To celebrate the end of the aught’s, the PBH editorial team convened to put together the definitive list of the ten best albums of the decade. While we may have missed a couple of albums, rest assured we put several minutes into this hastily constructed list.
Who could have predicted that the Francophonic world would be the greatest contributor to the decade in music? While white New York was stuck in second gear of derivative hipster mimicry and LA and London continued their descent into the blackhole of label corporatocracy, Montreal and Paris became the hubs for exceptional musical development in the 2000’s. Our list reflects this dominance: #1, #5, #7, and a handful of our honorable mentions hail from France and Montreal.
*Note: This list does not include any hip-hop albums as the last relevant hip-hop record was released in 1997
1. Daft Punk – Discovery [Album on Amazon]
In 2001, the French duo produced a masterpiece of French house, redefined dance music, and crossed over into the mainstream. There was hardly a dance party worth going to in this decade that didn’t at least once spin some Daft Punk. Out of Discovery sprung Interstella 5555, an incredible animated rock opera set to the soundtrack of Discovery.
Key Tracks: Face to Face, Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, Digital Love
2. Modest Mouse – Moon & Antarctica [Album on Amazon]
Moon and Antarctica took the raw promise of Modest Mouse’s earlier work and, with the help of Sony, they created a polished masterpiece of alt-rock. Isaac Brock’s abilities as a lyricist are on full display throughout the record and Modest Mouse’s influence on the indie rock scene is immeasurable.
Key Tracks: 3rd Planet, Tiny Cities Made of Ashes, Paper Thin Walls, I Came As A Rat
3. The Postal Service – Give Up [Album on Amazon]
The Postal Service, an ephemeral partnership of Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and producer Jimmy Tamborello, released Give Up in February of 2003. If there was a defining song of the 2000’s, the dispirited anthem The District Sleeps Alone Tonight suits a decade of regression under growing social malaise, Bush II, and the deafening silence of opposition to the defilers of the American dream. It also produced the best music video of the decade for the same song:
Key Tracks: Such Great Heights, Clark Gable, The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
4. Cat Power – You Are Free [Album on Amazon]
One of the best start-to-finish albums of the decade, You Are Free sets the tone of the transition from the 1990’s to the 2000’s. I Don’t Blame You, Cat Power’s tribute to the legacy of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, provides the most heartbreaking reflection on the grunge era to date.
Key Tracks: You Are Free, I Don’t Blame You
The music coming out of Montreal beginning in the mid 2000’s was a sorely needed kick in the ass for the waffling independent rock scene. Leading the pack was the Kevin Drew-fronted Broken Social Scene, whose first release You Forgot It In The People earned one of the highest PitchFork ratings ever. Similarly, Kevin Drew’s BSS-inspired solo album Spirit If continued the indescribable kinetic energy that pervades their creative output. It simply is.
Key Tracks: TBTF, Safety Bricks, Gang Bang Suicide; Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl, Almost Crimes, Cause = Time
6. Radiohead – Kid A [Album on Amazon]
Radiohead proved with this album that they could not only continue to reinvent themselves as musicians, but reinvent rock music as a whole. Their transition from standard rock (Pablo Honey, The Bends) to art rock (Ok Computer) to rock art was completed with this album, which defined their 21st century sound.
Key Tracks: Idioteque, Everything in Its Right Place, The National Anthem, Morning Bell
7. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix [Album on Amazon]
Phoenix’s latest album continues their upward trend in quality. Inspired by the life of classical bad boy Franz Liszt, it’s an magnificent combination of intelligent lyrics and dance rock bop.
Key Tracks: 1901, Lisztomania
Bonus — Lisztomania inspired the best fan video created:
8. Of Montreal – Satanic Panic in the Attic [Album on Amazon]
Before this album Of Montreal, a member of the legendary Elephant 6 collective, had focused on more conceptual, 60s inspired pop. This album signaled a radical break from Kevin Barnes and co into a more electronic dance pop, while maintaining a focus on lyrical irreverence and humor.
Key Tracks: Disconnect the Dots, Rapture Rapes the Muses, Lysergic Bliss
9. Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue [Album on Amazon]
Simple sampled multifarious tracks. Bibio exudes what we love most about modern music: an aesthetic blend of contemporary genres while avoiding getting bogged down by esoteric frivolousness.
Key Tracks: Sugarette, Firefly, The Palm Of Your Wave
10. Interpol – Turn On the Bright Lights [Album on Amazon]
Interpol’s first album took the driving, post-punk sound of the Strokes and melded it with a vocal styling very reminiscent of 80s band, Joy Division, and were able to create a new sound altogether. Paul Banks’ stream-of-conscious lyrics and inspired bass playing of Carlos Dengler set it apart.
Key Tracks: Obstacle #1, PDA, NYC
See Also: Pitchfork – The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s, POPBYTES’ TOP TEN FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2009!, Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2009, The Best Albums Of The Decade: Which Was The Greatest?, The Top 10 Albums of 2009 That Didn’t Make Pitchfork’s Top 50, A Few of My Top Albums for 2009, The Best-Written Top 10 Albums Of 2009 List On The Internet, Complex’s Best of 2009: The Top 25 Albums, Band of the Decade, The Rockologist’s End Of Year, End Of Decade Wrapup Part 1: Best Albums Of ’09, Rolling Stone’s 25 Best Albums, Songs Of 2009, and Best of the Decade in Music.
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