The other day, one of my Facebook friends asked me what I thought was the best album of the 2000's. I initially decided to give him a poisoned-tongued back-lashing, but on further reflection I figured that, given my penchant for lists, it'd be a worthy and fun question to answer, if I were to disregard the initial limitations of just one album, as well as the concept of "best"; there were a lot of albums that I didn't listen to in the past 10 years, and a lot of genres of music I don't care for enough to purchase albums from. Also, "best" is a pretty general criteria, so it's hard to say what makes one album "better" than the others. With all of that out of the way, here are my top 3 (and 5 runners-up) favorite albums of the 2000's, because I happen to enjoy them (no particular order):
Fall Out Boy - Take This To Your Grave
This album basically perfected the power pop sound of most emo bands today, regardless of how you feel about it (I happen to like it very much). The lyrics were emotional without sobby, and they walked the line between being clever and being smugly self-aware. The music itself was incredibly punchy, with the guitars, drums, and bass creating an energetic package the was fit to burst; think a can of Monster in your iPod.
Kanye West - The College Dropout
This album popularized the "chipmunk soul" practice of beatmaking: find an old soul sample, speed it up, and add drums for a unique and energetic-sounding flavor for your music (yes, Wu-Tang did it first in 1993, but this album brought it to a whole new audience). Kanye's lyrics, similar to Fall Out Boy's, were self-aware and clever, but since this was when he had just been signed and before he grew to be his Taylor Swift-interrupting self, I can forgive it; the album is actually pretty funny for all of its lyrical left fieldness. It has a few too many skits, but since they literally add nothing to the album, you can take them out without adversely affecting the rest of the excellently produced and well-executed package.
Jurassic 5 - Quality Control
This album really got me into hip hop. Jurassic 5's combination of mic-swapping wordplay and singing harmonies (trust me, it's less pretentious and "independent" than it sounds) creates a light and very palatable package. Each MC has their own strengths and sounds, but together they create variety in their deliveries, ensuring that the song is constantly changing and guarding against fatigue from listening to the same person. Clever wordplay and exciting delivery help bring the performances up to consistently enjoyable and listenable level. The beats by Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark are varied and nostalgic-sounding, sampling older soul or jazz recordings for a laid-back and low profile sound that help bring the MCs to the forefront.
This list is actually more here for sentimental reasons. These aren't blow-you-away albums at all, but remain in my heart because of the time that's been spent with them. In listening to these albums, you may get to know me, or at least what I've listened to:
The Lonely Island - Incredibad
I'm actually blown away by this record. Not only because of how funny it is, but how consistently well it works as actual MUSIC. Clearly the members of The Lonely Island are avid hip hop fans, because the love they put into their style parodies and song structures is apparent from the moment you press play. Good hip hop is hard to make, and good FAKE hip hop is even harder (just ask Brokencyde...), and the care taken to make each beat catchy, each style parody work, and each lyric wack (but not too wack) makes this one a favorite of mine for reasons I wouldn't have expected.
Story Of The Year - Page Avenue
In truth, there's nothing special about this album. Many of the songs sit somewhere in the middle of the Thrill-O-Meter, and listeners who aren't a fan of this particular brand of music certainly won't have their minds changed. That said, I happen to like the genre of music Story Of The Year is in, and Page Avenue is one of my favorites; it helps that I was 15 and Reckless when this came out, so I have emotional attachment on my side. I'm always a sucker for energetic music, and Story Of The Year has it in spades. Future albums would have the band growing a bit too big for their britches, but this album truly feels like they're playing without a net, and it's that hunger that makes me love it.
Autopilot Off - Make A Sound
If the previous album was nothing special, that goes double for this one. This one is straight pop-punk from back to front. I can't adequately explain why I like this album, except that I do. To describe it is to describe a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup: there's absolutely nothing about this that makes it any better than anything else in the cupboard, except that it's comfort food. Sweet sweet comfort food.
Little Brother - The Minstrel Show
You know those romantic comedies where the hero is introduced to the heroine at a party, and they decide that the other is nothing special, but then they meet later in the movie and decide that they love each other after all? Neither do I, because I fabricated that scenario right now, but that's what this album was like. Witty like Kanye West, but with the verbal gymnastics like Jurassic 5, this album provides a bit of Southern comfort in the form of breezy, soulful productions and playful, tight rhymes. The concept album execution also adds a little bit of extra amusement: the whole album is an "episode" of a TV program called "The Minstrel Show" and the various fake viewer-endorsements and fake-commercials create a cohesion not found in most albums.
Goodnight Sunrise - Close And Counting
Sure, a decade is a long time, but Goodnight Sunrise throws its hat into the power pop ring with the best of them. Better than most, actually, because of Dan Murphy's songwriting ability (ie, he is able to write a song about Girls without making it sound like A Song About Girls; try listening to Amber Pacific and telling me the same thing). As a Montana band, these guys first blew me away in 2006, where their energy and hooks basically made me an uber-fan with only one show. Bright, energetic (the key word for this retrospective), and hooky like a fishing boat, Goodnight Sunrise is easily one of the better power pop bands in the business. Though their recent EP has more and equally good songs, I have to give the nod to this one; these songs made me into the frothing, ravaging fan that I am today, and how can you not say that the first hit wasn't the best?
There you go. 10 years of music, and I was mostly aware for six of them. Time will tell if I'm still spinning these in another 10 years, but for now they're basically my unofficial endorsement for the coveted If I Were Stuck On A Desert Island award.
Got any quibbles with my taste? Or perhaps any albums that were close to your heart during the 2000's? Sound off in the comments section!