this is part of an ongoing series called 25 in the 2000s. if you want a bit of information about the series, you can find the introduction here.
i truly believe that the 2000s are the greatest music decade ever. that revelation should come as a surprise to those who know my deep and abiding love for the 90s. so that should make it even more emphatic. if you look back over the last 4 or 5 decades, there are very definable styles and descriptors. the 70s had disco, the 80s had new wave and punk, the 90s had grunge and pop. but nothing can be so finitely pinpointed over the past 10 years. and that’s actually a good thing. of course, for music historians—who like to simplify and categorize—that’s not so great, but the decade was, in fact, an outstanding time to listen to music. ultimately, what made the 2000s significant is that is was more of a melding of styles from the past several decades. it built on the dance music from the 70s while dabbling in the new wave of the 80s while still harkening back to plenty of angst from the 90s (and that’s not even touching on the 50s and 60s which were so important in the decade in music). so, these albums represent all these things. it’s a little all over the place, but that’s exactly what made the 2000s a great time for music lovers.
[if you’d like to fill your ipod up with a playlist of awesome, you can download a zipped file with a track from each album at the bottom.]
25. life in slow motion. david gray.
24. the marshall mathers lp. eminem.
23. feed the animals. girl talk.
22. the other side of something. sara groves.
21. st. elsewhere. gnarls barkley.
20. she must and shall go free. derek webb.
19. college dropout. kanye west.
18. what you don’t know. don chaffer.
17. future sex/love sounds. justin timberlake.
16. illinois. sufjan stevens.
15. once soundtrack. glen hansard & marketa irglova.
14. the seldom seen kid. elbow.
13. back to black. amy winehouse.
12. o. damien rice.
11. extraordinary machine. fiona apple.
10. under the blacklight. rilo kiley. for many rilo kiley fans, this was a bit of a musical slap in the face. some viewed it as ditching their indie roots and polishing their music to make it marketable. for most, though, they simply saw this as the next logical move for a great band to become greater. this album was the perfect balance of great songs that were equally as catchy and fun to listen to.
09. the imposter. kevin max. after being booted from forefront records after lagging sales of 2001’s stereotype be, kevin max sought out the creative partnership of southern california-based northern records. what we got with the imposter was a lyrical sensibility that reflected his change in locale and change in worldview. oh, and we also got great pop music from one of the best voices of the decade.
08. a rush of blood to the head. coldplay. how did a little english band who sang a song called yellow go from a budding fanbase to a global colossus? look no further than 2002’s a rush of blood to the head. much like rilo kiley’s under the blacklight (but even moreso), coldplay managed to create a lyrically and musically rich album that was just plain catchy and good.
07. the story. brandi carlile. looking over this list, there’s no album that comes close to matching just the sheer beauty and emotive value of 2007’s the story. this is one of those freak discoveries of an artist i had never heard of and then became the album that i couldn’t quit listening to. one of the beautiful things about carlile’s music is that it can’t be defined. is it folk? is it indie? is it rock? whatever it is, it’s simply beautiful.
06. trouble. ray lamontagne. in the midst of my infatuation with nickel creek (which is still alive and well), i worked hard to seek out anything that one of their members had a hand in. so when i heard sara watkins say she worked with some guy named ray lamontagne, i was obligated to investigate. what i found was some of the most raw, emotionally searing music i had ever heard. lamontagne’s gravelly voice is unmatched and brings a naked truth that not many others artists can muster.
05. rabbit fur coat. jenny lewis with the watson twins. file this in the i-remember-where-i-was-when-i-first-heard-it category. you can also file this in the had-to-go-get-someone-to-share-the-experience-with-me category. yeah. it was that good. i’ll never forget, track by track, listening to this new sound, this beautiful voice, sing these songs that were so raw yet perfectly refined. and then, i got to rabbit fur coat. this was the track that i had to listen to several times and i even went to go get christen so she could hear it too. sometimes, when something’s so, so good, you have to share it with someone else and this was one of those albums.
04. why should the fire die?. nickel creek. at the dawn of the decade, i discovered a band that i shouldn’t have liked. they were sorta folky, but not really. they were sorta bluegrassy, but not really. they were sorta country, but not really. whatever they were, i fell in love with this little band named nickel creek. after a couple amazing albums, nickel creek delivered their magnum opus in the form of a record called why should the fire die?. touching on everything from bluegrass to rock, from faith to heartache and from romping instrumentals to beautifully delicate vocals, this album showcased everything that is so right with nickel creek.
03. mute math. mute math. in the late 90s, an experimental christian rock band challenged, for a moment, the assumptions of the christian music industry. they were edgy and creative and unexpected, and ultimately, too much for the machine that is ccm. after quite a few years of speculation of a music reincarnation, mute math rose from the ashes with some old and new faces. what we received was nothing short of genius. the heart of the album was a creative force so intense that created a listening experience like none other. even in the slower, reflective moments, this album still has an indescribable, nonstop energy that made it one of the best albums of the decade.
02. stereotype be. kevin max. a great album isn’t just about music. it’s about a moment in time. it’s about a transformative force that moves people. it’s about an experience. so it was with this album. on the heels of dc talk’s success throughout the 90s, kevin max sought to blaze a very different trail with his debut solo album. i’ll never forget the morning i bought the cd. prior to going to classes at uca, i swung by the store and popped it in on the way. arriving in just enough time to park and make it to my 9 o’clock, i couldn’t quit listening. i literally sat and listened to the entire album, skipping my first two classes. the musical journey was one i hadn’t experienced and it offered that quintessential experience that a great album should provide.
01. mockingbird. derek webb. music can do many things. it can offer pleasure or an escape or a beautiful moment. it can do so many different things for so many different people. for me, this album was a teacher. it was my closest professor. it was my mentor. it was my soul-searcher. when this album came out, i had finished my first year at asbury seminary, which was a challenging and transformative year. i had been dealing with so many new points-of-view and emerging theologies and this album was sort of the straw that broke the camel’s back. but in a good way. never has a collection of music so deeply transformed me the way that mockingbird was able to do. undoubtedly, if you could crawl into my mind and heart, so many of the things i hold dear in terms of theology and worldview could be traced back in some way to this album. to this day, i continue to find new angles and new lyrics that challenge my presuppositions and worldviews.
so there you have it. there’s the list. what do you think? i’ve certainly missed some big stories. what are they? i’ve, no doubt, ranked some things too high or too low. what are they? help me to flesh out and “correct” my list.
one final list: things that shaped the aughts.