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BEST OF '00s: Top Albums #20-2

We're counting down the best albums of The Aughts this week.

#100-81   #80-61   #60-41  #40-21

20. Kanye West, “Late Registration” (Roc-A-Fella, 2005): Light-hearted, playful hip-hop gambles that didn’t just pay off in big hits, but inspired a generation of experimentation. ["Gold Digger"]
19. Patty Griffin, “Impossible Dream” (ATO, 2004): Impeccably written, gorgeously sung and timelessly presented folk songs that deserve to be passed on from generation to generation. ["Love Throws a Line"]
18. Miranda Lambert, “Revolution” (2009): Traditional country topics given clever, sassy twists by the genre’s next big superstar. ["White Liar"]
17. Lil Wayne, “Tha Carter III” (Cash Money, 2008): A milli, a milli, a milli, a milli, a milli. ["Got Money"]
16. Damien Rice, “O” (Vector, 2003): The raw delivery of wrenching tales of busted relationships has never sounded quite so elegant and engaging before. ["Cannonball"]
15. Loretta Lynn, “Van Lear Rose” (Interscope, 2004): The Queen of Country Music got a rocking makeover courtesy of White Stripe Jack White that showed the Coal Miner’s Daughter hasn’t lost her gem-making abilities. ["Portland, Oregon"]
14. Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins, “Rabbit Fur Coat” (Team Love, 2006): Snide sentiments disguised in Jenny Lewis’ pretty delivery and gospel-country harmonies. ["Rise Up With Fists"]
13. M.I.A., “Arular” (Interscope, 2005): A wild, multi-culti, hip-hop gumbo that is so layered lyrically and musically that it took years to figure it all out. Luckily, the groove was so enticing it made the discovery a joyful, booty-shaking task. ["Sunshowers"]
12. The Strokes, “Is This It?” (RCA, 2001): Indie rock so stylish and potent that it revived the New York underground and showed garage bands around the world what was still possible. ["Last Nite"]
11. Joseph Arthur, “Come to Where I'm From” (Real World/Virgin, 2000): Great alt-folk songs improved by Joseph Arthur’s stunningly inventive arrangements and innovative performance techniques. ["History"]
10. Antony and the Johnsons, “I Am a Bird Now” (Secretly Canadian, 2005): One-in-a-million tales sung by a once-in-a-lifetime voice. ["Hope There's Someone"]
9. Taking Back Sunday, “Tell All Your Friends” (Victory, 2002): There may have been more successful emo records, but none were more effective at capturing what it was like being young, suburban and sensitive at the very confusing turn of the century. Adam Lazzara and John Nolan’s dueling vocals mirrored the complexities of feeling vulnerable and scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs angry simultaneously. ["Cute without the 'E'"]
8. Amy Winehouse, “Back to Black” (Universal, 2007): Before she became a tabloid sideshow, Amy Winehouse revitalized soul singing and demonstrated the power of great delivery and phrasing, as well as a sly sense of humor. Then, she went to rehab, yeah, yeah, yeah. ["You Know I'm No Good"]
7. Green Day, “American Idiot” (Reprise, 2004): Who knew the punk jokers Green Day had this in them? “Idiot” was savvy political commentary, rousing protest and catchy pop that commanded attention.
6. OutKast, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” (Arista, 2003): An adventurous reimagining of hip-hop that went well beyond the brilliance of “Hey Ya.”
5. Bob Dylan, “Love and Theft” (Columbia, 2001): Dylan’s meditation on mortality, eerily released on 9/11, is sharp, sly and supremely comforting, surrounded in acoustic blues and folk rock. ["Cry a While"]
4. Arcade Fire, “Funeral” (Merge, 2004): Incredibly lush indie rock teamed with Canadian exuberance proved infectious and irresistible. ["Wake Up"]
3. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, “The Rising” (Columbia, 2002): Springsteen’s answer to the 9/11 terrorist attacks was thoughtful, spiritual and stadium-ready. ["My City of Ruins"]
2. Jay-Z, “The Black Album” (Roc-A-Fella, 2003): So the retirement didn’t last very long. So what. The idea of wrapping up what he had to say inspired Jay-Z to new heights, both in his rhymes and his rhyming. From the old-school bombast of “99 Problems” to the jazzy “Encore,” Jay intended to go out on top and he did.

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