100 best albums of the 21st century, according to critics

100 best albums of the 21st century, according to critics

Stacker set out to find the best albums of the 21st century, compiling data from Metacritic (as of October 2022). We ranked albums according to their Metascore, which represents an aggregation of critic reviews.    

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Beyonce in a fur coat looking down.

Columbia Records

Music has always played a role in helping to define cultural moments throughout history. Stacker set out to find the best albums of the 21st century, compiling data from Metacritic (as of October 2022). Albums were ranked according to their Metascore, which represents an aggregation of critic reviews. Only albums with seven or more reviews were eligible. EPs, box sets, reissues, and compilations were not considered.

Some of Stacker's findings—like country's Ashley Monroe, Jamey Johnson, and the legendary Loretta Lynn—might get listeners to sing along or even forget about the outside world for a few minutes. Over in the realm of pure pop, Self Esteem's latest album "Prioritise Pleasure" is being hailed as 45 minutes of melodic bliss.

At the other end of the spectrum, there's no shortage of music for getting angry and letting it all out. Listen for Napalm Death's growling grindcore, Converge's metalcore, Primal Scream's punk electronica, Deafheaven's black metal, and the sounds of Polish extreme metal band Behemoth that keep vexing authorities in its homeland.

Discover artists who honor their predecessors who helped shape the world we live in today. Poet Jamila Woods offers thoughtful rhythm and blues portraits of legends like James Baldwin and Muddy Waters; Rapsody wrote songs for her heroes, from Sojourner Truth to Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey; and jazz composer Wadada Leo Smith honored 10 crucial years in the civil rights movement.

Be transported far away by the West African sounds of Ali Farka Touré and Bassekou Kouyaté, or go back in time with Woody Guthrie's recordings from the 1940s or a 1992 Nirvana concert in Britain. Then there's the tempting option of just dancing, which many say is good for both body and soul. Give a listen to the hip-hop sounds of Missy Elliott, the pounding dubstep by Britain's Burial, and Frank Ocean's lively rhythm and blues, neo-soul, and pop collection.

Read on for the 100 best albums of the 21st century, according to critics.

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#100. 'Black Origami' by Jlin

Metal shaped into the form of an elephant.

Planet Mu

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: May 19, 2017

Rhythm-driven and percussive, this is the second album by Gary, Indiana, producer Jlin. She describes her music as "origami, only I'm replacing paper with sound." She attributes a big influence to her collaboration with dancer and movement artist Avril Stormy Unger.

#99. 'Sawayama' by Rina Sawayama

A woman with pigtails hanging like curtains, long bronze nails and shiny long earrings.

Dirty Hit.

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: April 17, 2020

The debut nu-metal album by Japanese-British pop singer Rina Sawayama, released after a number of singles, is youthful and exuberant. It draws on racist and stereotyped comments made by recording executives, with the album's lead song pulling no punches.

#98. 'RTJ4' by Run the Jewels

A pink background with shiny origami.

BMG Rights Management

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: June 3, 2020

The fourth album by rap duo Run The Jewels explores themes of oppression, police violence, and systemic racism, mixing feelings of rage with solidarity. The musical pair consists of politically outspoken rapper Killer Mike of Atlanta and Brooklyn rapper, producer, and remixer El-P. Also appearing on the album are R&B's Mavis Staples and Pharell.

#97. 'Bloodmoon: I' by Converge

A snake pattern running through red, blue, purple mixed colors with the letter I in the middle.

Epitaph Records

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Nov. 19, 2021

Metalcore band Converge crafted their 10th studio album in collaboration with musicians Chelsea Wolfe, Ben Chisholm, and Steve Brodsky. The result is a multilayered masterpiece with symphonic components and experimental dirges. Three separate lead vocalists lend their powerful pipes to the title track.

#96. 'Miss E... So Addictive' by Missy Elliott

Missy Elliott in blue and white with short spikey hair.

Elektra

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: May 15, 2001

Missy Elliott's "Miss E… So Addictive" is a party album of electronic dance music. Making guest appearances on the hip-hop star's album are Ludacris, Eve, Busta Rhymes, Lil' Mo, and Jay-Z.

#95. 'HoboSapiens' by John Cale

John Cale sitting onstage playing a guitar and singing.

David LEFRANC/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Sept. 7, 2004

Welsh avant-garde rocker John Cale was a founder of the influential 1960s band Velvet Underground, which also included singer and guitarist Lou Reed. The title of "HoboSapiens" comes from an essay, never published, that Cale wrote about Bob Dylan.

#94. 'Apex Predator - Easy Meat' by Napalm Death

A container of raw meat.

Century Media Records

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Jan. 27, 2015

This is the 15th album by the British band Napalm Death, whose grindcore sound is visceral and violent. Dissonant, guttural, and shrill, the tracks include "Cesspits," "Dear Slum Landlord," and "Metaphorically Screw You." The band founded in 1981 in Birmingham, England, is considered the founder of the extreme metal sound.

#93. 'LEGACY! LEGACY!' by Jamila Woods

Jamila Woods in black and white with words in white over her face.

Jagjaguwar

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: May 10, 2019

Chicago poet, singer, and songwriter Jamila Woods mixes political commentary with rhythm and blues on "LEGACY! LEGACY!" Each song is a tribute to and portrait of a legend—James Baldwin, Eartha Kitt, Muddy Waters, Zora Neale Hurston, and others.

#92. 'Modern Times' by Bob Dylan

A cab speeding through a city blurred out in black and white.

Columbia Records

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: August 29, 2006

"Modern Times" was the 32nd studio album by the American icon Bob Dylan, who produced it himself under the name Jack Frost. He plays guitar, keyboard, and harmonica on the album, which is considered part of a set with his albums "Time Out of Mind" and "Love and Theft."

#91. 'Kiwanuka' by Michael Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka dressed as a king.

Interscope

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Nov. 1, 2019

The mournful, lilting "Kiwanuka" is Londoner Michael Kiwanuka's third album. His song "Cold Little Heart" from an earlier album will be instantly recognizable to fans of HBO's "Big Little Lies" as the theme song of the hit miniseries.

#90. 'Eternity, In Your Arms' by Creeper

A drawing of a man in a purple suit facing a road to a city with a neon angel and cross on the buildings.

Roadrunner Records

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: March 24, 2017

"Eternity, in Your Arms" was the long-awaited full-length debut album by the English punk band Creeper after years of touring and extended play releases. To build momentum ahead of the album release, the band staged a treasure hunt, laying clues for fans to follow in their hometown of Southampton.

#89. 'Honey' by Robyn

Robyn lying on the floor scantily clad with a red background.

Kyle Gustafson / For The Washington Post via Getty Images

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Oct. 26, 2018

"Honey" was the sixth solo album by the Swedish pop star Robyn. The single "Honey" created buzz when it was played during the credits of an episode of television's "Girls" final season. Robyn has designed a limited-edition clothing collection for tennis star Björn Borg's fashion company.

#88. 'Since I Left You' by The Avalanches

A blurry painting of people in tiny boats in big waves on the water.

Modular Recordings

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Nov. 6, 2001

The Avalanches from Melbourne, Australia, put together more than 900 music samples on "Since I Left You." Their genre, using bits of existing sounds and music to weave a new creation, has been dubbed plunderphonics.

#87. 'Neon Golden' by The Notwist

The name of the Album on a red background with a black circle in the middle.

City Slang

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Feb. 25, 2003

The Notwist mixes indie rock, pop, and electronica on its sixth album, "Neon Golden." The German band features vocalist and guitarist Markus Acher and his brother Micha, who plays bass and horns.

#86. 'Rounds' by Four Tet

A yellow, black and red instrument with black spots on a white cover.

Domino Recording Co

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: May 6, 2003

"Rounds" by England's electronic musician and producer Kieran Hebden, who records under the name Four Tet, is made up entirely of music samples. He recorded it in his London apartment using a home computer and a standard hi-fi system.

#85. 'RTJ2' by Run the Jewels

A drawing of two hands wrapped in bandages with long fingernails and one holding a gold chain.

Mass Appeal

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Oct. 27, 2014

"RTJ2" was named the best hip-hop album of the year by Rolling Stone. After jokingly promising they would make a remix using cat sounds if enough customers pre-ordered, fans complied, and Run the Jewels' Killer Mike and El-P came out with "Meow the Jewels."

#84. 'Like a Rose' by Ashley Monroe

A woman in a summer dress holding an umbrella with a car in the background.

Warner Bros. Nashville

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: March 5, 2013

The second album by Knoxville, Tennessee's Ashley Monroe has all the earmarks of classic country, with songs about loneliness, heartbreak, betrayal, and lost love. It was co-produced by country megastar Vince Gill. Monroe is part of the vocal trio Pistol Annies, with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley.

#83. 'The Dusk in Us' by Converge

A cloth hanging over something in a black and white background.

Epitaph Records

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Nov. 3, 2017

The ninth album by metalcore's Converge, "The Dusk in Us" moves beyond the personal betrayals and despair of the band's earlier work into broader looks at police brutality, war, and violence. A stand-out is "Arkhipov Calm," drawn from the story of Soviet Naval officer Vasili Arkhipov, who refused to fire nuclear weapons from a submarine in 1962 and helped keep the Cuban missile crisis from blowing up into an all-out war.

#82. 'St. Vincent' by St. Vincent

St. Vincent sitting on a pink throne, wearing a shiny dark long dress, with a light pink honeycomb background.

Loma Vista

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Feb. 25, 2014

American singer-songwriter St. Vincent, aka Texan Annie Clark, toured with Sufjan Stevens before setting out on her own in 2006. Her fifth album won the guitarist and vocalist a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.

#81. 'I Love You Jennifer B' by Jockstrap

A bright green background with Jockstrap written in black and white at the top.

Rough Trade

- Metascore: 89
- Release date: Sept. 9, 2022

On the heels of the 2020 EP "Wicked City," U.K.-based musical duo Jockstrap presents their studio album debut. It features occasional backing from an 18-piece orchestra and spans multiple genres without losing a sense of focus. Pitchfork dubbed it some of the Best New Music of 2022 in their 8.4/10 review.

#80. 'Z' by My Morning Jacket

A green and black drawing of a bird lying down with a city and baby birds in the middle.

ATO Records

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Oct. 4, 2005

"Z" is a pop-rock collection by My Morning Jacket. The guitar, keyboards, and vocals reflect their rural jam-band and church-music roots in Louisville, Kentucky.

#79. 'Spaces' by Nils Frahm

A person at a piano looking down.

Erased Tapes Records

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Nov. 19, 2013

"Spaces" is a collection of live recordings by Berlin's composer and pianist Nils Frahm. Some of the works were made on reel-to-reel recorders and cassette decks, accented with the sounds of audiences coughing, cell phones ringing, and the banging of a toilet brush on piano strings.

#78. 'XTRMNTR' by Primal Scream

A black and white jet with mechanics and pilots dressed in red in front.

Creation Records

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: May 2, 2000

Primal Scream, a punk electronica band hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, pulled from techno garage rock and the dreamy reverb-laden genre of shoegaze in creating "XTRMNTR." The collection is heavy on percussion and political diatribes.

#77. 'græ' by Moses Sumney

A waterfall with the songs on the album listed in white.

Jagjaguwar

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: May 15, 2020

Singer-songwriter Moses Sumney released his second studio album, "græ," as a double album: The first part was digitally released in February and the complete project was released three months later in May. Singles from "græ" include "Virile," "Polly," "Me in 20 Years," "Cut Me," and "Bless Me."

#76. 'Untrue' by Burial

A black and white drawing of a person sitting with a cup of coffee.

Hyperdub

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Nov. 6, 2007

"Untrue" is an album of electronic dance club and rave music by Britain's Burial. It's considered a top album in the genre of dubstep, a London-born sound heavy on drums, bass, and synthesizers.

#75. 'Psychodrama' by Dave

A person with blue flames covering their head.

Neighbourhood

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: March 8, 2019

"Psychodrama" was the debut album by Dave, a South London rapper whose full name is David Orobosa Omoregie. The concept album is based on the style of psychotherapy that utilizes patient roleplay and features sections of spoken words. Part of the song "Drama" is a recorded conversation with his brother, who is serving a life sentence in prison for murder.

#74. 'Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty' by Big Boi

Big Boi holding sunglasses on his face and wearing a hat.

Universal Music

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: July 6, 2010

"Sir Lucious Left Foot" marked the debut solo rap and funk album of Outkast's Big Boi. Outkast's label Jive would not allow Big Boi's partner Andre 3000 from the popular hip-hop duo to appear on the album.

#73. 'Jama Ko' by Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba having a jam session in a living room.

Out Here Records

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: April 2, 2013

"Jama Ko" was the third album by Mali's Bassekou Kouyaté and his band Ngoni Ba. His sons Moustafa and Mamadou play ngonis, traditional West African lutes, and American blues artist Taj Mahal adds vocals to the album.

#72. 'London Zoo' by The Bug

A bug with a skull on one side and a gun on the other on a brown and yellow background.

Ninja Tune

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: August 12, 2008

The sounds of dub, dance music, reggae, and grime come together on "London Zoo," by The Bug, aka producer Kevin Martin. Aptly named tracks include "Angry," "Insane," and "Too Much Pain."

#71. 'Holy Hell' by Architects

A black and white abstract art piece.

Epitaph Records

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Nov. 9, 2018

The eighth studio album by the metal band Architects, "Holy Hell" is the first without one of its founders, Tom Searle, a guitarist and lyricist who died of cancer in 2016. His twin brother Dan Searle, the band's drummer, said the album was about coping with, living with, and learning from pain.

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#70. 'Funeral' by Arcade Fire

A drawing of a hand holding up a feather pen.

Legacy

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Sept. 14, 2004

"Funeral" was the debut album by Montreal's indie-rock band Arcade Fire, featuring husband and wife artists Win Butler and Regine Chassagne. The name and emotional sound derived from the number of family members of the band who had recently died and were remembered in its liner notes.

#69. 'Alice' by Tom Waits

A blurry image of Tom Waits sitting on a tire with a fish next to him.

Anti-

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: May 7, 2002

"Alice" is a collection of 15 songs that Tom Waits and his wife Kathleen Brennan wrote for an avant-garde opera of the same name. The story was loosely based on the relationship between author Lewis Carroll and the girl who was his muse for "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." Waits called the tunes "adult songs for children, or children's songs for adults."

#68. 'Candi Staton' by Candi Staton

A close-up of Candi Staton.

Honest Jons Records

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Feb. 24, 2004

"Candi Staton" consists of 26 tracks by the soul singer recorded from 1969 to 1973, when she was recording southern R&B at the Muscle Shoals studio. The album includes her versions of Otis Redding's "That's How Strong My Love Is," Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man," and "In the Ghetto," first recorded by Elvis Presley. Raised as a gospel singer, Staton is known for her 1976 disco hit "Young Hearts Run Free."

#67. 'Original Pirate Material' by The Streets

A tall old apartment building.

VICE/Atlantic

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Oct. 22, 2002

The debut album by The Streets, a music project led by British rapper Mike Skinner, "Original Pirate Material" fused street poetry, hip-hop, grime, and house music. It has an everyman sound chronicling English working-class life.

#66. 'Send Them To Coventry [Mixtape]' by Pa Salieu

A man lying down on top of a dark city.

Pa Salieu

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Nov. 13, 2020

British hip-hop artist Pa Salieu draws upon his turbulent North Coventry upbringing on this acclaimed debut mixtape. Wrangling in a slew of different producers and collaborators, it synergizes various musical subgenres. U.K.-based Dazed Magazine named it their favorite album of 2020.

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#65. 'Punisher' by Phoebe Bridgers

A kid under red light in a skeleton outfit looking up at the night sky.

Dead Oceans

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: June 18, 2020

Critics described Phoebe Bridgers' second solo album, "Punisher" as candid, multi-dimensional, and honest. Praised for its lyricism, the emo-folk project, which was released in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a hit with listeners, too, many of whom connected with the strong, emotional vibe of the record.

#64. 'Eve' by Rapsody

A woman

Jamla

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: August 23, 2019

Rapper Rapsody, born Marlanna Evans, from Snow Hill, North Carolina, called her album "Eve" a love letter to all Black women. Each of the 16 songs is named for a hero—"Michelle," "Myrlie," "Oprah," "Sojourner," and more. The album has been used as course material at the University of North Carolina and Ohio State University.

#63. 'No Cities to Love' by Sleater-Kinney

A bouquet of dying flowers.

Sub Pop Records

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: Jan. 20, 2015

"No Cities to Love" was the eighth album by the all-woman trio Sleater-Kinney. Filled with personal and political post-punk pieces, it was released following a decade-long hiatus by the band.

#62. 'Jimmy Lee' by Raphael Saadiq

Raphael Saadiq wearing a wide brim hat looking sideways.

Columbia Records

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: August 23, 2019

"Jimmy Lee" by soul musician and producer Raphael Saadiq takes a look at dark topics of drug addiction, family heartbreak, and mass incarceration. The album was named for Saadiq's older brother, who contracted HIV and later died of a heroin overdose.

#61. 'Carrie & Lowell' by Sufjan Stevens

A man with his arm around a woman wearing large 70

ASTHMATIC KITTY

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: March 31, 2015

Sufjan Stevens' starkly personal "Carrie & Lowell" is dedicated to and inspired by his mother and stepfather, Carrie and Lowell Brams. His mother, who was bipolar and suffered from schizophrenia, abandoned Stevens when he was very young, and she died in 2012. His stepfather founded the record label Asthmatic Kitty to produce Stevens's albums.

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#60. 'Illinois' by Sufjan Stevens

An illustration of a goat, some balloons and a man in a suit smoking a cigar with a city skyline in the background.

ASTHMATIC KITTY

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: July 5, 2005

"Illinois" is a follow-up to Sufjan Stevens's album "Michigan," part of his 50-state project that never materialized in full. Topics of the odes to the Midwestern state range from homegrown poet Carl Sandburg to serial killer John Wayne Gacy Jr. The singer-songwriter plays 25 instruments on the album.

#59. 'From Here We Go Sublime' by The Field

A plain cream colored album cover with the name in red.

Kompakt

- Metascore: 90
- Release date: April 3, 2007

Sweden's The Field, musician Axel Willner, debuted with the album "From Here We Go Sublime." He pulled from the electronic shoegaze sound, techno, and repetitive trance music.

#58. 'We Got It From Here … Thank You 4 Your Service' by A Tribe Called Quest

Graffiti and white squares on a black background.

Epic

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Nov. 11, 2016

The first studio album from hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest in 18 years is their sixth overall. It's also one of the last recordings to feature contributions from member Phife Dawg, who died mere months before its release. After topping the Billboard 200 chart, it went on to achieve Gold album certification.

#57. 'Is This It?' by The Strokes

An orange background with blue lit lines curving around the album.

Sony Legacy

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Oct. 9, 2001

"Is This It?"—the debut album by the rock band The Strokes—was recorded in six weeks in a basement in Manhattan's East Village neighborhood. The band released its newest album "The New Abnormal" in early April 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. The band said the prescient title came from a comment made by former California Gov. Jerry Brown during the 2018 wildfires.

#56. 'The Guitar Song' by Jamey Johnson

A black and white abstract design on the left and a picture of the artist on the right.

Mercury

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Sept. 14, 2010

The third studio album from country artist Jamey Johnson divides 25 songs into two distinctive parts. It plays upon the concept of yin and yang while bringing an outlaw sensibility into the modern era. It earned a rare five-star rating on review website AllMusic.

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#55. 'Blue Weekend' by Wolf Alice

The band standing in front of a wall lit in orange and green.

Dirty Hit

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: June 4, 2021

The third studio album from British alt-rockers Wolf Alice was greeted with universal acclaim and a nomination for the esteemed Mercury Prize. Pitchfork critic Ian Cohen called it the "platonic ideal for contemporary big-tent rock music."

#54. 'Gold & Grey' by Baroness

A colorful illustration of a deer head with flowers and mushrooms growing out of the antlers.

Abraxan Hymns

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: June 14, 2019

"Gold & Grey" joins the metal band's discography of the "Red Album," "Blue Record," "Purple," and "Yellow & Green." In 2012, Baroness was involved in a bus accident in England that injured several members of the band and crew.

#53. 'The ArchAndroid' by Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe in front of a blue background wearing armor with a city emerging from the headpiece.

Bad Boy Records

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: May 18, 2010

"The ArchAndroid" picks up with the seven-part concept series Metropolis that Janelle Monáe began on an earlier EP. Inspired by the German classic film "Metropolis" directed by Fritz Lang, it recounts the saga of an android who falls in love with a human.

#52. 'Sex, Death & The Infinite Void' by Creeper

A black lightening bold with a crying angel inside.

Roadrunner Records

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: July 31, 2020

English rock band Creeper's second offering, "Sex, Death & The Infinite Void" is a concept album about an angel, Roe, who falls in love with a human, Annabelle, and subsequently falls from grace. A stark departure in sound from their first album, the 2020 release is a more melodic punk-rock than horror punk, similar in sound to David Bowie and Roy Orbison.

#51. 'Grey Area' by Little Simz

A close-up of Little Simz in black and white.

Age 101

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: March 1, 2019

Hip-hop artist Little Simz—Simbi Ajikawo of North London—has said "Grey Area" was based on young adulthood, when nothing is black and white. Featuring the single "Selfish," "Grey Area" was named Best British Album at the music's annual NME Awards 2020 in London, where she brought her mother onstage with her to collect the prize.

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#50. 'Canto' by Los Super Seven

An abstract depiction of a room with green carpet and a blue dresser.

Sony Music

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: March 13, 2001

Los Super Seven, the Tex-Mex band that made "Canto," features David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos fame. The collection mixes old-world romance, Afro-Latin pop, jazz, Cuban, and South American sounds, and the band won a Grammy for Best Mexican American Music Performance.

#49. 'Renaissance' by Beyoncé

Beyonce adorned in jewels atop the silhouette of a luminous horse.

Columbia Records

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: July 29, 2022

Beyoncé built hype for her seventh studio album through various social media platforms before dropping it in the middle of summer. Its propulsive execution pays direct homage to Black and queer music pioneers from the past and present alike. According to Queen Bey herself, it makes up part of a three-act project recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic.

#48. 'The Myth of the Happily Ever After' by Biffy Clyro

Angels painted together with pink cubes and brush strokes scattered on the page.

14th Floor Records

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Oct. 22, 2021

The ninth studio album from Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro is a companion piece to 2020's "A Celebration of Endings." It was recorded during the pandemic as an "emotional response to the turmoil of the past year," according to vocalist Simon Neil. A sense of newfound creative freedom persists from one epic track to the next.

#47. 'A Grand Don't Come For Free' by The Streets

A person waiting inside a green and red bus stop at night.

Wea International

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: May 18, 2004

"A Grand Don't Come for Free" spins the musical tale about losing and finding £1,000 and finding and losing a girlfriend along the way. The music of British hip-hop artist Mike Skinner, whose performance name is The Streets, mixes the sounds of ska, hip-hop, R&B, and garage music.

#46. 'Good Kid, M.A.A.D City' by Kendrick Lamar

A polaroid of a minivan parked on an urban street.

UMGD

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Oct. 22, 2012

"Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City" is a concept album by hip-hop's Kendrick Lamar as he depicts a day in his gritty hometown of Compton, California, south of downtown Los Angeles. He said the title was an acronym for "my angry adolescence divided" as well as, "my angel's on angel dust," a reference to a drug experience.

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#45. 'Home, Like Noplace Is There' by The Hotelier

A white and grey home with the album name written across the front of the house.

Tiny Engines

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Feb. 25, 2014

Described as emo revival and punk, " Home, Like Noplace Is There" was the breakout second album by The Hotelier of Worcester, Massachusetts. The band said it contained "some real dark stuff" drawn from several toxic and abusive years.

#44. 'Red (Taylor's Version)' by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift wearing a brown velvet hat and tan coat.

Republic Records

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Nov. 12, 2021

Taylor Swift rerecorded this genre-mashing confessional after her first six albums were sold out from under her. With the added benefit of maturity and reflection comes a different—and arguably fuller—presentation of the material. It contains all 30 songs intended for the original 2012 album, including an expanded 10-minute version of the track "All Too Well."

#43. 'Set My Heart on Fire Immediately' by Perfume Genius

A man wearing jeans and no shirt in black and white.

Matador

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: May 15, 2020

An art-rock and punk album, "Set My Heart on Fire Immediately" contains influences from a dozen different genres, including synthpop, folk, and disco. Considered Perfume Genius' strongest work to date, the record explores themes like love, the erosion of the body, and queer culture.

#42. 'Speakerboxxx/The Love Below' by Outkast

Big Boi on the left on a feathered wicker throne in a fur coat and Andre 3000 on the right wearing a white hat, sunglasses and pearl bracelets.

Sony Legacy

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Sept. 23, 2003

"Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" by OutKast is divided into two albums, one by the duo's Big Boi and the other by André 3000, with contributions by actress Rosario Dawson and musicians CeeLo Green and Norah Jones. Featuring the huge hit "Hey Ya," the album cleaned up at the Grammys, winning Best Rap Album, Album of the Year, and Best Urban/Alternative Performance.

#41. 'Melodrama' by Lorde

A painting of a young woman in bed with blue shadows.

Lava Music

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: June 16, 2017

"Melodrama," which dabbles in themes of romance, breaking up, and coming of age, is the sophomore album of New Zealand's Lorde. Her first album "Pure Heroine," released in 2013 when she was 16 years old, was an enormous hit and a double Grammy winner. The singer-songwriter was born Ella Yelich-O'Connor.

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#40. 'Carnage' by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

An off white cover with big block letters.

Goliath Records

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: Feb. 25, 2021

"Carnage" was recorded during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, and Nick Cave describes it as "a brutal but very beautiful record nested in a communal catastrophe." Cave and Warren Ellis are bandmates in Bad Seeds, and they have composed a number of scores for movies, including the documentary "West of Memphis," the thriller "Hell or High Water," and the drama "Wind River."

#39. 'Titanic Rising' by Weyes Blood

Weyes Blood in a bedroom underwater.

Sub Pop Records

- Metascore: 91
- Release date: April 5, 2019

Songwriter Natalie Mering, who records as Weyes Blood, sings of doom and faith with futuristic imagery on "Titanic Rising." It closes with the string instrumental "Nearer to Thee," a reference to the hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee" that the ship's band is said to have been playing as the Titanic sank.

#38. 'We're All Alone In This Together' by Dave

A watercolor painting of a small boat on the water in mostly red, purple and blues.

Neighbourhood Recordings

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: July 23, 2021

The sophomore album from British-Nigerian rapper Dave continues his thematic exploration of mental health and the Black experience. It reached #1 on the U.K. Album chart and yielded three top 10 singles on the U.K. Singles chart.

#37. 'Elephant' by The White Stripes

Meg White wearing a white dress and crying sitting on a trunk next to Jack White in a red western outfit holding a paddle.

Warner Bros.

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: April 1, 2003

"Elephant" won two Grammys—Best Alternative Music Album and Best Rock Song—for its "Seven Nation Army." The White Stripes were a Detroit duo of Jack White and Meg White, who were former husband and wife, although they pretended publicly to be brother and sister.

#36. 'The Satanist' by Behemoth

An abstract painting of an old man with a beard.

Metal Blade Records

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: Feb. 4, 2014

The 10th album by the Polish extreme metal band, "Satanist" was released after the leukemia diagnosis of Nergal, the group's frontman. He also faced charges of blasphemy after ripping up a Bible onstage, and the possibility of two years in prison. The case went to the Polish Supreme Court and the European Commission, which ruled in his favor. Charges were also brought claiming the band's merchandise design mocked the Polish coat of arms. The charges were dismissed.

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#35. 'Channel Orange' by Frank Ocean

A solid orange cover with white spotted writing.

Def Jam

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: July 17, 2012

Frank Ocean wrote songs for stars like Brandy, Justin Bieber, and John Legend before making his hugely successful mixtape "Nostalgia" and then writing the songs for "Channel Orange." The popular album by the R&B singer-songwriter won high praise for its skilled vocals, engaging lyrics, and mix of rap, soul, and pop sounds.

#34. 'You Want It Darker' by Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen in all black and wearing a hat with his arm out of a window holding a cigarette.

Columbia Records

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: Oct. 21, 2016

"You Want It Darker" was released just weeks before Canada's poet songwriter Leonard Cohen died at age 82. It was produced by his son Adam Cohen, who also plays guitar, and features vocals by Alison Krauss.

#33. 'Boy In Da Corner' by Dizzee Rascal

Dizzee Rascal sitting in the corner of a yellow room wearing all black and making ears with his hands over his head.

Xl Recordings Int'l

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: Jan. 20, 2004

"Boy in Da Corner" was the debut album of teenaged Dizzee Rascal of East London. It's considered a masterpiece of grime, a British-born electronic dance genre. Rascal survived being stabbed six times in a gang fight in Cyprus two weeks before the album was released.

#32. 'Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It' by Rolo Tomassi

A drawing of three obelisks rising out of the sea lit like candles in black and white.

Holy Roar Records

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: March 2, 2018

England's experimental band Rolo Tomassi mixes genres of indie rock, punk, and metal on "Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It." The vocals by Eva Spence stretch from tender singing to searing screams, amid pounding drums.

#31. 'Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards' by Tom Waits

A fuzzy Tom Waits in Sepia tone with ghostlike figures in the background.

Anti-

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: Nov. 21, 2006

"Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards" contains 56 songs on three distinct discs by the American singer-songwriter known for his distinctive throaty vocals. "Brawlers" is rock and blues, "Bawlers" is ballads and lullabies, and "Bastards" is stories and experimental sounds. Waits said the collection had "a lot of songs that fell behind the stove while making dinner."

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#30. 'Glow On' by Turnstile

Fluffy white clounds against a pink sky.

Roadrunner Records

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: August 27, 2021

Baltimore-based hardcore outfit Turnstile brought in Dr. Dre protégé Mike Elizondo to produce their third studio album. It expands upon the band's sonic palette without veering too far away from their signature punk sound. Four singles paved the way for its release.

#29. 'Sunbather' by Deafheaven

A pink background with tall letters.

Deathwish

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: June 11, 2013

Deafheaven "Sunbather" is filled with black metal's trademark screaming vocals and crashing percussion. The San Francisco Bay Area band mixed in the sounds of shoegaze, a musical genre of distortion, reverb, and volume.

#28. 'Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down' by Ry Cooder

A drawing of a man wearing a hat and reading a newspaper under a light post on a yellow background.

Nonesuch

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: August 29, 2011

American singer, songwriter, and musician Ry Cooder protests bank bailouts, inequality, and war in his album "Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down." Cooder produced the hugely popular "Buena Vista Social Club" album of Cuban musicians in 1996.

#27. 'Ants From Up There' by Black Country, New Road

An airplane in a plastic bag.

Ninja Tune

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: Feb. 4, 2022

Seven-piece British rock outfit Black Country, New Road followed an acclaimed studio album debut with this sophomore standout. It features tighter songwriting and incorporates both string instruments and horns. Frontman Isaac Wood unexpectedly left the band just before its release.

#26. 'Lemonade' by Beyoncé

Beyonce in a fur coat looking down.

Columbia Records

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: April 23, 2016

Beyoncé's "Lemonade," her sixth album released along with an hour-long film, tackles issues of infidelity, family, relationships, and race. In the hour-long film released with the album, the grandmother of her husband Jay-Z is shown at her 90th birthday party saying she had been given lemons and "made lemonade."

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#25. 'Prioritise Pleasure' by Self Esteem

Rebecca Taylor (Self Esteem) wearing a black bodysuit, cowboy hat and tall black boots.

Fiction Records

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: Oct. 22, 2021

British singer-songwriter Rebecca Taylor—aka Self Esteem—conjures personal themes and bombastic melodies on her sophomore album. Various critics have hailed it as a pop masterpiece that picks up where previous artists such as Madonna and Britney Spears left off.

#24. 'Supernova' by Nova Twins

The Nova Twins in silver suits with a galactic background.

Marshall Records

- Metascore: 92
- Release date: June 17, 2022

The second studio album from British duo Nova Twins peaked at #27 on the U.K. Album chart and was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize. It spans a variety of aggressive rock styles while occasionally dipping its toes into hip-hop and EDM.

#23. 'On the Impossible Past' by The Menzingers




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