20 Albums Turning 20 In 2020

November 20, 2020

Leading up to the new millennium, there was a panic that it was going to be the end of the world. But not in a Prince "tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999" going into 2000 kind of way; people were actually scared something was going to happen. There was a looming fear that major computer systems would crash and it caused many to stockpile food, batteries and bottled water because of the unknown. Stateside, once that ball dropped in Time's Square and said systems didn't fail, Y2K was just the new normal and no more fear of the Millennium Bug.

The popular music landscape was led by boy bands, R&B girl groups, and impressive new rappers. Also dominating the charts were powerhouse female pop stars and niche rock genres pop-punk and nu metal.

Elsewhere, underground and independent bands were energized and changing the sound of music. Not just sticking to one genre, independent rock bands were becoming wildly ambitious and adding electronic music and other sounds onto their records. While that is so common nowadays, it was pioneering at the turn on the century.

Enter Napster. We can credit them and this year as the time when our computers started to change our relationship with how we listened to music. The popular file-sharing site gave music fans a chance to share albums for free; and this new trend paved the way for the digital music revolution that we now know. The site was continually shut down and faced many lawsuits from artists and musicians who wanted to be compensated for the music they were creating as it was being pirated online.

Reflecting back at 2000, here are 20 albums that the staff considers essential listening after two decades.

Tune in Wednesday, Nov. 25 @3pm MST through Sunday, Nov. 29 for songs from these historic albums.

The Avalanches - Since I Left You

First, before we're deluged with messages that begin, "Well, actually...," an acknowledgement: while it's true that Since I Left You, the debut album from The Avalanches, wasn't released until November of 2001, its initial release in the group's native Australia came a year earlier.

That information might seem like minutiae, but there was a significant reason for the delay. In its original form Since I Left You contained over 3500 samples – a truly dizzying number – spliced and patched and pieced together by Avalanches core duo Robbie Chater and Darren Seltmann. That the record got an international release at all was something short of miraculous, since every sample had to be traced to its source, and either usage permissions had to be obtained, or suitable replacements found. It's perhaps the most glorious example of what several years earlier had been dubbed plunderphonics (that being the creation of a sound collage made from one or more existing pieces of music or found sound) – the kind of record that could only be made by crate-digging producers like Chater and Seltmann.

Indeed, one of the most amazing things about Since I Left You is just how natural and cohesive it sounds – a record with so many pieces and genres coming from so many different times and places. The result is a joyous, free-wheeling, kaleidoscopic, and unpredictable collection, not so much a listen as a journey. Yes, that sounds hyperbolic, but there's simply no perfect way to describe it. There’s a reason it took sixteen years for Avalanches to issue their follow-up (which they eventually did with the almost-as-excellent Wildflower). The world may have been very different in 2000, but twenty years on Since I Left You is as undeniable as ever. - Jeremy Petersen

Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour of Bewilderbeast

There's a romance to revisiting an album 20 years after its release; especially an artist's debut. The singular, scene-stealing and original album by Badly Drawn Boy, The Hour of the Bewilderbeast, stands the test of time.

The unknown indie solo artist from the land of Oasis, turned the Manchester scene on it's head when his breakthrough album was released and he became the new darling of the iconic music city.

The 18-track album opens with the enchanting song "The Shining," an instrumental duet of cello and French horn before it turns into a sweet love song on guitar. Damon Gough, who records as Badly Drawn Boy played nearly all the instruments on the album and he has said he put his whole life into the album up to that point. His melodies about falling in love carry an honest delivery.

But it's not all pretty ballads; Gough's eclectic style, which wasn't common on albums from that era (think Coldplay and Travis), has experimental bits of baroque pop and lo-fi indie rock all wrapped in charm and self-deprecation led him from obscurity to this album winning the UK's coveted Mercury Prize in Music. - Alisha Sweeney

Coldplay - Parachutes

Back in 2000, a lot of rock radio stations here in the U.S. were on the heavier side of things. Nu metal was at its commercial peak with bands like Korn, Godsmack, Limp Bizkit, and Creed. All of a sudden a song called "Yellow" appears here in the U.S. from a new band out of England by the name of Coldplay, which really felt like a breath of fresh air at the time. The song became a huge hit in both the UK and US, and paved the way for the band to become international superstars. When Parachutes was released, the band was receiving a decent amount of hype from the UK music press. Not nearly as much as The Strokes would get a year later, but Coldplay came into the world with a bang in 2000 and have become one of the most consistent bands in rock music over the past 20 years. Likeable gents that crank out well-written songs that appeal to millions and millions, year after year... A winning formula that we were introduced to back in Y2K on the album Parachutes. - Jason Thomas

The Cure - Bloodflowers

These guys were friends attending middle school in West Sussex, UK. Malice was their name and they honed their craft as a cover band playing local churches and winning a talent competition earning their first recording contract which led to the hiring of vocalist Robert Smith.  The label tried to push them to be a pop cover band but their rebellion and perseverance paid off with a new deal to Fiction record label. While on tour supporting Siouxsie and the Banshees, Robert Smith played guitar for the headliners and that helped reshape the new goth sound of The Cure.  The band saw groundbreaking triumphs along the way that included albums Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and Disintegration.  Already a band for over 22 years, in February of 2000, The Cure released their eleventh studio album Bloodflowers.  Not following in the band’s previous successes, this record was panned by most critics accusing Robert Smith of being uninspired and Melody Maker calling this record “Goth – Awful.”  While this was not a groundbreaking collection, nonetheless Bloodflowers debuted at number 16 on the Billboard albums chart and it was nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Album.  Not bad for an inconsequential record of its time.  Music is subjective and Cure fans still hold this record as essential to the repertoire.  - Willobee Carlan

The Dandy Warhols - 13 Tales From Urban Bohemia

"We felt like we needed to make the last classic rock album," said the band and George Harrison's All Things Must Pass has been named as an inspiration, and you might even hear traces of "My Sweet Lord" in the album opener, "Godless." Not a huge chart success here in the U.S. (it only peaked at #182) but according to music critic Jim DeRogatis, "It's an intoxicating mix, and it deserves to win these boys their 15 minutes of fame." Now, whether the band experienced more or less than 15 minutes is debatable, but the excellence of this record is NOT debatable. The most famous song on the record is "Bohemian Like You," a song that was written by Courtney Taylor-Taylor after seeing a young woman at a stoplight behind the wheel of an old BMW. The song is his fantasy of what their relationship would've been like! Amazing stuff, and a record that we have not forgotten. 13 Tales From Urban Bohemia from The Dandy Warhols. - Jason Thomas

Death Cab for Cutie - we have the facts and we're voting yes

"Title Track," the opening cut on Death Cab for Cutie's second album (not, in fact, the title track), begins as if coming from behind a closed door, the first one minute and thirty-nine seconds merely hinting at what might be in the room behind it before the drums and low end kick in to reveal the full stereo spectrum. It's a minor touch, maybe, but an effective one, suggesting that there's more in store than might be expected from a lo-fi indie pop record.

That record, We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, turned 20 this year and if one had to visualize the room in question, figuratively and literally, it's a bedroom in a modest family home in Bellingham, Washington, 90 miles north of Seattle. It's a fitting birthplace for an album imbued with the kind of DIY ethos that was one of the defining elements of so much of the music to come out of the Pacific Northwest during the era.

Fact is, Facts is a kind of modest masterpiece – one critic at the time characterized it as "something you want to discover and cherish with no strings attached, and pass it on as eagerly" – arguably made more so by the haphazard, shoestring nature of its recording and the on-the-fly production style of the band's Chris Walla. He would later wonder just how they were able to create such a thing. Ben Gibbard, meanwhile, who started Death Cab as a solo project in 1997, came into his own as a songwriter and lyricist on the collection of songs, largely inspired by his own post-collegiate listlessness and failure to launch (there’s a reason it resonated for me at 24). Twenty years later, I’m still voting yes. - Jeremy Petersen

Granddaddy - The Sophtware Slump

Grandaddy beat their sophomore slump with their 2nd album Sophtware Slump to critical praise in 2000. The album was written and recorded by frontman Jason Lytle alone in a remote farmhouse, retreating to a more primitive setting to create this album about conflicts between technology and society. A recurring character throughout the album is Jed, a disgruntled robot who drinks himself to death in the track Jed the humanoid which a critic from The Guardian, called "the saddest robot song ever written."

Just a couple weeks ago Grandaddy celebrated the 20th anniversary of the record by releasing a 4 LP set including a solo piano version of sophtware slump that Jason performed on a wooden piano at home during quarantine, updating the isolated conditions of the original album.

So happy 20th Birthday Sophtware Slump, one more year and you’ll be old enough to drink, not that Jeb needs any more.  - Jessi Whitten

The Hives – Veni Vidi Vicious

Epitaph Records, the independent record company founded by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz was predominantly a punk label known for acts like NOFX, The Offspring and Rancid. Swedish garage rockers The Hives fit nicely on the roster as their second studio album was an homage to the early days of Detroit punk rock.  The album title is a play on words dating back to 47 B.C. when Julius Caesar conquered Asia claiming "Veni, vidi, vici.” a.k.a I came, I saw, I conquered. The album put the band firmly on the map receiving universal critical acclaim and 9 years later made it into Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 100 albums of the decade.  Paste Magazine also picked the record as number 24 on the Top 50 Best Garage Rock Albums of All Time. In 2000, many music critics hailed The Hives as one of the best live rock bands around. That sentiment was echoed by Singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist who once told a crowd at a concert that “The Hives are one of the greatest rock ’n’ roll bands that ever lived, which I think ought to be obvious by now.” It was quite a bold statement, but then again so was the album Veni Vidi Vicious.  - Willobee Carlan

Jurassic 5 - Quality Control

The sophomore slump is, of course, in reference to a band or musician’s second release not living up to their debut. Jurassic 5 was still rising out of the LA hip hop scene in 1999, and their sophomore release was anything but a slump - in fact, it solidified their space in the indie alternative hip hop scene and helped the group gain a mass audience. Released in the middle of 2000 and appropriately titled, Quality Control, the group had just been signed to Interscope records and the stakes seemed pretty high - but J5 kept to what they knew, which was being their most authentic selves - just a bit polished. The 4 emcees - Chali 2Na, Akil, Mark 7 and Soup - had stepped up their rhymes and flowed with each other seamlessly; while the 2 producers - Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark - went from feeding loop beats in a copy paste style to providing the foundation to set J5 apart from the g-funk rappers of the time. Quality Control doesn’t boast the biggest hits Jurassic 5 have made, but it was the world’s introduction to what they were capable of. - Bruce Trujillo

Modest Mouse - The Moon and Antarctica 

Modest Mouse’s third album The Moon and Antarctica was my first introduction to the pacific northwest rock band – you know, land of Nirvana and Built to Spill; was the band's debut on a major label with a major budget.

Now, bands have always had to confront the sell out notion when jumping on to a major label, fears of over production and polish stripping the band of it’s ferociousness, grit, DIY ethos and frontman Isaac Brock's screams. Despite the big budget and an incident where Isaac Brock was beaten so badly he had his jaw wired shut for months, Brock was heavily involved with mixing and production. 

The title lends from the opening scene of Blade Runner, where Rick Deckard reads a newspaper headlined "Farming the Oceans, the Moon and Antarctica."

Emphasizing the exploration of themes including the alienness of one’s own being when the universe is vast but the universe inside you can be even more infinite and lonely. Also, what comes after this existence? 

Though Isaac Brock  was not happy with the final product and in 2004 would re-release the album with help from Epic with new artwork and 4 additional tracks. Connecting him again to science fiction, ahem George Lucas remaster. Happy or not The Moon and Antarctica remains a must for long drives to far off lands and as the gateway suggestion for new Modest Mouse listeners. - Katie Bradley

New Pornographers - Mass Romantic

The notion of a "supergroup" – the collaboration of a group of musicians who are already established on their own or in other bands to form a new musical entity – is one the result of which is often an emphasis more on the group than the super. But not always.

Admittedly, the members of the (mostly) Canadian supergroup The New Pornographers were not exactly household names when the project formed in the late '90s, particularly outside of Canada. Initially conceived around Zumpano's Carl "A.C." Newman, Destroyer's Dan Bejar, and The Evaporators’ John Collins sharing songs with friends, the idea soon grew to bring several others from the Vancouver, B.C. scene into the project, the first version of the band also including Neko Case, Kurt Dahle, Blaine Thurier, and Fisher Rose.

Initially released on the Mint label in Canada in November of 2000, the band's debut Mass Romantic is a hook-filled tour de force, employing wall-of-sound production and retro power-pop influences like Cheap Trick, Big Star, and T. Rex. It's just under 41 minutes of exuberance that never really relents, not that you want it to.

Part of the album's charm is the all-hands-on-deck approach that includes the two-headed songwriting monster of Newman and Bejar switching off on lead vocals, as well as the welcome reprieve of Neko Case's signature contralto. It's a formula that made for one of the best sounding records of 2000, the first of eight from The New Pornographers in the years since and one of the most consistently great catalogs around. - Jeremy Petersen

No Doubt - Return of Saturn 

Butterfly clips, Limited Too, Manic Panic, inflatable furniture, clear plastic landline phones...

Plus, Gwen Stefani! Essentials for the year 2000.

No Doubt had been working on a follow up to Tragic Kingdom since 1998, after 27months of touring the world and clashes with producers and record execs who wanted to bank on an immediate follow up release stalled the fourth album.  The band had evolved (became a quartet with a drummer who didn’t even know how to play) and having fun and writing great songs was a major driver not searching for commercial gain.  

Return of Saturn is coined by the astrological phenomenon of Saturn returning to the place of one’s birth; it happens around 29 years or so, and is considered a period of self evaluation, about the age Stefani was when writing the album. Songs were personal, they explored anxiety regarding relationship woes and the challenge of dealing with success and craving domestic life. 

Male critics and reviewers pushed hard against stefani and the lyrics of the songs released, you’re so young and beautiful why can’t you just be happy? 

No Doubt continued to defy labels and push expectations not just ska or punk, especially in a time where boy bands and pop queen idols reigned. Return of Saturn infused

Two tone, swing, funk, flamenco, new wave, and besides, the band had said they didn’t fit in 1995 and still didn’t well into 2000. Now at 20 years on, Return of Saturn is a total time capsule  when even the hardest part of your 20s seemed fun.  - Katie Bradley

Outkast - Stankonia

As we’re exploring 20 albums turning 20, you’d be hard pressed to find another on this list as easily recognizable as Outkast’s fourth studio album, Stankonia, featuring Big Boi’s classic hip hop verses and Andre 3000’s newly inspired melodic flow. We all still sing “so fresh and so clean, clean.” We all STILL sing “forever - forever? Forever ever?" and we all STILL sing “nah-nah nah-nahhh”, even if we can’t keep up with 3000’s impeccable and speedy flow. Stankonia was Outkast’s first album recorded in their very own Stankonia Studios in Atlanta, GA, and finds that perfect balance between being a top 40 mainstay and incorporating fresh, new, independent sounds and socially conscious themes. Stankonia went on to gain Best Rap Album of the Year, Best Rap Performance by a Duo, and was nominated for Album of the Year by the Recording Academy. It’s still on Rolling Stone’s Best 500 Albums of All Time list. It’s still favorited in your Spotify. Outkast opened the doors for Southern rap to be consumed nationwide - and 20 years later, Stankonia tastes just as good, if not better. - Bruce Trujillo

PJ Harvey - Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea

Polly Jean Harvey, known professionally as PJ Harvey emerged in the early-90s and quickly became a feminist hero for many fans and music critics. Yet she rejected the ideal and just wanted to be known as a musician in an equal playing field alongside all artists. Throughout the 90s, her first five releases were critically acclaimed in America, Europe, and in England where she hails from. Her music was honored with Grammy and Mercury Prize nominations, worldwide accolades from all the most coveted music press, and sold out tours.

Her sixth album Stories From The City, Stories from the Sea, earned Harvey her first win of the Mercury Prize in Music being chosen over albums by Gorillaz and Radiohead. She is the first female artist to win the distinguished award out of the UK. A decade later, she won the prize again, making her the only artist in history to win twice.

Stories is a landmark album written mostly in New York. The famed city serves as the backdrop to many of the album's tunes, like "This Mess We're In" that features Thom Yorke, “Can you hear them? / The helicopters / I’m in New York.” Other notable songs include "Big Exit," "Good Fortune," and "This Is Love."

Not one to compromise her musicianship, Harvey's 2000 album was innovative while also giving her the space to break through to the alternative mainstream. - Alisha Sweeney

Queens of the Stone Age - Rated R

When you start an album with, "Nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol," you're gonna get people's attention right out of the gate. Really, not a shock to open like that when you're a band whose sound had been referred to as "stoner rock." Josh Homme said that the 1998 S/T debut from Queens of the Stone Age established their sound. He also said that the 2000 follow-up, Rated R, was to let people know that they could be weird and strange as well. Said Josh, "I like hooks, and I like dark pop music, and I like it when it sounds like THIS." Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees fame and the "Metal God" himself, Rob Halford, gave their stamp of approval by contributing backing vocals on the record. In addition Mark Lanegan stuck around as a band member for a few years, and Dave Grohl liked the band enough to become their drummer on Songs for the Deaf in 2002. On Rated R you'll hear some riffs that sound so simple that almost anyone could play them. Simple, yes, but also powerful and infectious. - Jason Thomas

Radiohead - Kid A

It seems a foolish task to try to definitively rank Radiohead albums, they each have their own unique genius and the debate can get exhausting, especially when it comes to Kid A. A new sound for the new millennium, Kid A remains one of the most divisive albums in music nerd-dom history. Expanding into synth, jazz and ambient influences, Kid A was also one of the first records to embrace what would become standard industry practice of releasing albums to stream online.

Though ranking Radiohead may appear to be a fool's errand, Rollingstone boldly proclaimed Kid A the greatest album of the 2000s and now that it’s just turned 20 years old, they just named it the 20th best record of all time.  And if you need more fodder for your rank debate, Steven Hyden, author of This Isn’t Happening: Radiohead’s “Kid A” and the Beginning of the 21st Century has deemed Kid A “the most emblematic album of the modern era.”  20 years old and already a legend.  - Jessi Whitten

Sleater-Kinney - All Hands on the Bad One

By 2000, Sleater-Kinney had established themselves as a riot grrrl band that was not going away. On their 5th studio album, All Hands on the Bad One, they doubled down opening the album with a tune inspired by a truly uninspired nickname from a hotel owner in England. The crass owner called them “ladymen,” in reference to their being a female band in a male dominated industry. Thus, "Ballad of a Ladyman" was born - and that’s just the beginning. The first single was, in fact, “You’re No Rock n’Roll Fun,” which found the band musing on their own success - and how their male counterparts were not okay with either of those things - the success or the self awareness. All Hands on the Bad One is hailed as Sleater-Kinney’s first “fun” album, but in all seriousness - it’s mostly just poking fun at those who would assume they wouldn’t, couldn’t, or shouldn’t be that way - which is very riot grrrl indeed. - Bruce Trujillo

U2 - All That You Can't Leave Behind

Back in the day before Apple forced U2 albums on your iTunes, the band’s tenth studio album All That You Can’t Leave Behind was normally released in October of 2000.  The 11-track record included multiple hits "Beautiful Day," "Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of," "Elevation," and "Walk On.” Produced by longtime U2 collaborators Daniel Lanois and iconic musician Brian Eno, the album received rave reviews and spent 94 weeks, nearly two years on the Billboard chart and went to Number 1 in 32 countries around the world. The album earned seven Grammys, including record of the year and best rock album. Rolling Stone called it a "masterpiece," awarding four out of five stars saying the album represents the most uninterrupted collection of strong melodies U2 have ever mounted.”

In celebration of the 20th anniversary, the band has released a remastered deluxe reissue featuring bonus material and a brand-new track. We celebrate U2’s “All That You Can't Leave Behind.”  - Willobee Carlan

The White Stripes - De Stijl

When Detroit band The White Stripes released their second album, they were hardly a blip on anyone’s radar. This was before Fell in Love with a Girl was on MTV with lego versions of our heroes. Jack and Meg White were barely an oddity to consider, before touring for this album Jack White finally put in all his chips to pursue rock-n-roll full time and closed his upholstery shop. 

De Stijl means the style, an art movement of block coloring from dutch abstract artists. The album is dedicated to a prominent furniture designer of the movement Gerrit  Rietveld and blues singer and guitarist Blind Willie McTell to which Your Southern Can Is Mine belongs to. Style meets blues, ya follow? Oh Jack White would follow this cocktail and make it his very own. 

The two played everything outside of harmonica and violin on this record and the simplicity and raucousness touches that special place where youth, rage, and weird intersect. People thought they were a joke, two white kids dressed as peppermints  playing bluesy rock. Not even a full band! 

The album opens with 95 seconds of a hilarious feigned attempt for a girl, followed by the official single Hello Operator which has no chorus. A Complete treasure coming in at 37 minutes, de stijl introduces punk kids to slide guitar, plenty of catchy fun songwriting with an outlaw feel. The style, their style is where it began for our heroes, Jack & Meg, The White Stripes.  - Katie Bradley

Yo La Tengo - And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out

One of the first acclaimed indie albums of 2000 was Yo La Tengo's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out. Released in February of the new millennium, it's a gentle and ethereal collection of love songs by the largely experimental band.

Formed in 1984, the Hoboken, New Jersey trio is an enviable musical partnership between husband-wife Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley as the group's core songwriters and their friend and bandmate James McNew.

Dreamy and hushed songs like "Our Way To Fall" and "Last Days Of Disco" are intimate snapshots of the couple's long love story and uptempo rocker "Cherry Chapstick" is seemingly an observation of superficial love that exists in American culture.

The love of making music and writing beautiful songs is pure and evident with Yo La Tengo, and over the decades the band has cast a spell on fans that they are "a group to grow old with" just as they are with each other.
- Alisha Sweeney

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