44.) The New Pornographers - Electric Version (2003)

What can I say about The New Pornographers that I haven't already said in the previous two entries (and what will I say later, when I, spoiler alert, have to do it again)? For me, The New Pornographers' output is probably the strongest of any band this decade. There aren't any bad songs across their four records. Sure, some aren't as good as others but you could put on all four records in a row and I'd be hard pressed to find a track to skip.

Electric Version is TNPs second record and one that found them really sounding like a fully functioning band rather than just a group of friends getting together to just "try some shit out." So, Electric Version is a bit more streamlined and focused and maybe not as surprising as Mass Romantic was, but I still think all in all it's a stronger record.

Electric Version was the record that saw The New Pornographers cease being a side project for many of its members and it's that "we're all in" attitude that seemed to have led the band to a greater heights. A "we can make something of this" attitude, if you will. The songs on Electric Version are so tightly constructed and fun as hell and AC Newman proved himself as a truly ace songwriter with Electric Version. "From Blown Speakers", "The Laws Have Changed" and "July Jones", just to name a few, are pop bliss complete with sing along choruses and cascading arrangements.

Of course Bejar comes in with perhaps the record's oddest track, but incidentally also one of its best with "Testament To Youth In Verse." Hearing the band members come in at the end imitating the sound of ringing bells is a truly magical moment. And of course there's Neko who, in typical Neko fashion, slays the shit out of "All For Swinging You Around" a track that almost (yes, almost) rivals "Letter From An Occupant."

All in all, Electric Version is a record that really announced that The New Pornographers were not a fluke, not merely a collective, but a super group in the truest sense of that term.

45.) The National - The Boxer (2007)

"Showered and blue blazered. Fill yourself with quarters."

Yep that's a National lyric and there you have it. You either go with it or you don't. I do. I really do.

Everyone I know likes The National. Across the board. It's at a hundred percent and I've come to find that difficult to understand. I don't mean that a diss either. I should clarify. I get The Shins. I know why everybody loves The Shins. They're great, but they're accessible. The National, though. I stand slack-jawed. Their records are all serious growers with lyrics that sometimes make no sense and music that can be downright dour. I've even heard people who like them call them boring. Yet, they're one of the most commonly accepted good bands of the decade.

While I might not totally get it, I have a theory. The National, especially here on The Boxer, sound like your twenties and who doesn't love their twenties? To pinpoint it a bit more, The National sound like your twenties in New York. They sound like discovery.

When I listen to "Ada" I can imagine being a first timer to New York standing in the middle of Times Square late at night when it's not miserably crowded, right before it really becomes winter and just looking up and taking it all in. When I hear "Mistaken For Strangers", it sounds like getting drunk in some lower east side bar and "The Apartment Song" is the one playing in the cab on the ride home. "Start A War" is that first big New York break-up. The one that's so utterly miserable, but when it's all said and done is actually pretty romantic in its own right. And "Squalor Victoria" finds you somewhere you never intended to be, too fucked up too care, but still with enough sense to recognize you're gonna regret it in the morning.

So, The Boxer is a sexy record in that regard. It sounds a bit dangerous, but not overwhelmingly so. It's not so much that you can't handle. Enough can't be said for spending your twenties in New York - even though from a financial standpoint no one should - and my ears hear that joy, angst, fear, depression, uncertainty etc. etc. in The Boxer. It's all those mixed emotions and all those jittery late nights the record so successfully captures that, I think, makes everyone like it so much. Including me.

46.) The Mountain Goats - Tallahassee (2002)

In 2002, John Darnielle decided to change some shit. Up until the release of Tallahassee, Darnielle's work had been done mostly by himself and recorded to tapes - as lo-fi as lo-fi could be. For Tallahassee he enlisted the help of an honest to goodness band. He also decided to sign with an actual label - that being the famed 4AD and this resulted in what I perceive to be Darnielle's best work.

Tallahassee sees Darnielle flesh out two characters he'd written about before - a couple simply known as "The Alpha Couple" - a couple always on the verge of divorce. Tallahassee can be bleak at times, but sometimes bleak is beautiful. Darnielle is, at heart, a storyteller (if you haven't read his entry in the 33 1/3 book series for Black Sabbath's Masters of Reality you really should). His pre-Tallahassee output had some of the most defined characters in modern song, but these were snapshots. The equivalent of short stories. Really good ones, but short stories nonetheless.

Tallahassee is Darnielle's first attempt at writing a musical novel and it's a home run. I hesitate to call it a concept record, even though it technically is, because in my mind concept record really mean prog-y theatrics and characters no one really relates to..."it's all about the music, man. You know? Tune in and trip out. Shit". Maybe that's ignorant but what can you do.

Tallahassee isn't like that. "The Alpha Couple" seem so real and vivid that they could live next door and actually may if you live in, well...Tallahassee. It's more reminiscent of David Gates' wonderful novels "Jernigan" and "Preston Falls" than it is of Tommy (thank god) or Kid A. If you don't know the record, I hesitate to reveal anything other than what I already have. "The Alpha Couple" are unhappy but it's not only morose as sometimes there's humor in the sadness. Tallahassee is full of those wonderful surprises. And that's all I'll say. It'll mean more when you listen to the record the first time.

literally reads like a great novel (have I overstated this yet?) and one that you won't want to put down. Don't listen to single tracks (though if you must every Mountain Goats fan will tell you listen to "No Children". It's a masterpiece). Sit with Tallahassee. Pour a glass of wine and soak the record in. Appreciate the details and the nuance of Darnielle's lyrics and be swept away in the story and the melody - while Tallahassee is mostly about the words, the music is first rate as well - and be bowled over by the most interesting and best record from one of the decades truly indispensable artists.

47.) The Dismemberment Plan - Change (2001)

Over the course of my lifetime, music I like has been stupidly classified into genres that either don't exist or don't make sense. From alternative to trip-hop and beyond, but none of these "labels" holds a stupidity candle to "emo." Here's a tip, stop calling music emo. You can call people emo, but the minute you start moving the term over into the realm of music, more often than not you'll be wrong.

Case in point - the Dismemberment Plan. The emo tag has long followed TDP and it's never had an more ill fit. The Dismemberment Plan are not emo and if for some reason hearing they were turned you off from exploring them, please rethink that. Thank you.

The Dismemberment Plan came and went in a flash. Well, maybe not a flash - it was a few years - but it felt fucking quick. 2001's Change was TDP's fourth official full length, but it was the follow-up to their flawless 1999 record Emergency and I. Emergency and I is a revered record - a loud, fast, electro teenage manifesto - that was going to be tough to beat. I'm not saying Change beats it either, but after the dust has settled on both records I find myself going back to Change with more frequency than I do Emergency and I.

Change wasn't simply an arbitrary title as the record is baring witness to the band actually changing. Change is a more ruminative record, and it announced the arrival of a more mature Dismemberment Plan - a band that unfortunately wouldn't last much longer than the record. I still love Emergency and I, but I was 21 when I spent a good portion of a year poring over Change and, looking back 21 was pretty much the perfect age to be when a record like this was coming out.

I can vividly remember listening to Change for the first time out and being shocked that this could be the same band who made Emergency and I. And it really took some getting used to. But once I was able to separate the fact that they had made such a different record and just accept it on its own merits - that's when it took off. Change is heavily dependent on Travis Morrisson sometimes off-the-wall, sometime too earnest, but always interesting lyrics. But, mostly this is an indie rock record of the first order. It's a top to bottom keeper and it just gets better with age. I saw TDP on the tour for the Change record and when I think about bands I'd love to see reunite they're right up. They just came and went too quickly and I really miss them.

48.) Cat Power - The Greatest (2006)

As I've been reading some of the already published lists of the best records of the decade, I've been puzzled by the omission on many of them of Cat Power's The Greatest. Prior to The Greatest Chan Marshall (Cat Power) released a number of records admired by music geeks, but in truth they were uneven. They had great moments but there seemed to be an inability to create something wholly satisfying.

Enter The Greatest. Like most Cat Power, The Greatest is a bit dour - you know there's sadness and heartbreak and... well you know the drill, but The Greatest also has something that had been missing from Cat Power's records up to this point...hope. Some have argued that she'd lost her edge on The Greatest and have likened the record to adult contemporary. Stupid. The Greatest is most certainly not the damaged Chan Marshall some had grown to love, but my mother's not listening to this record any time soon I can assure you.

The Greatest introduced the world to a confident Cahn Marshall. An artist who wasn't going to fall apart the second she hit the stage. A musician, not a train wreck. Some people wanted the train wreck, which seemed weird to me. They prefer an unhappy Chan Marshall because they like the music better? Gross.

Anyway, the record. It's gorgeous. Marshall enlisted the help of some Memphis soul legends to work as her backing band for the record and the result is a different kind of Cat Power. Way less indie-rock pretentious and colored with a different, but wholly fitting sound for her fragile and beautiful voice. The title track is one of the best in Cat Power's entire catalog, complete with an effectively haunting string section and just a few tracks later "Lived in Bars" is even better. And that's how The Greatest unfolds. It's powered by this magnificent band but anchored in Chan Marshall's world - evident by the closing two tracks "Hate" and "Love and Communication" - and that happy medium turned out to be the recipe for Marshall's best and most accessible work yet.

49.) The Decemberists - Picaresque (2005)

I am something of a Decemberists apologist. I have yet to waver in my dedicated affection for their over-the-top theatrical pop music even going as far as to place their maligned The Hazards of Love on this very list (I still stand by that, by the by). If there's one Decemberists record I have never felt the need to defend, however it's Picaresque. Sure, it's still a bit pretentious, but that's par for the course and also part of the joy. The Decemberists aren't the least bit self conscious as it relates to their pretentions and it gives their music a certain confidence that I've always found refreshing.

Colin Meloy has always had a flair for the dramatics and they're certainly evident here. These songs are almost all ambitious narratives and yet they're not connected so they don't get bogged down in the details the way they may have on The Crane Wife and yes, even my beloved The Hazards of Love. The important thing, though is the songs and Picaresque is the Decemberists greatest batch of songs ever.

Opener "The Infanta" is one of the great moments in the bands history - a train chugging type of song that builds to a fevered climax. It's my favorite first song on a record since The Geraldine Fibbers' opened Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and My Home with the stunning "Lilybelle." The there's "Eli the Barrow" boy - another of Meloy's gorgeously sad and desperate love songs. "The Sporting Life", "Sixteen Military Wives" and the epic "The Mariner's Revenge Song" are all essential.

Then there are, for me, the two peerless Decemberists tracks - "On the Bus Mall" and "Of Angels and Angles". Lyrically, Meloy has never written a better song than "Bus Mall" which follows a group of young boys who make a living as prostitutes. It's a sad song, but a beautiful one and proved Meloy was more than just a spinner of whimsical yarns about rogues and pirates. He understands the sadness inherent in these boys' lives and is able to convey it in one of his best vocals as well. Then there's "Angels" a track that I think only I hold as dear as I do. I can remember replaying this song over and over again when I first got the record. I think it was how delicate it was that got me - it felt like any second it would break yet it never did. I still get that same feeling listening to it now. It's remarkable as is Picaresque.

50.) Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer (2009)

I have had a real rollercoaster of a relationship with Spencer Krug. I have both loved and loathed him at various points over the past decade (with one particularly volatile falling out after an underwhelming Sunset Rubdown show) but I have to say I have a sinking suspicion the man may be a genius. I love his records with unabashed fervor and though I am a big fan of Wolf Parade, I prefer his side project, Sunset Rubdown - which actually has more recorded output now than Wolf Parade. Does this make it safe to say Wolf Parade is his real side project at this point?

Regardless, Dragonslayer is one helluva record. I can't stress enough how put off I was by a Sunset Rubdown show I saw a few months before this record was released. Krug was cold and seemingly unfriendly on stage, like it was a chore for him to be there, but when I heard Dragonslayer it was as if he had been renewed. There is such a sense of wonder and, weirdly enough, fun on Dragonslayer, a record wherein Krug put it all together and made his masterpiece.

Dragonslayer is Sunset Rubdown's easiest record to like. The melodies are sweeping and the songs triumphant - orchestrated, but not necessarily fussed over the way they may have been on their last record, Random Spirit Lover. I can also bestow upon Dragonslayer one of my highest compliments - most of the songs are quite long and every time out I wish they were longer. As cliched as this is, each song on Dragonslayer is like a little journey. They take unexpected, but not unpleasant, twists and turns along the spectrum. Standout track "Idiot Heart" actually feels like three different songs all culminating in one glorious finale and one of the great lyrics of the decade - "I hope that you die/In a decent pair of shoes/You've got a lot of long walking to do."

2009 has been one of the strongest of the decade with regards to great records and I fear that Dragonslayer may have been slept on what with being released among some other sexier records. If it slipped by you for some reason you should rectify that and take a listen - it's one of the best of this year and of the decade for sure.

51.) Miranda Lambert - Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2007)

Here's an interesting thing about music criticism that you probably already know - it's insufferable. This is especially true of indie music criticism and the standard bearer - the almighty pitchfork - is the worst offender and if you need proof look no further than the fact that they couldn't be bothered to review any of Miranda Lambert's three stellar records.

Listen, I get it. Miranda Lambert's a country singer - gross - who was the runner-up on the first season of USA's craptastic Nashville Star - grosser - so why touch it, right? Couldn't possibly be worth anybody's time. False. Miranda Lambert is one of the most exciting young artists working today and as far as I'm concerned, pitchfork can keep their Lykke Li's and their Santigold's...I'm picking Miranda every time.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is Miranda's second record and it is truly remarkable from start to finish. (NOTE: Miranda's latest record, Revolution, was released after I made this list, but holy shit is it fantastic) It is, literally, the sound of an artist growing up and becoming essential. I guess it would be easy to dismiss Miranda - she's beautiful and unfortunately we live in a world where that means you have to work extra hard to be taken seriously. Plus, critics have said she leans a bit too hard on her "outlaw" image singing about guns and drinking and smoking (again, topics that if a man tackled no one would bat an eye at). I'm here to say that's all bullshit. Miranda Lambert is a top shelf singer and songwriter with layers and truth is she sings what she knows. She just happens to be a beautiful country singer who shoots guns and likes to drink, but she's also vulnerable and isn't afraid to show that side as well - most notably on the fantastic ballad "More Like Her."

For all intents and purposes Miranda Lambert deserves to be as popular as Carrie Underwood, but she's not and probably never will be. She's not polished and packaged the way Underwood is. You get the feeling it just wouldn't work. She doesn't give a shit. She's a legit country girl and doesn't care who knows it - in fact, she revels in it. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend may just be THE definitive country record released this decade, an old school scrapbook type record that rewards repeated listens, yet still managed to have four hit (and by hit I mean by country standards) singles. In short, it's actual country music - the way country music was in it's glory days - raw, honest and a little dangerous. Pop music it's not. So, suck it Underwood!

52.) Broken Social Scene - You Fogot It In People (2002)

If you like music, chances are there's something you'll like on Broken Social Scene's second record, You Forgot It In People. The band swelled from a two piece to a ten piece for record number two with a whole bunch of other guests thrown in the mix as well. So, it shouldn't be a big surprise to hear that You Forgot It In People is a bit all over the place - but, like in a really good way. Usually when you hear that a record sounds like a bunch of friends hanging out and jamming together, it means it's uneven and sloppy and though it may have its moments, it's ultimately a self-indulgent disappointment. You Forgot It In People certainly sounds like a fun Sunday with a group of friends jamming, for sure, but a disappointment it is not.

This record is ramshackle and at times it may even seem a bit messy (there's a moment in standout "Looks Just Like the Sun" when you can hear Kevin Drew -or is it Brendan Canning? I never know -telling his band mates when to sing) but upon further listens it will reveal itself as one of the truly great indie pop releases ever. It's a record that has spawned many imitators (even among the band members themselves) but one that's quality one would be hard pressed to match.

What further separates You Forgot It In People from the pack is just how effortless it actually sounds. It's complex, but never sounds forced which is a difficult thing to do. In the end, this is pop music and songs like "Cause = Time" and "Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl" are two of the best examples of a band nailing it on all cylinders. You Forgot It In People is communal, but not in a cheesy Polyphonic Spree way, but in a super cool rock star way that's difficult to pull off and they introduced the world at large to the magnificent Leslie Feist, so points for them.

53.) The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine (2006)

Ah, The Thermals. I love The Thermals.

The Body, The Blood, The Machine is one of the most immediate, loud, raucous "motherfuckers- of- a- record" released in the aughts. The Thermals speak very much to my teenage self. Now, don't get me wrong The Thermals are smarter and more thoughtful than say Screeching Weasel or The Queers (though Screeching Weasel and The Queers are still fucking awesome), but it's that sound - that raise a middle finger, fuck you, bratty, pop punk sound that brings me back to the old days. It's not just nostalgia that makes me love this band. They're just a great band.

The Body, The Blood, The Machine is a concept record of sorts with songs connected by characters who are trying to flee an America taken over by evil, fascist "Christians". Sound familiar? The lyrics are angry and the music is aggressive, but the choruses still take flight - the production is really stellar here thanks to Fugazi's Brendan Canty. The Body, The Blood, The Machine is, in a lot of ways, the bratty yet wordier and probably more intelligent, stepchild of Green Day's American Idiot.

The Body, The Blood, The Machine is a concise screed of a record. Clocking in at under forty minutes it barrels out of the gate with the fantastic "Here's You Future" and it never lets up. This is as political a record as has been released this decade and it sometimes dips into preachy and pretentious territory, but in the end The Thermals win because what they've crafted is so damn catchy. You can pogo the shit out of this record whether you agree with the politics or not. It's punk rock, baby.

The real MVPin all this is lead singer Hutch Harris whose vocal delivery is a weird mix between John Darnielle and Craig Finn - he doesn't sing so much as recite. But, it works. In fact, it's perfect. He packs as many words in as he can, but it never comes out forced it's actually quite clear. His delivery turns these songs into lefty sing alongs that translate perfectly to a live setting.

If The Thermals would stop sticking it to the religious right and taking on the bible and right-wing politics in general they could be a hugely popular rock band - that they won't makes them a wonderfully refreshing splash of exuberance and moxie in the world of rock 'n roll.

54.) Portishead - Third (2008)

Everyone knew what to expect when it was announced that Portishead would reunite some eleven years since their last record and record something new. But then the record, Third, came out and everyone was like "What? That's not what we expected at all."

Portishead were a beloved band from a long since dead moment in popular music known as trip-hop. Their 1994 record Dummy is one of the true classics of the genre (if you ask me there was only one other - Maxinquaye by Tricky - but that's just me) and it would have been perfectly acceptable for Portishead to go back to the well and do something similar. That they didn't only added to their reputation. In fact, re-uniting bands should all look to Portishead when planning their comeback.

But how are they different? How is this Portishead Version 2.0 exactly? For starters with Third they swell now and they have synths and the drums kick in hard and fast at points and I'm pretty sure that's a ukulele driving the Beach Boys-esque harmonies in "Deep Water"! It's still a bit moody, but you can't expect Beth Gibbons voice is still in tact though - as vulnerable as you remember it, but also as beautiful. Third is really a triumphant second act for Portishead as it's a nuanced yet accessible record and "The Rip" could slug it out with but a handful of other songs to take the prize for track of the decade.

55.) Deerhunter - Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. (2008)

I absolutely hated Deerhunter's breakthrough record, Cryptograms. Chalk it up to personal preference, but to me Cryptograms was a mean-spirited record. It was cold and I felt like Bradford Cox didn't want me around. It was as if he was actively daring me to like this music and as it turned out I flinched. It felt like a record that people said they liked but truthfully listened to a few times and then shelved. It was really cool for a time to like Cryptograms.

So, imagine my surprise when Deerhunter released Microcastle along with its companion piece Weird Era Cont. and I loved it. There were melodies! These were pop songs. Yeah, they were a bit fuzzed out, but I could spot them. I could sift them out, something I couldn't (or maybe didn't want to) do with Cryptograms.

To be honest, Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. did not make me revisit Cryptograms, so I don't know maybe they're not so different. I couldn't tell you. Maybe I'm totes wrong about Cryptograms, but I've made my piece with it. There just aren't enough hours in the day, you know?

- which I can't even believe I gave a chance - has these moments of pure pop bliss. "Never Stop" and "Little Kids" and "Nothing Ever Happened" are just flawless songs. Songs that I actually like. Songs that I want to revisit over and over again. In fact, almost all of Microcastle is that way. Microcastle was never a chore to listen to.

Neither was Weird Era Cont. Released in tandem with Microcastle (my CD version has both of them) Weird Era Cont. was far from some directionless extras disc. It played like a fully formed record, a little bit more art-damaged and experimental than Microcastle, but every bit as good. "Vox Humana" cribs the melody from The Ronettes' "Be My Little Baby" and turns it into this spooky, PJ Harvey esque moment. I probably should hate it, but I don't. I actually think I've spent more time with Weird Era Cont. than Microcastle which probably proves that I should have given Cryptograms more of a chance. I don't know. Maybe the more off-kilter Weird Era Cont. was easier to swallow when paired with the poppier Microcastle. Had Weird Era Cont. been it's own disc maybe I would have hated it. Or maybe tastes just change...

Yeah. I'm going with that.

56.) Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary (2005)

I have been staring at this Wolf Parade entry for the better part of a week and for some reason I can't fucking write it. I don't know why. I just have nothing to say. I like Apologies to the Queen Mary. There were only 55 records released in the past ten years that I like more than Apologies to the Queen Mary, yet I've been a drawing a week-long blank on what to say about it.

Maybe this will be fun - here's what I remember. Apologies to the Queen Mary came to the us in 2005 riding a wave of hype as big as an Arcade Fire. They had a nice EP prior to it and a lot of those songs were going to show up on the full length. They were from Canada and were, apparently, friends with the aforementioned Arcade Fire who had just finished taking over the world (or at least the small corner of it which is owned by people in tight jeans) a few months earlier. So, inevitably they were compared to Arcade Fire which was stupid because they were a different band, but then they were compared to a lot of bands. Great bands like the Pixies and Modest Mouse. I agreed with the latter but not so much the former.

Wolf Parade have two leaders (which maybe in some way means they have no leader) named Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner. They work really well together. One is considered a bit more experimental of the two - that would be Spencer Krug even though it's a Krug track - "Grounds For Divorce" - that is the catchiest one on Apologies to the Queen Mary. A lot of people called them the indie rock Lennon and McCartney which is another stupid and ill-advised comparison, but what can you do?

I don't know why I don't remember much from the time I spent with this record apart from I didn't spend much time with it initially. In fact, I heard it thought "OK" shelved it and didn't revisit it until 2007 when I was blown away by Krug's other band Sunset Rubdown's second record Random Spirit Lover . Then I fell in love with Apologies to the Queen Mary, which, as it would turn out, I would end up loving more than Random Spirit Lover. Is anyone following this?

Anyway, Apologies is a ramshackle affair and it ebbs and flows for sure - it's got that kitchen sink mentality that can be either really interesting or incredibly off-putting - here it's almost always positive. And...the songs are good. I really enjoy listening to them.

So, it's a great record. One of the best of the decade for sure.