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Best Albums of 2000-2004

Posted: July 23, 2005

Usually, once the year is half done, we here at Shaking Through World Headquarters compile a "Halftime Report" highlighting stuff we've liked and mentioning upcoming things we're looking forward to. This year, however, we thought we'd do something different. With the decade half over, and with six months and change behind us for some extra perspective, we wanted to look back at what we've liked so far about the 2000s. (Keep in mind, we're defining the decade as 2000-2009, so the end of 2004 marks the halfway point.) It'll be interesting to see how these lists compare to our inevitable "Best of the Decade," but in the meantime, we're more interested in what you think. Where did we miss the mark? And if we help anyone reconsider an album or discover something new, all the better. Drop us a line and let us know. -- Kevin Forest Moreau, Listmaster

     
Kevin Forest Moreau   Laurence Station
     
1. Matthew Ryan: East Autumn Grin (Interscope, 2000)
No, this isn't an attempt to go obscure in order to establish cool-critic cred. Matthew Ryan is simply one of the most affecting songwriters working today, pondering life's questions in ways that settle into your skin and stay there. You deserve to hear this record.
 
1. Radiohead: Kid A (Capitol, 2000)
Artfully melds the rhythmic intensity of jazz legend Charles Mingus with the detached electronic explorations of Autechre while still retaining the green-about-the-gills, slightly unhinged and paranoiac vibe articulated by the band in the wake of OK Computer's stunning success.
2. The Weakerthans: Reconstruction Site (Epitaph, 2003)
Like the Decemberists and countless others, John K. Samson favors literary references and artful conceits, but grounds his songs with an emotional core, eschewing self-conscious cleverness for its own sake -- and with an insinuating melodicism that rewards repeated listens.
 
2. Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch, 2002)
Post-millennial Americana with an alienated urban sensibility. YHF locks onto the frequency of disconnected relationships in a world swamped by hovering satellites, GPS devices and designer-snappy cell phones. People have more ways to connect than ever before, but that doesn't necessarily make human contact a match.com cinch.
3. Green Day: American Idiot (Reprise, 2004)
Concept albums are always an invitation to disaster. But the insistent "Holiday" and title track, the anthemic "We Are the Waiting," the sheer musical exuberance of "Jesus of Suburbia" and other highlights mark this as one of the most triumphant mainstream rock records of the last decade.
 
3. OutKast: Stankonia (LaFace/Arista, 2000)
Hendrix-enflamed electric guitars, Parliament-inspired funk, and socially aware raps make it a keeper, but it's those hooks, from sincerely apologizing to "Ms. Jackson" to bizarrely boasting about being "so fresh and so clean" that elevate Stankonia into a dizzying musical orbit.
4. Drive-By Truckers: Southern Rock Opera (Lost Highway, 2002)
Subsequent albums Decoration Day and The Dirty South are better, tighter records. But this ambitious double-length concept album put Athens' Drive-By Truckers on the map, building on the promise of the band's first two efforts and establishing Patterson Hood as a drawling storyteller worth following.
 
4. DJ Shadow: The Private Press (Mo' Wax/Island, 2002)
Thoughts of chaos, monotony and sudden death form the underpinnings of Josh Davis' second meticulously cut-and-spliced DJ Shadow release. Davis masterfully infuses each track with careful thematic consideration without once losing hold of the almighty beat.
5. Rush: Vapor Trails (Anthem/Atlantic, 2002)
Don't expect an apology for this one. The world's best power trio returned after a long absence and stepped up its game. The dense textures of "Secret Touch" and "Peaceable Kingdom" retain a visceral, rocking flow, and uplifting anthem "Sweet Miracle" is a high-water mark.
 
5. Manitoba: Up in Flames (Domino, 2003)
Those who claim electronic music lacks warmth and spirit clearly haven't heard the sounds conjured by Dan Snaith. Upbeat and organic, Up in Flames takes the art of laptop composition outdoors, crafting a sun-baked, dazzlingly bright collection of feel-good expressions that manages to avoid being precious while remaining resolutely optimistic.
6. Idlewild: 100 Broken Windows (Capitol, 2000)
With 100 Broken Windows, Idlewild strikes just the right balance of its early, scrappy post-punk influences and Roddy Woomble's poetic ambition. Neither of its follow-ups have recaptured the musical immediacy (or lyrical conciseness) of this ragged and thoughtful collection.
 
6. Roots Manuva: Run Come Save Me (Big Dada/Ninja Tune, 2001)
Rodney Smith's stylistically audacious examination of salvation and temptation is colored by a parade of angels and demons blessing and harrying the gifted London MC. Those struggles provide Run Come Save Me with an extra gravity that buoys rather than weighs down the street-smart flow.
7. Neko Case and her Boyfriends: Furnace Room Lullaby (Bloodshot, 2000)
Case possesses a beautiful voice, capable of crystalline emotional clarity and full-bodied fire. Both traits are on amply display here, an attention-grabbing set of atmospheric ballads ("Twist the Knife," "Porchlight," "We've Never Met") and spirited country pop ("Guided by Wire," "Whip the Blankets").
 
7. Ted Leo/Pharmacists: The Tyranny of Distance (Lookout, 2001)
Ridiculously exuberant, The Tyranny of Distance is pure adrenalized indie pop-rock, bursting with haymaker-effective hooks and infectiously tight jams.
8. N.E.R.D.: In Search Of… (Virgin, 2002)
The Neptunes (and Pharrell Williams in particular) feel a bit played-out now, but the production duo hit a creative high point with this debut from its rock-oriented side project, a ridiculously accessible (for the first half, anyway) mélange of soul, hip-hop and funk-rock.
 
8. Spoon: Kill the Moonlight (Merge, 2002)
Spooky piano keys and a lyrically nocturnal bent (dealing with apathy and obsession) fortify this collection of skeletally naked tunes, which nonetheless carry more punch than overproduced albums running twice as long and saying half as much.
9. Jay-Z: The Black Album (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, 2003)
Jay-Z can be overbearing, but on this alleged swan song, he deftly turns that complaint into a strength. Yes, the album, like the artist, is full of itself, but the swagger and bombast exude a magnetic pull that's hard to deny.
 
9. The Walkmen: Bows & Arrows (Record Collection, 2004)
Life in the big city, where flavors of the month quickly lose their appeal and meaningful romantic relationships require more effort than an inviting smile and a physically alluring look, gets bull's-eye nailed on the Walkmen's startling sophomore effort.
10. U2: All That You Can't Leave Behind (Interscope, 2000)
Everyone pegged this as a return to anthemic form, but after the slick excesses of Pop, U2 actually -- finally -- lived up to its Rattle and Hum-era soul ambitions: If you hear "Walk On" or "Stuck in a Moment" as mere Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby rehashes, you're not paying attention.
 
10. Madvillain: Madvillainy (Stones Throw, 2004)
Madlib and MF Doom mix ganja-fueled beats and spin engaging four-color super-villain tales into an audaciously appealing hip-hop collaboration.
     
Other Notable Releases (Alphabetically Listed)   Other Notable Releases (Alphabetically Listed)
     
  • Audioslave: Audioslave (Epic/Interscope, 2002)
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: B.R.M.C. (Virgin, 2001)
  • Blink-182: Blink-182 (Geffen, 2003)
  • Bob Dylan: Love and Theft (Columbia, 2001)
  • Steve Earle: Jerusalem (E Squared/Warner Brothers, 2002)
  • Fugazi: The Argument (Dischord)
  • PJ Harvey: Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea (Island, 2000)
  • Mark Lanegan Band: Bubblegum (Beggars Banquet, 2004)
  • Los Lobos: Good Morning Aztlan (Mammoth, 2002)
  • OutKast: Stankonia (LaFace/Arista, 2000)
  • Radiohead: Amnesiac (Capitol, 2001)
  • Snow Patrol: Final Straw (A&M/Universal)
  • The Twilight Singers: The Twilight Singers Play Blackberry Belle (One Little Indian, 2003)
  • The White Stripes: White Blood Cells (Sympathy for the Record Industry, 2001)
 
  • The Dismemberment Plan: Change (Desoto, 2001)
  • The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (Warner Bros.)
  • Fountains of Wayne: Welcome Interstate Managers (S-Curve, 2003)
  • Guided by Voices: Isolation Drills (TVT, 2001)
  • PJ Harvey: Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea (Island, 2000)
  • Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose (Interscope, 2004)
  • N.E.R.D.: In Search Of… (Virgin, 2002)
  • Radiohead: Amnesiac (Capitol, 2001)
  • The Streets: A Grand Don't Come for Free (Atlantic, 2004)
  • Gillian Welch: Time (The Revelator) (Acony, 2001)
  • The White Stripes: White Blood Cells (Sympathy for the Record Industry, 2001)
  • Brian Wilson: Smile (Nonesuch, 2004)
  • The Wrens: The Meadowlands (Absolutely Kosher, 2003)
  • Yo La Tengo: And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (Matador, 2000)

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