30. Kanye West – Late Registration (2005)
Late Registration is Kanye West’s best album so far. Minus the skits it kills from front to back. Every track has a genius moment whether it is the Curtis Mayfield sample on “Touch The Sky”, actually making Adam Levine useful on “Heard ‘Em Say”, Nas’ verse on “We Major”, and especially Jay-Z’s guest spot on “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)”. Straight fire, that one. Everyone involved brings their A-game because the A-game is the only way Kanye operates. Every song is meticulous and the beats are varied and wonderful. He could have released every song off here as a single.
29. Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News (2004)
I’m not a Modest Mouse superfan for the simple fact that everything previous to this record sounds to me like screeching crazy talk or boring mumblecore. Good News is a lark, a bitter pop record that just happened to resonate with a large group of listeners at just the right time. Every song on here is wonderful, even the bad ones. A fun thing to do with this album is test people and see how many can tolerate “Dance Hall”. On repeat.
28. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours (2008)
In a way, Cut Copy are too subtle. In Ghost Colours is the jam, no doubt, but the first couple listens aren’t immediately obvious because unlike music that is popularly associated with dancing, it don’t bludgeon you into submission. The guys in Cut Copy lend a soft, airy sound to their tracks, which they then lay their synths and hooks on top of. “Polite” isn’t quite the right word, “courtesy” might be better. After a couple listens though you realize that every track kills, is the jam, is your favorite song ever.
27. Liars – Liars (2007)
Liars are a infuriating band. Their first album is fire, their second album is an abortion, and their third is offensive in the worst way: it’s fucking boring. That said, Liars is a return to the straight fire of the album #1 with touches of the better elements of their otherwise shit records. It rocks, it howls, it has actual riffs! It might be the only time that Liars decided to be awesome and not give up halfway through and just moan into the microphone for 45 minutes.
26. Justin Timberlake – Justified (2002)
Michael Jackson made this album by passing on these beats. Oh Michael. In packaging and design Justified looks like any other solo record from a former boy bander, but thanks to those beats and a natural swagger and confidence Justin Timberlake was able to free himself of that past, to the point where I’ve actually heard people say, “Which group was he in again?” Remarkable.
25. Tenacious D – Tenacious D (2001)
This might be the single most hilarious comedy album of all time(True). I have every line of it memorized(also true). Along with being very very funny it also has great songs. I heard someone lament that the idea of a fully produced rock record misses the point of Tenacious D. I would argue that the appeal of the D was that they were actually really great all along and that this record is a fluke of genius that answers the question: “What would Tenacious D(the fictional band in this scenario) actually write about on a full length album?” Doubling teaming and cock pushups, that’s what.
24. Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights (2002)
Paul Banks has a great voice. His lyrics are weird but never particularly awful. Turn On The Bright Lights is a sad ode to New York City. You could view it as a reaction to 9/11, or just a piece on grief and change in general. Banks’ lyrics lend themselves to your own interpretation. The production is grand and because it rocks for most of it’s runtime there isn’t an overbearing cloud of melancholy. The bright lights of the title might mean “Time to stop sitting in the dark and get back out there!”
23. Jay-Z – Jay-Z: Unplugged (2001)
Greatest Unplugged ever. The Roots play Jay-Z’s songs, Jay-Z raps half of them, lets the audience handle the other half and basically it’s the best party ever. Fresh off the release of The Blueprint, Hov is smooth, confident and hilarious. But of course he is. Hits for days and days and days.
22. Fall Out Boy – From Under The Cork Tree (2005)
Did you know that Fall Out Boy were(Were? Oh. Damn.) one the great pop bands of this glorious decade? True story. From Under The Cork Tree was the first indication of their skills as hook men. All great songs, energy to spare and enthusiasm. Can’t say that enough. They might have sucked live but the recorded work is what will live on. You know who else sucked live? The Beatles. Just sayin’.
21. Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf (2002)
Queens of the Stone Age make an album mocking the lameness and homogenization of rock radio and end up getting played on rock radio. Songs for the Deaf is Queens heaviest record and the last to feature Josh collaborating with Nick. And Dave Grohl drums. Oh does he drum. I read some interviews around the time of Lullabies release that the making of Songs was a tough process with “certain people” around that Josh didn’t want around. I’ve always figured it was producer Eric Valentine, whose other production credits include a Good Charlotte album and the first Third Eye Blind record. What kind of advice and guidance could he possibly give Josh? My guess is that they threw Valentine’s name on the credit list but didn’t listen to a thing he said, like Sloan did on Twice Removed. The radio skits on Songs were derided at the time of release but hold up as the glue that keeps the record cohesive and flowing instead of mishmash of ideas.