Often viewed as the most revolutionary decade in music since popular music began in the 1950s, the 2000s was truly the first digital age of music.
Peer to Peer software allowed users to share their entire music libraries; the first of these was the now infamous, but short lived Napster (June 1999 to July 2001), boasting 57 million users at its peak. Following this, Apple released the Ipod in October 2001 which became the dominant digital music player in 2004. Both of these were two huge factors that contributed to this decade.
Enough time has now passed to look back and re-visit twenty five albums that were released in the decade when we here at grandpasnail were first able to appreciate music (aged 11 to 21). But what has stuck? What has had the most staying power?
What, when listened back can we still feel the same connection to when we first heard it? Instead of making a list that includes great albums (but not ones we revisit such as Elephant or White Blood Cells by The White Stripes etc) this list is of 25 important albums that we loved in the 2000s, and still enjoy today.
R A D I O H E A D – Amnesiac. 2001
After all of Radiohead’s post 'Kid A' albums, Amnesiac (essentially Kid A’s B-side album) still stands as its best for me.
A band at its creative peak; this album sounds like a splash into the unknown, embracing a new sonic world they have created. A world that sounds so satisfying! Like 'Kid A' the textures, ideas and sheer scope of these tracks are so sprawling and diverse, without ever sounding out of place or losing sight of the concept or the flow of the album itself.
D I Z Z E E R A S C A L – Boy in Da Corner. 2003
What's fascinating and frustrating about what's now known as ‘Grime’ is how little the genre has moved forward since the release of Dizzee Rascal's 'Boy in Da Corner'. This record sounds as if it could of been released today, which is a testament to the influence this the album had to Urban music in the UK.
There hasn’t been an album anywhere near as powerful or original from the genre since this record was released in 2003, which is extremely disappointing.
Although today's grime stars seem bigger and more important on social media platforms and mainstream media, overall their albums are nowhere near as exciting as Dizzee Rascals' astonishingly unique and ground-breaking debut.
T H E S T R E E T S - Original Pirate Material. 2002
I know at least three people who have this as their eternal 'favourite album of all time' and with good reason. This was a well and truly needed voice and sound of the time which was instantly relatable to anyone who had spent more than six months in England. Incredibly nuanced and detailed with UK cultural references and slang, 'Original Pirate Material' sits perfectly beside 'Boy In Da Corner'as a pivotal moment in the early 00’s which defined where UK Hip-Hop was heading.The Streets lone ranger Mike Skinner once said that he was influenced by U.S Hip Hop and wanted to re-create what Nas did with Illmatic (an album that could of only come out of NYC in the mid-nineties) and its true Original Pirate Material could have certainly only come out of the UK. However, what makes this album so unique is that it doesn't sound like Hip-Hop; more like a man talking about his daily life struggles over slightly left-field UK garage (primarily clubbing music.) But the album was extremely radio friendly and incredibly accessible. It feels like Mike Skinner studied all the rule books, ripped out the pages and glued them into his own bible, his first prophecy- Original Pirate Material.
T H E X X - XX. 2009
Ever since Dubstep sprung up from the mid 00's to emerge as possibly the best club music to ever come out of the UK; the world (or maybe just me) was desperately waiting for a more conventional band to mix these dark, bassy tones of Dubstep with melodic guitar and pop lyrics. So who came along to answer our prayers? The XX of course. Its bassy, dark textures sat perfectly with a sprinkle of gushy indie R&B pop lyrics and guitar lines. It was always going to be a winning formula with early comparisons to Young Marble Giants, and yes, there was certainly some similarities. But this feels young, fresh and almost innocent in its cuteness with a dark edge that lurks behind making this an essential teenage pop album I only wish came sooner.
G I R L T A L K – Night Ripper. 2006
One of those, why didn’t I think of this moments came to me when I first heard Girl Talk's 'Night Ripper'...
At the time when the legality of music was up in the air, who was to know this was legal? 'Night Ripper' successfully mashed up alt rock classics and hip hop with the top 40 hits of the time. It was released as essentially a party album, but now more than anything feels like a perfect time capsule of the 00's. Upon revisiting this, the album has lost none of its charm. It's still incredibly fun and when it was released changed the view on what music actually is and how it can be used.
G I R L T A L K – Feed The Animals. 2008
'Night Ripper' and 'Feed the Animals' are a perfect characterisation for the ‘Napster’ generation. Blueprints for what could be achieved in the world wide web with an eclectic digital library of popular music.
What was so smart about these albums was that it introduced different genres to the audience in such a direct way. You could download 332 of the most popular shared tracks of the day on Napster, for example, and this would be your pallet to create your painting.
It's bigger, bolder, with a greater amount of samples and more ambitious sequences than its predecessor, 'Night Ripper'. The concept stays the same, but allows the tracks to breathe a littlemore, making the party last just that little bit longer...
S O N I C Y O U T H – Murray Street. 2004
When you create an album like 'Daydream Nation'; an album that changed guitar music for the rest of eternity, how can you ever top it? Answer: you can’t. Sometimes you have to just have to be true to your ideas and let that honesty and purity fold out in front of you, and that’s exactly what 'Murray Street' feels like.
This was always my favourite of the post 90's Sonic Youth albums and personally seems like their most natural and pure album that they ever made. Listening back to it, you wish you were innocently playing in a forest picking strawberries whilst the album gently unrolls.
B U R I A L – Untrue. 2007
Universally praised upon initial release and often lumped in with Dubstep (not a bad thing) I thought 'Untrue', Burial's second album, had more in common with the previous darker side of club music 'Trip Hop'.
Incredibly dark and reflective, 'Untrue' almost has a soundtrack feel to it and perfectly suits commuting through South London on a train (tried and tested) with its reverberated clicks and crackles. The whole album has an eerie atmosphere that isn’t suited to many situations, but at the right time and place this really hits the spot. Burial's skill of flipping vocals on 'Untrue' are unmatched as soulful wails crying out for help from all angles, which gives the album a much needed ying to it's musique concrete style yang. Who knew an album with a track called 'In Mcdonalds' could be so stunning.
T H E P O S T A L S E R V I C E - Give Up. 2003
Everything about this album screams 00's. Even the artwork looks like the cover of 2001 Pulitzer Prize winning novel 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay'. The name of this side project by Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard and Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello came from the concept of sending one another music on CD-R via the U.S Postal Service.
Its super campy (see video for We Will Become Silhouettes) and its sound has been rinsed by popular radio hit maker and rip off merchant Owl City. But that doesn’t take away anything from the albums now legendary status. Singles like 'Such Great Heights', 'We Will Become Silhouettes' and 'The District Sleeps Alone Tonight' are now recognised as Ben Gibbard's best ever songs. Arguably they are now perhaps more well-known than his main project Death Cab for Cutie.
I'm sure 'Give Up' will forever be discovered by younger generations. How can a teenager not relate to lyrics like “everything looks perfect from far away?”
T H E G O ! T E A M - Thunder Lightning Strike. 2004
I can imagine this being recorded in a tiny shed; cluttered with kid’s toys and instruments hanging from the ceiling, ready to grab at any point and jam on top of the chaotic wall of sound, while all the band members are laughing, having the time of their lives. That’s what Thunder, Lightning, Strike! sounds like.
With its instant burst of energy that makes you want to jump up and down, Brighton’s The Go! Team are hard to pin down sonically. With a mix of samples (Indie Rock and Soul) it's raw, organic and just a pleasure to listen to that always feels good when you put in it for a spin.
C A R I B O U – Up In Flames. 2003
Caribou (then called Manitoba) similarly to Four Tet and other producers in the 00's often dug the crates for rare Folk and Psychedelia from the 60's and 70's. The result was to create warm, blissed-out soundscapes of samples that were free flowing with a Jazz aesthetic. 'Up In Flames' feels like it has tracks that could work in a club, some suited to your car or a walk, a TV show, etc. In this sense, Caribou ended up being one of the most consistent and accessible producers of the decade, with his incredibly versatile music that could work in almost any situation. The artist’s collection was a must for any music fan, but this album remains his light bulb moment - it's impossible to imagine the decade without this sonic kaleidoscope.
F L E E T F O X E S – Fleet Foxes. 2008
It really felt at the time that this type of sound was waiting to happen; a modern folk record which rejected the present and ‘future’, sounding like it was recorded in a forest, whilst wearing vintage clothing without a computer in sight. Fleet Foxes' debut is certainly no gimmick though, its gorgeous melodies and harmonies are carefully crafted to perfection. Compared to contemporaries Bon Iver and Grizzly Bear, this stands out as a little more thought out and overall a realised vision... Complete with medieval artwork and their big lovely beards.
T H E S H I N S – Chutes Too Narrow. 2003
I first heard The Shins debut 'Oh, Inverted World' and 'Chutes too Narrow' back to back before I went to bed one night and instantly fell in love with both of them. It's clever, witty lyrics and quirky structures (with almost a dry stand-offishness to it) stopped it being overly twee and too sugary, resulting in a first listen joy. There is just something I love so much about The Shins first two albums that instantly made them one of my favourite groups of the 00's, and I’m still not entirely sure what it is? Maybe it’s the complex melodies that are made to sound so simple?
The whole album is full of these little juxtapositions; never sounding sad, never sounding happy. Or maybe there’s a mystery in singer James Mercers story that is unanswered, but that’s the beauty of music sometimes. It's best just to enjoy it... because you just do.
I N T E R P O L – Turn On The Bright Lights. 2002
A part of the burgeoning New York rock groups taking over the planet, Interpol stood out as one of the more serious sounding. Not to discredit or compare, but to put it in black and white, 'Turn On The Bright Lights' sounds like Fugazi if they had Ian Curtis on vocals. But the magic of the album is in its intensity, which creates this incredibly energetic and reflective album without any weaknesses. From start to finish there is such an infectious, cool groove, sprinkled with spine tingling vocal harmonies which pop up just at the right moment. It turned out to be one of the most influential rock albums of the 00's and a real bookmark for the sound of rock in the decade. Imitated by many, mastered by none.
A N I M A L C O L L E C T I V E –
Merriweather Post Pavilion. 2009
Animal Collective's eighth studio album features mesmerising artwork with mesmerising music to match. 'Merriweather Post Pavilion' felt like Animal Collective’s best album to date and strangely their best album they will ever make. Animal Collective found themselves as a band 10 years into their career and it felt like a statement still needed to be made. Merriweather Post Pavilion was just that. What was so satisfying was that they built on everything they got right on 'Strawberry Jam'; big wobbly snyths, bouncy drums and slow building progressions. By ironing out the cracks, Merriweather sounds smarter, softer and really takes you to a different planet. When you’re getting stranger but more focused and inviting, you know you’ve cracked the code.
Fugazi – The Argument. 2001
What can be said that hasn’t already been said about Fugazi? Quite simply the greatest punk rock group of all time. Their music of course is incredibly consistent, putting out only the finest records throughout the 90's. What they achieved in terms of business (before the digital age of the internet) is inspiring to anyone. Ruthless on low ticket and album prices on their own label 'Dischord Records', they sold no merchandise and refused to play at festivals with advertising, whilst being offered millions to sign with major labels, only to turn it down. Instead, the group played in anything from gymnasiums to basements of pizzerias to get the lowest price for their fans. So where does 'The Argument' come into this? For me, their first full length compilation '13 songs' from 1989 and 'The Argument' are the bands best albums; bookends of perfection if you will. However, 'The Argument' is Fugazi at their absolute best. Aggressive one moment, fragile and vulnerable the next. What is most impressive sonically about Fugazi is their ability to get so much power and character out of their basic instruments; guitar, vocals, drums, bass and a distortion pedal. That’s it.
Fugazi have never followed up 'The Argument'...perhaps they did everything that needed to be done.
T H E S H I N S – Oh, Inverted World. 2001
The lead single from this album 'New Slang' featured on Zac Braff’s hit 2004 film 'Garden State' and gave a lot of a promotion to 'Oh, Inverted World'. This of course helped it to become one sub pops best-selling albums, and for me is one of the definitive Indie Rock album of the decade. Lo-fi, mysterious, jangly and spacey, it’s probably the album I listened to most over the decade. Like R.E.M's first two albums there is a muddiness and rawness, while at the same time it desperately tries to create something melodic and positive is evident. The naivety is just something you can’t fake and makes 'Oh, Inverted World' such a vital and emotional listen.
M A D V I L L A I N – Madvillainy. 2004
London born Daniel Dumile goes under many monikers; Viktor Vaughn, DOOM, MF doom, king Geedoarah, Zev Love X but with this collaboration produced entirely by infamous crate digger and leftfield beat maker Madlib he went under the name Madvillain. It’s their only proper studio album to date and you could not of asked for better results. Madlibs crazy cuts with Dooms unconventional, whimsical bars over the top? Sign me up.
You almost feel stoned whilst listening to 'Madvilliany'. It's scruffy, dusty often nonsensical but all that matters are that the beats and bars on this are hard, real hard. Released on the now legendary Stones Throw label; it’s littered with flips from Brazilian to spiritual jazz- it’s all cut somewhere into here. It’s a real journey into the mind of two of hips hops most creative and experiential artists at their very best. Don’t try to make sense of it though.
M O D E S T M O U S E – The Moon and Antarctica. 2000
Following up the frantically raw and intense 'The Lonesome Crowded West' was no mean feat. You either go two ways: continue with the winning formula of an already iconic album or expand on those ideas on a grander scale.
By experimenting with new instruments and stripping back the energy; playing with space to make a more progressive, ambitious and layered album, Modest Mouse created 'The Moon and Antarctica'. It feels more cinematic and grander. Listening to it, you feel you could go anywhere and you will go at their pace. Tracks like 'Perfect Disguise' floats around your head and settles you into a blissful serenity before everything sounds on edge again in 'Tiny Cities Made of Ashes'. The whole album runs like this. I guess the message is you never know what’s around the corner in life, one thing for certain is that 'Gravity Rides Everything'.
F O U R T E T – Rounds. 2003
DJ Shadow changed the game in 1996, or at least he was the first person to make an entire album out of other people’s music. Using only turntables, samples and a digital work station, by the mid 00's, technology allowed to do all the above but just on a laptop.
Four Tet’s third album 'Rounds' isn’t anything new or revolutionary in that sense. The technology has moved forward, but his process is the same. 'Rounds' however, is so beautifully choreographed and pieced together that it doesn’t sound like samples; there are cuts and blips, but it could just be a band ‘remixed’. Four Tet aka Kieren Hebdon, is plain and simple, a real music nerd. Having an outrageously large and obscure record collection allowed him to create a new brand of glitchy electronic folk. 'Rounds' is an education into the coolest person you knows record collection blipping and popping in your ears.
T H E S T R O K E S – Is This It? 2001
If aliens came down tomorrow and asked what is Rock n' Roll? I would give them 'Is This It'. The Strokes debut screams I don’t give a fuck and makes you want to put on a leather jacket, chain smoke roll up's and rock out in your converse trainers. Hyped liked crazy by the UK press, The Strokes were instantly massive, it’s hard to explain (not intentional) how much 'Is This It' impacted music. For good or bad, the leather jacket with tie and untucked shirt look that The Strokes rocked became popular fashion in the UK. People started wearing converse trainers and every Indie band for the next decade sounded like The Strokes. For all the album's influence and popularity, in pure isolation, the album just has a magnetic, youthful energy which is so hard to capture on record and The Strokes nailed it on here. The best and the last truly great Indy rock n' roll album.
T H E A V A L A N C H E S – Since I Left You. 2000
Sounding like nothing ever before it, Melbourne DJ collective The Avalanches went and created an album with thousands of samples from obscure records, comedy, soundtrack and even Madonna. The end result is a free following hodgepodge that can’t be pigeonholed into one genre. It boasts some of the best mixing I’ve ever heard with each sample and instrument perfectly slipping and sliding around with such warmth and velour. Universally applauded as the greatest Australian album of all time, it’s hard to argue with.
What’s most impressive and alluring about 'Since I Left You' is the repeat play - you discover something new every time you enter its world. With the sheer quality of the music that they sampled, it’s impossible not to get lost within it. The only frustrating thing is trying to work out all the samples but sometimes it’s best to just kick back and (like the album cover) ride the wave.
P A N D A B E A R – Person Pitch. 2007
Glued together from various samples from Portuguese TV to 60's pop, Animal Collective member Panda Bear aka Noah Lennox, created this incredibly fragile and delicate collage which sees him pouring his heart out. With references to anti-depressants due to the death of his father, to discrediting critics and journalists, it’s an incredibly personal and moving album for something so original and obscure. The whole album plays on the idea of symmetry from the artwork to the length of the tracks in its sequence, which only adds to the detail and care put into the concept of 'Person Pitch'.
It took a few listens to get into Person Pitch, but when it clicked it becomes such a rewarding listen from start to finish, it’s a perfect symmetrical masterpiece.
J D I L L A – Donuts. 2006
Two important factors need to be taken into to consideration before taking Donuts as a piece of audio.
1 - James Dewitt Yancey aka J Dilla created Donuts on his death bed
2 - It turned out to be the most influential album ten years after its release.
The former is of course very sad but by the time of passing at just 32 years of age J Dilla had already created a legacy of work which will last a lifetime. The music itself is essentially a collection of J Dilla’s favourite records pumped into a MPC sampler, punched and stretched with personal and unique grooves that only J Dilla could achieve. Tracks on here like 'Bye' and 'Last Donut of The Night' feel sad but somehow always positive and uplifting. What makes the album even more harrowing is the continuous loop of the album in which it plays from start to finish, this symbolization of the record and the circle of life all in the metaphor of a donut. Fantastic stuff.
R A D I O H E A D – Kid A. 2000
An obvious choice, but 'Kid A' sounds like it was recorded on a different planet. Every track feels like it's about to burst or spin out of control. Or, if you were a fan of the earlier Radiohead albums, just alienate you. Looking back at the last succession of Radiohead albums (OK Computer, The Bends, Pablo Honey...) Kid A is just a perfect progression and improvement on an already perfect album like 'OK Computer'. It’s more ambitious; bigger, bolder and has greater variation, feeling like a band completely free and open to anything. It’s refreshing and is ultimately a completely exhilarating and powerful album from start to finish. Strangely enough, I wouldn’t say this has been massively influential, or started any trends unlike say 'Donuts' or 'Is This It?'
Maybe there can only be one Kid A.