The problem with a list like this is the “shoulds”. You know, the albums you feel like everyone else will pick, so you “should,” too? Well, this time I decided not to deal with those. My list is based on the number of times I listened to these albums since they came out, whether I love them so much I already know every word to every song, how much it moved me, etc. This is a personal list. It isn’t intended to be complete or controversial. That said, I know I’ll get crap for it. But probably not as much as I will for my best rap albums list. Hip Hop fans always bring the hate . . .
As always, the only records that qualify are those that aren’t on a major label.
Wait! Before I get to the list itself, here’s a few that didn’t make it . . . But only just barely:
– Detective Kalita-The Michael Parks (2005-Kelp). A vastly under-heard and under-exposed, gentle album.
– Of Montreal-Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007-Polyvinyl). Experimental disco!
– Spinto Band-Nice and Nicely Done (2005-Bar None). Just straightforward indie rock, but catchy as hell.
-Albert Hammond, Jr.-Yours to Keep (2007-Watchtower). Rock, pop and roll by an ex-Stroke. Can’t get enough of this album.
Okay now, no more stalling . . .
The Top 25 Albums of the Decade
25. Jason Lytle-The Commuter (2009-Anti). Genre: Indie rock. It was down to Jason or Albert Hammond, Jr., and it was a hard choice. I went with Jason because, although I sing-along much better to “Yours To Keep,” “The Commuter” took me places I hadn’t been before. And Lytle’s guitar solos are surprisingly intricate.
24. Voxtrot-Voxtrot (2007-Play Louder). Genre: Twee. Yeah, Voxtrot has a sound that’s light and sweet, but those hooks . . . Mmmmm. Sweet catchy hooks.
23. Band of Horses-Everything All the Time (2006-Sub Pop). Genre: Indie rock. Haunting and strange.
22. Petra Haden and Bill Frisell-s/t (2005-Sovereign). Genre: Indie folk/rock. Haden’s vocals are pure gold. I could listen to her read a phone book.
21. Cloud Cult-The Meaning of 8 (2007-Rebel Group). Genre: Heart-wrenching folk. It’s hard sometimes to listen to a band whose sole topic is the death of a young child, but it’s rewarding, too. Cloud Cult is one of the few bands how get into the philosophy of death and the meaning of life, but they do it through music and pictures rather than rambling discourse. If this album doesn’t make you cry, you need to go get a new heart from Oz.
20. Deadstring Brothers-Starving Winter Report (2006-Bloodshot). Genre: Americana. A vastly underrated band with a lead singer who looks like he’s twelve but sings like he’s forty with the power of a drunken twenty-seven-year-old.
19. Frank Turner-Love, Ire & Song (2009-Epitaph). Genre: Folkpunk. I want to thank Frank personally for “Thatcher Fucked the Kids.” Joe Strummer may be dead, but he lives on through people like Frank Turner.
18. Thao-We Brave Bee Sings and All (2008-Kill Rock Stars). Genre: Twee. Written off by many as inconsequential fluff, I challenge you to listen—really listen—past Thao’s too-cute-for-description vocal quality and into her sad and sometimes disturbing lyrics. She’s the folk-singer version of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer scripts.
17. Gaslight Anthem-’59 Sound (2008-Side One Dummy). Genre: 1970s garage rock. No, Gaslight Anthem doesn’t do anything new here. They channel Springsteen, blasting through three-and-a-half minute garagerock anthems. But who says music can’t still simply be a matter of fist-pumping fun? Not me, that’s for sure.
16. Calexico-Feast of Wire (2003-Quarter Stick). Genre: Americana. One of the most complex Americana albums I’ve had the privilege of hearing.
15. Jonathan Coulton-Thing A Week One (2006-Self released). Genre: Indie rock/folk. One of the greatest artists of the decade, it’s almost impossible for me to pick just one of his Things A Week. Every one is funny, introspective, provocative and a blast. My entire family can sing along to at least a third of his catalog. Go to his site and buy his music. Support the artist!
14. Mclusky-Mclusky Do Dallas (2002-Beggars). Genre: Screaming, balls-out punk. Because we all need a little nihilism sometimes.
13. The Black Keys-Rubber Factory (Fat Possum-2004). Genre: Crunchy blues. That’s right. I like these dudes more than The White Stripes. Way more.
12. Frightened Rabbit-The Midnight Organ Fight (2008-Fat Cat). Genre: Angry folk. Why do I love this album? Because of lines like, “It’s takes more than fucking someone you don’t know to keep yourself warm.” It embraces what it condemns, wearing self-contradiction and hypocrisy like a shawl in the winter. Brilliant, cynical, and beautiful.
11. Interpol-Turn on the Bright Lights (2002-Matador). Genre: Retro dark Europop. If there’s one truism about indie rock in the double-zeros, it’s that it’s overwhelmingly retro. Interpol exemplifies this trend, while at the same time improving on its source material.
10. Clap Hands Say Yeah-s/t (2005-Clap Hands Say Yeah). Genre: Indie rock. This is the record that proved that the blogosphere can sell records. Too bad it didn’t do much for the band’s second album. Even so, this one continues to get heavy rotation from me. It’s not revolutionary, it won’t change your life, but it’s a perfect example of everything indie rock and roll should be.
9. Death Cab for Cutie-Transatlanticism (2003-Barsuk). Genre: Intellectual pathos. An album that holds up, end to end, as the perfect crossover from indie-rock to twee. Gibbard is the most effective love-song-lyricist of his day.
8. The Hold Steady-Separation Sunday (2005-Frenchkiss). Genre: Muscular intellectual pathos. Because Springsteen hasn’t been this good since Born To Run.
7. Bloc Party-Silent Alarm (2005-Vice). Genre: Postpunkpop. They weren’t the first ones to use their signature sound, but they did it better than anyone else and, in my view, were largely responsible for all the sound-alikes that got popular just after BP started releasing all their brilliant EPs. A wonderful debut album.
6. Spoon-Gimme Fiction (2005-Merge). Genre: Indie rock. Frankly, all of Spoon’s albums warrant discussion. Pound for pound, they probably released the greatest number of great indie records this decade.
5. Sam Baker-Cotton (2009-Music Road). Genre: Indie folk. Haven’t heard it? Or even heard OF it? Shame on you.
4. Ryan Adams-Heartbreaker (2000-Bloodshot). Genre: Americana. Say what you want about the dude, and there’s a lot to be said, but he’s one talented MF. This was his only independent record of the decade. It may also have been his best.
3. Joe Strummer-Global A Go Go (2001-Hellcat). Genre: Classic rock and roll. Frankly, I could have put any of Joe’s albums up here. They’re all amazing—as good as anything he did with The Clash. But I didn’t want to over-represent, so he just gets the one mention. My favorite Strummer record of the decade. Rest in peace, Joe.
2. Postal Service-Give Up (2003-Sub Pop). Genre: Meaty twee. Yeah, I like this more than Gibbard’s Death Cab work. It’s quirky and a little fey, but it’s also brilliant. How many covers of “Such Great Heights” have their been, after all?
Such Great Heights-Rilo Kiley (cover of a song off Give Up)
1 The Arcade Fire-Funeral (2004-Merge). Genre: Anthemic indie. Simply put: This album is the reason I started blogging. It makes my heart swell to bursting, and still moves me to tears and distraction. The single best musical expression of pain and love since The Wall, but minus the hate and rage.