Top Ten Thursday: Best Artists of the Aughts (2000-2009)


This was a particularly tough list to put together.  On average, order one of our Top Ten lists takes about 45 minutes.  Over an hour and a half into our last meeting, we still only had the top six ironed out for this one.  We ended up just individually ranking the final eight candidates individually, and normalizing the results to select the final four on the list.  It worked out though, and I didn’t even have to swan dive off my balcony, as I threatened several times throughout the meeting.

So let me tell you a little bit about our decision making process in selecting the top ten artists of the first decade of the new millennium.  It was about as simple as weighing quantity and quality.  To some degree, we also factored in the amount of lackluster material an artist had working against them.  In the end, ever artist in the ten had at least three good to great albums during the decade.  Painfully, M.I.A., LCD Soundsystem, and a few others didn’t have the consistent presence throughout the entire decade like most others on here and missed out.  Also, great artists like Beck, Ryan Adams, Spoon, and Bright Eyes just missed out because while they had the quantity, their highs just weren’t quite as high as others on the list.

So there you have it.  Enjoy the read, and as always let us know who me missed, left off, or mistakenly included.

10.  The Strokes

the strokes, full band pic

The Strokes were one of those rare bands where the product lived up to all the hype preceding them.  They produced some refreshingly honest pop music that ushered a whole new group of fans into “indie” music.  Beneath the surface of The Strokes instantly accessible music were simple but perfect harmonies, taking them beyond what was expected of an early-20’s rock outfit in the early 2000’s.

Go-To Album:  Is This It

9.  The Black Keys

black keys, full band pic

The Black Keys may have come into their own commercially after the end of the decade, but they dominated the first decade with six good-to-excellent albums.  Along with a couple other artists on this list, The Keys helped to turn the tide on popular rock music.  The Black Keys message plain and simple was, “Rock n’ Roll isn’t for p***y’s anymore”.  There is a slight downgrade for the static nature in style until Attack & Release, but we can’t get enough of them.

Go-To Album:  Rubber Factory

8.  Kings of Leon

kings of leon, full band pic, young

Kings of Leon were by far the most hotly contested artist on our list.  I was pushing hard, Todd was supportive but less adamant, and Wes was not necessarily in favor of them making the top ten.  I think the resistance had to do with what KoL have done since the end of the decade than what they did during it.  All they did during the first decade was release four good-to-excellent albums, while growing from album to album significantly.  What they have done since is turn into pariah’s of good taste.

Go-To Album:  Because of the Times

7.  My Morning Jacket

my morning jacket, full band pic

If this list was for the top ten live bands of the 2000’s, My Morning Jacket would have been on the shortlist for the top spot.  But as it is, we are just looking at the music released for the most part, and MMJ is no slouch in that department either.  With four full-length releases, MMJ transformed themselves from folk-rockers to progressive rockers over the course of the decade, and played around with a lot of other styles in between.

Go-To Album:   Z

6.  Jay-Z


Jay-Z was a tough one to place, because he has two masterpiece’s (The Black Album and The Blueprint), but then has a lot of average to good music.  On top of his studio releases, he released myriad tracks that never made their way on to an album or were on another artist’s album.  All the work taken as a whole can’t be ignored though, and Jay-Z was clearly a titan of the music industry in the first decade.

Go-To Album:  The Black Album

5.  TV on the Radio

tv on the radio, full band pic

TV on the Radio is a band, much like number four on our list, that lost a little bit of luster with me when they released their first album of the 2010’s, Nine Types of Light.  Lucky for us, all three of their releases in the aughts were superb in every respect.  Dear Science may be the best-produced album of the decade, and Return to Cookie Mountain may be the most emotionally bare.  All around, TVOTR killed it.

Go-To Album:  Return to Cookie Mountain

4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs

yeah yeah yeahs, full band pic

I think if you ask Todd, Wes, and I what our favorite Yeah Yeah Yeah’s album is, you might get three different answers.  This is a testament to how consistently excellent YYY’s were throughout the decade.  Its amazing how quickly they established their sound on Fever to Tell, changed it up on Show Your Bones, and then took off into the stratosphere on Its Blitz!.  Hopefully Mosquito is merely a temporary slip-up.

Go-To Album:  Show Your Bones

3.  Kanye West


Like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kanye had three excellent albums in the aughts, but added a bummer of an album to that slate with 808’s and Heartbreaks.  He really saves himself with a tone of great guest appearances and tracks that hold up amazing by themselves without making it on one of his albums.  Mr. West was the epitome of hip-hop throughout the decade and for that he gets our number three spot.

Go-To Album:   Late Registration

2.  The White Stripes

white stripes

Five studio albums in an 8-year span.  Literally not one song that isn’t at least near-flawless.  Along with The Black Keys, MMJ, and KoL, The White Stripes helped bring some balls back to rock n’ roll.  And what large balls you have, Mr. White.

Go-To Album:  Get Behind Me Satan

1.  Radiohead

radiohead 2

I’m not gonna say Radiohead is my favorite band, but they were more influential in progressive rock than anyone over the first decade of the new millennium.  Combining pristine electronic foundations to often blazing guitars made Radiohead a one-of-a-kind outfit.  And although King of Limbs wasn’t considered toward their ranking, it is refreshing to see a band at the top that didn’t lose their edge entering the new decade.  Now if only Thom Yorke would pick a haircut and a more consistent tone to his voice…

Go-To Album:  Kid A

Just Missed

Todd:  Daft Punk

daft punk

Daft Punk was an unfortunate cut, but they only released two proper albums in the aughts.  So it was essentially a quantity argument keeping Daft Punk off the list.  Nevertheless, the two albums they did release were masterpieces, and this is exactly what we include the “just missed” section for.  There was hardly anyone during the decade who could match DP’s energy and ability to craft an instantly accessible electronic pop song.

Go-To Album:  Discovery

Wes:  Sufjan Stevens

sufjan stevens

Sufjan’s artistic canoodling post-Illinoise (i.e., BQE) may have cost him a spot on the list proper, but his catalog of work is still hard to ignore.  He released three absolutely beautiful albums, all of which contained some of the most peerless orchestrations imagined in indie pop throughout the decade.  I’m very proud of Wesley for not going with Wilco here.

Go-To Album: Illinoise

Austin:  Bonnie “Prince” Billy

bonnie prince billy

Will Oldham may not be the household name most of the rest of the top ten are, but I don’t think anyone was more prolific.  Over the course of ten years, under the moniker of Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Oldham released ten proper LP’s, and countless EP’s and side projects.  He also has the innate ability to go back and rework old songs to make them work even more.  Keep ’em coming Will.

Go-To Album:  Lie Down in the Light

10 thoughts on “Top Ten Thursday: Best Artists of the Aughts (2000-2009)”

  1. so, just out of curiosity. what is it that you guys have against pop music?
    this is a really good list i admit it… but, idk… rihanna, beyonce, gaga and etc? they don’t deserve a spot on your list at all?
    having put my bitterness aside, i DO think it’s a pretty awesome comprehensive list.

    1. I wouldn’t say we have anything against pop music. Personally I love it, and I know Austin and Wes do as well. I think it has more to do with the fact that most pop albums as a whole can wear pretty thin. A few songs here and there (most of the time the singles) are great, well produced tracks. The artists on our list are those we consider to have released albums that are truly masterpieces and/or game changers for the world of music.

    2. I agree with what Todd said. If we were doing top ten singles of the 2000’s, I’m guessing Rihanna and Beyonce would both have tracks in the running. Rihanna in particular has been an unbelievable hit machine, but I just never want to listen to a complete album from those artists.

      Also, not to be defensive, but I would say Kanye, Jay-Z, Kings of Leon, Daft Punk, The Strokes, and The White Stripes to all be “pop music”. Maybe not the traditional Madonna/MJ model, but all reached extremely wide audiences and at some point were pretty wholly embraced.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. You may have expected a response from me. The list is clear, well thought, an quite good. But leaving Bright Eyes off the list AND the near misses? Come on boys. 4 superb albums and 2 other above average albums! If you consider any of Conor’s side work, he dominated a genre for the aughts. Not only that, but he reinvented his sound… Successfully… 2 different times. A simple Wikipedia search of the BE discography will change your mind.

    Side note: I am a big fan of 808s. The go to album for Jay is the Blueprint and for Radiohead is In Rainbows. This list made me want to dive back into some fond 00’s memories. Thanks guys!

  3. I might have ranked Jay-Z higher than Kanye. ‘Ye probably has the better aughts catalog, but Hova is managing to create solid music, satisfy and expand his fan base and keep his dignity in hip-hop, all as an “elder” in the hip-hop game. He’s faced the harder road, and handled it like none in the game before him. … My only beef with the list would be the Strokes and Kings of Leon entries. I thought the Strokes’ debut was great, and I appreciate that they haven’t just made a living remaking that disc. But I don’t find any of their subsequent releases all that satisfying. I’d argue the same with KoL. … Disappointed not to see The Coup ( “Original Party Music,” “Pick a Bigger Weapon,” “Steal This Double Album”) on the list. They don’t have the sales/celebrity when compared to a lot of these acts, but I’d argue “OPM” is probably the best hip-hop disc from the aughts (up there with Dead Prez’s “Let’s Get Free,” Eminem’s “Marshall Mathers EP,” Kanye’s “College Dropout,” etc.).

  4. Good selection! Can’t argue with that top two. I’d probably put the Strokes in the top five because the first two albums are so brilliant and influential.

    1. Ya, we were surprised with how far we dropped them but when you are looking at a decades of work and comparing them against others that have 4-5 great albums, they inevitably dropped a bit.

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