10 Best Albums From 2001
The year 2001 was divided into two parts: the one before 9/11 and the one after. Even though every single record released after the tragic events of the day that make our list of the 10 Best Albums From 2001 was recorded before 9/11, it’s hard not to read parallels and significance in the music. The best work almost always does that: It absorbs and envelops its era, whether it means to or not. The greatest albums from 2001 mean a lot.
The second album by this British EDM duo is richer, fuller and way more bananas than their 1999 debut LP ‘Remedy.’ Loaded with equal bits of beats and ideas, ‘Rooty’ is cheesier and more aggressive than anything Daft Punk (see No. 4 on our list of the 10 Best Albums From 2001), their biggest competition back in the day, recorded at the turn of the century.
These post-hardcore heroes have always worked better on paper than on record. But their final album before their 2003 hiatus is packed with tough, clipped riffs and enough reserved fury to fuel the occasional gut-level attack. Best of all, there’s melodic thrust to most of the songs, which are way smarter than what the genre usually dispenses.
In some ways, the fifth album by the Icelandic ice princess is her boldest, stacking samples of found sounds on top of each other until the whole thing appears to be crumbling. But it’s also more challenging than her previous records, sidestepping melodies in favor of space-age beats. It’s a mesmerizing listen either way.
The Shins’ debut album sounds like lost, shuffling ghosts at times. Other parts of the record appear to take flight and soar miles above land. It’s a scattered record, trying on and testing various styles that all fall back under the indie-pop umbrella before everything settles. They’d aim bigger later, but ‘Oh, Inverted World’ is the Shins’ quiet little gem.
Adams’ second album was released two weeks after 9/11; its first video was shot four days before the Twin Towers, which loom in the background, fell. That gives the LP, and its anchor song ‘New York, New York,’ plenty of resonance. But even without all that, ‘Gold’ would be a terrific album, a mix of pop, rock, punk, country and folk that Adams never forces.
System of a Down’s second album debuted at No. 1 the week of 9/11. And like Ryan Adams’ ‘Gold’ (see No. 6 on our list of the 10 Best Albums From 2001), it gains both emotional and thematic heft because of the connection. But ‘Toxicity’ stands on its own as a turbocharged political manifesto that reins in a decade of more subtle forms of terrorism.
Daft Punk’s 1997 debut was a wild, rapid-fire collection of songs that brought ’80s house music barreling into the future. Their second album took them to a whole other place. Unraveling, in part, like a concept album with some sort of sci-fi theme (at least, that’s what we think is going on; we’re still not sure), ‘Discovery’ lays down a foundation consisting of some of the best and most innovative EDM tracks of the decade.
The breakthrough album by the Detroit duo is raw, primal and about as DIY sounding as you get on a record that’s actually been heard by more than 25 people. Like their previous two records, ‘White Blood Cells’ filters the White Stripes’ take on old-school blues music through a garage-rock filter that gives it a spin or two of punk-style spit-and-chew along the way.
Any record that had the misfortune to come out in the immediate weeks before and after 9/11 will forever be pinned to the tragic event. Even though the Strokes’ debut album was released overseas in July, it didn’t come out in their homeland until a few weeks after 9/11. And the connection between ‘Is This It’ and the terror-stricken city the band called home was forever linked, in songs and spirit.
Because ‘Amnesiac’ is pulled from the same sessions that yielded 2000’s monumental ‘Kid A,’ it plays more like an extended companion piece rather than a follow-up sequel. The more experimental (and therefore better) numbers were used on ‘Kid A'; the ‘Amnesiac’ tracks are sturdier and tougher. It doesn’t fall together as effortlessly as its predecessor, but the sonic depths that Radiohead dive into here are nonetheless staggering in their brilliance.