These are 20 albums I considered for my top 100 list that almost, but didn't, make the cut:
NSYNC - No Strings Attached (2000). During the '90s, NSYNC played second fiddle to the Backstreet Boys, but edged ahead in the boyband race with their second album, which featured sharper, hipper production than BSB. Best: Bye Bye Bye.
Muse - Origin of Symmetry (2001). Muse is frequently compared to Radiohead, and although they've since taken their music into grandiose and strange directions, I can see why that comparison was made on their second album, particularly in Matthew Bellamy's vocal. Best: Bliss.
Janet Jackson - All for You (2001). This was the last Janet Jackson album I bought, and although it pales in comparison to Control and her '90s work, it still managed some to produce some catchy pop gems, such as the title track and breezy "Someone to Call My Lover." Best: Someone to Call My Lover
Airlock - Drystar (2002). This is one of the least commercial albums I'll write about in this set. Drystar was the debut album from this Belgian group, who excelled at making slinky downbeat electronic pop. Best: Slipinside
Moby - 18 (2002). This album almost made the list, but I went with Moby's newer album instead. 18 find fairly common ground with Moby's 1999 landmark, Play, and is best known for the Bourne trilogy song ("Extreme Ways"), although my favorite moment is the Grammy-nominated instrumental title track, the best nonvocal composition I've heard from Moby. Best: 18.
Snow Patrol - Final Straw (2003). Another close call for making the top 100 was Snow Patrol's third album, which, on the back of hit single "Run," was their UK breakthrough. Also worthwhile is "Chocolate," from which the album's title originated. Best: Run.
Gwen Stefani - Love.Angel.Music.Baby (2004). I thought this album was a bit overrated, but it's still a pretty decent set of electro-pop, even if it devolves into a bit too much oddity. "Serious" seriously should have been a single. Best: Cool.
Britney Spears - In the Zone (2004). Britney's never been much an albums artist, but this is her best set among her six albums to date, showing a confident adult side over pulsing dance pop. Best: Toxic.
Natasha Bedingfield - Unwritten (2004). While not as ambitious as her brother's debut, Natasha Bedingfield's first album generated quite a few great singles, most notably her UK #1, "These Words," her massive US hit, "Unwritten," and the ballad "I Bruise Easily." Best: Unwritten.
Death Cab for Cutie - Plans (2005). With a name that begins "Death Cab" you'd think this Bellingham, Washington-based foursome would be a bunch of punks. And maybe they once where, as they've been around since 1997, but Plans is anything but. It's a lush, gorgeous rock record, even a little folksy at times. Best: Marching Bands of Manhattan.
Supergrass - Road to Rouen (2005). My first exposure to Supergrass was their Clueless soundtrack single, "It's Alright," which is bright and lively whereas this album is darker and more textured. Like a lot of British bands, they turned in an uncharacteristically "serious" album in the middle part of the decade, but theirs was one of the best. Best: St. Petersburg.
Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better (2005). Ever as vibrant and bouncy as their debut, Franz Ferdinand's second album delivered a major hit with "Do You Want To," plus a few mellower but winning tracks like "Eleanor Put Your Boots On" and vaguely Western sounding "Walk Away." Best: Do You Want To.
The Good, the Bad and the Queen (2007). Gorillaz got more ink and hits, but I thought the best side project from Blur's Damon Albarn was this supergroup, made of him, Tony Allen, Paul Simonon of The Clash and Simon Tong of The Verve. I particularly liked "Herculean," which sounds a lot like something Air would do. Best: Herculean.
Maroon5 - It Won't Be Soon Before Long (2007). Adam Levine's got enough swagger for multiple bands, but effectively channels his attitude on Maroon5's second album, an outing similar to their debut made up of hooky, funky pop/rock greats. Best: Makes Me Wonder.
Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007). Released at the height of popularity in musical irony and cleverness, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga eschewed such posing for straight up no-nonsense great rock, featuring great piano- and guitar-based grooves. Best: You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb.
Kanye West - Graduation (2007). Kanye West's third album featured more electronic-based arrangements than his first two, most notably on the Daft Punk-sampling hit single "Stronger" and "Flashing Lights," but also more retro touches like on "Champion" and piano-based "I Wonder." Best: Stronger.
Girls Aloud - Tangled Up (2007). Girls Aloud stumbled a bit with their esoteric third album, Chemistry, but bounced back on this fourth set. Produced by Xenomania, it was their best set yet, from the cool of "Call the Shots" to the upbeat electro pop of "Can't Speak French." Best: Call the Shots.
Kaiser Chiefs - Off with Their Heads (2008). Kaiser Chief's third album was goofier than their more serious second one, but still delivered great songs, like the energetic "Never Miss a Beat," produced by Mark Ronson, and lushly arranged "Like It Too Much,"featuring strings from James Bond scorer David Arnold. Best: Never Miss a Beat.
Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You (2009). Lily Allen's second album had more commercial appeal than her first, and while it may appear on its surface to be more sanitized lyrically, it's really not--she got better at not being so obvious. Best: The Fear.
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009). This French outfit delivered one of the best alternative albums of 2009, a lesson in the musical joys of contrasting smooth synth melodies with rocking guitar-and-drum segments. Best: Lisztomania.