(20) Radiohead "Amnesiac" (2001, Capitol)
Thanks to public perception that these were merely Radiohead's outtakes from the sessions that birthed "Kid A," it took a while for people to realize what a great album "Amnesiac" is. And it certainly sounds like a grab bag, hopping from tinny electronica to soaring, obtuse piano balladry to New Orleans funeral dirge. But few bands have ever laid down music this beautiful, so effortlessly cutting to listeners' emotional core. Time will tell, they say, and it has: "Amnesiac" rules.
(19) Badly Drawn Boy "The Hour of Bewilderbeast" (2000, XL/Twisted Nerve)
Damon Gough's whereabouts at this late date are a mystery to me. His work for most of this decade left me cold, and even as he experienced a slight ascendancy thanks to his work on the "About a Boy" soundtrack, at this point I barely ever think of him. (Turns out he just dropped a new album! Who knew?) My indifference now would have seemed insane back in 2000, when "The Hour of Bewilderbeast" was the mothballed sweater warming me through winter. To this day "Bewilderbeast" plays like patchwork perfection, a compendium of drowsy folk, psych, country and even disco that takes you through the river and over the woods to who knows where. And who cares where, when the journey is this good?
(18) Lil Wayne "Da Drought 3" (2007, Young Money)
Wayne spat fire on his own albums and as a serial guest star, but his greatest achievement was this two-disc opus, in which his boundless id runs wild over the hip-hop hits of the day, rendering the originals irrelevant one by one. The line between genius and insanity has never been thinner.
(17) Peter Bjorn and John "Writer's Block" (2006, Wichita/V2)
The whistling bliss of "Young Folks" ended up overexposed and under-appreciated, so let's not forget that everything else on this LP is golden. Three highly capable Swedes found a songwriting sweet spot and milked it for all the car commercial glory they could muster.
(16) Sun Kil Moon "Ghosts of the Great Highway" (2003, Jetset/Caldo Verde)
If you could distill sadness and sell it by the hour, it wouldn't be much different than a Mark Kozelek LP. This one props Kozelek's mournful narratives up with just the right mix of bleary acoustic rumination and blazing electric overload.
(15) Sigur Ros "Agaetis Byrjun" (2000, Fat Cat)
When the aliens arrived, they came in peace.
(14) Eminem "The Marshall Mathers LP" (2000, Aftermath)
Y'all act like you've never seen a white person before! After Eminem rocketed to superstardom as the godfather of horrorcore, he came back with a sick, twisted and limitlessly brilliant collection of psychotherapy-by-song in which he downs every drug imaginable, violently slays his ex-wife (twice!), kills his pal Dr. Dre and threatens to murder his listeners. It seems crazy now that anyone cared enough about Eminem's over-the-top antics to get outraged, but our short attention span costs us the proper perspective. It's been a while since moral anarchy has sounded this good.
(13) Modest Mouse "The Moon and Antarctica" (2000, Epic)
Old-school Modest Mouse fans swear the band was already in decline by the dawn of the new millennium, but every last second of "The Moon and Antarctica" begs to differ. There are still glimpses of the raw, rambunctious miscreants who made "The Lonesome Crowded West," but Isaac Brock's glassy-eyed moments of clarity are the real highlight here. He narrates the journey from the warm crevices of his brain out into that cold, cold part of the world.
(12) Phoenix "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" (2009, Glassnote)
I would have been happy with a sublime single or two, but Phoenix outdid themselves here, laying down one glossy pop powerhouse after another and proving "It's Never Been Like That" was no fluke.
(11) Frightened Rabbit "The Midnight Organ Fight" (2008, Fat Cat)
Until last year I would have pegged McLusky as the definitive Scotsmen of my musical decade, but those sadistic bastards got supplanted by a friendly, earnest bunch whose only common thread was their acerbic wit and a knack for hair-raising choruses. I thought I had trained myself not to succumb to heart-on-sleeve antics like this, but I was powerless to resist Frightened Rabbit.