The 2000’s were a distinctive time in the world. We had survived Y2K to live another day and were ready to greet the next decade with optimism and open arms.
It was, in a way, a time of renaissance for the music world, with sub genres blossoming from the paths that the 90s had paved. Artists were emboldened to try new things, uninhibited by the pressures of creating a radio hit or bust.
One of the genres to see the biggest shift was alternative, leaving the ways of grunge rock behind to create new windows to listeners around the globe. And so in this article, I’m going to break down what I feel are the best alternative albums of the 2000s that you should try and track down on vinyl (or any medium, if you don’t already own a record player).
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So, without further ado, let’s kick this list off with The Strokes.
The Strokes were the band that launched a thousand other bands’ careers, and their debut, Is This It?, was the spark that started a wildfire. The next big artsy New York City band donned the long hair and leather jackets and became the epitome of cool behind explosive guitar riffs, relatable lyrics, charisma and a simple yet captivating sound.
Behind singles including “Hard to Explain”, “Last Nite”, and “Someday”, the album went on to achieve platinum status in several markets. The album cover originally featured a black and white photograph of the female form that was dubbed too racy for the American market and as a result, an alternative cover was produced.
Though this version may be more tame on the outside, it contains the track “New York City Cops”, which is critical of the NYPD. This track was removed from the original version, but made it onto the American version and was actually released on September 11th, 2001, an unfortunate coincidence. There is absolutely no reason that this album shouldn’t be in every record collection.
The White Stripes – Elephant
Brother and sister Jack and Meg White released their fourth album, Elephant, in 2003 behind a few very commercially successful albums. However, Elephant is regarded as their best work and one of the definitive albums of the decade.
Jack is at his absolute prime, shredding blues riffs and rocking solos with his distinct voice that helped to spark the garage rock revival and propel them to being one of the biggest bands in America. This album saw the Stripes expand their sound with bass and keyboards, while harnessing the raw grit that separates them from the crowd.
The album’s opening track is the most defining guitar riff of a generation that has gone on to become a chant that fills arenas and the first riff kids try to learn when they pick up a guitar for the first time. This is an album that will never get old and will live on as one of the definitive moments in music history, let alone the 2000’s.
Gorillaz took the world by storm with their second album in 2005 with a genre-bending album that is an amalgam of almost every genre under the sun, while remaining definitively alternative.
Demon Days bolsters a mix-matched all-star cast of features—from rappers to gospel choirs—to create a sound as unique as the cartoon band themselves. Singles like “Feel Good Inc.”, “DARE”, “Dirty Harry”, “Kids with Guns”, and “El Mañana” were all over the radio for months and months and led to an overall theme of traveling through the night, with each song representing a demon encountered along the way.
The album reached platinum status multiple times in multiple markets and is regarded as one of the most unique and influential of the 2000’s. Until recently, finding a copy of this great album was difficult and expensive, but it received a reissue in 2018 that makes tracking a copy down much easier, leaving you with no excuse not to pick it up.
Vinyl Me, Please had trouble for the longest time keeping their red vinyl version of this album in stock.
Did you get your copy?
The 2000s were Radiohead days. They owned the decade with four amazing albums, Kid A, Amnesiac, Hail to the Thief and In Rainbows, each great in their own regard. It really boils down to personal preference which of these should find their way to your shelf, but there really has never been another album quite like 2007’s In Rainbows. For starters, it was self-released digitally as a pay-what-you-want-download during the era of artists battling internet piracy, this was about as alternative as it gets.
The band’s seventh album is incredibly beautiful and was pieced together over the course of 2 years incorporating electronic and string arrangements, piano, and the unique electronic instrument, ondes Martenot.
Singer Thom Yorke is at his absolute vocal prime, seducing the listener with deeply personal themes cascading over masterful musical arrangements. There aren’t many true standout tracks, but rather, it is an all-encompassing journey from start to finish, and one you’ll want to take over and over again.
Queens of the Stoneage released their second album, Rated R, in the summer of 2000 to critical and commercial success, and propelled them to massive popularity among the alternative crowd.
It is a hard-rocking party of an album that focuses on rock ‘n roll themes like drugs, women and life in the fast lane, with a hard-rocking twist. Thundering guitars, silky smooth vocals and a catchy tone carries the album and is sure to liven up the mood at any given time. Singles like “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret”, “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” and “Monsters in the Parasol” brought notoriety and success that kept their debut’s desert rock intact while injecting a healthy dose of psych and a mellow undertone.
The album saw a deluxe reissue in 2011 with an alternative cover and a second disc of live tracks, rare songs and some covers to enhance the experience even further.
By the time 2006 rolled around, the Chili Peppers had recorded 8 albums and had settled into their own skin. You could even argue that they were at the top of their game with guitarist John Frusicante reaching unknown heights with his blisteringly cosmic licks and Flea a force of nature plucking the bass.
Their chemistry was at an all-time high and you could sense comfort, camaraderie and wonder in every track, which made it even more devastating to learn that Stadium Arcadium would be Frusciante’s final with the band.
The album is space themed and they had enough material to make three albums, but rather than make fans wait, or pay triple, they released it as an expansive 4-disc boxset with two parts, Mars and Jupiter.
It was nominated for 7 Grammy awards and took home 5, the most in their career and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 for the first time in their career. This album is one that you can put on for hours and find something to love in every corner.
2006 also saw an explosion onto the alternative scene from an unexpected source, a French indie band by the name of Phoenix. Their third album, It’s Never Been Like That, is peppy, energetic and will make you want to get on your feet and dance.
It’s an instantly uplifting album that relies on distinctive vocals, an upbeat tempo and catchy lyrics that you’ll be singing along when you hear it for the first time. The hit single “Long Distance Call” took the airwaves by storm and you couldn’t go more than a day or two with out hearing it that year.
This one is unique to most of the albums you’ll find in the genre, but one that will never get old and has decidedly earned a place in many, many collections across the world.
The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow
After receiving some slack from critics and other musicians from their debut, The Shins bounced back in 2003 with their second album, Chutes Too Narrow. Their second effort received massively higher praise, featuring more guitar than its keyboard-heavy predecessor, with cheery vocals and bewildered lyrics.
It is regarded as a case study on the rebirth of 60s pop with a healthy dose of psych folk and catchy hooks that come to life under the needle. Chutes Too Narrow is a cornerstone for indie rock that became highly influential to the music world and is a perfectly preserved slice of the 2000s that won’t stay on your shelf long enough to gather dust before you’re ready to spin it again.
Fever to Tell was the debut of the American Band Yeah Yeah Yeahs released in 2003. The album features haunting vocals from a one of the strongest female leads of the decade, Karen O, along with deeply emotional themes of love and loss.
The band’s standout hit “Maps” features a chorus that will live on in infamy for all time. It received mass critical acclaim upon its release and is another album that is a perfect snapshot of a moment in time in the form of sound. It can be described as garage rock, indie and dance punk, but is overall alternative with various twists and turns along the way.
This album is one that is easy to associate memories, emotions and stories with that will grow with, and on you, along the way.
In the wake of the Strokes, there was another New York City art-rock band garnering attention, Interpol. Paul Banks’ unmistakably deep, brooding vocals paint the picture while imaginative lyrics keep you hanging on every line.
The band’s third album, Our Love to Admire, was released in 2007 following in the huge footsteps of their first two. It was their first to be released on a major label and the expectations were high, but they knocked it out of the park with what could be considered their strongest effort yet.
There is so much to explore and fall in love with on this album that you can listen to it over and over again and find something new to admire. Though the original press was limited and expensive to acquire, it recently saw a reissue making it much easier to come by.
Arctic Monkeys burst onto the scene in 2006 with their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Hailing from Sheffield, England, Arctic Monkeys were a young band who were one of the first to build a following online through social media that propelled this album to become to become the fastest selling debut album in British music history.
Front man Alex Turner weaved a hyped-up web of frenzied lyrics that perfectly personified what it meant to be young and restless in the 2000s. Every song on this album is packed to the brim with cheeky lyrics, masterful music and personality that shines through. It recently received a re-press from record club Vinyl Me, Please on clear, smoky colored vinyl that looks great sitting atop a turntable.
Incubus is a uniquely alternative band that combined pieces of several genres to create a sound that was all their own. They released their fifth album, A Crow Left of the Murder, in 2004, debuting at number 2 on the Billboard Top 200 and went on to receive platinum status by the RIAA.
Singer Brandon Boyd’s vocals are inspired, pronounced and an obvious focal point among perfectly mixed variety of sound. There are points where their alternative metal side shines brightly and others when a jazzy, melodic undertone takes the wheel for an experience unlike any other.
The albums stand out hit is Talk Shows on Mute, but features a healthy mix of songs that are ripe for singing along and getting stuck in your head.
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