Our favorite albums of the '00s

The first decade of the new millennium technically doesn’t end until Dec. 31, 2010, given that the millennium didn’t technically begin until Jan. 1, 2001. Obviously. But we’ll grant that the ’00s end with 2009, so this seems like an appropriate time to summarize the preceding 10 years — it’s still a decade, after all.

Therefore, after weeks of comprehensive listening and exhaustive soul searching, Listen, Dammit, has come up with this list of our 20 favorite albums of the 2000s:

1. Wilco, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” (Nonesuch, 2002) — A stunning soundtrack for an age of dysfunction, when people are more interconnected than ever even as they are increasingly isolated: Facebook is not the same as face-to-face contact, after all. Wilco’s masterpiece is alternately tuneful and jarring, and singer Jeff Tweedy captures the dissonant heartache of the post-9/11 era — with a batch of songs the band had originally planned to release on Sept. 11, 2001. That didn’t happen, of course: amid intra-band turbulence chronicled in Sam Jones’ 2002 movie “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” Reprise Records dropped Wilco, which then signed with Nonesuch and released “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” in April 2002.

2. The Hold Steady, “Boys and Girls in America” (Vagrant, 2006) — Singer Craig Finn once told us that sometimes being 17 makes more sense when you’re 35, and that’s what this album is about. A lot of Hold Steady fans swear by “Separation Sunday,” and we do, too — it’s an engrossing, frequently hilarious piece of storytelling. But so is “Boys and Girls,” and unless you got high for the last time in the camps down by the banks of the river (ahem), the band’s third album is more relatable. And there’s just something ineffably awesome about the guitar riff that kicks off album opener “Stuck Between Stations.”

3. The National, “Boxer” (Beggar’s Banquet, 2007) — Another album about searching for a sense of place in adulthood (is a theme emerging here?), “Boxer” is deeply affecting. Matt Berninger’s vivid lyrics and distracted baritone fit seamlessly with the hypnotic drumming and gorgeous musical arrangements on the album that saw the National come fully into its own.

4. Drive-By Truckers, “Southern Rock Opera” (Soul Dump, 2001; reissued in 2002 by Lost Highway) — The Truckers have released (almost) nothing but great albums for the past decade and more, but this one stands out for sheer ambition — it’s a concept album exploring the mythology of the South through the lens of Lynyrd Skynyrd — and breathtaking execution on latter-day Southern-rock stompers, including enduring live favorites “Let There Be Rock,” Ronnie and Neil,” “Women Without Whiskey” and “Zip City.”

5. M.I.A., “Kala” (XL, 2007) — Maya Arulpragasam’s second record is a globe-spanning statement of purpose, packed full of booming club beats with nods to hip-hop, baile funk, African chants and punk rock and steeped in pointed political excoriations on behalf of the Third World poor. And “Paper Planes” is one of the best songs anyone released in the ’00s.

6. The Strokes, “Is This It” (RCA, 2001) — Garage rock never really goes away, but the Strokes helped vault it back to prominence early in the decade with this incredibly assured debut featuring 11 taut, scruffy songs that are just about perfect.

7. Neko Case, “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood” (Anti, 2006) — Case’s crowning achievement so far, these songs are at once vast and intimate, and her powerful voice brings chills the way it wraps so tightly around the country-noir musical arrangements.

8. Ryan Adams, “Heartbreaker” (Bloodshot, 2000) — A little messy, a lot charming and incredibly soulful, Adams’ solo debut is the most glorious entry of his prodigious (and mostly excellent) output in the 2000s.

9. LCD Soundsystem, “Sound of Silver” (DFA, 2007) — The smartest dance record you’ll ever hear, as mastermind James Murphy mixes throbbing electro-rock with droll, cerebral lyrics. It’s music you can think about while shaking your ass. How can you lose?

10. OutKast, “Stankonia”(LaFace, 2000) — At the height of gangsta rap, this Atlanta duo released an album that takes a more playful, sometimes comic tone, even on songs dealing with serious topics. Few MCs have skills as solid as Andre 3000 and Big Boi, and few rap albums feature tunes as memorable as “Ms. Jackson,” “Bombs Over Baghdad” and “Gasoline Dreams.”

11. The Flaming Lips, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” (Warner Bros., 2002) — Occasionally described as a concept album without a concept, “Yoshimi” represents the Flaming Lips at their most accessibly weird, with huge, candy-colored musical arrangements leavening rather somber philosophical meditations on love and mortality.

12. Interpol, “Turn On the Bright Lights” (Matador, 2002) — Powerful songs that gleam faintly in a vast, dark space, Interpol’s full-length debut is stately and at times icy as singer Paul Banks intones his lyrics over ringing guitars and pulsing rhythms.

13. The White Stripes, “De Stijl” (Sympathy for the Record Industry, 2000) — Really, this one is a toss-up for us between “De Stijl” and “Elephant” (V2, 2003). The former features the duo at its primitive garage-blues best, while the latter finds Jack and Meg White branching out ever so slightly with a more experimental set that is every bit as visceral.

14. Pernice Brothers, “Live a Little” (Ashmont, 2006) — Joe Pernice has produced an impressive catalog of smart, gorgeous pop songs, but this record — his first in years with producer Michael Deming — is a particularly lovely achievement, with poignant, wry lyrics and incredibly catchy musical arrangements. A gem.

15. Gnarls Barkley, “St. Elsewhere” (Downtown, 2006) — Cee-Lo Green and Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton make a formidable pair on this debut, a future-soul record full of sweet beats from Burton (“Crazy” is by far the hottest jam of 2006) and penetrating, sometimes harrowing lyrics from Green.

16. Cat Power, “The Greatest” (Matador, 2006) — Once she finally got her shit together, Chan Marshall delivered the best album of her career, a stunning, subtle soul record featuring members of Al Green’s band and her whispery, alluring vocals.

17. The Coup, “Party Music” (Tommy Boy, 2001; reissued in 2004 by Epitaph) — Volatile left-wing rap full of mordant humor, Boots Riley and DJ Pam the Funkstress made a revolutionary rallying cry for the 21st century.

18. Mike Ireland, “Try Again” (Ashmont, 2002) — The best country record no one has heard, this album found the Kansas City singer and songwriter putting his life back together after losing his marriage, his band and his home when his wife took up with his guitar player. “Try Again” is wistful, rueful and, at its core, hopeful, and the country arrangements and sweeping string charts evoke the best of the ’70s countrypolitan sound. Unfortunately, Ireland hasn’t released anything since, and last anyone knew, he was playing themed sets every other weekend at a bar in Kansas City and teaching English at the local community college. His albums, fortunately, are available from iTunes and emusic, or via Ashmont Records.

19. Madvillian, “Madvilliany” (Stones Throw, 2004) — One of rap’s most eclectic collaborations, MF Doom drops oddball rhymes over unexpected sounds from beatmaker Madlib, whose samples range from vintage jazz to video game soundtracks.

20. Franz Ferdinand, “Franz Ferdinand” (Domino, 2004) — Twitchy, angular rock from these Scottish lads recalls the best of early post-punk acts like Gang of Four, and every song on this compact debut is packed with tight, catchy hooks.

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