brent johnson looks back at the top albums of the ’00s …
I’ll start with a disclaimer. Unlike in the ’90s, when I soaked up everything because pop radio was so interestingly eclectic, I haven’t listened that closely to the music that dominated this decade: pop, R&B and rap. So I won’t pretend to wax poetic about the music of Jay-Z and Rihanna.
Instead, I will give you my favorite albums of the decade from the one catch-all genre of the Aughts that truly engulfed my ears: alt-pop. Actually, though alt-pop wasn’t played on the radio as much as it was in the ’90s — when Third Eye Blind and The Stone Temple Pilots made the Top 10 regularly — it actually was a consistent, sturdy genre this decade. Rock isn’t dead. You just have to search harder for it.
I discovered the former Smiths frontman with this record, his first in seven years — an album that barreled into me. The man turns a phrase better than anyone, and for a wordsmith, he actually pens some memorable melodies. This is his most sterling solo album — one that is great, song after song.
It took him 37 years to complete, but it still sounded incredibly fresh — vibrant, even. Pop-rock’s long-lost masterpiece from pop-rock’s most creative mind is brimming with melody, odd lyrics, suite-like sections and fun. Lots of fun.
He’s become too overexposed, vomiting out mediocre records every few months instead of pacing himself. But here, he flashed his talent with a collection of hook-laden rock songs that hop genres with glee.
They’re the least-known act on my list, but also the most alluring: a drums-and-piano duo led by an eyebrowless punkette named Amanda Palmer. She dubs Dresden’s music “punk-cabaret.” It bristles with pounding melodies and neurotic lyrics. Thrilling.
Everyone loves the album Radiohead released before this: Kid A. But this record was made at the same time, and it’s got better songs. It’s not just that their music is experimental — it’s that they manage to be experimental while still being a pop band.
I’ve always said the British know how to make music better than any other nation. And every decade, the Brits produce one great superstar guitar band: The Beatles in the ’60s, The Jam in the ’70s, The Smiths in the ’80s, Oasis in the ’90s. And The Libertines in the ’00s — a gritty, surprisingly melodic band led by Pete Doherty that showed that sloppy can still be catchy.
They came just after the mid-decade bands that were heralded as saving rock: The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines. But this record was better than all of them. It brought glitz and synths back to rock. And all the songs are pretty great.
They’re really the Libertines 2.0 in many ways — but more literate and danceable. The U.K. press called them the best new band in the universe. Not really, but they have enough energy to keep you hooked.
Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn already brought me my favorite band of the ’90s: Blur. And this decade, he mixed pop, rap and cartoons — making one of the most interesting musical projects of the ’00s. And it’s more than an experiment: The songs stand on their own, without the gimmick.