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“Dolby’s Top 100 Albums of the 2000’s (Decade)”

* “Tall buildings shake
Voices escape singing sad sad songs
Tuned to chords
Strummed down your strings
Bitter melodies
Turning your orbit around”
– Wilco

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100 Hot Chip – The Warning
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One thing you have to say about Hot Chip is that, along with being embedded in electro’s prime having an accompanying pop knack, also toting an uncanny ability to make the SMALL moments matter in songs — the head-knocking moog in “Tchaparian,” the beautiful pause in percussion in the chorus of “And I Was a Boy from School,” while all the time dictating the mood with the necessary undeniable E.D.M. muscle.
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99 GZA – Legend of the Liquid Sword
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Legend of the Liquid Sword is often the subject of mockery for being so similarly titled to the emcee’s 1995 album Liquid Swords; one thing of note about it is that it was released during the running of Chapelle’s Show and at that earned the rapper an invite onto the show to perform. Yeah, let’s see Key and Peele do THAT. Oh yeah, this blurb was supposed to about GZA — well Streetlife might have the best verse on the album anyway, on “Silent.”
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98 Modest Mouse – Good News for People Who Love Bad News
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One thing I remember about the CD for this album is that it was bright fu**in’ PINK: basically everything about it was ugly, including the vocals, instruments and all the songs, and I used to hang out with this girl who had a poster up of it in her bedroom — she was cold and sarcastic, prone to a biting sense of humor and caustic remarks about others and the world. Well, clearly some things passed her test.
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97 Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American
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Per the general requisite for mainstream rock, in this or other times, Jimmy Eat World take themselves very, very, very seriously (actually they’ve probably gotten more lenient about this for 2012’s precocious return to form Damage, et. al.), so it’s good that we do at least seem to get some sacrificial wisdom out of the deal (“A song for a heart so big / God wouldn’t let it live”), as well as some classic songs (“Sweetness”; “Get it Faster”).
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96 A.C. Newman – Get Guilty
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If you read my review of the new New Pornographers album this year on this blog, you witnessed me hemming and hawing about how great A.C. Newman albums are… well they are, so consistent that on both Get Guilty and its diamond-sharp predecessor The Slow Wonder, TRACK NINE commonly makes an impression. In this case, it’s “Elemental,” and the zen-informed stanza “Made my way through to the West Side for you / Not because I wanted to”.
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95 Broadcast – Tender Buttons
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In a slew of great albums from England’s poppiest arbiters of futuristic electronica, Tender Buttons brought up the 2005 rear and found the band even MORE pop-minded and what’s more lyrically gifted, at one point citing “Awkwardness happening to someone you love”.
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94 Jay-Z – The Black Album
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As usual here with Jay-Z, his greatest gift is his hubris, but at least he hasn’t just turned downright psychotic and violent yet at this point in his career, in fact actually strongholding a defendant’s correct plaint to a nosy cop, also sending out a nice, unifying anthem in “Dirt off Your Shoulders.” The Black Album seemed to be where Hova’s excessive sexual content seemed to ebb for just long enough to let his audiences, albeit briefly, revel in his knack for the cultural anthem.
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93 Grizzly Bear – Yellow House
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It’s rare anymore that you hear the term “creepy” in the positive sense, but it would be hard to pinpoint a more spot-on descriptor for these indie-folk songs which are as haunting as an old, empty house, and seem to know no meter, let alone genre.
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92 Aloha – Here Comes Everyone
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An old favorite here, Here Comes Everyone is a benchmark exemplar in pop songwriting from a band out of Pittsburgh — a place where, I’d imagine, there’s much impetus to create beauty out of the concrete. “Boys in the Bathtub,” “Water Your Hands” and “We Belong Here” are highlights.
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91 Califone – Roomsound
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When I listen to Roomsound today I tend to find the amalgamation of sounds just a tad bit shrill and swarthy (it’s definitely not their COOLEST album, so to speak, indulging unabashedly in a strict Americana m.o. of twangy guitar upon twangy guitar — but the songs, when they’re there (“Fisherman’s Wife”; “Bottles and Bones (Shade and Sympathy)”; “Slow Rt. Hand”) are memorable enough to more than justify toting this puppy in your saddle cock.
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90 Head Automatica – Popaganda
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As listenable as the Beatles? No way. It’s MORE listenable and here’s why: production. Head Automatica, perhaps because they’re a New York band of rowdy rockers, have always seemed to have the best guy behind the knobs, whether it’s Deltron 3030’s Dan the Automator or in this case, Howard Benson, who melts all of the sounds together beautifully for something that very much resembles Weezer on caffeine/crack.
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89 Broken Social Scene – You Forgot it in People
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You know, for how otherworldly BSS can seem at times, in a way it’s hard to decide what to write about them, because they’re also really normal in many regards — this being particularly the case seeing as by this time in music we’d fully imbibed all the crazy histrionics of Radiohead. When I first heard this album I remember thinking, wow, it’s got a couple really great pop songs, and that’s exactly how I feel to this day — it’s got a couple really great pop songs.
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88 The New Pornographers – Electric Version
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What are the HIGHLIGHTS in a lily pond? That’s what it feels questioning as I assess this album, which is crazy since it’s not even the highest-ranking Carl Newman work on this list. When these guys were on on these sessions, i.e. “July Jones,” it would materialize into some of the band’s most chipper pop bliss to date.
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87 Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
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By the time Merriweather Post Pavilion came out in ’09, I was a full-fledged Animal Collective fan, but boy did it take me a while (this effort being way, way more palatable than ’07’s slightly grating, slightly just androgynous and bizarre Strawberry Jam), and indeed I did and still do meet people who dislike them… it’s like, have you HEARD “Bluish”?
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86 Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
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For whatever reason, bizarrely, this album took me a while to get into — basically it seemed just so much the SAME as their prior work (with ephemeral poignance, it does feature a song called “Rhthm and Soul” to Gimme Fiction’s “Merchants of Soul”)… actually I had the same problem with The Gaslight Anthem on both American Slang and Handwritten. Sometimes creation is just like that — more mortar-and-pestle than we’d ever imagined.
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85 Beck – The Information
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I am a HIP-HOP fan, through and through, so when I PERSONALLY heard Beck’s husky, rasping flow on The Information opener “Elevator Music” for the first time I was gettin’ DOWN. Now, over time this material does emerge as a SLIGHT descent in the FEELING department, as compared with say Odelay and Mutations… maybe at this time I just figured if an album comes out and I’m not totally appalled then it’s a little moral victory. The last three songs on this collection happen to be awesome, by the way, at least until that sketchy spoken-word part comes in on “The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton.”
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84 Liars – Liars
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There’s no other way to say it — this album is like a fu**ing rock to the head of uncompromising, relentless guitar and drum YAWPS, made all the more amazing for how it came out only 16 months or so after the trippy intervention into tribal mystery that was Drum’s Not Dead. Here we’re back to lawn mower rock and roll, ever glad to crank up the speed and volume for some beer-swigging times.
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83 The Roots – Rising down
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It’s been a startling nine years, as I post this list, since The Roots shocked us with Rising down, and they have not made a better album since — this LP is a visceral journey to the end of the night with words like “Now I’m in the black Impala / Lookin’ for the dollar sign” and “Sadistic ballistic / Find a word and pick it / Long as it means / The world is on my sh** list”… Mos Def also graces us with his articulate, beleaguered yet rarified presence on the titled track.
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82 Califone – Quicksand/Cradlesnakes
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Quicksand/Cradlesnakes opens with one of my favorite quotes in the history of rock music: “Braid your sins into its mane / And kick it to the county line / Shake your change cold and loose / There’s nothin’ safe in your stars / In and out of sleep / Even with the rise and fall”. Indeed, it’s hard to even musically improve upon it, and Califone waveringly at best act as if they event want to, doodling along in a very American form on “Million Dollar Funeral” and “Mean Little Seed,” before “Vampiring Again” sublimely sends things off into the night, roughly Wilco-style, more or less.
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81 Wilco – A Ghost is Born
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I’ve heard A Ghost is Born have its detractors: one thing you have to realize is that Jeff Tweedy’s guitar solo technique on the first two tracks became VERY chic in indie rock, most notably adopted, to a tee, by Spoon’s Britt Daniel for their very next album Gimme Fiction (“The Beast and Dragon Adored,” opener). And then after the first two, every song is pretty-much mind-blowing, especially that little 11-minute jaunt known as “Spiders (Kidsmoke).” It’s like, did that just HAPPEN?
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80 Black Mountain – Black Mountain
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In 2004, people might have doubted indie rock’s overall firepower as a school of thought, if not zeitgeist at large. By 2005, this thing was a full-armed beast, and Black Mountain God love ‘em was easily the most ZEP-influenced of the lot, belting out riffy goth madness of “Don’t Run Our Hearts around” and then “Druganaut,” which… if it was any more Zep we’d have to check backstage for 13-year-old girls.
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79 No Age – Nouns
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Enter… PITCHFORK… the great obliterator of any objectivity in the endeavor of judging an album. Well, at least I have “Things I Did When I Was Dead,” a haunting little midtempo-psychedelic break from the breakneck caterwaul, all complete with a syncopated rhythm and some riffs constantly eschewing of the chords… not to call these guys MUSIC THEORISTS OR ANYTHING — they’re definitely not, nor would they probably want that. “Sleeper Hold” is another personal favorite blistering rocker.
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78 Battles – Mirrored
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Like Man or Astroman’s A Spectrum of Infinite Scale, Mirrored is futuristic rock music — music which seems to absorb light in and of itself, meant for those living a futuristic, impossible existence with no odds or objectives whatsoever other than just remain free, remaining one, remaining oneself. “Atlas” is strangely Beatles-influenced robot-rock and “Leyendecker” is like the sound of that very robot lamenting its inability to be human.
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77 Head Automatica – Decadence
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I first encountered this album in a Hot Topic store, back when they sold CD’s… which was not only an awesome development, when you think about it, but potentiated by the fact that they also had LISTENING STATIONS and when I first heard the punk rock rancor of Decadence over the rip-tight beats of Dan the Automator I was hooked for life, probably within 20 seconds (which in a way is to say something more than music hooking you within five, allowing for some time for the songs to create themselves).
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76 Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer
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Well, they fooled me again — somehow for this followup album I didn’t even notice that the band were resorting to their old tricks, like arranging musical phrases in terms of one riff repeated three times followed by another one played just once, because… well, you just go through so much in life and this band has a way of chiming in with the absolute benchmark in timbre and phrasing combination, catering perfectly to, you guessed it, “my mathematical mind.”
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75 Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights
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As we zoom out from the ‘00s decade, I think, we start to see the shortcomings of straightahead rock (I mean it’s hard to top like The Clash and Weezer in this department), but this album should make the list for the pairing “I had seven faces / Thought I knew which one to wear” alone.
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74 A.C. Newman – The Slow Wonder
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Comparable, overall, to followup Get Guilty, in both style and level of quality, this one jumps its bones by beginning with a barrage of fresh, integrating sounds in the form of “Miracle Drug,” and things only get more poppy-posey-pertinent from there, with the coffee-and-acid combination “Secretarial” and the heartbreakingly sacrificial chord progression action of “Most of Us Prizefighters.”
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73 Beck – Guero
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It should be a testament to how much I love Beck that I constantly complain about his 2000s work, yet I ranked Guero this high on this list — it’s like I think he’s my little brother or something, I just expect so much out him. But “Girl” was just a classic song and we were just so glad he’d returned to a hip-hop m.o. involving the Dust Brothers that… nothing else in life could seem to matter.
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72 The White Stripes – Get behind Me Satan
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Ok, I went a LITTLE overboard when I ranked this album 44th of all time on http://dolbydisaster.com/?p=18104, but at that point that spirited bout of listening to “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet)” stoned was still fresher in my mind. Opener “Blue Orchid” was always pretty good… I remember this one girl amusingly saying that it reminded her of the Scissor Sisters.
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71 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – B.R.M.C.
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If I had to pinpoint the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s absolute skill, I would allot it as “distinction” — each of these songs has a distinct tempo, mood and feel, as well as a distinct set of lyrical metaphor and imagery. Sure, he’s complaining about life. That’s what rock musicians do, buoyed in their efforts if they craft a song “Awake” with a surreally crystalline chorus, sonically speaking.
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70 Ween – White Pepper
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“Zen” is sort of a concept I got a little burned out on, to be honest, living in Boulder, Colorado (they had this college there called Naropa which I believe didn’t even offer degrees, if you get my drift), but seeing as how the hippie scene somehow ingratiated itself to these New Hope, Pennsylvania greats (I don’t see it being the other way around, personally), and this tends to be THEIR favorite album, and it features the line “All this will end and begin again” yet somehow avoids sounding kittenish, well, this thing makes for a hefty tiki torch summer night anthem, you might say.
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69 Aloha – Some Echoes
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By this point, I was a full-fledged Aloha fan and a full-fledged fan of indie rock in general, and da**, it just seemed like the world was incapable of disappointing me — Aloha’s 2006 followup to the spine-tingling Here Comes Everyone is a smorgasbord in about every album department imaginable, such as stylistic variety, wealth of genre influences, texture and hooks.
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68 Radiohead – Hail to the Thief
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I’ve met multiple professed lovers of “Sail to the Moon” as well as “Backdrifters,” but strangely, not “Go to Sleep,” a crisp, tight-turning acoustic-guitar-and-band rocker which explodes into electric soloing before dissipating at the end with an eerily innocuous fade-out. Really, it’s impossible to sum up this album in one of these brief little blurbs, there’s so much it offers (“There there” is another favorite)… the reason I ranked it so low is that it tends to err unfortunately on the side of reductive guitar-rock sound.
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67 Talib Kweli – The Beautiful Struggle
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Talib Kweli sort of LOOKS like GZA from Wu-Tang and on this album, when he utters the title on a non-titled-track (the excellent “I Try”), although it’s effective, it’s not a ploy, in a sense, which is all that innovative or original. Well, there is always the fact to demarcate him that nobody really SOUNDS like this guy — this dizzying amount of vocal inflections is actually LIKE a hive full of bees in a sense, and this guy can just explode into a tone of utter ferocity whenever he wants. But then, it’s still probably not all that simple, either.
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66 Spoon – Gimme Fiction
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Ah, this is when Spoon was in the hey day of actually beginning albums with intricate, textured guitar runs, instead of big, dumb drums. I had a friend who ONLY like “Was it You?”, and by all means this was a nice little funk snippet which fades stylishly into a mesmerizing, seemingly endless jam, but at large all of these pop songs seemed genuine and refreshed from “I Turn My Camera on” to “My Mathematical Mind” to even better, the stupefying side-b tandem of “I Summon You” and “They Never Got You.”
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65 Liars – They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top
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I just came across this list of the best debut albums ever and in my nagging habit of contradiction, I felt the need to summon up my own — Velvet Underground, Fleet Foxes and Cigarettes after Sex came to mind… somehow though I never think to cite this one, probably because this band sounds so imposing, intimidating and raw that nobody hearing it would even believe it was their first album, barring some official documentation.
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64 The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
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Immediately, this debut album became a pliable masterpiece ingratiating fully to the pop canon, with exemplars in hummability like “Come Saturday” and “The Tenure Itch” and… are these guys really not British? Anyway, there’s also a song about heroin on it, dude.
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63 Mos Def – The Ecstatic
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As a hat-tipping way to follow up his own guest spot on the beginning of The Roots’ crushing saga that is Rising down, Def employs none other than the legendary Slick Rick (who once wrongfully spent a year and a half in prison then got out and wasn’t even pi**ed off), on one of the best hip-hop songs ever, “Auditorium,” about going to Iraq and ingratiating ornery natives by “kick(ing) one of my fabulous raps”.
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62 Califone – Heron King Blues
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Ok, I’m a Califone fan… they’re a LITTLE mellow, they’re a little folky and not everybody is too enthralled with them… after a while it becomes a case where if you like one of their albums you’ll like all of them, although this one does commendably boast a song with a 116-bar percussion coda (“Sawtooth Sung a Cheater’s Song”).
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61 The Dismemberment Plan – Change
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In regards to albums differing starkly in style from their predecessors, even Built to Spill’s timeless Perfect from Now on would have a hard time measuring up to 2001’s PROPOSED swan song from the Plan (though they have put out the scrappy and underrated Uncanney Valley more recently). This album doesn’t so much have songs as it does an overall, ethereal and vital ambient groove, one of the more jazz-influenced pieces of indie rock to date, but also boasting of the picturesque acoustic centerpiece “Automatic,” a paean to love washed into the waves.
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60 Cat Power – The Greatest
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To be honest, I was on a huge Cat Power kick back in the ‘00s, regularly rotating around the omnipotent trifecta of Moon Pix, You Are Free and this operation here, but it had been a while so I had to listen again to “Lived in Bars” to remember what it was. Righteously, Chan Marshall orchestrates an astonishingly stripped-down arrangement of piano, harmonica and light drums to showcase her upper-echelon songwriting and of course, that voice, that VOICE!
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59 The Strokes – First Impressions of Earth
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I remember I cracked the plastic off this CD, put it in and right away, with that elaborate opening guitar riff in “You Only Live Once,” I knew we had at least a SUCCESSFUL album on our hands, if not one as good as Room on Fire or Is This it? Of course, little did I know I’d come across an chord progression as intricate as that in “Evening Sun,” or of course “15 Minutes,” a song fans wrongfully deride, a song which actually features a chord in all 12 of the possible major scale keys (and then a crazy Husker Du-type punk outro, best of all… I can just see Nick Valensi rockin’ out like a madman in this one).
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58 The Libertines – Up the Bracket
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Of course, I don’t REALLY know anything about the world, I just pretend to in all of these rambling blog posts… so of course, just when I’m finally utterly sure that bonus tracks suck and are worth their weight in hogwash, come to find out this crazy rockabilly whirligig of “Mocking Bird” comes from that very stinkhole! It very much one-ups fellow addendum “What a Waster,” anyway, but this album, though, poppy, is very physical and has a way of oozing into your psyche, carving its brand onto it.
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57 Cadence Weapon – Afterparty Babies
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In my “Dolby’s Top 214 Albums of All Time” post I said that this was the “Modest Mouse of hip-hop”… and that definitely still resonates with me I guess because it’s just so musically wacky, and lyrically exhaustive, free-at-the-tongue. Still, you’ve gotta like the seriousness of verse three in “Limited Edition OJ Slammer,” an anti-paparazzi song: “Denzel got robbed / And I’ll never forget the look he took / From the ceremony phone franchise”.
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56 DOOM – Born Like This
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I was absolutely GLUED to this album and Black Milk – Tronic I remember when I worked in this one book warehouse: this one I could have on my headphones and indulge in the whole thing from the vivid ghetto lifestyle described in “Supervillainz” or the Charles Bukowski poetry reading in “Cellz”… or maybe drive around to it and enjoy the rapid toggling of songs (this freakin’ album really gets to the point) as well as the spirited rejection of the androgynous in rap, kinetic romp of “Batty Boyz” (“The man wit’ no beard is more weirder than a she-male”).
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55 Oxford Collapse – Bits
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Bits came out (the band’s Mike Pace wrongfully insists that it’s not a classic) about concurrent with No Age Nouns, but I think the critics got it wrong in pronouncing Nouns the titan here — the Brooklyn trio has about as much muscle, but more importantly, a sense of humor the stuff of idolatry: “My love came back from Sweden / Brought me some bathroom reading”; “They’ll never be more than siblings / And I blew it with all of mine”.
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54 Eminem – The Eminem Show
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Oh gosh… what could I say about Eminem that other people wouldn’t already? How ‘bout this: this was his last good album and he should have done more movies (a point especially potentiated by the fact that “Say Goodbye Hollywood” is by far the worst song on this album).
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53 Queens of the Stone Age – Lullabies to Paralyze
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The cover of this album says it all: it’s very bare and sparse, a kid’s face illuminated by a little glowing head of some sort — it doesn’t really say anything, but in a way it doesn’t need to, rather just prelude the fact that on this album are very, very few wasted notes or moments, as well as very little bullsh**ting around (just check the kiss-off to departed bassist Nick Oliveri “Everybody Knows That You’re Insane”).
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52 Radiohead – Kid A
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It’s all there on this album, that’s for sure: the unusual time signature of the ambient and beautiful opener “Everything in its Right Place,” centerpiece, Umphrey’s-covered “The National Anthem” which features a full-band sound with oboe and no guitar, as well as the eerie, mind-bending “How to Disappear Completely.” There’s even a reversion back to alt-rock in “Optimistic,” before the whole thing corrects itself and they realize “You’re living in a fantasy world” on my personal favorite, “In Limbo.”
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51 Tapes ’n Tapes – The Loon
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It’s funny, I just looked at the picture of Tapes ’n Tapes on their Wikipedia page and they just SEEM to be having so much da**ed fun making this music: it’s classified as “Indie rock,” “neo-psychedelia,” “experimental rock” and “college rock” (you could very well throw “blues rock” in there too), and very much gives the Midwest a good name, every song varying starkly from the one before it and pronouncing itself with pointed, memorable guitar attacks.
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50 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – The Tyranny of Distance
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Here is the proud sophomore effort from a truly stalwart, boisterous voice in indie rock, provisional of pristine pop (opener “Biomusicology”), (scrappy minimalist lo-fi (“My Vien Ilin”) and best of all, astonishing realist poetry (“St. John the Divine”). Closeur “You Could Die (Or This Might End)” sends things off into the night beautifully too.
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49 Talib Kweli – Quality
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Quality is Talib Kweli’s debut SOLO album (I always forget he was in the group Black Star with Mos Def prior) and is pretty similar to its follow up: the beats are straight-forward and bangin’ courtesy of DJ Hi-Tek… one thing of note about it is the skits with a hilarious radio DJ who keeps trying to make up all these cheesy nicknames for Kweli like “T Kwilly” and “T Biggity”… also the songs “Get by” and “Waiting for the DJ,” two good ol’ pub bangers.
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48 Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
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First it was the GUITAR TONE that stood out as unforgettable. Then it was those booming drums. Then it was the full, orchestral arrangement of perfectly melodic background oh-oh-oh’s on vocals and finally, most importantly, it was the preternatural way all these jazz-influenced pop songs had a knack for conjealing into something perfectly anthemic, which would fit right there on your dinner table… hopefully not next to some more unfortunate items, of course.
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47 Noah23 – Quicksand
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Everything about this guy was probably vastly underestimated, right down to the fact, of course, that he’s wacky white-boy Canadian rap, in the first place. So you probably never would have thought that no one would have a flow like this — mind-bending and baffling, lyrics toggling between funny and just downright antagonizing. Noah23, my friends, is an authoritative MC.
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46 The White Stripes – White Blood Cells
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To be honest, when I first saw the video for “Fell in Love with a Girl” in 2002, I think I speak for everyone when I say that I just liked it for the fact that it was basic rock and roll, not some rock/rap or ridiculous gimmicky Bloodhound Gang-type thing. With this being the case, critics probably had the slight tendency to overrate this blip in particular just for its cultural askance, but then, when you think about it, maybe there is something to be said for that, too.
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45 Liars – Drums Not Dead
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THIS one, I have to admit, took me a while. It was sort of the red-headed step child for me for a while of the little pool of critically acclaimed indie albums, or quasi-indie albums. But then, the road to success for some Aussies in LA by way of Germany should be long and winding, and it’s every bit as rewarding as it is arduous when you get down to the surreal displeasure of “It Fit When I Was a Kid” and “Drum and the Uncomfortable Can” — tribal rock, although I have a feeling the initiation rites would feature some unenjoyable sh**.
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44 Echo & the Bunnymen – The Fountain
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Sorry Echo & the Bunnymen: you wrote an album where pretty much every song is perfect, yet you only placed 44th on this list. What the heezy! Eh, it’s just the nature of the times we were in: so many bands in this day and age, with the readiness of music on the Internet, were blowing our minds with stylistic wizardry, drawing from jazz, be-bop, hip-hop and everything else thinkable. The Bunnymen, eh, they’re just a better version of Yo La Tengo. That’s all.
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43 Ween – Quebec
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To an extent, like Noah23, all the best music out there should pi** you off a little bit, like either make you jealous, the way Third Eye Blind honestly has the tendency to do sometimes to poor ol’ me, or just downright offend you (I was actually getting prescribed Zoloft when I first checked out this album from the library). You don’t have to be so da** SURE of yourself, Ween, unless of course you wrote the songs “Among His Tribe,” “Happy Colored Marbles” and “Chocolate Town.” Props to Carson Daly for having them on his show for a nice stately “Marbles” version around this time.
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42 Spoon – Kill the Moonlight
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One thing is undeniable and that you just can’t get away from: the textures on this album are da** near PERFECT, and nobody else would have bashed out an unforgettably catchy opener composed almost solely of skanky keyboard and vocals. They proceed on “The Way We Get by” like nothing’s happened, too, which makes it of course that much better.
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41 MF Doom – Mm.. Food
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It’s definitely ironic to me that an album so seemingly otherworldly, bizarre and at times laughable (all those skits with that old dude, and the Dad sadistically and unfeelingly chopping off his son’s arm) would be about… FOOD. The album is about food. Also why is it that The Pains of Being Pure at Heart sound British but they’re American, but MF Doom sounds American and he’s British? So much of life is projection of disposition into culture allotment, I guess.
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40 Autechre – Quaristice
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The bigger of town I’m in, the more need I have for electronica — it seems to grandly mark how our society itself is composed of machines, is so reliant on inhuman technology, and of course, is so busy. Autechre makes electronica music which is basically devoid of anger, therefore differentiating it I suppose from Deadmau5 and industrial music in general… but then, a machine can’t feel anger anyway, so perhaps it makes sense.
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39 GZA – Pro Tools
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It’s hard to know what to say about Pro Tools, other than that it’s GZA’s last studio album, it’s fu**in’ awesome, and last but not least, in its light its very puzzling that these hipsters continue to tout the alleged importance of vinyl as a listening format. “7 Pounds” and “Paper Plate” are highlights.
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38 Broadcast – Haha Sound
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If you were to divide music into two distinct binaries — music which is PERFECT and that which nobody else would be capable of pulling off, Broadcast would undeniably cozy up to the latter — these synths ROCK, yet it’s classified as electronica, yet the songs, hooks, melodies he** even the anthemic lyrics are impossible to forget, from “Pendulum” to “Before We Begin” and onward.
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37 Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
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It seems to me that discussion of this trippy little LP cannot at all be divorced from images and concepts of the sunset itself (it contains a “Love Like a Sunset” suite in song titles)… and sure enough I remember this and Dinosaur Jr. – Beyond providing the perfect evening bus ride music out in Colorado, when I lived there fresh off a bit**in’ Lollapalooza trip. “Girlfriend” is my dark horse fave.
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36 Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
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Say what you want about certain whiny, pouty dispositions on certain songs (or maybe all of them), this is the founding studio album for one of America’s most important folk rock acts, one capable of exploding into sonic blasts, or reconvening on soft piano, at seemingly any instant.
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35 The Strokes – Room on Fire
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Wow, I never realized how applicable the lyrics to these songs would be to getting older (the first song opens “I want to be forgotten / And I don’t want to be reminded”; “The End Has No End” features the lines “It won’t be easy”; the last song is called “I Can’t Win”). From a coolness perspective, anyway, nobody could deny that the cockiness is there big time on cool bouncers like “Automatic Stop,” with the steel-cold kiss-off “I’m not your friend / I never was”. Don’t let the fun personae fool you: deep down, these guys are sharks all the way.
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34 Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP
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Favorite lyrics, by song: “Fu** wit’ me I’ve been through He** / Shut the he** up / I’m tryin’ to develop these pictures of the devil and sell ‘em”; “I’m on 1,000 downers now I’m drowsy”; “How many retards will listen to me / And run up in the school shootin’ when they’re pissed at a teach”; “I’m not gonna be able / To top a ‘My Name is”; “In the parking lot circlin’ / Screamin’ ‘I don’t give a fu** / With his windows down and his system up”; “When I go out I’m gonna go out shootin’ / I don’t mean why I die / I mean when I go out to the club stupid”; “A Mack 11 and it oughta solve the problem of mine / And that’s a whole school o’ bullies shot up all at one time”; “You might see me joggin’ / You might see me walkin’ / You might see me walkin’ a dead rottweiler / With his head cut off / Yellin’ at him ‘cause the son of a bit** won’t quit barkin’”; “And everything’s spinnin’ / You’re beginnin’ to think women are swimmin’ in pink linen”; “We don’t do drive by’s / We park in front o’ houses and shoot / And when the police come / We fu**in’ shoot it out wit’ ‘em too”; “What in the world gives me the right / To say what I like and walk around flippin’ the bird / Livin’ an urban life like a white kid from the burbs”; “At first I’m like ‘Aight you want to throw me out that’s fine’ / But not for him to take my place / Are you out yo mind?”; “A young a** man with a trash can / Strapped to the back of his a** so the rats can’t / Chew through his last pants”; “If I ever gave a fu** / I’d tuck my di** between my legs and cluck / You motherfu**in’ chickens ain’t brave enough / To say the sh** I say so just tape it shut”. (In other words, I got nothin’.)
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33 My Morning Jacket – Z
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The psychedelic influences are definitely in full force here, but credit My Morning Jacket with not TRYING to be trippy, but rather just being such by nature with undeniable songwriting and emotional authenticity. Lead single “Off the Record” is show-ready pop handling the impossibility of being a true vocal citizen in America, but “Into the Woods” to me is the shocker — a song so delicate, tender and hopeless I’m pretty sure it just blew away when I turned my fan on.
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32 Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
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Part of it is that I was younger then, but for some reason this music took a while to truly sink into my psyche (they are extremely complex arrangements by indie rock standards, granted, no doubt). I dunno though… during that track four it seemed like some new life form was growing out of my speakers, like I was in the movie Willow or something, of course without the whole being bored stiff element.
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31 Clark – Body Riddle
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I just came across a rather unfortunate quote in my Soren Kierkegaard Either/Or book recently: “Somewhere in England is said to be a grave distinguished not by a splendid monument or sad surroundings, but by a small inscription: ‘The Unhappiest One.’” Now, keep in mind Kierkegaard was Danish, hence making his illustration of England’s pointed amount of lament that much more significant. Appropriately, in the angular, bare I.D.M. of Chris Clark (simply “Clark” in his musical moniker), we find an undeniable, far-reaching level of melancholy and sacrifice, palpable in the frustrated opener “Herr Bar” right through the plangent, ambient beauty of the percussion-less “Night Knuckles.”
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30 The Roots – Phrenology
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The premise of Phrenology, alone, is pretty amazing: the masterful live hip-hop band setting off to construct a studio LP encapsulating of every extant form of black American music (hip-hop, punk rock, jazz, soul, neo-soul, smooth R&B) [1]… and really, it’s all so original and eccentric that an assessment of the particular points at which it works are almost arbitrarily up to the listener, in a sense. Suffice it to say that “The Seed (2.0)” is my least favorite song on it.
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29 Blackalicious – Blazing Arrow
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And now, to my SECOND favorite live act I’ve ever seen ever, from my very favorite (The Roots), I go, and point to just an animalistic ability to remain right on the beat and spew lyrics which just contain mountains and mountains of energy and positivity. Still, it’s the little things that make this album a classic: the timely variation in rhyme patterns on the titled track, the vivid and lazy chorus vocals on “First in Flight” by poet and rap legend Gil Scott-Heron.
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28 Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
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There’s probably something on EVERY SINGLE SONG on this album that makes me fall in love with the whole project a little further: on “Sun it Rises” it would undeniably be that loud, vibrant banjo, plucked slowly and with iconic purpose, but one precocious little embedder I keep going back to is “Meadowlarks,” full of heartbreaking resignation and best of all, a bout of ooh-ooh-ooh’s swathed in skies of melody.
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27 Sufjan Stevens – Sufjan Stevens Invites You to: Come on Feel the Illinoise
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It’s every bit appropriate that Stevens cites the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright on this album because everything about all of these indie-pop opi just screams gaudy architecture. To be honest, it was a bit much for me at first: it had that classic indie way of through garish, sweeping statements of melody, nitpicking about the tiniest little facets of human behavior (“Are you writing from the heart?”; “How could we hater her?”), but upon repeated listens the very wealth of genuineness and beauty was there, in classics like “Jacksonville,” “Casimir Pulaski Day” and “The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts,” among others.
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26 The Strokes – Is This it?
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The soundtrack of my days of high school “senioritis” days, Is This it? is an album on which one of my friends I remember remarked “IT DOES NOT GET OLD”… very true and it’s also excellently sequenced, toggling crisp pop turns of the titled track and the unforgettable, psychedelic “The Modern Age” to meld into the breadth-traversing, hard-hat-and-lunch-pail rock and roll of “Barely Legal” and “Someday” (the latter undeniably the ideal drinking song, not that I would know that at high school age, or anything).
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25 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
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Like The Strokes, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah make Velvet Underground-influenced rock and roll based like V.U. right there in New York, and they’re really very similar in many regards, so why does it seem that this album is so close yet SO much better than its aforementioned competitor? It could be the gentle folkiness of it (ironic since New Yorkers typically detest what they call “folksiness”), the sense that this whole operation can collapse at any point, but that these little perfectly shaped breaths of pop [“Over and over again (Lost and Found)”; “Details of the War”] will actually burrow up to you when you rest, or when you most long for rest.
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24 Wu-Tang Clan – The W
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I feel like I’m kicking a dead horse here: over and over, THIS, THIS is the Wu-Tang album I tout to everyone, that I beckon and bludgeon others into listening to, but they NEVER do, but hey I’m a guy who once listened to Wu-Tang every day for six months straight, so I feel sort of authorized about these things… pretty much every song is classic but my favorite are the first three (yes there’s no annoying intro on this album, making things even better).
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23 Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf
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Of course, Queens of the Stone Age are sort of like that sad bodybuilder who spends late nights at the gym for some reason which seems to evade everyone… there’s no doubt that they try really hard to ROCK, a symptom of Dave Grohl’s overall work for that matter. Is it that I feel a little sorry for them that I rank them this high? Well, who wouldn’t? Hmm, well there is “Do it Again,” I guess. “God is in the Radio” was also an eerie staple of my Kazaa-rendered desktop, contemporaneously speaking.
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22 Broadcast – The Noise Made by People
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For all the pop acumen this band would eventually pick up, lost forever on their ensuing albums would be this EXACT brand of undeniable eeriness and tension: “Long Was the Year” seems to LAST a year it’s so palpable, and “Tower of Our Tuning” I don’t think even contains a RIFF, let alone a melody — just a veritable wedding cake of instrumental textures, all getting along together.
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21 Beach House – Devotion
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Mazzy Star? Hmm, I hear a little Velvet Underground here, and a LOT of Mamas and the Papas (I wasn’t aware Mazzy Star was an artistically significant enough entity to generate such comparisons)… pretty much all these songs are classic, they totally didn’t need that Daniel Johnston cover for “Some Things Last a Long Time.” I saw these guys in concert one time at Pitchfork… the keyboard sound was terrible but they still tore it up — great vocals from Victoria Legrand and diamond-sharp stage banter.
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20 Radiohead – Amnesiac
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To an extent, the discussion of what Radiohead album you prefer between this and Kid A comes down to what you think life is: anthemic, or preternatural. Amnesiac, basically, is an album about wanting to get people off your back: “I’m a reasonable man / Get off my case / Get off my case”, wanting to push people away, I suppose, retain your sanity (“You think you’ll drive me crazy / Well you and whose army?” on the beautifully unfolding “You And Whose Army?”). “Pyramid Song,” though, is probably a highlight, a song I heard once spawned a fist-fight over what time signature it was in.
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19 Beastie Boys – To the 5 Boroughs
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Where’s my tipping point? Who’s got my tipping point? I pretty much slept with these two CD’s under my pillow in summer of ’04, listening to them cruising around delivering pizzas in my hometown where, yes, one of the drivers once got pelted with the butt of a gun and robbed… for the food he was carrying. Now THAT’S ghetto. And so I bring you my soundtrack. Mike D’s verse in “An Open Letter to NYC” is a life-changing experience.
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18 Eve 6 – Horrorscope
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It seemed stupid at the time, sure (I remember my friend’s cousin from Cali who was attending Notre Dame putting this and Enema of the State on at a party and I was inwardly chuckling) but I recently put this on on Spotify and da**… they’re TIGHT, and they toggle through pretty much every kind of alternative rock imaginable, all catchy and with a sense of humor (you can’t beat the fu**-you sentiment of “Promise” for instance), like the metal buildup of standout “Sunset Strip Bit**” (I just had a dream about this song last night actually), but if anything, it’s sequenced poorly: “Here’s to the Night” should be the closeur.
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17 Modest Mouse – The Moon & Antarctica
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When I was doing my ‘80s list I got to 16th place and got the feeling of being amidst just a cavalcade of classics… this time it happened at 17. Like all music critics, I have an astronomic respect for this album which goes beyond articulation… the psychedelia buddies up with the grunge buddies up with the accordion-rockabilly buddies up with the good ol’ gutbucket rock and roll… then of course we have good ol’ abrasive misanthropy to close things off, in case you thought they were going to get cheesy or anything.
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16 Wolf Parade – Apologies to Queen Mary
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And now to an album that Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock PRODUCED… the student has become the teacher! Aww! Or the teacher has become the student, as these crisp pop run-throughs even one-up those Northwest ragamuffins themselves. I slightly prefer all of Spencer Krug’s songs “Grounds for Divorce,” “I’ll Believe in Anything,” “Dinner Bells,” turns of melody so perfect that they get by on what is really pretty sparse instrumentation, but plenty of balls. “I was a hero in the mornin’ / I ain’t no hero in the night”. Yeah, bullsh**.
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15 The White Stripes – Elephant
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Good God… this album should rank this high for all the nauseating repetition of “Seven Nation Army” alone… to be honest I’m like astronomically ambivalent toward this album opener though this one upstart Lansing band opening for The Clergymen seemed to cover it with their left-brains, essentially… love the lyrical explosion toward the end of “There’s No Home for You Here,” “Ball and Biscuit” as well as both the song and video for “The Hardest Button to Button.”
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14 The Knife – Silent Shout
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Silent Shout is a good example of how, contrary to what might be conventional belief, electronica really, truly has to be a back-breaking labor of love in order to succeed. “Marble House” is one of the most beautiful songs of the decade and “One Hit” is just so da** weird that it merits mention in its own right (I always thought this would be good theme music for Golden Eye for N-64).
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13 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Hearts of Oak
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To be honest, I preferred this to The Tyranny of Distance from the start, and in likewise differing from other Internet voices for this reason as well, I enjoyed “The Ballad of the Sin Eater,” and truly, any album with this song on it should rank prominently compared to others: it chronicles the deflating experience of traveling abroad and finding everybody detest you for no reason (“You didn’t think they could hate ya now did ya / Oh but they hate ya / They hate ya ‘cause you’re guilty oh”).
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12 Black Milk – Tronic
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Sheesh, I wish I could even TELL you my first impression of Black Milk, but it’s been eclipsed so many times by the astonishing stuff he’s put out since that my mind can’t even grapple with it anymore. Also, this story has an ending I can’t really give away. It’s too real. Go buy all of Black Milk’s albums immediately.
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11 Ghostface Killah – Fishscale
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This album is obviously a thrill ride of tough-guy drug selling and braggadocio… some highlights include “The Champ” and the whole-Wu-Tang-Clan “9 Milli Bros.,” but for some reason my favorite track is “Be Easy,” because the message is just so clear and simple (and ultimately benevolent), and it was produced by one of my favorite beat makers, Pete Rock. “Jellyfish” and “Big Girl” are gems from the album’s melodic side b.
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10 DJ Muggs vs. GZA – Grandmasters
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In probably the one non-lame titular pinning of two artists “versus” each other in history, the Cypress Hill beat scientist lays down some tracks for GZA which more than do the job — but it’s the latter’s emceeing on cuts like “Destruction of a Guard” and “Queen’s Gambit” (the latter featuring a reference to EACH NFL football team nickname) that brings home the bacon on this mid-decade banger.
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9 The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow
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After all these years, it’s still hard to tabulate what’s the more awesome element of this music: the beautiful chord progressions and song structures, or those lyrics which are just so tenaciously metaphorical you can’t help but smile: “Testing your metal on dove skin and petals / Kissing the lipless”; “I learned fast how to keep my head up / ‘Cause I know there is this part of me / That wants to grab the yoke from the pilot / And just fly the whole mess into the sea”.
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8 The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema
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Haha, ok I’m stupid: I took forever to get into the Porno’s third one because I thought, well, there’s no way it could be better than Electric Version. Luckily, though it came out in Summer ’05, it ended up being the absolute perfect winter music with irreplaceable gems like “Use it,” “The Bleeding Heart Show,” “Sing Me Spanish Techno” and “Falling through Your Clothes.” It’s great driving music and it’s great stoned music.
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7 Cat Power – You Are Free
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This is my favorite Cat Power album and there are lots of reasons why, most having to do with the astounding sequencing of songs, the palpable genuineness in dark paeans like “I Don’t Blame You,” and lastly the effortlessness with which she can toggle into the vaguely obtuse and androgynous “Speak to Me,” the type of song which emerges as conversational with the overall indie rock and rock and roll at large canon, while still cradling the album’s signature style proudly and with flagship ease.
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6 Wilco – Kicking Television: Live in Chicago
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Culling many songs from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and the concurrent A Ghost is Born, Kicking Television does more than justice to just about all of them, while also potentiating old gems like “Misunderstood” and “Via Chicago” and somehow, miraculously, not featuring “California Stars.” Christ, it deserves a Grammy for that alone.
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5 Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
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This is an album I’ve written about a lot already, so I’m a little bogged down, compounded by my overall piqued madness of waiting to hear Painted Ruins for the first time… suffice it to say it’s the best album by a band which, even more than their influences which loudly include Radiohead and Crosby, Stills & Nash, are capable of spellbinding, eerie stillness, like the soundtrack to Antarctica, or the embryonic beginning of a completely pure thought.
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4 Deltron 3030 – Deltron 3030
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I remember this silver-tongued madman Del tha Funkee Homosapien… well, I didn’t know his name for like forever, but da**ed if I was gonna forget that voice, that style (I’d recognized him from “Clint Eastwood,” probably the best Gorillaz song there is)… on Deltron 3030, an album so good it spawned a craft beer (“Positive Contact,” which for the record isn’t that great), he raps about human vs. artificial intelligence, the possibility of ruining all computer data in the country (“Virus”), and an “interplanetary” rap battle (“Battlesong”). The whole thing conjeals together pretty well for its variety from song to song, constant freshness.
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3 Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury
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This, I have to say, was the shocker of a lifetime — because Clipse’s previous album Lord Willin’ was OKAY but Hell Hath No Fury was not so much a step up as a skyrocket up in terms of pure artistry. Right away in opener “We Got it For Cheap (Intro),” which thankfully isn’t really an intro at all, they’re citing Maya Angelou, and though much of this album is devoted to flaunting wealth, there’s enough slang to keep you entertained the “dirty money” is called “stinkies,” there’s a da** good guest appearance from Slim Thug, all of the beats are crushingly great but best might be closeur “Nightmares,” a song about being filled with incredible emotion, and also incredible pain caused by hater-induced paranoia.
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2 Califone – Roots & Crowns
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“Transcendent” would not an all be an overstatement for this fourth Califone album — all of the sounds, spanning from bluegrass to pop to jazz fusion, blend together constantly as a perfect mess, creating an overall mix that aerates and breathes with total uniqueness. It’s the Beatles-pop appeal of certain album talk points, though, that really pushes it into celestial heights: think the delicate and memorable guitar riff in “Sunday Noises” (which ironically enough is lifted from the Oasis song “She is Love”), the fragile but bluesy “The Eye You Lost in the Crusades” which eschews meter convention coyly, the Psychic TV cover “The Orchids,” and perhaps the best, “Burned by the Christians,” which ends with an impossibly emphatic slide guitar stab on a single tonic note. For all of the lavish instrumentation and sonic completeness here, it’s the band’s ability to highlight those small, cuspid moments which truly demarcates their musicianship and makes for a memorable listen.
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1 Kanye West – Late Registration
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Again, whoever said first impressions mean a lot was an idiot. I get astonished every time I listen to Late Registration. It’s like getting hit with one of those mind-controlling things in Men in Black which erases your memory.
I remember when this album came out, I connected right away with the very first song, “Heard ‘em Say,” which features Adam Levine from Maroon 5 (a somewhat likely success story, all the more to the producer’s credit for that matter), and its simple chorus mantra “And I heard ‘em say / Nothin’’s every promised tomorrow today”, as well as a troubling line about the government deliberately spreading disease to black people. “Crack Music” discusses the grim masquerade of infiltrating black neighborhoods with drugs. “Addiction” is a dark, tense dirge about just that.
But pay close attention and you might find a success to being a great artist: none of the things Kanye claims to be addicted to are ACTUALLY addictive. He realizes that through sensitivity, through simple human compassion, he reaches a level of wisdom and poignance in life which allows for artistic efficacy completely without the presence of hard drugs. Sure, this album has its requisite moments of hip-hop dumbness “Drive Slow”; “We Major,” and these work well enough, but heartache is at the center of these songs’ discourses, in the form of the Brandy-brandishing “Bring Me down” (“I always knew that someday / They’d try to bring me down”), and “Roses,” a call to the heavens to save his dying aunt from cancer (“Instead of bringing flowers / We are the roses”). How soon do roses wilt? Thanks to Kanye, we now know, forever, that such a thing is truly in the eye of the beholder.
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[1] Thanks to Questlove’s excellent memoir Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove for this information.

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