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Albums of the Decade

Music, Year-End | By The Top 13 on November 1, 2009

With less than two months remaining in the decade, The Top 13 takes a look at the best albums of the 2000s. While many have said that this decade saw the death of the album format in favor of track-by-track downloads, this list is proof that the album is far from dead. Listeners just accessed and consumed it differently than they did in the 90s.

On Thursday, we will publish the collective Top 13 of the more than 360 people who submitted their Top 13 albums lists to our predecessor site. While there is certainly collective wisdom in that list, we think that these were the 13 finest albums of this groundbreaking decade.

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Radiohead - In Rainbows (2007)


Radiohead - In Rainbows (2007)

Released as a download by Radiohead for whatever buyers saw fit to pay, In Rainbows was Radiohead's first album in more than four years. It is also perhaps the band's greatest work. The album's greatest strength is how perfect each song is individually, yet how well the songs fit together to form a cohesive masterpiece. There is no reason to ever skip a track here.

Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary (2005)


Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary (2005)

A perfect example of controlled chaos, half of the songs on Wolf Parade's debut full-length are driven by the spastic warble of Spencer Krug, while the other half feature Dan Boeckner's growling croon. Separately, both Krug and Boeckner have proven they can make great albums. But Apologies shows that when they're together, no current indie band does it better.

Arcade Fire - Funeral (2004)


Arcade Fire - Funeral (2004)

Funeral hit the indie scene like a bomb in 2004, proving that even in the digital distribution age, an indie band that puts out a debut this brilliant can become a mainstream sensation. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Funeral is that it sounds like nothing else despite being a conventional indie album, with its blend of unique instrumentation and the urgent passion of lead singer Win Butler.

Radiohead - Kid A (2000)


Radiohead - Kid A (2000)

Considered by many to be Radiohead's masterpiece, Kid A was a radical departure from 1997's OK Computer, perhaps the finest album of that decade. The best moments on this album, such as opener "Everything in Its Right Place" and emotional core "How to Disappear Completely" are among the finest songs Radiohead has recorded, but The Top 13 ranked In Rainbows higher for maintaining that brilliance on every track.

Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica (2000)


Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica (2000)

It is a rare feat for a band to release back-to-back masterpieces. But that is what Modest Mouse did when it followed the critics' darling The Lonesome Crowded West with this album, a moody, dark, and epic step forward for Modest Mouse. Pitchfork was effusive: "For at least a few months, the world can stop waiting for Radiohead's next album, and start wondering how in the hell Modest Mouse will ever top the monumental, ground-breaking, hypnotic, sublime The Moon & Antarctica."

TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain (2006)


TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain (2006)

Return to Cookie Mountain is an album driven by unique vocals – from Tunde Adebimpe’s fantastic bellowing yelps to guitarist Kyp Malone’s haunting falsetto to memorable guest vocals from David Bowie (on "Province") and Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead (on "Hours"). But it's TV on the Radio’s mesmerizing instrumentation and looping that turn Cookie Mountain into a one-of-kind rock album that successfully merges touches of shoegaze, funk, prog, neo-psychadelia, and more.

Portishead - Third (2008)


Portishead - Third (2008)

For those who loved Portishead’s first two albums, Third can be jarring. While the haunting chanteuse voice of Beth Gibbons provides a reminder of the work the band did on its classic Dummy, most of this album veers into less familiar territory. The songs are generally faster, less balanced, more urgent, and more psychedelic than anything else Portishead has done. Nevertheless, Third is a terrific album, which with the benefit of time likely will be considered every bit as influential as the band’s earlier work.

Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001)


Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001)

You will never hear a band sound more vulnerable than this. YHF was conceived out of a total artistic breakup - among band members, with the band's record label - and overflows with deeply felt love and regret. Back-to-back standouts "Jesus, Etc." and "Ashes of American Flags" are possibly the two best songs of Wilco's storied career.

Band of Horses - Everything All the Time (2006)


Band of Horses - Everything All the Time (2006)

Nothing released by Ben Bridwell's prior band, Carissa's Wierd, signaled what was to come with Everything All the Time. Indeed, where that band made slow, layered heartbreaking tracks, this album is a raucous, countrified indie rock album that sounds like something Neil Young would release if he was still creating innovative music.

Trail of Dead - Source Tags & Codes (2002)


Trail of Dead - Source Tags & Codes (2002)

Source Tags is a nearly perfect hard-rock album, so much so that it's impossible to figure out either how this band pulled it off in the first place or why they haven't come close on any album since. Whatever the reason, this one's for the ages, and it rocks.

Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy (2005)


Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy (2005)

Here is the modern take on the concept album. Black Sheep Boy adopts the protagonist from Tim Hardin’s song of the same name, Okkervil’s cover of which opens the album, and then uses him as narrator for the remaining songs. The album is filled with emotional and desperate country-tinged songs about failed love, and Okkervil uses an expanded lineup and a battery of instruments to complement the pain-filled lyrics with fantastic hooks.

Ghostface Killah - Supreme Clientele (2000)


Ghostface Killah - Supreme Clientele (2000)

It’s not an overstatement to say that Supreme Clientele saved the Wu-Tang Clan. After a series of middling solo releases from various Clan members, Ghostface emerged from a stint at Rikers Island to reignite the Wu. The production on Supreme Clientele - featuring RZA and several other producers is typically fantastic – but it is Ghostface’s amazing versatility on the mic that makes this The Top 13’s favorite hip hop album of the decade.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever to Tell (2003)


Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever to Tell (2003)

Produced by Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio (another band with an album on this list), Fever to Tell is the Yeah Yeah Yeah's debut full-length release. Although the album is best known for the sing-a-long ballad "Maps," the rest of the album is full of confrontational art rock tunes featuring the banshee voice of Karen O. The album was an ode to New York's punk scene of a generation earlier, but at the same time signaled a resurgence of that city's indie rock scene.

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Comments Leave a comment


YHF, Black Sheep Boy and Kid A are all very deserving. I'm not as high on Funeral and Cookie Mountain as other folks, but I can appreciate why they'd be on a Best Of the Decade list. In Rainbows at #1 is a giant WTF, though. Of the four studio albums Radiohead released this decade, that's my least favorite. It has its moments, but it is stultifying in places and I wouldn't even put it in a Top 50. *Maybe* it might make Top 100.

10:47 AM   Nov 02, 2009


i love In Rainbows... but yeah, definitely a WTF for #1. especially over Kid A. glad to see Third and Everything All The Time on there.

2:54 PM   Nov 02, 2009


I'm pretty sure this is just one person's list. As it says at the top, the agglomerated list comes out on Thursday.

3:56 PM   Nov 02, 2009


If there is any confusion, this is the site's Top 13 Albums of the Decade. As Travelin__Jack indicated, the Top 13 Albums of the Decade list compiled from all those who submitted their lists to our predecessor site will be published Thursday.

4:10 PM   Nov 02, 2009

KungFuJay ★★

It does not say "agglomerated." You made that up. That's a made up word.

4:23 PM   Nov 02, 2009

PulpAffliction ★★

"In Rainbows at #1 is a giant WTF, though. Of the four studio albums Radiohead released this decade, that's my least favorite."

This. Though it's worth noting that I still love it.

5:24 PM   Nov 02, 2009



5:37 PM   Nov 02, 2009


Agglomerad list. In Rainbows is exactly where it belongs.

6:23 PM   Nov 02, 2009


I am with DoSo on the In Rainbows thing...not close to being worthy of number one. That being said, any list that could not make room for a single Ryan Adams album is a bad one to me.

8:15 PM   Nov 02, 2009

tloveisready ★★

Isn't In Rainbows a 2010 release????

btw, it's my fave of all the radiohead albums this decade too

9:58 AM   Nov 03, 2009


No Gorillaz? I thought Feel Good Inc. was an amazing album. How about the White Stripes White Blood Cells?

10:27 AM   Nov 03, 2009


*I meant Demon Days

10:28 AM   Nov 03, 2009


I get it.

2:40 PM   Nov 03, 2009


Kid A will be at the top when all votes are tablulated. I prefer In Rainbows. YHFT will be higher. Ghostface Killah won't even be in the top 50 for votes. I'm guessing Third and Black Sheep Boy won't be in the top 13 either. Thanks for putting this exciting venture together Brian!

4:12 PM   Nov 03, 2009


TVOTR = the most overrated band of the decade.

9:09 AM   Nov 04, 2009


This should be divided in Genres, you can't just decide on the top 13 albums from different Genres... come on, its just not possible.

11:03 AM   Nov 04, 2009


I disagree with this list because its so similar to the one of the elitists of pitchfork. I've listened to some of this albums and they just have one or two good songs that as comercial albums you easily get bored in a while. This anti comercial attitude of critics is dissapointing, at least they still believe in Radiohead. But where is Coldplay, where is Interpol. Anyway i'll listen to those albums on this list that ive never heard and I tell you why they shuold not be in that list.

11:19 AM   Nov 07, 2009


Ok I saw this is the webmaster people list, lets see it it change on thursday. I'll go to comedy to compare with rotten tomatoes and see if happens the same.

11:33 AM   Nov 07, 2009

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