The 100 Best Albums of the Aughts
The 100 Best Albums of the Aughts


Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III

After a spectacular run of mixtape and guest-spot home runs over the course of 2007 and 2008, Lil Wayne would have been forgiven for releasing a cash-in collection of radio-ready hits. Instead, Tha Carter III managed to be both bankable (“Lollipop,” “Mrs. Officer,” “Got Money”) and terrifically weird. The conceptual rigor of “Dr. Carter” and potent social protest on “Tie May Hands” proved that Wayne’s lyrical powers extended beyond punchlines. And word-spewing shoot-’em-ups like “A Milli” and “Nothin on Me” confirm Wayne’s place in the pantheon of rap’s greatest wordsmiths. McBee

The 100 Best Albums of the Aughts


Madvillain, Madvillainy

Rumors of the ganja-flavored hip-hop super-duo Madvillain had the Internet buzzing for a year before the group, featuring red-eyed rapper MF Doom and jazzy producer Madlib, released its debut. When the thing came out, it was appropriately hailed as weed vision of bizzaro profundity and loopy madness: “Psycho, his flow is drowned in Lowry seasoning/With micropower he’s sound and right reasoning.” The fact that these dudes have been too disorganized and/or lazy to put together a follow-up only solidifies the album’s position as the undisputed pinnacle of aughts underground rap. McBee

The 100 Best Albums of the Aughts


Madonna, Confessions on a Dance Floor

Confessions on a Dance Floor could’ve just as easily been called Ghost of Madonnas Past: at once a thumping tribute to the restorative power of dance music (this was the workout album of the decade if there was one) and a treatise on the singer’s own fame (“I spent my whole life wanting to be talked about”), in which all her musical tics headily come to fore (singing in foreign languages? Check. Faux-tribalistic hymn? Check.). References to the past are everywhere, from the ABBA sample of “Hung Up” to her silly love letter to the city where she got her start, “I Love New York,” but Madonna has always been a thoroughly postmodern pop artist, and as such, songs like “Hung Up,” Sorry,” and “Forbidden Love” aren’t so much throwbacks as updates of the disco sound to which she’s indebted. Schrodt

The 100 Best Albums of the Aughts


Broken Social Scene, You Forgot It in People

Listening to this record, the fact that Broken Social Scene operated as a fairly loose collective rather than as a band in the conventional sense isn’t exactly a surprise. The decade’s warmest-hearted indie-rock record ranges from strength to strength like a pot-luck where everyone slaved over their contributions and included all their most special spices. Full of big, fuzzy rockers (“Almost Crimes,” “Cause = Time”) and queered, tender sympathies (“Anthems for a Seventeen Year,” “Lovers’ Spit”), everything’s anchored by the wry basslines of Brendan Canning, the founder of the feast. It’s many great tastes that taste great together. Hughes

The 100 Best Albums of the Aughts


No Doubt, Rock Steady

The Stephen Sprouse-inspired graffiti cover art suggests punk, but Rock Steady is soaked in the sunny sounds of pop (the album was, fittingly, recorded in Jamaica). From the moment you hear Gwen Stefani panting on “Hella Good,” it’s clear the band has ditched the indie-rock pretense that made Stefani the pinup dream of every liberal-arts undergrad in America. “Hey Baby” incorporates dancehall, while “Making Out” is driven by a propulsive ’80s synth beat. Stefani reportedly wrote lyrics on the spot, and the result is a freeform and playful, drunk-on-Red-Stripe-and-pool-water party album. Schrodt

The 100 Best Albums of the Aughts


Santogold, Santogold

Even if Santogold’s self-titled debut was all too evidently the calculated effort of a music industry vet (and a team of A-list producers like Diplo and Switch), and those M.I.A. comparisons were dangerously close to being spot-on, it was still hard not to get down to this mixture of hip-hop, pop, and indie rock. Santi White coos and purrs like a hipster chanteuse, and her army of smoky synths, angular guitars, and pulsating drum beats catapult her nine-to-five songcraft to the realm of timelessness. McBee

The 100 Best Albums of the Aughts


Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell

It’s too bad “Maps” was so good. The single’s popularity made the transition to It’s Blitz!’s mannered East Village post-punk mimickry almost inevitable. Gone is the spontaneity of the band’s noisy, rough-around-the-edges debut album. The guitars screech, and the energy is concentrated in shorter songs like “Tick” and “Pin,” in which Karen O barks nonsense into the microphone like an avant-garde Japanese punker. That kind of vitality is exactly what’s missing from most of today’s garage bands. Schrodt

The 100 Best Albums of the Aughts


Interpol, Turn on the Bright Lights

Much of the appeal of Interpol’s calculatedly gloomy debut is encapsulated in its second track, “Obstacle 1.” First, and really foremost, the rhythm section: lithe and insectile, hiding sledgehammers behind their backs, Sam Fogarino and Carlos D dance around each other, tossing off little catchy fills and drops like it’s cake. Then, of course, the guitars, skyscraping and dressed all in gray, and Paul Banks, with his Ian Curtis impression and cheaply mocked, brilliantly vivid lyrics. For every “Her stories are boring and stuff, she’s always calling my bluff,” there’s a gem like “She puts the weights into my little heart.” If there was a record better suited for well-staged suicides during the aughts, it wasn’t as good. Hughes

The 100 Best Albums of the Aughts


The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

Some people claim that Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is a concept album. You probably have to ingest a fistful of acid to follow the storyline, so it’s easier to appreciate this album by Oklahomas’s trippiest natives as an unrivaled psychedelic-pop masterpiece. Even if it has appeared on more television commercials than Billy Mays, the idealist paean “Do You Realize” is still a stunning bit of big-hearted rock balladry. See also the Cat Stevens-aping “Fight Test” and the disco-on-quaaludes “Are You a Hypnotist” for instances of irresistibility. McBee

The 100 Best Albums of the Aughts


Madonna, Music

Though Madonna would collaborate with William Orbit on three tracks on her follow-up to Ray of Light, the album otherwise represented a seismic shift from its predecessor’s warm-and-gooey spirituality (a Book of Revelation to many fans, anathema to others). Mirwais’s defiantly experimental, Eurotrashy, wholly artificial production—awash in Auto-Tune and Nintendo beats—was bound to disappoint some, but no one does ersatz like Madonna, and fittingly, this is also one of her most soul-bearing works, from the feminist “What It Feels Like for a Girl,” to the Toni Morrison-alluding “Paradise (Not for Me), to “Nobody’s Perfect,” a slow burn that’s never less than affecting. Schrodt