segunda-feira, 1 de fevereiro de 2010

Os Melhores Discos dos Anos 00 (2000-2009) - Pitchfork

200. Jay Reatard
Blood Visions
[In the Red; 2006]

A true sleeper phenomenon, Jay Reatard's breakout record is still creeping up on critics and fans well after its release. Blood Visions is a crossover in the best sense of the term, stealing the raucous energy and attitude of punk, the melodies of power pop, and the rough ingenuity of bedroom recording. Reatard (née Jay Lindsey) uses everything at his disposal to make symphonies of the simplest parts: an impassioned yelp, an acoustic guitar, flying-V riffs, bitter (and occasionally violent) lyrics. All it took was a little bit of actual singing and mixing some melody in with the bile for him to stand up and be counted; but like the album's cover, he'll be covered in blood during the counting.
--Jason Crock

199. Deerhoof
Apple O'
[5 Rue Christine; 2003]

"The modern-day composer refuses to die." So said your parents' very own modern-day composer Frank Zappa (quoting Varèse), and though countless haters will try to convince you otherwise, originality is always possible. Deerhoof are a case in point: the Bay Area quartet makes music that's punk, but pop; noisy but pretty; thoroughly composed, but explosively performed. Apple O' caught them at the tipping point between their noisier early days and the comparatively delicate art-pop of all of their records since. Like many of the best bands of the decade (Animal Collective, LCD Soundsystem, the Knife), Deerhoof makes immediately identifiable music with seemingly scores of imitators-- yet, nobody else has managed to produce anything quite like "Sealed With a Kiss", or the Ravel-esque "The Forbidden Fruits". If musical hybrids fell like low-hanging fruit in the 00s, Apple O' was a ripe, early masterpiece. --Dominique Leone

198. Boris
Akuma No Uta
[Southern Lord; 2005]

Listen to any random track from Akuma No Uta, and many influences pop to mind-- Earth, Motörhead, Stooges, Blue Öyster Cult, Fushitsusha. But listen to the entire album in one long, rapturous sitting, and it's hard to imagine it being made by anyone but Boris. Charging, smoke-filled, and raw, it's the tonal opposite of Nick Drake, whose Bryter Layter album cover is recreated on the front. But just as Drake was devoted to gentle sounds and downbeat moods, Boris are obsessively committed to fuzzy riffs and heavy rhythms, whether deployed in long, shivering drones, or fiery, chugging blasts. The album's centerpiece, the swaying 12-minute jam "Naki Kyoku", actually begins in a reflective mood not far from Drake's melancholia. But, as on the rest of Akuma No Uta, Boris takes that inspiration and burns it away, leaving a trail of smoke rings that clearly spell the band's name. --Marc Masters

197. Yeasayer
All Hour Cymbals
[We Are Free; 2007]

With the kind of crackling analog warmth a lot of listeners wish they got from Animal Collective, Yeasayer's debut record established a demilitarized zone between some formerly opposite impulses: paranoid post-punk yelps and psychedelic, harmonized chants, noodly guitar riffs and ambient keyboard washes, electronic and acoustic instruments working in harmony. The end result is impossible to categorize, which in modern times of rampant pigeonholing might just be one of the best compliments you could give. --Rob Mitchum

196. William Basinski
The Disentegration Loops
[2062; 2003]

The four-volume set The Disintegration Loops, came with an unusually compelling backstory: veteran multimedia artist William Baskinski, attempting to digitize tape loops he'd made years ago, found the magnetic material in an advanced state of decay, which caused bits of music to disappear with each pass over the tape heads. So the sounds, hypnotic and magnificently textured in their own right, were literally falling apart and vanishing into the air as the pieces progressed, resulting in music that feels heavy with sadness and loss even as it feels spectral and weightless. Adding another layer of poignancy, the distressed tapes were transferred to digital around the time of September 11, and the Brooklyn-based Baskinski created a DVD version of the project, setting the crumbling music to a static video he shot of smoldering Lower Manhattan, an image also used for the CD covers. Born of an unlikely convergence of time, place, and circumstance, The Disintegration Loops has lost none of its overwhelming beauty in the intervening years. --Mark Richardson

195. Bonnie "Prince" Billy
The Letting Go
[Palace/Drag City; 2006]

The solemn strings that open "Love Comes to Me"-- the first track on The Letting Go-- indirectly echo the sumptuous opening of Schubert's String Quintet in C Major, one of the most ethereal pieces of music ever written. Arranged by Nico Muhly, who is quickly becoming indie rock's unofficial house composer, they signal the album's feeling of grave finality, implied by the title and reinforced everywhere on the album, from the contented sigh of Will Oldham's singing to the far-away backing vocals of Dawn McCarthy, who drifts in and out of the album seemingly at her own will. Drained of tension, suffused with wisdom and bottomless sadness, and graced by weary resignation, The Letting Go feels like the calm certainty of someone who has glimpsed the beyond. --Jayson Greene

194. Pulp
We Love Life
[Island; 2001]

After an awkward stage that lasted more than a decade, Pulp emerged in the 1990s as the oversexed life of the party. By the end of the decade, they were on the hellish taxi ride home. We Love Life picked up where This Is Hardcore left off, shaking off the hangover to face whatever comes next. Jarvis Cocker squints against the sunlight, going figuratively back underground on "Weeds" and literally underground to a river that flows beneath the city on "Wickerman". His road to happiness is littered with death, sadness, heartbreak, and confusion, but there's still room for a joke, and we get Pulp's best on "Bad Cover Version". The rest of the group and producer Scott Walker create a sumptuous atmosphere for Cocker's journey toward a new life. He finally arrives there on the majestic closer, "Sunrise", a rousing farewell for one of the most original bands of the last 30 years. --Joe Tangari

193. Devendra Banhart
Rejoicing in the Hands
[Young God; 2004]

If New Weird America had actually existed, "This Is the Way" would have been its national anthem. The credo opens Devendra Banhart's first proper and only essential album and immediately delivers attitude and confidence, declaring Banhart's prerogatives as an individual (beards, sharing, nostalgia, nature) and his aspirations for overcoming the mundane and mute. Sure, Banhart picks his tinny guitar gingerly and offers his plain words politely, but he's just a shepherd delivering a proclamation wrapped in sheep's clothing: "We've known/ We've had a choice/ We chose rejoice," he closes, rejecting everything but the brambly, uncertain path ahead. The songs that follow are guileless and spirited, as equally dependent on wry winks ("This Beard Is for Siobhan") as uncloaked sentiments ("Autumn's Child). Michael Gira's spartan production and strong editing distill the power of Banhart's vibrato and vision while giving the songs the space such oddball beauties deserve. Simple and elegant, Rejoicing remains the jewel of the nebulous moment it led. --Grayson Currin

192. Art Brut
Bang Bang Rock & Roll
[Fierce Panda; 2005]

The world won't listen. Four years after Art Brut (went for) broke, way too many bands are still doing it wrong. Turning their blandness up to 11 and hoping they'll blend in enough to be anthemic. Expertly borrowing the styles of their heroes-- whether that's the Velvet Underground, Gang of Four, or, hell, the Shaggs-- but sorely lacking the spirit. What spirit? Any spirit. Or playing it cool behind the microphone, as if on the off chance someone might hallucinate they have charisma. Like The Modern Lovers for a generation weaned on The Blue Album, Art Brut's hugely fun debut projected frontman Eddie Argos's Pulp-like wit onto ironically serious songs about art, girls, and endearingly personal neuroses-- I still don't get all the Italian references. For those about to form a band, they salute you. --Marc Hogan

191. Air
Talkie Walkie
[Astralwerks; 2004]

Sometimes it pays to know who you are: Air have mined their little vein of electronic music so fastidiously over the last decade that they're now the de facto gold standard of new-age Gallic pop. Despite that standing, their carefully manicured and occasionally over-polite music tends to be respected by critics rather than revered. This might explain why Talkie Walkie slipped by relatively unheralded; with its baroque arrangements, shivery arpeggios, hushed vocals, and meticulous attention to other micro-sized details, Talkie Walkie remains a quiet masterpiece. Like Beck's Sea Change, another occasionally maligned Nigel Godrich production, this is an acquired taste that impresses in slow drips rather than showy bursts. As opening trifectas go, though, they don't come much lovelier than "Venus", "Cherry Blossom Girl", and "Run". --Mark Pytlik


190. Elliott Smith
Figure 8
[Dreamworks; 2000]

Having completed the transition from acoustic bedroom folk to intricately orchestrated Beatlesque pop with 1998's XO, Elliott Smith took a more understated approach with 2000's Figure 8. Not quite as intimate as his earliest records and not quite brash and bombastic like its immediate predecessor, Figure 8 marks a subtle refinement of Smith's songwriting skills. Figure 8 is notable for its confidence and its discipline-- neither of which is a particularly flashy trait. But with this surer footing came deeper expeditions into the timeless gestural language of big-C Classic rock, making Figure 8 one of Smith's most accessible and enjoyable records. --Matt LeMay

189. Jamie Lidell
Multiply
[Warp; 2005]

Listen to Jamie Lidell's earlier records-- his aptly-titled solo debut Muddlin Gear or his Super_Collider work with Cristian Vogel-- and you hear a playful yet restless Jack-of-all-trades trying to find his voice. Fast forward to 2005's Multiply, and he's found it: As Mark Pytlik notes in his Pitchfork write-up of the album, Multiply is most definitely reverential to its antecedents, and they're often worn proudly on the sleeve of each track. Whenever Lidell makes a not-so-subtle gesture towards his R&B forefathers, he does so with a healthy amount of polite disrespect-- Multiply is seasoned with enough electronic chicanery seamlessly integrated into the mix to remind folks that the record was in fact sharing discography space with equally individual talents like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher. And whether he's vamping and squiggling like a young eager-to-impress Prince on "When I Come Back Around" or crooning like a heartbroken old soul on the album's show-stopping closer "Game For Fools", there's no mistaking that Multiply is first and foremost a remarkable statement made by a remarkable artist. --David Raposa

188. M83
Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts
[Gooom; 2003]

Before he would construct dream-pop anthems out of John Hughes' celluloid teen angst, Anthony Gonzalez (and then-bandmate Nicolas Fromageau) gave us this behemoth of sound. Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts is the biggest M83 record, leaving listeners-- those poor flattened souls-- pancaked in its wake. But for all of that weight, the distorted guitar-and-synth walls of run-to-your-grave epics "America" and "0078h" (which always seemed to me just as post-rock as they were shoegaze), there was real warmth to the album. The slower-paced, ethereal qualities of "In Church" and "On a White Lake, Near a Green Mountain" hinted at the romance of future M83 tracks. --Joe Colly

187. Stars of the Lid
The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid
[Kranky; 2001]

On The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid, Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride create a deep pool of drone so heavy that its gravity pulls in sounds around it, swallowing them whole. The band was having a bit of a laugh at its own expense with the self-deprecating album title-- this was their seventh record of impossibly thick, slow ambience, and here they expanded their palette of timbres and stretched out over two full CDs to let each piece breathe as deeply as possible. Intense patience is a hallmark of any great drone music; Wiltzie and McBride have patience in spades and bring a designer's detailed touch to every sound they make to craft an ambient opus that's as welcoming as it is esoteric. --Joe Tangari

186. The Thermals
The Body, the Blood, the Machine
[Sub Pop; 2006]

The Thermals' third full-length is a cautionary tale about the dangers of a totalitarian, theocratic regime, and it could only have sprung from anger and frustration with the George W. Bush administration. The lyrical gravitas of religious iconography and damn-the-man slogans gave the Portland pop-punk band renewed purpose, but it could have been just more hot air if it wasn't married to such incendiary riffs, sexy, throbbing basslines, and urgent, earnest melodies. Most recent protest music is pedantic and plodding, but with the Thermals' joyously sloppy delivery and imaginative (and not-so-literal) storytelling, they revitalized the genre for a new generation. --Rebecca Raber

185. Scarface
The Fix
[Def Jam South; 2002]

Scarface aficionados might question Facemob's sole New York-focused Def Jam record as a representative of the artist's best work. But if The Fix proves anything, it's that Scarface is a world unto himself, the rare rapper whose utter musical weight, gravitas, and gravitational pull is so strong that an entire city's aesthetic bends in his direction when he deigns to subsume it. What is so unique about The Fix is that, from a macro view, it doesn't sound anything like a 2002-era corporate New York rap record, despite Kanye West's perfect soul basslines and Neptunes guest production spots; Scarface's lyrics are unchanged, the same stories from the South Side of Houston, the same engagement with the same drug game, the same unyielding honesty and unwillingness to sacrifice ideals. --David Drake

184. Vitalic
OK Cowboy
[PIAS; 2005]

While the electronica push of the late-1990s was considered an epic fail well before 2000, it did accelerate the conversation between rock and electronic music. Over the next decade, the sequencer would become a common sight on rock stages, and a legion of DJs (especially the French) responded in kind by infusing house-music juggernauts with the hyper-distorted wallop of power chords. Daft Punk and Justice reveled in gloriously superficial properties of rock, the Aqua-Net and motivational platitudes. But Vitalic was almost punk, going at his ring-modded synths and acid squelches as if they were his first Sears-catalog guitar. His peers want to inspire you, but sometimes, you worry Vitalic is trying to kill you. --Brian Howe

183. Arctic Monkeys
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
[Domino, 2006]

There's a fine line when it comes to precociousness. Pre-teen geniuses? Adorable. Deeply cynical, shockingly self-aware 19-year-olds? Kind of a downer. Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner is the exception that proves the rule. He cuts the Holden Caulfield figure perfectly, moping around Sheffield and observing the Chav life. The Monkeys initially won freakishly enthusiastic acclaim for their clenched-fist stomp, raucous guitar attack, and sodden attitude on songs like "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor". But what endures are the weary ballads. "Riot Van" is so elegant and detailed about the perils of the boys in blue it almost insists on soundtracking an Irvine Welsh novel. "When the Sun Goes Down" is scarily well-written-- the type of song that sounds a million years old the moment it begins. Even the jaunty "Fake Tales of San Francisco" is drooling bile. Sometimes growing up too fast ain't so bad. --Sean Fennessey

182. Max Tundra
Mastered by Guy at the Exchange
[Tigerbeat6; 2002]

Ben Jacobs had to use words. Crafty and clever as his earlier works were, he had more to say this time, and so he started writing pop songs-- intricate and busy songs that balanced on a hair his OCD and his ADHD, but songs that were catchy and wondrous as well. He started to sing (and sister Becky pitched in). He wrote about temp labor, old vinyl, amino acids, and, oh yeah, girls. That was the best bit: Now he could sing about girls and crushes and love. In true British fashion, he brought a modest persona to rainbow-shredding music that charm the heart and overclocks the brain. There's joy in every byte of his tunes: the joy of gazing at girls, and gazing at light-emitting diodes, and telling the world how glorious they both are. --Chris Dahlen

181. Andrew Bird
Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs
[Righteous Babe; 2005]

The world ends not with a bang or a whimper, but with a party. Between 2001 and 2003, Andrew Bird doused his Bowl of Fire, moved to a farm, and fell through the stylistic looking glass into a weird world entirely his own. The Mysterious Production of Eggs is the greatest statement to leak out of that world onto a record. Sheets upon sheets of plucked and bowed violin are joined by his singular whistle and painterly voice to frame homicidal personal ads, tales of children's brains measured for defects, and musings on the long odds of biology. It's thoroughly original, from the gentle lilt of "Sovay" to the tidal rush of "Fake Palindromes", the eerie murk of "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left" and the Ravel-quoting bounce of "Skin Is, My". When it all caves in, Bird will be there to play amidst the rubble, and you should join him if you can. There will be snacks. --Joe Tangari

180. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus
[Anti-; 2004]

The script called for Nick Cave to settle into mellow middle age, but the singer clearly would have none of it. Whether it was the departure of longtime potentiator Blixa Bargeld or merely the singer approaching 50, something reignited a fire under Cave and his protean partners the Bad Seeds in the mid-2000s that smolders to this day. But even taking into account the subsequent highs of Grinderman and Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!! the epic Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus remains Cave's top work this decade. After all, it was on this double-disc opus that Cave not only reinvigorated his already vicious and virile fire and brimstone bluster with equal parts gospel and grunge, but nudged a little bit more humor to the fore as well. Indeed, if the highlights of this collection are too numerous to single out, Cave must take particular satisfaction in rhyming "Orpheus" with "orifice" in the most lewd manner possible. --Joshua Klein

179. Camera Obscura
Let's Get Out of This Country
[Merge; 2006]

Whether by proxy, presentation, or straight-up patronage, Camera Obscura's lace-collared pop seemed doomed to be eclipsed by Belle and Sebastian comparisons. Though valid, 2006's Let's Get Out of This Country captured a band getting out from underneath a hefty legacy the best way any group can: great songs. Front to back, this was the Glaswegian sextet's finest set yet, full of golden melodies made all the stickier and more durable by Tracyanne Campbell's new tales of heartache. Showroom strings and wedding organ gave the homerun title track and winners like "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken" and "Come Back Margaret" a schmaltzy pop in which Campbell couldn't have sounded more capable of juicing your pleasure center, whether you needed a laugh or a cry. Every flourish was in its right place. --David Bevan

178. Lil Wayne
Tha Carter II
[Cash Money; 2005]

The first Carter was when Wayne started calling himself the "best rapper alive" straight-faced, but Tha Carter II was when people stopped laughing at that claim. Wayne, once a non-cussing kiddie rapper, had hardened his delivery into an elemental croak, and he'd somehow learned the rare ability to craft punchlines so sticky that they'd bounce around in your head all day. He'd also learned not to show all his cards at once. Instead of just telling us about the gun in his trunk, he let loose with something oblique like this: "Riding by myself, well really not really/ So heavy in the trunk, make the car pop a wheelie." And perhaps most importantly, this was his first album not produced by Mannie Fresh, and he had the good sense to replace Fresh's punchy ADD electro with swampy, primordial thuds that gave his jokes urgency and force. --Tom Breihan

177. Broadcast
The Noise Made By People
[Warp; 2000]

Their first singles ticked off their references-- the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the United States of America, Nico. On this debut Broadcast set about the task of forging them into a world. It's a strange world too, as antique as the Clientele's and as skewed and chilly as the Knife's, its wintry spaces filled with echo and chimes and analogue ghosts. But once you start exploring it you'll find its inhabitants more hospitable than you'd imagined. Singer Trish Keenan can weave spells-- the baffling, lingering "Echo's Answer"-- but she can also be tender, beckoning a shy companion on "Come On Let's Go", chiding a suspicious lover on "Papercuts". Broadcast are at home on creaking synths but they can summon a stiff, fogbound groove when needed-- like the RZA-esque "Dead the Long Year". On later releases Broadcast's confidence and songwriting grew stronger, but they've never sounded quite this bewitching or curious. --Tom Ewing

176. The Mountain Goats
Tallahassee
[4AD; 2002]

For a decade, John Darnielle's jackhammer strum and lamb-to-slaughter bleat sketched short, tape-hissy tales of big, big rabbits, orange balls of hate, dysfunction, violence, isolation, and a Google Maps' site worth of geography. In 2002, he changed things up a bit, not only booking an actual studio, but carrying a suitcase of favorite tropes to Florida's panhandle-- home to previous bit players, the alpha couple-- for an entire album length's stay. Good short story writers don't always make good novelists. But Tallahassee is a vivid, fully realized night-sweat of a song cycle in which the breakdown of your average awful marriage (you probably know a few) assumes gothic proportions. "No Children", everyone's favorite mutual-self-destruction sing-along, is unquestionably bleak. But the tracklist abounds with less-celebrated scenes of abject terror and despair, from "The House That Dripped Blood"'s husky chords and open throat of a cellar door, to the delicately lit powder kegs of "International Small Arms Traffic Blues". Schadenfreude (or empathy) rarely sounded this delicious (or depressing). --Amy Granzin

175. Various Artists
Total 3
[Kompakt; 2001]

Like most great compilations, this one stands for slightly more than itself. Total 3 felt, from some vantage points, like the moment where Cologne's Kompakt label announced itself to the wider world. From here on out, its elegantly cloudy take on minimal techno and microhouse-- gusty, sparkling ambience yoked to the steady beat of dance music, low on bangers and high on subtleties-- would become a big part of the decade. Of course, Total 3 isn't just on this list as a stand-in; it's here because it's terrific all by itself, because it's a lot of what earned all that attention. Sedate hustles and throbs, dark crawls, colorful funk, the glorious sentimentality of Jürgen Paape's "So Weit Wie Noch Nie"-- this collection can be mesmerizing, and it's beautifully built around a core aesthetic. Thinking of it merely as the dance style that crossed over-- the warm-bath techno that turned the heads of even the techno-skeptical-- does it a disservice; it ignores just how well-formed and flexible and satisfying this stuff can be, no matter whose ear it's catching. --Nitsuh Abebe

174. Okkervil River
Black Sheep Boy
[Jagjaguwar; 2005]

Doomed folkie Tim Hardin plays Virgil for Will Sheff, touring the Okkervil River frontman through a rock'n'roll purgatory of bloodthirsty drifters, damaged women, and drug-frayed anthropomorphic metaphors. Less "Behind the Music" than either of the band's excellent follow-ups, The Stage Names or The Stand Ins, Black Sheep Boy is a rock picaresque that's touched with very little of those LP's bone-deep cynicism. It succeeds not merely by Sheff's literate wordplay, dynamically angsty melodies, or even his deep knowledge of a rock-historical footnote, but by the way Okkervil River click together as a band more strongly than they had on previous albums. They serve as both the pit orchestra for Sheff's staged plays and a clever foil for his unhinged performances, like when they nail the stop-start urgency of "For Real" and impart a bittersweet country shuffle to "A Stone", or when Jonathan Meiburg undercuts the bleak "Black" with a cheerily ascending keyboard melody that lets a beam of hope shine into Sheff's dark world. The result is one of the best rock biographies of the decade and a concept album that's all heart. --Stephen M. Deusner

173. Herbert
Bodily Functions
[K7; 2001]

Matthew Herbert's career has zigzagged between styles and approaches-- minimalist house tracks, lounge jazz, politically motivated musique concrète-- but Bodily Functions is the one album where all his tendencies come together. Recorded with his then-partner Dani Siciliano, the album continues Around the House's investigations into intimacy and identity both lyrically and literally, with much of the source material sampled from "bodily functions" like clacking teeth and brushing hair. But the music's too lush to feel pedantic, thanks in large part to Siciliano's delivery, which swings between defiance and vulnerability, and to arrangements that lean heavily on jazz piano and brushed drums. On the more uptempo cuts, classic deep house provides the blueprint for skippy, tidy rhythm tracks. That Herbert and Siciliano eventually parted ways, in retrospect, may not be surprising: an almost overwhelming melancholy beats at the album's heart-- a sadness so insurmountable it brings its own kind of peace. --Philip Sherburne

172. Constantines
Shine a Light
[Sub Pop; 2003]

Music writers get so swept up in classification, we might think a label like "Fugazi-meets-Springsteen" is more important than relating lyrics like "To hell with the mill sallow chorus/ Lift your body out of exile," or describing the brittle grooves and airplane-hangar roar behind the hoarse protests and prayers of Constantines singers Bryan Webb and Steven Lambke. The Cons' fury resists getting summarized or blurbed. So what of Fugazi's (or, sigh, Springsteen's) wide wake of influence, even in this decade? The Constantines deserve praise for holding to the romance and promise of earlier rock'n'roll while simultaneously deconstructing it, if only for the sake of discovering something. Whatever equation you want to throw at them, the breadth of expression on Shine a Light stuns: The ground covered between "Nighttime/Anytime (It's Alright)" to "On to You" includes feral, bruised, proud, frightened, and fully confident songs. --Jason Crock

171. The Go! Team
Thunder, Lightning, Strike
[Memphis Industries; 2004]

At the end of the decade, lo-fi had become a fashionable option, a recording approach made less out of necessity than out of fashion. But there's a third path, and while making a record on a cassette tape in 2009 may be a stubborn and affected act, there is still allure and aesthetic purpose in giving music a grainy feel in spite of GarageBand. See government exhibit labeled the Go! Team, whose 2004 debut used less than ideal recording conditions to evoke documentary-filmstrip soundtracks, TV cop shows, and girl-group 45s. This nostalgia-fetish genre-quilting was nothing new post-Odelay, but Go! Team mastermind Ian Parton proved himself a basement bandleader with an ear for authenticity that didn't strangle him creatively-- switching mid-song from soft-focus flute-driven instrumental to turntablism breakdowns in "Get It Together" or blending 1960s Motown with 80s Bronx on "Ladyflash". --Rob Mitchum

170. Bright Eyes
Fevers and Mirrors
[Saddle Creek; 2000]

Bruce Springsteen sounded haunted on Nebraska, where even he found redemption scarce. Counting Crows located Omaha "somewhere in middle America," a faintly sinister phrase, as if Nebraska's largest city were an island lost on the plains-- isolated, impenetrable, maybe imaginary. Conor Oberst, Omaha's native son, caught this Nebraska-of-the-mind in amber with Fevers and Mirrors, the pinnacle (and conclusion) of his wrought yet raw early style. It conjures a stark, entrapping world: "This barren land is alive tonight," Oberst whimpers on "Arienette", as wolves prowl implacably behind acres of rustling corn. Measurements of time and space accumulate-- clocks tick, calendar pages float away, scales tip, the sun reels up and down-- and nothing changes. Memories of happiness and presentiments of loss, unearned arrogance and unearned guilt, well-being and addiction, all collide in a stalemate. It's about helplessness: How a fever takes you violently, and a mirror can only reflect what it sees. It's about being marooned, somewhere in Middle America, between childhood and adulthood, on the dark island of your mind. --Brian Howe

169. Common
Like Water for Chocolate
[MCA; 2000]

Like Water for Chocolate isn't Common's most classic record (that's 1994's Resurrection) but it's his most fully realized. Much like that record, Like Water is visible evidence of a rapper wrestling with his street background and growing self-awareness, of conservative tendencies and an ambitious need for exploration. Com bravely embraced Jay Dee's Soulquarian vision for an alternative future, while retaining a distinctly personal sound and identity that situated him outside of his Chicago origins. Com still carried the baggage, both negative and positive, of Chicago's South Side streets-- casual homophobic slurs mar the otherwise-flawless "Dooinit"-- but this baggage also charges his raps with the energy that would seep from his voice the closer he came to Gap spokesrapper, his trash-talking ("he fell off 'cause I pushed him") as believable as his growing personal dimension ("The Light"). It helps that J Dilla wraps Common's lyrics in the swirling emotional nuance of complex-yet-hooky tracks like "Funky for You". The end result was a singular record in music history, with a sui generis style both artists would fail to replicate. --David Drake

168. Califone
Roots and Crowns
[Thrill Jockey; 2006]

"Leave your memories/ We're almost new," sings Califone's Tim Rutili on "3 Legged Animals", a standout track on an album his band of nearly a decade almost didn't make. Break-ups, cross-country moves, and an attempt to quit put Califone's future in question, but, as he suggests, they returned refreshed, capping their best set of songs (fine roots) with their most intricate arrangements (resplendent crowns). Here, Califone bend, break, and blend pedestrian sounds (fiddle moans, horn growls, chiming bells, lurking bass), while Rutili splices standard images-- raindrops, pills, bones-- until they weave into impressionistic webs. Almost new here, Califone-- more than any American act since Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-- struck a righteous balance between the obtuse and the accessible. --Grayson Currin

167. Annie
Anniemal
[679; 2004]

Few genres got a bigger boost from file-sharing in the early years of this decade than danceable European pop music. The spread of mp3s around the world allowed for the creation of a thriving global pop underground teeming with shoulda-been hits by coulda-been stars who previously had few options to find an audience outside of the tight playlists of corporate radio. Annie, an enigmatic Norwegian bombshell with a sweet wispy voice and a taste for slick neo-80s production, was the first of these acts to make it big on the same terms as countless indie bands-- well outside the bounds of the mainstream, but beloved by a significant number of fans hungry for the sort of dazzling, witty, and unabashedly hooky pop music that had nearly vanished from American radio. Unsurprisingly, most of the attention on Annie's debut record, Anniemal, was placed on the singles-- the melancholy hyperballad "Heartbeat" and the delightfully coy "Chewing Gum" stand as two of the great almost-hits of the decade-- but the entire album is stacked with gems, from Richard X's effervescent "Me Plus One" to the psychedelic disco meltdown of "Come Together". --Matthew Perpetua

166. Jim O'Rourke
Insignificance
[Drag City; 2001]

Despite the Swiftian invective of the title, Insignificance marks a lot of milestones in producer/composer Jim O'Rourke's career. The third of his records named after a Nicolas Roeg flick, Insignificance marked O'Rourke's move from Chicago, where he had helped shape the experimental jazz and post-rock music scenes, to New York, and to date remains his solo effort most concerned with pop accessibility. O'Rourke even sings bemusedly in his poor-man's-Bill-Callahan voice about being on the cusp: the subject of opener "All Downhill From Here" is self-evident, and standout "Therefore, I Am" has O'Rourke offering personal re-affirmation, a fresh start, and a heavy-handed fuck-off to an unnamed subject. "Therefore, I Am" is set against the backdrop of a ridiculously repetitive, infectious guitar riff and Ringo-esque drums-- a curiosity for the improvisational O'Rourke, but here it smartly comes off as a smirking indictment of rock alchemy-- and it glides into a falsetto chorus with echoes of girl-groups or the Beach Boys. O'Rourke carries all it off so elegantly that you'd think he'd address the trivial little matter of pop songcraft a little more often. --Mike Orme

165. Ricardo Villalobos
Alcachofa
[Playhouse; 2003]

The Chilean-born, Frankfurt-raised DJ/producer Ricardo Villalobos spent a decade quietly earning a cult rep for his nervy, elliptical approach to underground techno before he turned dance music on its ear with his 2003 album debut. While he's often singled out for his purported minimalism, Alcachofa's real innovation was to recast chugging, 4/4 rhythms in a mercurial casing more akin to krautrock's shape-changing forms, with loops inside loops inside loops undulating toward a disappearing horizon. The album contains two bona fide anthems. "Easy Lee" sets a cryptic, vocodered chorus to a sparse, tribally backing that feels like it's made out of plastic and putty; "Dexter" offsets a relaxed, four-square glide with spindly chord changes that seem never to resolve, ratcheting up the tension with every repetition. Less effusive cuts like "Bahaha Hahi" and "Fool's Garden (Black Conga)", meanwhile, throb with a coiled intensity far out of proportion to the modesty of their materials. --Philip Sherburne

164. Les Savy Fav
Rome (Written Upside Down) EP
[Southern; 2000]

Rome, written upside down. The Statue of Liberty, pixelated and fallen. An analogy for the decline of empires? Maybe, but Les Savy Fav's fall of America isn't some political attack-- it's a dystopian vision of a world where empires crumble because there's no one left to sustain them, where humanity is subsumed by its technology. The band tosses and turns in the throes of its afterfuture dreams on a bed of glitched-up, brittle post-punk that still sounds like the future despite a total lack of obviously futuristic audio signifiers. For about 18 perfect minutes, Les Savy Fav bottled post-Millennial dread and served it up cold for a thirsty, anxious audience. --Joe Tangari

163. DJ /rupture
Uproot
[The Agriculture; 2008]

With so much music being released every day, strategic listening and contextualization is an art form, of which Jace Clayton (aka DJ /rupture) is a master. He carries the flame for connoisseurship in an era of dilettantism, rejecting rapid consumption and quantity-over-quality: The best is out there; with patience, we can find it, and weave it into a story that says something penetrating about how it feels to be alive, right now. On the surface, Uproot is simply a potent array of music, mixed in a deep field by someone with exquisitely exotic tastes. More fundamentally, it's a thesis on the collapse of musical borders-- between listener and artist, between regional styles, between genres-- that has characterized the Internet age. On a universal thread of drums and bass, Clayton draws out seamless connections between Brooklyn and Afghanistan, dubstep and ragga, hearing and making. Music is revealed, actually not-ruptured, in all its splendid commonality. For Clayton there are, at most, two kinds: Wonderful music, which should be collected, pondered, and put into a dialogue; and non-wonderful music, for which one simply has no time. --Brian Howe

162. Wu-Tang Clan
The W
[Sony; 2000]

By 2000, to put it very lightly, the Wu-Tang Clan had diversified their bonds. RZA's original plan for the group ended with 1997's Forever, and by the turn of the millennium, many fans lamented the loss of his hold over the group, which had more or less devolved into a watered-down brand stamped onto a variety of middling stuff. In this context, The W was as surprising as it was pleasing, packing some of the RZA's best production work, and some of the group's best music. "Hollow Bones" and "Careful (Click, Click)" are two of the scariest cuts in the Wu-catalog, and few songs this decade can match the ardor of RZA's breakdown on the stunning Isaac Hayes cop "I Can't Go to Sleep". Released a mere 18 days before Bush v. Gore would plague us with eight years of that other W, The W provided a fitting soundtrack for those with a freshly bleak outlook on the future. --Eric Harvey

161. Air France
No Way Down
[Sincerely Yours; 2008]

Joel Karlsson and Henrik Markstedt's music may be fantasy, but there's also an unusual, deeply felt awareness that pop interacts with the all too real world around us. Electronic music is often associated with indoors, so they brought it outdoors. Gothenburg gets cold, so they partied on the beach whenever possible. Someday, when the Balearic revival has its week on "American Idol", their full-length debut-- actually two EPs, but they work better together-- will stand out for its pop melodies, luxuriantly vivid sense of place, and the wistful quality generated by those sampled, young voices-- their sadness is kids' stuff, but that doesn't make it imaginary. --Marc Hogan

160. Deerhunter
Cryptograms
[Kranky; 2007]

Never mind the lost album sales; the abundance of leaked demos, YouTubed concert footage, and radio-session webcasts at our disposal has ultimately served to take the mystery out of the artist's evolutionary process-- it's increasingly difficult to be surprised by a band's new direction when we've been riding shotgun the whole time. Back in early 2007, before frontman Bradford Cox's every move was documented online, Deerhunter used their second album as a canvas on which to chart their aesthetic transformation. Defenders of the album format in an mp3 age often point to the medium's capacity to take listeners on a journey; on Cryptograms, the journey is the band's own. The remarkable thing about the record isn't just that Deerhunter deftly execute strobe-lit psych-punk squall ("Lake Somerset"), acidic disco ("Octet"), and sensitive jangle-pop ("Hazel St.") with equal conviction, but that they make them all seem like logical points on the same continuum. And those miasmic ambient set pieces aren't just there as breathers, but rather as emblems of a band that's being perpetually melted down and reshaped from song to song. --Stuart Berman

159. Girl Talk
Night Ripper
[Illegal Art; 2006]

Since multitasking is now our national pastime, an entity like Girl Talk was an inevitable phenomenon; as our attention spans shrink to the nano-scale, one song at a time just no longer is enough. All we needed was someone to step up and act as filter to the unstoppable torrent of pop music bursting our cognitive dams, saving us the time of listening to 500 songs sequentially and giving us the best parts in an overlapping and interlocking efficiency! But the flood of Internet mashups were unimpeachable evidence that no, not everyone can do this, and along came biomedical engineer Gregg Gillis, the Michael Phelps of cutting-and-pasting, to be our beat-matching hero. Now that Wikipedia has spoiled all the Easter eggs, Night Ripper still sports brilliantly catchy (Big Boi Breeders), bizarrely virtuoso (Juelz Mangum Airplane) and oddly emotional moments (Biggie John) to tide you over as you squeeze a five-course meal into a piece of gum, Willy Wonka-style. --Rob Mitchum

158. Destroyer
Destroyer's Rubies
[Merge; 2006]

In the vivid worlds he creates as Destroyer, Dan Bejar is a cad, a self-conscious socialite, and the bard of a made-up bourgeoisie, and Destroyer's Rubies is his best-yet work under the moniker. The tics and themes that make his music so undeniably his are all here, as is the shaggy jazz and folk-rock, the coy glam posturing, and the swatches of lives cast in abstruse metaphors. Taken all at once, Rubies is decadent, mapping a haute coutureclass system of well-off hipster intellectuals, idle painters, subcultural demigods, and of course, the beautiful women always just out of reach; Bejar further cuts his observations with tweedy references to Ezra Pound, Tchaikovsky, the Incredible String Band, and Greek mythology. "I was the dominant theme in a number of places," indeed: Bejar's self-referentiality reaches its peak here as well-- Rubies is the ultimate index of Destroyer mythology, the artist fitting himself into the background of his work. --Eric Harvey

157. Lightning Bolt
Wonderful Rainbow
[Load; 2003]

If the title of Lightning Bolt's third LP seems redundant-- aren't all rainbows wonderful?-- that's probably intentional. Because this duo's pounding, relentless repetition turns superfluity and excess into glorious virtues. Overflowing with Brian Gibson's airplane-engine bass roar and distorted chants, Brian Chippendale's punching drums, and a layer of viscous distortion on top, Wonderful Rainbow is an exhausting workout. Its 10 songs loop, cycle, and repeat so rigorously your brain feels a marathon runner's burn. But each track's muscular incline eventually delivers a rewarding endorphin high. And, just to make sure their noise mantras came in different colors, Lightning Bolt slipped bits of melody inside almost every machine-like blast. The overall effect is less redundant than generous, making Wonderful Rainbow like a pot of gold at the end of another invigorating sky-ride. --Marc Masters

156. Bloc Party
Silent Alarm
[Vice/Wichita/V2; 2005]

What a dumb name for this album. Press play and the first sound you hear is a siren-like blare of an open E string announcing with all the subtlety of Funkmaster Flex that SHIT'S ABOUT TO GO DOWN. By the start of 2005, much of the previous year's optimism and stridency gave way to seriously bummed indifference, but Bloc Party wasn't havin' it. Kele Okereke is half Paul Revere, half Bono over fighting-trim tracks that stood out as rhythmically vital and melodically sharp even as it seemed like every new hyped band was getting up for the downstroke. But beyond that, what makes Silent Alarm rise above is the depth of Bloc Party's passion-- the precedents for their high-wire musicianship were easy to spot, but then again, while Gang of Four wouldn't sniff at "Price of Gas", their "love" song was "Anthrax", not "Blue Light" and "So Here We Are". Future releases would prove this point more obviously, but on Silent Alarm, Bloc Party was a clenched fist looking for another hand to hold. --Ian Cohen

155. Clipse
Lord Willin'
[Star Trak; 2002]

It's true that the Thornton Brothers took a great leap after them crackers at Jive stopped playing fair. But during their Arista years, Pusha and Malice seemed to be doing just fine. With the Neptunes as their guardian angels, the Virginia duo did more than just talk dope deals. They had fun on the weekends ("When the Last Time"), they stunted on other rappers ("I'm Not You"), and they built an elegiac shrine to their homestate ("Virginia"). The drugs still mattered, though. To this day there are thousands of people who don't know what "Grindin'" is about, despite the fact that it is one of the most explicitly told songs ever. Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo in their prime had that effect. After all their misguided evolutions, it's hard to describe the Neptunes in their prime. Adventurous but ruthlessly commercial; rap purists that broke every rule; futurists with a healthy sense of nostalgia. Together the two duos made a jarring, indelible sound. Just don't call it coke rap. --Sean Fennessey

154. Ghostface Killah
The Pretty Toney Album
[Def Jam; 2004]

Ghostface Killah is the preeminent grown-ass man of contemporary hip-hop. What's truly amazing about the artistic evolution of Tony Starks is how he's managed to become a wise, world-weary vet without turning into a bitter old crank, pining futilely for the return of some utterly extinct Golden Age. The crazy-quilt headfuck Supreme Clientele may be most folks' favorite Ghost record of the decade, but personally I'm more compelled by the lived-in contradictions of The Pretty Toney Album, which gives you Ghost spitting brilliant nonsense about 30 dollar bills and seeing the ocean in "my man's wave," but also Dennis Coles stinking up bathrooms and affirming that "my boots hang over the telephone wires on Broad." Ghost spends most of the record sounding harried-- by the cops ("Run"), by an ungrateful boo ("Tooken Back"), even by "the two minute and 37 second clock" ("Beat the Clock"). Like most of us, he finds one of his few forms of solace in music, in Ghost's case the warm, loving soul and R&B of dusty legends like Esther Phillips and the Delfonics. --Joshua Love

153. Jens Lekman
Night Falls Over Kortedala
[Service/Secretly Canadian; 2007]

From those early days when people thought his name was Rocky Dennis, Jens Lekman has cultivated an impression of complete sincerity at the same time he has remained as ultimately unknowable as Sally Shapiro; he'll murmur sweet nothings too good to check, play at your neighbor's house, then move to Australia and drop off the face of the internet. But first, Night Falls Over Kortedala. Nominally a withdrawal into Lekman's most provincial fantasies, Kortedala lets insularity become a Trojan horse for globalization-- after all, Gothenburg is a place where national indie-pop heroes argue over tennis about Christina Aguilera remixes. So Lekman's sweet, unposturing songs about first kisses, sublime haircuts, out-of-office replies, avocado-related mishaps and asthma inhalers travel the Earth, using first-class samples when Lekman can't fly somewhere himself (not even on the red prop plane from the video). Good advice that won't get you rich: "The best way to touch your heart is to make an ass of myself." It feels true, doesn't it? --Marc Hogan

152. Cannibal Ox
The Cold Vein
[Definitive Jux; 2001]

Before Vordul and Vast Aire broke through, underground hip-hop maintained a line between scientific abstract battlers and real-talk street-rap practitioners-- it was a fine one, but few outside Shaolin made a habit of crossing it. With The Cold Vein, Can Ox overstepped that line, straddled it, erased it: pissy project-housing elevators and corner bodegas became Jack Kirby battlegrounds, mathematics were dismantled and reassembled into bleak statistical proofs ("Life is mean/ And death is the median/ And Purgatory is the mode that we settle in"), pigeons turned phoenix, and the combination of Vast's sociopath-cadence wordplay and Vordul's relentless internal rhymes turned their lyrics into razors that could cut you sure as any twitchy stick-up kid could. That they still had the capability for indelible love songs (to women in "The F-Word"; to hip hop in "A B-Boy's Alpha") magnified their humanity; that they spit every syllable over the majestic, rust-covered doom of peak-power El-P reinforced their legend. --Nate Patrin

151. The Walkmen
Bows and Arrows
[Record Collection; 2004]

When lead singer Hamilton Leithauser first enters the stage on Bows and Arrows, he is being thrown out of a bar. "You don't have to say it again, cuz I heard you the first time," he mutters petulantly-- except he croons the line, letting his shit-eating grin seep into the sound until it turns into a sweet nothing. That's quite a trick, and of all the bratty New York rock bands that broke through in the early 00s, no one walked this razor-thin line separating sensitivity and callowness quite as deftly as the Walkmen. Leithauser, his warm rasp making him come across like a more emotionally unstable young Rod Stewart, lurches from messy confrontations to moments of disarming empathy, and on "The Rat", he lays himself completely bare, pleading for recognition with an abandon that is still startling, as his normally bleary-eyed bar-rock band explodes into catharsis all around him. There weren't many portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-young-fuck-up albums this decade that brimmed with as much wit, regret, and wry honesty. --Jayson Greene

150. The New Pornographers
Twin Cinema
[Matador; 2005]

On Twin Cinema, Carl Newman and his band of moonlighting luminaries (including Neko Case and Destroyer's Dan Bejar) build a film-studio lot's worth of outlandish sets, and seek to discover that special something that keeps us returning to pop music. So "Use It" is a powder-keg of kinetic energy, while "The Bleeding Heart Show" (a song so awesome it made a University of Phoenix commercial seem transcendent) commemorates a missed gig with one of the most towering codas of the decade: Fuck playing for a cause-- music is the only cause. Yet for all the great moments here-- and it's one after the other-- the geeky majesty of "Sing Me Spanish Techno" stands above the rest. --Eric Harvey

149. Tough Alliance
A New Chance
[Sincerely Yours/Summer Lovers Unlimited; 2007]

Gloriously sunny and unabashedly synthetic, the Swedish duo the Tough Alliance's second album conveys a shiver of ecstasy concealing a tremor of fear and loneliness. The sonic and emotional largesse of A New Chance still shocks, its endlessly unfolding vistas of heartbreaking optimism feeling touchingly generous-- they set themselves up for disappointment so we don't have to. The duo construct a junkyard of chart-pop's most ruthless tricks-- swooping falsetto harmonies, rickety house percussion, buoyant reggae piano vamps, a swirling mélange of winsome samples-- and yet for all this the songs remain as young and unspoilt as a first crush. --Tim Finney

148. Erlend Øye
DJ Kicks
[Studio !K7; 2004]

In retrospect, it's sort of hilarious people made a big deal of this album as an indie-dance crossover; the notion that rock listeners might recoil in horror at the thought of-- gasp!-- a minimal beat underneath a pop track. Now, of course, it's seems strange if an indie release doesn't contain some sort of dancefloor bounce. But Erlend Øye's DJ Kicks was one of the key records that helped eliminate those genre barriers. Though total stylistic confluence may not have been his direct aim, Øye's gauzy singing of wistful pop classics-- "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out", "Always on My Mind", "It's a Fine Day", etc.-- over the day's top tech-house tracks helped make international beats as palatable as ever. New-jack dance-poppers such as YACHT, Delorean, and the xx each owe him a debt of gratitude, and so do we. --Joe Colly

147. T.I.
King
[Atlantic/Wea; 2006]

2003's Trap Muzik, Tip's album-length meditation on the thrills and travails of dope-dealing, remains his scrappiest and most emotionally resonant statement. But King is the moment T.I.'s drawly sneer crossed over and turned him into one of the world's biggest rap stars. And it's pretty amazing that his grand pop coronation didn't come at the expense of his antisocial snarl or the bluesy heaviness of his beats. When T.I. drafts an East Coast heavyweight like Just Blaze for two of the album's greatest tracks ("King Back", "I'm Talkin' to You"), it's not a cynical post-regional stardom grab; it's just another form of banger for him to tear to pieces. When he softens his approach for a come-on like "Why You Wanna" or a reflective moment like "Goodlife", he doesn't compromise his hardness; he just effortlessly taps into a calm, cool Southern-gentleman facet of his persona. But King works best on slow-ride bangers like "Top Back" and "Bankhead" and the almighty "What You Know", wheelhouse trunk-rattlers from one of the greatest ever to do them. --Tom Breihan

146. My Morning Jacket
Z
[ATO Records/Red; 2005]

My Morning Jacket probably could've remade At Dawn over and over again and still ended up with the same font size on festival bills. That classic-rock archetype still holds a lot of weight and if you don't believe me, well, Kings of Leon had a top 10 single this year. Though My Morning Jacket kickstarted their critical and popular acclaim repping Kentucky, marathon live shows, Flying Vs, and flying hair, what makes them one of the great rock bands of the decade is how their best record turned out to be a stunningly concise, 45-minute, retro-futurist opus helmed by the guy who produced The Bends. Unified as much by Jim James' inimitable tenor as a sense of play and adventure, Z housed feathery R&B ("Wordless Chorus", "It Beats 4 U"), Who-bangin' pocket-epics ("Gideon"), and their typical six-string slow burn ("Dondante"). Their breakout single, "Off the Record", managed to be the only song outside of the Sincerely Yours label to evoke the chill-out music of Jamaica and France at the same time. Few albums can be more accurately described as a "gift," than Z-- a loved one surprising you with something you didn't even know you needed, all just because. --Ian Cohen

145. Fiery Furnaces
Blueberry Boat
[Rough Trade; 2004]

One weird blind spot when people look back at the British Invasion is the tendency of bands to go off on flights of childlike imagination. The more colorful moments of the Who or the Kinks don't exactly fit into the punk-filtered narrative of rock history, so they're often written off as weird artsy indulgences. Fortunately, the Friedberger siblings weren't so dismissive, and Blueberry Boat is a modernized celebration of those weird, wonderful detours, both matching and updating the gaudy, playful ambitions of a young Pete Townshend or Ray Davies. Much is made of this record's high-calorie composition-- suites that seem like 10 songs in one, Matthew Friedberger's bottomless toy box of bleepy, bloopy synthesizers, sister Eleanor's word salad. But it's the album's starry-eyed sense of adventure that really thrills and sets it apart from mopey indie rock peers-- Rudyard Kipling-influenced tales of travel and wonder communicated with nursery-rhyme vocals and radio-play duets. --Rob Mitchum

144. Andrew W.K.
I Get Wet
[Island; 2001]

It's as streamlined as anything Kraftwerk ever put to tape, and yet sounds like it's about to come unhinged at any moment. It's metal if the fans traded their pentagrams for smiley faces. It's glam for guys who wear off-the-rack Wranglers from Wal-Mart. It's a joke where the tongue isn't so much in cheek as goofily dangling like Gene Simmons' infamous lingua maxima. It's a Pied Piper in a stained white T, leading an irony-enfeebled generation to a candy colored land of unfettered joy. It's a pit full of sweaty bodies so overloaded with good vibes that their smell has gone from sour to sweet. It's a poet who knows shouting "SHE IS BEAUTIFUL" is more effective than, you know, poetry. It's hard rock in the form of a bear hug rather than a fist to the face or a grind of the hips. --Jess Harvell

143. The Decemberists
Picaresque
[Kill Rock Stars; 2005]

Nerdiest indie rock album of the decade? A case could certainly be made: the five-dollar words, the baroque instrumentation, the theater club sleeve art. The frickin' nine-minute one-act play about an old-timey sailor's thirst for vengeance. But such is Colin Meloy's talent that what in lesser hands could easily inspire nothing but wedgies is here successfully raised to the level of weaponry against the perils of machismo. Whether it's on the playing field ("The Sporting Life") or in the halls of power ("16 Military Wives", "The Bagman's Gambit"), the meek shall inherit the earth-- once the strong have fucked themselves over. After Picaresque, the Decemberists made the leap to Capitol Records and kinda sorta grew a pair, exploring harder rock and epic concept albums. But that us-against-the-world magic was lost. The Decemberists were at their best when they were at their wimpiest. --Amy Phillips

142. Primal Scream
XTRMNTR
[Astralwerks; 2000]

Over the course of the 1990s, Primal Scream had rightfully earned a reputation as consummate hedonists. But while the rest of the world was ready to party like it was 1999, the Scottish tech-rockers were soberly bracing themselves for the 2000s-- which, through their bleary eyes, were already looking plenty bleak even before 9/11 and Bush/Blair wartime alliances muddied the picture further. Arriving in the first month of 2000, XTRMNTR hit the Brits like one of those red pills in The Matrix, jolting hungover New Year's revelers awake to face the reality of England's "military/industrial illusion of democracy," whose true goal is to "exterminate the underclass." But if the Scream were calling for all-out class warfare, they didn't skimp on the heavy artillery: shotgunned funk ("Kill All Hippies"), fuzz-punk splatter ("Accelerator"), militant house workouts ("Swastika Eyes"), and brown-acid jazz ("Blood Money"). Of course, the band's subsequent, increasingly apolitical albums would show that the Scream's urban-guerrilla guise was as much a fleeting phase as the acid-house love-in of 1991's Screamedelica and the Rolling Stones jones of 1994's Give Up But Don't Give Out. But, even if XTRMNTR was just a pose, who doesn't love a man in uniform?-- Stuart Berman

141. Neko Case
Blacklisted
[Bloodshot; 2002]

By 2002, Neko Case had already emerged as one of the most gifted vocalists on the indie landscape, and with her third solo album, Blacklisted, she established herself as a top-flight songwriter as well. Recorded in Tucson with backing from stalwarts Calexico and Giant Sand's Howe Gelb, Blacklisted is a jewel of dusky Americana, its every move shadowed by longing and veiled menace. At times the source of this foreboding is clear enough, as on the harrowing "Deep Red Bells", which is haunted by the specter of the Green River Killer. Elsewhere the danger is more implied, visible only through such cryptic omens as the birds that sound their warnings on "Things That Scare Me" and "Ghost Wiring". Yet throughout the album Case stands defiant against the encroaching darkness armed with her wit, compassion, and a voice as big and luminous as the western sky. --Matthew Murphy

140. TV on the Radio
Dear Science
[4AD; 2008]

Dear Science mostly covers the same ground as TV on the Radio's first two LPs-- soulful art-rock, tasteful atmospheres-- and it's easy to gloss over the stylistic chances they continue to take: upswung disco guitars ("Crying"), ballast-funk ("Red Dress"), scat-raps ("Dancing Choose"). Their sound and presence is so naturally large that they never sound like they've bitten off more than they can chew, even when they have (catch that line about "foam-injected Axl Rose," or the monstrous sentiment of "Family Tree"). This is Dear Science's greatest achievement: making extraordinary, overbearing rock seem like a natural, human act. Something whose creators travel by subway and not jetpack or spaceship. Even if "DLZ" is exactly the type of thing the true cadets-- David Bowie, Thom Yorke, Bono-- bump in their shuttles. --Andrew Gaerig

139. Love Is All
Nine Times That Same Song
[What's Your Rupture?; 2006]

Quick to fall in and out of love, and with a bit of an obsessive streak, the shouty Swedish-pop five-piece both suited and deserved their instant crit slobber. What's more remarkable is how Nine Times That Same Song has endured and even thrived where so many similarly lauded contemporaries have begun to sound-- well, not "fresh and young" anymore. From the cowbell-clattering "one more time" dance-skronk of "Talk Talk Talk Talk" to the smoldering alt-ballad TV confessional of "Trying Too Hard", Love Is All had the funny, affecting, tellingly detailed songs to render comparisons to Life Without Buildings, X-Ray Spex, or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs all but irrelevant; along with its lo-fi elbow grease, that 10-times-great-songs spirit gives 9 Times common cause with a resurgent Slumberland's latter-decade roster. Not falling out means never having to make up. --Marc Hogan

138. The Libertines
Up the Bracket
[Rough Trade; 2002]

It's hard to remember now, but prior to the trials and (drug) tribulations and tabloid fame, Pete Doherty was once simply an up-and-coming musician. He and Carl Barât, whose flat he would later go to jail for burglarizing, led the Libertines-- and before Doherty started taking their band name too literally, they mastered a post-modern collage of early blues riffs, twitchy mod rhythms, pub-rock sing-alongs, and heavily accented crooning that was such an adept Clash homage that Mick Jones himself actually produced their debut. There is such innocence and energy to Up the Bracket that is hard not to be sad when you hear it now. It's either the sound of unfulfilled promise or lightning in a bottle (depending on whether you're a glass-half-full or half-empty type of person), but either way, neither Doherty's Babyshambles nor Barât's Dirty Pretty Things (nor the Libertines own disappointing follow-up) managed to recreate the raw, ramshackle magic of this album. --Rebecca Raber

137. Iron & Wine
The Creek Drank the Cradle
[Sub Pop; 2002]

Six decades after Woody Guthrie brandished the acoustic guitar as a weapon, contemporary folk music was left battling a limp reputation (see: sadsacks in coffeehouses trilling covers of "Tom Dooley", pausing only to sip from a complimentary mug of peppermint tea). But in 2002, when Sub Pop got its paws on a collection of four-track home recordings by a Miami-based film professor named Sam Beam, the much-maligned genre got a big, bewildering boost. The Creek Drank the Cradle is a stunning collection of traditional folk music, as tender as it is dark, full of trembling banjo and guitar and odd, skewering images: burning bibles, dead horses, sidewalk girls, empty beds, bloody puppies, lost violins, tugged-on skirts. Beam's whispery vocals are soft and unassuming, but there's an ominous bent to his poems ("We found your name across the chapel door, carved in cursive with a table fork," he warns in "Muddy Hymnal") that makes this record riveting, despite its prettiness. --Amanda Petrusich

136. No Age
Weirdo Rippers
[FatCat; 2007]

Weirdo Rippers isn't precisely No Age's debut LP, a collection of early limited-run rarities, or collection of their then-greatest hits. In point of fact, it's all three; a pretty impressive intro for a couple of fairly modest hardcore dudes, even if they do occasionally make enough noise for 20. Plucking only the best bits from five concurrently released EPs (any and all of which are worth hearing by their lonesome), Weirdo Rippers rearranges all their then-best tunes and a few floaters into a blissed-out blitzkrieg you'd hardly guess wasn't conceived as a piece. It's no wonder these dudes took off the way they did, seeing as this was how most people first heard them; Nouns, their proper debut, may be more enveloping and compositionally sophisticated, but Weirdo Rippers finds No Age pushing hooks over haze, kicking out blurry primitively catchy sunsoaked thrashabouts with endlessly expanding ease. --Paul Thompson

135. Sigur Rós
()
[FatCat/MCA/PIAS; 2002]

To recap, the third album by Iceland's Sigur Rós seemed built to rank among the most pretentious and esoteric LPs ever made: All of the vocals would be sung in Hopelandic, a vernacular invented by the band. The title would be a set of parentheses with a space in the middle, an invitation for listeners to add their own theme. The eight tracks wouldn't have names, either, and the artwork would consist of white paper and a few greyscale landscapes. What was next, Jonsi, a split with Reynols?
But such restrained exposition augments (), so that its music becomes the movie and not the soundtrack and so that-- in the twinkling keyboards of track three, through the narcotic drift of track four, above the coda of track eight that's more powerful than any crescendo Arcade Fire or Explosions in the Sky has ever put to tape-- listening and responding is the only thing left. Do it closely, and-- through tears, daydreams, smiles, and goosebumps-- you can name every tune. --Grayson Currin

134. Queens of the Stone Age
Songs for the Deaf
[Interscope; 2002]

Ten years after their Blues for the Red Sun set a gold standard in stoner rock, former Kyuss members Nick Oliveri and Josh Homme-- along with Seattle-scene vets Dave Grohl and Mark Lanegan-- flat-out exceeded it. Songs for the Deaf pulled off the same feat Blue Öyster Cult and Zen Arcade did in previous decades, delivering a bracing jolt that fused punk and hard rock sensibilities with an artful sense of eclecticism. Singles "Go With the Flow" and "No One Knows" earned their modern rock radio spins, but songs like the Cheap Trick-gone-sour "Gonna Leave You" and garage-psych throwback "Another Love Song" could've easily followed them onto heavy rotation, while the more metal-skewing deep cuts ("The Sky Is Fallin'"; "A Song for the Deaf") grounded the album in a robust heaviness. It's all held together with a leviathan of a rhythm section, guitars that bristle with a needle-sharp electricity, and a restless narcotic energy that echoes a theme of driving around restlessly, waiting for something good to come on the radio. --Nate Patrin

133. Erykah Badu
New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War
[Motown; 2008]

Erykah Badu's music had undeniably gotten darker and less soul-snob friendly over the course of the decade. But her base appeal remained the same, even if overt nods to out-jazz and underground rap were bound to attract a new brand of fan. What hits you on your 10th play of New Amerykah is not Badu's sonic invention but the force of her personality-- equal parts spiritual seeker, round-the-way girl, boho striver, and cultural scold. You're getting a real person on New Amerykah, rich in contradictions and ideals and recognizable fears, something still rare enough at her level of fame that it's both disarming and comforting. The fact that she chose to give herself to us over music so astoundingly odd and beautiful seems like a bonus, really. --Jess Harvell

132. Hercules and Love Affair
Hercules and Love Affair
[DFA; 2008]

"Hercules' Theme" might be Andy Butler and sultry singer Nomi squeezing into the "Shaft" suit, but in a lovely ironic twist, the best pure club album of the decade devotes most of its emotional energy to delayed gratifications. Discovering that Hercules wandered alone until the end of his life searching for his kidnapped (male) lover, Butler built his long-simmering bow from the raw passion latent in unresolved tension and heartache, and cast the perfect players to fill out the expansive set-pieces. The star of the show, however, is undeniably Antony Hegarty, whose dark, warbly tenor transports perfectly into Butler's opulent disco. Hegarty takes the airtight arrangements of "Blind" and "Time Will" as mere strucutral suggestions, investing lines like "I cannot hold half a life" and "when I find myself alone, I feel like I am blind" with a fervor and sensuality that feels downright divine. --Eric Harvey

131. The Notwist
Neon Golden
[City Slang; 2002]

Radiohead's early-decade recipe of electronic-flavored art-rock served with heaping portions of post-millennial paranoia and disaffection left listeners ravenous to find other bands that could whip up those prickly moods and sonic textures. Enter the Notwist, by no means a bunch of Radiohead acolytes, but a group that happened to be pushing many of the same buttons as the English quintet. Notwist's 2002 breakthrough, Neon Golden, is a great work of narrow emotional response. Atop taut, hypnotic beds made of things like acoustic guitar, banjo, meditative sax tones, and random electro-junk, vocalist Markus Acher manages to sell lines like "We are satisfied/ From Monday to Friday and on Sunday we cry" through sheer alienated absence of affect. --Joshua Love

130. Clipse
We Got It 4 Cheap, Vol. 2
[mixunit.com; 2005]

Now that Hell Hath No Fury is no longer trapped in record-industry limbo-- now that it has taken its rightful place among fellow cult-favorite commercial flops like Bubba Sparxxx's Deliverance-- the We Got It 4 Cheap mixtapes can be seen a little more clearly for what they are: The greatest collection of freestyles recorded over old G-Unit and Dipset beats by Grammy-nominated street rappers trying desperately to break their label contract ever. Vol. 2 remains the purest distillation of the Thornton brothers' narrow brand of genius, a treasure trove of punchlines so impeccably phrased, turned, and timed that they transcend their punchline status. The insouciance of Pusha and Mal's drug talk got some white people angrier with each other than at any point since the "Seinfeld" finale, but the writing on this mixtape mounts its own defense of its subject matter, gleaming with a fierce love for words and a helpless fascination with the infinite ways they can be put together to say new versions of the same thing. In short: These are still some of the most quotable raps of the decade. --Jayson Greene

129. The Streets
A Grand Don't Come for Free
[Vice/Atlantic; 2004]

Strange that the explosion of social networking sites coincided with Mike Skinner losing touch of his greatest attribute-- the ability to sound like someone you don't know but would still call a friend. That gift was maximized on A Grand Don't Come For Free, a record that really needed it in the worst way. Overcoming wallpaper beats, impossible plot points (for his next trick, he'll lose his ATM card in a plasma TV), spoilers, and, well a plot to begin with, Grand's frankly stunning replay value stems from creating perfectly drawn vignettes that stand alone as individual set pieces. That first date that's going a little too well for comfort ("Could Well Be In"). The packed club that still feels like the loneliest place in the world ("Blinded by the Lights"). The heartbreak that's so crippling that you clutch to clichés like "there's plenty more fish in the sea" as if they could truly save you (imagine if "Dry Your Eyes" actually kept its rumored hook by Chris Martin). And then the beat switches in "Empty Cans", and you realize listening to A Grand might be akin to Facebooking an ex, but damn if Skinner rationalizes that too: "Something that was not meant to be is done/ And this is the start of what was." --Ian Cohen

128. Life Without Buildings
Any Other City
[D.C. Baltimore; 2001]

Sue Tompkins might be the most striking indie singer of the decade. She sounds like an internal monologue. She rattles out streams of words, repeating phrases and fragments like someone compulsively murmuring a list she's trying not to forget. She rolls and stretches words around in her mouth. She makes girlish exclamations and then whips around to chest-beating boasts, defiant dares, wounded questions. Her voice bounces and twirls acrobatically all around the music, then pulls itself up into passionate demands like lines ripped from an argument: "Look back and say that I didn't!" She does all this and yet sounds really normal and down-to-earth and awesome about it. Glasgow's Life Without Buildings backed up her gorgeous high-wire act with perfectly understated guitar work, and made just this one incredible, gem-like album-- lovable, beautiful, and moving, the kind of treasure with a mood and aesthetic entirely its own. Then they broke up. It's a good thing this one's so endlessly replayable, so worth poring over every tic, stutter, and syllable. --Nitsuh Abebe

127. Sleater-Kinney
The Woods
[Sub Pop; 2005]

By album seven, the life-cycle of most bands would dictate stagnation, or at least a move towards more "mature" themes. Not Sleater-Kinney. A jump to Sub Pop from longtime home Kill Rock Stars and the enlistment of producer Dave Fridmann kickstarted a short but brave new era for the band. On The Woods, the trio rock out with their cocks out, embracing their inner shag-haired arena gods via florid guitar solos and thunderous low-end crunch, not to mention an 11-minute song about fucking. It was the most body-focused music of Sleater-Kinney's career, but it didn't come at the expense of the head: "Modern Girl" coats the emptiness of consumer culture in sugary melody, "Entertain" disses merchants of mediocre art, "Jumpers" offers sympathy for a suicide. It would be the band's last album (not forever, let's hope). --Amy Phillips

126. Mastodon
Leviathan
[Relapse; 2004]

This decade, the metal underground dropped its stadium ambitions and turned inward, splitting off into dozens of subgenre variations and bashing away in tiny rooms. Mastodon rose to the top of that pack not by bringing back accessibility or grandeur but by doing crusty, misanthropic churn better than anyone else-- which, after all, is how a band like Metallica ascended to stadium status in the first place. Leviathan, still Mastodon's best, is a concept album about a Herman Melville Novel. That's the sort of dubious idea that you'd think only a stoned American Lit study group or the Decemberists could conjure, but Mastodon make it work by tapping into the primal dread and awe that comes with a gigantic whale smashing the fuck out of a whole whaling ship. Their bile-gargling vocals and juddering riffs and double-bass pummel all work together like a terrible machine, and even something as epically ambitious as the 14-minute "Hearts Alive" stays gripping throughout. --Tom Breihan

125. The Books
Thought for Food
[Tomlab; 2002]

The Books' debut splits the difference between a joke and a revelation. Sometimes the duo of Paul de Jong and Nick Zammuto act ridiculous: a dead fish realizes it's dead; a dad disses his daughter. But other samples are anonymous and mysterious, and the music that envelopes them is sublime. From the sweep of a cello to an indescribable clatter, every detail catches the ear, and the instruments are cut and overdubbed so carefully that the seams vanish. These passages are as alluring as the gags are wacky-- or maybe the humor helps us give in to a sense of wonder. The Books' later discs smooth out their rough edges, but this one's the most fun, and you may still wonder from moment to moment exactly what's making you smile. --Chris Dahlen

124. PJ Harvey
Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea
[Island; 2000]

It could have been Polly Jean's jump-the-shark moment. Having built a career pushing the boundaries of art-diva dramatics, playing it straight was possibly her riskiest move yet. A fashionista glamour shot on the cover? Mousse-slick production? Songs about luuuurve? Uh oh. But it turns out that Happy PJ can be just as compelling as Tortured PJ, and sometimes even as scary (see: the violent lust of "Big Exit", the unbridled horniness of "This Is Love"). Unfortunately, history added another level of spookiness to the album. After 9/11, Harvey's reminiscences of romance on the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn took on a previously unimagined sense of dread. It just isn't possible to hear "This Mess We're In", with duet partner Thom Yorke singing "Can you hear them?/ The helicopters?/ We're in New York," the same way again. Following Stories, PJ Harvey returned to unabashed weirdness; the three albums she has released since are as raw as ever. Any further drifting into the chick flick netherworld was thankfully avoided. --Amy Phillips

123. Four Tet
Rounds
[Domino; 2003]

There's exacting and there's shambling. And then there's Rounds smack in the middle of the two. Kieran Hebden's finest LP is a sweet-spot masterclass, zoning out on the precise midpoint between jazz, hip-hop, folk, and Warp-ed electro. There's as much John Coltrane as there is J Dilla, yet this is no mash-up exercise. Critics called it "folktronica"-- about as inelegant a term imaginable for something so seamless. For all of the enveloping drums and whittled acoustic guitars, Rounds' secret weapon is air. Whether its the oxygen tank breaths that runs through "My Angel Rocks Back and Forth" or the exhaling rubberducky squeaking on "Slow Jam" or the hi-hat's hiss on "Spirit Fingers", Hebden humanizes his laptop-born instrumentals with constant sonic CPR. The album starts with a heartbeat; flatlining is inconceivable. --Ryan Dombal

122. Ryan Adams
Heartbreaker
[Bloodshot; 2000]

Heartbreaker should be disqualified from such lists: Its raw nerves inspired a legion of jackasses to chord an acoustic clumsily. But these 14 songs, recorded in as many days between the end of Whiskeytown and the release of its swan song, still stun: Emmylou Harris' harmony on the soul-draining "Oh My Sweet Carolina" recalls her chemistry with Adams' icon, while Gillian Welch chills the air of "Bartering Lines", a creeping banjo blues, with steely exhalations. He misses his girl as soon as she's driving home, and he hates everything-- his best records, his favorite friends, her sweetest gifts-- when she finally bails. There have been plenty of reasons to pity Adams this decade. Heartbreaker, though, inspires the kind of regret you feel for anyone that's ever lost at love. --Grayson Currin

121. Broadcast
Haha Sound
[Warp; 2003]

If there is a nostalgia at work in the music of Birmingham's Broadcast, it is the wistful nostalgia for an alternate pop-cultural history-- a timeline whose canon is dominated by such mad scientists as Joe Meek or the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, synth pioneers Silver Apples, and the vintage soundtracks of cult films like Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. On Broadcast's second studio album, Haha Sound, the full spectrum of their inventive scavenging is on exuberant display. Considerably more turbulent than their debut The Noise Made By People, Broadcast move gracefully from the primal Krautrock throb of "Pendulum" and raucous, Meek-inspired instrumentals to tracks of almost impossible delicacy such as the lullaby-like "Valerie" or the gauzy "Winter Now". Above all the tumult, Trish Keenan provides a crucial human element, keeping the album stabilized with her serene vocals and expressive melodies, sounding wholly unflappable no matter how much the ground might pitch beneath her feet. --Matthew Murphy

120. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
The Tyranny of Distance
[Lookout!; 2001]

Choosing favorites among Leo's output is tough-- the reasons for loving any of his records are constant, though maybe more obvious here: Where else in this decade can you find a crate-digger who'll name his record for a Split Enz lyric? Or some who will wear a Thin Lizzy jacket on the sleeve but writes songs as graceful and approachable as "Biomusicology" or "Under the Hedge"? Formed in between Pharmacists lineups and aided by numerous friends in the studio, Tryanny of Distance sounds cobbled together by the pieces of a lifetime's listening while still remarkably cohesive and whole. The album only strains to be clever in its compositions, but never arch in its delivery; in fact, when the microphone distorts on tracks like "Stove by a Whale" or "You Could Die (Or This Might End)", it sounds less like a calculated studio affectation and more like the force of Leo's voice tearing speaker cones. --Jason Crock

119. Eminem
The Marshall Mathers LP
[Interscope; 2000]

Can a monster be a hero? Misfits have run popular music for decades-- cast out from modern life, forced to seek refuge in the self. Marshall Mathers fits the bill, but somehow he scared us more. It's possible he was kidding about all the killing and raping and hating-- he's used the "Can't take a joke?" defense for years now. But if it's all a piss-take, then this album doesn't matter nearly as much. Because although it is finely crafted platform for one of the most technically gifted rhymers of our lifetime, it's the venom that shook the world. How far can we go together? Eminem observes a fan murder his pregnant wife as an ode to his favorite rapper, and later screams himself into mortal shock before slaughtering his own wife (again). He hoovers drugs and threatens date rape. He bashes gays and murders Dr. Dre. And, somehow, we root for him. What a sick joke. --Sean Fennessey

118. The Beta Band
Hot Shots II
[Astralwerks; 2001]

With a wickedly audacious way around different sounds (psych-rock, funk, hip-hop, breakbeat), the Beta Band not only made music that worked but seemed sublime. That is, when they weren't screwing the pooch with confounders like "The Beta Band Rap" or "Monolith". Fans never had it easy, but Hot Shots II, the Scottish prankster's most consistently good album, made adoring them easier. Unlike the scattershot-brilliant Three EPs or batshit-crazy self-titled joint, the band's sophomore LP eschews the busier basslines, beats, and samples for a spare set of taut folktronica. There's some sonic variety, but lead "Squares"-- a masterpiece of minimal trip-pop whose strange geometries corset Steve Mason's wounded drone to heartbreaking effect-- is pretty representative of the album's emotional pitch. For those who love the Beta Band's reckless exuberance, Hot Shots II probably smacks of a schizophrenic finally taking his meds, only to lose his edge. Sometimes competent has gotta trump brilliant. --Amy Granzin

117. Low
Things We Lost in the Fire
[Kranky; 2001]

After an eight-year career with only the slightest experimentation on their signature sound, Things We Lost in the Fire may be the quietest quantum leap forward in any band's catalog. New instrumentation was folded gracefully into Low's sparse setup as if the three-piece had been master arrangers the whole time, from the trumpet of "Dinosaur Act" to the strings and samples lurking underneath almost every vocal harmony (still front and center here, as always). The familiar tension and tenderness suddenly had an ocean of depth behind every tentative snare tap and guitar strum. That they'd only hinted at it before makes the album all the more stunning; they were suddenly willing to experiment at any turn, but never added a detail that made the song anything less than immaculate. The oppressive drone that leads to the acoustic lullaby of "In Metal" ends the record affirming that growth. --Jason Crock

116. Michael Mayer
Immer
[Kompakt; 2002]

In the novelty-choked world of the DJ mix, where two-month-old tracks are hopelessly passé, the greatest compliment you can pay Immer is that it doesn't sound dated in the slightest. Of course it helps that Michael Mayer's selection sounded timeless to begin with. The Kompakt label's next great calling card following 2001's Total 3 compilation, Immer is as moody and windswept as the Mahler sample that crops up near the end, its beat-less strings sounding not a bit out of place amidst melancholy tech-house. "Minimal" is one thing Immer is not. It's as gorgeously melodramatic, as unashamedly manipulative, as the work of any high-disco auteur or romantic composer. And it's Mayer's appeals to the "corny" emotions of his listeners that keeps them coming back when the luster's worn away from the beat experiments of his sleeker, more fashion-conscious peers. --Jess Harvell

115. The Shins
Oh, Inverted World
[Sub Pop; 2001]

Rather than evoking any specific bygone era or sound, Oh, Inverted World creates its own nostalgia. The debut album from the then-Albuquerque-based Shins is bathed in just enough old-timey atmospherics to be entirely immersive, but never comes off as wink-and-nod referential. Underneath the album's gentle haze is a treasure trove of impossibly graceful pop moments: the overlapping harmonies in "Girl on the Wing", the concise and charming vocal melody of "The Celibate Life", the giddy turnaround after the bridge of "Know Your Onion!". By the time Oh, Inverted World became the poster record for "indie goes mainstream"-- a good three years after the album's release-- many of us had already internalized it from beginning to end, ensuring that the music itself will live on well past both the hype and the backlash. --Matt LeMay

114. Cam'ron
Purple Haze
[Roc-A-Fella; 2004]

The album that launched a thousand rap blogs. By 2005 Cam'Ron, surrounded by a coterie of modest MCs just turning the corner (Juelz Santana, Jim Jones), was slithering around the Roc-A-Fella Records office trying to avoid dirty looks from Jay-Z. He'd already scored his long-predicted commercial smash with 2002's Come Home With Me, so he was playing with house money. Call this a personal project for a relentlessly distant artist; an asshole's lament. Purple Haze is simultaneously a refined, perfectly A&R-ed follow-up and one of the most confusing, crude full-lengths ever. Cam's absurdist wit and impressive ability to coil syllables together are at their height. "Down and Out" both justified chipmunk soul entirely and threatened some sort of misogynist victory lap. "Get Em Girls" made opera safe for trunks. And Mizzle lead the most surprisingly knowing series of rap skits since De La had jokes. Cam hasn't been this good in years. But, really, few rappers have. --Sean Fennessey

113. LCD Soundsystem
LCD Soundsystem
[DFA; 2005]

Just as his post-millennial post-punk-exhuming peers were getting disposable, James Murphy went quotable, unleashing a reality check of a debut record that delivered on all the promise of his singles-- which, B-sides and all, came conveniently bundled on this record's second disc. While those peers were wearing their influences a little too snugly on their sleeves, Murphy was expertly synthesizing his and then laundry-listing them off en masse for kicks. While others were aloof, Murphy was envisioning house shows for arena bands and offering to "show us the ropes." And according to the Gospel of James, we were "enfranchised and entrenched", but "actually really really nice" too. This was indie populism for a new century and a savvier populace, where the wit of the dude pointing fingers from the sidelines and the heart of the dude wilding out right in the middle of it converged to become, well, the "fat guy in a t-shirt doing all the singing." Yay for him. --Matthew Solarski

112. Feist
The Reminder
[Interscope/Cherrytree; 2007]

Just about every review of Feist's The Reminder felt compelled to mention her indie rock bona fides and her newfound soccer-mom appeal. A short-lived move to Paris, where she found that "trying to be cool is too exhausting," spelled out the precariousness of her position, caught between cozy underground and iPod commercial ubiquity. The album feels almost prescient, then, in its sense of loneliness-- cut loose from her Broken Social Scene, Feist sounds set adrift in songs awash in images of oceans, steam, fog, snow, wind, and moonlight. Cryptic mini-narratives of love and loss give way to the sense of a longing that can't find its way into words-- "The way home/ And it's not about a boy/ Although, although"-- while lyrics pile up, bleeding through from song to song, accruing a meaning you can't quite put your finger on. The same goes for the music, though you might not notice it at first: the small, acoustic ensemble, often room-miked and recorded live, conveys an intimacy and immediacy that's unusual for pop music. Incidental birdsong and the sound of fingers sliding on steel strings conjure an unmistakable sense of presence, one that only makes the album's essential sense of loss all the more palpable. --Philip Sherburne

111. M83
Saturdays=Youth
[Mute; 2008]

As he gets older, Anthony Gonzalez seems to be getting better at separating riff from reality. Previous records Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts and Before the Dawn Heals Us offered impressive stabs of impressionistic and post-apocalyptic color, sometimes less song than emotive idea or pop culture touchstone. Saturdays=Youth, on the other hand, is if anything pre-apocalyptic, with Gonzalez and Morgan Kibby offering as tribute the purview of adolescence bracing for the catastrophe of adulthood. Inspired by the films of John Hughes and set amidst swaths of Cocteau Twins-esque synths and reverb, Saturdays proffers idyllic archetypes like "Kim and Jessie" and the self-absorbed, semi-suicidal 15-year-old "Graveyard Girl". That is, Gonzalez's synth-soaked production, slick and polished, places his conceit in the 80s of his own adolescence, but his subjects' angst is immortal, accessible to the listener no matter which decade they call home. --Mike Orme

110. The National
Boxer
[Beggars Banquet; 2007]

Let's not tiptoe around the subject: The National are a little boring. Yet they're boring in all of the right dependable, everyman ways-- the ways parties and friends and lagers are boring. Boxer takes the sentiments from James Murphy's "All My Friends" and stretches them over 12 lurching tracks. Berninger's lyrics are like a twentysomething survival guide: "Can you carry my drink/ I have everything else"; returning "two armfuls of magazines"; "sometimes you get up and bake a cake or something." Hell, the lingering sentiment of "Fake Empire"-- "Let's not try to figure out everything at once"-- is the single most reassuring thing anyone's said to me since college ended. The Boxer is an album for those who've needed their beers carried once or twice. --Andrew Gaerig

109. Band of Horses
Everything All the Time
[Sub Pop; 2006]

"Now, if you find yourself falling apart," begins Ben Bridwell, Band of Horses' bearded, howling frontman on the group's debut LP, Everything All the Time. Everything is a record jammed with foreboding ("The Funeral" opens with the terrifying promise "I'm coming up only/ To hold you under," before moving on to its dark-anthem chorus of "At every occasion, I'll be ready for the funeral"), but each grim couplet is balanced by a moment of cathartic release (usually facilitated by a reverb-soaked guitar). Although the band occasionally gets tangled up in critical comparisons-- Bridwell's high, yawning vocals evoke Neil Young and My Morning Jacket's Jim James-- Everything All the Time is unique in its dissonance and beauty. Ergo: extraordinarily useful when you find yourself falling apart. --Amanda Petrusich

108. Sonic Youth
Murray Street
[Geffen; 2002]

Murray Street's propulsive, clean-lined jams skirted outright classic rock for maybe the first time in Sonic Youth's career, but it wouldn't be an SY album without the foursome reaffirming they could still do truculent and spaced-out with the best. The result is an album of halves-- the first a loose Tom Verlaine/Jerry Garcia shredfest where each snaking, entwining note seems to sparkle; the second a fearsomely compressed and funny brand of cartoon no wave, with bonus dream-pop outro. It's also the Sonic Youth album with something for everyone: the blow-out-your-eardrums noise kids; the folks who sussed the band's kinship with Neil Young even before they toured together; the musique concrete fans who wished Goodbye 20th Century hadn't been a one-off. --Jess Harvell

107. Justice

[Vice/Because/Ed Banger; 2007]

There's a beauty to be extracted from every horrible noise-- it's a fertile enough philosophy to sustain a band like Sonic Youth for 30 years. But whereas SY found the divine in mechanical errors like mistunings and feedback, Justice's vocabulary of musical crimes draws from the computer-age lawbook: shitty bitrates, EQ ignorance, and ringtones from blown-out cell-phone speakers. Gathering these wrong moments and sculpting them into a French house shape takes no small amount of craft, and Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay deserve their credit, no matter how much gear is conspicuously left unplugged in live appearances. Their bow on "We Are Your Friends" barely hinted at the glitchy abrasiveness Justice would bring to †, though "Phantom" and "Waters of Nazareth" were a stronger hint of their true M.O. But the broken-antenna fitfulness of "Newjack", the disco glitz of "Phantom Pt. II" and the chipper electro-pop of "D.A.N.C.E." showed how many different molds the duo could pour hot molten diginoise into without repeating themselves. --Rob Mitchum

106. Caribou
Up in Flames
[Leaf; 2003]

The 2003 release of Caribou's (then Manitoba's) Up in Flames served as an unofficial death knell for the "indietronica" marketing ploy of the early-to-mid 00s. While numerous artists had combined songcraft and digitally manipulated sound, none made it seem as natural and intuitive as Caribou's Dan Snaith, who applied an effortless technical mastery to the heart-on-sleeve charm of indie pop. Snaith manipulated muscular drum loops and digitally fragmented vocals with an ease and homespun charm that would make a lo-fi troubadour blush, and his songwriting chops were just as strong as his production ones-- and it's the unique interplay of the two that makes Up In Flames so remarkable. It's only fitting that such a record would emerge from an era in which a computer is as familiar and logical a means of expression as an acoustic guitar. --Matt LeMay

105. Battles
Mirrored
[Warp, 2007]

Here's how you know you'll be into Mirrored: You take a look at that iconic album cover and see a really jammin' practice space. Here's how you know you'll really be into Mirrored: You take a look at that iconic album cover and see a Toys"R"Us. Mirrored's got plenty of "how'd they pull that off?" moments, but the most impressive technical accomplishment was how it came off like a college caper movie in the vein of PCU, a bunch of highly intelligent wiseacres knocking down ivory towers and teaching the stuffed-shirted deans of math-rock and prog how to have some damn fun, conveying humor, groove, and even a little bit of a sex appeal without a single discernable word of English. Unsurprisingly, Mirrored didn't set any new trends: for the rest of the decade, indie mostly shifted back to its fascination of working against constraints, whether it was budgetary or just instrumental capacity (though the two often went hand in hand). Which only goes further in illustrating its singularity-- you know how sports fans argue about the kind of player they'd create when they're playing Madden? That's what Mirrored still sounds like-- a video game version of a rock group whose only limits are their imaginations, and those things are cranked at 99. --Ian Cohen

104. The Postal Service
Give Up
[Sub Pop; 2003]

If the Postal Service's second album never comes out, it wouldn't be such a bad thing. Give Up is mid-decade indie pop flawlessly preserved in amber, Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello guiding the courtship between emo and IDM towards a new kind of shy, introspective new wave. But tracks like "Such Great Heights" and "Clark Gable" teeter just barely on the right side of a thin line between sappy and sublime-- why tempt fate with another tightrope walk? The legions of pitiful imitators Give Up spawned have proven just how difficult the Postal Service's alchemy is to replicate, and nothing Gibbard or Tamborello have done since has equaled its dizzy highs, despite Death Cab for Cutie's platinum-selling, chart-topping successes. So let's try to forget the TV commercials and cinematic love scenes Give Up's songs soundtracked, shake it loose from the indie-yuppie lifestyle branding it has come to represent, and stop pinning irrational hopes on its follow-up. Let's appreciate the album for what it is: An exquisite time capsule that probably can't--and probably shouldn't-- be duplicated. --Amy Phillips

103. M.I.A./Diplo
Piracy Funds Terrorism Volume 1
[Hollertronix; 2004]

When Danger Mouse's The Grey Album began percolating in early 2004, its mashed grapes were more punch line than reason to sweat. But before that same year was out, Diplo and M.I.A. began rolling out Piracy Funds Terrorism, a pre-Arular opus not only capable of completely slaying clubs, but one that also embodied the Indiana Jones-like spirit of both Hollertonix and Ms. Arulpragasam: travel the world (or Web) in search of beats and textures to set the hip-pop and mash-up format afuckingblaze. Baile funk. Dub. Hooks lifted from Clipse and Ciara and the Bangles and oh holy crap, "Big Pimpin". No matter how disparate the origin, no matter how dusty the crate, Diplo was able to make M.I.A.'s vocals sting. Besides being one of the first true successes of the Internet's mixtape movement, it felt as if M.I.A. was the muse and voicebox he had been searching for all along. Piracy represented a union that funded a weirdly global party, one that hasn't stopped or been successfully duplicated since. --David Bevan

102. The Mountain Goats
The Sunset Tree
[4AD; 2005]

John Darnielle's back catalog of simple four-chord folk-- about the redemption of everyone from Caesar to meth-heads-- is a heartbreaking display of empathy. But Caesar and meth-heads probably don't listen to simple four-chord folk, and short stories probably don't save lives as often as self-help books. All to say The Sunset Tree, Darnielle's first to talk about his own adolescence in an abusive household, was also the first to address his audience-- the first where a fan could say, "that is my life and hearing someone sing about it makes me feel better" without having to imagine they were someone else.
But Darnielle isn't a diarist or a whiner-- over the course of the album he accepts, forgives, and even mourns his abuser. In between, there are jokes, choruses and full-band arrangements-- the kind of primary colors that make for immediate music that doesn't lose its point when you roll the windows down. Whether he understood his own pain better than the pain of others, I'm not sure, but it does sound like he felt it more. --Mike Powell

101. Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand
[Domino; 2004]

A major label bow from a more or less no-one band with an attendant out of nowhere hit single that will likely never be bested does not always bode well for a long and fruitful career. Fortunately Franz Ferdinand had a secret weapon, namely that its self-titled debut was full of tightly wound and sneakily clever funk-punk numbers perfectly timed to take advantage of the fact that the white kids were dressing sharper and dancing again. If not all the tracks were on par with "Take Me Out", many came pretty damn close, and did so with a disarming confidence and ease at odds with the careerist unctuousness of too many would-be stars. It helped that singer Alex Kapranos understood that just because the lyrics should serve the song, that's no reason to slack on the wit, which subversively lies in wait once you get past the near-blinding surface sheen of what is in essence a band-sized rhythm section. --Joshua Klein

100. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
Source Tags & Codes
[Interscope; 2002]

Blending exquisite ballast, searching psychonautica, greasy glam, thought-eradicating pummelprog, and bleary spindlerock, Source Tags & Codes operates on a grand scale. Seven years and many diminishing returns later, it still manages to overwhelm like it did whenever you first let it wash over you. Even as "Homage" melts your face or "Baudelaire" boogies its way into your brain, you half-expect whatever's next to fail. At some point the grandiosity should turn to bloat right? But on the back of 11 well-crafted, brutally executed scorched-earth lighter-raisers, it succeeds. Of course they never did it again; how could they have? --Paul Thompson

99. Lil Wayne
Da Drought 3
[Young Money Entertainment; 2007]

Anyone can play guitar. But really, after Da Drought 3, what else did a free-associating New Orleans rap star have left to try? Auto-Tune? OK, he did that, too. Lil Wayne's most recent truly great mixtape should probably be remembered as the one that forced its stoned creator to look outside rap if he wanted to get much higher. Drought 3 doesn't have the gravitas of Dedication 2's "Georgia...Bush", but it has everything else except flow-killing DJ tags: Wayne's fully ripened rasp, top-flight instrumentals, rhymes creative enough to swallow both them and bigger rappers whole, Harry and the Hendersons, Gremlins, Grey Poupon, "Raspberry Beret", syrup, pills, weed, Bloods, Brett Favre, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Donovan McNabb, Pam Grier, a Jamaican accent, an insane "Crazy", a heartfelt ode to Ciara, a hilarious explanation for kissing his hip-hop benefactor. And this: "I don't rap, I just shit like a newborn." It's dedicated to Wayne's grandma, and he hopes you got it for free. --Marc Hogan

98. Cat Power
You Are Free
[Matador; 2003]

Look at what preceded You Are Free, and you'll find a performer whose work (both in-studio and onstage) was often derided as amateurish. Look at what follows it, and the backhanded buzzword for naysayers and disgruntled fans is "professional." You Are Free is, to this point in her career, the last time that Chan Marshall has sounded like the Cat Power most admire-- the doe-eyed waif gifted with an awkward poetic grace and burdened with world-weary wisdom. It's a vulnerable yet confident record, and not just because she's able to effortlessly incorporate contributions from grunge heavy hitters like Dave Grohl and Eddie Vedder like it ain't no thing. It's because it shows Marshall at her best (especially on standout tracks like "Names" and "He War"), when she's able to be both vulnerable and confident at the same time. It was her next album that she wryly called The Greatest, but it's You Are Free that has the rights to that honor. --David Raposa

97. The Dismemberment Plan
Change
[DeSoto; 2001]

You wake up one morning, last's night's ill-advised champagne dump still slick against your brow, crumpled up invitation-to-everywhere next to the bed, and there's this other person in there. And they don't leave, either, so you feed every detail through your memory machine until all they ever seem to say is goodbye, and they're gone. Our new-new-romantic overanxious urbanite narrator of the Dismemberment Plan-- let's call him Travis-- seems to have got himself good and heartbroken sometime between 1999's landmark art-funker Emergency & I and 2001's Change, and, just like when it happens to you, it weighs on every moment. Change does emo a few better by eschewing melodrama (well, mostly) for the real heartbreak of heartbreak: how very mundane it gets, feeling like shit about somebody. As the Plan grind out a frostier, more languorous version of their frenzied groove, Travis Morrison recounts decidedly uncool but entirely relatable reset-button stuff like calling your dad for relationship advice or gnashing your teeth at friends who start pairing off and not returning your records. How terribly fitting that a difficult record about the troubles with transition would serve as the swan song for a band gone far too soon. --Paul Thompson

96. Spoon
Girls Can Tell
[Merge; 2001]

For folks smitten with the leaps and bounds Spoon made between their Matador debut and A Series of Sneaks, the three-year wait between the group's only major label effort and their full-length Merge debut was long and seemingly interminable. But you know how the rest goes: In some ways, Girls Can Tell is as much a nod to the band's roots as a harbinger of what was to come-- album closer "Chicago at Night" dates back to Britt Daniel's solo days toiling as Drake Tungsten, while "Me and the Bean" was a song originally written and recorded by fellow Austinites the Sidehackers. Those gestures, coupled with the growth of the group's songwriting evident through, are as fitting a sendoff to Spoon's salad days as one could hope. Our own Nick Mirov said it best, way way back in 2001: "(T)hey no longer sound like the Pixies, Gang of Four, or Wire...they sound like Spoon now." --David Raposa

95. Grizzly Bear
Yellow House
[Warp; 2006]

At once unassuming and swoon-inducingly gorgeous, Yellow House found Grizzly Bear shedding the crackly, lo-fi chrysalis of their formative years. They emerged with a newfound polish to match their growing ambitions, with intricately arranged songs taking shape amidst a rich soundfield. A certain old-timey feel prevails-- there's even a waltz, "Marla", written 70-odd years ago by a late relative of singer Ed Droste-- but the shadowy, dust-moted depth of the music moots its rootsiness. The music couldn't be further from dub, but something of the latter's haunted quality inhabits Grizzly Bear's tape-soaked music. Recorded in a country house near Cape Cod, and featuring a cover photo reminiscent of Edward Hopper's luminous interiors, Yellow House took the Brooklyn out of the band and made it something more universal. Billowing, multi-part vocal harmonies verge upon the utopian, blowing the New Weird America into a wide-open world where pop meets rural mysticism. --Philip Sherburne

94. Mclusky
Mclusky Do Dallas
[Beggars/Too Pure; 2002]

We keep our wise-ass friends for basically two reasons: Some are really nice guys once you get to know them, and some are just jerks who say a lot of funny shit. Andy Falkous and Steve Albini have made it clear where they fall, so it's no surprise they teamed up on Do Dallas-- the richest depository of quotable malevolence this side of Hell Hath No Fury. It's probably a stretch to call Do Dallas "subversive" when the production gives your speakers razor burn and the "ballad" is called "Fuck This Band". But think about 2002, when the prominent memes of rock music were wish-fulfillment fantasies of empathy, togetherness, hope, solace...heck, most of the anger was more of a cry for help than anything. We all talked a good game back then, but how long before you eventually got back to cutting people off in traffic, pissing on public toilet seats, off-handedly boasting about your cool shit, and caring more about The Bourne Identity and the World Cup than the news? The temptation to be a total dick just because you can carries an enormous power, and Do Dallas was a weapons-grade, vulgar display of that; it was also exactly 36 minutes of the most blisteringly intense pop-misanthropy the decade had to offer, but that's just Mclusky being better than your band. --Ian Cohen

93. 2 Many DJs
As Heard on Radio Soulwax, Pt. 2
[PIAS; 2002]

2 Many DJs ushered in the anything-goes, nothing-matters, shuffle-meltdown vibe of 00s parties, blogs, and DIY remixers, and some have never forgiven them. Before Soulwax's DJ alter egos, "eclectic" still tended to go hand in hand with "tasteful"-- classic mixes like Coldcut's 1995 Journeys By DJ ranged across a breakbeat genrescape but never lost a sense of discernment. As Heard..., on the other hand, starts with a grotesque hippo-legged prog cover of "Peter Gunn", slaps Basement Jaxx on the top, and blasts off. So this album, judged by the usual standards of dance mixes-- consistency, progression, structure, revelation-- is deliberately terrible. In place of those virtues it offers a series of riotous peaks (Dolly! Röyksopp! Skee-Lo! Most of what was good about electroclash!) scattered willy nilly amongst whatever electro sides the Dewaele brothers could clear. The irony is that returning to it, what strikes you is how shrewd their song choices were-- licensing-forced covers aside everything here, mashed or unmashed, displays impeccable taste in pop. --Tom Ewing

92. Björk
Vespertine
[Elektra; 2001]

The fact that her most explicitly sexual album is also her most submissive might be a bummer to those who got off on Björk-as-huntress power trips of yore. But Vespertine's docile tranquility offers its own form of strength. "You're trying too hard-- surrender," she tells herself; "I can't say no to you," she admits. After years of forcing her will via dog-maddening squeals and beats that could turn Pluto into powder, Björk holds her armies back while exalting carnal desire with the godliness of Marvin Gaye. On Vespertine, heaven is lust. Whether pleasuring herself backed by angelic harps and strings on "Sun in My Mouth" or allowing herself pleasure on "Cocoon", the singer whispers and clicks her way to ecstasy slowly, deliberately. On several tracks, Björk's breaths-- some quick uptakes, some smoked sighs-- are left intact, providing corporeal commentary to the surrounding hush. This is no one-night stand; it's honeymoon fodder for saints. --Ryan Dombal

91. The New Pornographers
Mass Romantic
[Mint; 2000]

Though the ascents of Dan Bejar and Neko Case would retroactively validate the "supergroup" tag, the New Pornographers began their life more like a ragtag musicians' roundtable, a small group of upstarts and veterans brimming with talent and mutual respect. Yes, Mass Romantic has enough breezy power-pop hooks to fill five or so lesser records. But the real magic of Mass Romantic lies in Carl Newman's uncanny ability to craft a cohesive record without diluting the personalities at hand-- note how Newman picks up a submissive falsetto to complement Case's lead vocal in "Letter From an Occupant", and how Bejar's staggered phrasing is maintained even as "Breakin' the Law" is transformed from hushed acoustic demo into fist-pumping album closer. The band would go on to release a string of similarly catchy records, but Mass Romantic is their most charmingly character-driven piece. --Matt LeMay

90. Jay-Z
The Black Album
[Roc-A-Fella; 2003]

Nobody really took Jay's retirement seriously, but The Black Album did close one book: It was the last time we heard Jay's snarling swagger fully intact. Jay had been in elder-statesman mogul stride since The Blueprint, but before his brief respite, he never lost the regal bloodthirst of his younger lines. So along with the expertly delivered elegiac statements of self-importance like "December 4th" and "My 1st Song", we had haughtily antisocial hardhead anthems like "PSA" and "Threat".
Musically, The Black Album distills The Blueprint's dusty widescreen soul into something harder, more simplistic, and more stadium-ready. But it also makes room for club-rap synth-beeps and biblical reggae consternation-- this time, Jay sticks even harder to the beats, and the Timbaland track doesn't sound tacked-on. And despite the bullshit whispery Neptunes tracks and a tiny bit of filler, the end result is nearly as viscerally satisfying. --Tom Breihan

89. Wolf Parade
Apologies to the Queen Mary
[Sub Pop; 2005]

Before there were a thousand articles about the "Montreal scene" or a string of side projects by the band's busy members, there was simply Wolf Parade's debut, an unabashedly open-hearted collection of offbeat instrumentation-- yes, that is a Theremin on "Same Ghost Every Night"-- and timeless melodies delivered by the group's dueling shivery frontmen. Calling Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner the Lennon/McCartney of the aughts is reductionist (with Krug as the experimental one who crafts the band's darker moments, and Boeckner as the populist who creates the epic anthems), but Wolf Parade's appeal lies in the opposing musical personalities of its leaders. Few songwriters could be responsible for both the bouncing neon synths and David Bowie warble of "I'll Believe in Anything" and the swaggering slow-burn and breathy, Bruce Springsteen-ish croon of "This Heart's on Fire", but Wolf Parade prove that one band certainly could be. --Rebecca Raber

88. The Wrens
The Meadowlands
[Absolutely Kosher; 2003]

Estrangement from spouse and offspring! The push-and-pull of an on-again-off-again relationship! Drugs! Projection! Questionable employment options! Getting used! Repeatedly! And knowing it! Feelings of displacement, even in a longtime locale! Even more break-ups! Infidelity! Dreams about death! That unshakeable notion that you're going to feel like a 17-year-old no matter what your driver's license may say! Stagnation! Self-doubt! Ambiguity! Trading youthful exuberance for a resignation that borders on bitterness! Golly, can't wait to grow up! Thanks, Wrens! --Paul Thompson

87. Kanye West
Graduation
[Roc-A-Fella; 2007]

"I feel the pressure, under more scrutiny/ And what I do? Act more stupidly." That line from "Can't Tell Me Nothing", the first single off Kanye West's third album, has a way of sticking with you after every agitated all-caps blog post or awards-show freakout the man's responsible for: West knows he's making a scene, but like it or not, that's just what he does. That sense of defiance drives this album's personality even more than the nods towards house and electro that augment his characteristic soul-infused production. 'Ye reflects on criticisms of his image ("Everything I Am"), gets overcome by the stress of his collaborative/competitive relationship with Jay-Z ("Big Brother"), compares himself to one of the most widely disliked athletes of our time ("Barry Bonds"), and, in "Stronger", winds up turning the old "what doesn't kill me only makes me stronger" maxim into an exhibition of self-aware arrogance that somehow scans like actual charm. --Nate Patrin

86. Belle and Sebastian
The Life Pursuit
[Matador; 2006]

Belle and Sebastian had been toying with R&B, glam, and funk for much of their existence, but by the time the group recorded The Life Pursuit, their musical chops had finally caught up with the quality and ambition of Stuart Murdoch's songwriting. Though much of their previous output had come off like charming pastiches of styles from the 1960s and 70s, the craft on display in "The Blues Are Still Blue" and "Funny Little Frog" left no doubt that these were not approximations, but in fact prime examples of glam rock and Northern soul. Even the non-Murdoch songs, typically a stumbling block on Belle and Sebastian releases, were up to the same high standard. "Song for Sunshine", a cut authored by Stevie Jackson and Chris Geddes, stands as one of the band's peaks, and its gorgeous, seamless merger of sunshine pop and Parliament funk is both a total surprise and the perfect counterpoint to anyone who would write the group off as a nothing more than a bunch of shambling, lisping folkies.
 --Matthew Perpetua

85. Gas
Pop
[Mille Plateaux; 2000]

The most-played song in my iTunes has no name: It's "Untitled", the opening track from Gas' Pop. The textural wash of Pop, the atmosphere Wolfgang Voigt built from his imagined Black Forest, isn't an obvious choice but it always seems tailor-made for our lives. It's a place we can go for function or for emotion, or just if you want to lay around counting ceiling-fan rotations and letting the record's gentle propulsion move Voigt's hisses and clicks around your brain. And that kind of utility is rare. People tend to belittle ambient techno as mere background music, but I say, fuck that, Pop is a soundtrack for living. --Joe Colly

84. Super Furry Animals
Rings Around the World
[Epic; 2001]

If Radiohead spent the turn of the millennium pondering the disassociating effects of technological over-dependency, the Super Furry Animals reveled in the absurdity of it. The Welsh pop futurists' 2001 opus Rings Around the World touches upon all the Big Issues of our time-- military aggression, evangelicalism run amok, environmental disaster-- but presents them as the backdrop to some bizarro video-game version of the world: To wit, the war-pig sadists targeted in the psych-folk centerpiece "No Sympathy" quite literally get blasted away by an invading army of happy-hardcore techno beats in its final two minutes. Comedy may equal tragedy plus time, but on Rings, the Furries get their laughs in before it's too late: "Earth will become Saturn II," Gruff Rhys declares on the title track, describing a planet so addicted to consumption that it'll one day be encircled by its own waste. But the giddy glam-rock stomp on which his words are delivered seems to say, "Yeah, but think of how cool that'll look!" --Stuart Berman

83. Joanna Newsom
Ys
[Drag City; 2006]

In 2004, The Milk-Eyed Mender established that lyrically, rhythmically, melodically, and vocally, Joanna Newsom was unlike anyone else. But her follow-up, Ys, still feels shocking: Arguably the most artistically ambitious indie rock enterprise of the decade, Ys mobilizes a dream team (Steve Albini, Van Dyke Parks, Jim O'Rourke, Bill Callahan, and more) to wrap Newsom's contrapuntal harp, arresting voice, and vivid librettos in luxurious glory. Despite all the fuss, the songs-- or epics, if you will-- feel personal. Fairy tale parables of animal liberation and lessons learned through sadness and family illustrate, in the end, the urge only to beat boundaries. This decade has often been ballyhooed as that of the playlist, where genre distinctions have blurred until, "Hey, man, it's all music." Ys is the mid-decade curveball reminding you that-- no matter how many Elephant 6 projects you can name while listening to that new Weezy joint-- you haven't heard it all yet, and creative imagination is more infinite than an iTunes library. --Grayson Currin

82. Beck
Sea Change
[DGC; 2002]

Heading into the 2000s, Beck Hansen was the poster-boy for self-aware emotional detachment-- his most famous come-on ("I'm a loser, baby, so why don't you kill me?") may have very well helped usher in the (not so golden) age of irony. Still, Beck was routinely acclaimed for his clever, scrappy assemblages and committed crooning about the salesgirls at J.C. Penney; when he released Sea Change-- an earnest, unfussy breakup record, sung loudly and without affect-- it felt like a revelation, or, at the very least, a crack in the façade. Sea Change is easily Beck's most melancholy record, and the shift was temporary (its follow-up, 2005's Guero, recalls the goofy excess of Odelay). But there's an urgency and intimacy to Sea Change-- its heartbreak feels real, and uncontainable-- that's oddly timeless. Maybe sincerity doesn't age. --Amanda Petrusich

81.Hot Chip
The Warning
[Astralwerks/EMI/DFA; 2006]

Hot Chip hinted at a keen, Prince-like combination of sex, steel, and neurosis on their debut, Coming on Strong. But an upstream to the DFA leagues seemed to invest the group with a new sense of power-- now when Alexis Taylor and vocal partner Joe Goddard sang, it wasn't under a harmless bed of softly stroked keyboards. In its stead poured a tidal wave of alligator jaw hi-hats, battered timpani, and a furious pace. "Boy From School" marked a trembling sense of vulnerability, without sacrificing groove. "(Just Like We) Breakdown" proved a knowing rejoinder to proclamations of wimpdom. But it's "Over and Over" that reveals most. An exegesis on routine, lovemaking, dancing, boredom, and the ever-eroding sense of the new in the world-- "like a monkey with a miniature cymbal"-- this is the band fully formed. It's not so easy to be this excitable about the crush of the regular. Hot Chip make it feel downright essential. --Sean Fennessey

80. The Clientele
Suburban Light
[Merge; 2000]

The first full-length from the London indie pop band, which is actually a collection of singles and compilation tracks, belongs to that rare class of albums that you don't so much listen to as inhabit. Sure, the songwriting mechanics are sound, with great, ringing guitars, Alasdair MacLean's sonorous voice, and punchy melodies as robust as those by Love or the Zombies. But the appeal of the Clientele has always been harder to pin down, owing more to a mood and a distinctive point of view. They have a brilliant knack for making the mundane and familiar seem new, powerfully emotional, and unfailingly romantic, and their skill was nowhere more evident than on this collection of crudely recorded songs. The lyrics glitter with offhandedly striking imagery: workers crossing over a bridge on the way home, gardens wet with rain, a bicycle splashing through a puddle, red balloons in the white sky. If you hear MacLean describe these commonplace scenes described and think, "So what?", then the Clientele is probably not for you. City light, you see, had already been done; the Clientele were working on a smaller scale. The fact that their aesthetic was already so perfect at this point didn't make things easy for them the rest of the decade, but then, few bands ever get near these heights. --Mark Richardson

79. Justin Timberlake
FutureSex/LoveSounds
[Jive; 2006]

Justin Timberlake, finally overcoming the slings and arrows of a poptified youth, knew that Timbaland was the answer to any follow-up questions. Their first collaboration, "Cry Me a River" from Justified, was a chilling kiss-off, equal parts pain and power. Timbaland fortuitously brought along a young protégé named Danja who would challenge the depths Tim's weirdness. Together the trio created a modern disco record immune to scoffs and forever cool to middle-class moms, crit slobs, and adoring teens. A rare moment of-- yes-- monoculture. "SexyBack" is likely a time capsule joke in a decade or two-- our very own "Y.M.C.A."-- but for now it is raw enough to avoid gags. Tim and Danja didn't do too much we hadn't heard before-- they just did it more so. Sitars on "What Goes Around...Comes Around", gothic keyboards on "Summer Love", and cascading vocal pops and clicks on "LoveStoned". Even Will.i.am and Three 6 Mafia calmly adapt to the proceedings. It wasn't guaranteed that things would go this well for Timberlake. But like most pop icons, it's taste, maybe more than talent, that puts him over. --Sean Fennessey

78. No Age
Nouns
[Sub Pop; 2008]

When Nouns-- the L.A. duo No Age's proper full-length debut-- first appeared in May 2008, it was instantly contentious, at least amongst critics; Nouns is a weird, visceral experience that hits in the gut, if it hits at all. A throbbing, slipshod, impenetrably thick collection of lo-fi punk-rock performed by two lanky dudes in hi-tops, Nouns is ecstatic and gloomy and propulsive, and listening to it-- all 30, glorious minutes of looped samples and unintelligible lyrics-- is enough to make a girl want to kick down doors. That sense of elation isn't particularly easy to parse (or replicate), but it sure is powerful. --Amanda Petrusich

77. Missy Elliott
Miss E: So Addictive
[Elektra; 2001]

If we could crawl inside this album and live in its world, everybody would be perpetually hopped up on ecstasy and globalization, bouncing between New Delhi and Virginia Beach at the speed of a mouse click. Our benevolent overlords: Missy Elliott and Timbaland at their creative peaks, exploring the frontiers of sound, musically and vocally. The joy with which Missy twists her syllables would be bottled and sold, Tim's genre-synthesizing powers would cure all disease. The word "Tweet" would always refer to the Missy protégé who sings on the opening track, not a means of abbreviated over-sharing. International law would require the getting on of one's freak on a daily--if not hourly-- basis. It would be the summer of 2001 forever; September 2001 would never come. --Amy Phillips

76. Junior Boys
Last Exit
[Kin; 2004]

Last Exit taught us that you didn't need to come from a big European city to exude a cosmopolitan cool, and how-- with all due respect to Hamilton, Ontario's Jeremy Greenspan-- an ordinary guy could be a heartbreaker to a generation of bedroom-bound, headphone-donning dreamers. Greenspan did it by wrapping wistful words in some of the decade's most lovingly produced electro-pop-- check the phantom percussive tapdance that underpins "Bellona", or how the tempo pick-ups on "Birthday" suggest increased heart rates. Nevermind that Greenspan was actually generally on the receiving end of the heartbreak. This was music rife with seductive powers, built not for clubs but, to crib Greenspan on "When I'm Not Around", the night ahead-- even if it's another one spent cooped up at home with your headphones. --Matthew Solarski

75. Ghostface Killah
Fishscale
[Def Jam; 2006]

History will remember Fishscale as Ghostface's Magical Mystery Tour: an artist convinced of his own genius empties every chamber on a batshit, pseudo-conceptual headtrip. There's a "Schoolhouse Rock"-style introduction to coke weight, a song about being spanked as a child, and "Underwater", where Ghost hallucinates something resembling a Hype Williams-directed subaqueous Super Mario 3 level. Ghost is passionate and loveable as always, though, and in Fishscale's world according to Pretty Toney the throughline-- other than, you know, the fishscale itself-- is his yearning for the people around him to behave themselves. To wit: He spends the refrain of the club banger telling a rival crew to "be easy"; he dubs a crime crony too shook to act right a "shakey dog"; he hires Ne-Yo to call out an ex's revenge etiquette; and leads off the posse cut "9 Milli Bros" by admonishing us to "be nice to the crackheads." --Eric Harvey

74. The White Stripes
Elephant
[Third Man/V2; 2003]

By 2003, records labels were scrambling to devise new methods to feed upcoming album releases to journalists without opening the floodgates to online leaks, ranging from watermarked promos to encrypted audio streams to couriering CDs in Krazy-Glued Discmen. But, being the traditionalist he is, Jack White chose to deliver the White Stripes' fourth album to press in a more practical format that both discouraged digitization while actually presenting the music how it was meant to be heard: in a double vinyl set. The gesture represented more than just an easy way to get on the good side of critics; the double-album heft was a symbol that the Detroit duo weren't about to recoil from the post-White Blood Cells hype; they wanted to go bigger. From the title on down to the 180-gram grooves, everything about Elephant just felt heavier-- the apocalyptic goosestep of "Seven Nation Army"; the stop-start strut of "The Hardest Button to Button"; the berserker blues-punk of "Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine". Elephant sees the Stripes confidently promoting themselves from flavor of the month to a band for the ages. --Stuart Berman

73. The Microphones
The Glow, Pt. 2
[K; 2001]

"There was a boy; a very strange, enchanted boy. They say he wandered very far over land and sea. A little shy and sad of eye, but very wise was he." Eden Ahbez, yeah, but doesn't it sound just like Phil Elvrum, mildly reluctant Microphones/Mt. Eerie mastermind and nature boy of some repute? The Glow, Pt. 2 feels forged from dirt and carved from stone, craggy and elemental and earthy, and yet, with Elvrum's commandingly vulnerable voice at the center, it's about as human a record in memory. The intimate-then-grandiose production falls down around you like an out-of-nowhere thunderstorm while Elvrum reports live and direct from the eye. Though it begins with clouds breaking and ends with mosquitoes coming after his warm blood, The Glow, Pt. 2 ultimately rings with a weary, worldly sort of optimism, the sound of our journeyman narrator staring deep into the abyss and making some sense of dread both personal and existential. It remains one of the decade's finest passion project, every word a plea, every chord another gust of wind. Most remarkable, perhaps, is how it sounds entirely different spitting out of speakers or cascading around your headphones. Enchanted, you might almost say. --Paul Thompson

72. Sleater-Kinney
One Beat
[Kill Rock Stars; 2002]

Man, Sleater-Kinney were just a machine by the time they made One Beat: Carrie Brownstein's flirty sidelong yip bouncing off Corin Tucker's open-throated roar, riffs tangling themselves up with each other, fiery hooks exploding out of nowhere. They were in that rare zone where all members of the band knew instinctively how to make each other better, where everyone is in some freaky telepathic alchemical headspace. And that's where they needed to be; in a way, the band's entire existence was just lead-up to One Beat. The band recorded the album in the immediate wake of two events: September 11 and the birth of Tucker's first baby. And all those years of greatness make the band uniquely suited to embody the anxiety and rage and joy and fear and longing of earth-shaking events like those, personal or universal. Whether they were furiously protecting their homes or losing themselves in the adrenaline rush their own music, this was the moment where this band felt huge enough to swallow the universe. --Tom Breihan

71. Portishead
Third
[Island/Mercury; 2008]

Portishead began by creating a soundtrack to short-form spy noir To Kill a Dead Man, so it's fitting the trip-hop band's unexpected reunion defy the cinematic law of diminishing returns on sequels. Third was an exercise in following rules, namely, not to repeat yourself. The band's trademark smoky atmosphere, vinyl crackle, and lurking bass were shuffled out in favor of stark strings and the hum and buzz of dread currents. An electric jungle lurks in the crevices of "Silence". Drums of war beat throughout "We Carry On", and "Machine Gun" sounds like a battle zone, with fat notes resonating like mortar fire. Instead of capturing imperfections through sampling, the production duo of Adrian Utley and Geoff Barrow willed them into existence, providing a dark, stately beauty that matches Beth Gibbons' cursed croon. Filled with false starts, the recording process spanned continents. But it just goes to show that perfectionism is worth the wait. --Patrick Sisson

70. Sufjan Stevens
Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State
[Asthmatic Kitty; 2003]

Goddamn, did Michigan have a shitty decade or what? Whether we're talking the auto industry, Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, or the Tigers' pitiful performance in the 2006 World Series, the 2000s were basically a 10-year series of face-slaps and cock-punches. But even in the worst parts of the state (yeah: Detroit), there's an aching beauty, either in the crumbling monuments to boom times past or in the earnest, failed attempts to reverse their long misfortune. It took some shy kid with a banjo and a funny name to articulate that enchanting sadness, with 15 songs that range from unaccompanied whispers to gaudy grandeur. An especially dedicated travel guide to his home state, Stevens finds room for Ypsi and Yoopers, the 84 Tigers and Henry Ford, the People Mover, and, most importantly, people-- the broken-hearted unemployed of "The Upper Peninsula", the children of divorce in "Romulus". Even if he doesn't get to the other 48, Stevens give his home state the sympathetic but honest portrayal it deserves. --Rob Mitchum

69. Liars
Drum's Not Dead
[Mute; 2006]

We tell each other stories about everything, in every medium. But on rare occasions, a work of art face-palms us with the realization that it's all one big story, many-voiced. The works accomplish this by surpassing what we thought possible for a given artist-- we call them "breakthroughs" with good reason. Liars have always been an especially striving band. They hurled themselves against their limits via the concussive dance-punk and anguished drones of their first two albums. But Drum's Not Dead seemed to exist on the other side of that struggle. Like a record-breaking high-jump, the difference was both miniscule and huge. It's a great album in its own right, but it matters more when heard in a continuum with the work it took to get there. What else are we looking for in this stuff, except for people like us, driven to try as hard as they can and then, somehow, a little harder? --Brian Howe

68. Robyn
Robyn
[Konichiwa/Cherrytree/Interscope; 2005/2008]

Nobody-- not Kylie, not Justin, not Mariah-- made a more lovable pop album this decade than Robyn. If you need it to be, her self-released breakthrough is an indie-as-fuck fairytale: Freed from proto-Mouseketeer teen-pop servitude and inspired by the Knife, Robyn experiments across genres, emotes from the heart, and gradually amasses a netroots fanbase; she sounds even better live than on the album, of which there are now at least three editions (the original Swedish, the UK version, and the U.S. one, each released in different years as people discovered this once-hidden gem). Despite the artist's indie CV, Robyn is classic pop: of-the-moment beats and endlessly replayable melodies, "Chappelle's Show" and Shangri-Las, Missy Elliott and Madonna, Snoop Dogg and Prince, relatable feelings expressed clearly and distinctively and you can dance to 'em, available at a retailer near you via Universal. For a citizen under supposed socialism, Robyn sure kicks Wall Street's ass at 00s global capitalism. Then again, Lou Dobbs hasn't seen her birth certificate yet, either. --Marc Hogan

67. The Flaming Lips
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
[Warner Bros.; 2002]

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. To hear Wayne Coyne tell it, the Flaming Lips never had the option of following 1999 critics' darling The Soft Bulletin with a Radiohead-like hard left into chilly electronic detachment. They were already trying as hard as they could to entertain. So while the geopolitical climate hovered around its early decade bummeriest, the Oklahoma City band struck back the only way it knew how: with meticulously produced, grandly conceived, and, yeah, sometimes whimsically funny existential contemplations. Also, robots. Disenchanted with the virtues of perpetual coolness, these ear-to-ear studio geeks let their square flag fly in the form of their 10th album's primped acoustic guitars, drippy synths, rounded bass, and mass licensing exposure. Along the way, they shared some of the same graying wisdom that LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends" would relate in greater detail a half-decade later. "Life goes fast"? We realize. --Marc Hogan

66. J Dilla
Donuts
[Stones Throw; 2006]

The final work of James Yancey's lifetime has the apparition of its creator's encroaching death looming over it, so there's a certain poetry in one trick of its structure: It was put together so you could play it in an perpetual loop for the rest of time if you wanted, with the final few seconds of Donuts segueing cleanly and seamlessly back into its first few. Listening to it in that perpetual loop puts its jumpy, trans-genre hip-hop beats and ricocheting soundbite snippets into deep focus: That now-characteristic air-raid siren jostles you into new transitions; you pick up on how samples tend to break apart mid-loop and vibe out on time-shifting deconstruction; you feel the abrupt, bracing jumps from burbly giddiness to foreboding gloom to mournful reflection and back again. Dilla threw everything he'd known into this album and wound up delivering a simultaneous farewell and magnum opus three days before his passing; we should all be so lucky to produce something this moving in the face of our own mortality. --Nate Patrin

65. Godpseed You Black Emperor!
Lift Your Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven
[Kranky; 2000]

The name "Godspeed You Black Emperor!" appears nowhere in the artwork of their sprawling, 2xCD second album. The lack of a brand feels appropriate to the band's apocalyptic vision of capitalist society in decay, and if survivors from the future can't attach a name to this music, so much the better-- it feels as though it's always been there, the way mountains and valleys do. The album's ravaged landscape of drones, hellish dissonance, rhythmic crescendos, and moments of quiet, transcendent beauty is something in which you can get lost. The voices trapped in the drone-- the gas station warning against solicitors, old Murray Ostril remembering the glory days of Coney Island ("They don't sleep anymore on the beach")-- leaves most of the speaking to the instruments, which march forward as if one mind controls them all. This album is like the world: alive and dead, tarnished but gorgeous, dangerous and worth exploring. --Joe Tangari

64. The Hold Steady
Boys and Girls in America
[Vagrant; 2006]

Any 2000s album that opens with a Jack Kerouac quote is just asking not to be taken seriously, but Boys and Girls in America opens with such a rock-triumphant ode to beautiful losers-- "Stuck Between Stations"-- that the Beat words seems apt and illuminating. Veering from the album-length narrative of Separation Sunday, the Hold Steady's third full-length is almost like a road movie, drug-fueled and aimless and a lot of fun. Taking a more prominent role than he did on previous albums, keyboardist and mustache aficionado Franz Nicolay sings that fist-pumping chorus on "Chips Ahoy!", spews organ all over "Same Kooks", and festoons most of these songs with piano and glockenspiel, thereby letting Craig Finn live out his E Street Band fantasies. Even if Sal Paradise hadn't cracked about boys and girls' sad times together, the Hold Steady would still be writing the same sad songs about them. --Stephen M. Deusner

63. Of Montreal
Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
[Polyvinyl; 2007]

Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? is often pegged as a record about Kevin Barnes' struggle with depression and the temporary dissolution of his marriage. While that is basically true, the emphasis on the author's biography gets in the way of why the album resonates so deeply with its fans: It's not about the descent into hopelessness but rather the desperate attempt to restructure one's character and bust free from the traps set by ingrained neuroses and fickle brain chemistry. The songs are as richly melodic and effortlessly groovy as they are manic and hysterical, and even when Barnes lapses into doubt and self-loathing, the core of the record remains an unshakable belief that not only do we have the power to take control of our psyches, but we're not alone in the battle. From the start, the rallying cry is "Let's all melt down together!" and by the end of the album, Barnes successfully transforms his personal torment into a communal catharsis. --Matthew Perpetua

62. Dizzee Rascal
Boy in Da Corner
[XL; 2003]

Grime, in retrospect, was never going to be much of an album-oriented genre. It's too messy, too boisterous, to sit politely for the space of a CD. Good thing nobody told Dizzee Rascal. Harnessing a desperation born of limited opportunities, Boy in Da Corner looks today something like grime's lone essential longplayer, as well as the record that essentially broke the music for an audience living outside the range of London pirate radio. Between the music's spiky, ringtone-inspired rhythms and Dizzee's rapidfire chat, often all but unintelligible to American ears, the 18-year-old musician balanced the frenzy of the rave-- his doubletracked vocals suggest a welter of MCs jostling for the mic-- with a more private kind of angst. Ignoring the American hip-hop playbook in favor of London's multi-cultural street culture, Dizzee arguably paved the way for M.I.A.'s success soon after. Spinning sneering confrontation into unexpected critical acclaim (including the 2003 Mercury Prize) and crossover appeal, Boy in Da Corner is grime's very own Never Mind the Bollocks: a merger of time, place, sound, and personality, never to be repeated. --Philip Sherburne

61. Cut Copy
In Ghost Colours
[Modular/Interscope; 2008]

The Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers" pulled the lawnmower cord on a decade that was supposed to break down the walls between indie and dance and make everything sound like New Order with louder guitars. Then disco-punk quickly burnt out its promise and the Rapture became (unfairly) a supposedly dated-sounding scapegoat. Then came 2008, and we were right back where we started-- New Order, with (slightly fewer) louder guitars. Granted, Cut Copy were around when dance-punk broke ("Saturdays" was a prime cut), but In Ghost Colours served as the subgenre's vindication, finally building off the potential of "I Need Your Love". "So Haunted" is everything we ever wanted from the mixture, barbed-wire Sonic Youth guitars that give way gracefully to synthesizer bliss, while "Hearts on Fire" is a mixed-breed that outshines its parents, tapping into the blog-geist so squarely it was remixed a billion times. --Rob Mitchum

60. Exploding Hearts
Guitar Romantic
[Dirtnap; 2003]

I can't think of many bands as aptly named as Exploding Hearts. They played something you might call power-punk-- teenage kicks, leather jackets, glue-sniffing, pop tunes so classic they might as well be "I Want to Hold Your Hand"-- and they did it with huge hooks and even huger enthusiasm, this chest-bursting ardor that makes it almost impossible not to be on their side. They sounded like teenage dirtbags in love, and they recorded Guitar Romantic with a fuzzy, needle-in-the red energy that makes it sound like they're having the time of their lives playing every single song. (And just about every single song turns out to be worth the time of your life.) But then their tour van flipped over and three of them were killed, and I guess we can just console ourselves that their contribution to the world of music was so joyful, so vital, so packed with full-throated, heart-exploding life. --Nitsuh Abebe

59.Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Hearts of Oak
[Lookout!; 2003]

The 2000s were an extremely fucked-up political decade, yet we didn't exactly get a deluge of trenchant social commentary from our best and brightest indie rockers. Granted, whenever musicians speak out it's a minefield regardless of genre, but it's also no secret that as a scene indie's a particularly potent hothouse for disengaging irony and noncommittal smarm. And that makes Ted Leo's achievements all the more remarkable. Leo spent the entire decade fighting the good fight, armed with clear lefty principles and an earnest, ennobling rhetoric that never wavered. Of course, none of us would've been jarred from our snarky stupors if Leo's tunes hadn't been so ridiculously tight. Hearts of Oak is Ted's finest hour, packed to the gills not only with fierce, hyper-intelligent agitprop ("The Ballad of the Sin Eater" shaming Ugly Americans for all eternity), but also combustibly catchy pop-punk hooks. --Joshua Love

58. The Field
From Here We Go Sublime
[Kompakt; 2007]

Axel Willner knows that while "sublime" means something in the neighborhood of transcendence, he's just as interested in the subliminal, or that which goes below the surface. Like inspiration and Kompakt label boss Wolfgang Voigt (of, amongst other things, Gas), Willner shaves precious milliseconds off his often incongruous source material and shapes them into jumbled re-interpretations set to light echoes of dancefloor beats. The Field re-defines the idea of "pop ambient": his "Kappsta" was the best cut on Kompakt's Pop Ambient 2007 compilation and a highlight of the series, and Willner's Sublime turns of phrase spin such delicious yarns as morphing a Christine McVie vocal into trance on "Everyday" or turning a bit of guitar into a beachy dance tune on "A Paw in My Face". When "Paw" trails off, he lets the sample play itself out and you realize it's Richie's tired "Hello", and Willner has secretly entranced you into elevating soft rock to techno transcendence. --Mike Orme

57. The Rapture
Echoes
[Strummer/Universal; 2003]

Even as the "House of Jealous Lovers" single still draws rapturous (ahem) praise seven years later, the LP it settled on hasn't fared so swimmingly. And why not? DFA's production work with the Rapture signaled what would become one of the decade's most influential sounds. And as apex of a short-lived, but watershed movement, Echoes ordered indie kids to drop their genre boundary-drawing chalk and start taking beatmakers and synth-players seriously, in turn paving the way for Justice, MGMT, Hercules and Love Affair, and a host of other independent-minded dance acts. But I guess nobody loves a key just because it unlocks doors. So I'll stump for the songs, shall I? Enough's been said about "House"-- it's a great cut, obviously, but Echoes is packed with them. Consider the title track and its grand chaos of crosshatched guitars, or "Sister Savior"'s disco fantasia of dizzy beats, or how "Olio" keeps threatening a manic eruption, but instead sustains its whispered scream. And hey, give it up for the perpetually pitchless Luke Jenner. If "Killing"'s screeched climax, "One, two, three, four, kick that fucker out the door!" isn't lovable, I don't know the meaning of the word. --Amy Granzin

56. Dirty Projectors
Bitte Orca
[Domino; 2009]

In retrospect, every record Dave Longstreth made with whoever he was calling "Dirty Projectors" since 2003 sounds like a promise for Bitte Orca. Maybe it's that he finally found a backing band that didn't flinch at 12-hour rehearsals or performing highly advanced variations of rubbing their bellies while patting their heads. It's his-- their-- most accomplished record, irritatingly diverse and diversely irritating: shrill voices and polyrhythmic shrapnel; Led Zep drums and juju guitars; the restrained poses of R&B next to fits of well-practiced chaos.
The band never smiles. There's no accident in the music-- everything sounds planned to the point of suffocation. But the album's most representative moment isn't musical, it's lyric: Angel Deradoorian on "Two Doves" singing, "But our bed is like a"-- followed by either "failure" or "feather." One is an emotional anvil, the other is a tossed-off joke, and the ambiguity is Longstreth's unflagging reluctance to be too straightforward-- take it or leave it. It's a wonder to watch humans do things you didn't think they could do, even if they become a little inhuman in the process. --Mike Powell

55. Animal Collective
Feels
[FatCat; 2005]

Feels is billed as Animal Collective's "rock" album, but this music couldn't be more indifferent to the notion. Ringing guitars, rippling piano, and pounding drums are just a way to express a sense of exuberance as big and as purposeless as a forest, sometimes joyfully savage and sometimes softly haunting, but always beyond genre or strategy or intention. Above all, it is what Animal Collective do with their voices here that astounds: whispering, shrieking, muttering, pleading, sighing, their sprite-like presence is somehow thoroughly alien and yet unnervingly intimate, like a forgotten but familiar scent sparking a rush of nostalgia without reference. At their awe-filled zenith-- the irrepressible rush of "The Purple Bottle", the heatstroke harp strokes of "Bees", the delicate soundworld of "Loch Raven", above all the yearning and eternal-feeling Faust-hymn of "Banshee Beat"-- it's like they're letting us listen in on the songs that nature sings to itself. --Tim Finney

54. M.I.A.
Arular
[XL/Beggars; 2005]

Like many people, I associate Arular with the real beginnings of blog hype; it was the first record release I can remember whose online discourse appeared to supersede or at least inform the mainstream music media's. In the hyper-self-reflexive and hyper-self-aware blogosphere, Arular quickly became emblematic of that power shift, its conflicted and vaguely counter-revolutionary sentiments providing the perfect soundtrack for the Internet's own fuzzy insurgency. By rights, a record with that kind of backstory and baggage should have about as many miles left as "Mambo No. 5", but this still pretty much bangs. From the moody, fuzzed-out minimalism of "Pull Up the People" and "Fire Fire" to the still-thrilling digital Tropicalia of "Amazon" and "Sunshowers" to white-hot dancefloor standouts like "10 Dollar", "Galang", and (of course) "Bucky Done Gun", this varied and flavorful debut proved the hype machine right. --Mark Pytlik

53. Clinic
Internal Wrangler
[Domino; 2000]

The man in the scrubs and surgical mask clenches his teeth and breathes a menacing jumble of syllables at you. This is a cold, dark place, where the smallest sounds echo and cut to the core. At that core, though, lies a warm, beating heart. Internal Wrangler may be a confused tangle of inky black punk, buzzsaw surf rock, tribal drums, girl-group atmosphere, sputtering electronics, and lyrics transcribed from alphabet soup, but the jumble is deceptive. This album is a precise procedure, opening an incision with a trio of sharp, jabbing songs, exploring with a jumble of fragments, and finally implanting itself permanently in a way few records so scattered and damaged can. Clinic never quite took another little piece of our hearts that way they did on their first album, but Internal Wrangler offers enough emotional surgery to last a lifetime. --Joe Tangari

52. Clipse
Hell Hath No Fury
[Jive; 2006]

There was a time in the first half of this decade when a Neptunes production credit scored instant access to the Billboard Top 10, and for Clipse's Malice and Pusha T, their long-standing childhood friendship with Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo should have been the proverbial key that opened doors. However, despite a respectable gold-record showing for Clipse's 2002 debut Lord Willin', the duo's second Neptunes-helmed album was delayed for a good two years in label-merger limbo, culminating in the brothers filing a lawsuits against the unsympathetic suits at Jive Records.
But once Hell Hath No Fury finally surfaced in late 2006, the label's cold-footed reaction made sense-- since the dawn of hip-hop, major labels have been eager to market albums that glamorize the gangsta lifestyle; it's much harder, however, to sell one that normalizes and demystifies it. For Clipse, the life of a pusher-man isn't cool, it's just cold, represented here by brown-note electro beats as icy and chiseled as the product they're slinging. Even the title addendum "ft. Pharrell Williams" provides little in the way of respite from the claustrophobic tension; by the time we hit the downward-spiraled dementia of "Trill", Pharrell's assumed a glazed-eye monotone that makes him sound like one of the duo's old customers, not their pop-star producer. If Malice and Pusha T sound unapologetic about their dope-dealing pasts, it's because they know that-- given the Clipse's troubled track record as major-label artists-- it's a life they're prepared to face again. --Stuart Berman

51. Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend
[XL; 2008]

Something about Vampire Weekend-- maybe the clothes they wear, the music they borrow, the blue-blooded life they describe, the easy, clever way they carry themselves-- takes some music fans right out of their comfort zone and into bewildered, mocking anger. The band know they're privileged, just like they know the music they're playing isn't really any kind of alternative to anything, and they're happy to tease their audience's expectations on both counts. Those lyrical nods to Cape Cod and Peter Gabriel are effective trolling at the very least. It's just a shame for the haters that the music's such skilful, lovely pop. The band are at least as much Orange Juice as Paul Simon: there's a hurried delight in their playing-- in the bounce of "Campus" and the cascades on "Walcott"-- which takes the knowingness out of those lightly worn Afropop references and chamber strings. It's a joy to see a group take such care putting together an aesthetic, and despite its obvious contrivance when you put Vampire Weekend on they sound absolutely themselves and (whisper it) almost natural. --Tom Ewing

50. Deerhunter
Microcastle
[Kranky/4AD; 2008]

Pop music is often escapist, dwelling on the weakness of the flesh-- but usually not like the songs of Deerhunter, where bodies are fevered, insubstantial, and frail. On Microcastle, a ringing set of crashing guitars, chimes, and squalls of noise, people are literally wasting away in six-by-six cells surrounded by concrete. Some are crucified in front of their friends, and drunken children torch an old man in his own garage. But this imagery isn't for shock value; it's about escape. Deerhunter's musical aesthetic-- partially composed of smeared sounds and unstable footings-- proves a beautiful companion to uncertain lyrics. On tracks like "Little Kids" or "Never Stops", a framework of driving rhythms and gorgeous melodies is lit up with tracers of noise and feedback. Deerhunter sounds tighter and more fragile than ever on Microcastle, able to sweep up listeners in a tempest of hazy, anxious joy. --Patrick Sisson

49. Antony & the Johnsons
I Am a Bird Now
[Secretly Canadian; 2005]

The downtown art scene of late 20th century New York left such an impression on the city, it was hard to imagine any artist in the 2000's could touch on it without sounding like a nostalgia act. But Antony Hegarty confronted that gender-blurring heritage-- think Andy Warhol's Factory, Lou Reed's 1970s androgyny, the 80s cabaret scene-- to create something both reverent and new. Even more daringly, he opened with a showstopper, the devastating "Hope There's Someone". But the rest of the album answers that call, exploring complex issues of identity, mortality, and companionship with the guiding light of simple emotion. Antony's performance-art pedigree gave his history lesson credibility, attracting contributions from icons like Reed and Boy George. But his breathtaking voice and laser-like vision transcend time and place. Every sentiment on I Am a Bird Now comes through loud and clear-- even if you know nothing about New York. --Marc Masters

48. The Hold Steady
Separation Sunday
[Frenchkiss; 2005]

From the album's very beginning-- an unaccompanied vocal that ends with a joke it takes a few listens to get-- you know Separation Sunday is for the lyric geeks. So there are maybe a few less sing-alongs; instead, we get barrages of noir-worthy imagery and singer Craig Finn's preoccupations with over-the-counter highs, Christianity, seedy characters, and the bars, churches, and river camps where they meet. The music is as bar-ready as ever, but rather than the big choruses they'd later trade in, Separation Sunday's memorable moments are stray licks, half-slurred lyrical asides, and the disarming bridges of tracks like "Banging Camp" or "Multitude of Casualties", all of which shine brighter than the songs that surround them. There's no typical ebb-and-flow album sequencing here, no breathers, slow jams, or bathroom breaks: Every moment of the record aims to be the best moment. --Jason Crock

47. Joanna Newsom
The Milk-Eyed Mender
[Drag City; 2004]

She wafted in like a hippie but sang about the pitfalls of poetry. She wrote like a poet but praised the birds for their illiterate flight. Her brave wail betrayed her age and her simple instrumentation-- harp and voice, mostly-- betrayed how hard the music probably was to play. The record was a breeze for the first 20 seconds. Then she started singing. You either craned your head toward the sound or you left the porch. Her whimsy was obvious and her word choice was, well-- let's say that "boat" doesn't work because only "caravel" rhymes with "beetle shell." (I kept the dictionary out after that.) She warped soft acoustic music into art-- neither "freak" nor "folk," just a harpist with a good imagination. The puns were an aside to remind us she wasn't a stiff. Her debut-- to paraphrase author Ben Marcus on the subject of experimental fiction-- didn't compete with paintball for attention; it ferreted out sensitive folks for whom lyric analysis is as spiritually gratifying as dancing. She deserved us and we needed her, puffy sleeves and all. --Mike Powell

46. The Shins
Chutes Too Narrow
[Sub Pop; 2003]

Behind James Mercer's melodious whimper and his band's polite folk-rock is some unheralded meanness-- hard-hearted thoughts on relationships; songs that sit like oval pegs in round holes, filled with detours and hiccups. Mercer writes thoughtfully about art and Utopianism but treats a new crush like she's a game he lost to his erection. He buries a wimp's anger in tangled words and unexpected codas. But it's catchy and it's pretty, so I have to assume that people listen selectively.
In 2003, it was hard to find a big indie band that played quite as safely as the Shins. Most of the songs on Chutes were around three minutes long, and it didn't sound like there were too many overdubs. No bhangra breakdowns, no "electronic manipulations." It starts with a false start and ends with the sound of thunder-- and between, the band scrapes at its own self-imposed limitations in a hundred great little ways. --Mike Powell

45. Fugazi
The Argument
[Dischord; 2001]

The members of Fugazi spent most of the decade working on other projects, but the one time they came together to make an album, they made one for the ages. The Argument is the band's most nuanced and melodic record, and possibly its best. The refined approach doesn't come at the expense of intensity, though-- some of the record's most harrowing moments are its quietest, and the album finds the band learning that a whisper can rage as powerfully as a shout. Outside of the masterful anti-eminent domain statement "Cashout", the record is indirect about its politics without sounding uncommitted, and the band takes its narratives of personal and societal turmoil on wild rides through complex arrangements featuring intricate interplay and unexpected shifts. If we ever get another Fugazi album, it'll be welcome, but if we don't, The Argument is a perfect swan song: accomplished, righteous, challenging, and totally vital. --Joe Tangari

44. D'Angelo
Voodoo
[Virgin; 2000]

Musically a triumph of hands-on, real-time, old-school soul minimalism, Voodoo is simultaneously tough as old wood and as fragile as a smoke ring. But it's D'Angelo that makes the album something more than the work of talented young turks neck-deep in classic records. Save the breathtaking single, each vocal performance on Voodoo is a subdued, almost conversational marvel. The phrasing is as idiosyncratic as any great singer you may think he's homaging; you can't imagine anyone else squeezing the dangerously wordy chorus of "The Root" into such a shiver-inducing, fluid rush. The delivery, tending more toward a murmur, has an almost unbearable intimacy-- maybe the most erotically tactile singing put to disc this decade. --Jess Harvell

43. Luomo
Vocalcity
[Force Tracks; 2000]

In seconds, we're off. Lost in a labyrinthine maze of compulsive deep house in which every synth spurt, each softly tearing hi-hat seems to plug into your body like acupuncture. Perhaps better than any other dance album this decade, Vocalcity blurs the line between process and product: when "Class" coalesces from a sea of continental shelf bass and disembodied and dissected sighs into a tremulously romantic diva refrain, it's like watching cells multiplying to create a life form. But don't just stand there watching: producer Sasu Ripatti doesn't merely want you to dance, he wants to make dancing the only possible response. As expansive as they are, these aching grooves come on like snapshots of much longer, broader epics whose tantric possibilities are unnerving-- if Vocalcity in fact stretched on forever, what dancer could bear to stop? Luomo provides the soundtrack; you bring the red shoes. --Tim Finney

42. Grizzly Bear
Veckatimest
[Warp; 2009]

A triumph of craftsmanship, the 12 tracks of Veckatimest click and whirr at a deliberate tempo, like a clock tower in a town square. Even the slightest of vocal snippets gets shaped and sanded down with care-- the only maybes are on the lyric sheet. And like those triumphant timepieces, it's the dozen variations on a scene-- instruments and effects rearranging themselves-- that make things intriguing. Contrast is the key; beautiful vocal harmonies, such as the peeling-like-bells choir kicking off "Dory", can be a flourish of sound or the longed-for release. Deceptively simple guitar melodies, spiked by sharp notes or riffs, let you know every turn was planned two songs in advance. Talent in music is often measured by extreme gestures, but Grizzly Bear's greatest skill may be making small moves sound massive. --Patrick Sisson

41. Burial
Untrue
[Hyperdub; 2007]

Burial's masterful second album Untrue seems a mass of contradictions. Although the world now knows Burial to be the work of London dubstep producer William Bevan, Untrue remains faceless and largely anonymous, yet also acutely personal and introspective. It is unconditionally linked to both its place of origin (South London), and to a specific musical lineage that traces back through UK garage, yet it has deeply resonated with listeners regardless of physical or musical geography. Though his jittery rhythms and brooding atmospheres are endlessly captivating, Burial's distinctive treatment of vocal samples provide Untrue much of its enduring fascination. Manipulated and detuned, the disembodied voices that populate the likes of "Etched Headplate" or "Shell of Light" sound uniformly lost and heartsick, their half-heard pleas ("I can't take no more tears," "Please hurry and find me") repeating helplessly into the night like residual hauntings. Yet despite Untrue's immersive melancholy the album never becomes oppressive-- on the contrary, Burial's moody, evocative dubstep has an allure that always beckons the listener for one more lonely walk beneath its flickering streetlights. --Matthew Murphy

40. The National
Alligator
[Beggars Banquet; 2005]

The National surely knew it, and a handful of longtime fans likely knew it as well. But it wasn't until the group toured with opener Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! in fall 2005 that word finally spread of the group's third album Alligator. A few years later, Alligator remains an unabashedly powerful and deceptively primal work, capable of knocking unsuspecting audiences on their collective ass. But back then, CYHSY was riding an unequaled (if fleeting) wave of buzz that resulted in sold-out clubs and spillover crowds, many of which thinned significantly before the headliners even took the stage. Those who stayed, however, witnessed an incredible transformation, as the National played the hell out of tracks that now feel like inextricable parts of the indie firmament. Songs like "Abel", "Lit Up", and "Mr. November" are ringers now, but they hit like a ton of bricks back when no one saw them coming. --Joshua Klein

39. Boredoms
Vision Creation Newsun
[Warner Bros.; 2000]

Nu-Baelerica, indie's fascination with house and techno, Brooklyn noise, freak-folk, the proggy minimalism of Battles, the futuro-hurricane stomp of Orthrelm, the baroque noise-adelia of Panda Bear and Animal Collective, Lindstrøm's space disco, Optimo's beardy disco, M.I.A.'s electro-beats, the noise bands who were really jam bands (Lightning Bolt, Hella), the jam bands who were really noise bands (Excepter, Black Dice), any band with multiple drummers, any band whose front man played something with motion-sensors instead of a fretboard, any band who issued a remix album instead of an actual follow-up record (and especially those for whom the remix record was almost as good), any band who connected the dots between no-wave and trance and whose sound could only be described using three to five hyphens, and most of all ANY BAND WHO RECORDED A PERFECT RECORD FOR THE MILLENNIUM THE YEAR BEFORE IT STARTED. Oh wait, there's only one. Boredoms win. --Dominique Leone

38. Phoenix
It's Never Been Like That
[Astralwerks; 2006]

Two albums into a career of slick, reedy pop-- and more notably, brilliant singles such as "If I Ever Feel Better", "Too Young", and "Everything is Everything"-- the Versailles quartet Phoenix must have had some sort of epiphany. The opener to It's Never Been Like That, "Napoleon Says", narrates an encounter between a Frenchman and a (presumably) American tourist, but the greater effect is to signal the band's torrid love affair with the rough young curvatures of Brooklyn. Ruffling their polished yacht-rock around the edges by applying measured doses of Strokes-esque rock guitar, It's Never Been Like That compromised none of the preternatural pop songcraft wizardry of United or Alphabetical, but traded in a litany of odd old touches-- palm-muted guitar, disingenuous blue-eyed soul-- to arrangements that actually sounded like the guys were having fun. Outstanding single "Long Distance Call", as the title implies, furthers the metaphor of the trans-Atlantic romance (perhaps inspired by singer Thomas Mars' baby-mama Sofia Coppola?) as Mars insistently shouts the album's title in the chorus. The unspoken response: And it'll never be the same again. --Mike Orme

37. Yo La Tengo
And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
[Matador; 2000]

As the new decade arrived, Yo La Tengo seemed between worlds. They were indie rock vets whose career stretched back to the college-rock 80s, and during the alt-rock years they held their own against Matador labelmates like Pavement with Painful and I Can Heart the Heart Beating as One. But the groups they'd come up with were vanishing and the path forward for a band in their position wasn't exactly clear. How do you act your age in this business while remaining vital? And Then Nothing Turned Us Inside-Out was the sound of them finding their way. It disappointed some at the time with its subdued sound and slower tempos, but it's the kind of record that sounded better with every listen. Slow, spare, dreamy, but ultimately grounded, And Then Nothing… radiates warmth and maturity and is never boring. With it, Yo La Tengo showed us that it was possible to make indie rock about grown-up relationships-- this is a couples record if there ever was one-- and, after a few rough patches, they found themselves revitalized as a recording unit, doing some of the best work of their career by the time the 00s were ending. --Mark Richardson

36. The Streets
Original Pirate Material
[679/Vice/Warner Bros.; 2002]

Don't forget how much this music risked embarrassment. Mike Skinner took the sounds of modern club music (2-step, garage, hip-hop) and made them small, chintzy, and unglamorous-- no bright lights, no dancefloor, just someone pasting together beats on his computer in a messy apartment. Unlike London's grime producers, he wasn't doing it in the service of world-conquering fierceness. Skinner-- young, suburban, Northern-- rapped in a plainer voice, clowning about his daily life and telling earnest, unabashedly sentimental stories. I'm sure someone, at some point, told him this was embarrassing, cheap-sounding, and way less cool than proper club music-- that his beats were shabby and his confessionals corny. But Skinner, good-humored and palpably sincere, followed his ideas where they led. And as it turns out, it's exactly that sincerity that makes this record so special-- something like having a great conversation on a ratty couch, surrounded by empty pizza boxes, stacks of old video games, and the beats from the cars down on the street. --Nitsuh Abebe

35. Spoon
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
[Merge; 2007]

"I'm in need of someone to take care of me tonight," confesses Britt Daniel at the close of Spoon's sixth album. The uncharacteristically direct emotional plea is earned. Because the entirety of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga dances around the vulnerability of indie rock middle age, when a life playing to blurred faces might seem indulgent and/or hopelessly transient for someone tripping over their friend's kids. But the band hasn't given up on an indie rock nirvana typified by bristling loose ends and fallen feelings-- it's the end as no end, and they've got it down. The music bubbles, blooms, and cuts away as if struck by unseen forces throughout; Daniel matches it line-for-line with words that confuse, burrow, and-- eventually-- strike the psyche like a suppressed memory suddenly broken free. "Sometimes I think that I'll find a love/ One that's gonna change my heart," goes the singer. He's got little reason to believe, but he does anyway. --Ryan Dombal

34. Radiohead
Amnesiac
[Capitol; 2001]

Shoes to fill, shadows to escape-- Amnesiac had quite an uphill battle when it emerged in spring 2001, mere months after Kid A confounded expectations, and indeed quite before the dust of debate surrounding that record had settled. Yet, lest we (ahem) forget, Amnesiac confounded a couple expectations of its own: namely, it wasn't the rumored "return to rock" Radiohead record, nor was it a motley collection of inferior Kid A also-rans. What it was was a selection of the great band's many strengths in convenient digest form: ballads custom built to alter the brain ("Pyramid Song", "Like Spinning Plates"), paranoid clatter ("Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box", "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors"), winning curveballs ("Life in a Glass House"), and, okay, some stuff approximating rock ("I Might Be Wrong", "Knives Out"). It's a cheeky record too: Early in the record they give us "Pulk/Pull", easily the most out-there vocal track to appear on a Radiohead record, while "Glasshouse"'s oft-quoted line about "someone listening in" is as politically unnerved as it is artistically self-aware. If only all "afterthought" albums could be this A-list. --Matthew Solarski

33. Basement Jaxx
Rooty
[Astralwerks; 2001]

As interpretations of classic Chicago house went, Basement Jaxx's 1999 debut Remedy was hardly a muted and polite take on the genre. But even accounting for the record's nods towards mutant funk, the Jaxx warped their style into something even grander and crazier on this sophomore excursion. Their palette of voices expanded from a slate of booming divas to a motley collection of neurotic ingénues, haywire sexbots and 2-Tone rudeboys (with the two tones in question being fluorescent pink and neon green). Their rhythms drew from hyperventilating bump-and-grind 2-step ("Romeo"), grotesquely snarling Gary Numan-gone-rave drones ("Where's Your Head At"), squirrelly, skeletal electro ("Crazy Girl"), and the brashest caricatures of the Prince aesthetic ever devised ("Breakaway"; "Get Me Off"; "I Want U"; "SFM"). It's so all-encompassingly manic that even the stylistic detours-- like the baroque Latin/Mediterranean 60s-pop longing of "Broken Dreams" or "All I Know"'s chirpy Intellivision boogie-- sound inextricable from the rest of the album. --Nate Patrin

32. Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes
[Sub Pop; 2008]

Vocal harmonies became an indie touchstone during the later 2000s, but no band capitalized on that trend as well as Seattle's Fleet Foxes on the 1-2 punch of their debut EP and LP. Then again, no band had Robin Pecknold singing lead and four other voices backing him up on just about every note (and this was before Seattle solo artist J. Tillman joined the group). Like that Breughel painting on the cover, there's a hell of a lot going on in Fleet Foxes' rustically moody songs: Skye Skjelset's guitar swoops in and out in graceful arcs, allowing the band to glide from one fluid jam to the next and to incorporate an impressive range of styles that transcend the "Southern rock" and "stoner jams" that greeted the album upon release. Those elements helped the band graduate from unsigned to "SNL" in barely a year, but it's those harmonies that make this one of the most beguiling debuts of the decade. --Stephen M. Deusner

31. TV on the Radio
Return to Cookie Mountain
[4AD/Interscope; 2006]

Return to Cookie Mountain is a coy, fantasyland title for an album with tales of ravaged love and alcohol on its breath. Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone's voices sound heavenly here, but they're often about the search for absolution. Dave Sitek sets the mood with a synthetic grind-- guitars screeching like subway brakes and static combusting like sparklers-- that speaks to the elemental tensions of the vocals. It's poetry for lovers lost ("Suddenly, all your history's ablaze/ Try to breathe, as the world disintegrates"), regretful ("A recent memory of when we shit our bed of roses"), and broken ("tangled up in the flesh of a girl"). TV on the Radio often get tagged as avant-garde, as if it's challenging to pick up on the feral intensity of songs such as "Wolf Like Me". Listen to this album filled with teeth-gnashing, gut-wrenching passion and try to disagree with the idea that love is the province of the brave. --Patrick Sisson

30. Boards of Canada
Geogaddi
[Warp; 2002]

I love this record even though it creeps me the hell out. Or: I love this record because it creeps me the hell out? Or: I love this record out of a deeply embedded respect and admiration for things I do not understand and which also, incidentally, creep me the hell out? On this, Boards of Canada's toothy second full-length, the Scottish duo mottled their trademark loping hip-hop rhythms and decaying synth patches with more urgent, craggly, sweaty sounds, and in turn revealed just how fine a distinction it is between childlike/naïve and paranoid/schizophrenic. With its gnarly rhythmic patters and sinister atmospherics bouncing around a tightly packed soundstage, this conjured fear, longing, and creeping unease better than anything since Tricky's Maxinquaye. It is a black forest of a record, full of psychedelia and psychosis and gauzy National Film Board samples of Leslie Nielsen talking about nature; I look forward to never untangling it. --Mark Pytlik

29. Bon Iver
For Emma, Forever Ago
[self-released/Jagjaguwar; 2007]

The backstory has been repeated so often with such insistence that three years later it's become a mythic tall tale: Guy breaks up band in North Carolina, decamps to the wilds of Wisconsin, makes a record originally intended to be heard by almost nobody. But what happened next is much more interesting: After Justin Vernon made 500 copies and distributed them himself, the album is picked up by indie juggernaut Jagjaguwar, gets big props from Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, holds up to hundreds of repeat listens, and get thousands of festivalgoers singing along solemnly to "The Wolves". Quiet and folkily ambient, For Emma, Forever Ago is an impassioned cry too compelling not to become heard. From those opening strums to the "Flume" to the closing hums of "Re: Stacks", the album communicates acute loneliness and nurses a pain that has dulled but obviously not died-- which is perhaps our own romantic view of ourselves. It's easy to get caught up in the stories surrounding this out-of-nowhere album, but the music pulls you back to the real world. --Stephen M. Deusner

28. Kanye West
The College Dropout
[Roc-A-Fella; 2004]

The truth is that without this album, rap is in an entirely different place right now. And while Kanye West's growth and experimentation has resulted in some thrilling music, this is bedrock for a generation of MCs. Deeply middle class, musically ambitious but never alienating, emotionally naked: This was not the stuff of pre-2002 hip-hop. The paradigm shift is only now really taking shape as young rappers like Drake, Kid Cudi, Wale, and Asher Roth bend and pull on West's thorny contradictions. As singles, "Slow Jamz" and "Jesus Walks" made for the perfect dichotomy; light and dark, secular and devout, stupid and smart. But what still moves me are the beautifully told personal notes: retail details while slinging sweaters at the Gap, peeing in the bed as a snot-nosed kid, landing in the same hospital as Biggie after a devastating accident. On Dropout, Kanye wasn't the best rapper or the best producer or even the best album-maker. But he was the most original. --Sean Fennessey

27. Animal Collective
Sung Tongs
[FatCat; 2004]

My favorite decade theory: You get the best sense of what the decade is about by starting from its midpoint, and going until the next. In true experimentalist fashion, Animal Collective's Sung Tongs (created entirely by the Panda Bear/Avey Tare duo) arrived a full year before the middle of the aughts, and perhaps more than any other record of the decade, foresaw where indie hearts, ears, and minds would go in the next five years. And while its rustic psychedelia and warm-hearted electronic touches might have extended hands (paws?) outward to the best avant-pop of the previous generation or two, the magic of this record was that it was both innovative and utterly, peerlessly beautiful. Fittingly, it was also a turning point for the band, who by decade's end were playing Letterman and putting on the biggest light show this side of Daft Punk. How's that for zeitgeist? --Dominique Leone

26. Fennesz
Endless Summer
[Mego; 2001]

The title of Christian Fennesz' 2001 record evokes a few specific things: a 1964 song by the Sandals sampled on the title track, a 1966 film documenting two surfers' global journey, the Beach Boys' singles collection. But the thoughts and feelings it inspires are much larger. This isn't one season without end, but a string of summers fused into the infinite loop of memory. Beaches, pools, ball fields, hazy humidity rippling over pavement: all the images of summer are visible in Fennesz's analog-to-digital constructions, but they're refracted through the warping prism of human recollection. This could've resulted in a mess of glitches, but Fennesz rearranges his decaying source material into songs, much the way the brain constructs narratives when reliving memories. Noisy and bright, hot and dense, challenging and catchy, Endless Summer slices up sound the way we slice up experience, rescuing the remnants of sunny, sweaty seasons. --Marc Masters

25. Madvillian
Madvilliany
[Stones Throw; 2004]

As individuals and in collaboration with other artists, MF Doom and Madlib have each been responsible for tons of great, grimy underground hip-hop. Even still, Madvillainy was a lightning-in-a-bottle moment, a preternaturally perfect pairing of like-minded talents who somehow managed amidst mountains of pot smoke to submit a brilliantly whole-cloth work of surrealistic shit-talk and superhero fantasia. Madvillainy is famously brief, and to compensate Madlib crams his woozily bass-heavy, key-laden tracks full of off-the-wall samples (Frank Zappa, Steve Reich) and movie snippets, while Doom tirelessly unravels verse after verse of wildly discursive, hallucinatorily vivid, insanely quotable lyrics. There's little reason to suspect Madvillainy won't make good on its promise to serve as "the components which have fueled nightmares for decades to come." --Joshua Love

24. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Fever to Tell
[Interscope; 2003]

Watching the Yeah Yeah Yeahs make their wobbly-but-determined ascent up the pop-cultural stepladder was one of the more heartwarming success stories of the young decade. When their EP hit, the YYYs seemed the definition of a scenester's band-- gawky Brooklyn-via-Oberlin art-fucks with a silly name, some catchy tunes, and a frontwoman who poured beer all over herself onstage and yowled profanities like Wendy O. Williams's kid sister. Their expiration date felt nigh not long after Julian Casablancas wore a prominent Yeah Yeah Yeahs button onstage with the Strokes. But then, something else happened: they began growing, in wild, uncertain spurts, right in front of our eyes. Fever to Tell, their Interscope debut, was their hip thrust into the mainstream, an attitudinal blast of the shouts, squiggles, chants, and spiny rhythms that they rode to Internet semi-notoriety. And it's highlighted by "Maps", the most affecting rock ballad of the decade. With one open-hearted plea-- "Wait-- they don't love you like I love you"-- we were given our first glimpse of Karen O's heart, as well as her flowering ambition to one day be "bigger than the sound." --Jayson Greene

23. Broken Social Scene
You Forgot It in People
[Arts & Crafts/Paper Bag; 2002]

"I was scared to see if people were going to embrace the idea of a whole shitload of sounds on one album," said Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew a couple months after You Forgot It In People first let out its sprawl in October 2002. By that point, file-sharing had revealed the Internet's infinite library of sounds and iPods turned strictly organized 500 CD towers into bits of shuffle-ready randomness. So the Ultimate Indie Rock Mixtape vibe of the Toronto group's breakthrough LP most definitely helped its collective cause and conveniently mirrored the splintering culture that birthed it. While any band could attempt an album full of unexpected genre jumps, few could make it sound like a complete thought; from epic post-rock ("KC Accidental") to woolly bossa nova ("Looks Just Like the Sun") to pitch-shifting balladry ("Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl"), the record plays like an all-star team that's actually trying to win the game instead of merely preening. --Ryan Dombal

22. M.I.A.
Kala
[XL/Interscope; 2007]

A thousand blog posts couldn't achieve what one well-picked soundtrack did: M.I.A's a star. Listening back to Kala it seems just a trick of history that she wasn't already-- surely our memories deceive us, and "Boyz" was 2007's summer jam, just like "Jimmy" ruled that spring with its Bollywood disco vamps? But for every fantasy pop triumph on Kala, there's a hidden door or three. "Paper Planes"' lyrics are a better pointer than its lilt: Most of the album is a similar road trip through world town, a shanty planet M.I.A. both represents and packages for her tourist audience. There's no contradiction-- the hustle is the world.
Other voices break through her sales patter-- the heartbreaking kid gang on "Mango Pickle Down River", the deadpan MC Afrikan Boy on "Hussel", Timbaland playing the smug first-worlder on "Come Around". But from "Bamboo Banga"'s "strike match, light fire" promise on, it's M.I.A.'s own vision, charisma, and ear for a killer slogan that drives the record. Since she emerged, she's been criticized as an art-school fraud, but as she reminds us over "Bird Flu"'s henhouse apocalypse, "credentials are boring." In the territories she's mapping authenticity is a trap, and her skill at baiting and escaping it is what makes Kala so intoxicating. --Tom Ewing

21. Radiohead
In Rainbows
[self-released/ATO; 2007]

Are we far enough removed from In Rainbows that we can finally start arguing about how it compares to Radiohead's other albums? If so, I'll get us started with something vaguely controversial: I actually think it might be their best. Better than OK Computer, better than Kid A. My reasoning for this is based partly on anecdotal evidence that mostly involves friends who have historically not cared one iota all casually marveling about how good it is. It also considers my nagging suspicion that our tireless and self-conscious canonization of OKC and Kid A have undone some of their magic; when I listen to those records now, I hear our own projections and cultural ghosts just as loudly as I hear the music. In Rainbows, though, remains a shiny, untroubled thing, an architectural marvel with requisite balances between light/dark, simple/complicated and utilitarian/vanguard intact. I still listen to it all the time, occasionally even on Sunday mornings. Some people are now Radiohead fans because of it. --Mark Pytlik

20. Interpol
Turn on the Bright Lights
[Matador; 2002]

Interpol's 2002 debut has been slighted as being strictly a matter of a specific time and place. The band was quickly saddled with Joy Division comparisons, but its stormy, romantic rock was one of the decade's sharpest distillations of that common post-punk influence. At its best, Turn on the Bright Lights has the power and pull-- and the requisite dryness and ennui-- of Television's "Venus" or the work of early-70s Lou Reed. And so it was, and is, about its time and place: downtown New York recomposed in Giuliani's wake, proud of its rough history and ever skeptical of its future. This album exudes gritty glamor, careless pride, and that special sad lament of twentysomethings who have nothing to be sad about and everything to look forward to in life. "You've supported me for a long time/ Somehow I'm not impressed," Paul Banks sings on "NYC". Surely boys, you owe the city more than that. --Patrick Sisson

19. Spoon
Kill the Moonlight
[Merge; 2002]

Normally when rock bands enter a "using-the-studio-as-an-instrument" phase, their songs get overworked and overblown, but Spoon moved in the opposite direction, opting for a rhythm-centric economy of sound akin to what Prince achieved on hits like "Kiss" and "When Doves Cry". Every cut on Kill the Moonlight is stripped to its most essential elements, lending pop songs like "The Way We Get By" and "Jonathon Fisk" a bold, uncluttered urgency, while atmospheric numbers such as "Paper Tiger" and "Stay Don't Go" come across like loose gestural sketches rendered by the purposeful hand of a master craftsman. The arrangements may be spartan, but the production is rich in detail, with sleek textures scuffed just enough to seem lived-in, and painterly keyboard tones that evoke vivid nighttime imagery. Despite the brilliance of the production, the music is ultimately successful due to Britt Daniel's sexy rasp, which grounds even the most cerebral moments in the offhand intensity of his raw, immediate passion. --Matthew Perpetua

18. Kanye West
Late Registration
[Roc-A-Fella; 2005]

Kanye, you jerk. Late Registration? Perfect. Even in its unruly sprawl. The last time you really seemed to bother to push yourself. To give us over-stuffed, unashamedly contradictory, all-of-you-and-more art that lived up to your autodidact genius entitlement shtick. It arrived at precisely the right time, too, more or less a year after the intriguing if uneven The College Dropout said you'd be someone to fear if you could ever curb the hype-mongering to bear down in the studio. It mixed world-conquering pop crassness ("Gold Digger", "Diamonds From Sierra Leone", a friggin' guest spot from Adam "Maroon 5" Levine for chrissakes) with some of the harmonically oddest hip-hop in the genre's history (the drunken reverb on the guitars on "Addiction", the sly, conversational bounce of the strings on "Gone"). Even the throwaways were musically rich: Has any hip-hop track as slight as "We Major" bothered with such an opulent arrangement? You blurred social comment (some of it admittedly a little entry-level) into the enjoyable party-hound doggerel and shouts to mama and grandma. We all know that you're selling yourself short until you ditch the solipsism shoved through Auto-Tune and bother crafting a true follow-up to this album. --Jess Harvell

17. LCD Soundsystem
Sound of Silver
[EMI/DFA; 2007]

What musty FM rock radio pixie dust did James Murphy scatter over Sound of Silver to make it feel so instantaneously like a classic? Here's a theory: It's an occupational hazard of dance music journalism that every so often you laud a record for sounding future-forward only to realize a few years later that your compass was way broke. So maybe a huge part of the overwhelming critical confidence in Sound of Silver had to do with the fact that it wasn't trading in new untested sounds as much as it was confidently updating a pastiche of the proven past. David Bowie? Check. David Byrne? Check. Brian Eno? Check plus. Combined with Sound of Silver's inspired songwriting and production, the easy familiarity of those touchpoints gave us something that was easy to immediately absorb and consequently mobilize behind. A dance-rock record from a former punk agnostic, this hybrid of 1970s art-rock and more traditional dance elements conspired for one of the only truly great dance albums of the decade. Simple, right? Ha! Guaranteed that producers all over the world are still shaking their fists in Murphy's general direction for making it seem this damn easy. --Mark Pytlik

16. Sufjan Stevens
Illinois
[Asthmatic Kitty; 2005]

When Illinois and Late Registration placed #1 and #2 in Pitchfork's Top Albums of 2005 list, some took it as symbolic, a situation in which a hip-hop record that catered to every single rockist habit in the book still played runner-up to our precious lily-livered indie rock. But they're a hell of a lot closer than they look: each a staggeringly ambitious, lushly orchestrated big-top extravaganza whose ringleader mixes in frivolous tall tales and Chicago civic pride with heavy meditations on God, mortality, and love, all to suffer criticisms about too many tracks, too many interludes, and too many French horns.
No one's gonna confuse "John Wayne Gacy" with, like, "Drive Slow", but this sort of context is a helpful reminder that while there might be a discrepancy between these two in terms of ego, it ain't by that much. Though Stevens hasn't done much since to counter his image of a banjo-toting Cub Scout, Illinois is a record that took a massive amount of cojones to pull off, taking the framework of the Michigan album that Stevens seemed placed on this earth to make and then blowing it up in every way possible. But while Illinois is ultimately a testament to Stevens' sky-high confidence in his compositional and lyrical sophistication, it's also a record that's almost completely non-autobiographical. Stevens' self-confidence manifests itself in having enough belief in his own voice to tell everyone else's story-- all geographical namedrops aside, Illinois could've been relocated anywhere and it would still be nothing short of universal. --Ian Cohen

15. The Knife
Silent Shout
[Mute/Rabid; 2006]

The amazing thing about Silent Shout is how whole it feels-- the way it summons up every weird gift this Swedish brother/sister duo's been blessed with and puts it in the service of a sound so astonishingly complete and coherent. (So complete, in fact, that it becomes resistant to explanation: You can describe its attributes, but at some point it just sort of is.) So: There's the percussive clang of the rhythms. There's the way the synth arpeggios shudder and swell ominously in and out, like surf against rocks at night. There's Karin Dreijer Andersson's otherworldly voice, which gets stretched in every direction, distorted and detuned until the "real" Karin can keen against demonically low doppelgangers and creepily high doll versions. But somewhere within that, there's just multitudes more: fairy-tale creepiness, waltzes for ghosts, icy energy, stories, elegance, rage, gender critiques, forests, politics, wit, jokes, families, children, Volvo employees, The Godfather. It feels pretty colossal. There are certain aesthetics so whole and singular that we use them as shorthand to refer to other things-- stuff can be Lynchian, Dickensian, Pynchonesque. Repeated exposure to this record makes it tempting to start describing things-- say, a bird of prey circling an ice-covered lighthouse-- as Silent Shout-ian. --Nitsuh Abebe

14. Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavillion
[Domino; 2009]

At its core, Merriweather Post Pavilion is very ordinary. The lyrics read like stuff you'd talk about around the grill. Even that UFO at the start of the disc sounds like its drain got clogged. But on their strongest and-- not coincidentally-- most accessible album to date, celebrating the everyday is the point. High-pitched electronics heighten alertness. Every detail of the daily routine brings joy. The lover you dream about is the one at home. And making that home is the thing that makes life amazing.
The hominess may be a departure from their early tribal adventures, but it's a natural one. The 00s didn't hurt for talented and idiosyncratic artists striving to make their mark against the generations of records they'd inherited. If Animal Collective outpaced the rest, it's because they pulled their experiments toward the center-- not just by easing the rhythms to an everyday heartbeat, or by penning ever-warmer melodies, but by celebrating the most common connections between human beings. The wrenching confusion and stabs of ecstasy have never been more intense, now that the backstory's so banal. The masked, pseudonymous Collective may still be in a tribe, but the tribe they've joined is our own. --Chris Dahlen

13. OutKast
Stankonia
[La Face; 2000]

Look back at the cover of Idlewild. Not the split-screen, we're-still-a-team version but the original with André 3000 in the foreground, staring intently at sheet music above an antique piano. Then there's Big Boi, deep in the recess, pimp suit on, mic in hand, ready to rap, shrugging in frustration as if to say, "What the hell are we doing here?" Never did they seem so far apart, and it's one of the great disappointments of the decade that OutKast, once America's most promising pop group, have effectively stopped making music together. Still, Stankonia remains. The sprawling LP, as weird and futuristic as mainstream hip-hop gets, finds the duo managing a delicate balance between its two very distinct personas. They drew you in with sugary sweet, ladies-first jams like "Ms. Jackson" and "I'll Call Before I Come" only to invite Killer Mike to spit vulgarities like "Need her to gobble up jism like school lunches" on the violent "Snappin' & Trappin'". Vehemently anti-flossing one minute ("Red Velvet"), they sounded hard as nails the next on "Gangsta Shit". The tightrope act must have drained them, but one thing seems obvious listening to Stankonia now: OutKast need each other as much as we need them. --Joe Colly

12. The White Stripes
White Blood Cells
[Sympathy for the Record Industry; 2001]

An aspiring young journalist once said to me that the Strokes were our Beatles and the White Stripes our Rolling Stones. If you'll forgive the reductive nature of the comment, she may have had things backward. Jack and Meg White hit like an adrenaline shot to the chest when they released their third album-- mostly because the mainstream media found a peg with the band's Michel Gondry-directed Lego-to-life video for "Fell in Love With a Girl". But lo and behold, the band just happened to be arriving at a creative peak at the same time, transmogrifying the scuzzed, tensile garage rock of their first two underrated albums into pop pandemonium. And they were fortunate to exploit their truly strange, typically inspired shenanigans to the press. Siblings, lovers, friends-- it ultimately didn't matter. WBC is still their best album because it is so amazingly true to their ethos-- no bass, no overdubs, no bullshit-- but also because it so merrily dances between fire and flowers. There is an almost impossible transition from the dark, haunted "The Union Forever", with its "no true love" caterwaul, to the big-hearted weeper "The Same Boy You've Always Known". Maybe Beatles proclamations are a bit overenthusiastic. But what's wrong with a little ambition? --Sean Fennessey

11. Ghostface Killah
Supreme Clientele
[Sony; 2000]

In 1997, Wu-Tang Forever was released. A mere two years later, thanks to ill-fated tours, internal squabbling, and a run of mostly regrettable solo albums, the Clan entered the new century with almost no momentum. If Ghostface Killah hadn't been incarcerated in Rikers Island during that span, Supreme Clientele might've come out in 1999, but its release in the decade's first month provided an unexpected millennial rebirth, singlehandedly restoring Wu Tang's mysterious artistic vitality and positioning Tony Starks as hip-hop's most consistently astonishing and confounding lyricist.
When it first hit, new possibilities in language emerged with a topical breadth that's become Supreme Clientele's most underrated aspect. Rap definitely got weirder, but you weren't getting a straight-up party rhyme like "Cherchez La Ghost" on an Anticon disc; on an El-P record, "Child's Play" becomes "Stepfather Factory"; and whatever you want to call the indelible character sketch of "Malcolm" ("He eat hams, shitted on his self twice/ Big-hatted Jews rushed a nigga out in Crown Heights"), nobody was on that level. --Ian Cohen

10. The Avalanches
Since I Left You
[Modular/Interscope; 2000]

Here's a curious album: It's constructed like a hip-hop record, it flows with the momentum of a great dance mix, but its component parts seem to come from strange places-- musical soundtracks, oddball comedy routines, and easy-listening thrift-store pop from the 60s and 70s. It skirts cheese but hits the pleasure center of the music-geek brain dead-on, blurring lines we never knew existed: sunny lite-soul congeals into the surrealist coda from a John Cale song, flashes of Camp Lo and De La Soul mutter hooks over some unseemly alternate-reality disco, and a gothic choir gets chopped up and modulated to provide the wordless vocals of a funk jam that, as it turns out, is sourced from an especially dirty Blowfly single. Non sequiturs spring up even as all the musical patches hide their seams; "Frontier Psychiatrist" alone has enough bewildering decontextualized soundbites to count as some kind of deranged dada exercise ("And tighten your buttocks/ Pour juice on your chin/ And I promised my girlfriend I'd get/ A violin"). But Since I Left You isn't just a well-built assemblage of sample-based plunderphonics, it's a masterpiece of mood-setting that riffs off an ideal where getting on an airplane and landing in another corner of the world was the most exotic thing a person could do. It's like a travelogue put through a Steinski filter, an escape to a world so new: "Get a drink, have a good time now, welcome to paradise." --Nate Patrin

09. Panda Bear
Person Pitch
[Paw Tracks; 2007]

Person Pitch is the third solo album from Noah Lennox, yet it seems difficult to take measure of the album except as it relates to his regular work as a member of Animal Collective. (This is partially because Person Pitch was the first AC-related album to really lure some of their more skeptical listeners into the tent.) In many ways, the album seems the most succinct possible distillation of exactly what qualities Lennox brings to the Collective's kaleidoscopic mix. And it certainly doesn't hurt Person Pitch's cause that those very qualities-- the beatific melodies, the multi-tracked choral vocals, and the general head-in-the-clouds drift-- tend to be the most immediately appealing draws of the AC universe.
The premise for Person Pitch is fairly simple-- take the production techniques and repetition of minimal techno and apply them to what might otherwise be relatively straightforward dreamy guitar pop. In Lennox's hands, however, this basic template becomes a pathway for sublime invention, as his layered loops of acoustic guitar, overlapping voices, and stray sound effects encircle his songs like halos of sunlight. The album balances widescale epics "Bro's" and "Good Girl/Carrots" with such irresistible short pieces as "Ponytail" and the radiant "I'm Not", resulting in a cohesive whole that is lean, symmetrical, and filled with a continual abundance of fresh surprises and discoveries. --Matthew Murphy

08. Sigur Rós
Ágætis Byrjun
[Smekkleysa; 2000]

They came from Iceland and Radiohead liked them. That's about all we knew back when Ágætis Byrjun first starting making its way around near the turn of the decade, but in those days, that was enough to get people intrigued. Discovering the music of Sigur Rós was an active process, because a series of questions inevitably followed: How do you pronounce their name? What does it mean? Is that a man or a woman singing? Did I hear right, that the words aren't actually in any language? Indeed, since Ágætis Byrjun was one of those records that filled a deep-seated need listeners didn't even know they had, experiencing it was at first a little confusing. Punk had taught us to be skeptical of pure, unapologetic prettiness, so as underground music fans, we'd been conditioned to reject this sort of thing. We were used to it being cut with noise, irony, or emotional distance, which left us unprepared for exquisitely crafted music that asked to be appreciated in the same way as a bright orange sunset or the first snowfall of the season. But we got over it, and once that happened, after we'd given the record a couple of spins, one final question came to mind: Is there any other music like this? --Mark Richardson

07. The Strokes
Is This It
[RCA; 2001]

The Strokes helped to keep alive the romantic notion of pre-Giuliani New York, before the Lower East Side became an amusement park and Times Square became Disneyland. At the time, these guys were naïve enough (and good-looking enough) to firmly believe they were the best band in the world; and for a moment, it actually came true. Is This It is a time capsule of that youthful bravado and it would probably sound quaint if the songs weren't so amazing. Never mind that Julian Casablancas' detached vocals presaged a good percentage of the music that came out this year-- listen to the effortlessness with which the band brings tracks like "Barely Legal" to life, literally laughing during "When It Started" because it sounds so damn easy. Part of that was skill, part of it was innocence. These days, even the Strokes know they'll never make another record this good. That's not to say they couldn't come close, but nearly a decade later, we're all seasoned enough to recognize you only capture this kind of a lightning in a bottle once. --Joe Colly

06. Modest Mouse
The Moon & Antarctica
[Epic; 2000]

The Moon & Antarctica is easily Modest Mouse's most ambitious album, a staggering leap in vision and scope from their previous records and a completely self-contained universe. Frontman Isaac Brock's worldview had always made room for a fair amount of existential loneliness and drugged madness, but from the opening moments of "3rd Planet", all of those elements suddenly cohered into something serenely whole. It's as if the garbled transmission he'd been receiving from parts unknown his whole life suddenly beamed in clear, and in three minutes, he spins out a creation myth so bewildering and uncanny that we're still trying to parse it nine years later. Brock manages to channel this unearthly perspective for an entire album, and everything old, under this gaze, is rendered new and freshly strange: stars become projectors, lives end but no one ever completes them, someone smart says nothing at all. Even Brock's trademark scathing insults turned trippy: "You were the dull sound of sharp math when you were alive/ No one's gonna play the harp when you die," he mutters in "Lives". If there's a way into that statement, I haven't found it yet, but it's hard not to sense a rare wisdom encrypted in its code. --Jayson Greene

05. Jay-Z
The Blueprint
[Roc-A-Fella; 2001]

When it comes to prophetic hip-hop album titles, Ready to Die was the most tragically accurate of the 1990s. This decade, The Blueprint was rap's supreme soothsayer: a grand layout too enamored with life to entertain fatalism. Without it, Kanye West may have never gotten out of his mom's basement. Nas' "Made You Look" probably wouldn't exist. And Jay-Z may have become another aged-out rap casualty, gasping for relevance in a realm where 30 may as well be 60.
When the album wasn't mastering tried-and-true hip-hop tropes like the diss track ("Takeover"), the player's anthem ("Girls, Girls, Girls"), and the puffy-eyed ballad ("Song Cry"), it perfected a lush, sample-based aesthetic that didn't rip-off Al Green, David Ruffin, and Bobby Byrd as much as it paid homage. Just as The Chronic revived 70s funk, The Blueprint brushed off 70s soul for fresh ears. And at the center is Shawn Carter, then 31, who supposedly recorded the bulk of the record's vocals in a near-divine two-day, paperless outpour. Reasonable Doubt may be more complex and The Black Album more personal, but Jay's Blueprint persona is the one that will match his legacy-- towering, effortless, and as eternal as its 12-minute finale. "If I ain't better than Big, I'm the closest one," he claimed-- a controversial line at the time. In 2009, the sentiment seems quaint, if a bit modest. --Ryan Dombal

04. Wilco
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
[Nonesuch; 2002]

Jeff Tweedy had allegedly been boning up on World War II while he wrote many of the songs that would become Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, an all too fitting lead-up to Wilco's well-documented battles with the record industry as well as within the band itself. Touring behind an album still weeks away from official release, Tweedy would often pause to ask how many people in the crowd had downloaded the new Wilco record, and if the substantial show of hands wasn't answer enough, the folks singing along to every word only amplified the extent to which the disc had made the rounds. More importantly, it was making new fans, too, as burned copies of YHF were passed around like totems with the band's tacit blessing. But the historic, narrative-defining leak of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was only part of the story. The real story was the resonance of elliptical songs like "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart", "Ashes of American Flags", and "Jesus, Etc.", which often reduced crowds to hushed silence once 9/11 attached a real world frame to Tweedy's cryptic lyrics. Given the general hoopla surrounding the supposedly "experimental" turn the former alt-country standard bearers were taking, the album itself is a relatively austere work, the subtle sonic tweaks (courtesy of Tweedy's late collaborator Jay Bennett, with an assist from Jim O'Rourke) complementary rather than distracting, adding an extra layer of enticing mystery to the band's most unlikely breakthrough. --Joshua Klein

03. Daft Punk
Discovery
[Virgin; 2001]

Daft Punk's first album had helped refresh house music in the mid 1990s; the second went further, rewriting electronic pop's pleasure principles to such a degree that when it came out a lot of people thought Discovery must be a put-on. They took the joy in the record for irony. Rather, the band had simply plunged into the raw popstuff of their 70s childhoods, from AOR to disco, Buggles to Manilow, rock to robotics. They wanted their listeners to get the rush of context-free delight they had hearing music as kids, and on "Aerodynamic" and "Digital Love" they succeeded wildly, dissolving a decade-plus of dance music good taste. And not all of Discovery looked back. The middle of the album is house music as string theory, with the duo finding dimensions of pleasure coiled within the tiniest loops: "Crescendolls" releases an awesome, gleeful energy by repeatedly triggering one five-second sample.
Discovery was simply the decade's best good-times record, with Daft Punk as pyramid-toting party wizards and the chipmunk Kraftwerk of "Harder Better Faster Stronger" their anthem. But this most celebratory of records has a bittersweet streak, too: Daft Punk know that a rush always carries the risk of exhaustion. Perhaps the album's most underappreciated track is the sad but gorgeous "Short Circuit", a three-minute robot graveyard of crumbled transistors and dying LEDs. But from Romanthony's first blissful, vocoded shout of "one more time!" the dominant emotion on Discovery is joy. A joy that wasn't afraid to be sentimental and funny as well as hard and futuristic, and is all the better for that. When a generation looks back and tries to catch a fuzzy hold of the music that made them happy this decade, Daft Punk's will be top of the list. --Tom Ewing

02. Arcade Fire
Funeral
[Merge; 2004]

Will there ever be another album like Funeral? Sounds silly considering the second half of this decade has seen plenty of bands establish nice careers by ripping off the communal euphoria that Arcade Fire made fresh after four years of rock records that boasted metropolitan chic, emotional austerity, or lyrical removal-- the music was amazing, but it was all kind of a downer. It's debatable that Funeral itself is even original-- considering they share a label, love of archaic brass and string instruments, and an undeniable ability to wring life affirmation in the face of personal tragedy, it might just be a crossover version of Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.
But besides being a turning point for indie rock, Funeral was one for the indie community as well. Whether it's due to increasingly fractious listening habits or the increased ability for dissenters to be heard, Funeral keeps on feeling like the last of its kind, an indie record that sounded capable of conquering the universe and then going on to do just that. The consensus hyperbole that met Funeral resulted in any record that threatened to reach that level becoming met with severe scrutiny or even outright derision. And still, we wonder if there will ever be anything quite like Funeral-- something tells me that as music becomes even more readily available to us in the next decade, we'll still go through it all in the hopes we can find something with the unifying force and astounding emotional payload that only albums like Funeral can provide. --Ian Cohen

01. Radiohead
Kid A
[Capitol; 2000]

Nine years ago this month, Brent DiCrescenzo reviewed Radiohead's Kid A for this website. As far as its rating, no one blinked. Pitchfork was still a blip then, but if you cared at all about the broad sphere of music that included Radiohead, chances are that you heard something very special in Kid A. It was that exceptional artifact of modern culture-- something about which most people could agree. To ears that'd had the second half the 1990s to ingest the rapid developments in electronic music, ears weary of the bankruptcy of post-Nirvana alternative rock, Kid A sounded like a next development in rock music that was both logical and surprising. And, of course, a lot has been written about this record since. "What's left to be said about Kid A?", Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber wondered when we published our Top 20 Albums of 2000 list. Good question.
First, I go back to the old reasons, the ones that were kicked around from the moment the record hit: Thoughts about millennial techno-dread; fragmentation, broken transmissions, garbled communication; the feeling of helplessness that comes from having access to so much information about the world while not having the power to change any of it; the subtle and dramatic ways that electronics are altering our landscape and our consciousness. And there's still something there, though in some ways it's all now more intense. Part of our brains moved online in the last 10 years, and this will continue; it's not a good or bad thing; it's just the way it is. Refracting these developments through the prism of Kid A, it still resonates, even if so much has changed since. Radiohead were not only among the first bands to figure out how to use the Internet, but to make their music sound like it, and they kicked off this ridiculously retro decade with the rare album that didn't seem retro. Kid A-- with its gorgeously crafted electronics, sparkling production, and uneasy stance toward the technology it embraces completely-- feels like the Big Album of the online age.
But you know what? I almost never think about that stuff. It all feels true, of course, but when I slide Kid A into the CD player (how's that for a retro image?), something else happens. Once that drawer closes and the first chords of "Everything in Its Right Place" start-- those haunting, clicking keyboard textures and Thom Yorke's warped voice-- all these other ideas feel secondary. Instead, I get lost in the dissonant horn blasts of "The National Anthem" and hypnotized between the play of the drones and the hissy beats in "Idioteque"; I feel the deep pang of yearning and sadness with the title track, and I rest during the gorgeous Brian Eno-like interlude of "Treefingers". I'm listening to a brilliant album by an especially creative rock band functioning at its peak. Such records have strong melodies, exciting chord changes, unexpected arrangements, and tricky rhythms that you want to hear over and over again. Songs. Kid A has those, too. Ten of them, all great, here, in this order, working together perfectly. For a record with so much baggage and such a reputation for density, the appeal, in the end, is pretty simple: Other records were catchier or better for dancing or more appealingly nostalgic. But no other record captured the complex feeling of the era in such an elegant and beautiful way. --Mark Richardson

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