100 best albums of the 21st century, according to critics

Ellen Dewitt on

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Roc A Fella 1/101

100 best albums of the 21st century, according to critics

Music has always played a role in helping to define cultural moments throughout history. Stacker set out to find the best albums of the 21st century. Compiling data from Metacritic, Stacker ranked albums according to their Metascore, which represents an aggregation of critic reviews. Only albums with seven or more reviews were eligible. EPs, box sets, re-issues, and compilations were not considered. Some of Stacker’s findings like Valerie June’s American roots music or country’s Ashley Monroe, Jamey Johnson, and the legendary Loretta Lynn might get listeners to sing along or even forget about the outside world for a few minutes.

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s no shortage of music for getting angry and letting it all out. Listen for Napalm Death’s growling grindcore, Converger’s metalcore, Primal Scream, Deafheaven’s black metal, and the sounds of Polish extreme metal band Satanist that keeps vexing authorities in its homeland.

Discover artists who honor their predecessors who helped shape the world we live in today. Poet Jamila Woods offers thoughtful rhythm and blues portraits of legends like James Baldwin and Muddy Waters, Rapsody wrote songs for her heroes from Sojourner Truth to Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, and jazz composer Wadada Leo Smith honored 10 crucial years in the civil rights movement.

Be transported far away by the West African sounds of Ali Farka Toure, Toumani Diabate, and Bassekou Kouyate or go back in time with Woody Guthrie’s recordings from the 1940s and a 1992 Nirvana concert in Britain. Then there’s the tempting option just to dance, which many say is good for both body and soul. Give a listen to the techno sounds of Isolée, hip-hop’s Missy Elliott, the pounding dubstep by Britain’s Burial, and Frank Ocean’s lively rhythm and blues, soul and pop collection.

Read on for 100 best albums of the 21st century, according to critics.

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Visit thestacker.com for similar lists and stories.

Columbia Records 2/101

#100. "When I Get Home" by Solange

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 7.5 - Release date: March 1, 2019

Best described as a return to her roots, Solange’s fifth studio album, “When I Get Home” is an exploration of her native Houston. A mix of jazz, R&B, and hip-hop, many of the tracks reference physical locations in the city close to the singer’s heart, including “Binz,” the street where she and sister Beyoncé grew up. In addition to the album, Solange also released a 33-minute film, which matches experimental visuals to the unique sound.

Roadrunner Records 3/101

#97. "Eternity, In Your Arms" by Creeper (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 7.6 - Release date: March 24, 2017

“Eternity, in Your Arms” was the long-awaited full-length debut album by the English punk band Creeper after years of touring and extended play releases. To build momentum ahead of the album release, the band staged a treasure hunt, laying clues for fans to follow in their hometown of Southampton.

Jagjaguwar 4/101

#97. "All Mirrors" by Angel Olsen (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 7.6 - Release date: Oct. 4, 2019

Angel Olsen’s fifth album “All Mirrors” with its expansive strings is a marked change from her earlier spare work. From St. Louis, the indie rocker was raised by a foster family who adopted her. 

Epitaph Records 5/101

#97. "The Dusk in Us" by Converge (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 7.6 - Release date: Nov. 3, 2017

The ninth album by metalcore’s Converge, “The Dusk in Us” moves beyond the personal betrayals and despair of the band’s earlier work into broader looks at police brutality, war, and violence. A stand-out is “Arkhipov Calm,” drawn from the story of Soviet Naval officer Vasili Arkhipov who refused to fire nuclear weapons from a submarine in 1962 and helped keep the Cuban missile crisis from blowing up into all-out war.

Jagjaguwar 6/101

#93. "LEGACY! LEGACY!" by Jamila Woods (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 7.9 - Release date: May 10, 2019

Chicago poet, singer, and songwriter Jamila Woods mixes political commentary with rhythm and blues on “LEGACY! LEGACY!” Each song is a tribute and portrait of a legend—James Baldwin, Eartha Kitt, Muddy Waters, Zora Neale Hurston, and others.

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Warp Records 7/101

#93. "Safe In The Hands Of Love" by Yves Tumor (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 7.9 - Release date: Sept. 5, 2018

“Safe in the Hands of Love” was the first album by the enigmatic Yves Tumor once he signed on with Britain’s indie Warp Records. The experimental artistfrom Knoxville, Tennessee, spent several years in California before making records from Europe.

Concord Records 8/101

#93. "The Order of Time" by Valerie June (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 7.9 - Release date: March 10, 2017

Tennessee’s Valerie June wrote all of the songs on “The Order of Time,” an ethereal album of American roots music grounded in country, blues, gospel, folk, and more. The album features background vocals by June’s friend Norah Jones.

Because Music 9/101

#93. "Chris" by Christine and the Queens (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 7.9 - Release date: Sept. 21, 2018

Christine and the Queens was an identity taken by French pop singer and songwriter Heloise Letissier, who pared it down and transformed it for her second album “Chris.” The work is two discs—one mostly in English and the second in French.

Or. Music 10/101

#90. "HoboSapiens" by John Cale (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.2 - Release date: Sept. 7, 2004

Welsh avant-garde rocker John Cale was a founder of the 1960s influential Velvet Underground, which also included singer and guitarist Lou Reed. The title of “HoboSapiens” comes from an essay, never published, that Cale wrote about Bob Dylan.

Interscope 11/101

#90. "Kiwanuka" by Michael Kiwanuka (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.2 - Release date: Nov. 1, 2019

The mournful, lilting “Kiwanuka” is Londoner Michael Kiwanuka’s third album. His song “Cold Little Heart” from an earlier album will be instantly recognizable to fans of HBO’s “Big Little Lies” as the theme song of the hit miniseries.

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Domino 12/101

#90. "Last Exit" by Junior Boys (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.2 - Release date: Sept. 21, 2004

Ontario’s Junior Boys made their album debut with “Last Exit.” Earlier EPsby the electro-pop trio made the rounds among critics and bloggers who built up anticipation for the album’s release.

Blacksmith Records 13/101

#87. "Big Fish Theory" by Vince Staples (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.3 - Release date: June 23, 2017

“Big Fish Theory” is a collection of hip-hop with dance, techno, pop, and funk influences by Long Beach, California’s Vince Staples. It has appearances by top names like hip-hop’s Kendrick Lamar and Ty Dolla $ign.

Chance the Rapper 14/101

#87. "Coloring Book" by Chance the Rapper (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.3 - Release date: May 13, 2016

The street-infused gospel rap of “Coloring Book” is a mixtape by Chance the Rapper, otherwise known as artist Chancelor Bennett. Appearing on the album are Lil Wayne, Kanye West, and the Chicago Children’s Choir.

Re-Up/Star Track/Jive 15/101

#87. "Hell Hath No Fury" by Clipse (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.3 - Release date: Nov. 28, 2006

Brothers Pusha T and No Malice, whose name was just Malice at the time, released “Hell Hath No Fury” only after several years of setbacks and legal snarls in the recording industry. The brothers have since pursued solo careers.

Playhouse 16/101

#84. "We Are Monster" by Isole (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.4 - Release date: June 6, 2005

Techno and electronic, “We are Monster” is the creation of German music producer Rajko Mueller, who goes by the name Isolée. It is almost entirely instrumental, club-style dance music.

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Domino Recording Co 17/101

#84. "Rounds" by Four Tet (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.4 - Release date: May 6, 2003

“Rounds” by England’s electronic musician and producer Kieran Hebden, who records under the name Four Tet, is made up entirely of music samples. He recorded it in his London apartment using a home computer and a standard hi-fi system.

Columbia Records 18/101

#84. "A Seat at the Table" by Solange (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.4 - Release date: Sept. 30, 2016

“A Seat at the Table” is drawn from Solange’s family roots in Louisiana and deals with themes of Black culture and racism. Tina Lawson, who is the mother of Solange and her sister Beyoncé, delivers an interlude called “Tina Taught Me.”

Cherrytree Records 19/101

#79. "Honey" by Robyn (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.5 - Release date: Oct. 26, 2018

“Honey” was the sixth solo album by the Swedish pop star Robyn. The single “Honey” created buzz when it was played during the credits of an episode of television's “Girls” final season. Robyn has designed a limited-edition clothing collection for tennis star Björn Borg’s fashion company.

Roadrunner Records 20/101

#79. "We Are Not Your Kind" by Slipknot (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.5 - Release date: August 9, 2019

“We Are Not Your Kind” was the first album in five years by the longtime heavy metal band. Slipknot drummer Jay Weinberg is the son of Max Weinberg, drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

Columbia Records 21/101

#79. "Modern Times" by Bob Dylan (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.5 - Release date: August 29, 2006

“Modern Times” was the 32nd studio album by the American icon Bob Dylan, who produced it himself under the name Jack Frost. He plays guitar, keyboard, and harmonica on the album which is considered part of a set with his albums “Time Out of Mind” and “Love and Theft.”

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Domino 22/101

#79. "Merriweather Post Pavilion" by Animal Collective (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.5 - Release date: Jan. 20, 2009

The electronic pop “Merriweather Post Pavilion” is the eighth album by indie rock’s Animal Collective. It takes its name from an outdoor concert space in suburban Maryland.

World Circuit 23/101

#79. "Ali & Toumani" by Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.5 - Release date: Feb. 23, 2010

“Ali & Toumani” was the second collaboration of Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté, who plays the West African stringed kora. It was released after Toure’s death in 2006. Coming from a long line of musicians, Diabaté has crossed genres and collaborated with flamenco, jazz, folk, and blues artists around the world.

Elektra 24/101

#76. "Miss E... So Addictive" by Missy Elliott (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.6 - Release date: May 15, 2001

Missy Elliott’s “Miss E… So Addictive” is a party album of electronic dance music. Making guest appearances on the hip-hop star’s album are Ludacris, Eve, Busta Rhymes, Lil’ Mo, and Jay-Z.

Loma Vista 25/101

#76. "St. Vincent" by St. Vincent (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.6 - Release date: Feb. 25, 2014

American singer-songwriter St. Vincent, aka Texan Annie Clark, toured with Sufjan Stevens before setting out on her own in 2006. Her fifth album won the guitarist and vocalist a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.

SuperEgo 26/101

#76. "Bachelor No. 2 (or, the last remains of the dodo)" by Aimee Mann (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.6 - Release date: May 2, 2000

“Bachelor No. 2” made it out only after the original label refused to release it, demanding it contain a potential hit single, and Mann released it on her own label after peddling it online and at performances. The album features four tracks used in the soundtrack of the 1999 movie “Magnolia” that starred Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Jason Robards.

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KSCOPE 27/101

#73. "Hand.Cannot.Erase." by Steven Wilson (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.7 - Release date: March 3, 2015

“Hand. Cannot. Erase.” was the fourth solo studio album by Britain’s progressive rock musician Steven Wilson. It was a concept album inspired by the story of Joyce Carol Vincent, a woman who died in an apartment in London and was not missed for almost three years.

MCA Nashville 28/101

#73. "Golden Hour" by Kacey Musgraves (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.7 - Release date: March 30, 2018

On ”Golden Hour,” the songs by Texan Kacey Musgraves take a jubilant and sophisticated leap from her previous two studio albums. The singer-songwriter won four Grammy awards for the work, including the top prize of Album of the Year.

Mass Appeal 29/101

#73. "RTJ2" by Run the Jewels (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.7 - Release date: Oct. 27, 2014

“RTJ2” was named the best hip-hop album of the year by Rolling Stone. After jokingly promising they would make a remix using cat sounds if enough customers pre-ordered, fans complied, and Run the Jewels’ Killer Mike and El-P came out with “Meow the Jewels.”

City Slang 30/101

#72. "Neon Golden" by The Notwist

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.8 - Release date: Feb. 25, 2003

The Notwist mixes indie rock, pop, and electronica on its sixth album, “Neon Golden.” The German band features vocalist and guitarist Markus Acher and his brother Micha, who plays bass and horns.

Modular Recordings 31/101

#69. "Since I Left You" by The Avalanches (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.9 - Release date: Nov. 6, 2001

The Avalanches from Melbourne, Australia, put together more than 900 music samples on “Since I Left You.”The genre using bits of existing sounds and music to weave a new creation has been dubbed plunderphonics.

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Interscope 32/101

#69. "Songs For The Deaf" by Queens of the Stone Age (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.9 - Release date: August 27, 2002

“Songs For the Deaf” was the third album by rock and roll’s “Queens of the Stone Age. Playing drums on the album is Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and Nirvana.

Sony Legacy 33/101

#69. "The Idler Wheel Is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do" by Fiona Apple (tie)

- Metascore: 89 - User score: 8.9 - Release date: June 19, 2012

“The Idler Wheel…” was the fourth album by American singer-songwriter Fiona Apple. Spare and moody, it was her first album in seven years.

Columbia Records 34/101

#68. "Jimmy Lee" by Raphael Saadiq

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 5.7 - Release date: August 23, 2019

“Jimmy Lee” by soul musician and producer Raphael Saadiq takes a look at dark topics of drug addiction, family heartbreak, and mass incarceration. The album was named for Saadiq’s older brother who contracted HIV and later died of a heroin overdose.

Out Here Records 35/101

#67. "Jama Ko" by Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 6.3 - Release date: April 2, 2013

“Jama Ko” was the third album by Mali’s Bassekou Kouyate and his band Ngoni Ba. His sons Moustafa and Mamadou play ngonis, traditional West African lutes, and American blues artist Taj Mahal adds vocals to the album.

Ninja Tune 36/101

#66. "London Zoo" by The Bug

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 6.5 - Release date: August 12, 2008

The sounds of dub, dance music, reggae, and grime come together on “London Zoo,” by The Bug, aka producer Kevin Martin. Aptly named tracks include “Angry,” “Insane,” and “Too Much Pain.”

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Kompakt 37/101

#65. "From Here We Go Sublime" by The Field

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 6.7 - Release date: April 3, 2007

Sweden’s The Field, musician Axel Willner, debuted with the album “From Here We Go Sublime.” He pulled from the electronic shoegaze sound, techno, and repetitive trance music.

Neighbourhood 38/101

#64. "Psychodrama" by Dave

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 7.9 - Release date: March 8, 2019

“Psychodrama” was the debut album by Dave, a South London rapper whose full name is David Orobosa Omoregie. The concept album is based on the style of psychotherapy that utilizes patient roleplay and features sections of spoken words. Part of the song “Drama” is a recorded conversation with his brother, who is serving a life sentence in prison for murder.

Jamla 39/101

#62. "Eve" by Rapsody (tie)

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.0 - Release date: August 23, 2019

Rapper Rapsody, born Marlanna Evans from Snow Hill, North Carolina, called her album “Eve” a love letter to all Black women. Each of the 16 songs is named for a hero—“Michelle,” “Myrlie,” “Oprah,” “Sojourner,” and more. The album recently became the topic of courses at the University of North Carolina and Ohio State University.

Hyperdub 40/101

#62. "Untrue" by Burial (tie)

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.0 - Release date: Nov. 6, 2007

“Untrue” is an album of electronic dance club and rave music by Britain’s Burial. It’s considered a top album in the genre of dubstep, a London-born sound heavy on drums, bass, and synthesizers.

Sub Pop Records 41/101

#61. "No Cities to Love" by Sleater-Kinney

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.1 - Release date: Jan. 20, 2015

“No Cities to Love” was the eighth album by the all-woman trio Sleater-Kinney. Filled with personal and political post-punk pieces, it was released following a decade-long hiatus by the band.

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Warp Records 42/101

#60. "Heaven to a Tortured Mind" by Yves Tumor

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.2 - Release date: April 3, 2020

Acid jazz, psychedelic rock, and funk meet up on “Heaven to a Tortured Mind” by Yves Tumor. The experimental artist got his start in electronic music playing keyboard as a teenager in Knoxville, Tennessee.

ATO Records 43/101

#59. "Z" by My Morning Jacket

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.4 - Release date: Oct. 4, 2005

“Z” is a pop-rock collection by My Morning Jacket. The guitar, keyboards, and vocals reflect their rural jam-band and church-music roots in Louisville, Kentucky.

Paras Griffin // Getty Images 44/101

#55. "gr" by Moses Sumney (tie)

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.5 - Release date: May 15, 2020

Singer-songwriter Moses Sumney released his second studio album, “græ,” as a double album: The first part was digitally released in February and the complete project was released three months later in May. Singles from "græ" include “Virile,” “Polly,” “Me in 20 Years,” “Cut Me,” and “Bless Me.”

Capitol Records 45/101

#55. "Candi Staton" by Candi Staton (tie)

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.5 - Release date: Feb. 24, 2004

“Candi Staton” consists of 26 tracks by the soul singer recorded from 1969 to 1973 when she was recording southern R&B at the Muscle Shoals studio. The album includes her versions of Otis Redding's "That's How Strong My Love Is," Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man," and "In the Ghetto," first recorded by Elvis Presley. Raised as a gospel singer, Staton is known for her 1976 disco hit “Young Hearts Run Free.”

Erased Tapes Records 46/101

#55. "Spaces" by Nils Frahm (tie)

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.5 - Release date: Nov. 19, 2013

“Spaces” is a collection of live recordings by Berlin’s composer and pianist Nils Frahm. Some of the works were made on reel-to-reel recorders and cassette decks, accented with the sounds of audiences coughing, cell phones ringing, and the banging of a toilet brush on piano strings.

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Anti- 47/101

#55. "Alice" by Tom Waits (tie)

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.5 - Release date: May 7, 2002

“Alice” is a collection of 15 songs that Tom Waits and his wife Kathleen Brennan wrote for an avant-garde opera of the same name. The story was loosely based on the relationship between author Lewis Carroll and the girl who was his muse for “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.” Waits called the tunes “adult songs for children, or children's songs for adults.”

VICE/Atlantic 48/101

#52. "Original Pirate Material" by The Streets (tie)

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.7 - Release date: Oct. 22, 2002

The debut album by The Streets, a music project led by British rapper Mike Skinner, “Original Pirate Material” fused street poetry, hip-hop, grime, and house music. It has an everyman sound chronicling English working class life.

Creation Records 49/101

#52. "XTRMNTR" by Primal Scream (tie)

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.7 - Release date: May 2, 2000

Primal Scream, a punk electronica band hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, pulled from techno garage rock and the dreamy reverb-laden genre of shoegaze in creating “XTRMNTR.” The collection is heavy on percussion and political diatribes.

Universal Music 50/101

#52. "Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty" by Big Boi (tie)

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.7 - Release date: July 6, 2010

“Sir Lucious Left Foot” marked the debut solo rap and funk album of Outkast’s Big Boi. Outkast’s label Jive would not allow Big Boi’s partner Andre 3000 from the popular hip-hop duo to appear on the album.

Dead Oceans 51/101

#50. "Punisher" by Phoebe Bridgers (tie)

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.8 - Release date: June 18, 2020

Critics described Phoebe Bridgers’ second solo album, “Punisher” as candid, multi-dimensional, and honest. Praised for its lyricism, the emo-folk project, which was released in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a hit with listeners, too, many of whom connected with the strong, emotional vibe of the record.

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Epitaph Records 52/101

#50. "Holy Hell" by Architects (tie)

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.8 - Release date: Nov. 9, 2018

The eighth studio album by the metal band Architects, “Holy Hell” is the first without one of its founders, Tom Searle, a guitarist and lyricist who died of cancer in 2016. His twin brother Dan Searle, the band’s drummer, said the album was about coping with, living with, and learning from pain.


#47. "Illinois" by Sufjan Stevens (tie)

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.9 - Release date: July 5, 2005

“Illinois” is a follow-up to Sufjan Stevens’s album “Michigan,” part of his 50-state project that never materialized in full. Topics of the odes to the Midwestern state range from homegrown poet Carl Sandburg to serial killer John Wayne Gacy Jr. The singer-songwriter plays 25 instruments on the album.


#47. "Carrie & Lowell" by Sufjan Stevens (tie)

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.9 - Release date: March 31, 2015

Sufjan Stevens’ starkly personal “Carrie & Lowell” is dedicated to and inspired by his mother and stepfather, Carrie and Lowell Brams. His mother, who was bipolar and suffered from schizophrenia, abandoned Stevens when he was very young, and she died in 2012. His stepfather founded the record label Asthmatic Kitty to produce Stevens’s albums.

Legacy 55/101

#47. "Funeral" by Arcade Fire (tie)

- Metascore: 90 - User score: 8.9 - Release date: Sept. 14, 2004

“Funeral” was the debut album by Montreal’s indie-rock band Arcade Fire, featuring husband and wife artists Win Butler and Regine Chassagne. The name and emotional sound derived from the number of family members of the band who had recently died and were remembered in its liner notes.

Abraxan Hymns 56/101

#45. "Gold & Grey" by Baroness (tie)

- Metascore: 91 - User score: 7.3 - Release date: June 14, 2019

“Gold & Grey” joins the metal band’s discography of the “Red Album,” “Blue Record,” “Purple,” and “Yellow & Green.” In 2012, Baroness was involved in a bus accident in England that injured several members of the band and crew.

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Sony Music 57/101

#45. "Canto" by Los Super Seven (tie)

- Metascore: 91 - User score: 7.3 - Release date: March 13, 2001

Los Super Seven, the Tex-Mex band that made “Canto,” features David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos fame. The collection mixes old-world romance, jazz, Afro-Latin pop, Cuban, and South American sounds, and the band won a Grammy for Best Mexican American Music Performance.

Wea International 58/101

#44. "A Grand Don't Come For Free" by The Streets

- Metascore: 91 - User score: 7.9 - Release date: May 18, 2004

“A Grand Don’t Come for Free” spins the musical tale about losing and finding £1,000 and finding and losing a girlfriend along the way. The music of British hip-hop artist Mike Skinner, whose performance name is The Streets, mixes the sounds of ska, hip-hop, R&B, and garage music.

Roadrunner Records 59/101

#42. "Sex, Death & The Infinite Void" by Creeper (tie)

- Metascore: 91 - User score: 8.0 - Release date: July 31, 2020

English rock band Creeper’s second offering, “Sex, Death & The Infinite Void” is a concept album about an angel, Roe, who falls in love with a human, Annabelle, and subsequently falls from grace. A stark departure in sound from their first album, the 2020 release is a more melodic punk-rock than horror punk, similar in sound to David Bowie and Roy Orbison.

Mercury/Nashville 60/101

#42. "The Guitar Song" by Jamey Johnson (tie)

- Metascore: 91 - User score: 8.0 - Release date: Sept. 14, 2010

“The Guitar Song” is a double studio album by country music’s Jamey Johnson. One half, the “Black Album,” is filled with dark songs, and the “White Album” half is positive and redemptive. It includes Johnson’s cover versions of Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times," Vern Gosdin's "Set 'em Up Joe," and Mel Tillis’ “ Mental Revenge.”

Age 101 61/101

#40. "Grey Area" by Little Simz (tie)

- Metascore: 91 - User score: 8.4 - Release date: March 1, 2019

Hip-hop artist Little Simz—Simbi Ajikawo of North London—has said “Grey Area” was based on young adulthood, when nothing is black and white. Featuring the single “Selfish,” “Grey Area” was named Best British Album at the music’s annual NME Awards 2020 in London, where she brought her mother onstage with her to collect the prize.

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Tiny Engines 62/101

#40. "Home, Like Noplace Is There" by The Hotelier (tie)

- Metascore: 91 - User score: 8.4 - Release date: Feb. 25, 2014

Described as emo revival and punk, “ Home, Like Noplace Is There” was the breakout second album by The Hotelier of Worcester, Massachusetts. The band said it contained “some real dark stuff” drawn from several toxic and abusive years.

Matador 63/101

#39. "Set My Heart on Fire Immediately" by Perfume Genius

- Metascore: 91 - User score: 8.5 - Release date: May 15, 2020

An art-rock and punk album, “Set My Heart on Fire Immediately” contains influences from a dozen different genres, including synthpop, folk, and disco. Considered Perfume Genius’ strongest work to date, the record explores themes like love, the erosion of the body, and queer culture.

Epic Records Group 64/101

#37. "We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service" by A Tribe Called Quest (tie)

- Metascore: 91 - User score: 8.7 - Release date: Nov. 11, 2016

This was the sixth and last album by hip-hop’s A Tribe Called Quest, which started out in 1990. Featured guests on the farewell album include Elton John, Jack White, and Busta Rhymes.

Sony Legacy 65/101

#37. "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" by Outkast (tie)

- Metascore: 91 - User score: 8.7 - Release date: Sept. 23, 2003

“Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” by OutKast is divided into two albums, one by the duo’s Big Boi and the other by André 3000 with contributions by actress Rosario Dawson and musicians CeeLo Green and Norah Jones. Featuring the huge hit “Hey Ya,” the album cleaned up at the Grammys, winning Best Rap Album, Album of the Year, and Best Urban/Alternative Performance.

Lava Music 66/101

#35. "Melodrama" by Lorde (tie)

- Metascore: 91 - User score: 8.8 - Release date: June 16, 2017

“Melodrama,” which dabbles in themes of romance, breaking up, and coming of age, is the sophomore album of New Zealand’s Lorde. Her first album “Pure Heroine,” released in 2013 when she was 16 years old, was an enormous hit and a double Grammy winner. The singer-songwriter was born Ella Yelich-O'Connor.

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UMGD 67/101

#35. "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City" by Kendrick Lamar (tie)

- Metascore: 91 - User score: 8.8 - Release date: Oct. 22, 2012

“Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” is a concept album by hip-hop’s Kendrick Lamar as he depicts a day in his gritty hometown of Compton, California, south of downtown Los Angeles. He said the title was an acronym for “my angry adolescence divided” as well as, “my angel’s on angel dust,” a reference to a drug experience.

Bad Boy Records 68/101

#34. "The ArchAndroid" by Janelle Mone

- Metascore: 91 - User score: 8.9 - Release date: May 18, 2010

“The ArchAndroid” picks up with the seven-part concept series Metropolis that Janelle Monáe began on an earlier EP. Inspired by the German classic film “Metropolis” directed by Fritz Lang, it recounts the saga of an android who falls in love with a human.

Sub Pop Records 69/101

#32. "Titanic Rising" by Weyes Blood (tie)

- Metascore: 91 - User score: 9.0 - Release date: April 5, 2019

Songwriter Natalie Mering, who records as Weyes Blood, sings of doom and faith with futuristic imagery on “Titanic Rising.” It closes with the string instrumental “Nearer to Thee,” a reference to the hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee” the ship’s band is said to have been playing as the Titanic sank.

Sony Legacy 70/101

#32. "Is This It?" by The Strokes (tie)

- Metascore: 91 - User score: 9.0 - Release date: Oct. 9, 2001

“Is This It?” the debut album by the rock band The Strokes, was recorded in six weeks in a basement in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood. The band released its newest album “The New Abnormal” in early April 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. The band said the prescient title came from a comment made by former California Gov. Jerry Brown during the 2018 wildfires.

Nonesuch 71/101

#31. "Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down" by Ry Cooder

- Metascore: 92 - User score: 6.9 - Release date: August 29, 2011

American singer, songwriter, and musician Ry Cooder protests bank bailouts, inequality, and war in his album “Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down.” Cooder produced the hugely popular “Buena Vista Social Club” album of Cuban musicians in 1996.

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Holy Roar Records 72/101

#30. "Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It" by Rolo Tomassi

- Metascore: 92 - User score: 7.1 - Release date: March 2, 2018

England’s experimental band Rolo Tomassi mixes genres of indie rock, punk, and metal on “Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It.” The vocals by Eva Spence stretch from tender singing to searing screams amid pounding drums.

Columbia Records 73/101

#29. "Lemonade" by Beyonc

- Metascore: 92 - User score: 7.8 - Release date: April 23, 2016

Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” her sixth album released along with an hour-long film, tackles issues of infidelity, family, relationships, and race. In the hour-long film released with the album, the grandmother of her husband Jay-Z is shown at her 90th birthday party saying she had been given lemons and “made lemonade.”

Columbia Records 74/101

#28. "You Want It Darker" by Leonard Cohen

- Metascore: 92 - User score: 8.3 - Release date: Oct. 21, 2016

“You Want It Darker” was released just weeks before Canada’s poet songwriter Leonard Cohen died at age 82. It was produced by his son Adam Cohen, who also plays guitar, and features vocals by Alison Krauss.

Metal Blade Records 75/101

#26. "The Satanist" by Behemoth (tie)

- Metascore: 92 - User score: 8.5 - Release date: Feb. 4, 2014

The 10th album by the Polish extreme metal band, “Satanist” was released after the leukemia diagnosis of Nergal, the group’s frontman. He also faced charges of blasphemy after ripping up a Bible onstage and the possibility of two years in prison. The case went to the Polish Supreme Court and the European Commission, which ruled in his favor. Charges were also brought claiming the band’s merchandise design mocked the Polish coat of arms. The charges were dismissed.

Deathwish Inc 76/101

#26. "Sunbather" by Deafheaven (tie)

- Metascore: 92 - User score: 8.5 - Release date: June 11, 2013

Deafheaven “Sunbather” is filled with black metal's trademark screaming vocals and crashing percussion. The San Francisco Bay Area band mixed in the sounds of shoegaze, a musical genre of distortion, reverb, and volume.

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Warner Bros. 77/101

#25. "Elephant" by The White Stripes

- Metascore: 92 - User score: 8.6 - Release date: April 1, 2003

“Elephant” won two Grammys—Best Alternative Music Album and Best Rock Song for its “Seven Nation Army.” The White Stripes were a Detroit duo of Jack White and Meg White, who were former husband and wife although they pretended publicly to be brother and sister.

Xl Recordings Int'l 78/101

#23. "Boy In Da Corner" by Dizzee Rascal (tie)

- Metascore: 92 - User score: 8.8 - Release date: Jan. 20, 2004

“Boy in Da Corner” was the debut album of teenaged Dizzee Rascal of East London. It’s considered a masterpiece of grime, a British-born electronic dance genre. Rascal survived being stabbed six times in a gang fight in Cyprus two weeks before the album was released.

Anti- 79/101

#23. "Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards" by Tom Waits (tie)

- Metascore: 92 - User score: 8.8 - Release date: Nov. 21, 2006

“Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards” contains 56 songs on three distinct discs by the American singer-songwriter known for his distinctive throaty vocals. “Brawlers” is rock and blues, “Bawlers” is ballads and lullabies, and “Bastards” is stories and experimental sounds. Waits said the collection had “a lot of songs that fell behind the stove while making dinner.”

Def Jam 80/101

#22. "Channel Orange" by Frank Ocean

- Metascore: 92 - User score: 8.9 - Release date: July 17, 2012

Frank Ocean wrote songs for stars like Brandy, Justin Bieber, and John Legend before making his hugely successful mixtape “Nostalgia” and then writing the songs for “Channel Orange.” The popular album by the R&B singer-songwriter won high praise for its skilled vocals, engaging lyrics, and mix of rap, soul, and pop sounds.

Rounder Records 81/101

#21. "My Dusty Road" by Woody Guthrie

- Metascore: 93 - User score: 6.7 - Release date: August 25, 2009

“My Dusty Road” is a four-disc set of works by the legendary American songwriter. The 54 tracks come from original master recordings made in the 1940s, and the set includes previously unreleased songs, a 68-page book with liner notes, and copies of Guthrie’s lyric sheets.

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Epitaph Records 82/101

#20. "On the Impossible Past" by The Menzingers

- Metascore: 93 - User score: 7.9 - Release date: Feb. 21, 2012

The Menzingers are a popular punk band from Scranton, Pennsylvania. “The Impossible Past” is their debut album with Epitaph Records after two indie releases.

Bridge 83/101

#19. "A Crow Looked at Me" by Mount Eerie

- Metascore: 93 - User score: 8.0 - Release date: March 24, 2017

Songwriter Phil Elverum, who records under the name Mount Eerie, made the concept album “A Crow Looked at Me” in tribute to his late wife Genevieve Castrée. She died of pancreatic cancer in 2015, leaving him with their daughter born a year and half earlier. He sings about grief, memory, loss, and gratitude.

Noname 84/101

#18. "Room 25" by Noname

- Metascore: 93 - User score: 8.4 - Release date: Sept. 14, 2018

Noname, a Chicago rapper born Fatimah Warner, made “Room 25” to follow up her mixtape “Telefone.” She financed its production herself by touring.

Geffen 85/101

#15. "Live At Reading" by Nirvana (tie)

- Metascore: 93 - User score: 8.7 - Release date: Nov. 3, 2009

Before the release of “Live at Reading,” recordings of Nirvana’s famous Aug. 30, 1992, British concert were one of rock and roll’s most popular bootlegs. Making fun of rumors concerning his health, frontman Kurt Cobain arrived on stage in a wheelchair and wearing a hospital gown. Cobain died by suicide two years later.

Stones Throw 86/101

#15. "Madvillainy" by Madvillain (tie)

- Metascore: 93 - User score: 8.7 - Release date: March 23, 2004

“Madvillainy” is a collaborative creation of rapper MF Doom and producer Madlib, using the name Madvillain. The album was enormously popular, and fans have been hoping for a reunion of the two stars of underground hip-hop ever since.

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Columbia Records 87/101

#15. "Love And Theft" by Bob Dylan (tie)

- Metascore: 93 - User score: 8.7 - Release date: Sept. 11, 2001

“Love and Theft,” the 31st studio album by Bob Dylan, was released on September 11, 2001, the day of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Some hardcore fans and conspiracy theorists would argue that premonitions were hidden in the lyrics. The album, filled with sounds of blues and swing, won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

World Circuit 88/101

#13. "Savane" by Ali Farka Tour (tie)

- Metascore: 94 - User score: 8.4 - Release date: July 25, 2006

“Savane,” the final solo studio album by Mali’s national hero Ali Farka Touré, was released after his death. The African blues guitarist, who was the first of his family's 10 children to live past childhood, spent his last days in Niafunke, in the northern desert on the Niger River, where he was mayor. The songs are mostly sung in Malian dialects.

Roc A Fella 89/101

#13. "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" by Kanye West (tie)

- Metascore: 94 - User score: 8.4 - Release date: Nov. 22, 2010

Kanye West’s fifth album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” has an array of guest appearances including Nicki Minaj, Elton John, Fergie, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, and Jay-Z. The album failed to be nominated for the Grammys’ Album or Record of the Year, seen by many fans as a snub at the volatile artist.

Chrysalis/Partisan 90/101

#12. "Song for Our Daughter" by Laura Marling

- Metascore: 94 - User score: 9.0 - Release date: April 10, 2020

Largely vocals, strings, and acoustic guitar, “Song for Our Daughter” is the seventh solo album by British singer-songwriter Laura Marling. She has said the songs were written to an imaginary child. The album was released in early April, months ahead of its scheduled August 2020 arrival, for fans under coronavirus lockdown.

Columbia Records 91/101

#11. "Rough and Rowdy Ways" by Bob Dylan

- Metascore: 95 - User score: 7.6 - Release date: June 19, 2020

When Bob Dylan released “Rough and Rowdy Ways” in 2020, it marked the first time in eight years that he’d given the world new original music. A quick listen will reveal that the 79 year old hasn’t lost his touch, with each individual track containing the myths, magic, and truths we’ve come to expect from the singer-songwriter. In fact, this offering, which comes six decades into his career, is considered his best yet by many critics.

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Bad Seed Ltd. 92/101

#10. "Skeleton Tree" by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

- Metascore: 95 - User score: 8.3 - Release date: Sept. 9, 2016

“Skeleton Tree” was recorded as Australian rocker Nick Cave was mourning the loss of his 15-year-old son who died from falling off a cliff in England, although most of its dark lyrics were written before the accident. It was the 16th album by Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Top Dawg Entertainment/Aftermath 93/101

#9. "DAMN." by Kendrick Lamar

- Metascore: 95 - User score: 8.4 - Release date: April 14, 2017

Not only did “DAMN.” win a Grammy for Best Rap Album, but it was also the first nonclassical, nonjazz album to win a Pulitzer Prize. The committee said the album had “vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism” that captured “the complexity of modern African American life.”

Sony Legacy 94/101

#7. "Stankonia" by Outkast (tie)

- Metascore: 95 - User score: 8.7 - Release date: Oct. 31, 2000

“Stankonia” was the fourth album by the funky Outkast hip-hop duo. It won a Grammy for Best Rap Album, and the single “Ms. Jackson” won a Grammy for Best Performance by a Duo or Group.

Sony Legacy 95/101

#7. "Black Messiah" by D'Angelo (tie)

- Metascore: 95 - User score: 8.7 - Release date: Dec. 15, 2014

“Black Messiah” was released by the R&B star D’Angelo following a 14-year absence during which he struggled with personal troubles including addiction. Filled with protest songs, the album arrived amid political turmoil over police brutality after the killings of two unarmed black men—Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Bad Seed Ltd. 96/101

#5. "Ghosteen" by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (tie)

- Metascore: 96 - User score: 8.7 - Release date: Oct. 4, 2019

Goth rocker Nick Cave described “Ghosteen” as having two acts. Songs on the first half were the children and songs on the second half were their parents, he said. The album, his 17th with the Bad Seeds band, is imbued with his grief over the death of his teenage son four years earlier.

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Phillips Records 97/101

#5. "Histoire de Melody Nelson" by Serge Gainsbourg (tie)

- Metascore: 96 - User score: 8.7 - Release date: March 24, 2009

“Histoire de Melody Nelson” was a remastered rerelease of a 1971 rock album by France’s Serge Gainsbourg for a U.S. audience. The concept album, just 28 minutes long, features his lover and muse, iconic actress Jane Birkin, posed on the cover.

Top Dawg Entertainment/Aftermath 98/101

#4. "To Pimp A Butterfly" by Kendrick Lamar

- Metascore: 96 - User score: 8.8 - Release date: March 16, 2015

The working title of Kendrick Lamar’s second major label studio release was “Tu Pimp a Caterpillar” in honor of the late rapper Tupac Shakur. Touching on highly personal topics like fame, depression, and death, “To Pimp a Butterfly” scored Lamar five Grammys, including Best Rap Album.

Nonesuch 99/101

#3. "SMiLE" by Brian Wilson

- Metascore: 97 - User score: 7.9 - Release date: Sept. 28, 2004

Former Beach Boy Brian Wilson made “SMiLE” from the band’s unfinished 1967 album “Smile,” recreating songs that include a lively, pared-down version of “Good Vibrations.” Wilson won his first-ever Grammy—Best Rock Instrumental Performance—for the album’s song “Mrs. O'Leary's Cow.”

Interscope 100/101

#2. "Van Lear Rose" by Loretta Lynn

- Metascore: 97 - User score: 8.4 - Release date: April 27, 2004

Produced by Jack White of The White Stripes, “Van Lear Rose” was hailed as one of Loretta Lynn’s best albums. It was the 39th studio album by the country-music legend from Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, who was married at 13 and had four children by age 18. Featuring the song “Miss Being Mrs.” about the death of her husband, it won Grammys for Best Country Album and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.

Cuneiform Records 101/101

#1. "Ten Freedom Summers" by Wadada Leo Smith

- Metascore: 99 - User score: 4.6 - Release date: May 22, 2012

“Ten Freedom Summers” is a 19-piece, four-disc set by jazz trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith. It is centered on the 10 years of the civil rights movement from the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that said racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which made discrimination illegal).

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