The 10 Most Life-Changing Albums of the 2000s

The ’00s are behind us, but do we feel better for it? While musical subgenres ebbed and flowed in the limelight, there were few dominant arcs to the headphone waves these past 10 years. Diverging blogs catered to the most particular chill-fi and psychedelic crack-hop tastes, providing an almost limitless source for our iPod identities. It was all so overwhelming; I never thought my hard drive would hit 80 gigs of music (let alone 30), and — to be honest — it has left me engorged and a little nauseous.

But sometimes it just takes a little perspective, a revisiting of the records that continued to inspire me as I left my teen years behind for the bearded college life. Here, in no particular order, are 10 LPs — some obvious, some obscure — that facilitated that journey.

Why?

Elephant Eyelash

Anticon

First game-changer on the list is Yoni Wolf’s morbid indie-hop opus. It treats wordplay like cupcake sprinkles, garnishing the band’s warm rock instrumentals in abstract blog-poetry confessionals. Nothing else in rap or indie comes off like this — Elephant is one of those hopelessly genuine albums that you’ll either love or despise, because Wolf’s nasal croon and jet-black lyrics polarize folks like lasting music should. Thirty seconds of the vivid, cruising “Gemini” will convince you either way.

Black Dice

Creature Comforts

DFA Records

This vibrant head-trip of an album made me believe in noise. I remember thinking, ‘This is where music is going’ — pure sounds, collaged. I’d bet that in 20 years or less, mainstream pop will steal this groundwork and shape these far-out ideas into hits. Abrasive and gorgeous, Black Dice’s animal record shaped an African safari from samples and processed guitar. They might sound like birds and elephants, but it’s really three dudes twiddling knobs.

Converge

You Fail Me

Epitaph

Before these rippers, I thought hardcore was a bunch of basketball-shorted bros screaming like Cookie Monster, but Jane Doe’s “Concubine” convinced me to finally give tatted scenesters a chance. And then You Fail Me, their next record, was pure death-scuzz love. From the brutal chug of the title track to Jacob Bannon’s banshee wail on “Eagles Become Vultures,” these four disregard genre tropes in favor of the creative — the heavy-as-fuck.

Deerhoof

Apple O’

Kill Rock Stars

While it’s super hard for me to pick a favorite Deerhoof record, I chose Apple O’ because it’s the album that introduced me to Satomi Matsuzaki and her merry friends, and arguably the purest expression of their ragged-pop style. Satomi’s shrill coos over vintage tube guitars and spastic, mashed drums make for hyper-cute ditties with a twisted undertow. These post-modern Rolling Stones should be way more popular than they are.

Respira

A Still Silhouette

Exotic Fever

Speaking of popularity, when I started high school, I was convinced these Sonic Youth disciples from my very own suburb (Thousand Oaks) would ride out of our sleepy town with this record and never return. While it didn’t go at all as I imagined — the band played a final show a few years back and dissolved into the real world — their full-length inspired my love for musical honesty and community. This LP contains some of the raddest guitar riffs and tones ever put to tape.

Flying Lotus

Los Angeles

Warp Records

Future sex techno-soul on a yacht sailing through mercury — that’s what FlyLo’s about. His Warp debut is timeless like a classic jazz record, jammed with outerspace breakbeats that never wear out their welcome. My 2010 prediction: His new record, Cosmogramma (dropping on 4/20) is going to be the most hyphy album of the year.

The Strokes

Is This It

RCA

I’m a sucker for their first two LPs, and even though First Impressions of Earth is a cavernous blemish on their otherwise spotless track record, I still believe they can recover their cool with Album Four. I remember that school morning in fall 2001, when I first heard “Last Nite” on a friend’s burned CD, like it was yesterday — that evening I saw the boys’ music video on MTV and resolved to boycott nu-metal for good.

Desaparecidos

Read Music/Speak Spanish

Saddle Creek

For a while, I couldn’t stomach succumbing to Conor Oberst’s emo-folk — no matter how much it spoke to me. I had standards, goddammit. Then I heard his fuzzed-out ode to consumerism and couldn’t hold out any longer. While some of Bright Eyes’ lyrics address broad issues of love and politics to a populist fault, Desaparecidos is super specific about its parking lots and suffocating shopping bags. This punk doesn’t hide under distortion — it hones it like a dart, then shoots Coca-Cola and Disneyland in the face.

Madvillain

Madvillainy

Stones Throw

Madlib and MF Doom’s superstar collab will go down in infamy for crackly vintage beats and bizarro-rhymes that hit a high ’90s rap could never touch. Refined but ever-weird, Doom spits lines like “Her big butt and smile was like camo/ Hit up the men’s room, we need more ammo.” Or how about “All bets off! The Villain got the dice rigged/ And they say he accosted the man with the sliced wig.” Delivered like a soulful sleeptalker, if I do say so myself.

No Age

Nouns

Noise Pop

These two LA locals don’t play complicated music, but great taste and ideas never lack on their concept-punk with delicate drones. Idea No. 1: It’s okay to be sloppy if you put thought and feeling into it. Idea No. 2: Punk and ambient noise are allowed to mix; anything’s game. Idea No. 3: Layer and sample the guitar licks until you get a My Bloody Valentine wall of sound, then channel that into a pop-punk gem. Their brainstorm seshes produced 12 perfectly sequenced tunes, a 30-minute wave of positive vibes and introspection.

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