Meet up with friends over Zoom and enjoy some of the best music of the 2000s, for gatherings of any occasion! Find your favorite genres and styles below, match the vibe, and let these great records spin. With a little something for everyone, check out the list below and let your tastes be heard!
I'm all about the classic HIP-HOP sound, both from the old guys and the modern greats. I've heard all the best out there, and I want my rappers to be...
...brash and cocky
Jay-Z – American Gangster
American Gangster may not be the best Jay-Z album, but it contains that undeniable East Coast "cool" quality that will please anyone worn out on The Blueprint and The Black Album. This record moves briskly with bravado as Shawn Carter raps about the struggle of the New York gangster lifestyle, drifting through a semi-conceptual story of the rise and fall of the American Gangster. Though Jay-Z frequently goes into a confessional mood on this album, he never leaves too much space between his typical bangers, such as the rousing tracks "Roc Boys" and "American Gangster."
...assertive and aggressive
Ghostface Killah – Fishscale
From the legendary Wu-Tang Clan, Ghostface Killah was in his mid-30s while making Fishscale, yet he sounds no less potent as a rapper and lyricist. The hit single "Back Like That" echoed the 90s with a slow groove, excellent sung vocals from Ne-Yo, and contrasting pugnacious rapping, while "Be Easy" sounded like a classic 80s track with a rapped hook in full rap-anthem form. It's true East Coast hip-hop through and through, reclaiming Ghostface's relevance over a decade past his youthful prime.
...with some real West Coast grit
Vince Staples – Summertime '06
Vince Staples' official full-length debut was truly revelatory upon its 2015 release. With 20 tracks and about an hour of music spread over two discs (perhaps unnecessarily), Summertime '06 demonstrates Vince at peak performance with the most inspired hip-hop debut of the past decade. With exceptional modern production from No I.D., this album is the perfect display of Vince Staples' gritty West Coast delivery.
The music I like has great POP melodies, a good feel, and sounds great on the radio or in the club. Dancing to music is a must! And I generally like the popstars who are...
...a bit left-of-center
Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob
What started as a Canadian indie rock duo soon turned into a pop-songwriting tour-de-force; Tegan and Sara dash all traces of their former sound from the first minute of Heartthrob, opening with the empowering joy of "Closer." For some freeing and elevating electropop music, it doesn't get much better than this.
...more mainstream, but still awesome
Rihanna – ANTI
The most recent Rihanna album will hopefully not be the last – ANTI might be her all-time best record. With incredible front-to-back listenability, it's easily one of the best mainstream pop albums based on full-album quality. Its four singles are all top-notch with strong songwriting and production, and the album tracks further elevate this exceptional collection of songs into her best album experience.
Acoustic-based music works more for me, no crazy guitar effects or fake instruments, please. But I'm particular about the "underground" organic quality in FOLK music, so I prefer artists to be...
Robert Plant – Carry Fire
Robert Plant, most famous as the singer of Led Zeppelin, opens your summer with a relaxed and adventurous fusion of classic folk and rock music. While his recent output has been heavy on the former, tracks like "New World..." have some jangly electric guitar accents, and the old standby tune "Bluebirds Over the Mountain" sounds like an entirely original song. As background music or comfort to find peace in the noise of the world, Carry Fire balances tradition and imagination with ease.
...decently recognized in the folk scene
Conor Oberst would later drift into less angsty and less thrilling music later in his career, so LIFTED remains the final document of his youth. With over an hour of cathartic indie folk-rock, there really is a little something for everyone here. Characteristics emerge and briefly take over your attention, hooking the listener with the thundering "Method Acting," the waltz epic "False Advertising," and the upbeat acoustic guitar-led "Bowl of Oranges" that has future echoes from Arcade Fire to The Head and the Heart.
...super underrated, no one else has heard this album
The Mountain Goats – The Coroner’s Gambit
Okay, this band has certainly blown up especially in the past decade, but John Darnielle has numerous underappreciated albums even before joining indie label 4AD and later Merge Records. The Coroner's Gambit, released in 2000, makes Darnielle's lo-fi beginnings abundantly clear, with stripped-down songs so jaggedly recorded they sound almost distorted. This one's for the true folk fans; the 16 short tracks will keep your folk-nerd friends engaged with alternately explosive and quiet songs.
ROCK all the way! I like Modern Rock or Alternative Rock that developed from grunge and hard rock of the pre-2000s, with fun, driving guitar and drum parts. The music of my favorite bands is really...
...packing a punch
Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
Led by the great Dave Grohl of Nirvana fame, the layered riffs and songwriting of Foo Fighters remain strong into the 2010s for those looking for a heavy summer vibe. From the melodic, tightly constructed "Dear Rosemary" to the fiery drive of "White Limo," Grohl and his bandmates whisk through nearly 50 minutes of excellent modern rock, with enough hook to catch the ear of even the most particular listeners.
...layered with atmosphere
Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
Elbow is the seminal British rock band of the 2000s, and their best record The Seldom Seen Kid closed out that decade with an epic declaration of their status. The album brims with creativity and atmosphere, and the slowly-mounting tension aches with bittersweet melodies and layers, centering on the guitar and vocals of Guy Garvey while frequently introducing background vocals, string, brass, and percussion to complement. It's certainly reflective, and a bit melancholy as well, but impressing your most discerning alt-rock friends makes The Seldom Seen Kid worth the pick.
...fiery and self-indulgent
Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications
As the former frontman of Pulp, Jarvis Cocker was bound to rack up some good solo tracks. The opening one-two punch of the title track and "Angela" is far more rockin' than his Pulp output, with a focus charging guitars and drums, rockstar frontman egotism, and hedonism that continues through nearly every track. Further Complications is so reverent in its glam-rock references, you can't help but instantly like it from the beginning.
COUNTRY all the way for me, no explanation needed! Country stars that I like are definitely...
Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker
With the diverse group of cuts on Heartbreaker, Ryan Adams entered the alt-country scene at the dawn of the century, already quietly claiming the title of "best new artist." His Bob Dylan-esque songwriting made instant classics out of songs that felt twice as old as their creator. For a reflective summer vibe, look no further than Ryan Adams' pre-rockstar era.
...diehard modern classics
Miranda Lambert – The Weight of These Wings
It's no longer too bold to call Miranda Lambert the best country artist of the past 20 years.
Lambert grew to fame in the 2000s thanks to smashing hits on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Revolution, but her more recent release, The Weight of These Wings, firmly establishes her legacy. An epic double-length album inspired by emotions following her divorce from Blake Shelton, this 2016 record contains 24 songs – she did not co-write only three songs and has help from Pistol Annies' Ashley Monroe and songwriter Natalie Hemby. It's perhaps the best group of country songs you'll hear this summer.
...rowdy hard-rockin' Southerners
Drive-By Truckers – Decoration Day
This Georgian band nearly veers away from country music thanks to their rock sensibilities, but that's exactly how the fans like it. Not only does Drive-By Truckers rock with muscular twangy riffs, but their songwriting and musical interaction rivals almost any other modern band in the genre. If you're burnt out on Lynyrd Skynyrd and looking to upgrade, this masterful group will add just the right level of aggression to your summer gatherings.
Heavy music is the only way to go! METAL music of any kind is welcome, as long as the volume is turned up to the max. In terms of style, I headbang to music characterized by...
...thoughtful, extended composition with no less intensity
Tool – Fear Inoculum
Tool is awesome! Though some believed that Fear Inoculum did not hold up the legacy left after a 14-year gap, most fans and critics alike agreed that this new Tool album was one of the best metal albums of the decade. Whether you agree with that bold statement or not, Fear Inoculum will give any gathering this summer a cathartic power thanks to the music stretched out to its maximum potential.
System of a Down – Mezmerize
When System of a Down's "B.Y.O.B." released as the lead single of their 2005 album, the track officially cemented their status as the coolest heavy band around. With lyrics that fit their frenetic musical approach, both with explicitly political messages and strange but fitting nonsense (the ridiculous "Cigaro," for example), System of a Down rampages through Mezmerize with inventive fury. To ramp up or shock any guests on your online parties, System of a Down is an easy go-to.
Those bands with the "post-" label always do it for me, experimental or otherwise. The level of creativity exuded in these kinds of rock music has always appealed to me. Still, my favorite subgenre in this group has to be...
...post-hardcore (punk rock music that combines the aggression of hardcore punk the creative expression of other genres)
At the Drive-in – Relationship of Command
Most punk/metal/rock listeners nowadays have heard of The Mars Volta, but the original incarnation of the band was known as At the Drive-In. This hardcore group impressed with its sheer intensity – it's far less clean in production than the Mars Volta, but the punky lo-fi of Relationship of Command is no less technical than its player's later output. Coming right at the turn of the century, this third full-length from At the Drive-In is one of the most influential post-hardcore releases of all time.
...post-rock (experimental music focusing on texture and timbre over traditional rock song structures)
Silver Mt. Zion – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything
Made up of members from avant-garde/experimental rock outfit Godspeed You! Black Emperor, you may know what you're getting into if you've heard that unforgettable name before. Though the Silver Mt. Zion group did not break past obscurity, the music of this side project remains peerless for its blend of Godspeed's usual glacial post-rock with metal, punk, and numerous US and UK folk styles. If this sounds like your kind of party, then good for you!
...post-punk (break from the simple traditions of punk rock to adopt more non-rock influences)
Iceage – Beyondless
2018 was the year of post-punk to the indie know-it-alls. Iceage's fourth album was one of many that perfectly distilled the style that reached its maximum potential thanks to the punk brilliance of bands like IDLES, Shopping, and Shame. It can be harsh at times, but the emotional punch of Beyondless is as worthwhile as the many layers of sonic barrage.
I'm down with Alternative Music, but usually veer more towards the INDIE ROCK scene - think Arctic Monkeys, but I'm not into overplayed faux-rockstars. Of these lesser-known indie groups, I prefer the genre label...
Marnie Stern – Marnie Stern
For those who have not heard Marnie Stern, her music is difficult to describe. Her dense songs use advanced guitar playing and inventive indie construction, all with atypical confidence for the genre. Featuring Zach Hill (Death Grips) on drums, Marnie Stern can be jarring, but taken as a revolutionary take on rock music, each song makes for a rousing journey.
Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster
Los Campesinos are remembered outside of the scene (if at all) as the alternately sweet and whiney indie band. What everyone conveniently forgets, however, is just how catchy and affecting the band's hooky songwriting is. From the first track, Hold On Now, Youngster is relentlessly fun, and each song will leave you and your guests with more than a few twinkly melodies stuck in your head.
..."post-punk revival" (different than post-punk, which is admittedly confusing)
Art Brut – Bang Bang Rock & Roll
This band came after The Strokes and Interpol in the "post-punk revival" genre, but Art Brut have much more indie rock cred than either of those others. Art Brut are more lo-fi and punky than most other indie rock bands at the time, and their lyrics are some of the most hilariously irreverent of their peers. They would soon get blown out of the water by Arctic Monkeys' spirited and intellectually engaging debut, but Art Brut's debut remains an influence on the later post-punk bands that would further excel the genre through the 2010s.
I'm a little tired of the straightforward gangsta rap and trap that dominates the scene. I want to wade into more adventurous waters - looking for something that really tests the boundaries of rap music. When I listen to rap, I generally like...
...the modern groups
Death Grips – The Money Store
Bursting out of the underground with a provocative self-released first mixtape, all of the sudden Death Grips released an official debut through the major label Epic Records. Luckily, the music here is even more finely honed in its intricacies, blending industrial beats and glitchy electronica with an absolutely fiery rap performance. For an intense dance party, The Money Store is as shocking as it is thrilling.
...the old stuff
Madvillain – Madvillainy
Alias of masked rapper MF DOOM and producer Madlib, Madvillain's one official release is the essential document of experimental rap. Though it's not an easy listen, rap aficionados now recognize Madvillainy as a classic, and the inventive production combined with dense rapping has spawned numerous inferior copycats. Get lost in the rhymes and sounds, many of which will never be repeated (like the accordion feature on "Accordion," a bizarre choice that totally works).
Don't forget about another indie subgenre that has blown up in recent years! ART-POP, starting as on offshoot of "pop art," has added a whole new subset of indie-pop/rock to the musical output of the 2000s. The artists who lead this incredible genre include...
Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
Real name Natalie Mering, Weyes Blood released the sonically profuse Titanic Rising to instant acclaim in 2019, with many sources already claiming it as one of the best albums of the decade. The emotional resonance of her voice and lyrics carried through with an equal focus on crafting gorgeous accompaniment, so seamless in the mix to her vocal delivery that they never sound disconnected. If you're okay with its hypnotic vibe, Weyes Blood can give you the most transportive musical experience of the summer.
Mitski – Be the Cowboy
Mitski quietly erupted the hit single "Your Best American Girl," only to top herself with Be the Cowboy's "Nobody." With a thrilling pulse and slowly-increasing disco beat presence, it's easy to forget the openly intimate lyrics even when she starts repeating the song title over and over again. The whole record is heartbreakingly wonderful, and a gutsy party choice that would make the sad indie lovers proud.
St. Vincent – Marry Me
Annie Clark has since blossomed into one of the most promising indie/pop/rock stars of recent years, but it all started in 2007 with Marry Me. Primarily written, produced, and performed by St. Vincent herself, this album is brimming with creative potential that she would capitalize on more and more with each new release. Put this record on as background music, and you'll be surprised how often it draws you in.
I didn't really see anything I liked up there! This is exclusively what I listen to...
Oasis – Dig Out Your Soul
The last Oasis album may go down in history just as that, but for Britpop fans, Dig Out Your Soul comes in the ranking right below the band's essential ranking. Noel Gallagher's songwriting effortlessly maintains the swagger of their past work, with finely honed guitar playing and a solid vocal performance on "Waiting for the Rapture" as well. Sample "The Shock of the Lightning" for dance-worthy British rock to amp up your summer hangouts.
Fall Out Boy – From Under the Cork Tree
Fall Out Boy burst onto the pop-punk/emo scene with Take This to Your Grave, but their sophomore record From Under the Cork Tree turned them into the modern equivalent of rock stars. Singles "Dance, Dance" and especially "Sugar, We're Goin' Down" were heard everywhere, not just in 2005 but for many years following. The rise of the Internet helped turn them into stars on the radio and the web simultaneously, showing just how much they appealed to the pop lovers and the outcasts – to this day, this is still an incredibly fun album, with more than a little irony and inside jokes to pull in the stragglers.
Basement Jaxx – Rooty
One of the best house music groups ever, British duo Basement Jaxx are as sharp as ever on their second album Rooty (some say it's better than the first!). Listen as a whole for a quick-and-easy party playlist, or sample to steal some songs for your own. Opener "Romeo" has a classic house sound with iconic 90s/2000s R&B pop groove, while "Jus 1 Kiss" samples from disco and "Where's Your Head At" goes full electronica. Put 'em on repeat, and dance away the loneliness!