Recording artist Lorde attends the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sept. 20, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

100 best albums of the 21st century, according to critics

October 28, 2022
Isaac Brekken // Getty Images for iHeartMedia

100 best albums of the 21st century, according to critics

Every generation is defined by pop culture—the slang and style, and music and movies that emerge during their time. Of course, it's easy to pick out groundbreaking pieces of art in hindsight, but it can be more difficult to recognize them in the moment. How will Taylor Swift's behemoth 2023-2024 Eras Tour hold up in history, or Beyoncé's genre-bending 2024 album "Cowboy Carter"?

We may not be able to answer those questions yet, but we can get insights into how recent albums are holding up so far. To do so, Stacker set out to find the best albums of the 21st century, compiling data from Metacritic, as of October 2022. Albums were ranked according to their Metascore, which represents an aggregation of critic reviews. Only albums with seven or more reviews were eligible. EPs, box sets, reissues, and compilations were not considered.

On this list, there are plenty of artists music lovers of many generations will recognize, from Bob Dylan for '60s kids to Fiona Apple for those who grew up in the '90s.  

Some of the top albums—like country's Ashley Monroe, Jamey Johnson, and the legendary Loretta Lynn—might get listeners to sing along or even forget about the outside world for a few minutes. At the other end of the spectrum, there's no shortage of music for getting angry and letting it all out, from Napalm Death's growling grindcore to Deafheaven's black metal.

Discover artists who honor their predecessors who helped shape the world we live in today. Poet Jamila Woods, for example, offers thoughtful rhythm and blues portraits of legends like James Baldwin and Muddy Waters. Or, you can be transported far away by the West African sounds of Ali Farka Touré and Bassekou Kouyaté, or go back in time with Woody Guthrie's recordings from the 1940s. If you're looking for something to get you moving, give a listen to the hip-hop sounds of Missy Elliott, the pounding dubstep by Britain's Burial, or Frank Ocean's lively rhythm and blues, neo-soul, and pop collection.

Read on for the 100 best albums of the 21st century so far, according to critics.

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#100. 'Black Origami' by Jlin

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: May 19, 2017

Rhythm-driven and percussive, this is the second album by Gary, Indiana, producer Jlin. She describes her music as "origami, only I'm replacing paper with sound." She attributes a big influence to her collaboration with dancer and movement artist Avril Stormy Unger.

#99. 'Sawayama' by Rina Sawayama

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: April 17, 2020

The debut nu-metal album by Japanese-British pop singer Rina Sawayama, released after a number of singles, is youthful and exuberant. It draws on racist and stereotyped comments made by recording executives, with the album's lead song pulling no punches.

#98. 'RTJ4' by Run the Jewels

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: June 3, 2020

The fourth album by rap duo Run The Jewels explores themes of oppression, police violence, and systemic racism, mixing feelings of rage with solidarity. The musical pair consists of politically outspoken rapper Killer Mike of Atlanta and Brooklyn rapper, producer, and remixer El-P. Also appearing on the album are R&B's Mavis Staples and Pharell.

#97. 'Bloodmoon: I' by Converge

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Nov. 19, 2021

Metalcore band Converge crafted their 10th studio album in collaboration with musicians Chelsea Wolfe, Ben Chisholm, and Steve Brodsky. The result is a multilayered masterpiece with symphonic components and experimental dirges. Three separate lead vocalists lend their powerful pipes to the title track.

#96. 'Miss E... So Addictive' by Missy Elliott

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: May 15, 2001

Missy Elliott's "Miss E… So Addictive" is a party album of electronic dance music. Making guest appearances on the hip-hop star's album are Ludacris, Eve, Busta Rhymes, Lil' Mo, and Jay-Z.

#95. 'HoboSapiens' by John Cale

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Sept. 7, 2004

Welsh avant-garde rocker John Cale was a founder of the influential 1960s band Velvet Underground, which also included singer and guitarist Lou Reed. The title of "HoboSapiens" comes from an essay, never published, that Cale wrote about Bob Dylan.

#94. 'Apex Predator - Easy Meat' by Napalm Death

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Jan. 27, 2015

This is the 15th album by the British band Napalm Death, whose grindcore sound is visceral and violent. Dissonant, guttural, and shrill, the tracks include "Cesspits," "Dear Slum Landlord," and "Metaphorically Screw You." The band founded in 1981 in Birmingham, England, is considered the founder of the extreme metal sound.

#93. 'LEGACY! LEGACY!' by Jamila Woods

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: May 10, 2019

Chicago poet, singer, and songwriter Jamila Woods mixes political commentary with rhythm and blues on "LEGACY! LEGACY!" Each song is a tribute to and portrait of a legend—James Baldwin, Eartha Kitt, Muddy Waters, Zora Neale Hurston, and others.

#92. 'Modern Times' by Bob Dylan

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: August 29, 2006

"Modern Times" was the 32nd studio album by the American icon Bob Dylan, who produced it himself under the name Jack Frost. He plays guitar, keyboard, and harmonica on the album, which is considered part of a set with his albums "Time Out of Mind" and "Love and Theft."

#91. 'Kiwanuka' by Michael Kiwanuka

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Nov. 1, 2019

The mournful, lilting "Kiwanuka" is Londoner Michael Kiwanuka's third album. His song "Cold Little Heart" from an earlier album will be instantly recognizable to fans of HBO's "Big Little Lies" as the theme song of the hit miniseries.

#90. 'Eternity, In Your Arms' by Creeper

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: March 24, 2017

"Eternity, in Your Arms" was the long-awaited full-length debut album by the English punk band Creeper after years of touring and extended play releases. To build momentum ahead of the album release, the band staged a treasure hunt, laying clues for fans to follow in their hometown of Southampton.

#89. 'Honey' by Robyn

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Oct. 26, 2018

"Honey" was the sixth solo album by the Swedish pop star Robyn. The single "Honey" created buzz when it was played during the credits of an episode of television's "Girls" final season. Robyn has designed a limited-edition clothing collection for tennis star Björn Borg's fashion company.

#88. 'Since I Left You' by The Avalanches

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Nov. 6, 2001

The Avalanches from Melbourne, Australia, put together more than 900 music samples on "Since I Left You." Their genre, using bits of existing sounds and music to weave a new creation, has been dubbed plunderphonics.

#87. 'Neon Golden' by The Notwist

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Feb. 25, 2003

The Notwist mixes indie rock, pop, and electronica on its sixth album, "Neon Golden." The German band features vocalist and guitarist Markus Acher and his brother Micha, who plays bass and horns.

#86. 'Rounds' by Four Tet

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: May 6, 2003

"Rounds" by England's electronic musician and producer Kieran Hebden, who records under the name Four Tet, is made up entirely of music samples. He recorded it in his London apartment using a home computer and a standard hi-fi system.

#85. 'RTJ2' by Run the Jewels

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Oct. 27, 2014

"RTJ2" was named the best hip-hop album of the year by Rolling Stone. After jokingly promising they would make a remix using cat sounds if enough customers pre-ordered, fans complied, and Run the Jewels' Killer Mike and El-P came out with "Meow the Jewels."

#84. 'Like a Rose' by Ashley Monroe

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: March 5, 2013

The second album by Knoxville, Tennessee's Ashley Monroe has all the earmarks of classic country, with songs about loneliness, heartbreak, betrayal, and lost love. It was co-produced by country megastar Vince Gill. Monroe is part of the vocal trio Pistol Annies, with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley.

#83. 'The Dusk in Us' by Converge

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Nov. 3, 2017

The ninth album by metalcore's Converge, "The Dusk in Us" moves beyond the personal betrayals and despair of the band's earlier work into broader looks at police brutality, war, and violence. A stand-out is "Arkhipov Calm," drawn from the story of Soviet Naval officer Vasili Arkhipov, who refused to fire nuclear weapons from a submarine in 1962 and helped keep the Cuban missile crisis from blowing up into an all-out war.

#82. 'St. Vincent' by St. Vincent

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Feb. 25, 2014

American singer-songwriter St. Vincent, aka Texan Annie Clark, toured with Sufjan Stevens before setting out on her own in 2006. Her fifth album won the guitarist and vocalist a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.

#81. 'I Love You Jennifer B' by Jockstrap

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Sept. 9, 2022

On the heels of the 2020 EP "Wicked City," U.K.-based musical duo Jockstrap presents their studio album debut. It features occasional backing from an 18-piece orchestra and spans multiple genres without losing a sense of focus. Pitchfork dubbed it some of the Best New Music of 2022 in their 8.4/10 review.

#80. 'Z' by My Morning Jacket

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Oct. 4, 2005

"Z" is a pop-rock collection by My Morning Jacket. The guitar, keyboards, and vocals reflect their rural jam-band and church-music roots in Louisville, Kentucky.

#79. 'Spaces' by Nils Frahm

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Nov. 19, 2013

"Spaces" is a collection of live recordings by Berlin's composer and pianist Nils Frahm. Some of the works were made on reel-to-reel recorders and cassette decks, accented with the sounds of audiences coughing, cell phones ringing, and the banging of a toilet brush on piano strings.

#78. 'XTRMNTR' by Primal Scream

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: May 2, 2000

Primal Scream, a punk electronica band hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, pulled from techno garage rock and the dreamy reverb-laden genre of shoegaze in creating "XTRMNTR." The collection is heavy on percussion and political diatribes.

#77. 'græ' by Moses Sumney

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: May 15, 2020

Singer-songwriter Moses Sumney released his second studio album, "græ," as a double album: The first part was digitally released in February and the complete project was released three months later in May. Singles from "græ" include "Virile," "Polly," "Me in 20 Years," "Cut Me," and "Bless Me."

#76. 'Untrue' by Burial

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Nov. 6, 2007

"Untrue" is an album of electronic dance club and rave music by Britain's Burial. It's considered a top album in the genre of dubstep, a London-born sound heavy on drums, bass, and synthesizers.

#75. 'Psychodrama' by Dave

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: March 8, 2019

"Psychodrama" was the debut album by Dave, a South London rapper whose full name is David Orobosa Omoregie. The concept album is based on the style of psychotherapy that utilizes patient roleplay and features sections of spoken words. Part of the song "Drama" is a recorded conversation with his brother, who is serving a life sentence in prison for murder.

#74. 'Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty' by Big Boi

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: July 6, 2010

"Sir Lucious Left Foot" marked the debut solo rap and funk album of Outkast's Big Boi. Outkast's label Jive would not allow Big Boi's partner Andre 3000 from the popular hip-hop duo to appear on the album.

#73. 'Jama Ko' by Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: April 2, 2013

"Jama Ko" was the third album by Mali's Bassekou Kouyaté and his band Ngoni Ba. His sons Moustafa and Mamadou play ngonis, traditional West African lutes, and American blues artist Taj Mahal adds vocals to the album.

#72. 'London Zoo' by The Bug

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: August 12, 2008

The sounds of dub, dance music, reggae, and grime come together on "London Zoo," by The Bug, aka producer Kevin Martin. Aptly named tracks include "Angry," "Insane," and "Too Much Pain."

#71. 'Holy Hell' by Architects

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Nov. 9, 2018

The eighth studio album by the metal band Architects, "Holy Hell" is the first without one of its founders, Tom Searle, a guitarist and lyricist who died of cancer in 2016. His twin brother Dan Searle, the band's drummer, said the album was about coping with, living with, and learning from pain.

#70. 'Funeral' by Arcade Fire

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Sept. 14, 2004

"Funeral" was the debut album by Montreal's indie-rock band Arcade Fire, featuring husband and wife artists Win Butler and Regine Chassagne. The name and emotional sound derived from the number of family members of the band who had recently died and were remembered in its liner notes.

#69. 'Alice' by Tom Waits

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: May 7, 2002

"Alice" is a collection of 15 songs that Tom Waits and his wife Kathleen Brennan wrote for an avant-garde opera of the same name. The story was loosely based on the relationship between author Lewis Carroll and the girl who was his muse for "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." Waits called the tunes "adult songs for children, or children's songs for adults."

#68. 'Candi Staton' by Candi Staton

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Feb. 24, 2004

"Candi Staton" consists of 26 tracks by the soul singer recorded from 1969 to 1973, when she was recording southern R&B at the Muscle Shoals studio. The album includes her versions of Otis Redding's "That's How Strong My Love Is," Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man," and "In the Ghetto," first recorded by Elvis Presley. Raised as a gospel singer, Staton is known for her 1976 disco hit "Young Hearts Run Free."

#67. 'Original Pirate Material' by The Streets

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Oct. 22, 2002

The debut album by The Streets, a music project led by British rapper Mike Skinner, "Original Pirate Material" fused street poetry, hip-hop, grime, and house music. It has an everyman sound chronicling English working-class life.

#66. 'Send Them To Coventry [Mixtape]' by Pa Salieu

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Nov. 13, 2020

British hip-hop artist Pa Salieu draws upon his turbulent North Coventry upbringing on this acclaimed debut mixtape. Wrangling in a slew of different producers and collaborators, it synergizes various musical subgenres. U.K.-based Dazed Magazine named it their favorite album of 2020.

#65. 'Punisher' by Phoebe Bridgers

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: June 18, 2020

Critics described Phoebe Bridgers' second solo album, "Punisher" as candid, multi-dimensional, and honest. Praised for its lyricism, the emo-folk project, which was released in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a hit with listeners, too, many of whom connected with the strong, emotional vibe of the record.

#64. 'Eve' by Rapsody

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: August 23, 2019

Rapper Rapsody, born Marlanna Evans, from Snow Hill, North Carolina, called her album "Eve" a love letter to all Black women. Each of the 16 songs is named for a hero—"Michelle," "Myrlie," "Oprah," "Sojourner," and more. The album has been used as course material at the University of North Carolina and Ohio State University.

#63. 'No Cities to Love' by Sleater-Kinney

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Jan. 20, 2015

"No Cities to Love" was the eighth album by the all-woman trio Sleater-Kinney. Filled with personal and political post-punk pieces, it was released following a decade-long hiatus by the band.

#62. 'Jimmy Lee' by Raphael Saadiq

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: August 23, 2019

"Jimmy Lee" by soul musician and producer Raphael Saadiq takes a look at dark topics of drug addiction, family heartbreak, and mass incarceration. The album was named for Saadiq's older brother, who contracted HIV and later died of a heroin overdose.

#61. 'Carrie & Lowell' by Sufjan Stevens

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: March 31, 2015

Sufjan Stevens' starkly personal "Carrie & Lowell" is dedicated to and inspired by his mother and stepfather, Carrie and Lowell Brams. His mother, who was bipolar and suffered from schizophrenia, abandoned Stevens when he was very young, and she died in 2012. His stepfather founded the record label Asthmatic Kitty to produce Stevens's albums.

#60. 'Illinois' by Sufjan Stevens

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: July 5, 2005

"Illinois" is a follow-up to Sufjan Stevens's album "Michigan," part of his 50-state project that never materialized in full. Topics of the odes to the Midwestern state range from homegrown poet Carl Sandburg to serial killer John Wayne Gacy Jr. The singer-songwriter plays 25 instruments on the album.

#59. 'From Here We Go Sublime' by The Field

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: April 3, 2007

Sweden's The Field, musician Axel Willner, debuted with the album "From Here We Go Sublime." He pulled from the electronic shoegaze sound, techno, and repetitive trance music.

#58. 'We Got It From Here … Thank You 4 Your Service' by A Tribe Called Quest

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Nov. 11, 2016

The first studio album from hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest in 18 years is their sixth overall. It's also one of the last recordings to feature contributions from member Phife Dawg, who died mere months before its release. After topping the Billboard 200 chart, it went on to achieve Gold album certification.

#57. 'Is This It?' by The Strokes

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Oct. 9, 2001

"Is This It?"—the debut album by the rock band The Strokes—was recorded in six weeks in a basement in Manhattan's East Village neighborhood. The band released its newest album "The New Abnormal" in early April 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. The band said the prescient title came from a comment made by former California Gov. Jerry Brown during the 2018 wildfires.

#56. 'The Guitar Song' by Jamey Johnson

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Sept. 14, 2010

The third studio album from country artist Jamey Johnson divides 25 songs into two distinctive parts. It plays upon the concept of yin and yang while bringing an outlaw sensibility into the modern era. It earned a rare five-star rating on review website AllMusic.

#55. 'Blue Weekend' by Wolf Alice

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: June 4, 2021

The third studio album from British alt-rockers Wolf Alice was greeted with universal acclaim and a nomination for the esteemed Mercury Prize. Pitchfork critic Ian Cohen called it the "platonic ideal for contemporary big-tent rock music."

#54. 'Gold & Grey' by Baroness

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: June 14, 2019

"Gold & Grey" joins the metal band's discography of the "Red Album," "Blue Record," "Purple," and "Yellow & Green." In 2012, Baroness was involved in a bus accident in England that injured several members of the band and crew.

#53. 'The ArchAndroid' by Janelle Monáe

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: May 18, 2010

"The ArchAndroid" picks up with the seven-part concept series Metropolis that Janelle Monáe began on an earlier EP. Inspired by the German classic film "Metropolis" directed by Fritz Lang, it recounts the saga of an android who falls in love with a human.

#52. 'Sex, Death & The Infinite Void' by Creeper

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: July 31, 2020

English rock band Creeper's second offering, "Sex, Death & The Infinite Void" is a concept album about an angel, Roe, who falls in love with a human, Annabelle, and subsequently falls from grace. A stark departure in sound from their first album, the 2020 release is a more melodic punk-rock than horror punk, similar in sound to David Bowie and Roy Orbison.

#51. 'Grey Area' by Little Simz

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: March 1, 2019

Hip-hop artist Little Simz—Simbi Ajikawo of North London—has said "Grey Area" was based on young adulthood, when nothing is black and white. Featuring the single "Selfish," "Grey Area" was named Best British Album at the music's annual NME Awards 2020 in London, where she brought her mother onstage with her to collect the prize.

#50. 'Canto' by Los Super Seven

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: March 13, 2001

Los Super Seven, the Tex-Mex band that made "Canto," features David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos fame. The collection mixes old-world romance, Afro-Latin pop, jazz, Cuban, and South American sounds, and the band won a Grammy for Best Mexican American Music Performance.

#49. 'Renaissance' by Beyoncé

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: July 29, 2022

Beyoncé built hype for her seventh studio album through various social media platforms before dropping it in the middle of summer. Its propulsive execution pays direct homage to Black and queer music pioneers from the past and present alike. According to Queen Bey herself, it makes up part of a three-act project recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic.

#48. 'The Myth of the Happily Ever After' by Biffy Clyro

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Oct. 22, 2021

The ninth studio album from Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro is a companion piece to 2020's "A Celebration of Endings." It was recorded during the pandemic as an "emotional response to the turmoil of the past year," according to vocalist Simon Neil. A sense of newfound creative freedom persists from one epic track to the next.

#47. 'A Grand Don't Come For Free' by The Streets

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: May 18, 2004

"A Grand Don't Come for Free" spins the musical tale about losing and finding £1,000 and finding and losing a girlfriend along the way. The music of British hip-hop artist Mike Skinner, whose performance name is The Streets, mixes the sounds of ska, hip-hop, R&B, and garage music.

#46. 'Good Kid, M.A.A.D City' by Kendrick Lamar

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Oct. 22, 2012

"Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City" is a concept album by hip-hop's Kendrick Lamar as he depicts a day in his gritty hometown of Compton, California, south of downtown Los Angeles. He said the title was an acronym for "my angry adolescence divided" as well as, "my angel's on angel dust," a reference to a drug experience.

#45. 'Home, Like Noplace Is There' by The Hotelier

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Feb. 25, 2014

Described as emo revival and punk, " Home, Like Noplace Is There" was the breakout second album by The Hotelier of Worcester, Massachusetts. The band said it contained "some real dark stuff" drawn from several toxic and abusive years.

#44. 'Red (Taylor's Version)' by Taylor Swift

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Nov. 12, 2021

Taylor Swift rerecorded this genre-mashing confessional after her first six albums were sold out from under her. With the added benefit of maturity and reflection comes a different—and arguably fuller—presentation of the material. It contains all 30 songs intended for the original 2012 album, including an expanded 10-minute version of the track "All Too Well."

#43. 'Set My Heart on Fire Immediately' by Perfume Genius

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: May 15, 2020

An art-rock and punk album, "Set My Heart on Fire Immediately" contains influences from a dozen different genres, including synthpop, folk, and disco. Considered Perfume Genius' strongest work to date, the record explores themes like love, the erosion of the body, and queer culture.

#42. 'Speakerboxxx/The Love Below' by Outkast

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Sept. 23, 2003

"Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" by OutKast is divided into two albums, one by the duo's Big Boi and the other by André 3000, with contributions by actress Rosario Dawson and musicians CeeLo Green and Norah Jones. Featuring the huge hit "Hey Ya," the album cleaned up at the Grammys, winning Best Rap Album, Album of the Year, and Best Urban/Alternative Performance.

#41. 'Melodrama' by Lorde

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: June 16, 2017

"Melodrama," which dabbles in themes of romance, breaking up, and coming of age, is the sophomore album of New Zealand's Lorde. Her first album "Pure Heroine," released in 2013 when she was 16 years old, was an enormous hit and a double Grammy winner. The singer-songwriter was born Ella Yelich-O'Connor.

#40. 'Carnage' by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Feb. 25, 2021

"Carnage" was recorded during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, and Nick Cave describes it as "a brutal but very beautiful record nested in a communal catastrophe." Cave and Warren Ellis are bandmates in Bad Seeds, and they have composed a number of scores for movies, including the documentary "West of Memphis," the thriller "Hell or High Water," and the drama "Wind River."

#39. 'Titanic Rising' by Weyes Blood

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: April 5, 2019

Songwriter Natalie Mering, who records as Weyes Blood, sings of doom and faith with futuristic imagery on "Titanic Rising." It closes with the string instrumental "Nearer to Thee," a reference to the hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee" that the ship's band is said to have been playing as the Titanic sank.

#38. 'We're All Alone In This Together' by Dave

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: July 23, 2021

The sophomore album from British-Nigerian rapper Dave continues his thematic exploration of mental health and the Black experience. It reached #1 on the U.K. Album chart and yielded three top 10 singles on the U.K. Singles chart.

#37. 'Elephant' by The White Stripes

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: April 1, 2003

"Elephant" won two Grammys—Best Alternative Music Album and Best Rock Song—for its "Seven Nation Army." The White Stripes were a Detroit duo of Jack White and Meg White, who were former husband and wife, although they pretended publicly to be brother and sister.

#36. 'The Satanist' by Behemoth

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: Feb. 4, 2014

The 10th album by the Polish extreme metal band, "Satanist" was released after the leukemia diagnosis of Nergal, the group's frontman. He also faced charges of blasphemy after ripping up a Bible onstage, and the possibility of two years in prison. The case went to the Polish Supreme Court and the European Commission, which ruled in his favor. Charges were also brought claiming the band's merchandise design mocked the Polish coat of arms. The charges were dismissed.

#35. 'Channel Orange' by Frank Ocean

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: July 17, 2012

Frank Ocean wrote songs for stars like Brandy, Justin Bieber, and John Legend before making his hugely successful mixtape "Nostalgia" and then writing the songs for "Channel Orange." The popular album by the R&B singer-songwriter won high praise for its skilled vocals, engaging lyrics, and mix of rap, soul, and pop sounds.

#34. 'You Want It Darker' by Leonard Cohen

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: Oct. 21, 2016

"You Want It Darker" was released just weeks before Canada's poet songwriter Leonard Cohen died at age 82. It was produced by his son Adam Cohen, who also plays guitar, and features vocals by Alison Krauss.

#33. 'Boy In Da Corner' by Dizzee Rascal

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: Jan. 20, 2004

"Boy in Da Corner" was the debut album of teenaged Dizzee Rascal of East London. It's considered a masterpiece of grime, a British-born electronic dance genre. Rascal survived being stabbed six times in a gang fight in Cyprus two weeks before the album was released.

#32. 'Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It' by Rolo Tomassi

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: March 2, 2018

England's experimental band Rolo Tomassi mixes genres of indie rock, punk, and metal on "Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It." The vocals by Eva Spence stretch from tender singing to searing screams, amid pounding drums.

#31. 'Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards' by Tom Waits

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: Nov. 21, 2006

"Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards" contains 56 songs on three distinct discs by the American singer-songwriter known for his distinctive throaty vocals. "Brawlers" is rock and blues, "Bawlers" is ballads and lullabies, and "Bastards" is stories and experimental sounds. Waits said the collection had "a lot of songs that fell behind the stove while making dinner."

#30. 'Glow On' by Turnstile

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: August 27, 2021

Baltimore-based hardcore outfit Turnstile brought in Dr. Dre protégé Mike Elizondo to produce their third studio album. It expands upon the band's sonic palette without veering too far away from their signature punk sound. Four singles paved the way for its release.

#29. 'Sunbather' by Deafheaven

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: June 11, 2013

Deafheaven "Sunbather" is filled with black metal's trademark screaming vocals and crashing percussion. The San Francisco Bay Area band mixed in the sounds of shoegaze, a musical genre of distortion, reverb, and volume.

#28. 'Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down' by Ry Cooder

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: August 29, 2011

American singer, songwriter, and musician Ry Cooder protests bank bailouts, inequality, and war in his album "Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down." Cooder produced the hugely popular "Buena Vista Social Club" album of Cuban musicians in 1996.

#27. 'Ants From Up There' by Black Country, New Road

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: Feb. 4, 2022

Seven-piece British rock outfit Black Country, New Road followed an acclaimed studio album debut with this sophomore standout. It features tighter songwriting and incorporates both string instruments and horns. Frontman Isaac Wood unexpectedly left the band just before its release.

#26. 'Lemonade' by Beyoncé

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: April 23, 2016

Beyoncé's "Lemonade," her sixth album released along with an hour-long film, tackles issues of infidelity, family, relationships, and race. In the hour-long film released with the album, the grandmother of her husband Jay-Z is shown at her 90th birthday party saying she had been given lemons and "made lemonade."

#25. 'Prioritise Pleasure' by Self Esteem

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: Oct. 22, 2021

British singer-songwriter Rebecca Taylor—aka Self Esteem—conjures personal themes and bombastic melodies on her sophomore album. Various critics have hailed it as a pop masterpiece that picks up where previous artists such as Madonna and Britney Spears left off.

#24. 'Supernova' by Nova Twins

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: June 17, 2022

The second studio album from British duo Nova Twins peaked at #27 on the U.K. Album chart and was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize. It spans a variety of aggressive rock styles while occasionally dipping its toes into hip-hop and EDM.

#23. 'On the Impossible Past' by The Menzingers

- Metascore: 93
- Release date: Feb. 21, 2012

The Menzingers are a popular punk band from Scranton, Pennsylvania. "The Impossible Past" is their debut album with Epitaph Records after two indie releases.

#22. 'My Dusty Road' by Woody Guthrie

- Metascore: 93
- Release date: August 25, 2009

"My Dusty Road" is a four-disc set of works by the legendary American songwriter. The 54 tracks come from original master recordings made in the 1940s, and the set includes previously unreleased songs, a 68-page book with liner notes, and copies of Guthrie's lyric sheets.

#21. 'Love And Theft' by Bob Dylan

- Metascore: 93
- Release date: Sept. 11, 2001

"Love and Theft," the 31st studio album by Bob Dylan, was released on Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Some hardcore fans and conspiracy theorists have argued that premonitions were hidden in the lyrics. The album, filled with sounds of blues and swing, won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

#20. 'Live At Reading' by Nirvana

- Metascore: 93
- Release date: Nov. 3, 2009

Before the release of "Live at Reading," recordings of Nirvana's famous Aug. 30, 1992, British concert were one of rock 'n' roll's most popular bootlegs. Making fun of rumors concerning his health, frontman Kurt Cobain arrived on stage in a wheelchair and wearing a hospital gown.

#19. 'Room 25' by Noname

- Metascore: 93
- Release date: Sept. 14, 2018

Noname, a Chicago rapper born Fatimah Warner, made "Room 25" to follow up her mixtape "Telefone." She financed its production herself by touring.

#18. 'A Crow Looked at Me' by Mount Eerie

- Metascore: 93
- Release date: March 24, 2017

Songwriter Phil Elverum, who records under the name Mount Eerie, made the concept album "A Crow Looked at Me" in tribute to his late wife Genevieve Castrée. She died of pancreatic cancer in 2015, leaving him with their daughter born a year and a half earlier. He sings about grief, memory, loss, and gratitude.

#17. 'Madvillainy' by Madvillain

- Metascore: 93
- Release date: March 23, 2004

"Madvillainy" is a collaborative creation of rapper MF Doom and producer Madlib, using the name Madvillain. The album was enormously popular, and fans have been hoping for a reunion of the two stars of underground hip-hop ever since.

#16. 'Motomami' by Rosalía

- Metascore: 94
- Release date: March 18, 2022

The third studio album from Spanish singer Rosalía is a creative tour de force that draws upon a wide variety of genres and influences. It features contributions from hit-makers such as Pharrell Williams and The Weeknd, among others. She performed the singles "La Fama" and "Chicken Teriyaki" on "Saturday Night Live" in the week leading up to its release.

#15. 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' by Kanye West

- Metascore: 94
- Release date: Nov. 22, 2010

Kanye West's fifth album "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" has an array of guest appearances including Nicki Minaj, Elton John, Fergie, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, and Jay-Z. The album failed to be nominated for the Grammys' Album or Record of the Year, seen by many fans as a snub at the volatile artist.

#14. 'Savane' by Ali Farka Touré

- Metascore: 94
- Release date: July 25, 2006

"Savane," the final solo studio album by Mali's national hero Ali Farka Touré, was released after his death. The African blues guitarist, who was the first of his family's 10 children to live past childhood, spent his last days in Niafunke, in the northern desert on the Niger River, where he was mayor. The songs are mostly sung in Malian dialects.

#13. 'Skeleton Tree' by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

- Metascore: 95
- Release date: Sept. 9, 2016

"Skeleton Tree" was recorded as Australian rocker Nick Cave was mourning the loss of his 15-year-old son, who died from falling off a cliff in England, although most of its dark lyrics were written before the accident. It was the 16th album by Cave and the Bad Seeds.

#12. 'Conflict Of Interest' by Ghetts

- Metascore: 95
- Release date: Feb. 19, 2021

The third studio album by rapper Ghetts aka Justin Clarke is his first on a major recording label. It's filled with gritty stories of life in East London, and the artist mixes hip-hop sound with funk, strings, and horns.

#11. 'Black Messiah' by D'Angelo

- Metascore: 95
- Release date: Dec. 15, 2014

"Black Messiah" was released by the R&B star D'Angelo following a 14-year absence during which he struggled with personal troubles, including addiction. Filled with protest songs, the album arrived amid political turmoil over police brutality after the killings of two unarmed black men—Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

#10. 'Rough and Rowdy Ways' by Bob Dylan

- Metascore: 95
- Release date: June 19, 2020

When Bob Dylan released "Rough and Rowdy Ways" in 2020, it marked the first time in eight years that he'd given the world new original music. A quick listen reveals the prolific Dylan hasn't lost his touch, with each track containing the myths, magic, and truths we've come to expect from the singer-songwriter.

#9. 'Stankonia' by Outkast

- Metascore: 95
- Release date: Oct. 31, 2000

"Stankonia" was the fourth album by the funky Outkast hip-hop duo. It won a Grammy for Best Rap Album, and the single "Ms. Jackson" won a Grammy for Best Performance by a Duo or Group.

#8. 'DAMN.' by Kendrick Lamar

- Metascore: 95
- Release date: April 14, 2017

Not only did "DAMN." win a Grammy for Best Rap Album, but it was also the first nonclassical, nonjazz album to win a Pulitzer Prize. The committee said the album had "vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism" that captured "the complexity of modern African American life."

#7. 'Histoire de Melody Nelson' by Serge Gainsbourg

- Metascore: 96
- Release date: March 24, 2009

"Histoire de Melody Nelson" was a remastered rerelease of a 1971 rock album by France's Serge Gainsbourg for a U.S. audience. The concept album, just 28 minutes long, features his lover and muse, iconic actress Jane Birkin, posed on the cover.

#6. 'Ghosteen' by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

- Metascore: 96
- Release date: Oct. 4, 2019

Goth rocker Nick Cave described "Ghosteen" as having two acts. Songs on the first half were the children and songs on the second half were their parents, he said. The album, his 17th with the Bad Seeds band, is imbued with his grief over the death of his teenage son four years earlier.

#5. 'To Pimp A Butterfly' by Kendrick Lamar

- Metascore: 96
- Release date: March 16, 2015

The working title of Kendrick Lamar's second major label studio release was "Tu Pimp a Caterpillar" in honor of the late rapper Tupac Shakur. Touching on highly personal topics like fame, depression, and death, "To Pimp a Butterfly" scored Lamar five Grammys, including Best Rap Album.

#4. 'Van Lear Rose' by Loretta Lynn

- Metascore: 97
- Release date: April 27, 2004

Produced by Jack White of The White Stripes, "Van Lear Rose" was hailed as one of Loretta Lynn's best albums. It was the 39th studio album by the country-music legend from Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, who was married at 13 and had four children by age 18. Featuring the song "Miss Being Mrs." about the death of her husband, it won Grammys for Best Country Album and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.

#3. 'SMiLE' by Brian Wilson

- Metascore: 97
- Release date: Sept. 28, 2004

Former Beach Boy Brian Wilson made "SMiLE" from the band's unfinished 1967 album "Smile," recreating songs that include a lively, pared-down version of "Good Vibrations." Wilson won his first-ever Grammy—Best Rock Instrumental Performance—for the album's song "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow."

#2. 'Fetch the Bolt Cutters' by Fiona Apple

- Metascore: 98
- Release date: April 17, 2020

"Fetch the Bolt Cutters" is the first album to be released by singer/songwriter Fiona Apple in eight years. It was recorded in the house where the reclusive artist has lived for several years. Its title comes from a line uttered by a detective played by Gillian Anderson in the British mystery series "The Fall," as police were trying to rescue a kidnap victim.

#1. 'Ten Freedom Summers' by Wadada Leo Smith

- Metascore: 99
- Release date: May 22, 2012

"Ten Freedom Summers" is a 19-piece, four-disc set by jazz trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith. It is centered on 10 years of the civil rights movement, from the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that said racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which made discrimination illegal).

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