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Pomp & Clout: 7 influential debut albums of the '00s

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Sep 25, 2013 | 10:00am EDT

M.I.A.WENN

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been more than a decade since the Y2K debacle, which was probably one of the most ridiculous scares ever. The 2000s were a new beginning for a lot of things, including the music scene. In the naughts, pop and a new (autotuned) kind of hip-hop dominated the mainstream airwaves, but there were glimmers of awesomeness every couple of years.

Although it’s too early to say which new artists from the '00s were the most influential, here’s a rundown of 7 debut albums from the last 10 years that will most likely have a lasting power in the music world.

The Strokes: Is This It (2001)
The Strokes’ debut album’s influence was felt immediately, with dozens of knock-off bands wanting to ride the garage rock wave along with the Strokes, Hives and White Stripes. Nothing came close to Is This It, though. Hands down one of the most influential albums of the decade, the flawless distortion and new age Lou Reed-like vocals on Is This It turned the Strokes into overnight sensations. Everyone from Kings of Leon, the Killers, and the Bravery got their starts by adopting the Strokes’ style, and their debut will no doubt stand the test of time.

The Libertines: Up the Bracket (2002)
What the Strokes were in America, the Libertines were in the U.K. In a rather banal time when music desperately needed some guitar rock to kick in the door and shake things up a bit, the Libertines came in to save the day with the great Up the Bracket. The album was pure frantic garage rock, rooted in punk from both sides of the pond (think Stooges and Pistols had a baby), and offered  more than just great music – Up the Bracket started a new kind of lifestyle, complete with Libertine-isms, shiny jackets, and slicked back hair (thanks, Carl Barat). Like the Strokes, the Libertines also influenced many bands that came up after them, including the View, Left Hand, and the Arctic Monkeys.

White Stripes: Elephant (2003)
Elephant wasn’t the White Stripes’ for real-for real debut, but it was their first after being signed to a major label. This is the album that really introduced the band to the mainstream and, along with Is This It, is definitely one of the decade’s most influential albums. The perfect mix of garage rock, blues, and punk catapulted the White Stripes into fame and, not surprisingly, also inspired a legion of imitators trying to make a band with the most basic ingredients: guitar and drums. The album was made in 4 short weeks and should be put in a museum, if only because it gave us one of the greatest non-bass basslines in music history with “Seven Nation Army.”

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Fever to Tell (2003)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs took the raw garage rock of the Strokes and melded it into an even rawer, deeper, garage punk sound on their 2003 debut, Fever to Tell. With Karen O’s wildly gorgeous vocals and music that sounded like it had gone through a Turn This Noise to Eleven blender, Fever to Tell was a masterpiece in 2 parts – the first half of the album was frenzied and wild, while the second half was more introspective and controlled. Yeah Yeah Yeahs helped bring art punk to the forefront and inspired many a-ladies to learn how to yell at the top of their lungs and still sound classy.

Kanye West: The College Dropout (2004)
Regardless of the fact that he’s thisclose to becoming a bona fide caricature of himself, Kanye West’s debut album is still a force to be reckoned with. West took rap in a completely different direction with The College Dropout, spitting about insecurities, desires, and worldly reflections instead of the usual hyper-masculine, haughty bravado that was dominating rap. While not the first rapper to do this by any means, West’s debut brought self-reflective and self-conscious rap back to the mainstream.

Arcade Fire: Funeral (2004)
Canadian indie rockers Arcade Fire took the music world by Quebecois storm with their 2004 debut, Funeral. The somber debut that dealt with family deaths wound up being one of the most beautiful records of the decade, with their baroque pop influence and flair for drama making the band stand out from the abundance of other indie rockers that made up the scene. Funeral took indie rock to a new level, proving that you didn’t need 2 members in a band to be legit and you shouldn’t be afraid to dream the most grandiose dreams for your musical vision. Arcade Fire also helped make parking lots cool again, so there’s that.

Arular (2005)
M.I.A.’s debut album was a brilliant mix of grime, hip hop, dancehall, electro, and Southeast Asian influences. Few would be able to hold their own under the vast influences that were drawn from to make the record, but M.I.A. did more than hold her own, making politics and social change something you can dance to. M.I.A.’s sound on Arular was unique and fresh, and the effects of her genre mash-ups is still felt in pop culture, including in hip hop production and pop music (M.I.A. was the original crazy-eccentric chick of the naughts).

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