The 50 Best Albums of the Decade (2000-2009)

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40. TV on the Radio: Return to Cookie Mountain [Interscope] (2006)
After establishing themselves with an EP and LP on Touch & Go, Return to Cookie Mountain marked the band’s introduction to the Universal Music Group family via Interscope. TVOTR seamlessly executed the major-label transition that has proven difficult for lesser bands, despite an unmastered, alternately-ordered, half-baked Cookie leaking to the Internet months in advance of its proper release. The result is a gorgeously dark album featuring the trippy and beautiful “I Was a Lover.” Elsewhere, David Bowie sings backing (!!!) vocals on “Province,” “Wolf Like Me” is positively monstrous and, well, the whole damn thing feels like some kind of titanic, geographic monstrosity. Cookie Mountain, indeed. Austin L. Ray


39. Arcade Fire: Neon Bible [Merge] (2007)
After releasing the most breathtaking debut of the decade, music fans everywhere wondered how Arcade Fire would follow up the most joyful album about death. The answer turned out to be a reverent, often melancholy album about life. The sound is even more expansive and ambitious with church organs giving heft to “Intervention,” mandolin energizing “Keep the Car Running” and every instrument under the sun transforming older song “No Cars Go” into a stadium anthem. If Funeral was lightening in a bottle, Arcade Fire has since made catching it seem easy. Josh Jackson


38. Gentleman Jesse: Introducing Gentleman Jesse [Douchemaster] (2008)
This is probably the only entry on the list you’ve never heard of. Jesse Smith is an old fashioned axe-slinger of the power-pop variety, who channels Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello and early Beatles. His debut album flew under the radar of many while still earning him love from Paste, MOJO, Pitchfork and NPR. Luckily for all of us, his hook factory has yet to cease production; Gentleman Jesse’s sophomore album is likely to arrive sometime in the first half of 2010. Look forward to getting its songs unrelentingly stuck in your head. Austin L. Ray


37. Iron & Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days [Sub Pop] (2004)
It’s rare that a debut album rolls around as lovely and original as Iron & Wine’s The Creek That Drank The Cradle, but for his sophomore effort, Sam Beam managed to improve upon the basement-tapes sound of his new Americana without sacrificing its intimacy. He enlisted producer Brian Deck (Modest Mouse) to give musical depth to match the songs’ haunting lyrics. Josh Jackson


36. Pedro The Lion: Control [Jade Tree] (2002)
David Bazan’s Seattle indie rock is well played, and his voice is perfectly restrained, but his most unique gift lies in storytelling—vivid images and a thoughtful perspective create a deep, dark feeling of sadness. In-depth descriptions of extramarital affairs appear throughout Control, a characteristically bold move for the former Christian singer/songwriter. The music is heavier, too—this time around, electric guitars dare to match the lyrical intensity. Kate Kiefer


35. Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion [Domino] (2009)
If you were to crown a 2000s band King of the Indies in terms of sheer rise to hipster notoriety, you’d be hard pressed to pick a group not called Animal Collective. Depending on who you ask, these dudes created somewhere between one and five classic records during the decade, flying a freak flag for electronic, noise, rock and folk, sometimes all at once. Animal Collective’s members have unleashed solo recordings both transcendent and head-scratching, and the band has toured the world, uniting indie snobs, jam-band fanatics and soccer dads. It’s hard to say where this band will go in the next decade, but there are two absolute truths: a) Merriweather Post Pavilion is the band’s breakout record and b) “My Girls” is so the jam. Austin L. Ray


34. Various artists: O Brother Where Art Thou? [Mercury] (2001)
This old-timey country album and most unlikely hit may have signaled the last gasp of alternative country. On the bright side, it suggested that those alt-country values (rough-hewn vocals, acoustic instrumentation, a palpable connection to American roots music) had busted out of the sub-genre ghetto and crossed over into the mainstream. After all, the album did win the Grammy for Album of the Year. Some of our favorite female vocalists—one-named artists like Emmylou and Gillian—got much-deserved exposure thanks to this collection, which scored a freewheeling Coen Bros movie and did nothing but good for all concerned. Nick Marino


33. Coldplay: A Rush Of Blood To The Head [Capitol] (2002)
Hating on Coldplay has become the favored sport of music geeks. New York Times critic Jon Pareles once said the band’s lyrics can make him wish he “didn’t understand English.” But before Chris Martin tried to be Bono, he and his cohorts made a great record, full of enormous, anthemic hooks that don’t come around too often. There’s a reason “Clocks” became one of the most over-exposed songs of the decade (even our local TV news used it): Melodies this catchy are hard to write. Josh Jackson


32. The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots [Warner Bros.] (2002)
Combining the hookiness of their breakthrough hit “She Don’t Use Jelly” and the experimental bent of Zaireeka with the lyrical breakthroughs and studio advancements of 1999 masterpiece The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots proved The Flaming Lips’ late-career renaissance was no fluke. This epic, moving—yet undeniably fun—concept album launched the Oklahoma City band back into the spotlight, where it continued to revel in beauty and weirdness in front of the masses, with confetti canons, furry costumes, fake blood and crowd-traversing plastic bubble in tow. Yoshimi and the seemingly never-ending tour that followed became a boundary-crossing cultural phenomenon, to the point where the record’s most popular track—the spacey, mortality-wrestling ballad “Do You Realize??” actually became Oklahoma’s official state song. Steve LaBate


31. Death Cab For Cutie: Transatlanticism [Barsuk] (2003)
Indie rock’s biggest stars haven’t stopped making good records, but Transatlanticism was certainly their best. From the crashing first strains of “New Year” the band took all the usual rock elements and melded them into something more grandiose and heart-breaking than they had before. Six years later, every last track holds up. Josh Jackson

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