1.) Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001 and 2002)

Well, the journey ends here and in a pretty predictable manner, unfortunately.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot has been such a constant in my life since its release that, truthfully, this was one of the easiest decisions I've ever had to make. I've defended the record to detractors, listened with like-minded friends, pored over every single nuance for years and years - I have lived with this record as such an essential part of my fabric that I don't even know that I can be objective about it anymore.

I adore every fractured moment of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and though its mythology is far reaching and descriptive of its inaccessibility, I happen to think its way, way overstated. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is, at its core, a pretty damn fine pop record. "Heavy Metal Drummer", "I'm the Man That Loves You", "Reservations" - come on! These are not difficult songs to digest. Never were. That's the thing though, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is certainly a different side of Wilco, but the press would have had you believe the record they were making was unlistenable. Instead, it was just an alt country band making a pop record.

But enough about what the record sounds like. Much like Kid A before it, you already know. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was for me and for many others the unofficial soundtrack to our post 9/11 world. This would sound like a bad thing, but it wasn't. YHF was the record I was listening to that kind of helped deal with the whole thing. Music being the savior as it tends to be. The record was released after 9/11, but was completed before and in fact the band were streaming it on their website for free that September. Having said that songs like "Ashes of American Flags" and "Jesus Etc" weren't devised to mean what they would come to, if that makes sense.

9/11, as terrible as it still is to talk about, is still the event that will define this decade for America, especially for those of us who are from and were in New York while it happened. Wilco - an American band if ever there was one had this record - this record already steeped in controversy, that would come to sound like that sad time. I can see the rubbled streets of downtown in the spareness of "Jesus Etc" but there was also hope in Tweedy's voice in "Heavy Metal Drummer", you know? It sounded like we did when we rallied around each other and decided to move on. To never forget, but to celebrate the people and places damaged by the horror. That's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to me. Sad, weird and at times cryptic, but ultimately hopeful and downright pleasant. That a record can achieve each of those emotional touchstones makes it great, that it still sounds amazing all these years later makes it indelible. A one of a kind record from one of the great bands of this generation. And easily my favorite record of the decade.

Thanks for reading, I'm back over at PatDSez next week.

2.) Radiohead - Kid A (2000)

Oh my god! It's not number one! I can't believe it.

Okay, moving on - Kid A is a million things if its one, but most importantly it's art. It's a masterpiece. It's stirring and it's gorgeous and its scope is huge, it's both cold and amazingly soulful sometimes within the same moment. It was a new beginning sonically and the last of its kind in terms of how most people heard it. It's everything you've heard it was and more. Everything that has needed to be said about Kid A has been said and all the lauds are true. It is brilliant. But you don't need to hear this from me. If you're following this list you're infinitely aware of how good Kid A is. Of how important Kid A is in the scheme of rock music. So, I'm gonna shut up and just talk about fond memories I have of a record that is surely one of the best ever.

Kid A was released in 2000. I was a junior in college. I lived in Martyr's Court with six other dudes. I was really excited for Kid A. I mean really excited. People were still listening to music via CD then. Kid A was kind of the end of that era, actually. Some of us dinosaurs keep on keeping on, but most people have stopped caring about having the media. About holding it in their hands. It's just rubbish to them.

The release of Kid A was an exciting thing for me and for some of my friends who had heard so much about it and had spent so much time already loving Radiohead that we couldn't wait. I went and bought Kid A the day it came out. I went by myself. I loved record shopping by myself. Listening to music, for me, has always been an intensely personal experience. I bought Kid A at the big Tower records on 68th and Broadway. I only bought Kid A. It was tunnel vision. I didn't even browse. I walked in. I grabbed it. I paid for it and I left. I brought a discman with me to the store. I popped Kid A in and I walked around the city. I had no destination, I just knew I wanted to spend my day walking around and hearing this record. I listened three times and then one more on the train and then I don't know how many times after it.

I was never going to not like Kid A. I didn't have it in me. It was too important, too big and ultimately too good. As much as I love the record is also how much I loved that time in music. When you had to go and get something you wanted to hear. When it wasn't so easy. In a way, it makes me sad that kids won't have that connection to music, but I'm old maybe they'll have new connections that will be just as good. Hopefully they'll get records like Kid A to connect with because then, they're still lucky.

3.) The White Stripes - White Blood Cells (2001)

It's virtually impossible to think that before 2001 and the release of the White Stripes third record, White Blood Cells, most of the world had not yet heard of Jack White. Now, he's perhaps the most ubiquitous man in rock 'n roll this side of Dave Grohl but back then he was just a scrawny blues man from Detroit who liked to tell people his ex-wife was his sister. However, after hearing this monumental record, it was pretty clear to see this was a band who had the potential to go far.

White Blood Cells announced this band was a force. Just two people, but the sound they created was enveloping. The record is so wonderfully schizophrenic - like a rock 'n roll road map taking the listener on a journey from crunchy guitar riffs ("Now Mary") to stripped down non-songs ("Little Room") to acoustic nursery rhymes ("We're Gonna Be Friends") to straight punk rock ("I Think I Smell a Rat") to country stomp ("Hotel Yorba") to deliriously hokey references (the Citizen Kane breakdown in the middle of "The Union Forever"). All of these styles may make it seem like White Blood Cells is an unfocused mess, but quite the contrary - what the White Stripes do so well is take all these different styles, connect them and create something that feels analogous to them.

When you think about it, early on the White Stripes had a lot of gimmicks - the brother/sister myth, the red and white color color scheme. hell even the video for "Fell in Love With a Girl". Anything to get noticed, I guess and you can't really fault them for it. The probably needed these gimmicks on the outside because their music had none. No frills. No bullshit. No bass. Just two people intimately connected making personal, real music.

White Blood Cells is a record that has aged wonderfully. The White Stripes have made great records since and have only gotten more famous and popular (two different things, trust me) along the way. But there was something else present when White Blood Cells was dropped in our laps. Something effortless. Great songs, you know? Too often we, and certainly I, get bogged down in how good or bad a record is based on its scope or ambition or bells and whistles. It takes a record like White Blood Cells to remind you, nine years after its release, that it's the songs that are gonna make a record a timeless classic or a flash in the pan. White Blood Cells is a stone cold classic. Great songs. Really great songs. 16 of them to be exact. White Blood Cells is a record that will be shared forever, like Exile on Main Street or Rubber Soul. Yeah, it's that good.

Honorable Mention

Before the Top 3, I wanted to give an idea of the scope of this whole thing. I whittled my favorite records of the decade down to 100, but there were a whole lot more in the running. I like all of the following records very much and they were, initially, all in contention. I cut them down in "rounds" until I got down to 100. The ones "cut after round five" were the closest to getting on the list, but each of these records have merit. They're all good.

Out After Round 1

We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes - Death Cab
Veni Vidi Vicious - The Hives
All Hand on the Bad One - Sleater Kinney
Fold Your Hands Child... - Belle and Sebastian
De Stijl - The White Stripes
The Hour of Bewilderbeast - Badly Drawn Boy
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - s/t
Girls Can Tell - Spoon
From Here to Infirmary - Alkaline Trio
Green Album - Weezer
Amnesiac - Radiohead
Yeah Yeah Yeahs EP - Yeah Yeah Yeah
Essence - Lucinda WIlliams
Miss E...So Addictive - Missy Elliot
John Vanderslice - Time Travel is Lonely
The Ghost of Fashion - Clem Snide
When I Was Cruel - Elvis Costello and the Imposters
Castaways and Cutouts - The Decemberists
Yoshimi - The Flaming Lips
Lifted - Bright Eyes
Songs For the Deaf - QOTSA
Sleepless - Peter Wolf
American IV The Man Comes Around - Johnny Cash
Phrenology - The Roots
Source Tags and Codes - Trail of Dead
The Fix - Scarface
Reinventing Axl Rose - Against Me!
Failer - Kathleen Edwards
Get Rich or Die Tryin' - 50
More Parts Per Million - The Thermals
Think Tank - Blur
Good Mourning - Alkaline Trio
Hail to the Thief - Radiohead
Welcome Interstate Managers - Fountains of Wayne
Dangerously in Love - Beyone
Youth and Young Manhood - Kings of Leon
Gallowsbird's Bark - Fiery Furnaces
Room on Fire - The Strokes
Under Construction - Missy Elliot
Boy in da Corner - Dizee Rascal
America's Sweetheart - Courtney Love
Franz Ferdinand - s/t
Pretty Toney - Ghostface
A Grand Don't Come For Free - The Streets
Long Gone Before Daylight - The Cardigans
Uh Huh Her - PJ Harvey
Louden Up Now - !!!
Sonic Nurse - Sonic Youth
Keep Your Wig On - Fastball
Hot Fuss- The Killers
Bubblegum - Mark Lannegan
Soviet Kitsch - Regina Spektor
Rubber Factory - The Black Keys
Figure 8 - Elliot Smith
Aha Shake Heartbreak - Kings of Leon
...Is A Real Boy - Say Anything
Black Mountain - s/t
Coild Roses - Ryan Adams
Demon Days - Gorillaz
Get Behind Me Satan - White Stripes
Tender Buttons - Broadcast
Broken Social Scene - s/t
Back To Me - Kathleen Edwards
Tanglewood Numbers - Silver Jews
First Impressions of Earth - The Strokes
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - s/t
The Life Pursuit - Belle
Ringleader of the Tormentors - Moz
Rather Ripped- Sonic Youth
Alight, Still - Lily Allen
The Trials of Van Occupanther - Midlake
Yellow House - Grizzly Bear
Blood mountain - Mastadon
FutureSex/LoveSounds - Justin Timberlake
Sam's Town - The Killers
The Black Parade - MCR
Gulag Orkestar - Beirut
Let's Get Out of this Country - Camera Obscura
Friend and Foe - Menomena
The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse - The Besnard Lakes
Armchair Apocrypha - Andrew Bird
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank - Modest Mouse
Favourite Worst Nightmare - Arctic Monkeys
Spiderman of the Rings - Dan Deacon
+ - Justice
Icky Thump - The White Stripes
The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
Random Spirit Lover - Sunset Rubdown
We Belong to the Staggering Evening - The Ike Reilly Assassination
In Our Bedroom After the War - Stars
Someone to Drive You Home - The Long Blondes
Night Falls Over Kortadela - Jens Lekman
Jarvis - Jarvis Cocker
Devotion-Beach House
Lookout Mtn, Lookout Sea - Silver Jews
Feed The Animals - Girl Talk
Made in the Dark - Hot Chip
In Ghost Colours-Cut Copy
Torche - Meanderthal
Times New Viking - Rip It Off
Ra Ra Riot - The Rhumb Line
Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
Sun Kil Moon - April
Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
Marnie Stern - This is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That is That
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
REM - Accelerate
The Dodos - Visiter
M83 - Saturdays = Youth
The Walkmen - You and Me
Blitzen Traper - Furr
The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
Drive By Truckers - Brighter Than Creations Dark
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
TV on The Radio - Dear Science
It's Blitz - YYYs
Bromst - Dan Deacon
Fortress 'Round My Heart - Ida Maria
Romanian Names - John Vanderslice
A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night - Love is All
Wavering Radient - Isis
Cymabls Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains
The Ecstatic - Mos Def

Out After Round 2

Return of Saturn - No Doubt
Bleed American - Jimmy Eat World
Home - The Dixie Chicks
Dear Catastrophe Waitress - Belle and SEbastian
World Without Tears - Lucinda Williams
The Execution of All Things - Rilo Kiley
Boy in da Corner - Dizee Rascal
Almost Killed Me - the Hold Steady
Set Yourself on Fire - Stars
American Gangster - Jay-Z
Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Farm - Dinosaur Jr.
The Eternal - Sonic Youth
Two Suns - Bat For Lashes
Oh you're So Silent, Jens - Jens Lekman

Out After Round 3
Transatlanticism - Death Cab
Breakaway - Kelly Clarkson
Mastadon - Crack the Skye
No Age - Nouns
Art Brut- Bang Bang Rock 'n Roll
Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone - The Walkmen
Arular - MIA
Smile - Brian Wilson

Out After Round 4

Morrissey - Years of Refusal
Drive By Truckers - Decoration Day
Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride
Will Oldham and Matt Sweeney - Superwolf
Silent Shout - The Knife
St. Vincent - Marry Me
Antony and the Johnstons - I am a bird now
Oh! Inverted World - The Shins
Rated R - Queens of the Stone Age
Girl Talk - Night Ripper
And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out - Yo La Tengo

Out After Round 5

Los Campesinos! - Hold on Now Youngster
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - Spoon
Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury
Daft Punk - Discovery
One Beat - Sleater Kinney
Taylor Swift - Fearless

4.) The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday (2005)

This is a conversation that happened just two weeks ago between myself and two of my friends, Jess and Billy, regarding The Hold Steady.

Jess: Pat, what's that band you and Sarah like that I don't really like that much?

Pat: The Hold Steady.

Jess: Yeah, the Hold Steady. I don't love them. You really do though.

Billy: Yeah, but Pat likes The Hold Steady pretty much more than anybody.

-end scene.

This is true. Thank you, Bill.

As if there were ever a cat in the bag. I adore the Hold Steady. Over this decade The Hold Steady have skyrocketed toward the top of my list of favorite bands. They make me happier than any band and no band puts on a better live show than THS. It's hard for me to write about Separation Sunday because it has become such an integral part of my existence since its release. I can't really put my love for it into words. I've listened to it a million times, poured over every second, mapped out exactly how I would write it as a movie.

This is the opening scene.

Int. Church. Day

A PRIEST is giving his homily in a huge packed church. The congregates are enraptured. The door of the church quietly opens and a young woman, HOLLY, quietly enters. She is disheveled as if she has been out for days and hasn't slept. She's "limping left on broken heels" and walks slowly down the center of the church. No one pays her any mind until.


Everyone stops and looks at this woman. She looks around. Pleased. Smirking

Can I tell your congregation how
a resurrection really feels?

Cut to black as the opening riff of "Stevie Nix" blares.

I think about this record all the damn time. It's so good. It's nostalgic without being trite. It's pure rock 'n roll and it never gets old. As a matter of fact I'm going to stop writing about it so I can listen to it instead. Bye now.

5.) OutKast - Stankonia (2000)

The two very distinct personalities in OutKast where what made them great. For me, Andre 3000 and Big Boi's split is one of the most disappointing occurrences in music this decade. They just don't sound right alone, you know? It's why I hate Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. In each of those records there is something indelible missing and every single time, it's the other guy.

Having said that, Andre and Big Boi were never better than in the year 2000 when they released the decade's best hip hop record - Stankonia. There was not a weirder record released this decade that would be as big a hit as Stankonia. It almost became a hit in spite of itself. It's fucking avant garde. I mean when was the last time a song as a chaotic (and chaotically brilliant) as "B.O.B" charted? It's a crazy ass freak show of a song that starts at a breakneck pace and never lets up. You can listen to "B.O.B." a thousand times and still hear something new.

Alas, Stankonia isn't only "B.O.B" and thank goodness because there are about a million other wonderful things about this record. That OutKast never had to sacrifice one ounce of weirdness or shed any of their quirks to become superstars is a marvel and Stankonia is Kast at their idiosyncratic best. Stankonia was released at the beginning of the decade and seemed to be the sound of the future. The sound of this new millennium. No stone unturned and no idea suppressed for popular success. It's all the opening "Intro" - one of the few times an intro on a hip hop record actually sets the tone for what's about to happen - "Live from the center of the earth...Welcome to Stankonia, the place from which all funky things come...Would you like to come?" Yes, Big Boi, yes I would. And what follows is insanity. Pure and simple. Chaos.

Take "Ms. Jackson" probably the most popular song on Stankonia and coincidentally still a much better single than the hokeier than hokey "Hey Ya". "Ms. Jackson" follows no clear path. It takes you down a number of roads. First, there's the horror movie-like sample, then there are the video game bleeps, that deep bass, the staccato scratching, the weirdly timed piano, and of course, the perfect melding of the talents of Big Boi and Dre. And it's still catchy. And it's like the fifth best song on the record (behind "B.O.B", "So Fresh and So Clean", "Red Velvet" and "Gasoline Dreams")

The fact that Stankonia works, what with their being so many conflicting ideas to be found all over the damn place, is a testament to the genius (yep, I'm saying it here and I mean it - genius) of Dre and Big Boi. It seems as though these two butted heads during the making of Stankonia - too many ideas, I guess. It's a true shame. Here's to hoping they can figure it out again, because it would be really nice to get another OutKast record as brilliant as Stankonia in this next decade.

6.) The Arcade Fire - Funeral (2004)

What the Strokes were to the early portion of this decade, Arcade Fire were to the its middle period. Translation - the biggest indie rock band around.
Funeral is a record. This we know. But, culturally Funeral became so much more. Funeral marked the moment that the much hyped blogosphere proved it could actually rally around one specific thing and create a phenomenon. It helped, however that the record in question was as good as Funeral.

A whole lot of people heard of Funeral before they heard Funeral. To say there was hype is putting it pretty mildly. There was hype. Tons of it. But, Funeral managed to do what so many other records have failed to do (I'm looking at you Clap Your Hands Say Yeah) - not only deliver on the hype but actually make the hype seem subtle. The record is so sweeping, so grand, so inspired, so ambitious, so wonderfully earnest and sincere. It's just a great piece of art.

The first time I listened to Funeral I was reminded of Neutral Milk Hotel's fantastic In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. I'm sure I'm not the first person to compare the records and I certainly won't be the last, but the orchestral sweep of the them and the storytelling prowess of both Win Butler and Jeff Mangum make them kindred spirits in the best way possible. This is not to say Funeral is anything but a wholly original work (much like Aeroplane) it is, but the records are linked in my mind and in a very good way.

Back when I worked at NBC there was a show about to premiere called The Black Donnellys and I was able to see a rough cut of the pilot before the show was aired. It was a mob show and the climax of the pilot was a shootout that was scored by Funeral's "Rebellion (Lies)". The show was pretty by the numbers, but that last five minutes was a thing of beauty and I remember thinking "this show will be a huge hit because people will never forget that sequence". Ultimately, Arcade Fire would not license the song for the show and when the pilot finally aired it was replaced by a Snow Patrol song. The show was canceled after a few episodes. I still contend that had they been able to use the Arcade Fire song, that show would have been the next Sopranos and probably still on television. Arcade Fire do that. They're unforgettable. They make things better. Their music makes you feel. I mean did anybody see that Where the Wild Things Are trailer and not tear up? I still can't hear "Wake Up" without getting chills. This is a band that will mean something to everyone who hears them and Funeral is nothing short of a perfect record.

7.) Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica (2000)

If you ever run into someone who has heard the lead track, "3rd Planet", on Modest Mouse's epic The Moon & Antarctica and doesn't like it, please run away. This person is not to be trusted.

For my money, Modest Mouse should be mentioned in the same breath as bands like Nirvana, Pavement... hell even REM. To me they're that good. One of the great indie rock bands that has ever existed and continues to exist. I also tend to think that The Moon and Antarctica is the band's finest moment. I'm as big a Lonesome Crowded West guy as the next person, but in my opinion TM&A bests it. Not by much, but gun to my head...

Isaac Brock is one of indie rock's ballsiest guys - or at least it seems that way. Few indie frontmen are aggressive as Brock. It's as if he's reaching through the speaker, grabbing you by the neck and shaking the shit out of you. It's a very punk rock delivery in a lot of ways and a far cry from the usual twee and shy man children that tend to front indie bands. He can be a bit scary, but it's the very visceral reaction Modest Mouse go for that makes them so appealing to me.

The Moon & Antarctica is not a pop record (and the irony that this is the same bands who would later pen one of the most "uplifting" pop songs of the aughts is not lost on me), not by a long shot. It's frayed rock ' n roll from the perspective of a man, seemingly, on the verge of madness. That his madness feels anything but staged makes Modest Mouse just feel real. Unlike someone like Marilyn Manson (such an old example, I've just dated myself) whose anger feels manufactured by focus groups and the slabbing on of tons of make-up. Brock announces, right off the bat, "[that] it took a lot of work to be the ass I am and I'm pretty damn sure that anyone can equally, easily fuck you over." Now, whether or not this is a persona is a moot point because of how committed Brock is to it through the whole record.

There are a lot of great songs on The Moon & Antarctica, but the one that I think sums the record up the best is "Wild Pack of Family Dogs" a one minute forty five second ditty which, on the surface, is the most pleasant track on the record - a sing along if you will about these titular dogs eating his little sister and his mother "crying bloodlust now", but ultimately ends with the dogs dying. So, full circle you know? It's the most compelling minute and forty five seconds in rock 'n roll this decade and the record as a whole is certainly one of the most compelling, not just of the decade, but in the history of indie rock.

8.) The Strokes - Is This It (2001)

It's difficult to try and explain the insanity that surrounded the Strokes just before they hit to people who weren't around for it. They were the only band anyone wanted to talk about. They were going to be the biggest band in the world. They were going to save rock 'n roll and, for a minute, they were and they did.

That the Strokes didn't necessarily make good on the promise that was made for them by a music media that loves to build a band up just to knock it down, is not their fault. As a matter of fact, the Strokes' two subsequent records following this, their outstanding debut, are actually way better than they were given credit for. But all that's moot because Is This It is still a glorious, alive and dirty rock 'n roll record. One of the best of its kind, actually. Is it derivative? At times, but so was Let It Bleed and, for that matter, Let It Be. In order for rock 'n roll to break new ground it needs to be unlistenable (see major Strokes influence Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music) and nobody wants that.

It's way too easy to hate on The Strokes - manufactured and rich and purposefully disheveled - yep. Living off trust funds. Mmm hmm. Posers. I guess so. But you know what, no band embodies the early 2000's NYC scene better than the Strokes. All of the, as Craig Finn of the Hold Steady puts it, "sniviling little indie kids", who try to pretend they're boho Brooklyn Animal Collective types, are actually just like the Strokes. These are the people that criticize the band - posers themselves. Which is ironic. I think.

But, as per usual, I digress. Is This It is an undeniably perfect rock ' n roll record. Completely of its time and yet unquestionably timeless. It's dirty with a sheen making it okay for the indie set but palatable for the rest of America. That a song like "Last Night" wasn't the biggest hit in the history of rock 'n roll America just proves that regardless of how "big" we can perceive a band to be, America still doesn't love rock 'n roll they way it should. Is This It is filled top to bottom with absolutely perfect songs. The title track being perhaps the best of all, but don't forget Julian's beautifully detached rasp on "Soma" or the fantastic organized chaos at the end of "Take it or Leave It" and the dip-out of "Hard to Explain". These are all indelible moments in rock 'n roll at this point. They've now taken up space in my head reserved for things as familiar as my ABCs for god's sake and, tell me if I'm wrong, but if that's not the sign of something utterly brilliant then fuck me, I guess I don't know shit.

9.) Joanna Newsom -Ys (2006)

Joanna Newsom is THE most singular artist on this list. There is no one else like her - proudly weird and virtually indescribable, Newsom is the type of artist who if you love, you really, really love. That's a small number of people, I'd imagine as Newsom's ambition and her quirks have proven irksome to some people.

I love Newsom and Ys is a triumphant record in every sense of that word - triumphant. It's as grand a record as has been released this decade in scope and in execution. Ys is also a record that I've been accused of not actually liking. People who hate us "music snobs" are quick to point to an artist like Newsom who they'll say critics and snobs only pretend to like because it's "cool" to do so. That's fucking stupid. Am I saying people don't do that? No, some probably do, but I can promise you I love Ys. I love it a lot.

One point of contention is sometimes Newsom's voice. Some have called it childlike, but fuck that, I happen to love it. There's a Carol Channing aspect to it that is actually quite appealing to me. Another thing I love about Newsom is the fact that she sets out to make records. Those tend to be my favorite records of all. It goes for Okkervil River as well - you can tell that each and every thing they do on record is absolutely necessary. Ys was without a doubt conceived as a record. There's a clear, albeit askew, vision on Ys that most records don't have. I appreciate that. In this iTunes age, it's refreshing when an artist is ballsy enough to write a five song suite that takes sixty minutes to unfold.

And then there's the music. To put it quite simply, Ys is beautiful. It's meticulously orchestrated (conducted by the legendary Van Dyke Parks) and as far as the lyrics, Ys plays out like a kind of fucked up Disney musical. Nothing is as it should be on Ys and that's what makes it so great. Every eccentricity adds to the mythology of Ys and to try and compare it to any other record is a fool's errand as it is wholly its own and its a wonderful, wonderful thing.

10.) Okkervil River - The Stage Names/The Stand Ins (2007,2008)

I know, I know I am absolutely cheating here, but I can't help it. Since The Stand Ins was released I have a difficult time separating these records. They feel like one record to me. Or at the very least a continuation of an idea. So, I'm including them together because asking me to pick one is cruel.

The Stage Names was released in August of 2007 and it became the only thing I listened to through the fall. It was that kind of record for me. Other things would be purchased and listened to once or twice but ultimately I wanted to be listening to The Stage Names. The Stage Names is a record, like most of my favorites, unfolds. It's not a one and done thing.

I buy records... like, the actual media. I'll download stuff from time to time, but for the most part I want to go to a store, buy something, bring it home and actually spend time with it. Sometimes it feels silly like "get on with it, pal no one buys CDs anymore". But then sometimes it all makes sense to me.

I can remember bringing The Stage Names home, putting it in the CD player, putting on my headphones, holding the lyric sheet and just being mesmerized by the whole thing. Like I was kid. I wanted to follow along. These stories were compelling. I cared about these character (plus it made it a lot easier to spot the references in "Plus Ones"). That's what makes music special for me. I take it seriously. It captivates me in a way that nothing else does. When I love a record, I want that record to become a part of everything I do. I'm inspired by these records that I've been writing about. The Stage Names/The Stand Ins are inspiring. They're equal parts sad and funny and poignant and pretentious and illuminating. They're a rush of emotions.

These are two records that I couldn't shake. They were just so perfect and complimented each other effortlessly. It's easy to think of The Stand Ins as a sequel, but to me "sequel" can be a dirty word. Rather, The Stand Ins is a wonderful companion piece. The equally talented younger brother. And like, The Stage Names it's brilliant both from a writing perspective and from a simple pop music perspective. They're sequenced to perfection and they're accessible without sacrificing and ounce of intelligence. With The Stage Names/The Stand Ins Okkervil River have made two of the best American rock 'n roll records and I'm surprised by the lack of love for them during this list making season.

11.) The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema (2005)

In the interest of time and trying to get this list done when I said I would get it done by (still a long shot) I'm keeping this one short. The New Pornographers released four records as a group this decade. They all appear on the list. This one's their third. It's my favorite. It has "The Bleeding Heart Show" which is a perfect song. You probably know that already. If you look at the other TNPs entries, they probably say everything that needs saying about this band and how much I love them. Easily one of the Top 5 most indelible bands of the 2000s. I love them. You love them. Everybody loves them. On to the Top 10.

12.) The Libertines - Up the Bracket (2002)

(NOTE: I'm not re-telling the Pete Doherty story. You already know it)

Man, the motherfucking Libertines. Live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse, huh? Shit. The Libertines have exactly one essential record. This is it. The first one. Up the Bracket. A blast of punk rock that rivals the best Clash records. In a lot of ways Up the Bracket was lightning in a bottle. The Libs were a band too unhinged to survive and in a way it's probably better they went away as quickly as they did. If they couldn't keep it together for a second record, what would a third have sounded like, or a fourth? Rumors of a reunion are always floating about, but I don't want it. The Libs were too perfect to exist forever.

The Libs were the real deal. Too fucked up to not write a perfect record, but ultimately too-oooooo fucked up to do it twice. In fact, the best moments on the record find Pete Doherty and Carl Barat slurry and legitimately fucked up in the recording. It's great. The Libertines make the Arctic Monkeys look like pussies - skinny jeans wearing posers. The Libs captured all their fury and youthful abandon and with the help of the Clash's Mick Jones behind the boards managed to create the greatest punk rock record of the decade.

If you haven't heard Up the Bracket then I suggest you do. Immediately. If you have then you know all this- the Libertines sound like spit and piss and punching and the gutter and nightclubs and dancing and broken bottles and disrespect for authority but respect for the night and drugs and cigarettes and booze and slurry speech and sex and living in the moment and disregard for consequences because what are consequences? In short, it sounds like youth. Pure and simple. But it's not immature - it was too off the cuff to be so. Up the Bracket is the kind of record that you fall head over heels for - it's a look into a world you wish you could see, but probably don't really want to be a part of (unless you do, which is fine to- I want to, well, I did).

Get Up the Bracket if you don't have it and do me a favor and play it fucking loud!

In their words -"I've been following up on my mind's instructions on how to slowly, sharply, screw myself to death."

13.) Sufjan Stevens - Illinois (2005)

I tend to hesitate before applying the genius tag to anyone. As a term it gets thrown around way too much ("that new Miley Cyrus song is genius!" - no, it's not. It's catchy. Its hardly genius). I'm not even convinced that it applies to Sufjan Stevens, but back in 2005, for a moment, it did.

Illinois (or: Come on Feel the Illinoise) is as wonderful as it is ambitious. The second in a proposed (and since reneged) series of records on each of the fifty states, Illinois left few stones unturned and is triumphant in its bravado. Make no mistake, Illinois is a big record with big songs, big arrangements, numerous guests and heady themes. It's truly an epic and it works on every level. There's a reason it was universally lauded by critics and liked by everyone who heard it. Was there ever a moment wherein you witnessed someone hear "Chicago" for the first time and immediately not ask about it? It's that kind of song - universal, yet intelligent. The best of both worlds.

Listening to Illinois as a whole statement is an important thing to do as it works best that way. Sure, there are individual tracks that stand on their own, but without those instrumental pieces, you kind of miss the scope of the whole thing. Illinois is like a musical, but a really, really good one, you know?

Sufjan Stevens, for all of the sweeping ambition of Illinois, is one helluva songwriter. Take "John Wayne Gacy Jr." one of the record's quietest moments but also one of it's most effective. It's a powerfully intimate song that finds Stevens retelling the horrible story of the child murdering clown in a succinct and literate way all the while facing the grim facts head on. It's an eerily beautiful song and as unsavory as the topic is, it's handled with grace.

This is Illinois - a detailed, nuanced record with all the bells and whistles. That the bells and whistles don't distract and come off effortless is part of the record's, hell i'll say it- genius. For me personally, some of Stevens' other work has been hit or miss, but Illinois is a total hit. It's an easy record to like and a fantastic record to study. It's equal parts pretty and puzzling and never, ever boring.

14.) Rilo Kiley - More Adventurous (2004)

Was there a bigger indie rock crush this decade than Jenny Lewis? Karen O, maybe, but she was always a bit scary. Jenny was the girl next door. The girl you felt like maybe you could get. Of course she was way out of our league, but she made you feel like, well maybe.

And if that were all there was to Jenny and her magnificent LA pop band Rilo Kiley, then it would all be so superficial and kind of sexist in a way. The whole "I like this band because I want to date the lead singer" thing is pretty stupid really. It may be memorable, but it's not indelible. The fact that Rilo Kiley's records were so good is what really made Jenny Lewis the star she is today.

None of Rilo Kiley's records, however, could compare with More Adventurous - one of the truly great pop records of the decade. I think Rilo Kiley get overlooked when these list things come out because of how smitten we all were by Jenny Lewis. Her beauty and charm have probably worked against her when it came to the whole indie cred thing, but the people doing that are missing the point. More Adventurous is a terrific record that boasts some of the best songs of the decade and, from Jenny Lewis, some of the best vocals as well.

More Adventurous lives and dies by that voice. The voice that soars to such great heights (no pun intended) on "I Never", one of the great blue-eyed soul recordings of this or any decade, is the real star of the show. Jenny works it out on a number of tracks here, most notably on the ferocious single "Portions For Foxes". I love that song and I love how vulnerable Jenny seems on it. It's probably the most rock 'n roll song on the record, but it's also the saddest. It's the story of this woman so in need of something to feel that she makes bad decisions. Ultimately, it's triumphant in that Jenny, or the character she's singing about, decides to trump everything, go with her gut and accept and own the choices she makes. It's still so tinged with pathos however that you find yourself wondering what it all means. It's a study in contradiction.

A lot of shit is thrown at Jenny regarding her songwriting, but I think it's fine and on a song like "Portions" or later on the title track it's downright great. It's brave and personal and you can really feel it. I respect that. And though it may have stopped being "cool" to like Rilo Kiley, I really don't care. I wear my admiration for them proudly and think More Adventurous is a pantheon record of this decade and surely one with a great deal of replay value and to me, that counts for a lot.

15.) Jay-Z - The Blueprint (2001)

It's impossible to discuss Jay-Z's triumphant The Blueprint without acknowledging the fact that it was released on September 11th. That an artist so tied to New York would release such a landmark album on what would go down as the worst day in our cities history isn't necessarily ironic, but it's certainly something. Having said that, The Blueprint is such a great record that I'd imagine it gave a lot of people comfort during that tough time and because of that, it came out at exactly the right time.

The Blueprint is Jay-Z's best record. I know, I know Reasonable Doubt. I get it. Great album. I prefer The Blueprint. Let's start wih Kanye (and Just Blaze). The Blueprint put Kanye on the map and pulled hip hop production out of the tunnel visioned beat making of the 90s and into the sample-heavy 2000s. I always prefer samples over hip hop tracks to Timbaland-type beats. I like the "spot the sample" game. It's fun and it also makes the music warmer, less synthetic.

Jay is probably the most important artist of the decade. He's made great records and done great things. He's been in the spotlight and has only eclipsed career high after career high. 2001's The Blueprint was a great start. Let's talk about the songs, shall we. Is there a better diss track than "Takeover"? Hell, no, and Jay's math that reduces Nas' ratio of 1 good record per decade is hilarious and, hate to say it, one hundred percent true. "Blueprint (Momma Loves Me)" is another highlight, personal and vulnerable with the ability to strike an emotional chord that most rappers can't begin to understand. Then there's Jay anointing himself hip-hop's messiah on "Izzo" and he began his Sinatra name-checking ("I did it my way") on "Hola Hovito". Blueprint certainly found Jay very confident and incredibly boastful ("If you haven't heard I'm Michael,Magic and Bird all rolled into one") but tell me he didn't back it up? And no matter how cocky Jay got, never forget that the first thing he does on The Blueprint is thank all of the people who bought the record. A nice touch.

The Blueprint marked the torch of East Coast hip hop was posthumously passed from BIG to Hov and this is the one thing I think actually humbled Jay. In "Hola Hovito" Jay says "and if I ain't better than BIG, I'm the closest one". Boastful for sure, but with an overt respect and admiration for the man that ruled the scene prior. I don't think Jay ever assumed he was better than BIG, but he knew, as evidenced in the line, there was no one else even close and truthfully, there still isn't.

Plus there's no fucking skits on it, so that's a million points right there.

16.) PJ Harvey - Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea (2000)

Let me tell you about college - it's really fun. If you can, you should totally go to one and might I recommend one with an actual campus. Those are super rad. Why even bring this up? Well a number of the records on this list came out while I was in college, but this record, Stories Form the City, Stories From the Sea from one Miss Polly Jean Harvey, is the record that I most associate with college. That's just a personal thing, but it's tough for me to write about this record without mentioning that it scored a particularly great period in my life, much like the Walkmen record a few posts earlier. Is this to suggest that perhaps I overrate these records as a result of them being of a wonderful time and place for me? I don't think so, but say what you will. I mention it only the interest of full disclosure.

When Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea was released a mere three weeks after Radiohead's game changing Kid A, I was two months into my junior year and things were great. 9/11 hadn't happened yet, Y2K never came about and I still had two full years of fucking around ahead of me. I remember Stories From the City so well because I rated it my favorite record of the year in my college paper. Yep. Stories number 1, Kid A number 2 (I think number 5 was Brittney Spears' debut, so take this with a rather large grain of salt). I was probably being a shit stirrer, but my argument at the time was Kid A is amazing, but every time out of the gate I would rather listen to Stories. It's a more pleasant and therefore better record. I know now there's more to it, but I still view it as, at the very least, a valid conversation point.

Anyway, I had been a PJ Harvey fan for a long time when Stories was released, so for me hearing it the first few times was just like hearing PJ Harvey - wonderful. But over time I'd notice something else... PJ Harvey sounds content on this record, shit she may even be happy. That's not to say she wasn't before - there was always some type of joyful abandon in many of her songs even if they weren't "happy" - but this was a different animal altogether. the record opens with what could be a classic rock riff for goodness sake and then the song it begins, "Big Exit", finds a revitalized Harvey cooing to a lover "I'm immortal when I'm with you". Of course the rest of the song is sort of Bonnie and Clyde (though she won't directly reference them until the second track, "Good Fortune") and from what I can gather she really, really "wants a pistol in [her] hand" but you know - we'll take it.

As the record unfolds, these are revealed to be some of Polly's greatest moments on record. "Good Fortune", "This Mess We're In" and "You Said Something" are all to this day in and out of my head on any given day. Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea is just a wonderful record with stellar moments that are forever etched in my brain. When she sings backup with herself on "A Place Called Home", the way the lyric "when we walked through Little Italy" rolls so interestingly off her tongue in "Good Fortune", the grimy seediness of "This Is Love", the way her voice and Thom Yorke's chase each other in "This Mess We're In" until they finally synch up for one glorious moment toward the end to sing the song's title (two of the generations greatest voices mind you), the way "You Said Something" ends just when you think she's going to tell us what was "so important". And these are just a few, there are dozens of these moments. That the record (literally a love letter to New York) would take on a whole new meaning post 9/11 just adds to its majesty. It's one that stays with you and one that I revisit all the time.

17.) Sun Kil Moon - Ghosts of the Great Highway (2004)

A lot of records have a certain seasonal feel and I tend to enjoy records that feel like winter. Summer music is fun, but you don't pore over summer music the way you do winter music. Summer music is for dancing and playing at BBQs. Winter music is the kind of music that makes you feel warm when its cold, that you listen to by a fire (me nor anyone I know makes fires, but you get the point), that you spend time with. It's substantial music.

Mark Kozelek's first record as Sun Kil Moon, Ghosts of the Great Highway, is the perfect winter record. Just put it on and let it suck you in. It's a timeless record that feels downright vintage at times but without ever feeling old fashioned. It's the whole rip it up and start again mentality. It's folk music certainly (the Neil Young comparisons are warranted) but it's oftentimes sifted through shoegaze and psychedelia to create a style of music all its own.

The songs on Ghosts of the Great Highway are meticulously crafted and unhurried. Virtually all of them exceed the five minute mark, but the joy in the record is that none of these songs get boring. In fact, I find myself wishing they were longer. The centerpiece of this whole thing is the nearly fifteen minute epic "Duk Koo Kim", a song that manages to over the course of its running time surprise and inspire. It's the type of song wherein you'd expect a lull, but it never comes. It's a gorgeous song filled to the brim with different instruments and movements all building to what is one of the loveliest crescendos in rock music this decade.

Mark Kozelek has always been a great interpreter of music and with the Red House Painters (and later with Sun Kil Moon) he would do a great justice to a number of artists. On Ghosts of the Great Highway, Kozelek interestingly and with great success covers himself. The tracks "Salvador Sanchez" and "Pancho Villa" are two wildly different approaches to the same song. The former is awash in electric guitar squall while the former is a straight up acoustic number. Both songs are amazing and a testament to this artist's abilities not only as a songwriter, but as a master arranger.

Listening to Ghosts of the Great Highway is an absolute pleasure. It feels like America at its greatest - Open roads, dusty backyards, porch swings, seeing your own breath in the cold. I love these kinds of records because I love those small, intimate details and I love artists who can make you see them without specifically saying it.

Listening, as I did a lot last year, to the Fleet Foxes record only made me appreciate Ghosts of the Great Highway more. The Fleet Foxes record will not appear on this list, though I think its an admirable achievement and a record I like very much. It's pretty to listen to and the harmonies are impeccable, but it always just made me want to listen to Ghosts of the Great Highway. I just feel Ghosts more. It's in my heart in a way, as silly as that may sound. It's an impactful, gorgeous record that always struck me as very sincere and I think that's why I still listen to it and why I continue to love it more and more each passing year.

18.) The Walkmen - Bows + Arrows (2004)

If I'm being honest (and I should always be honest, right?) Bows + Arrows could have literally just been "The Rat" ten times in a row (or even just once, just one song - release it as a record and...) and it would have made the list. Most bands never get to make a song like "The Rat". It just doesn't happen all that often. There will be bands that have records that land higher on this list who haven't made a single song as good as "The Rat". It's lightning in a bottle and thank you to The Walkmen for making it. It's a great song. Fierce and passionate and catchy. It made you feel like a kid if you weren't one and, hopefully, made you happy you still were one if you were.

Alright, that's "The Rat" portion of this write-up. Truth is, Bows + Arrows is more than just that one great song. It's ten. It's ten great songs coming together like a music Voltron and beating people up (listen, that was a really stupid analogy because I guess all the records on this list are that, you know? I have half a mind to just erase it all, but I won't - warts and all ya'll!)

Ok. Back to one. I really liked the Walkmen's first record, Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone, but I thought it meandered a bit. There were some great songs, but as a whole it lacked the impact that Bows + Arrows would have. Where Everyone sometimes stalled, Bows + Arrows fights back. It never lets up. And that's not to say it's a ten song rock 'n roll juggernaut - it's not - there are quiet moments as well, but these turn out to be some of the most focused and best songs on the record. "No Christmas While I'm Talking", aside from "The Rat", is my favorite Walkmen song of all time and it's also one of their most subdued. It's all atmosphere and a slurry Ham Leithauser vocal, but it's an important song on the record, sequenced right after "The Rat" as a sort of comedown track, but the type of comedown track that doesn't let you breath. I hang on every moment of that song. It's still thrilling. That's what makes Bows + Arrows work. It's a record.

Bows + Arrows also finds The Walkmen sounding quite confident in their abilities, not condescending or cocky, just confident. It's as if they know this is a big moment so why not just fucking attack it?

On a personal note, I was 23 when Bows + Arrows came out and I have such distinct and fond memories of that time in my life. It was definitely a transition point for me and without getting into it I was meeting new people and developing new friendships and one of my most important and lasting friendships was scored by this record - others as well, but whenever I hear Bows + Arrows I always think of one of my best friends, Sarah and to me that's what music is about. It's about helping you remember times, good and bad, and the best records stick with you for so long that they become so of a time and place and that's what Bows + Arrows does for me. So this is to NYC roof parties and cold nights waiting to get into SNL after-afters and to lots and lots of beers and lots and lots of fun with my pal, Sarah.

19.) The Drive-By Truckers - Southern Rock Opera (2001)

The Drive-By Truckers' deservedly sterling reputation as a live band sometimes gets them underestimated as a "records" band. Whenever people talk about the Truckers, and I'm guilty of this as well, the phrase "Well, you should really see them live if you haven't" tends to get tacked onto the end of these conversations. And it's true, you should. They're amazing live. But you should also listen to the records. The records are, for the most part, fucking great. And none of them more so than their two disc opus, Southern Rock Opera.

Southern Rock Opera is a big ol ambitious project originally conceived by lead Trucker Patterson Hood as a screenplay. This isn't surprising considering the Truckers' knack for storytelling is top notch, but I'm glad it became a record instead. Basically, SRO studies Southern contradictions, politics, race and rock 'n roll and filters it all through the infamous Lynyrd Skynyrd story. It sounds like a heavy and difficult load, and it is, but the Truckers manage to pull it off with ease.

Whenever you label your rock record a rock opera there are certain expectations. Chief among them - this thing's gonna be pretentious. Southern Rock Opera, thankfully, isn't mired in such trappings. The story on the record is important, hell it's integral to ones enjoyment of it, but first and foremost Southern Rock Opera is rock 'n roll pure and simple. The Drive-By Truckers put on no airs and wear their love of Southern and Classic rock 'n roll on their t-shirts for the world to see. This is music that would sound at home on classic rock radio, but with a depth and a vision worthy of pitchfork level praise.

Southern Rock Opera sounds like it means something. And I don't mean that as if to say it's high and mighty or like it's talking down to you - it's not a U2 record after all - but it sounds important. This is, I would gather, because it meant something to these guys. They have pride in their Southern heritage, but it also gives them pause sometimes. It's a world of contradictions, just like anywhere else, and to understand such things is important in finding comfort. Southern Rock Opera swings for the fences thematically and it scores every time, but what makes it a home run is the music. A record like this, so personal and weighty, could have gotten bogged down in what it wanted to accomplish. That it still accomplishes its lofty goals while simultaneously being some of the best actual music the band has ever recorded makes it a triumph and a record deserving of a high placement on this or any list.

20.) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus (2004)

Nick Cave has been making music for a while now, technically since 1973. And in that time he's released some great records with his band The Birthday Party and even better ones as the leader of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I'm talking about some top notch records, records you should hear - From Her to Eternity, Let Love In, The Boatman's Call just to name a few. What's remarkable about this band, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, probably the best and most enduring rock band this side of the E. Street Band is that even after all that time and all those great records, classic records, they wouldn't release their masterpiece until 2004. This is that record, well, those records. Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus.

Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus are two records masquerading as a "double album". They came in a set. You couldn't buy one without the other which thank goodness. If you haven't heard this record then, shit, I'm almost jealous. Abattoir/Lyre is the kind of record that I wish I could hear for the first time again.

I have a very long and fruitful musical relationship with Nick Cave and it all started by mistake. When I was 15 years old I was a member of Columbia House. Remember Columbia House? Get 8 albums for a penny and then buy 3 more at regular price and you get 2 more free or some scam like that? When you join Columbia House you have to check your favorite type of music. I was hip, you know, so I chose "alternative". Now the thing about Columbia House is every month they send you a booklet and in that booklet is your "selection of the month". Based on your taste in music, a record is selected that you should, in theory, like. Now, you are not beholden to the selection of the month, unless of course you don't send a postcard back to them saying you don't want it. Any former Columbia House member can tell you, more often than not we forgot to send the cards back and we would inevitably end up with the selection of the month. You could send it back and I usually did, but then one time I didn't.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' Murder Ballads was one of my selections of the month and I didn't send it back. I knew of Nick Cave. I read SPIN after all and had already decided I was a huge PJ Harvey fan by the time Murder Ballads ended up in my mailbox (PJ lends guest vocal to the track "Henry Lee" on the record), so I kept it and I was stunned by it.

I ended up becoming a bit obsessed with Nick Cave - an obsession that continues to this day. When Abattoir/Lyre was released, Cave was nearing fifty and Blixa Bargeld, the Bad Seeds' guitar player for twenty years, had left the band leaving fans unsure of what Cave would come up with.

Cave, at his best, comes across as equal parts preacher and carnival barker (not that there's much of a difference) and a lot of that is all over this record. From the opening salvo of Abattoir's great "Get Ready For Love" all the way through to Lyre's last track "O Children" a full on chorus number with a gospel choir that manages to be, fuck it, inspirational without inducing an eye roll, it's all great.

But, I'm biased. I am a really big Cave fan, but truth is if you've never heard him and you asked me which record to check out, I wouldn't bat an eye. It's this one...well I guess these two, but still...

21.) Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever to Tell (2003)

I'm not even going to try and start this entry without talking about Karen O. Over the decade Karen O has been, without question, the best frontperson in rock 'n roll. I'm not attempting to diminish Nick Zinner's and Brian Chase's roles, but sometimes a star just emerges and from the moment Fever to Tell opens with the exquisite "Rich", everyone listening knew who the star of Yeah Yeah Yeahs was.

Karen O is to this generation what Mick Jagger was to our parents -sexy, dangerous, slinking, powerful and with a coo as affecting as her growl. She may have seemed at first to be a little stand offish - what with the Brooklyn cred and all - but the moment you saw her perform it was a completely different ball game. Karen O has fun up there, man and she wants you to have fun too.

Karen O is everything Lady GaGa wishes she was. Lady GaGa, who I like mind you, is as manufactured and PR tested as any artist working. She's pushed that she's a musician first and performance artist second, but that's all bullshit. Her work is so rehearsed and even though she's not boring, it comes off cold and calculated. It's as if this whole being a musician thing is just a pretentious, and highly self-conscious, ruse. Karen O doesn't give a fuck. She too has been called both a musician and a performance artist, but it's quite clear the music is the inspiration for everything.

There is not one false moment in Fever to Tell, still Yeah Yeah Yeahs best record bell to bell (though this years It's Blitz is pretty fucking great). It's a rush. It was a shot right to the heart of the indie rock scene, which at the time was being dominated by backward thinking dudes. It's the kind of record that goes by in such a whirlwind that you're immediately drawn to listen again...and again...and again. It's the type of record that also just keeps getting better over time. As the punk spirit has been all but sucked out of indie rock, Fever to Tell's relevance just keeps increasing.

While Fever to Tell starts balls to the wall and remains that way until it's second to last track and it's that track that has defined the band and rightly so. "Maps" is a tremendous song. I think it's the best song of the decade. Number one...with a bullet. Beautifully crafted and with a fragile lead vocal that's both heartbreaking and uplifting all within one breath. It's captures the feel of early 2000's NYC better than perhaps any song from that era. Can't you see the hipster couple underdressed for the cold, a little more than slightly buzzed and outside a bar smoking a cigarette fighting and making up all within moments? That's "Maps" to me. That's Fever to Tell to me. It's a time I remember fondly and a record that I simply adore.

22.) Bjork - Vespertine (2001)

Debut, Post, Homegenic and Vespertine.

Those four records represent one of the greatest back-to-back (to back-to back-not counting the remix record Telegram and the "Dancer in the Dark" soundtrack Selmasongs) creative statements by any artist this generation. Each one of them is different from the one before and each building (or sometimes re-building) on Bjork's legacy as one of the true geniuses of our era.

One could probably write dissertations on each one of the records listed above, but only Vespertine was released this decade, so here we are.

Vespertine, upon its release, was thought to be Bjork's weakest effort. Time, however has proven otherwise. Vespertine was, no doubt, Bjork's quietest and most reflective record. Vespertine is a an intimate record and Bjork's voice, which usually soars to great heights, is very restrained here, making it more contemplative and probably not as immediate as some of Bjork's earlier works.

It's not easy for an artist who works so closely with electronic beats to sound warm. This is the main reason I find myself unable to connect with bands like the Knife. I respect the music, hell I can even tell it's technically masterful, but the humanity is often drained from it. I prefer music that I can connect with. I like to feel as though I'm there with the artist. Bjork has always managed to do this and does it to a great degree on Vespertine despite being a record that relies heavily on the electronic.

Each Bjork record feels like a glimpse into her weird world. It's a world that can't exist yet does because you (or in this case I) can connect so closely with the artist. Vespertine began as a work Bjork was doing on her own - using laptop beats. The collaborators grew, but not by many, and this makes Vespertine a record very close to Bjork and it shows. Again, it's so intimate and listening to it with a good pair of headphones (which is how it should be heard) brings you that much closer to the artist.

Bjork is the sort of artist who is constantly surprising you to the point that it would be even more surprising should she do a record you expected. Does that make sense? Anyway, Vespertine is an easy record to connect with if you give it a chance. It's Bjork at her most naked in some ways, but also at her most comfortable. It's a wonderful and still to this day underrated record.

23.) The Antlers - Hospice (2009)

I've previously talked about what a great year 2009 has been in music. It's one of the top years of the decade in terms of really great records being released. Having said that, no record had a bigger effect on me then The Antlers' incredible Hospice.

Released independently by the band in March, the record received so much attention that French Kiss records picked it up and re-released it in August. The story of Hospice is one similar to Bon Iver's For Emma... in that lead Antler Peter Silberman took a break from the world and created the record alone and broken. As a result, Hospice is a very personal work that follows Silberman as he deals with the death of someone close to him.

Now, I don't know what's true here and what's fiction and it's unclear who the person is who has succumbed to cancer (it appears to be a young girl), but it doesn't matter - the record is so moving, so raw to the point of shattering but ultimately so hopeful that you need nothing more than the time it takes to hear Hospice to be moved by it.

Hospice isn't always an easy listen. It's literally a chronicle of a man dealing with seeing someone he loves slowly die - not exactly Animal Collective-fun-party-times, but that's what makes it such a triumph. No punch is pulled and frankly the record is so much better for it. It's an emotional ride and Silberman ensures that you feel every moment of it.

Hospice is the type of record that changes people. That's a bold statement, for sure, but it's true. It's a perfectly realized piece of art with scads of memorable pieces. When Silberman's voice first hits the out of control heights it does on the chorus of "Sylvia" - that's the kind of shit you don't forget. Or when you listen to "Two" and you can see the hospital Silberman's singing about or when hope is finally found during "Wake" when our narrator finally find closure and decides not to suffer alone.

I probably overuse the term beautiful when I describe records. I hope, however that doesn't dilute my saying it here. Hospice is an absolutely beautiful record. It's beautiful in its agony and it's hope. It's beautiful in its execution and in its nuance. Its beautiful in its words and its scope. Everything about Hospice is right and harrowing and amazing. It's the best kind of record in that it makes you feel its every moment. It grabs you and once it's through it proves itself as unforgettable.

24.) St. Vincent - Actor (2009)

I know the exact moment I fell in love with St. Vincent's Actor. Toward the end of the record's third track "The Neighbors" Annie Clark (St. Vincent her-damn-self) sings the line "tomorrow's some kind of stranger who I'm not supposed to see". It's an unassuming moment, but it's her voice right then that breaks my heart in the best way possible. It's so fragile but it's also tense. It's quite beautiful.

Actor has a slew of these moments, these tiny perfect pieces that slowly reveal themselves over time. Actor finds Clark confident following a pretty sturdy debut record. What I love about Annie Clark's records is the balls on them. There are moments when tracks devolve into (calculated) chaos, yet she holds it altogether with that voice and a knack for arrangement.

Of the four record released in 2009 that I've dubbed the holy quadrinity, (that'd be Merriweather, Veckatimest, Bitte Orca and Actor) I find Actor to be the most resilient, focused and ultimately the one I go back to most often. I think this puts me in the minority, but whatever it's not the first time. That's not to take anything away from those other records - they all appear on this list - but there's something so thrilling to me about Actor. I feel like more than any record released in '09, Actor continually surprises me.

I love that Clark can write a song like "Actor Out of Work" - an absolute single if ever there was one - while still managing to put together something as weirdly off-kilter (and sometimes downright spooky) as "The Bed". I love that those songs can exist on one record and you don't bat an eye. I love that she can title a song "Laughing With a Mouth Of Blood" and have a line like "I can't see the future, but I know it's got big plans for me" in said song. I love that Actor never goes where it's supposed to. I love that Annie Clark is one of the most forward thinking artists working today and I can't wait to hear everything she does from here on out.

25.) Radiohead - In Rainbows (2007)

There was an editorial in the latest issue of SPIN suggesting that perhaps Radiohead suck. It was a stupid article designed to do nothing more than stir up come controversy and boost, I would assume, lagging magazine sales. I didn't even read it. I found the whole idea stupid especially when you actually listen to Radiohead's music...it's all fucking great.

Remember when In Rainbows "came out" by way of digital download and the now infamous "pay what you want" format? Yep, you do. Everyone does. It was the last time people actually paid attention to a release date. It was the last time that people collectively woke up earlier than they normally would and listened to an entire record. It was like being a teenager again. Listening to music the way we still should, but never will again.

I will always thank Radiohead for that sense of community. That blast back to 1995 that I needed so badly from music at that point. I heard In Rainbows the way they wanted me to hear it and at the same time as a lot of other people whom I could then talk about how awesome it was with! Great times.

And it is awesome. In Rainbows is a masterpiece. I hesitate to talk about Radiohead going back to any sort of roots or anything like that because it's mostly not true. Radiohead, from their inception, have been a band in flux. They're never what they once were. That's why people love them. It's not necessarily surprising anymore to hear that a Radiohead record doesn't sound like the one before it - it's more or less expected, but it's how they evolve that makes them great.

Is In Rainbows sonically easier to digest than Kid A or Hail to the Thief? Yeah, probably. It's a bit catchy - there are easily spottable singles on it, but it's still a complete work. Radiohead are more than the defining band of this decade - they're actually the defining band of the post-Nirvana generation. That they're not resting on their laurels at this point is a testament to their burgeoning creativity and talent.

26.) Spoon - Kill the Moonlight (2002)

When a band becomes one of your favorites, it's impossible to forget your first time. For me, Kill The Moonlight was my first Spoon and it marked the beginning of a truly fruitful musical relationship.

Everyone pretty much agrees that Kill the Moonlight is a pretty flawless record. I mean, right? Does anyone object to this. As the relatively minimalist opener "Small Stakes" gives way to what could be the best Spoon single eva - the genius pop sing along "The Way We Get By", the Spoon listening universe must have all turned to one another and said "yes please".

Kill the Moonlight was a watershed record for me in that, as I said earlier, it started me on this band Spoon who would become a band I would follow absolutely anywhere. I say right here and right now, I will purchase every single Spoon record until there stops being Spoon records and ten or fifteen years from now when these records get reissued, I'll probably buy them.

There was something about Kill the Moonlight that made me dive all in almost immediately. The starkness of the record was shocking. Again, Spoon are minimalist almost to a fault. They're doing a whole lot on these songs but it doesn't feel like they're doing very much at all. Take "Paper Tiger", there's the piano, the shudder, the light precussion, probably a guitar and Britt. But, it's a beautiful song. I hadn't heard pop music that sounded like this. At least none that I could remember. I was entranced by Kill the Moonlight - it's so effortlessly likable, but it probably shouldn't be. It's an art-rock record, but Spoon had the brains to construct these songs so that their pretentions fall away and are virtually unnoticeable.

27.) Dixie Chicks - Taking the Long Way (2006)

Who would have thought at the tail end of the last decade that the Dixie Chicks would go on to become on the most controversial bands in the country? Probably no one, however if all they had going for them was controversy they wouldn't find themselves on this list. That they rode that wave of controversy and challenged themselves to be a better band makes them a story.

Prior to the whole "George Bush fiasco", the Dixie Chicks were a serviceable country group. In fact, their pre "George Bush fiasco" record Home was the best thing they had done up to that point. It was a really good record. Almost great. It wasn't what fans were expecting, but it was certainly something they could understand and digest. It's a nice record and, it just so happens, a record I liked a lot.

I was a Dixie Chicks fan before any of the hoopla. I had dutifully bought their records since Wide Open Spaces (I'm a sucker for good country singers and Natalie Maines is one of the absolute fucking best) and I saw them become something fantastically unfamiliar with Home. They became an honest to goodness no frills country group. I mean home was a bluegrass record for fucks sake. But then Natalie Maines told a crowd in England that she, like so many of us, was embarrassed of the ass we put into office and the Dixie Chicks became something no one would have imagined.

Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks deserve a ton of praise for not backing down from their stance...for not apologizing for feeling the same way as more than half of the country and they should be further lauded for recording a song as incendiary as Taking the Long Way's lead single "Not Ready to Make Nice" - for me the official anthem of the Bush administration. These women were flogged by the right and they justified it by claiming it would have been one thing had Maines said what she said on American soil, but because it was in England it amounted to treason. In a long history of slinging bullshit, that's one of the worst. Please! The Dixie Chicks' lives were threatened and they generally feared they would be attacked. All for practicing their right to say whatever the fuck they want about whoever the fuck they want wherever the fuck they want.

Phew. Anyway. Sorry. This isn't a political discourse, this is about a record. Taking the Long Way is a fantastic record and aside from "Not Ready to Make Nice" it's not that political. It's a great representation of what the Dixie Chicks do best and in turn it's their best record. Let me just say Natalie Maines is the kind of artist who, for me, could sing anything and I'd buy in, that she doesn't rest on these laurels only makes the Dixie Chicks more important in my eyes. Taking the Long Way is at it's best in it's quieter moments especially in "Easy Silence", "Silent House" and "Bitter End". Just beautiful songs all three. Sure, they're heart-on-your-sleeve lyrically, but I like that in my country music. Country music when it's done right, should be music you want to listen to with your family, maybe sing along to a few chorus' and then ultimately break some bottles and put on your shit kickers. Taking the Long Way touches all of these nerves and manages to both stay true to and transcend country at the same time. It's a really great record.

28.) Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007)

Here goes - Of Montreal's Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? is the most fun record about a marriage on the brink of collapsing ever recorded. Has their ever been a greater disconnect between the sounds you're hearing and subject matter ever in pop music? I mean, sure "Timothy" by the Buoys is a pop song about cannibalism and there are some sure-fire pathos in "Common People" among other Pulp favorites - but the pure, gut wrenching agony at the underbelly of Hissing Fauna is actually tragic.

Lead Montreal-er Kevin Barnes and his wife have since reconciled, so there's a happy ending, but getting there was not easy. Having said all that, Hissing Fauna still manages to sound like your at a party in a fun house surrounded by carnies and people in masks clad only in pink and purple. Eschew the lyrics and this record is a back to front dance party, but it's not a dance record. Its a psychedelic rock/pop record of the highest order. In fact, it's one of the best. It rivals the best Flaming Lips records. Of Montreal are operating at that level, at least for me.

Though the theme of the record is difficult at times, Of Montreal refuse to wallow in the pity. When things get tough, fuck it let's dance! No band can make a line like "I spent the winter on the verge of a total breakdown while living in Norway" as fun as Of Montreal. There are certain records that I'll hear and think "how can someone not like this record?" and Hissing Fauna is one of those records. How can you not enjoy this record? Are you alive? Do you not like Prince either?

Of Montreal sound like aliens. Fun party-time aliens... you know aliens who are nice and just want to drink your Goldschlagerr, eat all your pills and have sex with you. But aliens nonetheless. Hissing Fauna sounds like all of that. And though the record is technically twelve songs long, it's really just one long piece of pop music heaven. It's best to just put it on and hang back, it'll do all the work even if at points it may make you want to cry.