — Enio Chiola

57. Caribou – Up in Flames [Leaf / Domino]


In some alternative universe, the summer of love never stopped, the spiritual energy was so overwhelming that it ended the Vietnam War and prevented 9/11, and the music kept growing and evolving with every passing technology and every creative breakthrough. Up in Flames is a transmission from that universe, an effervescent psychedelic portal to a reality so gorgeous and transformative that you can only access it through a recording. Mathematician Dan Snaith, first known by Manitoba and then, for legal purposes, as Caribou, cracked the formula to open the stargate, producing a very un-math-like rock album in the process.

Up in Flames is a naughts record fluent in harmonics, but not indebted to any Beach Boys release. It’s an album that’s pastoral and green, but awash in synthesizers. It’s an LP that floats in elegant phrases and also double-drums a holy rupture of the cosmos. It’s an experiment in dynamics that is simultaneously immense and intimate, forecasting many naughts trends from the apocalyptics of M83 to the preciousness of xylophone twee and the indie obsession with innocence, all while surpassing the understudies and sounding nothing like them. On paper, you could make the case that it’s spiritual jazz gone electronic psych-pop, but it’s so much more of its signifiers.

Up in Flames is not best measured by its impact or its significance, but by its singularity, a standalone entity that feels unlike anything else in this consciousness, a rarity in an age of recreational style curation. Snaith-Ra kept the quality levels high throughout his career but was never as vital as this again. — Timh Gabriele

56. The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow [Sub Pop]


Critically lauded for their 2001 debut, Oh, Inverted World, the Shins upped the ante with 2003’s Chutes Too Narrow. Properly produced, Chutes Too Narrow took the band’s insouciant bedroom rock to a level of broader mainstream appeal. Released in a nebulous musical period with no distinct style, the Shins quickly became the indie standard bearers amongst their peers, including the nascent the Decemberists, My Morning Jacket and the Postal Service.

At its heart, Chutes Too Narrow is a pop album. Recalling ’60s-era acts, the Shins mixed in chamber pop (“Saint Simon”) and country (“Gone for Good”) with singer James Mercer’s buoyant melodies and the band’s vocal harmonies. Post-release, the album and the band were given a major boost after Oh, Inverted World‘s “New Slang” was anointed a song that “will change your life” in the independent film Garden State. Sales of the band’s first two albums more than doubled, resulting in mainstream attention. A springboard to future success, Chutes Too Narrow‘s 2007 follow-up, Wincing the Night Away debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and earned the band a Grammy nomination.

Formed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but having relocated to Portland, Oregon, prior to recording Chutes Too Narrow, the Shins melodic approach no doubt informed its Sub Pop label brethren, Band of Horses, as well as countless other alt-folk acts now so prevalent. No longer the same band after Mercer dismissed the group following Wincing the Night Away, his time is split between side project Broken Bells (with Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton) and the Shins, last releasing Port of Morrow in 2012. Despite its follow-up’s accolades and sales figures, Chutes Too Narrow remains the band’s greatest artistic achievement, owing as much to the songs as its exposure following Garden State. — Eric Risch

55. The New Pornographers – Mass Romantic [Mint]


After a decade and a half of superb New Pornographers releases and solo albums by members that give weight to the band’s “supergroup” status, it’s hard to remember when that status was a put-on, the pre-Blacklisted Neko Case the closest thing the band had to an actual star. But of the spate of reverse-engineered supergroup creations released in the first half of the 2000s (You Forgot It in People, Apologies to the Queen Mary, etc.), Mass Romantic is the one that sounds most like pop geniuses throwing a hell of a party.

Sporadically recorded over three years, these songs sound as if Carl Newman and his bandmates couldn’t stop adding ingredients so they cooked them into a Spectorian stew. Yet the track stacking underlines, never obscures, a hooks-above-all aesthetic of multiple choruses and verses catchy enough to be choruses. While future New Pornographers albums would widen the band’s scope and highlight the members’ individual strengths, Mass Romantic establishes a core identity that brings out some unexpected Pete Townshend in Dan Bejar’s arty, cerebral poetry and gives Neko Case an early career highlight in “Letter to an Occupant” without dimming the shine of Newman-sung gems like “The Body Says No”. Bejar may sound cynical when he sings “Making history has never seemed so easy” on “Jackie”, but Mass Romantic still sounds like a masterpiece effortlessly conceived when an unlikely bunch of wildly talented music geeks found themselves in a room together. — David Bloom

54. Opeth – Blackwater Park [Music for Nations]


From the very beginning, Opeth were much more than just a death metal band. Chief songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt’s love of obscure progressive rock and musical interests outside of extreme sounds appeared throughout Opeth’s music since their 1995 debut Orchid. But as Åkerfeldt matured as a songwriter and formed a friendship with Porcupine Tree’s prog maestro Steven Wilson, his newfound ability to strike the balance between the technical grace and emotional fragility of prog and the outright brutality of death metal manifested in Opeth’s crowning masterpiece, Blackwater Park.

At the time of its release in 2001, Blackwater Park — impeccably produced by Wilson — became Opeth’s most confident declaration of intent. The Swedish band was no longer content with the scene it was lumped into, and the dynamism displayed in songs the stature of “The Leper Affinity”, “The Drapery Falls”, and the spectacular title track showed Opeth’s desire to develop and distinguish itself from its contemporaries. Time and further outstanding Opeth albums have gone on gild the artistic value of Blackwater Park; it remains an influential turning point in Opeth’s evolution towards pure prog, and an even more essential and exquisite inclusion in the immortal canon of heavy metal. — Dean Brown

53. Scott Walker – The Drift [4AD]


No album in the past decade has committed so fully to a mood of darkness as The Drift. With repeated references to human nature’s tendency towards violence, percussive touches that give the sensation of a corpse being punched, and an unexpected and utterly terrifying — yet perfectly integrated — braying donkey, The Drift is the closest thing we have to the musical equivalent of a painting by Francisco Goya or Hieronymus Bosch. Despite its discomfiting air, something about The Drift makes for crucial listening. The tremendous command in Scott Walker‘s imperiled baritone alone warrants attention.

Walker’s lyrics and musical surprises aren’t beyond the occasional stab at grotesque humor or absurdism, perhaps most easily discerned in the totally leftfield Donald Duck cameo on “The Escape”. This doesn’t necessarily add a lightness to the proceedings, but it works wonders in keeping the listener on his or her toes in an era where listening grew more and more passive. A decade that began with the attacks on the World Trade Center — something Walker references throughout the album — called for something of The Drift‘s caliber to work through a universal terror. The album closes on the only slightly unsettling “A Lover Loves”, a somber testament that we survived. — Maria Schurr

52. Madvillain – Madvillainy [Stones Throw]


Conscious rappers talk a big game about their monopoly on Real Hip-Hop, but hip-hop doesn’t get much realer than Madvillainy. Not that this one-off between Stones Throw MVP Madlib and mush-mouthed MC MF Doom talks much material existence beyond Doom’s own misfitness, enviable technique, and “tryin’ to get a nut like squirrels in his mad world”. But, in a way, this trim vinyl kaleidoscope of ephemeral music and Hanna-Barbara heavies boils the form down to its essence: flow-qua-flow through the untrammeled ego. Doom free-associates culture high and low, from Hemingway to Robh Ruppel, across tongue-tied internal rhymes ever-so-shy of the beat.

Meanwhile, Madlib — the lesser-known equal to crate-digging godhead J Dilla — matches fusion breaks, psych soul, and Steve Reich to Doom’s lyrical parapraxis, and occasionally takes the mic himself, mostly as his helium-pitched alter-ego Lord Quas. Together they speak as one; it’s the best chemistry of either’s career, and one of the best of hip-hop, period. They aren’t the first heads to conjure dementia through EC Comics violence (Kool Keith) nor the last (Odd Future), but they do it with effortless levity. Rarely does such a gimmicky premise sound so totally intuitive. — Benjamin Aspray

51. Modest Mouse – The Moon & Antarctica [Epic]


There’s an old story your grandfather can tell you in the firelight: once upon a time, an indie rock band could put out a few solid records, generate some hype, get signed to something called a Major Record Label, and use that sweet corporate money to record a studio-bound opus that would catapult them into the Big Statement Record pantheon for all time. Modest Mouse never seemed like the type — Isaac Brock’s lyrics were too truckstop-poet for mass consumption, his incredibly fluid voice too rough around the edges, his band’s restless punk-funk-disco-folk way too weird to get the A&R reps drooling.

And yet. The Moon & Antarctica is the last of its species. Brock and company, coming off of the one-two punch of their debut This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About (1996) and The Lonesome Crowded West (1997) — a classic in its own right — made the jump to Epic Records for Moon, using the company’s cash to write and record an out-and-out masterpiece, fully fleshed in-studio sheen and effects-laden production. In a perfect universe, The Moon & Antarctica is what would always happen when an indie band walks into a major label contract. It’s the platonic ideal of an expensive rock record.

But producer Brian Deck, brilliant here, simply served the material Modest Mouse gave him. In other words, those A&R reps were right for once: Brock is a peerless songwriter, the type of truckstop poet who can pen songs as disparate as the existential pop of “Third Planet”, a sprawling opus like “The Stars Are Projectors”, and a blistering assault like “What People Are Made Of” — and seamlessly weave them all into a single album. His pop gifts — his preternatural gift for melody and an endless supply of hooks — are matched here by his unchecked ambition and a musical eclecticism unrivaled by any of his fellow indie-rock heroes of this last, final college radio generation.

The Moon & Antarctica is an album of contrasts: gentle (“Gravity Rides Everything”) and howling (“Alone Down There”); perfectly economical (“Third Planet”) and willfully grand (“Life Like Weeds”); pure roots-rock fundamentals (“Wild Packs of Family Dogs”) and space-age, tripped-out futurism (“A Different City”). It, like the handful of singular statements in its company, is everything, all at once. It’s like nothing else on this planet or any other. — Corey Beasley

50. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes [Bella Union/Sub Pop]


Before Mumford and Sons burst onto the scene, causing their homogenized brand of foot-stamping, banjo-slinging, “Ho Hey”-hollering folk to infiltrate the mainstream, the indie-folk scene was a very different place. The Decemberists used folk arrangements for their progressive rock-leaning songwriting. Sufjan Stevens and Joanna Newsom used folk as a home base for their lush, rhapsodic compositions. The Tallest Man on Earth used a minimalist folk setting for his Dylan-esque songs. But Fleet Foxes, despite its inventive song structures and unusual arrangements, can be called nothing but a folk album.

For the Seattle-based band’s self-titled debut, folk music was not a starting point but the true end game. Rather than dressing their ideas in folksy costumes, Fleet Foxes takes disparate sounds and styles and imbues them with an undeniable folk spirit. The forays into SMiLE-era Beach Boys instrumental sections, as on “Ragged Wood” or “Quiet Houses”, feel just as much a part of their folk sensibility as when they rely on the harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The heart of the album, though, is Robin Pecknold’s wonderful songwriting. His powerful melodies and lyrics — both evocative of a romanticized rustic America — shine bright whether covered with harmonies and guitars or sung solo by Pecknold, shown on the album’s closer, “Oliver James”. — Scott Interrante

49. PJ Harvey – White Chalk [Island]


In a career defined by abrupt left turns in pursuit of the muse, White Chalk stands as PJ Harvey‘s grandest departure. Gone are the guitars, both Rid of Me‘s frenzied variety and the crystalline veneer of Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea, as are the blues stomp and the howling vocals. In their place is a somber record, one dominated by antique piano and Harvey singing in a glass-shatteringly high register. Sounding as though it was recorded in a mausoleum, the record is steeped in atmosphere, haunting and nocturnal, and peopled by the ghosts of departed grandmothers, aborted fetuses, and devilish love affairs.

The austerity that comes with Harvey’s minimal piano chords and her dour subject matter make for one of the spookiest and most unsettling albums in recent history, putting on par with Nico’s The Marble Index. With its gothic overtones and English sensibility, it could serve as an accompaniment to a reading of Wuthering Heights. As the songstress was learning piano at the time, a degree of primitivism is imbued here as well. While there was little in Harvey’s oeuvre to anticipate White Chalk, its instrumentation and Harvey’s new approach to her vocals laid the bedrock for her subsequent release, the war-fixated Let England Shake.

It’s something of a shame that White Chalk is likely to be remembered as the precursor for that more grandiose and lauded album, as its hushed introspection is masterfully executed and captivating throughout. For an artist who flourishes in experimentation, White Chalk remains the most striking anomaly in the Harvey canon. — Cole Waterman

48. Yo La Tengo – And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out [Matador]


And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out was released early in the year 2000, and its legacy endures after all these years. Generally regarded as Yo La Tengo‘s first “quiet album”, the record does bristle with noise, such as on “Cherry Chapstick”, which, when played live at a gig in Ottawa, Canada, on the Summer Sun tour, Ira Kaplan proceeded to play much of the opening guitar part with his instrument strapped behind his back. There’s a real sense of tenderness on many of these ballads, and a bit of a quirky sense of humor sometimes, too — “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House” references an episode of The Simpsons — and many of the album’s songs were given temporary titles based on Troy McClure’s filmography. And I swear that if you are hypnotized by the swirling, 18-minute “Night Falls on Hoboken”, a wizard appears out of your speaker cone to give you a hit from his bong.

Kidding aside, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out is, as already pointed out, an album obsessed with pop culture (the title itself is even derived from a Sun Ra quotation) and remains one of a kind in the band’s discography. While you could pretty much pick from most of Yo La Tengo’s albums of the 2000s, well, save perhaps Summer Sun, to be represented on this list, this one is an obvious go-to and shows the group maturing and growing as musicians, and is their most endearing release of the time period covered here. — Zachary Houle

47. Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera [Soul Dump]


On the heels of two promising studio albums and a live album, Drive-By Truckers got the crazy idea to make a big, sprawling double album rock opera, and after much scratching and clawing, nearly imploding, and relying on the financial assistance of the band’s loyal fanbase, Southern Rock Opera arrived in 2001 amidst rapturous critical acclaim, and for good reason. No album had confronted with this much eloquence and poetry just what it means to come from the American South, and Muscle Shoals native Patterson Hood and his partner in crime Mike Cooley. “Proud of the glory, stare down the shame,” Hood snarls, “The duality of the Southern thing.”

More a concept album than a proper rock opera, the band touches on everything from Lynyrd Skynyrd, to George Wallace, to Bear Bryant, to working-class life, and most importantly, growing up with the burning desire to play rock ‘n’ roll and follow in the doomed footsteps of the late Ronnie Van Zant. Featuring Cooley’s brilliant wordplay and Hood’s gift for storytelling, Southern Rock Opera remains a landmark American rock record of the 2000s, a desperate lament and celebration of their heritage, a flawless combination of rustic country soul and sheer punk rock fury. — Adrien Begrand

46. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak [Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam]


After The College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation, Kanye West had a decision to make: stay on the same type of trajectory as his hip-hop superstar peers, releasing singles almost exclusively made for packed clubs, oversized video shoots and pop culture meta-fads; or, alienate pretty much everybody and everything around him by going in a completely different artistic direction. Naturally, he chose the latter. And in hindsight, we should have seen it coming. Why? Because as the subsequent years after 2008’s 808s & Heartbreak would prove, alienation is sort of Kanye West’s thing.

Alienation and brilliance, that is. 808s & Heartbreak changed the game. Without it, writers, critics, admirers, and fellow artists would have never fallen in lust with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy two years later, and rappers like Drake and Lil’ Wayne wouldn’t be able to tour sold-out amphitheaters in the summer of 2014. If nothing else, Kanye’s masterpiece opened the door for artists to take chances they may have never previously considered taking (cough, Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3, cough). He could have spent a lifetime writing another “Good Life” or another “Gold Digger” or another “Jesus Walks”.

Instead, he chose to break the genre down with a minimalist’s mind and a painter’s palate. The slimmer the songs were, the better. The more outrageous the Auto-Tune was, the more fascinating his experiment became. In fact, Hov, himself, was off by a year when he proclaimed the effect dead for good — nobody even bothered with voice manipulation after 808s & Heartbreak dropped because everybody knew they would never be able to use it better. “Heartless” and “Love Lockdown”, the two nominally successful singles that appeared on it, sat perfectly next to the ominous mood of “See You In My Nightmares” and the retrograde party of “Paranoid”. Yeezus or Fantasy might be the most beloved. But 808s & Heartbreak is the most imperative. And it’s not a close race. — Colin McGuire

45. The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots [Warner Bros.]


The Flaming Lips are perhaps best known for its tongue-in-cheek vibe and colorful timbres; however, there’s also plenty of melancholic realism and social commentary underneath the surface, as their 2002 masterpiece, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, demonstrates perfectly. Packed with wonderful songwriting, unique arrangements, bizarre effects, and a ton of emotion, the record is both playful and heartbreaking, as it’s ultimately a poignant, wholly universal allegory about facing love, life, death, and fear.

Album opener “Fight Test” arguably puts this message best, as Coyne utters, “There are things you can’t avoid / You have to face them when you’re not prepared to face them” with beautiful fragility. These ideas serve as a thesis that’s carried throughout the piece too. For example, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1” offers subtle yet powerful encouragement for conquering your troubles, while “In the Morning of the Magicians” explores sorrowful philosophical ponderings, as well as the anxiety and social judgment of growing up. Really, the entire disc is overwhelmingly touching and earnest.

Although these sentiments are timeless, one could argue that, given its release date, the LP was specifically commenting on Americans’ attitudes following the events of 9/11. After all, it was a time in which the entire country united and empathized over our shared losses, struggles, confusions, and hopes. I’ve never heard a record encompass all of that (and more) in such a gently impactful way, which makes Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots one of the most seminal discs of the 2000s. — Jordan Blum

44. Robyn – Robyn [Konichiwa]


Midway through the first decade of the new millennium, I think it’s fair to say that few listeners outside Scandinavia were wondering where Robyn was, or where she had gone. Back in 1997, the Swedish singer had scored a couple of amiable hits, then largely faded from sight the way amiable Euro imports are apt to do. This is what made Robyn such a deliciously bewildering “comeback”: no one was clamoring for Robyn’s return, and certainly no one was expecting the seemingly dime-a-dozen singer of “Show Me Love” to reinvent herself into a singular, swaggering, mercurial urban diva, riding hooks deeper and stranger than anything on pop radio circa 2005.

Equal parts tough and tender, dark and playful, tracks like “Handle Me”, “Bum Like You”, and “Be Mine!” sounded like secrets imparted in a nocturnal haze, yet crystalline in their songcraft. And given the long, two-year period between its release in Sweden and its official availability in the US, Robyn often felt like a weird, beautiful secret for the increasingly numerous listeners who encountered the album well prior to its proper stateside release. Insofar as Robyn borrowed liberally from the hip-hop laden sounds of American pop, it may have felt vaguely familiar. But the elements that made it distinctive — above all, its moody, icy, sonically spacious aesthetic — have now become vital, commonplace tools for pop artists operating in Robyn‘s wake. — Josh Timmerman

43. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid [Fiction/Polydor/Geffen]


Elbow‘s breakthrough album, The Seldom Seen Kid, includes the song that became their signature tune. The compelling string arrangement of “One Day Like This” ensured that track’s ubiquity in TV spots and the like, and 11 years and four albums into their career as a band, Elbow became something of a big deal. But for the most part, this is a languorous, wistful album: in tracks like “Starlings”, “The Bones of You”, and “Weather to Fly” there is a yearning that’s manifest not only in Guy Garvey’s lyrics but also in the often intricate music. Space and texture are used wisely, perhaps as a result of Elbow’s prog-rock influences: collectively, they cite their favorite band as Talk Talk.

But there’s a wonderful sense of warmth throughout The Seldom Seen Kid, and again that’s on account of both music — the lush, quasi-orchestral arrangements — and lyrics. Garvey has become a kind of figurehead of avuncular northern English bonhomie, knowing exactly when to be florid — “the vino de vici will flow like a river in spring”, he sings in “The Fix” — and when to keep it simple. The straightforward line “Love you, mate”, from “Friends of Ours” perfectly sums up the spirit of the album. — Alan Ashton-Smith

42. OutKast – Speakerboxx/The Love Below [LaFace / Arista]


“Ready for action / Nip it in the bud / We never relaxin’ / OutKast is everlastin’.” Having already attained hip-hop immortality with the ambitious Stankonia in 2000, OutKast wasn’t about to limit its horizons for its next LP. The plus-size Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was the next logical step for the duo, with Big Boi and Andre 3000 each allotted a full disc to themselves to indulge their freakiest musical fantasies.

Both men were certainly game: even though each disc has a clearly defined character (Big Boi’s Speakerboxxx is a rambunctious party record, while Dre’s The Love Below is a humorous, honest examination of the artist’s love life), the Atlanta rappers call upon down-and-dirty rap, bebop jazz, Prince-inspired guitar freakouts, Earth, Wind & Fire-indebted soul, British Invasion-style pop, and everything else that could add color to their already-heady sound over the course of the set’s sprawling tracklist.

Heralded by the one-two punch of chart-topping singles “Hey Ya!” and “The Way You Move”, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was the crowning glory of OutKast’s decade-long ascent, and though Big Boi and Dre’s output rate as a duo dropped sharply thereafter, that album assured their legacy would be secure. — AJ Ramirez

41. The Knife – Silent Shout [Rabid]


After making a strong impression with the acclaimed 2003 album Deep Cuts and bolstered by the success of the single “Heartbeats”, the enigmatic brother-sister duo of Karin and Olof Dreijer returned with a 2006 follow-up that stripped the pair’s already minimalist electronic music down to near-skeletal form. In fact, the Knife‘s Silent Shout was as much a musical evocation of the near-perpetual darkness of Swedish winter as the shimmering Deep Cuts resembled the brightness of summer, a decidedly icy, gothic affair that combined clattering, nervous rhythms, severe synth stabs, and unsettling, pitch-shifted vocals into a surreal, unforgettable, wildly original experience.

True of any music coming far removed from one particular “scene”, Silent Shout bears resemblances to established artists here and there, but more than anything it was the twisted product of the siblings’ weird little world. There are moments of striking, stark beauty (the Umbrellas of Cherbourg-influenced “Marble House”) and haunting ambience (“Still Light”), while such tracks as “Like a Pen”, “We Share Our Mother’s Health”, and the throttling “Neverland” cast a pall over the proceedings while luring listeners with spectacular hooks. — Adrien Begrand

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This article originally published on 7 October 2014.