Often the “best” albums won’t be the most important ones. For example, despite Sgt Peppers being a really, really good bunch of songs, at the end of the day it’ll go down in the books more for all of its innovations rather than “Fixing a Hole”. An important album is one that might not be the best out there, but for whatever reason it’s an important touchstone, and one that’ll be referenced in the future. So here’s some from the Aughties (no order).
5. The Strokes – Is This It:
Rock was in sad shape come the turn of the century. The alt-boom from the 90’s has mostly fuzzed out or been bastardized, nu-metal was in, and we had to deal with shit like Creed. Then boom, in came The Strokes with Is This It, a no-frills album that distilled elements from garage, punk, and alternative into an 11 track tour-de-cool that set the template for 00’s rock. Often copied and never replicated, Is This It is something like a the 00’s Nevermind; a record with influence a-plenty that’s gone on to inspire kids to pick up guitars around the world.
4. Modest Mouse – Good New For People Who Love Bad News
“Indie Rock” as a nebulous genre broke into the mainstream in a way not unlike Alt Rock did the 90’s. And Modest Mouse’s 4th album Good New For People Who Love Bad News, with its jangly guitars, Issac Brock’s idiosyncratic “can sound like ten people in five songs” vocals, generally off-kilter manner, and vaguely arty album art is the poster child for indie. Sure, The Moon & Antarctica is the better album, but on Good News the Mouse finally became accessible for more than hipster kids that wanted to sound smart; everyone could singalong to a song like “Float On”. The mix of being ostensibly indie while being accessible make Good News something great to hear.
3.Green Day – American Idiot
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger second wind than the one Green Day got in 2004 with American Idiot. After the shaky commercial performance of love it or hate it Warning, Billie Joe Armstrong and co. came back with a sprawling, ambitious, (at times) genre-jumping behemoth of an album that won over critics and fans alike. Their timing couldn’t have been better either; the overtly-punk and anti-establishment American Idiot‘s 2004 release came when America was just starting to nurse the post-9/11 patriotism hangover and start questioning Bush’s actions in Iraq. And on top of all this, it was a great album anyway.
2. Lady Gaga- The Fame/The Fame Monster
Yeah, I know, technically two albums, but as a unit The Fame/Monster did one thing: took Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta Lady Gaga from a New York art scene brat to the biggest pop star the world has seen since, say, Madonna. My personal feelings for Gaga aside, you can’t ignore her. Songs like “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance” reach out and grab the listener, something that you didn’t see in a lot of end-decade chart toppers. While I’m tired of the hard-on the public has for Lady Gaga, her and her songs are here to stay, and the impact she’s made has already established her as a key figure in Aughties pop.
1. Radiohead – In Rainbows
“Pay what you want”. In a decade filled with bit torrents, P2P sharing and Napster, Radiohead found what might be the best workaround to music piracy: distribute it online, and let the people decide what to pay. Almost three years later, elements of this business plan are being used by numerous bands: free previews online, multiple payment/music packages, outright giving albums away…and it all might not of happened if not for In Rainbows.