My Fave Albums of the Aughts

Well, better late than never. But I’m not late just yet…two more days left in the decade known as the “Aughts”. Or something. Actually, who really knows what to call this decade, or what the hell happened during the last 10 years. Let’s face it, it was a weird one. I’m working on compiling my thoughts (and deeds!), but for now, at the prompting of my pal Casey at The Contrarian, here are my favorite and/or most listened to albums of the Aughts. I may have missed the deadline at The Contrarian, and my list might be a bit different than all the critical “top 10” lists floating around out there, but, hey, this is my list and my blog. So enjoy!

PS – looking over these selections, you would think I stopped listening to new music circa 2005. I assure you, this is not the case. These albums just had a headstart…

PPS – I really wish I could have embedded the player for each album on this post instead of the rather unsatisfying link. However, after a half-decade, I’ve come to realize that WordPress sucks. Imma movin’ to Blogger come 2010, you betta!

Tool – Lateralus [2000] listen >>
I remember loving Tool’s big ’90s hit, “Sober,” but it wasn’t until Lateralus that I finally grokked the fact that Tool are a straight-up prog band wrapped in the more fashionable cloak of heavy rock. This album is cohesive, instrospective and badass. Long live Maynard, Danny and the boys. I might also mention that seeing tool at the Oakland Arena in 2005 may have been my arena rock moment of the decade.

Ween – White Pepper [2000] listen >>
There was a point in time when this album was the defacto soundtrack for the apartment I shared with DJ Ranztron in Burlington, Vermont. Sure, there was some serious competition with Curtis Live! and The Redheaded Stranger, but somehow or another, the wide girth of White Pepper was the perfect mix of weirdo pop for that moment in time, and many others to come.

RJD2 – Dead Ringer [2002] listen >>
Nas may famously (and accurately) commented that “Hip Hop is Dead,” but it sure wasn’t down or out. Hip hop beats that crept into otherwise poppy 90’s tracks were on display full force in the Aughts. But only DJs like RJD2 and Shadow who continued to innovate with the form kept my attention. Dead Ringer is a head noddin’ treat from start to finish.

The Roots – Phrenology [2002] listen >>
I think this is the album when the Roots finally embraced the fact that they are a rock ‘n’ roll band who plays hip hop. Evidence? The first guitar player to join the lineup, a straight up thrash track, and a blisteringly soulful collaboration with Cody ChestnuTT, “The Seed (2.0).” The rhymes didn’t disappear, but on Phrenology the Roots opened the floodgates and upped their game for real.

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot [2002] listen >>
I remember seeing Wilco back in 1998 at my old stomping grounds of Higher Ground in Vermont. My reaction? A shrug of the shoulders and a disinterested “meh,” despite my love of classic Country & Western. Now, if Wilco had been playing the kind of edgy, emotional alt-country that comprises Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, my reaction would have been very different. Jeff Tweedy’s change of course on this album changed my mind about Wilco.

The Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music [2003] listen >>
In case you don’t know, I love melody. Big melody. Vocal hooks galore. Never one to disappoint, Gary Louris packed what was to be The Jayhawk’s last album, Rainy Day Music, with so much heartbreakingly beautiful harmony that the album nearly makes my computer weep with joy. “All the Right Reasons” may be the best alt-country love song of the decade.

The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow [2003] listen >>
With so much indie being, in large part for me, predictable and derivative, Chutes Too Narrow snuck into my music library and knocked my socks off. I missed their debut, but this album endeared me to The Shins  — smart lyrics, simple yet solid musicianship, beautiful arrangements, and unforgettably, undeniably something new.

Green Day – American Idiot [2004] listen >>
So there are a lot of kids from the Gilman St. days who are gritting their teeth right at this entry, but clearly I’m not one of them. American Idiot packs such a potent punch of so much that I love — tight arrangements, searing melody, political dissidence — that it finally earned Green Day my respect.

The Polyphonic Spree – Together, We’re Heavy [2004] listen >>
For the life of me, I can’t remember where I discovered The Polyphonic Spree. It was almost as if they found me through the intertubes for the sole purpose of embedding their joyous cacophony directly into my neocortex for the span of 6 continuous months. During that time, I could listen to nothing else; I could sing nothing else walking down the street; my housemate Evan and I would stage Spree singalongs at his piano. Suffice to say, Together, We’re Heavy took the title track of Sgt. Pepper’s and adapted it for the Aughts and for that, I thank you, Spree.

Spoon – Gimme Fiction [2005] listen >>
Like other artists in this lists, I came late to the Spoon bandwagon, too. Actually, it wasn’t until I saw an absurd video of an adorable yellow robot dancing to “I Turn My Camera On” that I was moved to seek out what is now one of my favorite rock acts. Gimme Fiction gives us Spoon at a turning point in their career and creativity. Marking the move from memorable indie edge to an unforgettable something bigger and even more bold, this album put Spoon on my map and in constant rotation.

Benji Hughes – A Love Extreme [2008] listen >>
Eletctro-freak-funk-hick-pop at it’s best. Yes, he sounds like Beck. No, he doesn’t look like you would expect him to. Get over it and get into it. He had the guts to put out a debut double album that nails it…pretty much. I can’t say that this album is 25-tracks solid, but I can tell you that the 93% that works is a beautiful thing. After all, it’s all about the Love.

Special Re-Issue Mention: The Beatles – Let It Be…Naked [2003] read >>
I’m including this album because, well, I love it. Cheers to Paul for having the courage to go back into the studio — with George’s permission before he died, although I’m not sure if he even asked Ringo — to expunge the heinous crimes of Phil Spector, and put out an unbelievable re-issue which was just a taste of what was to come.

Honorable Mentions:

Iron & Wine – Our Endless Numbers Days
Animal Collective – Feels
TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain
Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
The Feeling – Twelve Stops & Home
Hot Chip – The Warning
Danger Mouse – The Grey Album
The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

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