Best Albums of the 21st Century (So Far)

People who like to make lists have little patience, so it’s not surprising that even though our century is less than two decades old, I was able to find a bunch of “Best Music of the 21st Century” lists online.  Most of the lists focus on popular genres such as pop, rock, hip hop, R&B and alternative, so there is little or no jazz, classical or even country in this meta-list. For fun, I have also appended my personal five-star albums of the century so far (to match the meta-list, I’ve excluded classical and jazz).  Here are the albums on two or more of the original source lists I collected.

NOTE: Most of these lists were made long before 2017 – one of them is from 2009  and a few are from 2012 and 2013 – so there is a definite bias towards the first decade of the century.

On 10 “Best Music of the 21st Century” Lists
Elephant (2003) – The White Stripes

On 7 Lists
Stankonia (2000) – OutKast

6 Lists
Kid A (2000) – Radiohead
Is This It (2001) – The Strokes
Discovery (2001) – Daft Punk
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010) – Kanye West

5 Lists
Funeral (2004) – Arcade Fire
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006) – Arctic Monkeys
Sound of Silver (2007) – LCD Soundsystem
In Rainbows (2007) – Radiohead
Fleet Foxes (2008) – Fleet Foxes   

4 Lists
American Idiot (2004) – Green Day
Back to Black (2006) – Amy Winehouse
Let England Shake (2011) – PJ Harvey
Channel Orange (2012) – Frank Ocean

3 Lists
The Blueprint (2001) – Jay-Z
Vespertine (2001) – Björk 
Up the Bracket (2002) – The Libertines
Songs for the Deaf (2002) – Queens of the Stone Age
Original Pirate Material (2002) – The Streets
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) – Wilco
Fever to Tell (2003) – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Savane (2006) – Ali Farka Touré
xx (2009) – The xx 
Lost In The Dream (2014) – The War On Drugs

2 Lists
Relationship of Command (2000) – At The Drive In 
The Marshall Mathers LP (2000) – Eminem
Rated R (2000) – Queens of the Stone Age
Weezer [The Green Album] (2001) – Weezer
Lateralus (2001) – Tool
Radio Tisdas Sessions (2001) – Tinariwen  
Time (the Revelator) (2001) – Gillian Welch
American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002) – Johnny Cash
( ) (2002) – Sigur Rós 
The Black Album (2003) – Jay-Z
Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge (2004) – My Chemical Romance
A Grand Don’t Come for Free (2004) – The Streets
Aha Shake Heartbreak (2004) – Kings of Leon
College Dropout (2004) – Kanye West
I Am A Bird Now (2005) – Antony and the Johnsons
Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike (2005) – Gogol Bordello
Sam’s Town (2006) – The Killers  
Donuts (2006) – J Dilla
Untrue (2007) – Burial 
Raising Sand (2007) – Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
For Emma, Forever Ago (2007) – Bon Iver
Sky Blue Sky (2007) – Wilco
Dear Science (2008) – TV on the Radio  
808s and Heartache (2008) – Kanye West 
The ’59 Sound (2008) – The Gaslight Anthem
The Hazards of Love (2009) – The Decemberists
Good Kid, m.A.A.d City (2012) – Kendrick Lamar  
AM (2013) – Arctic Monkeys
Black Messiah (2014) – D’Angelo
To Pimp A Butterfly (2015) – Kendrick Lamar

And, for those who care, here are the albums from 2000 to present that I rated five out of five stars, in chronological order (excluding classical and jazz):

I Am Shelby Lynne (2000) – Shelby Lynne 
Fado em Mim (2000) – Mariza  
Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea (2000) – PJ Harvey
All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000) – U2 
Sweet Tea (2001) – Buddy Guy     
The Id (2001) – Macy Gray  
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) – Wilco    
Sea Change (2002) – Beck 
One Beat (2002) – Sleater-Kinney   
Fever to Tell (2003) – Yeah Yeah Yeahs   
Electric Version (2003) – The New Pornographers     
Funeral (2004) – Arcade Fire   
Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out (2005) – Petra Haden
Illinois (2005) – Sufjan Stevens   
Z (2005) – My Morning Jacket      
Boys and Girls in America (2006) – The Hold Steady
Let’s Get Out of This Country (2006) – Camera Obscura
Neon Bible (2007) – Arcade Fire
Challengers (2007) – The New Pornographers
Once: Music From the Motion Picture (2007) – Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
White Chalk (2007) – PJ Harvey    
Hold On Now, Youngster… (2008) – Los Campesinos!     
Bird-Brains (2009) – Tune-Yards         
The Suburbs (2010) – Arcade Fire      
Majesty Shredding (2010) – Superchunk      
Cannibal Courtship (2011) – Dengue Fever       
Bad As Me (2011) – Tom Waits
Yuck (2011) – Yuck
The King Is Dead (2011) – The Decemberists 
Let England Shake (2011) – PJ Harvey
Visions (2012) – Grimes
Pedestrian Verse (2013) – Frightened Rabbit
Sleepwalker (2013) – Angel Olsen  
Alvvays (2014) – Alvvays
Brill Bruisers (2014) – The New Pornographers
My Woman (2016) – Angel Olsen
Antisocialites (2017) – Alvvays  

4 thoughts on “Best Albums of the 21st Century (So Far)

  1. dwight arms

    Barton Hollow-The Civil Wars
    Broken Bells-Broken Bells
    Infinite Arms- Band of Horses
    I Learned the Hard Way–Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
    Shout It Out–Hanson
    I and Love and You–the Avett Brothers
    Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix- Phoenix
    A Piece of What You Need-Teddy Thompson
    Med Sud…Endalaust–Sigur Ros
    Release the Stars–Rufus Wainwright
    Twelve Stops and Home–The Feeling
    Never Hear the End of It–Sloan
    Man-Made–Teenage Fanclub
    Bring It Back–The Mates of State
    Twin Cinema–The New Pornographers
    Alternative to Love–Brendan Benson
    Hopes & Fears–Keane
    Together We’re Heavy–The Polyphonic Spree
    Keep Your Wig On–Fastball
    Inside Llewyn Davis (Soundtrack)–Various Artists
    Welcome Interstate Managers–Fountains of Wayne
    Rainy Day Music–The Jayhawks
    Ohio–Over the Rhine
    morning Phase–Beck
    Don’t Give Up On me–Solomon Burke
    Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots–Flaming Lips
    Sea Change–Beck
    Lost in Space–Aimee Mann
    Saving Silverman–Ben Folds
    Rockin’ the Suburbs–Ben Folds
    Upland Stories–Robbie Fulks
    Good Times!–The Monkees
    Take me to the Alley–Gregory Porter
    Smile–The Jayhawks
    Allow Me–Jules Shear
    Discovery of the World Inside the Moone–Apples in Stereo
    Wasp, Star (Apple, Venus), Vol. 2–XTC
    Transit–A.J. Croce
    The Harsh Light of Day–Fastball
    Transcendental Blues–Steve Earle
    Two Against Nature–Steely Dan
    Leaving Eden–The Carolina Chocolate Drops
    Dye it Blonde–The Smith Westerns
    The Wrecking Ball–Bruce Springsteen
    The Thompson Fields–Maria Schneider
    Someday–Susanna Hoffs

    1. dwight arms

      If I had to narrow it down to a top 10;
      The Harsh Light of Day–Fastball
      Allow Me–Jules Shear
      Saving Silverman–Ben Folds
      Sea Change–Beck
      Don’t Give Up On Me–Solomon Burke
      Welcome Interstate Managers–Fountains of Wayne
      Man-Made–Teenage Fanclub
      Med Sud…Endalaust–Sigur Ros
      Release the Stars–Rufus Wainwright

      its so hard to narrow it to 10.

      1. beckchris

        Thanks for the list! If you don’t want to be bound by the tyranny of top ten lists, you can do what I do: rate all your recordings from 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 and then make a list of your top 5s or 10s. Much easier than having to pick only 10!

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