When Radiohead’s Kid A came out on October 2, 2000, many people headed to a brick-and-mortar record store and handed over $16 in cash to buy the album on CD—and if they wanted to listen to it on the go, they popped that CD into a Discman. When the same band released In Rainbows in 2007, many of those same people headed to the internet and paid whatever they wanted, then listened to it on a computer file on their phone. Yet as the album became untethered from the physical world, it still remained the benchmark form for artists who aimed to make a lasting statement.
These artists included upstarts like Kanye West, Arcade Fire, and M.I.A., who expanded the realms of hip-hop, indie-rock, and pop (respectively) with their seismic early records. The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and TV on the Radio brought New York rock back to the fore, while British acts Four Tet and Burial explored the underside of electronic music. Animal Collective and Joanna Newsom let their freak flags fly to stunning effect. Broken Social Scene, Grizzly Bear, Sufjan Stevens, and Fleet Foxes expanded the indie-rock palette as LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip made the dancefloor sweat. And speaking of Radiohead: They lived several musical lives throughout the decade, ranging from icy techno to acoustic lullabies, mirroring a time of flux and infinite possibility. So even as technology continues to advance—and we perhaps gain the ability to beam music directly into our brainstems—these are the 200 albums from the 2000s that we will still have on repeat.