Staff Lists

The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s: 200-151

The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s: 200-151

by Pitchfork, posted September 28, 2009

190. Elliott Smith
Figure 8
[Dreamworks; 2000]

Having completed the transition from acoustic bedroom folk to intricately orchestrated Beatlesque pop with 1998's XO, Elliott Smith took a more understated approach with 2000's Figure 8. Not quite as intimate as his earliest records and not quite brash and bombastic like its immediate predecessor, Figure 8 marks a subtle refinement of Smith's songwriting skills. Figure 8 is notable for its confidence and its discipline-- neither of which is a particularly flashy trait. But with this surer footing came deeper expeditions into the timeless gestural language of big-C Classic rock, making Figure 8 one of Smith's most accessible and enjoyable records. --Matt LeMay

189. Jamie Lidell
[Warp; 2005]

Listen to Jamie Lidell's earlier records-- his aptly-titled solo debut Muddlin Gear or his Super_Collider work with Cristian Vogel-- and you hear a playful yet restless Jack-of-all-trades trying to find his voice. Fast forward to 2005's Multiply, and he's found it: As Mark Pytlik notes in his Pitchfork write-up of the album, Multiply is most definitely reverential to its antecedents, and they're often worn proudly on the sleeve of each track. Whenever Lidell makes a not-so-subtle gesture towards his R&B forefathers, he does so with a healthy amount of polite disrespect-- Multiply is seasoned with enough electronic chicanery seamlessly integrated into the mix to remind folks that the record was in fact sharing discography space with equally individual talents like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher. And whether he's vamping and squiggling like a young eager-to-impress Prince on "When I Come Back Around" or crooning like a heartbroken old soul on the album's show-stopping closer "Game For Fools", there's no mistaking that Multiply is first and foremost a remarkable statement made by a remarkable artist. --David Raposa

188. M83
Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts
[Gooom; 2003]

Before he would construct dream-pop anthems out of John Hughes' celluloid teen angst, Anthony Gonzalez (and then-bandmate Nicolas Fromageau) gave us this behemoth of sound. Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts is the biggest M83 record, leaving listeners-- those poor flattened souls-- pancaked in its wake. But for all of that weight, the distorted guitar-and-synth walls of run-to-your-grave epics "America" and "0078h" (which always seemed to me just as post-rock as they were shoegaze), there was real warmth to the album. The slower-paced, ethereal qualities of "In Church" and "On a White Lake, Near a Green Mountain" hinted at the romance of future M83 tracks. --Joe Colly

187. Stars of the Lid
The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid
[Kranky; 2001]

On The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid, Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride create a deep pool of drone so heavy that its gravity pulls in sounds around it, swallowing them whole. The band was having a bit of a laugh at its own expense with the self-deprecating album title-- this was their seventh record of impossibly thick, slow ambience, and here they expanded their palette of timbres and stretched out over two full CDs to let each piece breathe as deeply as possible. Intense patience is a hallmark of any great drone music; Wiltzie and McBride have patience in spades and bring a designer's detailed touch to every sound they make to craft an ambient opus that's as welcoming as it is esoteric. --Joe Tangari

186. The Thermals
The Body, the Blood, the Machine
[Sub Pop; 2006]

The Thermals' third full-length is a cautionary tale about the dangers of a totalitarian, theocratic regime, and it could only have sprung from anger and frustration with the George W. Bush administration. The lyrical gravitas of religious iconography and damn-the-man slogans gave the Portland pop-punk band renewed purpose, but it could have been just more hot air if it wasn't married to such incendiary riffs, sexy, throbbing basslines, and urgent, earnest melodies. Most recent protest music is pedantic and plodding, but with the Thermals' joyously sloppy delivery and imaginative (and not-so-literal) storytelling, they revitalized the genre for a new generation. --Rebecca Raber

185. Scarface
The Fix
[Def Jam South; 2002]

Scarface aficionados might question Facemob's sole New York-focused Def Jam record as a representative of the artist's best work. But if The Fix proves anything, it's that Scarface is a world unto himself, the rare rapper whose utter musical weight, gravitas, and gravitational pull is so strong that an entire city's aesthetic bends in his direction when he deigns to subsume it. What is so unique about The Fix is that, from a macro view, it doesn't sound anything like a 2002-era corporate New York rap record, despite Kanye West's perfect soul basslines and Neptunes guest production spots; Scarface's lyrics are unchanged, the same stories from the South Side of Houston, the same engagement with the same drug game, the same unyielding honesty and unwillingness to sacrifice ideals. --David Drake

184. Vitalic
OK Cowboy
[PIAS; 2005]

While the electronica push of the late-1990s was considered an epic fail well before 2000, it did accelerate the conversation between rock and electronic music. Over the next decade, the sequencer would become a common sight on rock stages, and a legion of DJs (especially the French) responded in kind by infusing house-music juggernauts with the hyper-distorted wallop of power chords. Daft Punk and Justice reveled in gloriously superficial properties of rock, the Aqua-Net and motivational platitudes. But Vitalic was almost punk, going at his ring-modded synths and acid squelches as if they were his first Sears-catalog guitar. His peers want to inspire you, but sometimes, you worry Vitalic is trying to kill you. --Brian Howe

183. Arctic Monkeys
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
[Domino, 2006]

There's a fine line when it comes to precociousness. Pre-teen geniuses? Adorable. Deeply cynical, shockingly self-aware 19-year-olds? Kind of a downer. Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner is the exception that proves the rule. He cuts the Holden Caulfield figure perfectly, moping around Sheffield and observing the Chav life. The Monkeys initially won freakishly enthusiastic acclaim for their clenched-fist stomp, raucous guitar attack, and sodden attitude on songs like "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor". But what endures are the weary ballads. "Riot Van" is so elegant and detailed about the perils of the boys in blue it almost insists on soundtracking an Irvine Welsh novel. "When the Sun Goes Down" is scarily well-written-- the type of song that sounds a million years old the moment it begins. Even the jaunty "Fake Tales of San Francisco" is drooling bile. Sometimes growing up too fast ain't so bad. --Sean Fennessey

182. Max Tundra
Mastered by Guy at the Exchange
[Tigerbeat6; 2002]

Ben Jacobs had to use words. Crafty and clever as his earlier works were, he had more to say this time, and so he started writing pop songs-- intricate and busy songs that balanced on a hair his OCD and his ADHD, but songs that were catchy and wondrous as well. He started to sing (and sister Becky pitched in). He wrote about temp labor, old vinyl, amino acids, and, oh yeah, girls. That was the best bit: Now he could sing about girls and crushes and love. In true British fashion, he brought a modest persona to rainbow-shredding music that charm the heart and overclocks the brain. There's joy in every byte of his tunes: the joy of gazing at girls, and gazing at light-emitting diodes, and telling the world how glorious they both are. --Chris Dahlen

181. Andrew Bird
Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs
[Righteous Babe; 2005]

The world ends not with a bang or a whimper, but with a party. Between 2001 and 2003, Andrew Bird doused his Bowl of Fire, moved to a farm, and fell through the stylistic looking glass into a weird world entirely his own. The Mysterious Production of Eggs is the greatest statement to leak out of that world onto a record. Sheets upon sheets of plucked and bowed violin are joined by his singular whistle and painterly voice to frame homicidal personal ads, tales of children's brains measured for defects, and musings on the long odds of biology. It's thoroughly original, from the gentle lilt of "Sovay" to the tidal rush of "Fake Palindromes", the eerie murk of "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left" and the Ravel-quoting bounce of "Skin Is, My". When it all caves in, Bird will be there to play amidst the rubble, and you should join him if you can. There will be snacks. --Joe Tangari

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