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30. The Other People Place – Lifestyles of the Laptop Café 

James Stinson was half of the Detroit techno duo Drexciya, which enveloped their hard-edged percussive sound with an afrofuturistic mythology. Their work is some of the most underappreciated in the techno scene. Stinson died in 2002 after the release of Harnessed the Storm, which is considered their best work. Stinson also recorded under the alias of The Other People Place and was able to release a great album of his own just before his death. He never received recognition for the album as he hid this identity until after his death. Lifestyles is a simpler album than his Drexciya work, relying on simple drum beats, a few synth lines, and a vocal sample. It truly is blissful music, evoking sensations of longing for love amidst a vast technological landscape. In that way, it’s a direct descendant of Kraftwerk’s Computer World from twenty years before. — Andrew Cox

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29. Pulp – We Love Life 

How many bands’ final albums were a satisfying ending? Most bands end too early or too late; they can’t all be like Pavement and Pulp. Now, neither band ends on their highest note, but they leave with a sense of ‘this is as good as it gets, better hit the highway.’ We Love Life featured three singles which are all excellent — “The Trees” is Britpop’s last breath, essentially. “Bad Cover Version” references Scott Walker in an unflattering manner, and the song was written before Walker signed on to produce the album. “Sunrise” is simply the most underrated rock song of the 21st century, with its sweeping chorus, jaunty verses, and earth-shattering guitar solos. What the album always has is Jarvis Cocker’s presence, one of the greatest frontmen to ever do it. His voice and lyrical choices always guided the band towards artful, interesting territory. Still, songs like “Bob Lind (The Only Way Is Down)” and “Weeds” feature enough lively backing instrumentation to carry the songs themselves. Pulp reunited in 2011 for some touring, and the only new music that they released was a demo from this album’s sessions. Maybe thankfully, they haven’t destroyed the luster of ending on such a high note. — Andrew Cox


28. Spoon – Girls Can Tell 

It’s clear from the opening seconds of Spoon’s third album that they had finally put it all together. The previous album A Series of Sneaks put them on the scene, but the parameters of their brand and style were still unclear (they still sounded like they wanted to be an arena rock band most of the time). Most importantly though, the melodies really start to shine through, and it all comes out of the minimalist style they’re now known for. The drums are mostly choppy and not allowed to echo in the typical John-Bonham “rock” style they used to. It lets the Mellotron properly set the downtrodden tone in “Everything Hits at Once,” and Britt Daniel’s cool and heavy vocals truly lead the band. Starting here, Spoon would go on to have one of the best album runs in the ’00s and certainly improving upon a bit of the standard rock fare found in Girls Can Tell‘s lesser tracks. Ironically, in setting the boundaries of what they needed to be, Spoon truly flourished and had the sky as the limit. — Andrew Cox

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27. Aphex Twin – Drukqs 

Richard D. James, forever the technical wizard, ended his legendary first run of music as Aphex Twin with a polarizing double album that mixed high-octane IDM breakbeat with serene piano ballads. It’s an album that arose out of the early days of internet leaks; James left behind an mp3 player on a plane with 180 of his tracks and figured they would get out into the world somehow. That might explain the length (100 minutes across two CDs). James also mentioned that you could essentially download the CDs and just pick the best tracks to listen to. Its length can be cumbersome with songs like “Gwety Mernans” and “Gwarek2” that were better left in the demo pile, but for the most part, Drukqs is what you listen to Aphex Twin for. Songs like “Cock/ver10” and “Vordhosbn” are absolute thrill rides without a second of breathing room in the entire beats. You can go to any Aphex Twin album for that material, so what makes Drukqs unique is the classical piano pieces that were made by computer-controlled instruments. “Strotha Tynhe,” “Hy A Scullyas Lyf Adhagrow,” and the surprisingly-popular “Avril 14th” all hover around the two-minute mark and sound like standards you would hear on a piano lesson mixtape. Maybe if James didn’t leave that mp3 player on the plane, he would’ve made more piano pieces, compiled them all together and call it “Aphex Twin Plays Piano” or something; it would be in the top 10 of this list probably.

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26. Destroyer – Streethawk: A Seduction 

“Hey girl, come on and take a whirl in my machine.” Only one artist of the 2000s could start their magnum opus with a line so intriguing. Destroyer is the project of Vancouver’s Dan Bejar, which traverses the sonic realms of David Bowie and soft jazz. Streethawk is the climax of Destroyer’s earlier work, setting his literary world-building to a palette of bossa nova guitars, blistering solos, and gentle classical piano. By the second track “The Bad Arts”, Bejar lifts and flips the chorus of Joy Division’s “Disorder,” into a wistful falsetto chant. This epitomizes his style: irreverent, funny, and a little bit sad. Though preceded by a few rougher, more ramshackle records, Streethawk is the first to establish the infamous Destroyer aesthetic. These songs are populated by Dickensian beggars, lustful altar boys, Werner Herzog, sensitive misers, “pacific-northwest bitches,” FSG publishers, and (titularly) the character Streethawk. If this sounds ridiculous and pretentious—you’re right. If this turns you off—move along! If you stick around, you might just find yourself a grand companion. This is INDIE music after all, and Destroyer created one of the truly idiosyncratic records of the 2000s, unafraid to strike out in its strange little way. — Harrison Smith

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25. Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American 

On Bleed American, their fourth studio album, American rock band Jimmy Eat World keeps it simple, focusing on hard-driven pop-rock songs to fill out most of the record. Opening with the title track, with “A Praise Chorus” coming directly after, the band makes it clear the album is all about straightforward alt-rock with a pop-punk edge. Immediately following the two statement songs is Jimmy Eat World’s crown jewel, the uplifting pick-me-up anthem “The Middle.” The catchy, addictive power pop perfection of the track is enough to overshadow the rest of the project; however, there are still plenty of gems to be found on this record. “Your House” is an interesting semi-punk take on the acoustic singer-songwriter, coffee house genre of music, while tracks like “Hear You Me” and “Cautioners” give frontman Jim Adkins room to tap into the slow burning, emo sensibilities that dominated the alternative scene in the early 2000s. — Drew Pearce


24. Jim O’Rourke – Insignificance 

If Jim O’Rourke never released solo music, he would still be a highly-regarded name in indie and experimental music. He was a member of Sonic Youth from ’99 to ’05; he mixed Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and produced A Ghost Is Born: he was a music consultant for School of Rock and taught the actors how to play the songs; he’s scored films from the greatest living directors. He’s essentially Eno on a smaller scale, and while he doesn’t have an Another Green World, he does have his fantastic run of Bad Timing to Insignificance. The three albums in that run are somewhat jokingly meant to be taken together considering they’re named after three successive Nicolas Roeg movies. Insignificance is his most accessible work, especially the bombastic opener “All Downhill from Here,” serene FM-staple-like title track, and hauntingly mellow “Good Time.” Of course, it’s not O’Rourke without an overarching standoffish nature to it all. There’s an alternate universe where O’Rourke sees how much further he can take his unique brand of rock into the mainstream, but he wouldn’t release anything for Drag City until 2009. He certainly accomplished some other things in between the wait, though. — Andrew Cox


23. Various Artists – Total 3 

Clarifying what makes a compilation great as opposed to an uninteresting, conveniently-no-filler collection is sometimes hard to say. The ones that stand the test of time have to either capture the full essence of an artist or spotlight a subgenre or scene that otherwise wouldn’t get much attention. 1978’s No New York, 1985’s The Indestructible Beat of Soweto, and 1992’s Artificial Intelligence are the most highly-regarded genre-defining compilations, and I would add Kompakt Records’ third entry in the Total series to that list. Kompakt was founded in Cologne, Germany by the biggest names in minimal techno (Wolfgang Voigt, Michael Mayer, & Jürgen Paape) in ’98, and three years in, all the stars aligned for the scene’s best material to end up on one compilation. Paape’s “So Weit Wie Noch Nie” first appears here and is easily the most beloved minimal techno single of all time. Closer Musik, Superpitcher, Mayer, and Sascha Funke all provide standout tracks. This brand of techno is equal parts romantic and glitchy with repetitive trance beats that usually cross the 6-minute mark. It’s not exactly all-killer (“Musick 1” is a slog to get through), but that’s what should entice the listener to dissect what techniques and stylistic approaches work for the genre and not. Kompakt’s still releasing compilations in the Total series (now at Total 20), and the glory of Total 3 is still enough to go through them every now and again. — Andrew Cox


22. The Dismemberment Plan – Change 

If we can agree to forget Uncanney Valley – but not the incredible reunion tour surrounding its release – Change is a remarkable capper to The Dismemberment Plan’s career. Just four years ago, Travis Morrison had been mocking others’ emotional problems while obfuscating his own through defensive self-flagellation and self-medicating. Their most-famous release, 1999’s Emergency & I, is Morrison opening the door, and Change is him finally stepping out, ready to face the world, flaws and all. 

Keep in mind, this is not a “maturity album” where a basket case is cured through romance and/or parenthood. Change is about transition, accepting imperfections while letting go of burdens. One of the most impactful moments in Morrison’s songwriting career is him exclaiming an apology. The whole band, (particularly drummer Joe Easley) are at a peak level of poise, giving even more-sedate sections as much force as the triumphant (and painfully relatable) choruses and breakdowns. “Nobody’s perfect, but I’m doing what I can,” Morrison plainly states on opener “Sentimental Man.” Change shows you can grow up without having to lose yourself. — Brody Kenny

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21. Kylie Minogue – Fever 

After taking a cue from fellow pop royalty Madonna in the late ‘90s and experimenting with more electronic styles of music, Australian icon Kylie Minogue entered the 2000s ready to party with her eighth studio album, Fever. Spearheaded by lead single and all-around immaculate club banger “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” Minogue takes you into a world of dance floor euphoria with shimmering synths, pulsing basslines and even disco strings of the ‘70s, and the rest of the album follows suit. Follow-up singles “In Your Eyes” and Grammy winning “Come Into My World” follow suit with equally sleek production and sultry, sensual lyrics centering around the simple concept of love. A major highlight on the album is the title track, where the singer switches things up with a funky melody and a soaring chorus detailing the blissful highs and lovesick lows that come with falling in lust. In short, Fever is the that cemented Kylie Minogue’s status as the music industry’s resident queen of dance-pop. — Drew Pearce