Finally, a "Best Albums of the Past N Years" list that doesn't have a mind-numbingly obvious (yet not completely unjustifiable) #1. It does feel like a "forced" pick though -- as if they specifically wanted to break the usual mold and avoid having Prince, Radiohead, or Nirvana at #1 no matter what the cost, regardless of what they thought the "real" #1 album should be.
I once argued until I was blue in the face (online and IRL) that "Achtung Baby" was not only a better album than "Kid A", but was more adventurous and risky than "Kid A", IOW, a larger leap forward for a band that had a lot more at stake (and a lot more to lose). This wasn't nudnikery -- I really meant it, and still do. It couldn't be more obvious, right? On one hand, you have arguably the world's biggest band, a few years removed from making what many hailed as the most "important" album of the 80's, looking to rebound from a somewhat disastrous live album/film (disastrous in the eyes of some -- "Rattle and Hum" is a far better album than "The Joshua Tree" but that's an argument for another time). Anyway, the world's biggest rock band completely reinvented themselves, doing a total 180 from self-aggrandizing mid-song political sermons, rock messiah posturing, and overreaching their means to leech off the coolness of the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix; to becoming a rock/techno hybrid with a keen grasp of irony. Would GNR have dared thrown in the towel in 1991 and handed their songs over to Apollo 440 for remix treatment? Did any other megaband at the time attempt such a thorough makeover of their sound and their image? And it worked! People bought their music by the millions! They sold dance music to rock fans who wouldn't have touched it with a ten foot pole.
On the other hand, you have a band recycling years old Brian Eno and Autechre tunes and calling it the future (nine years after "Achtung Baby"!)
-- Britpop: its canonization in American alt-rock circles is complete?
-- Teenage Fanclub's "Bandwagonesque", one of the most underrated albums of the 90's (and still the best grunge album ever made)
-- a selection of transparently low-risk, indie rock approved hip-hop albums (maybe with the exception of Prince Paul's "A Prince Among Thieves"?) that read like something from a Pitchfork list c. 2000.
-- almost nothing from the past seven or eight years, barring a scant few ubercanonical choices