By Chris Moore:
This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for… The unveiling of the Weekend Review’s picks for the top ten rock albums of the 2000’s. For anyone who loves music — who loves albums — as much as I do, the artists and album titles that follow are among the best offerings in the past ten years. Even in a decade that saw a marked decline in physical album sales and an increasing number of rock fans suggesting that good music hasn’t been made for ten, twenty, or more years, these albums are proof positive of the opposite.
Good and, occasionally, great music continues to be made each year.
As you read the final segment of this top fifty list, consider which albums you’ve heard and consider picking up those that you haven’t. I encourage you to share your own thoughts below, if you feel so inclined. I spent countless hours thinking, discussing, compiling, arranging, and rearranging this list, so I’ll be the first to tell you it is the imperfect work of an imperfect human being, albeit one who has approached this task with the seriousness of a full-time job. I hope it gives you some food for thought, and that you enjoy it!
1) Red Letter Days (2002) – The Wallflowers: Their finest work and the overall best rock album of the decade for so many reasons. Click HERE for my full review.
2) Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) – Wilco: The album that singlehandedly catapulted Wilco out of the “alt-country” caverns and into the full light of day as one of the decade’s foremost alternative rock bands. Click HERE for my full review.
3) Rockin’ the Suburbs (2001) – Ben Folds: This is Ben Folds at his finest, pounding the piano relentlessly and lyrically tracing the outline of what it means to face loneliness in a modern world. Click HERE for my full review.
4) Figure 8 (2000) – Elliott Smith: His fifth and final studio album before his death three years later, Figure 8 is Elliott Smith’s masterpiece. Each of his albums — Either/Or and XO most dramatically — just kept getting better, and this is no exception. Click HERE for my full review.
5) Maroon (2000) – Barenaked Ladies: From front to back, this is the quintessential Barenaked Ladies album, demonstrating their knack for humor, keen eye for expressing serious issues and emotions poetically, and, as per usual, their considerable instrumental talents. Click HERE for my full review.
6) In Between Dreams (2005) – Jack Johnson: In many ways, Jack Johnson has been the spokesperson for albums this decade as, more and more, consumers seem less and less interested in them as an art form. Johnson not only made a name for himself entirely within this decade, but did so by releasing hit records without any significant hit singles. And there is no better example of Johnson’s prowess than In Between Dreams. From beginning to end, the acoustic guitars are crisp and clear in the mix, and Johnson cleverly balances the cheesy and the serious — even politically charged — aspects of his lyrics better than he has before or since. It’s a wonderful album, and it’s always my first choice for a hot summer day — perfect for any top-down drive, car wash, or beach trip!
7) Brainwashed (2002) – George Harrison: Posthumously released, George Harrison’s Brainwashed is an album created out of the most pure sense of an urgent mission at hand with which a human can be faced — imminent mortality. Having been diagnosed with cancer, Harrison did what he knew best — returned to the studio to record the album of a lifetime. And this is not said lightly, considering the catalog that he produced over a lifetime. Far from rusty for his fifteen years outside the studio, Harrison is at his lyrical, vocal, and instrumental best on this record. Completed with care by producer and friend Jeff Lynne with Harrison’s son Dhani, Brainwashed is perhaps THE post-Beatles studio album. It deals with all the classic topics — religion, politics, mortality, and love to name a few — with such ease and expertise that it almost makes up for the absence of new George Harrison records after Cloud Nine. It’s just that good.
8 ) Extraordinary Machine (2005) – Fiona Apple: As unstable as she might be in her personal life, Fiona Apple’s modus operandi concerning studio albums has consistently been defined by a measured approach at self-improvement. With each album, she has only gotten better, and Extraordinary Machine is her masterwork. Oozing with a sharp cynicism and a guarded smirk always lurking just beneath the surface, Apple’s album cleverly orchestrates a number of instruments around her piano which, characteristically, leads each song. Combining this with her inimitable vocals setting the mood for each track, this is one of the best albums of the decade. Rock music fans everywhere, just pray that she can put together another one (or two?) next decade!
9) Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings (2008) – Counting Crows: Not since Recovering the Satellites have Adam Duritz and his band produced such a brilliant, enjoyable album — the best album of 2008 and one of the best of the decade. Click HERE for my full review.
10) The Last DJ (2002) – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: It’s never been as much fun to openly despise the state of the modern music industry, particularly the system by which most corporate-run radio stations choose and broadcast music. The undertone throughout The Last DJ is sarcastic, most brilliantly on “Joe” and the title track. In between trips to his soapbox, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers also find time to create some of the most beautiful (“Dreamville,” “Can’t Stop the Sun”) and most rocking (“When a Kid Goes Bad,” “Have Love Will Travel”) music of their career. The only Heartbreakers album of the decade, The Last DJ can only serve to stir up more desire for at least one more go-round in the next.