I’m not so smug as to think that I can pin-point the albums that will, in retrospect, stand out the most from the 2000s. Nor would it be accurate to argue that the albums that affected me the most on a personal level were “the best.” But if I were to completely take the personal part out of my own list, you might as well just read anyone’s list. There has to be an aspect of me in my list.
So, these are neither the most personal albums nor the albums that I think shaped the 2000s. They are a combination of those two things: The albums that shaped my personal taste in the 2000s. For an album to qualify, it either had to (a) suffer endless replay – including currently, not just the year it was released – or (b) be an album that completely redefined how I listened to and thought about music. If it fit both qualities, even better. This system cut out a lot of sentimental favorites that I haven’t touched since I outgrew them, albums that were so digestible as to be unable to stand the test of time, and a lot of “popular” or “experimental” albums that might’ve been more globally influential or genre-bending, but just weren’t my thing.
I didn’t dare number them. This list more or less represents the different genres/sub-genres of my taste leanings, and it seems unfair to pit rock against rap or americana against psych. So, the closest I came to ranking was dividing 25 albums into two groups: The 10 most important albums, and then 15 also very important albums.
In my mind, it is from the top 10 that all modern music I listen to was born from. Every album listed in the second group of 15 albums can somehow be linked to my love for one of the albums in the top 10. Everything current (and even some things older) you see on this blog can be traced to this list. (Which isn’t to say that all of these albums birthed their particular genre – as it just so happens, we don’t always ingest or fall in love with albums chronologically).
The T-Sides Top 25 of the 2000s – in somewhat numerical but mostly alphabetical order:
Group One: Top 10
Broken Social Scene, You Forgot It In People
I vividly remember the first time I heard “Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl.” I was in the dark, comfortable confines of a friend’s dorm room. It sounded like future music, a song beamed down from another planet, the kind of music I’d never live to hear created in my lifetime – except that it had been. You Forgot It In People with its dark cover and eerily gorgeous music felt like the work of some mysterious genius, which is probably why Broken Social Scene still seem otherworldly to me, despite their obvious growth in popularity since. (“Anthems” is now so absurdly popular that Kevin Drew laments having to play it at shows.)
Broken Social Scene: “Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl” (download)
Death Cab For Cutie, We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes
We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes is another album I can clearly remember the first time I heard. I was standing in the gift shop of the newly opened Experience Music Project during Seattle’s yearly Bumbershoot Festival. I had just started learning about Seattle’s local music scene, and had heard people talking about Death Cab For Cutie, but hadn’t listened to them yet. There was a listening booth for We Have The Facts…, so I stopped, put on the headphones, and pushed play. It took just the opening chords of “Title Track” to allure me, and having heard just that song, I bought the album, which remains an all-time favorite. Anyone who equates Death Cab For Cutie with their Transatlanticism output and beyond would be well advised to go further back in their catalog to the days when Ben Gibbard was sick of love instead of lovesick.
Death Cab For Cutie: “Title Track” (download)
Destroyer, Destroyer’s Rubies
While I was interning at Rolling Stone, one of my fellow interns asked if I had heard “the album with the girl in the red dress on it.” I had no idea what he was talking about – and he wasn’t completely sure, either, since he couldn’t remember the artist or album name. Later, he did. I had been rendered utterly speechless trying to find comparisons or touchstones, anything that it would’ve made sense for this to spring from. But Destroyer’s Rubies is just that: a product of the finest gems, stemming from nothing and no one but Destroyer. This album was on one of the biggest personal moments of discovery in the 2000s, easily broadening what my ears found appealing.
Destroyer: “European Oils” (download)
Jay-Z, The Black Album
The Black Album wasn’t the first rap album I liked. It wasn’t even the first Jay-Z album I liked. It was, however, the first rap album I loved. I grew up on plenty of half-wit rap during middle school, which was enough to rub me the wrong way until much, much later. I’ve said before that The Black Album is the most “rock” that rap gets, and I stand by that – Rick Rubin’s presence is proof enough. There might be rap albums that try harder to cross that border, but I don’t mean it in the sense that Jay-Z is trying to be a rock star here, so much as the same aesthetics apply – there’s heaviness, a pounding to The Black Album. It’s an aggressiveness not just of ego or lyrics, but of the songs. The punches on The Black Album come as much from the music as they do from Jay-Z’s mouth.
Jay-Z: “Justify My Thug” (download)
The Notwist, Neon Golden
One of the things that keeps me from listening to a lot of electronic-based music is simply the personal opinion that music made with, warped and distorted by computers doesn’t feel as warm, as personal. I’ll admit, as music moves more and more into the realm of sampling, and the use of computers in music has expanded, it holds less true, but it hasn’t been completely felled just yet. Regardless, The Notwist are responsible for a serious enhancement in my opinion of the genre. Neon Golden still stands as one of the warmest, most comforting and most emotional electronic albums I’ve heard.
The Notwist: “Consequence” (download)
TV On The Radio, Dear Science
There are a lot of artists on this list whose output I consistently adore, making it hard to choose which album to include. Can I honestly say that I like Dear Science more than Return To Cookie Mountain or Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes? On a personal level, not really. Desperate Youth was my mind-blowing introduction to the band, and Cookie Mountain is no less inspired. I can say that Dear Science is more consistent, so on that level, it gets the spot, but ultimately everything TV On The Radio has done deserves to stand here.
TV On The Radio: “Halfway Home” (download)
Two Gallants, What The Toll Tells
I could also make a case for any of Two Gallants’ three albums – but What The Toll Tells is their most consistent, so it holds rank and file for all the others. Perhaps a bit childishly, I am still miffed at Pitchfork for assigning this album to a fuckwad who clearly didn’t “get it,” though the band reaped in plenty of good (deserved) press for “Waves Of Grain.” If I’ve convinced my friends and family of any band’s worth over the past few years, it’s Two Gallants, and I plan to keep on doing so, even if their current hiatus becomes permanent. (Please, please, please, please, NO.) (Same goes for TV On The Radio – what the hell is up with great artists going on hiatus?)
Two Gallants: “Steady Rollin'” (download)
The White Stripes, Elephant
The White Stripes have never seemed too concerned with a sex and leather and cigarettes image of cool, instead taking it back to the mysterious archetype – they want to fuck with your mind as much as they want to fuck you, with antics of identity surrounding their matching last names, or their trippy music videos. When it comes to the great garage rock revival of the early 2000s, it was The White Stripes that remade rock the way I like it. I don’t want my rock ‘n’ roll having too much sex with pop music – I want my rock music loud, fast and cocky as hell. The White Stripes are pretty consistent, but using the aforementioned qualifiers, Elephant is easily a perfect album from start to finish (if I ignore the last song, “It’s True That We Love One Another,” which gets annoying after the initial, “Aww, that’s cute,” listen).
The White Stripes: “The Hardest Button To Button” (download)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones
Though it may lack some of the vim and vigor of their first or even most recent albums, Show Your Bones hoists an unbelievable emotional weight. The title could not be more literal. In an interview I read awhile back, Karen O called this album a “growing pain,” and there were plenty of rumors and talk about the band nearly breaking up while recording it. I’ll take the nitty gritty over the fluff nine times out of 10.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: “Turn Into” (download)
Yeasayer, All Hour Cymbals
Go ahead and laugh at me for picking the debut album of a mega-hyped Brooklyn band for my Top 10 of the decade list. If you can comb through my music library and find another album from the past two years that I listened to this much that isn’t already on my list, be my guest – but it ain’t gonna happen. There’s no band I’ve seen live more often in the past two years, either. For some people, their love affair with Yeasayer might have dipped or disappeared after the initial bumrush, but they won’t be wearing out their welcome on T-Sides any time soon. (And yes, this includes Odd Blood – thanks early vinyl sales.)
Yeasayer: “Wintertime” (download)
Group Two: Runners-Up
Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavillion
Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
Explosions In The Sky, The Earth Is Not A Cold, Dead Place
Decemberists, Crane Wife
Dismemberment Plan, Change
Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere
Impossible Shapes, Horus
Les Savy Fav, Let’s Stay Friends
The Long Winters, When I Pretend To Fall
Minus The Bear, Highly Refined Pirates
Modest Mouse, Moon & Antarctica
Pattern Is Movement, All Together
Sleater-Kinney, The Woods
Sufjan Stevens, Seven Swans
Kanye West, Graduation