This feature was originally published on September 9, 2009.

As Joni Mitchell once sang, "you don't know what you've got till it's gone." Even now, as we approach the end of 2011, we're still trying to make sense of the first decade of the 2000s—or “The Aughts,” as we've taken to calling them around these parts. 

Sometimes you hear an album and know instantly that it'll be a classic. Track after track, it hits you, lightning striking the same place 10 to 15 times. You get that feeling of premature nostalgia, where you imagine yourself playing the album for your kids in 20 years and hoping they think that you're cool. Other times, you reluctantly listen to an album and know that you'll probably never hear it again. If you get all the way through it, you say to yourself, "That was fine," before putting on one of the albums like the former, that still makes you feel like you're hearing it for the first time. It's not the average album's fault; if everything were a classic, there would be no classics, right? 

Our opinions have evolved over the last two years, but this list—and all the lists in our Best Of The 2000s series—stands as an enduring snapshot of Complex's taste at the end of ’09. As we pulled together The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s, we kept asking ourselves: Which albums will we want to keep booming in our ears for years to come? Which CDs will we keep hard copies of, even when everything has gone digital? What combination of tracks is so beautiful, so magical, that it remains relevant even as we move into a new decade? Some albums slip away, forgotten forever in a matter of months. But some albums, whether we know it in the moment or they require years of reflection and re-listening, become timeless, permanent residents in our music libraries. 

From Kanye West to the White Stripes, find out where all your favorite artists landed on our epic countdown.

Related: The 50 Best Albums of 2016
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