(30) The Avalanches "Since I Left You" (2001, Elektra/WEA)
So many samples. So many sensations. Few have attempted a feat like "Since I Left You," and among those miniscule peers, none have measured up to the mighty Australians.
(29) The White Stripes "White Blood Cells" (2001, Sympathy for the Record Industry/V2)
Never in my wildest dreams did I think this doubly gimmicky (fake siblings, color scheme) garage duo would become one of the most revered rock bands of this decade, but sure enough, Jack and Meg transformed into rock stars of the first order in the years following this record. Of course, they were already carrying themselves like rock stars back in 2001, when they were still working the dive circuit and playing their stomping, style-hopping garage rock for mere handfuls of fans. Soon they became forever linked to the Strokes as the so-called guiding lights of the ill-fated New Rock Revolution, and from there it was radio play, magazine covers and festival headliner status. It all stems back to one of the deepest tracklists of the decade, a 16-song stunner that's entertaining no matter where the needle drops.
(28) Broken Social Scene "You Forgot It In People" (2002, Arts & Crafts/Paper Bag)
This is what happens when more than a dozen people get together and try to make an album: Almost none of these songs sounds anything alike. Here's what rarely happens in that situation: There's a unifying essence about this music that transcends genre or songwriting voice. Give all due respect to the tiny braintrust that steers Broken Social Scene, but save a little credit for serendipity.
(27) The Books "The Lemon of Pink" (2003, Tomlab)
The Books made a cottage industry out of matching samples with gorgeous live instrumentation. The pinnacle of their process was this sophomore LP, which bridged the gap between Califone and the Notwist with its kitchen-sink approach to smart, soothing electronica.
(26) Southeast Engine "Coming to Terms With Gravity" (2005, Bettawreckonize/Misra)
This list is already wholly subjective, but it's worth noting how extra hard it is for me to view "Coming to Terms With Gravity" with any sort of objectivity. In my college days, I stood front and center week after week, show after show, watching Southeast Engine work out the stage versions of these songs. I occasionally popped in the studio to hear this album in progress. And when I finally got a hold of a burned copy of the master, I couldn't stop driving around Athens on a warm spring night, smiling at what my friends/idols had created. Yeah, the imprint of their influences is heavy - lots of Wilco, Bright Eyes and Dylan in the mix - but Adam Remnant and band pulled off a singular vision in spite of all that. Nearly five years later (holy crap, has it been that long?), it's still as rich a listening experience as it was cruising the streets of Athens.
(25) Sufjan Stevens "Greetings From Michigan, The Great Lakes State" (2003, Asthmatic Kitty)
Sufjan obliterated his career ceiling with "Illinois." He could have taken over the world, had he not disappeared down a rabbit hole of self-doubt. But while that record sounds gimmicky and cloying in retrospect, this humble tribute to his home state only gets better with age.
(24) Love Is All "Nine Times That Same Song" (2005, What's Your Rupture?)
"One more time!" These sweet Swedes made a party-punk album so rich with artistry that you might confuse it for an art-punk album that came ready to party.
(23) The Lindsay "Dragged Out" (2006, Manup)
The ultimate Columbus coulda shoulda woulda story. Why "Dragged Out" never caught on outside I-270 is beyond me. It wears its love of Sonic Youth, Neil Young and Blur on its sleeve, but who wouldn't love an album shaped by '80s indie, classic rock and Britpop? As for the songwriting, performances and production? All top-notch. And allow me to be the millionth fan to demand somebody to (um) man up and reissue this on vinyl. Please?
(22) Phoenix "It's Never Been Like That" (2006, Glassnote)
French Strokes? Bah! It only took a few listens to "It's Never Been Like That" (while your copy of "First Impressions of Earth" collected dust) to realize that these prim, proper popsters now deserved to be discussed on their own terms. Don't worry, Thomas Mars: No consolation prizes will be necessary.
(21) Wolf Parade "Apologies to the Queen Mary" (2005, Sub Pop)
Boom, bap. Many a rapper has stroked his braggadocio over that smart, simple rhythm, but when Wolf Parade employed it to kick off their much-heralded debut, they introduced a two-headed songwriting monster that dabbled in fear, confusion and sensory overload. Spencer Krug's nervous tics and Dan Boeckner's idealistic impulses combined into one of rock's richest album experiences of this or any decade.