We chose to go the strictly personal route with these best-of-decade lists, eschewing any sense of obligation to represent "important" artists or movements that we hadn't personally enjoyed or even experienced. I'm not super fluent in country or metal, so although I enjoy Taylor Swift and Mastodon, I don't feel like including either one of them just to check off a box and meet a quota. Instead, this is a list of music that has flat-out delighted me for a decade.

We chose to go the strictly personal route with these best-of-decade lists, eschewing any sense of obligation to represent "important" artists or movements that we hadn't personally enjoyed or even experienced. I'm not super fluent in country or metal, so although I enjoy Taylor Swift and Mastodon, I don't feel like including either one of them just to check off a box and meet a quota. Instead, this is a list of music that has flat-out delighted me for a decade.

Click album art to listen (when available)


(100) The Dismemberment Plan "Change" (2001, DeSoto)

Between their landmark "Emergency & I" and this record, the Dismemberment Plan mellowed out and straightened up but never lost that essential quirkiness that colored even their most pop-minded gestures.


(99) Madvillain "Madvillainy" (2004, Stones Throw)

One of rap's most talented producers birthed a warped world for one of the genre's strangest talents to run wild in. What inspired this hazy hip-hop house of mirrors? The album quite literally spells it out: M-A-R-I-J-U-A-N-A.


(98) TV on the Radio "Return to Cookie Mountain" (2006, 4AD)

TV on the Radio has always seemed a better idea on paper than in practice, but their second album comes closest to realizing all that potential and finding that sweet spot between raw passion and artsy ambition.


(97) Hugs & Kisses "The Casualties of Happiness" (2007, Manup)

If you thought Madvillain was weird, just wait til you step inside Donnie Monaco, Jacoti Sommes and Phonzie Davis' X-rated cartoon mind-meld.


(96) The Shins "Chutes Too Narrow" (2003, Sub Pop)

The second set from James Mercer and company found them more crisp, polished and ambitious, tackling the two-chord intensity of "Kissing the Lipless," the nimble harmonies of "Saint Simon" and the rootsy resignation of "Gone For Good" with equal aplomb.


(95) Kanye West "The College Dropout" (2004, Roc-a-Fella)

Kanye hadn't yet reached his greatest heights of artistry or ego on "The College Dropout," but he brought more than enough of both to change the hip-hop landscape more profoundly than any other album this decade.


(94) Death Cab for Cutie "The Photo Album" (2001, Barsuk)

Before The Postal Service and "The OC" and Zooey D. and "New Moon," there was this album, Ben Gibbard's best set of songs and the first signal that Death Cab's melancholy indie rock might strike a chord with the masses.


(93) Ne-Yo "Year of the Gentleman" (2008, Def Jam)

My R&B consumption is usually limited to a few crossover singles and the genius of R. Kelly, so for this album to make a dent in my consciousness, it had to be good. Ne-Yo doesn't try anything new, but when you sing like an angel and write like a pro, old forms work like a charm.


(92) Bright Eyes "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" (2005, Saddle Creek)

If you wanted to pinpoint the moment Conor Oberst crossed over from folk-emo brat to seasoned "mature" songwriter, it would be here. Make no mistake, the band name still fits these angry but optimistic tunes about discovering NYC and hating George Bush, but Oberst learned to reign himself in here with dazzling results. Unfortunately he also released the monstrosity "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn" the same day.


(91) The Hold Steady "Separation Sunday" (2005, Frenchkiss)

A rock opera of sorts about the seedier side of the Twin Cities, presented with arena rock gusto by the wordiest, twitchiest narrator this side of the Mississippi River.