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CoS Top of the Decade: The Albums

on November 17, 2009, 3:15am
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And we’re here… 2010. It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed us. It almost seems like just yesterday David Fincher unearthed Fight Club to confused audiences, that Tony Hawk was only a skateboarder (and not a video game mogul), and The New Radicals were still, um, new. The truth is, 1999 doesn’t seem so far away — especially when you pop in Californication (the album, not the show) or try and remember the slasher genre, namely those beloved Scream movies. In fact, it’s hard to believe we’re in “the future.” Hell, whenever Back to the Future, Part II comes on TBS (Don’t tell me you forgot about this!), 2015 still seems far away, even though it’s at arm’s length now. Then again, maybe it all comes down to perspective. After all, when you turn to the side and think about the eight years with President Bush, the rise and decline and (somewhat) rise again of Tom Green, and the last time you bought a CD, it all feels about right.

But overall, it doesn’t feel like 2010. Instead of flying cars and video games that require you not to use your hands, we’re bogged down with age-old past times, like recessions, health insurance scares, and U2. Nothing seems futuristic, save for a trip to the Apple Store, and while we’re embracing the future with every inch that technology shifts forward, it all just sort of boils down to everyday mundane life.

That doesn’t really apply to music, though. Not at all. Each year, bands both new and old throw out album after album, stuffed to the brim with sounds that take us to yesterday, today, and, most of the time, to tomorrow. It’s here where we understand the true value of time and how far we’ve come. Artists and groups like Animal Collective, Daft Punk, and even Radiohead take us by the hand into regions that suit our wildest dreams, where things happen that will never occur in our lifetime. Then there are those that keep us grounded, that help us understand our inner emotions and thoughts today, bands like Wilco, The Arcade Fire, and The Strokes. It’s like we’re sonically expanding our own dimensions. Pretty deep, huh?

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C’mon, it’s 2009! Everyone knows how vital music is nowadays, and even though we’re guilty of its absolute accessibility (e.g. the advent and success of the mp3), the past ten years have brought us new ways to celebrate its sonic brilliance. We all own iPods (or Zunes, for the five of you). We all walk and work and play with them in our ears — after all, we live for this stuff. But it’s more than that. We don’t just live for this stuff, we live with this stuff. You know, everyone has recognized again and again that albums have become just a hub for — or a collection of — songs, but few have noted that songs have become dalliances of everyday life. That’s why it’s important to go back, to look at where these songs come from, and to recognize the true power of that “hub”, or “collection”, or album!

And that we did…
Michael Roffman, President/Editor-in-Chief

100. B.B. King & Eric Clapton – Riding With the King

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When you’re Riding with the King, there can be no wrong, and two greats of the blues joined forces here to prove it. In this superb blues record full of classic B.B. King, Eric Clapton’s style seamlessly compliments the King’s thick wailing vocals and old school down-home riffs. –Maria Murriel

99. OutKast – Speakerboxx/ The Love Below

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With this double pseudo-solo album OutKast mutually and exclusively redefined the expectations of mainstream rap. Big Boi’s expansive, but still traditional, hip hop and André 3000’s retro afro-pop experimentation are an unlikely combo, but… “Hey Ya!”, “The Way You Move” — these hits don’t lie. –Cap Blackard

98. Andrew Bird – The Swimming Hour

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I’d once heard The Swimming Hour called Andrew Bird’s jukebox album, and the way his now defunct band jumps between genres on each track, it really makes sense. The Bowl of Fire tries out classic R&B, Country Rock and indie pop, each successfully and without pretense. –Adam Kivel

97. Muse – Absolution

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Muse delivered a third album full of pomp and power. The sound was more refined, rapidly transforming them into stadium titans and harnessing their creativity. “Stockholm Syndrome” and “Hysteria” were whirlwinds of aggression, but the best moments leant heavily on their musicality, whether performing with an 18 piece orchestra on “Blackout” or unleashing Bellamy on the ivories for “Apocalypse Please”. –Will Hines

96. Kittens Ablaze – The Monstrous Vanguard

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It’s no secret that this website has had an undeniable love affair with these Brooklyn rockers for some time now. The demo album that arrived in our inbox back in early 2008 was what first caught our attention, but their recently released full-length debut was what made us realize that Kittens Ablaze are not your ordinary Brooklyn based indie outfit. No, The Monstrous Vanguard was 10 tracks of indie rock bliss, fusing together the enigmatic sounds of Arcade Fire with the lyrical melancholy of early Bright Eyes while still maintaining a one-of-a-kind passion, sound, and attitude. The album’s one negative? The fact that even now it has yet to propel Kittens Ablaze to the level of popularity and critical acclaim the band so undoubtedly deserves. –Alex Young

95. Talib Kweli & DJ Hi-Tek – Reflection Eternal

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Blistering rhymes and lethal grooves propel this 20-song collection that culls from almost every corner of the history of Black music (blues, African drumming, improvisational jazz). “Move Somethin'” (featuring Kweli’s erstwhile Black Star partner Mos Def) should be mandatory listening for all hip-hop fans. The only question left by this album: where’s the sequel? -Gillian Rosheuvel

94. Kate Walsh – Tim’s House

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Kate Walsh is arguably the brightest star to have emerged from a plethora of UK singer-songwriters in recent years. This, her second album, marks a real coming-of-age in both a musical and emotional sense, and was famously the first U.K. No 1 album on iTunes from an unsigned artiste. –Tony Hardy

93. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound

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Bruce Springsteen joined this Jersey foursome onstage at Glastonbury to play the title track. Need I say more? –Joshua Kloke

92. Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs

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Death Cab For Cutie instantly ventured outside its “safe” indie poprock box the very next album after the success of their major label debut Plans. The decision was perfectly right and Narrow Stairs proved to be a significant step forward for the band as well as an irreproachable new, fresh take on all their potentials. -Jesper Persson

91. Harvey Danger – Little by Little…

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The last of three studio albums in Harvey Danger’s swift and underrated fifteen year career, Little by Little… defied, lyrically and beyond, this outfit’s typecast alt-rock persona.  From reflections of musical adolescence in “Little Round Mirrors” to the purist bildungsroman approach on “Diminishing Returns”, Sean Nelson and his northwestern comrades wove us a grand pop finale that even Joni Mitchell cannot hope to surpass. -David Buchanan

90. Lupe Fiasco- Food & Liquor

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Chicago’s other rapper stepped into the spotlight. Backed by Jay-Z, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, aka Lupe Fiasco, arrived with a three time Grammy nominated debut album. Showcasing brilliant production and rhymes way beyond his years, Fiasco had a hit in “Kick, Push” and stuck to his roots, quoting the Qur’an on the album “Intro”. Wholly impressive. –Will Hines

89. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam

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Animal Collective doesn’t write songs per se. They salvage beauty from noise. With Strawberry Jam, the group proved that acid washed electronic blips can be crafted into glorious, naive pop music, and that screaming every once in a while only makes it better. –Drew Litowitz

88. Bruce Springsteen – Magic

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Magic uses all of Bruce Springsteen’s classic aesthetics (layered guitars, R&B yelps, lots of dirty sax and crystal glockenspiel) to comment on topics that are completely modern, featuring songs that are just as much about politics as they are about relationships. Highlights include the Brian Wilson baroque pop of “Your Own Worst Enemy” and “Girls In Their Summer Clothes”, and most notably “Livin’ In The Future”, a tale of blood red doom and gloom at The Jersey Shore that is still one of the most energetic, celebratory things The Boss has ever recorded. –Dan Caffrey

87. The Strokes – Room on Fire

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Hardly a sophomore slump here. In better ways than one, The Strokes expanded on their sound, tweaking and exploring new ways to do, realistically, the same thing they’d been doing all along. It’s just a shame “Repitilia” never took off like “Last Night” did. –Michael Roffman

86. The Killers – Hot Fuss

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Dark-flavored dance-rock with a hint of soul, overplayed though it was, five years after its release, The Killers’ debut Hot Fuss remains endlessly danceable. Let’s face it: Everyone’s felt like “Mr. Brightside” at one time or another. –Megan Ritt

85. Blitzen Trapper – Furr

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Blitzen Trapper’s 2008 album Furr is a lyrical accomplishment with simplistic, yet stunning lines such as, “And now my fur has turned to skin/And I’ve been quickly ushered in/To a world I must confess I do not know,” from the title track. The band’s use of the harmonica, an unfairly underrated instrument, fits the overall aesthetic and adds a folk punch, whereas the guitar work on “Gold for Bread” provides a slight southern rock vibe. –Becca James

84. My Morning Jacket – Z

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Z, the joyous, stoner-rock record that it is, exists in its immediacy. Never harsh and overwhelming, Z is record that will have you passing your joints with a smile, though never too far as you’re always trying to soak up every last breath of this groovy masterpiece. –Joshua Kloke

83. She & Him – Vol. 1

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Odd couple to some, M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel created an album of perfect symbiosis between the elements, a sense of harmony and well-being without becoming dull, predictable or cheesy. Most lovely indie folk pop record should be accredited to She & Him. –Jesper Persson

82. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You

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Just a folk group elevating to a whole other level with the aid of some guy named Rick Rubin, sans blips and bleeps. It also has sweet sincerity (“I and Love and You”, “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”) capped off by infectious sing-a-longs (“Kick Drum Heart”, “Slight Figure of Speech”). –Justin Gerber

81. Yusuf Islam – Roadsinger

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Cat Stevens, ahem, Yusuf Islam is at his finest on his 2009 album Roadsinger. “Boots and Sand”, featuring Paul McCartney and Dolly Parton, is a must hear single, with its late ’70s feel and an added country kick; the lyrics aren’t too shabby either. –Becca James

80. Gorillaz – Gorillaz

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Wait, hold on a second… did that dude from Britpop band Blur start a virtual band called Gorillaz that took hip hop, punk rock, electronica, dub and other miscellaneous genres he felt like digesting, squeeze them into a trash culture blender and push the button as if he hadn’t done anything else in his life? Huh? It turned out to be quite an awesome record? Cool! –Jesper Persson

79. Radiohead – Hail to the Thief

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After the deconstructed electro-rock of Kid A and Amnesiac, it only made sense for Radiohead to combine their newfound identity with the brute force rock of OK Computer and The Bends. With Hail to the Thief, Radiohead re-emerged as a living, breathing rock band, but not without ensuring that “the rats and the children” followed along.  –Drew Litowitz

78. Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope

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By turns ethereal and loud-mouthed, enchanting and exciting, and accompanied by the loveliest multi-hued music video, Begin to Hope established Regina Spektor as a major talent (not to mention it made us believe in love again). –Megan Ritt

77. M.I.A. – Kala

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Together with some of the hippest producers around, M.I.A. rose to stardom when weaving together the genre-mashing quilt that was her second album. Not just setting new standards for what “cool” and “hip” music is but also redefining the terms urban and world music, Kala was, and will remain for  the foreseeable future, one of the most original and memorable albums the 00’s had to offer. -Jesper Persson

76. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

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Of Montreal pulled off a rare feat in 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are you the Destroyer? by creating a concept album when it seemed completely uncool to do so. Inspired by Kevin Barnes’ divorce and separation from his child, the result is a beautiful sonic journey through doubt, fear and loss. –Charles Poladian

75. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

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One of the very best records of the year, Bitte Orca is blast of wonderfully uncertain rhythms paired with killer harmonies. And then there are those insane guitar parts that will equally satisfy fans of King Sunny Adé, Tom Verlaine, Ali Farka Touré, Arto Lindsay, and even Jimmy Page. What? Yeah, exactly. -Aaron Kelley

74. Metallica – Death Magnetic

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Just when you thought they were over and done with, Metallica roars back at the world with a record that’s lightning fast yet melodic, lyrical but badass, potent, and simply pure metal. Death Magnetic makes up for lost time in the band’s history as the greatest in thrash metal, delivering Metallica’s quintessential coarseness, now mixed with the emotional maturity of three (sort of) aged musicians who can still rock the fuck out. –Maria Murriel

73. Belle & Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress

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Ace 80’s producer, Trevor Horn, amplified the band’s essential sound but kept its signature charm on this spectacularly good pop album. The great “Step into My Office Baby” structurally recalls 10cc at their creative best and their homage to Thin Lizzy, “I’m a Cuckoo”, is a sheer delight. –Tony Hardy

72. Justin Timberlake – FutureSex/Love Sounds

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The album that fully broke the tether between N’Sync and Justin Timberlake. Justified tackled clean cut pop, but his sophomore effort went dirty, sparking off a lasting creative partnership with Timbaland and penning number one hits in “Sexyback”, “My Love”, and “What Goes Around…”. Many doubted Timberlake’s longevity, but he backed it up after a four year hiatus by going ‘adult’. –Will Hines

71. Astronautalis – Pomegranate

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Astronautalis is among the most original and exciting new artists of this century. His storytelling and lyrical prowess, combined with an arsenal of historical fiction and a knack for the theatrical make Pomegranate one of the most unprecedented albums of the decade. –Cap Blackard

70. Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American

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The band’s fourth studio record is one of those rare albums where every song could be a single. Bleed American provides equal doses of outstanding pop songs (“The Middle”, “Sweetness”) and thoughtful ballads (“Hear You Me”, “My Sundown”). –Justin Gerber

69. Weezer – Maladroit

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Somewhere along the past few years, Rivers Cuomo decided to be ironic, smugly musing on the perks and pitfalls of fame with campy throwaway tunes like “Beverly Hills” and “Can’t Stop Partying” (featuring Lil’ Wayne). But his quirkiness and genre hopping used to be a lot more sincere, and this is most evident on Maladroit, a wonderfully weird album that stretches itself between 70’s garage thunder (“Take Control”), sunny math punk (“Possibilities”) and um…space rock (“Space Rock”). Chocked with twisted, archaic lyrics, insane riffage, and a song whose video unabashedly celebrated The Muppets, Maladroit always sounds like the band is having fun, and for all the right reasons. –Dan Caffrey

68. Rilo Kiley – The Execution of All Things

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Rilo Kiley’s second LP cemented the band as indie’s coolest kids and lead vocalist Jenny Lewis as one of the best storytellers of this generation. Listen to “With Arms Outstretched” to feel the simultaneous sting of fleeting time and the joy of a hopeful future-and clap your hands while you do it. –Anthony Balderrama

67. Battles – Mirrored

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Like a nuclear blast of innovation and sound coming from another universe closely resembling a mirrored room, Battles dazzled us, intrigued us and entertained us. Mirrored is a testimony of the fun in experimental music and came across as one of the most mind-bending, wildly eclectic and unpretentiously brilliant rock records of the decade. –Jesper Persson

66. The Living End – Roll On

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For the Australian trio’s sophomore release, The Living End continue its revved-up musical strikes from Green Day-inspired pop punk to Stray Cats-esque rockabilly and overall excellent musicianship. Guitarist Chris Cheney’s guitar roars loudly throughout the album, scorching everything in sight with the likes of “Roll On”, “Carry Me Home”, “Don’t Shut The Gate”, and the epic crusher, “Astoria Paranoia”. Talk about a rock album when it’s needed, Roll On not only delivers, but begs for immediate repeats…and this was in 2001! –Jay Ziegler

65. Patrick Wolf- Lycanthropy

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Patrick Wolf’s precocious debut was a statement of intent. His obsession with werewolf mythology was in full swing at 19; he changed his name (nee Apps, now Wolf) and released an album loosely exploring the process of transformation. Energetic songs like “Bloodbeat” slid in amongst the more melancholy “Pigeon Song”, whilst “The Childcatcher” explored pedophilic images, establishing itself as both twisted and brilliant. –Will Hines

64. Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy

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In all its powerful alt-folk fury, Okkervil River’s remarkable narrative centered around an assumed character from Tim Hardin’s “Black Sheep Boy” delves into sex and drug abuse, manic depression, fucked relationships, and pretty much everything that falls in between. Will Sheff always had a penchant for vivid imagery and captivating songwriting, but not until Black Sheep Boy did his ambitions and stunning style balance out so damn perfectly. –Drew Litowitz

63. Red Hot Chili Peppers – By the Way

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By The Way proves to be a pivotal album in the Peppers’ career with Anthony Kiedis dropping his broken rapping for more consistent singing while John Frusciante is left with writing the melodies, bass lines, and chord progressions — a deviation from the punk funk fusion they had been known for previously. With tracks like “Can’t Stop” and “The Zephyr Song”, By the Way captured the ears of America in 2002. –Andy Keil

62. U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind

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Teaming up with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanios again, U2 made its comeback in 2000 with what’s widely regarded as the band’s third masterpiece. Dealing with the essential things in life, All That You Can’t Leave Behind hits on an emotional level with songs like “Beautiful Day”, “Walk On”, and “Kite”. –Joe Marvilli

61. The Roots – Phrenology

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Phrenology was a lean, mean machine. Focusing on hip hop for their fifth studio album, Philadelphia group The Roots took three years to come up with a new sound, all but abandoning their lighter jazz roots. They brought some brilliant featuring artists to the table, and unleashed an experimental album that was groundbreaking yet accessible. –Will Hines

60. Mark Mulcahy – In Pursuit of Your Happiness

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On In Pursuit of Your Happiness, Mark Mulcahy discovers the perfect balance between his youthful Miracle Legion days and his more mature solo work. Infectious pop songs like “Cookie Jar” juxtapose moodier tracks like “Can’t Find a Reason to Let You Go”, creating a record that is as fun as it is thoughtful. –Matt Melis

“Cookie Jar”

59. Beastie Boys – To The 5 Boroughs

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When this 2004 bomb dropped, it boomed with the raw, dirty explosions of “3 the Hard Way”, “Rhyme the Rhyme Well”, and even touched the Apple’s heart with “An Open Letter to NYC”. 5 Boroughs is a harsh edge on the Boys that never fail to surprise and re-funk the scene with warped beats and white-hot verses. –Maria Murriel

58. Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary

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Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug don’t sound good on paper. Both sing with hoarse, warbly voices, gargling most of their cryptic words atop their blend of noisy, mathy prog-pop. But somehow, the result of these chaotic, off-kilter ingredients makes for indie pop perfection. Wolf Parade leave nothing to be sorry for with their Apologies, but create a unique record that’s as danceable as it is philosophical. –Drew Litowitz

57. Spoon – Kill the Moonlight

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The most popular track on Kill the Moonlight, “The Way We Get By”, was featured on pretty much every major TV show of the early 2000’s, propelling the band to a brief stint with popularity. The rest of the album, though, is dense with Spoon’s signature sound; “All the Pretty Girls Go to the City” and “Something to Look Forward to” exemplify Spoon’s to-the-point, snappy nature. –Shayna Hodkin

56. Tool – Lateralus

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“Schism” holds a Ridiculously Awesome credit; “The Grudge” is arguably Tool’s finest musical arrangement; Lateralus represents amath-master progressive metal, a puzzle box with artful sonic staying power and death marches aplenty. To not give this magnum opus a full listen from beginning to end defies all logic, and your very sanity shall indeed “spiral out”. –David Buchanan

55. Postal Service – Give Up

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Sometimes… when an electronic musician of the more experimental kind and an indie rock musician of the more poppy kind meets, sweet music appears seemingly out of nowhere. Sub Pop probably didn’t expect that this underground pop record would blow up this big, but frankly it couldn’t make any more sense. –Jesper Persson

54. Green Day – American Idiot

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The group’s most rewarding effort — commercially and critically — since their 1994 mainstream debut, Dookie. From epic trials of musicianship (“Jesus of Suburbia”) to witty and concise pop (“Holiday”), American Idiot demanded the group’s fanbase return and with their jaws dragging on the floor. –Michael Roffman

53. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – Tyranny of Distance

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“Timorous Me”, “St. John the Divine”, and “The Gold Finch and the Red Oak Tree” make Tyranny of Distance one of Ted Leo/Pharmacist’s most notable releases. Focusing less on politics and more on musicianship, the album clocks in at 49 minutes with twelve upbeat, danceable tracks that have, since the album’s release, carried the band’s live show with their energy and positivity. -Shayna Hodkin

52. The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

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The greatest album about a Japanese girl fighting pink robots ever! It’s also one of the band’s finest, with the mysteries of “Fight Test”, that bassline in “In the Morning of the Magicians”, and the official rock song of Oklahoma, “Do You Realize??”. –Justin Gerber

51. Tom Waits – Blood Money

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Tom Waits has always been a notorious eccentric with a love for the skeezy and downtrodden side of life, but give him the revolutionary 19th century German working class tragedy, Woyzeck, to base a body of work on, and you summon a demon of decay and human suffering. Eerie sea shanties and circus dirges meld with melancholy jazz and maddening laughter- if a dockside hangover was a beautiful thing, this would be it. –Cap Blackard

50. The Decemberists – The Crane Wife

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Progressive rock has taken a back-seat for the past three decades, but no longer. With The Crane Wife, The Decemberists, embrace full on the tradition of musical storytelling and return modern rock to the timelessness of bygone days fused with the present tense. The album features a diverse collection of single songs interspliced with an interpretation of the Japanese folk tale of The Crane Wife. Top that off with a 12 minute epic based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest and you’ve got prog-rock magic not seen since times long past. –Cap Blackard

49. Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero

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On his fifth studio album, Trent Reznor moves Nine Inch Nails from the personal to the political. A concept album set in a dystopian America in 2022; Reznor offers one of the best musical critiques of the politics of the Bush administration. The frantic, slippery bass of “Survivalism”, the destructive, mechanical sound of “My Violent Heart”, and the stuttering instrumentation of “Zero-Sum” create an environment of paranoia that leaves a bigger impact on the audience than any of his efforts since The Downward Spiral. –Joe Marvilli

48. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

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It’s unbearably cold outside as you walk home from an intensely traumatizing breakup. Snow floats around you, coating the rock hard soil beneath your stiff legs. As you walk, your shaky breath dances around your head in warm vapor. In many ways, Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever ago is the sound that mist would make if it only could. It expresses everything you feel in that exhalation, but can’t put to words. It’s a record that acknowledges the downright miserable circumstances of the situation, but also recognizes that there’s some beauty to be found in the moment. As Justin Vernon belts out line after cryptic line, through layer upon layer of soulful, gut wrenching falsetto, you feel his pain like it were your own. It floats around your ears in tear-jerking bliss. It’s an impeccably crafted bedroom record that, through its honest sound, says everything about the conditions under which it was made. You can’t help but take pleasure in a misery that sounds this perfect. –Drew Litowitz

47. Beck – Guero

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Beck returned in 2005 with a throwback to the days of Odelay. Much more than a rehash, the album is the highest charting that he’s ever released. From the infectious funk guitar riff of “E-Pro” to the acoustically flavored “Girl”, it’s easy to see why. While not as radical as some of his other work, Guero proves to be one of the most eclectic albums in his catalogue. -Joe Marvilli

46. The Mars Volta – Deloused in the Comatorium

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The musical genius of the Mars Volta is an unfettered mastodon force that redefines progressive rock with piles of climbing virtuoso riffs, tastefully manipulated Latin undertones, and unimaginable stories. It’s safe to say this album was the first of its kind, spawning a new style of experimental, jazz, or psychedelic rock music that would inspire hordes musicians in the following years. Begetting one of the best guitar songs of all time (“Drunkship of Lanterns”, via Rolling Stone), and introducing the world to behemoths like “Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)” and “Cicatriz ESP”, De-Loused… was a milestone in the evolution of music into this 21st century, and boy, are we glad we reached it. –Maria Murriel

45. The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

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After Arcade Fire closed the casket on conflicted nostalgia, they were ready to tackle some more heated issues. With Neon Bible, a new, more mature, more ruthless Arcade Fire introduced itself to the world. Using church motifs, Arcade Fire viewed mankind’s most controversial piece of literature as a neon sign; an advertisement for a commodity that they believed the world could really do without. Regardless of your values, there’s no denying that the Arcade Fire got at least a few things right with their sophomore effort. –Drew Litowitz

44. Girl Talk – Feed the Animals

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It would have been easy to write off mashup DJ Girl Talk (Gregg Gillis) after 2006’s breakthorugh Night Ripper as a catchy, one-off festival of choice slices from pop, rock, rap and beyond’s biggest hitmakers.  But with 2008’s Feed the Animals, Gillis brought the hypersonic mad-dash of sounds to a more streamlined setting, mixing intricate background beats and the slickest lines and hooks together in something that was as much his own as bits of pieces of other musical hotness. From bridging Elvis Costello into Shawty Lo in “Here’s the Thing” to burners like “Shut The Club Down” and the truly diverse, even by his own standards, track “Give Me a Beat”,  Girl Talk proved music had forever changed with the emergence of file sharing and a more global larger culture. It also showed us that the sum is definitely better than its parts, regardless of how good those are. –Chris Coplan

43. Radiohead – Amnesiac

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Let’s say up front what this album is not: a collection of Kid A b-sides. Equal parts follow-up and companion to Radiohead’s seminal 2000 LP, Amnesiac was immediately viewed as b-sides and leftovers, but it ended up being an album just as challenging and cohesive as any other Radiohead release before or since. The New Orleans jazz of “Life in a Glasshouse” will crush your spirit, while the schizophrenic “Pull/Pulk Revolving Doors” taps into the paranoia surrounding the new millennium’s digital age. –Anthony Balderrama

42. The Knife – Silent Shout

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Following the success of “Heartbeats”, a bittersweet pop number that became an instant classic, you wouldn’t have blamed Swedish brother-sister duo The Knife for trying to repeat the formula. Instead they released Silent Shout, an icy electro-pop album so steeped in drum loops and androgynous voice manipulation-not to mention musings on gender roles and sexual identity-that you feel as if you’re listening to the coolest psychology thesis ever. The title track and manic dance number “We Share Our Mother’s Health” are as cryptic as they are catchy no matter how many times you listen to them. –Anthony Balderrama

41. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP

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Before Eminem had to put Mariah Carey in her place and before 8 Mile, there was The Marshall Mathers LP you nervously and quite gleefully bumped in your car in the summer of 2000. While The Slim Shady LP made you think Em was a jokester, this album here took the knife attacks and drug use to a much darker and more sinister level. A level, by the way, you hated yourself for loving. But visceral reactions aside, this album earned legendary status for its raw, in your face attitude, slick beats, and even deadlier wordplay. To this day, nothing beats awkward head bopping to “Kim” or “The Way I Am”. –Chris Coplan


40. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say…

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Perhaps the first true masterpiece of British indie rock, Arctic Monkeys’ debut album showed that a relentless hype can be based on a good sense of what’s clearly, obviously an effort worthy of praise. Indie rock with this much artistic integrity had seldomly been put in the limelight in this extraordinary way. –Jesper Persson

39. Passion Pit – Manners

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Manners? Passion Pit had only one, and that is this album, one which is not embarrassed of taking falsetto vocals and applying them to indie rock euphoria nor taking childishly sugary melodies and applying them to electropop sweetness. A more charming pop album was yet to be found. –Jesper Persson

38. Daft Punk- Discovery

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It’s only appropriate that the first great electronic album of the 21st century would come from the minds of two chrome-faced robot-men. Discovery is epic.  What else can you call an electro-disco concept album about a kidnapped extraterrestrial band? The opening track, “One More Time”, is the great celebratory dance anthem of our generation, maybe of all time. From start to finish, Discovery delivers sexy digital funk that makes you feel good to be living in the future, even if there aren’t any flying cars. –Cap Blackard

37. R.E.M. – Accelerate

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The band’s finest since 1996’s New Adventures in Hi-Fi. The album saw the return of jangly-guitars courtesy of Peter Buck, harmonies by Michael Stipe and Mike Mills, and of course, rock n’ roll. It also saved the band from breaking up and kept them relevant for the foreseeable future. Short but sweet, Accelerate is a fine example of a band looking back in order to look ahead. –Justin Gerber

36. The Thermals – The Body, The Blood, The Machine

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There’s punk dissonance and then there’s The Thermals’ 2006 epic album. The band manages to dig from years of Catholic grief and unearth a huge, steaming slice of rapid fire storytelling in which a couple escapes America and its domination by ” fascist faux-Christians.” Despite the heavy title, the band creates sonic outrage and lyrical depth and intensity that is pure pop joy. Stand-out tracks “Pillar of Salt” and “Power Doesn’t Run on Nothing” will keep you moshing through every joyously miserable moment of angst and repression. –Chris Coplan

35. Interpol- Turn On The Bright Lights

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To think for a band that gets called a Joy Division rip-off, it’s always an uphill fight. Whereas other bands portrayed New York in its dirtiness with punk music, Interpol focused on the solitary and the isolated. Turn on the Bright Lights was a gripping tale of life, love, and New York in a polished way. At times vibrant, with the catchy “Obstacle 1” or “PDA”, to the downbeat of “NYC”, the songs invoke a melancholy and the air of being unresolved, of a reclamation project still under construction. TOTBL was a moody slice of life, a gripping listening experience where songs like “Untitled”, “Hands Away”, or “Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always down” unfolded achingly, leaving a lasting impression. –Charles Poladian

34. Bjork – Medulla

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Medulla, Bjork’s sixth album, is a wild, emotional celebration of the human voice. Featuring guest appearances from Mike Patton, Rahzel, Robert Wyatt, and Dokaka, it covers a wide spectrum: angry political diatribes, settings of E.E. Cummings’ poetry, and personal reflections are all represented. It should have been a disaster, but Medulla’s success is a testament to Bjork unique genius: who else could have combined all these disparate elements (beatboxing, Tuvan throat singing, operatic arrangements, etc.) and pull it off?  –Aaron Kelley

33. Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head

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An emotional rollercoaster of an album, shot through with glorious melodies and brimful of creative ideas, featuring 11 songs, carefully crafted and ordered to give the listener variety and form. It is difficult to pick out individual songs as they are all so good, but if pushed “The Scientist” ticks all the available boxes for real poignancy, intensity and sheer musicality as it’s simplest and best. A genuine classic recording from a band with very few peers. –Tony Hardy

32. The Hold Steady – Boys & Girls in America

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October 3, 2006. That day should be immortalized for one reason: The Hold Steady’s third LP, Boys and Girls In America was released, and it was officially cool to like fist-punching rock and roll again. I mean, admit it, there’s a bit of Springsteen in all of us; we’re all down at points, clamoring for vindication of our sins. Boys and Girls In America gave all of us a reason to believe again. –Joshua Kloke

31. Bob Dylan – Modern Times

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It’s a bit weird that Modern Times, Bob Dylan’s 32nd (!) studio album and first number one since 1976’s Desire, was so well received by the younger components of his audience. Sure, the first track name-checks Alicia Keys and the video for “When the Deal Goes Down” features Scarlett Johansson, but the music is clearly rooted in a time around when Bob Dylan was born. From the thunder blues of “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” to the Bing Crosby-indebted “Beyond the Horizon,” there’s little evidence that Dylan’s head is in the present. Then again, it’s a brilliant record, which is an element that shines across all time and age. –Aaron Kelley

30. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

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Want to feel feelings like you’ve never felt said feelings before? Give this Bright Eyes 2005 release a spin.  Released on the same day as the just-as-groundbreaking Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning is an acoustic masterpiece that blends the hopeful heartbreak and wallowing depression of Oberst’s musical choices and the wit and emotional depth of his lyrics. From “Lua” to “First Day of My Life”, the album gives you a VIP listen to Oberst’s emotional growing pains as he’s stretched between adolescent feelings of promise and adult realities of further disappointment. Mix in a healthy dose of socio-political commentary and you’ve got an album that can break your heart in a thousand ways. It’s never been quite so much fun to listen to an artist squirm. –Chris Coplan

29. Joanna Newsom – The Milk-Eyed Mender

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The Milk-Eyed Mender, harpist Joanna Newsom’s debut record, has a tremendous amount of things going for it. There is one thing that it certainly doesn’t, however: it can’t really be enjoyed among large groups. It’s a collection of songs that touch upon a person’s innermost emotions, the ones that are so powerful they guide our perspective on life but are too personal to ever be shared. Memories of childhood, of love, of morality and faith flood the mind, and leave you, as she put it on the first track of her second record (the totally different but equally brilliant Ys), “dumbstruck with the sweetness of being.” –Aaron Kelley

28. TV on the Radio – Dear Science

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Quirky? Danceable? Fun? Serious? Eclectic? Emotional? Groovy? Unique? Catchy? Brilliant? Check them all off the list, because TV On The Radio make them all come together in the brilliant, rich and comprehensive arrangement that is Dear Science. It’s an indie rock album that redefines the borders of said genre more than any other album has in the decade. –Jesper Persson

27. Ryan Adams – Love is Hell

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Prolific singer-songwriter Ryan Adams initially released Love Is Hell as two separate EPs in 2003 due to pressure from his label, although the following year it was released as a single LP. This collection of songs eschewed the alt-country of his earlier work and focused on softer songs that highlight his strong lyrics and even stronger voice. His excellent cover of Oasis’ “Wonderwall” probably got the most attention from listeners, but the album’s title track and “Political Scientist”, both tales of heartbreak, are the real treats of this collection. Love is Hell predated Adams’ infamous online rants and temper tantrums, which unfortunately have begun to distract audiences from his enviable talent. Fortunately, the songs speak for themselves. –Anthony Balderrama

26. Kanye West – Late Registration

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What album in the history of music could synthesize the pop orchestra sounds of Jon Brion and the trip hop of Portishead then Kanye West’s Late Registration. Not only did he disprove the sophomore slump theory, Mr. West destroyed records and made an album that is light and breezy with tracks like “Gold Digger” and yet made genocide and blood diamonds danceable in “Diamonds From Sierra Leone”. And while he broke more records with the 2007 follow up Graduation, this album stands as dynamic proof of West’s skill without (as much) ego. This will always be our Kanye West, no matter how much Auto-Tune he uses from now on. –Chris Coplan

25. The White Stripes – Elephant

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This is the moment where all the promise, all the hype, the glamor of Jack White and The White Stripes came together beautifully. Combining that rag-tag approach to music, as if he was fighting to create that sound, which was kind of ugly, kind of rough, but beautiful and stunning at the same time. The blues roots, the country leanings, the Detroit muscle, it’s all there in Elephant. As soon as “Seven Nation Army” hits with that hypnotic riff, or that reverb laden backbeat, your face melts. But the album is more than just awesome riffs, with the child-like sentiment of “I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother’s Heart” or  the bluesy “Ball and Biscuit”, Elephant is everything you want from The White Stripes. –Charles Poladian

24. Modest Mouse – Moon & Antarctica

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Of the five studio records that Modest Mouse has released to date, it was The Moon & Antarctica that propelled the Washington outfit into the indie-rock spotlight. The move to a major label (Epic) gave the band ample resources to explore the deepest darkest places while offering up 15 expansive tracks filled with desolation. Lead singer Isaac Brock sets the tone with the first line he utters, “Everything that keeps me together is falling apart.” But despite the lyrical solitude, Brock’s guitars paired with Eric Judy’s bass lines keeps the album afloat and surprisingly upbeat. The dichotomy between Brock’s dismal lyrics and the (happy?) guitars is what keeps fans coming back; you can find a song for any mood on The Moon & Antarctica. –Andy Keil

23. Spoon – Gimme Fiction

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Spoon perfected the cool indie pop rock song in 2005’s Gimme Fiction. Having honed the craft in some of their less polished work, that used the rawness as a key component to the music, Gimme Fiction was a pristine record, brilliantly produced and combining some unique sonic flourishes. The songs were bold, with diverse influences and slices of quirk, that would spiral outward while maintaining a tightly spun core. Songs like  “The Beast and the Dragon Adored” and “The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine”, “I Summon You”, and “Merchant of Soul” aided by  additional strings and keyboard components, proved that Spoon are some of the best innovators and craftsmen working in the indie world today. –Charles Poladian

22. Bruce Springsteen – The Rising

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The September 11th attacks were responsible for some of the most trite, misguided and just plain awful songs ever to be recorded in the history of rock and roll, but they also gave us The Rising. After an eighteen year studio hiatus with the E Street Band, The Boss finally reunited with them in 2002 to record an album that remains bombastic, eloquent, and resonant even to this very day. Twangy, triumphant meditations like “Into The Fire” and the cathartic title track have aged so well because of their lyrical malleability. But that doesn’t mean Springsteen sacrificed any details. Words such as “Left the house this morning/bells ringing filled the air/Wearin’ the cross of my calling/On wheels of fire I come rollin’ down here” could just as easily be about spirituality as they could be about the deaths of hundreds of firemen. In The Boss’ mind, they’re probably the same thing, and that’s more than enough to make up for “Courtesy Of The Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American).” –Dan Caffrey

21. The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow

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The indie band of all indie bands, with their delicate and unpretentious mix of pop and rock, The Shins proved with their second album that their music deserved and could well withstand the pressure of being heard in a thousand Garden States. –Jesper Persson


20. PJ Harvey – Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea

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The cover of PJ Harvey’s Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea could have signaled the end of her renowned career and a grim start to the 2000s. Glammed up in a sleek black dress, carrying a gold purse, and wearing sunglasses at night on a blurry New York City street, Harvey looked as if she was stepping into the glossy world of rock clichés. Instead, she delivered an album that had slicker production than its predecessors but was just as personal, intelligent, and brassy as anything she’d done. From the opening growls of “Big Exit” to the whispers of “This Mess We’re In”, her stunning duet with Thom Yorke, Stories proved Harvey is incapable of failure. –Anthony Balderrama

19. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver

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With Sound of Silver, LCD Soundsystem and James Murphy crystallized the modern era. A blueprint of influence, from the niche to the mainstream, songs like “All My Friends”, “Someone Great”, “North American Scum”, or “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” evoked what it meant to be who you are in this modern day and age. The ironic statements, the clever reference, the awareness of self and life around you, and let us not forget the amazing music. Insanely catchy, extremely danceable, and well crafted, Sound of Silver remains the perfect Hipster album. –Charles Poladian

18. Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf

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Here’s an album that gave me goosebumps when I first heard it, and it still does to this day. “Song for the Dead” is a force to be reckon with, and no matter how many times you’ve heard them, “No One Knows” and “Go with the Flow” are still as slick as ever. Grohl’s thunder, Oliveri’s scream, and Hommes’ groove made for the heaviest, sexiest, rock record of the decade. –E.N. May

17. Sufjan Stevens- Illinoise

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The 50 States concept picked up momentum when Illinois emerged as Sufjan Stevens’ second choice. Stevens penned 22 tracks of magical music, utilizing an accoutrement of instruments and styles, infusing the culture and history of the state into each track. From the haunting piano of “John Wayne Gacy” to “Chicago”s tubular bells, Illinoise was the sound of the state. –Will Hines

16. Kanye West – The College Dropout

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Now that Kanye West has become one of pop culture’s most controversial figures, it has become difficult to remind his detractors of the massive impact his debut had on the rap scene. The College Dropout came out at a time when rap’s underground stood in stark contrast to the ghetto fabulous mainstream. West, who described himself as “the first rapper with a Benz and a backpack”, immediately set out to break down the barriers, flipping through his Rolodex to align a guest list of rappers ranging from Ludacris to Talib Kweli.  But what sets Dropout apart are the themes present in West’s lyrics. He strives for the political consciousness of the underground but struggles with the trappings of the good life. The portrait that emerges is one of somebody who has achieved the highest status any rapper can aspire to: a human being. –Michael Denslow

15. Radiohead – In Rainbows

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I like to imagine Jonny Greenwood as a mad scientist, at work behind a lab table piled high with all sorts of electronic modulators, computers, effects pedals, and of course, guitars. Thom Yorke, he’s the quirky research supervisor, the guy who makes sure that in the end, the chaos remains somewhat controlled.  The rest of the guys, they’re the much needed assistants.  After years of observation and work with these two, they get what’s going on, and they glue all the pieces together. With In Rainbows, this process has been refined to the point of flawlessness. There’s a sort of impeccable balance between that erratic tinkering and the lush, more organized Yorkian songwriting. But moreover, In Rainbows is a record that sees a band with nowhere new to go, defying the odds and finding yet another distinction of the well-established, yet genre defying Radiohead sound by revisiting their past. It’s by no means a reversion or a muting of their eccentricities, but merely a summation of all the different Radioheads that came before. Because that’s what makes them Radiohead, it’s their ability to do everything all at once, but make it sound so natural that you can hardly trace the ingredients. –Drew Litowitz

14. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

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It’s been a long time since someone made music this fun, and even longer since someone’s made an entire album of said fun music. Vampire Weekend’s debut deserves every glowing accolade it’s received. Not since Talking Heads parted ways has there been a band capable of such dynamic rhythm, smart lyrics, and youthful exhilaration. It takes a seldom-seen kind of musical genius to debut with this level of diverse musical understanding and charm. If this is where they are now, just imagine where they’ll be. –Cap Blackard

13. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post-Pavilion

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It wasn’t always easy to “get” Animal Collective. In fact, it used to be a pretty difficult feat. Nevertheless, with each subsequent album, the psychedelic connoisseurs brought something new into the mix, making it easier and easier to get a grasp on the ultimate goal of their seemingly sporadic plucking, their earsplitting tweaking, their chaotic screams, their impossibly naïve storytelling. And so finds us face-to-face with that very goal, the 21st century psych-pop masterpiece that is Merriweather Post Pavilion. With its tripped out, liquid drenched, electronic based take on Smiley Smile era Beach Boys pop, Animal Collective connected the dots many people didn’t even see in the first place. In doing so, the guys showed us that they had a twisted plan all along, we just may not have been able to read the blueprints. Whether anybody got it or not, the Baltimore natives unleashed their gorgeous summation of just how beautiful the banality of existence can be in the right context, ushering in an almost entirely new genre of music in the process. –Drew Litowitz

12. Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun 

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Five Icelanders take dream-rock to its logical conclusion. Pooling from their Nordic heritage, Sigur Rós devised and album so ethereal, dreamlike, and profoundly unique that they put the world in a transcendental state of imagination. Jónsi Birgisson’s cello-bowed guitar work and elfin voice combine to make the first human equivalent of whale song. Top that off with lush, echoing, multi-layered instrumentals and let your consciousness accelerate to places your sleeping mind can only glimpse. From the opening chord of “Svefn-g-englar”, to the triumphant soaring of “Starálfur” and “Olsen Olsen”, and the title track’s lullaby-like grace; Sigur Rós wrapped the new century in a sonic birthing caul, prophesying a destiny of greatness for music in the 21st century. –Cap Blackard

11. OutKast – Stankonia

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From the down home dirty south vibe to outer space funk, OutKast’s Stankonia had it all. The album’s an example of pure hip-hop mastery because of its sweet, sweet dichotomy. Big Boi keeps it street (see “We Luv Deez Hoez”) while Andre 3000 talks elephants and humors to the sounds that would cause George Clinton to break out in a case of boogie fever. Not to mention the synthy trumpets and space effects will keep your mind thoroughly blown for days. Plus, if a song like “So Fresh, So Clean” doesn’t get you laid or a jam like “B.O.B.” can’t get you running on the floor, there’s no hope for you. Ever. –Chris Coplan

10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – A Fever to Tell

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In 2003, I’d started to hang out with a crowd who liked to throw dinner parties. During the actual dinner, we’d listen to an assortment of jazz compilations and mixes of world and jazz music. But, as soon as the dishes were cleared, Fever To Tell would quickly drop into the CD player. Produced by the seemingly everywhere Dave Sitek, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs established themselves as hitmakers with this excellent art punk album. Karen O’s riotous swagger, fueled by Brian Chase’s thumping drums and Nick Zinner’s screeching guitar work, hits the ground running from the sublimely wild “Rich” and never looks back. –Adam Kivel

09. Beck – Sea Change

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Never was an album title more right. Sea Change was Beck’s way of blowing our minds, and it worked. “Paper Tiger” and “Lonesome Tears” take your breath away with their huge, sweeping, orchestral climaxes. We got Beck’s boldest moves as he sang with poetry, not freestyles, with “Lost Cause” as his platinum moment. With “Golden Age” opening though, it set the stage for a record that was, and still is, absolutely riveting. His reinvention gave a whole new depth to Mr. Hansen, launching him from 90’s slacker hero to music icon for the new millennium. Now six years later, Sea Change serves as a masterpiece in his catalogue, and for the decade. There’s truth to the words, “Let the golden age begin.” Long live Beck. –E.N. May

08. The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely

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Critics of The Raconteurs’ second full-length album argue that there are two main flaws: it’s too chaotic and it’s too diverse. I would argue that those two characteristics, which of course are true, are actually the album’s two best attributes, and in the end, allow it to be perhaps Jack White’s most crowning achieving to date. It’s not because it’s White’s best album, but because it’s his most balanced and consistent, an effort totally reflective of his ever-changing styles (“The Switch and the Spur”), one-of-a-kind passion (“Five On The Five”), and out of this world musicianship (“Salute Your Solution”). And all this is without mentioning the fact that The Raconteurs’ continue to be White’s most talented supporting cast to date. Ultimately, from top to bottom, Consolers of the Lonely is perfect, an album that remains as musically stimulating, as vocally stellar, as lyrically fascinating, and as down right mind-numbingly captivating in the beginning notes of the ferocious opening title track as it does 55 minutes later on track #14, the bluesy murder mystery known as “Carolina Drama”. This being said, no other selection in our Top 10 will questioned more than this one. If you’re one of those part of that questioning, I suggest you re-evaluate your definition of a great album. –Alex Young

07. The White Stripes – White Blood Cells

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While it took until their third effort to get noticed by the public at large, what an effort this stripped down garage rock album was. The LP represents not only a breakthrough for The White Stripes but also for an entire movement of lo-fi/minimalized guitar rock. White Blood Cells is fueled by grandiose rock songs like “Fell In Love With A Girl” and “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”. But their bombastic nature was one half of the equation and the album unleashes tune after tune that, at its very core, is a rapid fire construct that’s technically achievable by any band from the faceless masses but whose energy and eccentricities can only be created by the family White. And the album’s folk and country output (in “We’re Going To Be Friends” and “Hotel Yorba” respectively) paved the way for an onslaught of acts to mix something heavy and something honky-tonk. –Chris Coplan

06. The National- Boxer

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Looking back, it seems all too fitting that I first found Boxer on a rainy afternoon in southwestern Poland. The parallels between The National’s fourth full-length and Poland are evident: it’s gloomy and brooding, but the payout for those who take the time to dig deep below the surface will be rewarded tenfold. Alligator was a special record, making the band accessible to the indie masses. Boxer was, in a weird sense, their sophomore release. And any pressure they faced was wiped away with swift, emotionally rich strokes. The songs on Boxer move with a solemn yet weightless touch; it’s the record that elevated The National into everyone’s favorite rainy day band. And there were more than a few of those in Poland. –Joshua Kloke

05. Jay-Z – The Blueprint

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In hip hop circles it is commonly accepted that Reasonable Doubt is Jay-Z’s finest album and from a purely creative standpoint it may be. But no album better summed up who Jay-Z is and what his presence meant to rap and pop culture than The Blueprint. Seven years before Young Jeezy equated the election of a black president with his own personal rise, Jay-Z presented the outline (or, um, blueprint) for rags-to-riches success. Throw in sparkling production, a scalding duet with Eminem, and one of the best dis tracks of all time. As if that’s not enough, The Blueprint also introduced the world to a confident young producer named Kanye West, who was responsible for four of the album’s beats. –Michael Denslow

04. Radiohead – Kid A

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Kid A was and will always be its own rare breed. It will forever be the record that shocked fans with its inaccessibility, but slowly grew into one of the most cherished albums of a new generation of music lovers. Radiohead would still have made two of the most important contributions to rock music without it, but would they have become the genre defying, shape shifting monsters they are today without their timeless middle finger to the rock world? –Drew Litowitz

03. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

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Wilco’s fourth studio album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, is the group’s best-selling album and is widely recognized as one of the best albums of 2002. A defining characteristic of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is the “punch” of every track; the album is under an hour long with 11 tracks, and none are filler. Every song is there on purpose, with a purpose; YHF exemplifies the band’s sound, but with brevity and wit. It is also the band’s most honest release, constructing metaphors and utilizing sound, in addition to music, to address Tweedy’s personal problems with pain pills, migraines, and panic attacks. The relatable nature of the tracks on YHF, and the depth of what lies beneath, makes it Wilco’s most raw, exposed, and appreciated album. –Shayna Hodkin

02. Arcade Fire – Funeral

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Though Funeral itself might mourn the loss of innocent youth, listening to it uplifts and upsets in equal parts. Hearing Funeral is like reliving a childhood you never even lived in the first place. It’s like seeing flashbacks to the hardships of growing up, crying about them, and suddenly realizing that it was all just a gloriously crafted dream. Win Butler’s imagery and narratives are so universal it’s frightening. From the second the album’s bright piano notes combine with Butler’s angst-ridden cries, you can feel it. You want to build a tunnel, you remember your bedrooms and your parents bedrooms. Then after you’re well acquainted with how beautiful it all is, Butler will throw a line at you so rich with naïve imagery that the smile your mouth forms almost stings: “When daddy comes home, you always start a fight/ So the neighbors can dance/ In the police/ Disco lights/ Now the neighbors can dance.” The record presents an ambitious art-rock framework that feels familiar, simply because we wish indie rock had always been this grand, this heartfelt. This is the record that rock music had been waiting for, without ever even knowing it. It came out of virtually nowhere and birthed one of the most treasured bands of the burgeoning 21st century. The subject matter combines with an arsenal of instrumentation to form a grouping of songs that are impossibly poignant, miserable, and blissful all at once. And man, what an impossibility it is. –Drew Litowitz

01. The Strokes – Is This It [UK]

is this it CoS Top of the Decade: The Albums

Try and remember what you were listening to pre-2001. It probably wasn’t too much garage rock, or even indie rock for that matter. There’s a reason for that. Before The Strokes hit the scene with their breakthrough single “Last Nite”, there was little to no reason for anyone to be interested in garage rock, save for those lucky enough to live in Detroit. But the summer of ’01 changed everything… and fast. Almost overnight, teenagers everywhere found recluse in the balmy glaze of New York City’s hottest band, trading in their skater clothes for denim and leather jackets. They flocked to The Strokes, and every band that rolled out after ’em: Everyone from The White Stripes to The Hives, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to Kings of Leon.

And, eight years later, you still can’t help but marvel at Is This It. It’s just so damn perfect. There isn’t a song here that’s not worth writing a 1,000 words over. While the US got stiffed (“When It Started” over “New York City Cops” to keep the band politically correct at the time, e.g. 9/11), the UK edition, which actually sports the band’s originally intended album cover, is a diamond to this day. “Hard To Explain” chugs at a simple yet epic pace that still bleeds into spunky indie rock efforts today, while “Someday” captures the idealistic, youthful mentality of being young, dumb, and lost in love. The main reason this all works is because The Strokes recognize where they want to go and what they want to do. In fact, this might be the most realized and assured debut in the catalog of rock ‘n’ roll. Not once does a song falter, not once does the sound seem inconsistent, and never does it date itself.

Of course, their videos might. Hell, when “Last Nite” made the rounds on MTV’s late night video blocks (what a relic, huh?), anyone could have thought The Strokes were some lost band of yesteryear, making a comeback via “found footage” or “renewed interest.” Just take a look at the clip again. Between the dusty, bright set to Julian Casablancas’ zoned out expressions, these guys looked like a product of the ’70s or extras on “that” FOX show. However, sonically, their tunes amounted to straight up honest-to-god rock ‘n’ roll, the kind of stuff that took no liberties in being anything but that. As a result, they brought about a genre that wound up dominating the decade: indie rock (even if they weren’t a part of it). Following Is This It, new and smaller acts surfaced left and right, wearing their influences on their sleeves and putting their hearts in the lyrics, all without the modern rock mentality that acts like Staind, Green Day, and even the Foo Fighters carried. There was still an image being sold, but something changed. That something is hard to pinpoint — it really is — but Is This It is a direct example of it (and hands down the first of the new millennium).

And at the end of the day, it’s a diamond album, too.

Michael Roffman

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