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The 100 Greatest Albums of the Digital Age

written by: on November 18, 2011

20. Jay-Z – The Blueprint (2001):

9/11 changed the way of the world forever. Not to take those events lightly in anyway, but so did an album that was released on that infamous day. As New York was under attack, the city’s son, Shawn Carter, let loose his own attack on hip-hop as we know it. The Blueprint changed the landscape of the game. It ignited the greatest lyrical beef in the history of rap with “The Takeover.” It brought soul back into the music and set the lyrical bar for every rapper even thinking of stepping into a booth. It paired two of the greatest MCs to ever hold a microphone on the same track for the first time (“Renegade”). And, it introduced the world to a young producer who goes by the name of Kanye West. –Matt Wink

19. Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism (2003):

Gut-wrenching self-actualization with a dash complacency are what saturate the songs on Death Cab for Cutie’s fourth and most celebrated studio album. From opening track “The New Year,” to the metered “Title and Registration” and ever-depressing “Transatlanticism,” the album bleeds emotion from song to song. Transatlanticism has it all: fast songs, slow songs, Ben Gibbard’s tear-jerking lyrics and organic sounds. This album matured Death Cab and set a bar for their following releases. Rarely do bands release albums where the songs depend on one another, where they fit together like puzzle pieces. Singles from Transatlanticism sound good enough. But in its entirety, the album is so gripping and pervasive, it’s as if the listener is in the recording studio experiencing Gibbard’s every emotion as he performs. –Alex Peak

18. Beck – Odelay (1996):

Odelay is the best party record to come out of the 90s. In it, Beck mashes together funk, country, hip-hop, alternative rock and folk into an insane and inspired fight against modern culture, vanity and excess. Assisting in his crusade are famed producers the Dust Brothers, whose signature heavy use of sampling keeps the record fresh and innovative even during its most conventional and laid-back moments: Songs start abruptly with startling screams, or choruses of robot children, or end with unpredictable bouts of searing noise, forcing listeners to always be alert and attentive, aware that another shocking twist lies around each corner. Catchy, innovative and even scary, Odelay was and still is Beck’s masterwork. –Charlie Woodman

17. The Avalanches – Since I Left You (2000):

Though the art of sampling was hardly new in 2001, few artists had attempted the scale that The Avalanches have achieved with Since I Left You. Boasting at least 3,500 samples (not even the producers themselves are sure how many the album actually contains), Since I Left You is arguably the world’s first postmodern record. Through kaleidoscopic whimsy, each track gushes with mood and emotion, glancing past the meaning and purpose of vinyl sounds. It sounds like a journey. Cuts such as “Frontier Psychiatrist” combines animal noises with side-splitting Psychiatrist sound-bites. It’s a riot, and only goes to further reinforce the album’s very postmodern motif. We live in a shrinking world, and Since I Left You captures this eloquently. It feels very nostalgic and yet very now. –John Taylor

16. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago (2007):

The first listen to Bon Iver’s debut album is an unforgettable one. At once strange, romantic, and gut-wrenchingly beautiful, the poetic avant-garde of For Emma, Forever Ago became a hit album the old-fashioned way: solid material and word of mouth. Singer-songwriter Justin Vernon’s winter spent self-recording in his father’s Wisconsin cabin—post-breakup from both band and girlfriend—led to the creation of this emotional powerhouse. From the ghostly beat of “Lump Sum,” to the lyrical brilliance of “Skinny Love,” to the soulfulness of “The Wolves (Act I and II),” to the devastating patience of “Re: Stacks,” For Emma’s uniqueness has led to very substantial critical acclaim, and has secured slews of loyal fans for Vernon’s creative profundity. It is a loyalty well-deserved. –Kelly Baron

15. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (2008):

On Fleet Foxes’ eponymous debut, the Seattle quintet brings back what feels like the lost sound of long ago. Harmonious trade-offs between Robin Pecknold and the band resonate on tracks such as “Ragged Wood,” while a masterful vocal interplay breaks loose on “White Winter Hymnal” evoking the sort of imagery found in fairy tales. Even without an underlying theme, the songs feel interconnected, resulting in one of the most durable albums of its time. Fleet Foxes is loaded with a sense of adventure and surprise, twined together with strong rural aesthetics and exquisite sounds – without a doubt the primary reel on this slick record. – Jon White

14. The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin (1999):

After oscillating wildly and weirdly for years, Oklahoma’s favorite psychedelic sons finally realized their potential with this masterpiece. Almost universally hailed by critics, it topped a lot of 1999’s top ten lists and was included by some assessors as one of the best records of the 1990’s. It’s an orchestral, sprawling work at its heart.  Expressing the white boy blues and blue-eyed soul at the end of the millennium, the album served as a message of hope as the sun shot its first gleaming upon the 21st century’s approach.  Wayne Coyne, Steven Drozd and Michael Ivins chose this record to reprise in its entirety on New Year’s Eve in Oklahoma City and at All Tomorrow’s Parties this summer, as well as at a few select shows in the US.  It’s not their most challenging record, but every track is beautifully done. And more than any of their album, The Soft Bulletin is timeless. –Craig Bechtel

Click here to see our complete assessment of The Soft Bulletin’s legacy and part one of Pop’Stache’s inteview with Flaming Lip Steven Drozd.

13. Modest Mouse – The Moon & Antarctica (2000):

Modest Mouse’s first two albums produced some of the best post-hardcore to not bare the Dischord Records logo, while simultaneously appealing to fans of less angular indie-rock acts such as Pavement. On the group’s third album Modest Mouse scaled back its musical aggression without losing an ounce of its heart. In doing so, The Moon & Antarctica allowed the group to transcend genres and receive immediate recognition for its fearless disregard of expectations. The album displays Isaac Brock’s delicate ability to exploit pop hooks in songs that often stray heavily from pop-rock conventions. Even having “Gravity Rides Everything” used in a car commercial it wasn’t enough to lessen the album’s indie-cred. Given how fickle fans can be, that’s achievement enough. –David Anthony

12. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009):

Animal Collective has been a hugely successful and influential band for a while now, but they really hit the top of their game with Merriweather Post Pavilion. While it lacks the extreme experimentation of Sung Tongs or the rough-around-the-edges styling of Feels, MPP is still clearly an Animal Collective album, but it’s perhaps a little smoother, a little more rounded and a little more accessible than their other works. It’s their poppiest and most structurally simple recording to date, yet it still captures their manic energy, their spontaneous explosions or yelps that catch listeners off guard, but it also manages to be more contemplative, spacious, grounded and mature. –Charlie Woodman

11. Daft Punk – Discovery (2001):

With songs like “One More Time,” “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” and “High Life,” Discovery was clearly no sophomore slump for electronic gurus, Daft Punk. Pulling from the 1970s and ‘80s, Discovery is a disco-inspired dance anthem sporadically sprinkled with R&B and pop styling from the era. In songs like “Crescendolls,” European electro-pop beats dance in circles with undeniable infection. But no facet of synth-pop will go unnoticed. “Face to Face” seems to be stolen from a late ‘80s pop chart. The duo’s debut release, Homework, was filled with funk beats and choppy loops fronted by long intros and vocoders. While Discovery still relies on vocoders and looped sequences, Daft Punk added organic guitar circles and cleaned up the transitions, resulting in not only their best album, but a timeless classic. –Kim Manning

  • Myles Coyne

    Radiohead isn;t that good…

  • Petra Poison

    No Patrick Wolf here? Fail.