Music

The best album of every year since 2000, according to the critics

Posted by
Dave Fawbert
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When you sign up to a music streaming service, you’re faced with a daunting task: what on earth, out of the whole history of recorded music, do I listen to?

Now, obviously your first thought will be: “Probably some Taylor Swift, as she is a phenomenal songwriter and has amassed a vast array of hits with barely any duds amongst her back catalogue”.

But once you’ve listened to Taylor Swift, repeatedly, what then? Then you turn to the critics – it’s their job to listen to every new record that comes out, so they’ll know which albums you should spend your valuable time on.

So what better way to guide your listening than by listening to the most critically-acclaimed album from every year, from 2000 to the present day? Well, lucky for you lot, we’ve compiled them, using the top scores from Metacritic, which takes every major music reviewer’s scores to create an average, out of 100. If you know anything about music critics, it’s that they love being seen to like extremely wordy indie music, meaningful hip hop and Radiohead, so prepare yourself for more Tom Waits and Kendrick Lamar than you can shake a stick at.

We’ve listed the top three for each year, and also the top-rated album as scored by Joe Public (or at least, those Joe Publics that bothered to rate albums on Metacritic). We’ve also noted the occasions when the critics’ ratings have wildly differed from the punters, just for fun. Happy listening.

2000: Outkast – Stankonia (95/100)

2. Primal Scream – XTRMNTR (90/100)

3. Aimee Mann – Bachelor No. 2 (or, the last remains of the dodo) (89/100)

USER WINNER: Radiohead – Kid A (92/100)

2001: Bob Dylan – Love and Theft (93/100)

2. Los Super Seven – Canto (91/100)

3. The Strokes – Is This It? (91/100)

USER WINNER: The Avalanches – Since I Left You (91/100)

2002: The Streets – Original Pirate Material (90/100)

2. Tom Waits – Alice (90/100)

3. Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf (89/100)

USER WINNER: Interpol – Turn Off The Bright Lights (91/100)

2003: The White Stripes – Elephant (92/100)

2. Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (91/100)

3. Four Tet – Rounds (89/100)

USER WINNER: Multiple albums on 90/100

2004: Brian Wilson – SMILE (97/100)

2. Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose (97/100)

3. Madvillain – Madvillainy (93/100)

USER WINNER: Arcade Fire – Funeral (91/100)

*Critics vs the public: SMILE only scored 79 on user ratings*

2005: Sufjan Stevens – Illinois (90/100)

2. My Morning Jacket – Z (90/100)

3. Isolée – Wearemonster (89/100)

USER WINNER: Multiple albums on 90/100

2006: Ali Farka Toure – Savane (94/100)

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2. Tom Waits – Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards (92/100)

3. Bob Dylan – Modern Times (89/100)

USER WINNER: Red Hot Chili Peppers – Stadium Arcadium (91/100)

2007: The Field – From Here We Go Sublime (90/100)

2. Burial – Untrue (90/100)

3. Radiohead – In Rainbows (88/100)

USER WINNER: Radiohead – In Rainbows (92/100)

*Critics vs the public: From Here We Go Sublime only scored 67 on user ratings*

2008: The Bug – London Zoo (90/100)

2. Plush – Fed (89/100)

3. TV on the Radio – Dear Science (88/100)

USER WINNER: Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago (91/100)

*Critics vs the public: London Zoo only scored 65 on user ratings*

2009: Serge Gainsbourg – Histoire de Melody Nelson (96/100)

2. Nirvana – Live at Reading (93/100)

3. Woody Guthrie – My Dusty Road (93/100)

USER WINNER: Multiple albums on 90/100

2010: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (94/100)

2. Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid (91/100)

3. Jamey Johnson – The Guitar Song (91/100)

USER WINNER: Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid (91/100)

2011: Ry Cooder – Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down (92/100)

2. Saigon – The Greatest Story Never Told (89/100)

3. Tom Waits – Bad As Me (88/100)

USER WINNER: Multiple albums on 90/100

*Critics vs the public: Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down only scored 68 on user ratings*

2012: Wadada Leo Smith – Ten Freedom Summers (99/100)

2. The Menzingers – On The Impossible Past (93/100)

3. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange (92/100)

USER WINNER: Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D City / Tame Impala – Lonerism (91/100)

*Critics vs the public: Ten Freedom Summers only scored 51 on user ratings*

2013: Deafheaven – Sunbather (92/100)

2. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba – Jama Ko (90/100)

3. Nils Frahm – Spaces (90/100)

USER WINNER: Queens of the Stone Age – ...Like Clockwork (89/100)

2014: D’Angelo – Black Messiah (95/100)

2. Behemoth – The Satanist (92/100)

3. The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace Is There (91/100)

USER WINNER: Multiple albums on 90/100

2015: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (96/100)

2. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (90/100)

3. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love (90/100)

USER WINNER: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (91/100)

2016: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (95/100)

2. Beyoncé – Lemonade (92/100)

3. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (92/100)

USER WINNER: Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (91/100)

*Critics vs the public: Skeleton Tree only scored 82 on user ratings*

2017: Kendrick Lamar – DAMN. (95/100)

2. Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me (93/100)

3. Lorde – Melodrama (91/100)

USER WINNER: Lorde – Melodrama / Kendrick Lamar – DAMN. (88/100)

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Dave Fawbert

ShortList.com staff writer Dave’s primary passions are pop, prose, punning and power ballads (and alliteration). A lower division football enthusiast and long-suffering cricket fan, he is one of only 110 people followed on Twitter by Chas Hodges from Chas ‘n’ Dave. Follow Dave on Twitter like Chas: @davefawbert

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