20 albums from the past 20 years that you should listen to right now

20 albums from the past 20 years that you should listen to right now

With boy bands, Britney Spears and whole lotta MMMbop, they say that the past two decades are pretty iconic in the world of music.

Odelay (1996) Beck

‘’Odelay’’’s merits do partly come from how Beck manages to blend various genres like country, blues, hip-hop and lazy garage rock into something fun and cohesive. But more than that, what makes ‘’Odelay’’ a seriously good album is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998) Lauryn Hill

Every good R&B artist who put something out after 1998, whether it be Craig David or Usher or Noname (who recently released her mixtape “Telefone,” 2016’s sleeper release) owes their education to Ms. Lauryn Hill. A constant for any R&B syllabus.

The Battle of Los Angeles (1999) Rage Against The Machine

RATM’s third studio album and last release of original releases saw Zack de la Rocha at his lyrical best and guitarist Tom Morello really pushing the limits with his guitar effects experiments. This is the kind of album that makes you want to punch a president in the face.

Discovery (2001) Daft Punk

The fact that Daft Punk was a big part of what paved the way for today’s beat makers is a given, but consider this: what other album in recent history, released with visual accompaniment, could hold a candle to “Discovery”’s cinematic sibling, Interstella 555: The 5story of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem? Your faves could never.

Reanimation (2002) Linkin Park

Way ahead of its name, “Reanimation” was more than just a remix album, but an exemplar for how rock and electronic elements could come together. Certainly classier and more sophisticated than some of the band’s nu-metal contemporaries.

Frank (2003) Amy Winehouse

Let’s take a minute to pity those who only know Amy Winehouse for “Back to Black” and Valerie, because this album, for how great it is, goes to show how underappreciated the jazz doyenne was during her time. Still irreplaceable.

Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (2004) My Chemical Romance

We can all laugh at our emo phases now but, prepubescent fixations on the macabre aside, it still holds that “Three Cheers” characterized an era. “The Black Parade” was excellent for its theatrics, yes, but this record introduced many to a genre that, despite popular belief, isn’t as dead as everybody thinks.

Mesmerize (2005) System of a Down

Who could forget the music video for B.Y.O.B.? Shots of armed soldiers with screens on their helmets projecting “OBEY” alternating with scenes of a party, its crowd oblivious to the greater conflict. One can’t help noticing that “Mesmerize”’s approach to themes of dissent continue to resonate today.

Saosin (2006) Saosin

Saosin’s self-titled full-length is the platonic ideal of post-hardcore—intricate pentatonic minor scale riffs, vocals that manage to sound both whiney and full-bodied, emotional rock ‘roided on technical skill. For a lot of emo kids, this album was the gateway to heavier stuff.

Graduation (2007) Kanye West

Let’s go back to when the feud between Kanye West and 50 Cent was still a thing. “Graduation” was the album that won the battle and effectively loosened gangster rap’s grip on pop culture. Almost a decade later and the album still feels fresh.

Boxer (2007) The National

There are few bands that have mastered sadness the way The National has. “Boxer” exemplifies this. “Falling out of touch with all my / friends are somewhere getting wasted / Hope they’re staying glued together / I have arms for them,” Matt Berninger croons on Green Gloves. That’s poetry.

Good Girl Gone Bad (2008) Rihanna

Oh my God. This was the one with Umbrella. The one with Don’t Stop the Music. The one with Disturbia! Take a Bow! It’s common sense to us now that Rihanna’s always been dope as hell, but it was “Good Girl Gone Bad” that got most of us on that train.

For Long Tomorrow (2009) Toe

It’s hard to say how “For Long Tomorrow” got around. Word of mouth, maybe, or those two times Toe came to our shores. But the effects of “FLT” are still being felt, as ears continue to turn to the complex, sometimes playful melodic and rhythmic patterns of math rock.

Take Care (2011) Drake

Before Drake overplayed the whole softboy schtick with “Views,” there was “Take Care,” an honest album that took rap to more nuanced realms of heartbreak and emotional conflict. If you’re looking for something to blame for this generation of sad boys, listen to Marvin’s Room.

Channel Orange (2012) Frank Ocean

On “Nostalgia Ultra,” Ocean began developing his creative approach to nostalgia and memory. Eventually he honed that theme into the dreamy, meandering soundscapes of “Blonde.” Between that, “Channel Orange” stands as Ocean’s breakthrough, both into the mainstream and everybody’s headspace.

Sunbather (2013) Deafheaven

In Deafheaven, post-rock and black metal make for strange bedfellows, but the cross-genre combination works, with walls of sound complementing blast beats and throat-busting screams. And, I mean, what a great album cover.

Beyoncé (2013)  Beyoncé

We were all there when it happened. With one surprise release, Beyoncé completely and totally solidified her place in pop diva history, and drilled the definition of feminism into everybody’s brains. That was a good Christmas.

LP1 (2014) FKA Twigs

The latter half of 2014 might have been dominated by Taylor Swift, but FKA Twigs was the year’s real sonic superior. Listening to “LP1” sounds like being dropped into strange territory before getting haunted by its ghosts.

EMOTION (2015) Carly Rae Jepsen

Part of what made “EMOTION” such a banger was that nobody expected the girl behind Call Me Maybe to put out anything that could make even hard-headed critics believe in love again. Whoever dismissed this album simply for the name attached to it should reevaluate their life choices.

Coloring Book (2016) Chance the Rapper

We have “pre-currency, post-language, anti-label, pro-famous” human of the year Chance the Rapper to thank for the album of 2016. Because it isn’t just God and gospel vocals carrying “Coloring Book”. It’s — clichéd as it is to say—hope. Considering the slow motion trainwreck that this year has been, hope is something we could all use.


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