You and I have now reached the middle of the fifty albums that I have deemed to be the best. I think a couple of these records will be highly controversial. Please, be nice to me.
Albums thirty through twenty one. Have at 'er.
30. Strict Joy, The Swell Season (2009)
If I hadn't long ago decided that soundtracks were not permitted on my lists, the soundtrack for Once would be on this list. It would have made my top ten. Fortunately for me, and for everyone else as well, the Swell Season put out this album a little while ago and saved me the grief. Equally as beautiful, and as poignant as the songs off of Once, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova document their personal relationship with reason and even emotion.
Download: "In These Arms," "I Have Loved You Wrong," "Low Rising"
29. Action Pact, Sloan (2003)
It baffles me that Sloan isn't the biggest band in the world. Those gorgeous harmonies and sunny sixties pop inspired melodies seem tailor-made for world domination. It makes me that much happier that I live in Canada, where I can always hear them on the radio and see them on that five-minute block MuchMoreMusic has in the morning for videos. This album sees the band maturing and searching for their futures. It is both bouncy fun and contemplative narrative.
Download: "The Rest of My Life," "Nothing Lasts Forever Anymore," "I Was Wrong"
28. Everything All The Time, Band of Horses
(2006)One of the great debuts of the decade were this South Carolina based group with rich guitar sounds and a lead singer that yelps and wails like nobody's business. The songs on this album are hauntingly beautiful.
Download: "The Funeral," "The Great Salt Lake," "Monsters"
27. Songs For The Deaf, Queens Of The Stone Age (2002)
Any group that can bring in Dave Grohl to bang on the drums that ferociously deserves a spot on this list. I'm also glad that this, my drinking album, has a genuine party feel and rocks hard in a decade where great hard rock was sadly lacking. Let's not even begin on the state of metal in the 2000s…
Download: " Go With the Flow," " No One Knows," "A Song for the Dead"
26. Fever To Tell, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003)
Avant garde melodic punk with dance floor ambition, Yeah Yeah Yeahs are one of my favorite bands of the decade. Their debut album remains a highlight of the dance punk scene that seemed to struggle throughout the decade. Dark, bare bones, and Karen O's voice is so uniquely perfect over the steady percussion and ringing guitars.
Download: "Maps," "Y Control," "Date With The Night"
25. St. Elsewhere, Gnarls Barkley (2006)
I think Danger Mouse's impact on music over the decade has been under appreciated. His 2004 Beatles-Jay Z mash-up The Grey Album was a massive digital success story, and he helped produced the best album Beck did in this decade. But it was this album, with old friend and Goodie Mob member Cee-Lo, that remains a stand out. Taking the best traditions of hip hop, soul, and rock, they mixed it with genuine paranoia and fear to create a masterpiece of the dark side. All that, plus a warped cover of a Violent Femmes song.
Download: "Crazy," "Gone, Daddy, Gone," "Smiley Faces"
24. Bleed American, Jimmy Eat World (2001)
Why do people bash on Jimmy Eat World? I know they aren't the most ground breaking band, but they produce albums full of great pop-rock songs, and I find them less offensive than Matchbox Twenty. This, their break through, is a strong album about coming to terms with the adult world without leaving what makes you young and fun behind. It's also more ambitious than what one would expect from what was at the point a label free rock band with no prospects.
Download: "The Middle," "A Praise Chorus," "Sweetness"
23. When I Was Cruel, Elvis Costello (2002)
I am a die-hard, slightly obsessive Elvis Costello fan, so one should not be surprised that he's on this list. I would put an album of Elvis coughing on my list. I'm glad that instead I have an album that returns to Elvis' angry young man style and in the midst of the bitterness and general annoyance with the world, there are grand arrangements and great guitars. How can one go wrong when Elvis Costello remembers he's a rocker?
Download: "45," "Spooky Girlfriend," "When I Was Cruel 2," "Radio Silence"
22. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (2008)
One must realize I bought this album on the strength of hearing " White Winter Hymnal" and finding the imagery of cold and snow and the red scarves kind of homey. Maybe it's the fact I live where snow and cold is the norm for six months of the year. But the overall album is a gem, a mix of folk melodies and sixties vocal harmonies. Proof positive that the sound of the northwest in the 2000s was very different from the sound that came from there in the 1990s.
Download: "White Winter Hymnal," " He Doesn't Know Why," "Meadowlarks"
21. The Blueprint, Jay-Z (2001)
The lyrical master of hip hop was in trouble legally and with the hip hop community in 2001. His peers were dissing him left and right and there was that gun charge hanging over his head. But this isn't Nas, ladies and gentlemen, this is Shawn Carter, and he ain't a bitch. What he did was create a hip hop masterpiece with the help of a young Chicago based producer named Kanye West. An astonishing and real work.
Download: "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)," "Takeover," "Renegade"