Albums that marked the decade

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The Independent Culture

Rock and pop albums that marked the past decade:

 

RADIOHEAD "Kid A" 2000

(Number one in Rolling Stone's best 100 albums of the decade, number two in Billboard critics' top 20 albums of the decade, number 14 in NME's best 100 albums of the decade)

The vast, experimental soundscapes of "Kid A" marked a further shift away from the guitar-driven anthemic rock tunes of the band's early days.

It was the first Radiohead album to make it to number one in the United States, but it was anything but commercial with the traditional tools of the rock musician ditched and a vast range of influences on display from jazz to modern classical music.

"'Kid A' is like getting a massive eraser out and starting again," Radiohead leader Thom Yorke told Rolling Stone in October 2000. The American magazine called the album "experimental and abstract, rooted in complex, mind-blowing electronic soundscapes."

 

THE STROKES "Is This It?" 2001

(Number one in NME top 100, Number two in Rolling Stone top 100, number three in Billboard critics' top 20)

The overnight success of indie-rock band The Strokes took them from a dank basement to enormous stardom in a veritable New York fairy tale.

Their urgent angst well reflected the hectic post-9/11 megalopolis and their story was marked by impossible glamour and walks on the wild side, smashing out tunes such as "Hard to Explain" and "Last Nite" which had echoes of towering predecessors like the Stooges and Television.

Britain's NME wrote of the album: "If 'It' is a truly great statement of intent, one of the all-too-infrequent calls to arms that guitar music can provide, one of the best and most characterful debut albums of the last 20 years."

 

EMINEM "Marshall Mathers LP" 2000

(Number seven on Rolling Stone top 100, Billboard's Artist of The Decade)

From murder fantasies to self-mutilation and drug addiction, Eminem, an angry young white man, showed us his dark side on this landmark record and confirmed his place as one of the most creative talents in rap.

The lyrics did not please some of the celebrities he insulted - even his mother has sued him for slander. And while moralists railed at his raw and vulgar lyrics, his lyrical and musical virtuosity are almost unparalleled. He was Billboard's artist of the decade just for the number of top 100 hits he has had beating global r'n'b stars such as Usher and rap rivals like 50 Cent.

 

BOB DYLAN "Modern Times" 2006

(Number eight on Rolling Stone top 100)

Dylan's snarl is back to its old best and with "Love and Theft" from 2001 he produced two of the most acclaimed albums of the decade. The 10 songs drip with the growl of a drifting cowboy and "Modern Times" sounds like it was cut by the guitar-toting rebel many thought had slipped irretrievably out of reach 20 years earlier.

Heartfelt lyrics pour out over painful blues and beautiful folk, fusing together perfectly. "Almost every song retraces the American journey from the country to the city, when folkways were giving way to modern times. The mood is America on the brink-of mechanization, of war, of domestic tranquillity, of fulfilling its promise and of selling its dreams one by one for cash on the barrelhead," wrote Rolling Stone.

 

ARCADE FIRE "Funeral" 2004

(Billboard critics' number one album of the decade, number six on Rolling Stone top 100, number seven on NME top 100)

While the deathly title may repel even the most moody of black-clad teenagers, hit the play button and prepare to be enveloped in a life-affirming swirl of strings, horns and xylophones.

But it is far from just a glorious wall of noise played by as many as 15 musicians - the Canadian group's emotional strength struck a resounding chord and embraced loss, love and fragile hopes.

Critics across the world hailed it as truly original, and a tidal wave of copycat acts followed in its wake.

 

JAY Z "The Blueprint" 2001

(Fourth on Rolling Stone top 100 albums, 22 on NME top 100, ranked six on Billboard critics' albums of the decade)

Feted as one of the greatest rap albums of all time, the hip-hop superstar produced the perfect mix of radio-friendly fodder and well chosen nuggets of soul.

Vocal samples from all-time greats such as the Doors and Jackson 5 power the tunes to ever greater heights, fuelled by Jay-Z's musical virtuosity that put him up there with pop's greatest tunesmiths.

"I'm the compadre/The Sinatra of my day," he rapped. And not many disagreed. Rolling Stone said: "It rounded up a bunch of surefire beats and turned the greatest rapper on Earth loose."

 

AMY WINEHOUSE "Back To Black" - 2007

(Number five in Billboard critics top 20, 19 in Rolling Stone top 100, 27 in NME top 100)

With her beehive hair-do, rasping voice and unhealthy relationship with drugs and alcohol, it was hard to miss Amy Winehouse on the radio or in newspapers in 2007. The glorious soul revival album won five prizes at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards equalling the record set by Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Norah Jones, Beyonce, and Alison Krauss for top women artists. There are not many women among the top critics' lists and it looks uncertain whether Winehouse will bounce back from her troubles. "It's hard to recall, before the tabloid barking drowned out all else, how fresh this sounded - how funny, hip, instantly classic," said Rolling Stone.

 

N'SYNC "No Strings Attached" 2000

(Number one selling album of the decade: Billboard)

The bubblegum boy band are no longer together, but their 2000 album "No Strings Attached" produced international hits such as "Bye Bye Bye", "It's Gonna Be Me" and "This I Promise You". Hated by the rock critics, the group beat the competition - with more than 10 million copies sold, it remains the biggest-selling album of the decade and now there is always Justin Timberlake to keep fans happy.

 

ARCTIC MONKEYS "Whatever People Say I am, That's What I'm Not" 2006

(Number four on NME top 100, 41 on Rolling Stone top 100, 15 on the Billboard critics' top 20)

Throw into a bubbling musical cauldron ingredients from some of the greatest British bands of all time - The Beatles, The Kinks, The Smiths - and out of the swirling kaleidoscope of colours explode The Arctic Monkeys.

Rising out of the grim industrial heartland of England, the young stars have a very modern claim to fame - they were one of the first acts to come to the public's attention via the Internet.

Their brand of youthful, urgent punk rock made them an instant sensation with teens and pop connoisseurs alike. And their talents as tunesmiths of the first order had the critics cooing with delight.

 

WHITE STRIPES "Elephant" 2003

(Number five in Rolling Stone top 100, 18th in NME top 100, 8th in Billboard critics top 20)

The American rock duo's first release on a major label saw them move away from the minimalist guitar and drums roots to a thumping rock, which elevated them to arena stars.

Jack and Meg White tell us the story of love and life's vicious ups and downs, and the tale swings from the intimate, as in "You've Got Her In Your Pocket", to desperate struggles to hold it together in "The Hardest Button to Button."

Max Dax, editor-in-chief of German music magazine Spex, picked them for his top 10 of the last decade, writing: "Jack and Meg White almost single-handedly rescued punk rock from insignificance."

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