Yes, I know there are huge gaps. I'll fix them later.
100) Of Montreal - The Sunlandic Twins (2005)
This is the album when the darkness seep through the cracks in Of Montreal's sunny indie pop, and it makes for some enjoyable listening. The first half of this album is catchy and danceable, while the second half is dark and brooding, and while the album doesn't cover the full range of human emotion quite like later albums Hissing Fauna and Skeletal Lamping, it is clearly a step in that direction. It will make you want to move, and maybe later it will make you want to sit and reflect.
Key Tracks: Wraith Pinned To The Mist And Other Games, Forecast Fascist Future, Requiem for O.M.M.2
99) The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (2002)
The whole concept album about a girl fighting robots is a nice gimmick, but that's not what draws me to this album. It's the SOUNDS, man. The cosmic, relaxing sounds. With all the talk of robot battles, it's actually the calmest album the Lips have ever made. Sure, it is host to three of their catchiest songs (see Key Tracks below), but the rest of the album is charming as well, full of slow-moving beautiful tracks with meditations of life. Even if you don't know what they're talking about (I'm think the pink robots are a metaphor for our inner demons or something) it is all very nice music to space out to.
Key Tracks: Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt. 1, Fight Test, Do You Realize
98) Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Hearts of Oak (2003)
There are plenty of people who do what Ted Leo does, so what makes him stand out? Probably the fact that he seems way more passionate about what he does. Of the 3 Ted Leo albums that make my list, this one is the lowest mostly due to recording quality, but it is a testament to Ted Leo's larger than life quality that it feels like the recording can't hold his personality. You get the feeling this is music that is meant to be seen live, personally experiencing Ted Leo's energy. But the songs on this album are SO GOOD. Hence it's placement on the list. "You didn't think they would hate you now, did you?" and "Where have all the rude boys gone?" might be the most memorable lines in all of his discography.
Key Tracks: The High Party, The Ballad Of The Sin Eater, Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?
97) Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It In People (2002)
It's hard to describe this album because it sounds like everything. BSS might have been among the first to invert the "smallness" of 90s indie-rock with their massive orchestrations, paving the way for bands like Arcade Fire. But the smaller moments might be the best on this album: the slow shuffle of "Looks Just Like the Sun", Emily Haines' delicate sounding voice accompanied by what sounds like banjo on "Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl". But as I said, there are louder sounding moments, particularly at the beginning. This is an album that tries lots of things and succeeds at all of them.
Key Tracks: Cause=Time, Looks Just Like the Sun, Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl
96) Wilco- Sky Blue Sky (2007)
People say dad rock like it's a bad thing. Sure, they're jammy and complacent. But just because Wilco sound more like a veteran band comfortable with their sound on Sky Blue Sky does not mean they are getting worse. It's a good sound to be comfortable with! I can honestly say that Wilco are one of the best live bands I've ever seen, each member playing off each other perfectly, and it shows on this album as well. For a perfect example, listen to the second half of "Impossible Germany". That kind of jamming may bore some people, but to me it is orgasmic.
Key Tracks: Impossible Germany, You Are My Face, Walken
95) Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle (2009)
The album starts with some moody guitars and violin and Bill's deep mournful voice, like most of what his albums. But this one grabbed me like none of the others. It's a 48-minute ride of melancholy with no breaks, no moments of lightness. But It's a ride I'm willing to go on. It's not depressing, it's just honest. And by the end, when it's time to put God away, there's a feeling of catharsis.
Key Tracks: Eid Ma Clack Shaw, The Wind and the Dove, My Friend
94) Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy
I don't know much about the concept behind this album, so I'm just gonna talk about how Will Sheff might be one of my favorite singers in indie rock. I love ever mode his voice takes: the crackly falsetto (In A Radio Song), the yelling (For Real), and just straightforward singing (Black Sheep Boy) My first taste of this band was "For Real", which caught be off guard with its abrasiveness, but now I love it. The songs on the album are diverse, ranging from angry rockers to tender ballads, and even including some pop moments, and the band takes on each one excellently.
Key Tracks: Black, For Real, Song of Our So-Called Friends
93) Sleater-Kinney - One Beat (2002)
I would argue that Sleater-Kinney are at their best when they are doing fun things, and there is plenty of that to be had on this album. There's a call and response vocal (O2), some underwater effects (The Remainder), and even a dancey song (Oh!). There's plenty of seriousness here too, talking about war and politics, but the message is never as important as how great the songs sound. And they sound so great. I don't know what else to say other than that every individual member of Sleater-Kinney is brilliant.
Key Tracks: Far Away, Oh!, Light Rail Coyote
92) Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene (2005)
I'm gonna say that this is the defining BSS album. The one that delivered on the epicness promised by their excellent debut. They went bigger, doubled down, and it paid off. This epicness can best be heard in the closer, which is one of my favorite songs, and on Ibi Dreams of Pavement, a song that pays a clear homage to Pavement, but done in BSS's grand wall-of-sound style. Elsewhere on the album, they manage to incorporate still more genres! There's some trip-hop, a little bit of rapping, and a pop song featuring the woman who would later star in iPod commercials and Sesame Street, but it's in an unusual time signature, to prevent it from being too pop. This and their debut are both fantastic, but I have to give this one a slight edge for its clear evolution.
Key Tracks: It's All Gonna Break, 5/4 (Shoreline), Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)
91) Talib Kweli - Quality (2002)
Talib Kweli is good intro-level thinking people's hip hop. He raps about things that matter, has lyrics that you need to listen to a few times to fully absorb, etc, but the music is so immediately catchy. Although previously overshadowed by Mos Def in Black Star, on Quality, he comes into his own. Every song on this album kills. It helps that the production is universally great, by J Dilla, DJ Quik, and best of all by pre-fame Kanye West on 3 of the best tracks. And Talib's flow and lyrics are the best it's ever been on this album, properly documenting how cats look more like dicks than the Washington Monument.
Key Tracks: Get By, guerilla monsoon rap, Shock Body
90) The National - Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers (2003)
The National's underrated second album has no lack of great moments: the violin breakdown in "Cardinal Song", the screams towards the end of "Slipping Husband" and "Available", the entirety of the too-short highlight "Fashion Coat". Although not as much of a masterpiece as Alligator and Boxer, all of the elements that make them great were already present.
Key Tracks: 90-Mile Water Wall, Fashion Coat, Lucky You
89) Dinosaur Jr - Beyond (2007)
When the opening riff comes in "Almost Ready", the past 10 years of inactivity disappear in an instant. Maybe even the past 19 years since they released Bug, since this is their best album since that one. It almost sounds like it could have been the follow up to Bug, except that in those 19 years, J. Mascis has evolved a more confident vocal presence, and Lou Barlow has too.
Key Tracks: We're Not Alone, Almost Ready, Crumble
88) No Age - Nouns (2008)
No Age combine experimental production, punk energy, and great songwriting, and all 3 are in full force on Nouns. But my favorite song on the album is atypical: the No Wave ballad "Things I Did When I was Dead"
Key Tracks: Things I Did When I Was Dead, Here Should Be My Home, Teen Creeps
87) Girl Talk - Feed the Animals (2008)
More than perhaps any other Girl Talk album, Feed the Animals is designed for tickling pleasure centers. Every moment on the album could be the best moment, and Girl Talk has even managed to convince me that all of the songs he samples are great - even Soulja Boy. Now that's impressive.
No key tracks, listen to the whole thing!
86) Atlas Sound - Logos (2009)
Logos is beautiful, a swirl of voices and sounds. And the highlights! Quick Canal is dreamlike, and at 8:38 not a second too long. Shelia is the most straightforward pop song you'll find in Atlas Sound, but it's got enough reverb to make it fit in. Walkabout is so sunny that he had to bring Panda Bear in to sing on it. And Attic Lights is one of the most magically beautiful songs of the decade.
Key Tracks: Attic Lights, Walkabout, Quick Canal
85) Death From Above 1979 - You're A Woman, I'm A Machine
84) Wilco - A Ghost Is Born
83) Life Without Buildings - Any Other City
82) Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
81) The Decemberists - Castaways and Cutouts
80) Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit (2006)
This album is basically the definition of campy, with it's 60s pop sound. And yet, I can't help but fall for it, because it all sounds so genuine. Songs like "Another Sunny Day" and "Funny Little Frog" bring a big 'ol grin to my face. All this from the band that Jack Black famously called "Sad bastard music" in High Fidelity. I like their sunny side too.
Key Tracks: Another Sunny Day, The Blues Are Still Blue, We Are Sleepyheads
79) Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That (2006)
Is it easy, Phoenix, making music like this? Because you sure make it seem that way. Thomas Mars could breathe and it would get stuck in my head. Fortunately he and his band do a lot more on this album: uptempo rockers, ballads, straight up pop, all done effortlessly and successfully.
Key Tracks: Consolation Prizes, Long Distance Call, Sometimes In The Fall
78) Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala (2007)
Jens Lekman has the wit of Morrissey, but even more so, because he's just so damn self-deprecating. The ocean makes him feel stupid, his words all come out wrong, and he can't even manage to cry about it all. But you wouldn't know it from the lush string arrangements and incredibly hummable melodies. This is an album to listen to again and again and catch something new every time, either musically or lyrically.
Key Tracks: Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo, Sipping On The Sweet Nectar, I'm Leaving You Because I Don't Love You
77) Spoon - Gimme Fiction (2005)
Although I often consider Gimme Fiction a slightly disappointing Spoon album (spoiler alert: lots more Spoon albums) I can't deny that it's the first time they sounded like they could be HUGE. "The Beast and Dragon Adored" and "My Mathematical Mind" thundered like no other songs they had done, "I Turn My Camera On" was sleek and sexy, "Sister Jack" blows up speakers. Only a few songs sound like the conventional Spoon sound they mastered on "Girls Can Tell" and "Kill the Moonlight", but every song has something interesting to offer. Except "Was It You?", which really gets on my nerves.
Key Tracks: I Summon You, The Delicate Place, Two Sides / Monsieur Valentine
76) Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon (2006)
Forgot about these guys? Understandable. Don't let it happen again. Or maybe you remember them only as an undeserving target of hype, as portrayed in that hilarious video starring Aziz Ansari, where he plays an indie rock promoter... what was that video called again? Anyway, go back and listen to the music, because it is GREAT. There's nothing groundbreaking about it sure, but they sure craft some great tunes, and they do so with a great manic energy, combining elements of some of my favorite bands in short catchy bursts.
Key Tracks: Cowbell, Insistor, In Houston
75) Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights (2002)
This album hits me like a ton of bricks every time I listen to it. Which is honestly not very often because, well, it's a lot to take in. There are heavier albums, sure, there are more depressing albums, but this one just feels packed with bleakness. But it's not just bleakness. It's also great melodies and great musicianship, and the Joy Division comparisons don't mean they were ripping them off, but that they were the first ones since to get the formula right.
Key Tracks: Obstacle 1, PDA, Say Hello to the Angels
74) Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca (2009)
Youtube celebrity Anthony Fantano probably put it best when reviewing this album: "What IS this?" The inability to place this album, this weird hybrid of pop and experimental music, is precisely what makes it worth listening to over and over again. It is, quite frankly, a mess. But it sure is a pretty one, and a fun one, and it's one that gradually reveals itself a little bit over time.
Key Tracks: No Intention, Two Doves, Temecula Sunrise
73) Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend (2007)
Someone HAD to update Paul Simon's world music influenced pop for the 21st century, and they do it by stripping down their songs. Their background or image or whatever doesn't matter when you get a taste of these 11 ear nuggets. This is perfect carefree summertime music, and while I imagine it sounds the best while sipping on a piña colada on a beach, it sounds pretty good while driving aimlessly around the suburbs too.
Key Tracks: Oxford Comma, M79, A-Punk
72) Blitzen Trapper - Furr (2008)
The cover of this album says it all. These guys really do, unironically, want to be the Iron Maiden of folk-rock. While that sounds terrible, the total earnestness and commitment to it is what makes it great. This album is song after song of folksy badassery, and it is a delight. And did I mention that Furr is one of the best songs of the decade? It is.
Key Tracks: Furr, Gold for Bread, Sleepytime in the Western World
71) Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank (2007)
Yeah, I know. In terms of depth, this album's got NOTHING on The Lonesome Crowded West, The Moon and Antarctica, or even Good News for People Who Love Bad News. But you know what? It's a lot of fun to listen to. Name me a better radio-friendly rock song than Dashboard. That song's got everything: a pulsing beat, horns, strings, the works. Elsewhere on the album, James Mercer adds some sweet harmonies, Issac Brock does his yell/growl thing and sounds like a demented circus announcer, and dance grooves are aplenty. Sometimes, all of these elements are present in the same song (Florida). It's still one of the weirdest Gold selling albums ever.
Key Tracks: Dashboard, March Into the Sea, Missed the Boat
70) My Morning Jacket - Z
69) Swan Lake - Beast Moans
68) Aesop Rock - None Shall Pass
67) Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Tyranny of Distance
66) M. Ward - The Transfiguration of Vincent
65) Radiohead - Amnesiac
64) Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
63) Dan Deacon - Bromst
62) The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday
61) Okkervil River - The Stage Names
60) Sigur Rós - Ágætis byrjun (2000/1999)
This album always puts me to sleep. Not because it's boring, not at all, but because it is so incredibly peaceful. As such, I've only actually listened to it the whole way through a handful of times, and even when I stay awake through the whole thing, I feel wonderfully calm. This just affirms my belief that Iceland is a magical place.
Key Tracks: Starálfur, Svefn-g-englar, Ný batterí
59) Cat Power - You Are Free (2003)
Lots of people have made tortured sounding music, but few have done it like this. Rather than focus on one emotion, the album runs the gamut of negative emotions - anger, despair, fear - often on the same track. Like true sadness, it is not empowered, but rather frail and confused. It is a difficult album to understand, but it is unmistakably full of beauty.
Key Tracks: He War, Good Woman, Maybe Not
58) The Strokes - Is This It (2001)
I still can't put my finger on what it is that keeps me (and everyone else) coming back to this album. Because it sounds like pretty much anybody can be The Strokes. But that's just it, maybe: they make music sound as easy as breathing. But the reality is that we can't be The Strokes. We can't write songs this good and pull them off effortlessly. The rest of us don't have that spark, that element that makes this music sound fresh every time you hear it.
Key Tracks: Someday, Last Nite, The Modern Age
57) The Black Keys - Rubber Factory (2004)
If the White Stripes make bluesy rock music, the Black Keys make music that is equal parts rock and blues. The songs on this album are fantastic, great riffs, great vocals. But what makes The Black Keys stand out from other blues-rock bands for me is that up until a few years ago at least, they seemed influenced not only by the music of blues but the production of old blues music. I'm normally against lo-fi for the sake of art, but there is a great timeless quality in the way the recordings here can hardly contain the feedback, particularly on tracks like "Keep Me" and "Stack Shot Billy".
Key Tracks: Till I Get My Way, 10 Am Automatic, The Lengths
56) Justice - † (2007)
† is a party. It's that simple. Justice basically has one trick, the loud, stabbing synth sounds that come out of nowhere, but they work. And they even make Uffie sound awesome, which is an amazing accomplishment. Sometimes dance music should just be loud and relentless, like a Michael Bay movie.
Key Tracks: D.A.N.C.E., Let There Be Light, New Jack
55) Akron/Family - Akron/Family (2005)
What is this album? Where did it come from? Why is it so good? Why have Akron/Family not made anything like it since? It seriously blows my mind. In 2005, freak-folk was nothing new, but Akron/Family made it something more. This album has electronic sounds, airy keyboards, and blasts of noise. It is refined yet messy. Sometimes I describe it as sounding like "freak-folk Radiohead", which no one seems to understand. It is unexpected shifts at every turn. It is a weird masterpiece.
Key Tracks: Running, Returning, I'll Be on the Water, Shoes
54) Sufjan Stevens - Illinois (2005)
Sufjan Stevens isn't just a musician, he's a composer. Sure, it's catchy enough to be perfect indie-movie soundtrack fodder, but everything he writes is a symphony, and Illinois was his best symphony of the decade. There are a lot of indulgences on this album - just look at the song titles - but when the music is this good, such indulgences are okay. Just think of it as anything but casual listening. Illinois commands your attention, time after time.
Key Tracks: The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us, Come on! Feel the Illinois!, John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
53) The Decemberists - The Crane Wife (2006)
They've flirted with it before, but The Crane Wife is when The Decemberists went full out prog-rock. Not knowing much about the genre, I can't reference other bands, but I can say that this album has "major label debut" written all over it, and I actually mean that in a good way. Everything is bigger, more confident, and anthemic.
Key Tracks: The Island, Come And See, The Landlord's Daughter, You'll Not Feel The Drowning, O Valencia!, Sons and Daughters
52) Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha (2007)
Armchair Apocrypha is unusually dark for Andrew Bird at times. Lots of slow songs, minor keys, and an overall somber tone. A few songs stand out, however: right in the middle, Darkmatter is loud, powerful, and serves as an outlet for the tension that exists on the rest of the album. Imitosis is simultaneously mysterious and dancey sounding. My favorite song on the album, Heretics, is itself filled with an album's worth of melodic ideas, and easily one of the best songs in Bird's entire career.
Key Tracks: Heretics, Imitosis, Scythian Empires
51) TV on the Radio - Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes
How far they have come. These days, TV on the Radio are churning out fantastic electronic funk-rock-jams, but on their debut, their sound was much more bleak and minimal. I like both sides of the band. But it's interesting how the same tools used to create said funk today - falsetto, steady rhythms, horns- exist on this album too, but sound dark and almost creepy in this context. There are no party songs on this album, only an exciting dark world to get sucked into. And it's all done with the bare minimum of instrumentation necessary, or sometimes not at all.
Key Tracks: Staring At The Sun, Dreams, Poppy
50) The Shins - Oh, Inverted World (2001)
This album will not change your life. But in 2001, it sounded like nothing else. While The Strokes and The White Stripes were making garage rock popular again, The Shins were going in a different direction, making melodic, gentle, reverb-filled, and beautiful music. It would take everyone else years to catch up.
Key Tracks: Caring Is Creepy, Know Your Onion!, New Slang
49) Grizzly Bear - Yellow House (2006)
This album is an experience. It sucks you in, and you feel like you really are in this creepy yellow house. And of course "On A Neck, On A Spit" and "Knife" are probably the two best Grizzly Bear songs ever. The former with its manic circus breakdown, the latter with its heartfelt simplicity.
Key Tracks: On a Neck, On a Spit, Knife, Easier
48) The Decemberists - Her Majesty the Decemberists (2003)
Key Tracks: The Soldiering Life, Los Angeles, I'm Yours, The Gymnast, High Above the Ground
47) M. Ward - Post-War (2006)
Key Tracks: Chinese Translation, Right in the Head. Eyes on the Prize
46) Spoon - Girls Can Tell (2001)
Key Tracks: Everything Hits at Once, Anything You Want, Me and the Bean
45) Of Montreal - Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004)
Key Tracks: Lysergic Bliss, Disconnect the Dots, Spike the Senses
44) Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Shake the Sheets (2004)
Key Tracks: The One Who Got Us Out, Me and Mia, Counting Down the Hours
43) Sunset Rubdown - Shut Up I Am Dreaming (2006)
Key Tracks: Shut Up I Am Dreaming Of Places Where Lovers Have Wings, Stadiums And Shrines II, Us Ones In Between
42) Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies (2006)
Key Tracks: European Oils, Watercolours Into The Ocean, Your Blood
41) The White Stripes - White Blood Cells (2001)
Key Tracks: The Union Forever, Hotel Yorba, Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
40) TV on the Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain (2006)
39) Deerhunter - Microcastle (2008)
38) Radiohead - Hail to the Thief (2003)
37) The Unicorns - Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? (2003)
36) Mos Def - The Ecstatic (2009)
35) The New Pornographers - Electric Version (2003)
34) Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are you the destroyer (2007)
33) Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Love Bad News (2004)
32) The Postal Service - Give Up (2003)
31) Amadou & Mariam - Dimanche a Bamako (2005)
30) Animal Collective - Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished (2000)
29) LCD Soundsystem - Sound Of Silver (2007)
28) Aesop Rock - Labor Days
27) Andrew Bird - Noble Beast (2009)
26) Outkast - Stankonia (2000)
25) Thao with the Get Down Stay Down - We Brave Bee Stings and All (2008)
24) Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary (2005)
23) Jay-Z - The Black Album (2003)
22) Belle and Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003)
21) The National - Boxer (2007)
20) Animal Collective - Sung Tongs (2004)
19) Daft Punk - Discovery (2001)
18) Panda Bear - Person Pitch (2007)
17) The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls In America (2006)
16) Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (2008)
15) Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest (2009)
14) Andrew Bird - Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005)
13) The Decemberists - Picaresque (2005)
12) TV on the Radio - Dear Science (2008)
11) Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion (2009)
10) Animal Collective - Feels (2005)
9) Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007)
8) Radiohead - In Rainbows (2007)
7) Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
6) Spoon - Kill the Moonlight (2002)
5) Arcade Fire - Funeral (2004)
4) The National - Alligator (2005)
3) Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam (2007)
2) Radiohead - Kid A (2000)
1) Modest Mouse - The Moon and Antarctica (2000)