Best Albums of the 21st Century
Here’s 5 of the best albums / most important albums of the 21st century so far, in my opinion. I’ve tried to include a bit of diversity but you will notice quite a trend in the albums I’m recommending and the sort of music I like.
I could include a bit more variety but the truth is, there aren’t many bands or musicians who I am a big fan of. There are a lot of songs I like, but often when I feel let down when I listen to more songs from that artist.. Maybe I have high-expectations. Maybe I am quite picky with music. Or maybe I just don’t know what I’m talking about.
I’m just saying, I get bored quite easily if a song doesn’t stand out to me. Maybe it’s just my taste. Maybe it’s my age. I don’t know.
There are a lot of albums which I have listened to once but will probably never listen to again.
These albums, however, do not fall under that category.
All of these albums were groundbreaking when they were first released and I believe they will all stand up to the test of time.
1.) The Strokes – Is This It (2001) – Download
This is probably number 1 on a lot of people’s lists. At least, I hope it is.
This album really set the tone for the 21st century, especially in rock music. The Strokes burst on to the scene and really took us back to basics with an album of fairly short songs, all fast-paced and catchy. The lyrics are also very engaging and offer an interesting perspective on the dilemmas of growing up in a big city.
The album is very in your face but the music is still melodic and well put-together.
The Strokes seemed to reset the clock for rock music in the same way Nirvana did in the early 90s. But with a bit of New York City style. With this album they set the tone for other “Indie Rock” bands to follow.
The title says it all – “Is This It”? Is this what the world has come to? Is this all that young people have to look forward too? Going out and getting drunk. Dead-end jobs. No excitement… Fucking, Green Day and Kylie Minogue?
2.) Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not (2006) – Download
The Arctic Monkeys burst on to the scene with the show-stopping debut album for which they won numerous awards.
Although they had been making noise with their demo album “Beneath The Boardwalk” they really hit the mainstream with this release and became, what seemed like, overnight sensations.
Taking a lot of inspiration from The Strokes they let their youthful energy and Alex Turner’s sarcastic yet insightful lyrics do the talking. Their fast-paced riffs went perfectly with the lyrics to summarise the feelings of an out-of-place teenager in the UK.
Alex drew a lot of inspiration from his home town, Sheffield – encapsulating the mundane nature of life and people just iving for the weekends.
Arctic Monkeys have went on the create some more great albums, evolving with each release but the raw energy and pure confidence in this album is what made it such a breathrough for the Arctic Monkeys.
3.) Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010) – Download
I get a lot of stick for being a fan of Kanye West. His controversial views and unapologetic confidence make his groundbreaking music a bitter pill to swallow for most people.
Maybe you just don’t like him, or his music but I think his genius is undeniable.
With this album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye showed a lot of maturity. Becoming more reflective and more honest while, at the same time, incorporating a new theme of hedonism and megalomania.
Despite this, Kanye is also a very soulful rapper and this album includes some of his most emotional work. For example, Runaway, Devil In A New Dress and Lost In The World. The album also includes some of his most assertive lyrics in Power and Hell Of A Life.
Despite Kanye’s ability to create great pop tunes he’s always tried to push the boundaries and progress as an artist. In my opinion, Kanye found the perfect balance between those two.
Before this album he relied more on his passion and innovation. Now he is becoming even more experimental and collaborating with even more people to take his music to the next level. Yeezus and The Life of Pablo give us a mere insight to the future of Kanye because the is still a lot more to come.
4.) Amy Winehouse – Back To Black (2006) – Download
In a world of pop music it is rare to find a singer who is so real yet so troubled. Amy’s stories of relationship woes, drug addiction and inner turmoil is what made her so controversial but, at the same time, so relatable.
Amy’s success meant she had to live her life in the public eye. She received a lot of criticism for her antics which is understandable but tremendously sad as she was not able to overcome her weaknesses to prove her doubters wrong.
Amy’s second studio album, Back To Black combines deep, poetic lyrics with an easy-listening motown backdrop courtesy of producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi. A collaboration which resulted in an album full of tension and anticipation with an undercurrent of sadness.
Amy had a fantastic voice and was a great performer – but you can say that about hundreds of singers. The reason I included Back To Black on this list is because there will never be another Amy Winehouse. She got in touch with her deepest feelings – her fears and her frustrations – to paint a breathtaking portrait of her life. A life which is in fact very similar to our lives – more than we would dare to admit
5.) The Libertines – Up The Bracket (2002) – Download
The Libertines’ debut album ‘Up The Bracket’ perfectly summarised the frustration of working-class Britain in the early 2000s. Like the debut albums of The Strokes and the Arctic Monkeys it’s fidgety, restless and gloriously antagonistic.
MGMT – Oracular Spectacular (2007) – Download
Maybe not an album which I would cite as one of my favourites but one I felt like I should include on this post. There are some great songs on this album but some which aren’t so good. MGMT have went on to become more well-rounded and even more experimental but their debut album Oracular Spectacular is what capturaed the public’s imagination and propelled them to success.
Musically, the album is good – uplifting and very catchy but what makes the album so memorable, for me, is the message.
As a young, confused teenager – struggling to come to terms with my uncertain future – this album provided some sort of clarity.
As I swayed franticly somewhere between the roads of conformity and rebellion – this album taught me that life was not about those things. Life is about freedom and about creating your own path. About being inspired and doing something great.
I can only assume this album had a similar affect on thousands of distracted kids throughout the world and that’s why I have chosen to share it.
Kings of Leon – Youth and Young Manhood (2003) – Download
Not an album which I would describe as century-defining or deeply profound but one of my favourite albums of the 21st century so far. From one of my favourite bands.
This is not King’s of Leon’s most successful album nor is it one where they are particularly experimental or progressive with the music – but it’s real. In Caleb’s voice there’s emotion and in his stories there is struggle and cynicism – with a glimmer of hope. The music, in my opinion, is just a backdrop for those stories.
Since then, Kings of Leon have went through more experimental phases. Caleb’s songwriting has evolved a great deal as he has become more reflective and more accomplished – however, from all of King of Leon’s albums this is probably my favourite.
The Amazing Snakeheads – Amphetamine Ballads (2014) – Download
For anyone who’s never heard this band (I doubt many of you have) – prepare yourself. It’s menacing, it’s cocky and it’s brilliant. It’s so raw, so simple yet it’s relevance is undeniable.
When everyone in music is trying to stand out amongst the crowd, The Snakeheads do that but make it seem so effortless.
Again, I don’t recommend this album based on its groundbreaking musical experimentation or its profound social commentary – it’s just fucking brilliant. And I think it makes a mockery of almost every band out there.
Also I should point out that the band split up shorty after they released this album but singer/songwriter Dale Barclay has went on to form a new band And Yet It Moves – so you should check them out also.
To me, The Snakeheads show that music doesn’t have to be about fancy guitar licks or deep, confessional lyrics – it’s about expression. Whether that’s expressing love or pure anger – as long as it’s real it is often relatable.
Although the band were known for their heavy, often hypnotic guitar riffs – the album is much more than that. It includes some more mellow, more intricate songs such as Every Guy Wants To Be Her Baby and Tiger By The Tail.