100 best albums of the 21st century

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October 23, 2020
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100 best albums of the 21st century

Entering the 21st century, music was just beginning to be consumed en masse online. CDs were still the main source to listen to tunes, but the rise of Napster and file sharing networks would soon change the game. Along with this shift, musical styles and compositions also changed, and bands adjusted to a market that could consume music with the click of a mouse. More complex albums emerged, ones that tinkered with their own new technologies.

To chronicle the past 20 years, Stacker compiled data on the top 100 albums of the 21st century according to Best Ever Albums, which ranks albums according to their appearance and performance on 40,000 editorial and data-based charts, e.g., Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Billboard, and more. The Best Ever Albums score, as of Oct. 13, is derived from a formula that weighs how many charts an album has appeared on and how high it was on each of those charts, and awards points accordingly. For a more in-depth methodology, click here.

The list is heavy on indie rockers from Canada and the United States, and West Coast rappers that redefined hip-hop artistry. Many songs went on to be used in commercials and movie soundtracks, and one specific track on a revered album led to a lawsuit from Cat Stevens. Learn these backstories and more, like how much a landmark “Funeral” cost to produce, and the band that recorded its smash record in a farmhouse with walls lined with tin foil.

So get ready to craft a playlist of melodic love songs and danceable tunes that recreate the feeling of sweaty standing-room concerts in Brooklyn. Continue reading to find out if your favorite album of the past two decades made the list. Be sure to check out other similar Stacker stories like Best Grateful Dead albums of all time.

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#100. Good News for People Who Love Bad News by Modest Mouse

- Best Ever Albums score: 5,761
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 80
- Rank all-time: #347
- Rank in decade: #58
- Rank in 2004: #6
- Country: United States

In 2004, a new wave of indie rock was reaching the masses, led by bands like Modest Mouse, even though they were signed to Epic, a big label. The singles “Float On” and “The Ocean Breathes Salty” received mainstream airplay, and the album was described by the New York Times as the best Modest Mouse album yet. Within months of its release, “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” went platinum.

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#99. Innerspeaker by Tame Impala

- Best Ever Albums score: 5,777
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
- Rank all-time: #346
- Rank in decade: #42
- Rank in 2010: #10
- Country: Australia

Tame Impala’s debut studio album sounded “like John Lennon trapped in an amber of dive-bombing synth and phaser-coated guitar,” according to Pitchfork. The brainchild of Australian musician Kevin Parker, Tame Impala’s lead single was “Solitude is Bliss” and the accompanying music video featured a man stumbling through chaos.

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#98. Benji by Sun Kil Moon

- Best Ever Albums score: 5,787
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 80
- Rank all-time: #345
- Rank in decade: #41
- Rank in 2014: #3
- Country: United States

Mark Kozelek, better known as Sun Kil Moon, made the album “Benji,” which has been described as “abrasive as Pharmakon, as hauntingly emotive as Dean Blunt, and as disorienting as Oneohtrix Point Never.” The Sun Kil Moon moniker is a tribute to a Korean fighter, and Kozelek’s songs often reference boxing.

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#97. ( ) by Sigur Rós

- Best Ever Albums score: 5,813
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #342
- Rank in decade: #57
- Rank in 2002: #8
- Country: Iceland

Described as having unsettling, under-the-skin beauty, this 2002 album by Icelandic band Sigur Rós was a breakthrough. The music video for single “Untitled” depicted a post-apocalyptic world with children frolicking around in gas masks, and won the MTV Europe Music Award for best video.

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#96. The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me by Brand New

- Best Ever Albums score: 5,865
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
- Rank all-time: #340
- Rank in decade: #56
- Rank in 2006: #5
- Country: United States

The Long Island rock band Brand New created an album in 2006 that Alternative Press said was “beyond anything that any band in this scene are currently creating.” The single “Sic Transit Gloria...Glory Fades,” is a reference to the Wes Anderson film “Rushmore.” This album was Brand New’s major label debut on Interscope Records.

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#95. Chutes Too Narrow by The Shins

- Best Ever Albums score: 5,975
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
- Rank all-time: #334
- Rank in decade: #55
- Rank in 2003: #5
- Country: United States

Before The Shins received Natalie Portman’s approval as a band to change your life, they released 2003’s “Chutes Too Narrow.” Lead singer James Mercer was credited as showcasing a “brave voice and ebullient delivery” with songs about protest and ontogeny.

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#94. Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown

- Best Ever Albums score: 6,026
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank all-time: #331
- Rank in decade: #40
- Rank in 2016: #5
- Country: United States

Rapper Danny Brown’s fourth album “Atrocity Exhibition” featured Kendrick Lamar and B-Real, and production from hip-hop vets like The Alchemist. The album made many Best of 2016 lists, and showcased Brown’s ability to rap over many styles of beats; he once said he could rap over two pots scraping each other.

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#93. Takk... by Sigur Rós

- Best Ever Albums score: 6,078
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #327
- Rank in decade: #54
- Rank in 2005: #5
- Country: Iceland

The follow-up to “( ),” this album made an impact on American music charts and increased the Icelandic band’s mainstream popularity. “Takk...” featured the song “Hoppípolla,” which was used in commercials.

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#92. The King of Limbs by Radiohead

- Best Ever Albums score: 6,133
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 76
- Rank all-time: #326
- Rank in decade: #39
- Rank in 2011: #5
- Country: United Kingdom

Radiohead is one of the most critically-acclaimed bands of the past 25 years for its ability to evolve and experiment, but “The King of Limbs” divided some critics at first. PopMatters poignantly wrote that there’s always something more to Radiohead, and the album has seemingly gained more acceptance with age.

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#91. Silent Alarm by Bloc Party

- Best Ever Albums score: 6,165
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 77
- Rank all-time: #325
- Rank in decade: #53
- Rank in 2005: #4
- Country: United Kingdom

British band Bloc Party skyrocketed to fame with 2005’s “Silent Alarm.” The album includes mellow ballads, danceable rhythms, and blaring rock anthems—“So Here We Are,” “Banquet,” and “Helicopter” are standouts. Two original members of the band eventually left, but lead singer Kele Okereke continued on, and spent 2019 touring and exclusively playing “Silent Alarm.”

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#90. The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do by Fiona Apple

- Best Ever Albums score: 6,194
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
- Rank all-time: #323
- Rank in decade: #38
- Rank in 2012: #7
- Country: United States

Fiona Apple doesn’t release music as much as most artists, but when she does it becomes a major event. The Los Angeles Times said this album is essential listening for anyone interested in popular music as art. The album was propelled by songs like “Werewolf,” which highlighted Apple’s unique voice with the sounds of children playing in the background.

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#89. Strawberry Jam by Animal Collective

- Best Ever Albums score: 6,237
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
- Rank all-time: #321
- Rank in decade: #52
- Rank in 2007: #8
- Country: United States

Animal Collective’s brand of experimental pop peaked with 2007’s “Strawberry Jam.” Pitchfork, which ranked it the sixth best album of the year, said it was a kaleidoscopic swirl of surreal strangeness.

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#88. Sea Change by Beck

- Best Ever Albums score: 6,391
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 80
- Rank all-time: #314
- Rank in decade: #51
- Rank in 2002: #7
- Country: United States

Beck was introduced to audiences as a “Loser” in 1994, but is now recognized as one of music’s most innovative artists. “Sea Change” was seen as a more serious, acoustic-tinged album, but that didn’t hurt Beck’s sales, as the album went certified gold. Beck was praised for his rich, often haunting, baritone on the album.

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#87. Brothers by The Black Keys

- Best Ever Albums score: 6,395
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank all-time: #313
- Rank in decade: #37
- Rank in 2010: #9
- Country: United States

The Black Keys broke through with 2010’s “Brothers,” which included production by Danger Mouse. The album brought home the group’s first Grammy, thanks to the upbeat rock jam “Tighten Up.”

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#86. The Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens

- Best Ever Albums score: 6,462
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 80
- Rank all-time: #312
- Rank in decade: #36
- Rank in 2010: #8
- Country: United States

Sufjan Stevens fans had to wait years for a follow-up full-length album to his critically-acclaimed 2005 album “Illinois,” but “The Age of Adz” delivered with a new electronic sound. Stevens said that he was sick of his previous musical style.

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#85. Toxicity by System Of A Down

- Best Ever Albums score: 6,513
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 78
- Rank all-time: #307
- Rank in decade: #50
- Rank in 2001: #9
- Country: United States

System Of A Down’s second album went platinum, boosted by its trademark heavy metal sound and elements like jazz and Armenian music. The single “Chop Suey” remains a crowd pleaser, and the band landed on the radar of acts outside of rock, like RZA of Wu-Tang Clan.

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#84. Let England Shake by PJ Harvey

- Best Ever Albums score: 6,595
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 80
- Rank all-time: #303
- Rank in decade: #35
- Rank in 2011: #4
- Country: United Kingdom

Although it was released in February 2011, music website Consequence of Sound immediately anointed “Let England Shake” as the album of the year. Many other publications would follow suit, and PJ Harvey won the prestigious Mercury Music Prize.

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#83. Damn. by Kendrick Lamar

- Best Ever Albums score: 6,822
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 80
- Rank all-time: #292
- Rank in decade: #34
- Rank in 2017: #1
- Country: United States

Kendrick Lamar whetted appetites across the West Coast on his features with artists like The Game, and then lived up to expectations with his debut album “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.” Lamar avoided the sophomore slump with “Damn.,” which Rolling Stone called a brilliant combination of the timeless and the modern, the old school and the next-level. For his work on “Damn.,” Lamar won the Pulitzer Prize for music.

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#82. Oracular Spectacular by MGMT

- Best Ever Albums score: 6,828
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank all-time: #290
- Rank in decade: #49
- Rank in 2007: #7
- Country: United States

MGMT’s debut album introduced a funky, electronic style missing from music. “Oracular Spectacular” was labeled as complex, but brilliant, and songs like “Time to Pretend” became a staple at Brooklyn warehouse parties.

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#81. White Blood Cells by The White Stripes

- Best Ever Albums score: 6,857
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
- Rank all-time: #288
- Rank in decade: #48
- Rank in 2001: #8
- Country: United States

After years of bubblegum pop stars and nu metal controlling air waves, The White Stripes helped usher in a new era of rock. The single “Fell In Love With a Girl,” off “White Blood Cells” was two minutes of intense, tightly-woven guitar rock, accompanied by a groundbreaking video directed by Michel Gondry.

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#80. xx by The xx

- Best Ever Albums score: 6,897
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 78
- Rank all-time: #287
- Rank in decade: #47
- Rank in 2009: #3
- Country: United Kingdom

The debut offering by The xx was described as brilliantly realized and contains not an inch of flab across its 11 songs. The sizzling LP was orchestrated by famous engineer Rodaidh McDonald, and seamlessly mixed R&B, rock, and electro.

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#79. Trouble Will Find Me by The National

- Best Ever Albums score: 7,061
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank all-time: #279
- Rank in decade: #33
- Rank in 2013: #7
- Country: United States

The National’s sixth album was praised for its impeccable sequencing and playing off their strengths. The lead single “Demons” emphasized lead singer Matt Berninger’s deep vocals and helped earn the band a Grammy nomination.

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#78. I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty

- Best Ever Albums score: 7,207
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
- Rank all-time: #278
- Rank in decade: #32
- Rank in 2015: #4
- Country: United States

This album by the former Fleet Foxes member contained many trademark folk sounds, but was very much a concept album. It’s full of contrasts, and is “so cynical it’s repulsive and so openhearted it hurts,” according to Pitchfork.

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#77. Room on Fire by The Strokes

- Best Ever Albums score: 7,233
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank all-time: #276
- Rank in decade: #46
- Rank in 2003: #4
- Country: United States

After their previous album set the music world ablaze, The Strokes showed musical maturity with 2003’s “Room on Fire.” The lead single “12:51” was an electro, synth-sounding hit, but tracks like “Reptilia” played true to the band’s rock roots.

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#76. You Forgot It in People by Broken Social Scene

- Best Ever Albums score: 7,330
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank all-time: #272
- Rank in decade: #45
- Rank in 2002: #6
- Country: Canada

Canadian rock conglomerate Broken Social Scene introduced much of the world to singers like Feist and Emily Haines of Metric, and the two singers shine on this album. “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl” is a wispy ballad by Haines, and Feist shines on the chorus for “Almost Crimes.” Many of the album’s songs provided the soundtrack for the Ryan Gosling film “Half Nelson.”

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#75. The Smile Sessions by The Beach Boys

- Best Ever Albums score: 7,521
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 86
- Rank all-time: #265
- Rank in decade: #31
- Rank in 2011: #3
- Country: United States

Fifty years after their formation, The Beach Boys proved they could still deliver the goods. “The Smile Sessions,” released in 2011, was a box set centered around unreleased recordings from the 1960s. Spin called the tracks “part tribute, part cartoon, part dream.”

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#74. Plastic Beach by Gorillaz

- Best Ever Albums score: 7,537
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank all-time: #264
- Rank in decade: #30
- Rank in 2010: #7
- Country: United Kingdom

When Damon Albarn paused his career with Blur and launched Gorillaz, the result was electro pop and hip-hop goodness. “Plastic Beach” centers heavily on environmental themes, and was called “a new benchmark for collaborative music as a whole,” by BBC Music.

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#73. Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends by Coldplay

- Best Ever Albums score: 7,545
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 75
- Rank all-time: #262
- Rank in decade: #44
- Rank in 2008: #3
- Country: United Kingdom

Coldplay was already one of the world’s most popular rock bands, but 2008’s “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends,” catapulted them to a new level of stardom. With grand, orchestral songs like “Viva la Vida,” Coldplay crossed genres and had songs off the album remixed by the likes of Jay Z.

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#72. To Be Kind by Swans

- Best Ever Albums score: 7,713
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #258
- Rank in decade: #29
- Rank in 2014: #2
- Country: United States

Swans began making music in 1982, but 2014’s “To Be Kind” was a triple LP masterpiece that introduced them to new audiences. Pitchfork called the album a mesmerizing spectacle.

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#71. Halcyon Digest by Deerhunter

- Best Ever Albums score: 7,926
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #252
- Rank in decade: #28
- Rank in 2010: #6
- Country: United States

Bradford Cox has always been one of music’s most untethered songwriters, and he displayed his full range of artistry on “Halcyon Digest.” The album was described as creating a "lethargically gorgeous world" and "blissful."

 

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#70. Late Registration by Kanye West

- Best Ever Albums score: 8,049
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank all-time: #250
- Rank in decade: #43
- Rank in 2005: #3
- Country: United States

Kanye West altered the landscape of hip-hop with “The College Dropout” and his follow-up further changed the game. “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” was a poignant track where West debated with himself about the pull of flashing jewelry and coming to grips with the bloodshed caused by the diamond trade. The album featured an all-star cast of performers including Jamie Foxx, Lupe Fiasco, and Common.

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#69. The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem

- Best Ever Albums score: 8,315
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 78
- Rank all-time: #245
- Rank in decade: #42
- Rank in 2000: #6
- Country: United States

Eminem’s second major label album went straight to the top of the charts, and is now 10x platinum. Splicing Dr. Dre’s beat making mastery and Eminem’s personal lyrics, perhaps the album’s most noted song is “Stan,” a storytelling track about overzealous fandom that eventually led to its own dictionary definition.

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#68. Favourite Worst Nightmare by Arctic Monkeys

- Best Ever Albums score: 8,420
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 80
- Rank all-time: #239
- Rank in decade: #41
- Rank in 2007: #6
- Country: United Kingdom

Another popular 2000s rock band from across the pond, Arctic Monkeys had the fastest-selling debut album by a British rock band. “Favourite Worst Nightmare,” their second album, was released without bassist Andy Nicholson. Still, the Hartford Courant called the album “a dream come true.”

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#67. Back to Black by Amy Winehouse

- Best Ever Albums score: 8,700
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank all-time: #228
- Rank in decade: #40
- Rank in 2006: #4
- Country: United Kingdom

Amy Winehouse’s vintage singing style enraptured the masses in 2007, as she emerged “as arguably the finest soul singer of her generation.” Tony Bennett and Nas were among the artists who came clamoring for collabs, thanks to “Back to Black,” which was her last studio album; Winehouse died in 2011.

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#66. Black Holes and Revelations by Muse

- Best Ever Albums score: 8,759
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 78
- Rank all-time: #226
- Rank in decade: #39
- Rank in 2006: #3
- Country: United Kingdom

Twelve years after its formation, Muse had its biggest hit and first album to reach the top of the U.K. charts with “Black Holes and Revelations.” The album combined rock, pop, and electronic elements and received wide acclaim, despite a low rating from the occasionally curmudgeonly Pitchfork.

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#65. Random Access Memories by Daft Punk

- Best Ever Albums score: 8,821
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank all-time: #224
- Rank in decade: #27
- Rank in 2013: #6
- Country: FR

Alongside Pharrell Williams, Daft Punk reached new levels of fame with “Get Lucky” off “Random Access Memories.” The disco/funk single received massive airplay and Grammy awards, and the album was both futuristic and an ode to early electronic eras.

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#64. An Awesome Wave by alt-J

- Best Ever Albums score: 8,845
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 78
- Rank all-time: #221
- Rank in decade: #26
- Rank in 2012: #6
- Country: United Kingdom

Alt-J was founded in Leeds in 2007, and was often compared to Radiohead. Alt-J distinguished itself with “An Awesome Wave,” which was described as “exciting to listen to” and “a complete joy” thanks to its pop, art rock, and electronic elements.

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#63. Hospice by The Antlers

- Best Ever Albums score: 8,855
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #220
- Rank in decade: #38
- Rank in 2009: #2
- Country: United States

The Antlers mixed horns, strings, and rock elements on “Hospice.” The album’s ambient feel was pitted as the antithesis of Bon Iver, and featured vocals from Sharon Van Etten.

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#62. Teens of Denial by Car Seat Headrest

- Best Ever Albums score: 8,913
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank all-time: #218
- Rank in decade: #25
- Rank in 2016: #4
- Country: United States

Not all indie rock bands with catchy names hail from Brooklyn, New York. Virginia’s Car Seat Headrest made a name for itself with this album that felt like a revival of indie rock from a decade earlier. The band received particular praise for its choruses.

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#61. Vespertine by Bjork

- Best Ever Albums score: 8,950
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank all-time: #217
- Rank in decade: #37
- Rank in 2001: #7
- Country: Iceland

Bjork has long been a darling of critics, but 2001’s “Vespertine” was considered “timeless” and her best album at the time. “Vespertine” utilized more classical instruments, and was called by Rolling Stone “the luxuriant Zen of the new minimalist techno.”

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#60. The Money Store by Death Grips

- Best Ever Albums score: 8,954
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #216
- Rank in decade: #24
- Rank in 2012: #5
- Country: United States

An experimental hip-hop landmark, “The Money Store” proved that Death Grips wouldn’t become watered down after signing with a major label. The album was pure fun to many, “good at reminding you that you're alive,” according to Pitchfork.

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#59. Yeezus by Kanye West

- Best Ever Albums score: 8,983
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 77
- Rank all-time: #213
- Rank in decade: #23
- Rank in 2013: #5
- Country: United States

“Yeezus” was unlike anything produced by Kanye West, a hip-hop album with hard rock, industrial, and alternative elements. Toward the finish line, West called in Rick Rubin to put the finishing touches on the album, which included input from Travis Scott, Daft Punk, and No I.D.

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#58. ...Like Clockwork by Queens of The Stone Age

- Best Ever Albums score: 9,130
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank all-time: #210
- Rank in decade: #22
- Rank in 2013: #4
- Country: United States

This album featured new drummer Jon Theodore, and featured work by Trent Reznor. Mojo called the album a rock classic. Lead vocalist Josh Homme built on his reputation as one of rock’s best front men with songs like “My God is the Sun” and “I Sat by the Ocean.”

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#57. Bloom by Beach House

- Best Ever Albums score: 9,193
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #208
- Rank in decade: #21
- Rank in 2012: #4
- Country: United States

The follow-up to the breakthrough “Teen Dream,” was more spiritual than dreamy. Rolling Stone called “Bloom” an exquisite comfort, guided by singer Victoria Legrand’s angelic vocals.

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#56. Vampire Weekend by Vampire Weekend

- Best Ever Albums score: 9,244
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
- Rank all-time: #206
- Rank in decade: #36
- Rank in 2008: #2
- Country: United States

Educated at Columbia University, Vampire Weekend seemed to keenly embrace its New York influences. Vibe noted that its self-titled album succeeded in putting the hips back in hipster, and the band’s low-key style immediately drew comparisons to Paul Simon.

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#55. Parachutes by Coldplay

- Best Ever Albums score: 9,545
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 78
- Rank all-time: #200
- Rank in decade: #35
- Rank in 2000: #5
- Country: United Kingdom

Coldplay’s debut album was helped immensely by the success of single “Yellow,” a mellow tune that became the calling card style of lead singer Chris Martin. The song “Don’t Panic” was featured in the film “Garden State,” and “Parachutes” went on to sell over two million albums.

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#54. Reflektor by Arcade Fire

- Best Ever Albums score: 9,659
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank all-time: #197
- Rank in decade: #20
- Rank in 2013: #3
- Country: Canada

Arcade Fire’s foray into double album territory was just as successful as its previous stand-alone LPs. “Reflektor” mixed rock with dance elements, and featured production by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem.

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#53. AM by Arctic Monkeys

- Best Ever Albums score: 9,674
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 77
- Rank all-time: #196
- Rank in decade: #19
- Rank in 2013: #2
- Country: United Kingdom

Arctic Monkeys reached new audiences with their hit “Do I Wanna Know?” off “AM.” The song includes catchy, classic guitar riffs, and a glam-like drum beat. The song also earned a Grammy nomination.

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#52. This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem

- Best Ever Albums score: 10,128
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #189
- Rank in decade: #18
- Rank in 2010: #5
- Country: United States

James Murphy’s vocal skills were on full display on “This Is Happening,” showing greater depth and polish. The album is dedicated to Jerry Fuchs, who performed live with LCD Soundsystem.

50 / 100
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#51. Since I Left You by The Avalanches

- Best Ever Albums score: 10,162
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #188
- Rank in decade: #34
- Rank in 2000: #4
- Country: Australia

The Avalanches are an electronic group from Australia, and “Since I Left You” is their debut studio album. The album used more than 900 individual samples, including golf instructionals.

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51 / 100
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#50. The College Dropout by Kanye West

- Best Ever Albums score: 10,177
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #186
- Rank in decade: #33
- Rank in 2004: #5
- Country: United States

Kanye West’s debut album mixed soul samples and precise beatmaking like few albums before it, and skyrocketed West to fame. The New York Times ranked “The College Dropout” as 2004’s best pop album, thanks to songs like “Through the Wire” and “Jesus Walks.” Jay Z, Talib Kweli, and Twista were among the featured guests on the album.

52 / 100
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#49. Origin of Symmetry by Muse

- Best Ever Albums score: 10,395
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank all-time: #182
- Rank in decade: #32
- Rank in 2001: #6
- Country: United Kingdom

Muse’s second album continued its rise in the rock world, adding elements of space rock and progressive rock. The album felt like it came from the perspective of an outsider, and featured a cover of Nina Simone’s version of “Feeling Good.”

53 / 100
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#48. Ys by Joanna Newsom

- Best Ever Albums score: 10,398
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank all-time: #181
- Rank in decade: #31
- Rank in 2006: #2
- Country: United States

Called “brave” and “marvelous,” Joanna Newsom’s second studio album received near-unanimous critical acclaim. Newsom’s folk sounds were ambitious and showcased her compositional training.

54 / 100
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#47. The Glow Pt. 2 by The Microphones

- Best Ever Albums score: 10,407
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 84
- Rank all-time: #180
- Rank in decade: #30
- Rank in 2001: #5
- Country: United States

A pop album by nature, “The Glow Pt. 2” also combined elements of lo-fi, folk, and indie rock. Pitchfork said it is an album that “simply must be listened to on headphones” due to its unique production.

55 / 100
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#46. Absolution by Muse

- Best Ever Albums score: 10,742
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank all-time: #176
- Rank in decade: #29
- Rank in 2003: #3
- Country: United Kingdom

Muse makes its third appearance on this list. “Absolution” has been called an elemental opus and a massive concept album thanks to its elaborate and dark sounds.

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56 / 100
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#45. Hot Fuss by The Killers

- Best Ever Albums score: 10,788
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 77
- Rank all-time: #175
- Rank in decade: #28
- Rank in 2004: #4
- Country: United States

The Killers’ debut studio album featured the massive smash “Mr. Brightside.” Mixing post-punk, new wave, and rock sounds, the Killers were a breath of fresh air into the music scene in 2004. “Somebody Told Me,” their second single off the album, also charted well.

57 / 100
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#44. Lost in the Dream by The War On Drugs

- Best Ever Albums score: 11,055
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #169
- Rank in decade: #17
- Rank in 2014: #1
- Country: United States

“Lost in the Dream” is a throwback to 1980s Americana rock, but also features drum machines and starburst synths. The War on Drugs combined harmonicas, saxophones, and acoustic guitars like few bands before.

58 / 100
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#43. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes

- Best Ever Albums score: 11,065
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #168
- Rank in decade: #16
- Rank in 2011: #2
- Country: United States

Weaving lyrical skill and sonic bombast, Fleet Foxes reached new heights with “Helplessness Blues.” The album had critics believing Fleet Foxes would become a staple in American folk music, with their innovation and dynamic range.

59 / 100
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#42. Lateralus by Tool

- Best Ever Albums score: 11,066
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
- Rank all-time: #167
- Rank in decade: #27
- Rank in 2001: #4
- Country: United States

Tool’s third album debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, selling more than 550,000 albums. The metal-infused “Lateralus” is a long album, but Rolling Stone wrote that the songs aren’t rushed and it creates a “monster” of an album.

60 / 100
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#41. Bon Iver by Bon Iver

- Best Ever Albums score: 11,260
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 80
- Rank all-time: #164
- Rank in decade: #15
- Rank in 2011: #1
- Country: United States

“Bon Iver” won a Grammy and was certified platinum last year. Bon Iver was credited for creating songs that break the listener’s heart with music that moves like a river, by Pitchfork.

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61 / 100
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#40. Currents by Tame Impala

- Best Ever Albums score: 11,348
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
- Rank all-time: #163
- Rank in decade: #14
- Rank in 2015: #3
- Country: Australia

Tame Impala’s “Currents” mixed pop, R&B, and disco. Pitchfork wrote that “Currents” showed singer Kevin Parker’s “range and increasing expertise as a producer, arranger, songwriter, and a vocalist.” This is seen on standouts like “Let It Happen” and “Eventually.”

62 / 100
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#39. Hail to the Thief by Radiohead

- Best Ever Albums score: 11,386
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #162
- Rank in decade: #26
- Rank in 2003: #2
- Country: United Kingdom

“Hail to the Thief” was defined by its electronic tones, a new sound for British rockers Radiohead. The album was seen as darker territory by a band redefining its boundaries. “2 + 2 = 5” was a highlight, one of many tracks produced by the revered Nigel Godrich.

63 / 100
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#38. Channel Orange by Frank Ocean

- Best Ever Albums score: 11,842
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #155
- Rank in decade: #13
- Rank in 2012: #3
- Country: United States

Frank Ocean proved he was a wildly original talent on 2012’s “Channel Orange,” described as a “headphone masterpiece.” Ocean’s R&B blended jazz and funk, and he meticulously crooned about the pain of heartbreak on songs like "Thinkin Bout You."

64 / 100
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#37. American Idiot by Green Day

- Best Ever Albums score: 12,161
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 74
- Rank all-time: #151
- Rank in decade: #25
- Rank in 2004: #3
- Country: United States

Green Day continued its punk rock ways with “American Idiot,” which had several successful singles including “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” The album won a Grammy for best rock album and the music from “American Idiot” inspired a Broadway musical.

65 / 100
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#36. Discovery by Daft Punk

- Best Ever Albums score: 12,405
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #146
- Rank in decade: #24
- Rank in 2001: #3
- Country: France

Daft Punk’s 2001 album spawned hits like “One More Time,” which became a dance floor staple. The album’s production was particularly praised, making songs with R&B inspirations and club-heavy beats.

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66 / 100
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#35. Teen Dream by Beach House

- Best Ever Albums score: 12,417
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank all-time: #145
- Rank in decade: #12
- Rank in 2010: #4
- Country: United States

Beach House’s third album epitomized its dream pop sound, highlighted by standout tracks like “Used to Be” and “Norway.” The trailer for the film “Blue is the Warmest Colour” featured the song “Take Care” from “Teen Dream.” The album drew comparisons to 1970s Fleetwood Mac.

67 / 100
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#34. Boxer by The National

- Best Ever Albums score: 12,930
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank all-time: #139
- Rank in decade: #23
- Rank in 2007: #5
- Country: United States

The National formed in Brooklyn more than 20 years ago, built around rock incorporating bits of alternative and indie rock. “Boxer,” The National’s fourth studio album, was called a “startling, astonishing work,” thanks to songs like “Start a War.”

68 / 100
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#33. Blackstar by David Bowie

- Best Ever Albums score: 13,210
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 86
- Rank all-time: #136
- Rank in decade: #11
- Rank in 2016: #3
- Country: United Kingdom

David Bowie’s final studio album combines his trademark brand of experimental rock with jazz. “Blackstar” won five Grammy awards and is certified gold. NPR said the album was adventurous to the end—just like Bowie, who died in January 2016.

69 / 100
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#32. Neon Bible by Arcade Fire

- Best Ever Albums score: 13,212
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #135
- Rank in decade: #22
- Rank in 2007: #4
- Country: Canada

Lauded as a “magical kingdom of noise” and transcendent, Arcade Fire’s second album elevated it to the top of the indie rock mountain. The album was inspired by lead singer Win Butler’s childhood nightmares, but he became recognized as one of rock’s best songwriters. Butler, a huge basketball fan, lived out a dream years later, when he got to compete during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend festivities.

70 / 100
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#31. The Moon and Antarctica by Modest Mouse

- Best Ever Albums score: 13,640
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 84
- Rank all-time: #130
- Rank in decade: #21
- Rank in 2000: #3
- Country: United States

Modest Mouse’s third offering was more experimental—some may even say psychedelic— which critics ate up. The band gave a shot to relative newcomer producer Brian Deck, who shined behind the boards. MTV called the album remarkably mature and absorbing.

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71 / 100
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#30. Songs for the Deaf by Queens of The Stone Age

- Best Ever Albums score: 13,823
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank all-time: #129
- Rank in decade: #20
- Rank in 2002: #5
- Country: United States

Featuring Dave Grohl on drums, “Songs for the Deaf” was proclaimed as 2002’s best hard-rock album by Entertainment Weekly. “No One Knows” and “Go With the Flow” were standout tracks, helping the album go gold.

72 / 100
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#29. High Violet by The National

- Best Ever Albums score: 13,887
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #127
- Rank in decade: #10
- Rank in 2010: #3
- Country: United States

By now you get that The National is a critically-acclaimed band. “High Violet” was recognized by Prefix for its dense lyrical constructs and mammoth choruses. To support its latest popular record, The National toured with fellow extolled acts on this list, Beach House and The Antlers.

73 / 100
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#28. Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes

- Best Ever Albums score: 14,156
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank all-time: #125
- Rank in decade: #19
- Rank in 2008: #1
- Country: United States

Fleet Foxes’ debut studio album clocked in at just under 40 minutes, but the LP was full of indie rock and folk goodness. The album received a rare five-star rating from The Guardian, which called “Fleet Foxes” a landmark in American music.

74 / 100
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#27. Demon Days by Gorillaz

- Best Ever Albums score: 14,428
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
- Rank all-time: #122
- Rank in decade: #18
- Rank in 2005: #2
- Country: United Kingdom

Featuring production from Danger Mouse, “Demon Days” was labeled as fantastic by PopMatters. De La Soul and MF Doom were among the featured artists on the album, which continued Damon Albarn’s unique hip-hop sound.

75 / 100
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#26. Blonde by Frank Ocean

- Best Ever Albums score: 14,435
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 84
- Rank all-time: #121
- Rank in decade: #9
- Rank in 2016: #2
- Country: United States

Off the heels of the success from “Channel Orange,” Frank Ocean was able to reel in Andre 3000, Beyonce, and James Blake as collaborators on “Blonde.” The album, called baffling and brilliant by The Guardian, seemed to cement Ocean as one of the world’s premier R&B artists.

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76 / 100
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#25. Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend

- Best Ever Albums score: 14,574
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #118
- Rank in decade: #8
- Rank in 2013: #1
- Country: United States

Vampire Weekend changed sounds on “Modern Vampires of the City,” experimenting with pitch-shifting. The result was what Entertainment Weekly called a perfect summer album, thanks to songs like “Ya Hey.”

77 / 100
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#24. Amnesiac by Radiohead

- Best Ever Albums score: 15,501
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank all-time: #109
- Rank in decade: #17
- Rank in 2001: #2
- Country: United Kingdom

Released shortly after perhaps its most critically acclaimed album “Kid A,” Radiohead’s “Amnesiac” saw producer Nigel Godrich infusing more jazz sounds than usual. The album was recorded during the same sessions as “Kid A,” but some fans were disappointed “Amnesiac” didn’t resemble Radiohead’s early 1990s rock sound.

78 / 100
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#23. Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective

- Best Ever Albums score: 15,648
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank all-time: #107
- Rank in decade: #16
- Rank in 2009: #1
- Country: United States

This experimental album has been called a landmark and at the forefront of progressive pop. The songs “My Girls” and “Summertime Clothes” are standouts. The album is named after an outdoor music venue in Maryland.

79 / 100
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#22. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips

- Best Ever Albums score: 15,682
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank all-time: #104
- Rank in decade: #15
- Rank in 2002: #4
- Country: United States

Oklahoma City funky rockers The Flaming Lips unleashed a melancholy concept album with “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.” The album received rave reviews and vaulted The Flaming Lips into more mainstream acceptability, but they also were taken to court for a song sounding quite similar to the work of Cat Stevens.

80 / 100
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#21. Elephant by The White Stripes

- Best Ever Albums score: 16,741
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank all-time: #95
- Rank in decade: #14
- Rank in 2003: #1
- Country: United States

The White Stripes continued their assault on traditional rock music videos with the groundbreaking “Elephant.” Two notable music videos were “The Hardest Button to Button,” which was spoofed on “The Simpsons,” and “Seven Nation Army,” which became a sports stadium anthem. “Elephant” reached platinum status.

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81 / 100
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#20. Sound of Silver by LCD Soundsystem

- Best Ever Albums score: 17,040
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 84
- Rank all-time: #93
- Rank in decade: #13
- Rank in 2007: #3
- Country: United States

“Sound of Silver” was recorded on a farm with tin-foiled walls, and was meant to be a statement against rock. The album is dedicated to a Bulgarian psychiatrist and was inspired by an attempt to rival band Joy Division.

82 / 100
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#19. A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay

- Best Ever Albums score: 17,229
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank all-time: #90
- Rank in decade: #12
- Rank in 2002: #3
- Country: United Kingdom

Coldplay’s second studio album is remembered for the ballad “The Scientist” and the piano-centric “Clocks.” The album set the band up for fame around the globe, and as The Guardian noted, “It sounds like an album ready to take on the world, and win.”

83 / 100
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#18. Madvillainy by Madvillain

- Best Ever Albums score: 17,252
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 85
- Rank all-time: #89
- Rank in decade: #11
- Rank in 2004: #2
- Country: United States

Rapper MF Doom and producer Madlib collaborated for this hip-hop opus, which was praised in The New Yorker and inspired rappers like the Odd Future clan. The album is chock full of crazy, insightful lyricism, was called inexhaustibly brilliant by Pitchfork, and is recognized as one of the finest underground rap albums ever.

84 / 100
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#17. For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver

- Best Ever Albums score: 17,453
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank all-time: #87
- Rank in decade: #10
- Rank in 2007: #2
- Country: United States

Bon Iver’s debut album was created in a Wisconsin cabin after a bout of mononucleosis and solitude. The indie folk classic was tabbed as “poetic,” “seamless in construction,” and “beautiful.” The lead single “Skinny Love” has been reproduced throughout advertisements and films.

85 / 100
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#16. Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven by Godspeed You! Black Emperor

- Best Ever Albums score: 18,704
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 86
- Rank all-time: #85
- Rank in decade: #9
- Rank in 2000: #2
- Country: Canada

This double LP, space rock album was christened as an achingly beautiful work, alternately elegiac and ferocious, by Pitchfork. Godspeed You! Black Emperor hail from Canada, and spent much of the 21st century on hiatus, before reuniting in 2010.

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86 / 100
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#15. Turn On the Bright Lights by Interpol

- Best Ever Albums score: 18,735
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 84
- Rank all-time: #84
- Rank in decade: #8
- Rank in 2002: #2
- Country: United States

New York rockers Interpol stormed onto the early 2000s rock scene, with “Turn on the Bright Lights” being named Pitchfork’s best album of 2002. Called “dark and brooding,” Interpol infused sonic backgrounds, 1980s rhythms, and post-punk vibes in a way like no other before.

87 / 100
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#14. A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead

- Best Ever Albums score: 19,436
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 87
- Rank all-time: #81
- Rank in decade: #7
- Rank in 2016: #1
- Country: United Kingdom

Radiohead’s most recent studio album continued its run of critically acclaimed works. “A Moon Shaped Pool” is recognized as one of Radiohead’s most sonically pleasing albums, and melodically accessible. The album is certified gold.

88 / 100
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#13. Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens

- Best Ever Albums score: 19,823
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 86
- Rank all-time: #76
- Rank in decade: #6
- Rank in 2015: #2
- Country: United States

“Carrie & Lowell” was written after the death of Sufjan Stevens’ mother, and is a raw, emotional musical journey. AV Club called the album near-perfect thanks to standout songs like "No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross."

89 / 100
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#12. Lonerism by Tame Impala

- Best Ever Albums score: 23,014
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 85
- Rank all-time: #63
- Rank in decade: #5
- Rank in 2012: #2
- Country: Australia

Tame Impala followed up “Innerspeaker” with an even more revered work, “Lonerism.” Australia Rolling Stone named “Lonerism” album of the year. The album’s sound hearkened to the 1960s, but amped up with new technology.

90 / 100
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#11. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not by Arctic Monkeys

- Best Ever Albums score: 25,490
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank all-time: #51
- Rank in decade: #7
- Rank in 2006: #1
- Country: United Kingdom

As we mentioned earlier, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” was the U.K.’s fastest-selling album, moving 360,000 copies upon its release. The lead single “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” was a groovy rock anthem, and was performed by Arctic Monkeys at the 2012 Olympics in London.

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91 / 100
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#10. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco

- Best Ever Albums score: 27,464
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 85
- Rank all-time: #46
- Rank in decade: #6
- Rank in 2002: #1
- Country: United States

Drummer Glenn Kotche debuted for Wilco on “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” an album that changed perceptions of “alt country” music. The album received a rare perfect 10 rating from Pitchfork, which called “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” a fantastic rock record.

92 / 100
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#9. Illinois by Sufjan Stevens

- Best Ever Albums score: 27,604
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 86
- Rank all-time: #45
- Rank in decade: #5
- Rank in 2005: #1
- Country: United States

Sufjan Stevens’ ode to the Land of Lincoln was really a portrait of “modern Americana.” The album is praised for its subdued romanticism and positive energy. Stevens has also made albums geographically named after Michigan and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

93 / 100
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#8. Good Kid, M.A.A.D City by Kendrick Lamar

- Best Ever Albums score: 30,637
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 88
- Rank all-time: #40
- Rank in decade: #4
- Rank in 2012: #1
- Country: United States

Kendrick Lamar’s debut album infused West Coast beats with the kind of in-depth lyricism usually reserved for East Coast artists. Heavyweight producers Hit-Boy, Just Blaze, and DJ Khalil helped craft the sound, while Lamar spitty witty bars over dark tracks like “Swimming Pools” and insightful, raw songs like “Black Boy Fly.” Lamar seemingly did the impossible in hip-hop, as HipHopDX noted, reaching mass appeal and gaining mass respect.

94 / 100
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#7. The Suburbs by Arcade Fire

- Best Ever Albums score: 30,894
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 85
- Rank all-time: #38
- Rank in decade: #3
- Rank in 2010: #2
- Country: Canada

Arcade Fire won the Grammy for album of the year with “The Suburbs.” Critics labeled the album a masterpiece by one of the 21st century’s most intelligent and satisfying bands. Win Butler drew inspiration from his childhood in Texas, and songs like “The Suburbs” feel like you’re reliving your childhood.

95 / 100
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#6. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West

- Best Ever Albums score: 32,907
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 85
- Rank all-time: #34
- Rank in decade: #2
- Rank in 2010: #1
- Country: United States

Kanye West seemingly changed the game with the single “Runaway,” a piano-laced song filled with lament and bravado that served as an appetizer to what “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” offers. The album was so revered that some critics predicted West’s next album could be disappointing. Nicki Minaj, Rhanna, and John Legend filled out a roster of A-listers who contributed to the LP.

96 / 100
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#5. To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar

- Best Ever Albums score: 40,509
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 90
- Rank all-time: #24
- Rank in decade: #1
- Rank in 2015: #1
- Country: United States

Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 album was released while the country was grappling with horrendous acts of racist violence, and the Compton native channeled that anger and energy in “To Pimp a Butterfly.” The album has been cited as a call to action and a manifestation to “push the culture of rap forward.” George Clinton, Snoop Dogg, and Flying Lotus all contributed to Lamar’s third studio release.

97 / 100
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#4. Is This It by The Strokes

- Best Ever Albums score: 43,126
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 86
- Rank all-time: #21
- Rank in decade: #4
- Rank in 2001: #1
- Country: United States

The Strokes’ debut studio album was both a callback to New York City’s gritty rock days, and a new sound of guitar heavy pop that set the quintet apart from their new wave contemporaries. “Hard to Explain” and “Someday” were accompanied by retro-feeling music videos that featured Atari-era graphics and cameos by Slash. The Strokes’ rise during this era was later captured in the book “Meet Me in the Bathroom.”

98 / 100
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#3. Funeral by Arcade Fire

- Best Ever Albums score: 59,635
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 88
- Rank all-time: #11
- Rank in decade: #3
- Rank in 2004: #1
- Country: Canada


Arcade Fire’s debut album cost about $10,000 to record. “Funeral” redefined indie rock, and was laced with songs of angst and hope. One of the singles, “Wake Up,” was featured in the film “Where the Wild Things Are.”

99 / 100
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#2. In Rainbows by Radiohead

- Best Ever Albums score: 65,808
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 89
- Rank all-time: #7
- Rank in decade: #2
- Rank in 2007: #1
- Country: United Kingdom

“In Rainbows” was revolutionary for a few reasons. Radiohead continued evolving with a new experimental sound, featured on songs like “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” and “Reckoner.” But the band also decided the album would be priced at what fans wanted to pay, a monumental moment as music shifted away from physical albums to digital downloads and streams.

100 / 100
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#1. Kid A by Radiohead

- Best Ever Albums score: 70,633
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 89
- Rank all-time: #6
- Rank in decade: #1
- Rank in 2000: #1
- Country: United Kingdom

Radiohead’s magnum opus is a divergence from their rock roots, experimenting in ambient sounds, jazz, and classical music. “Kid A” went platinum months after its release, and became Pitchfork’s top album of the 2000s. The album captured the mood of an era when music was changing and moved toward the online age.

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