(50) Girl Talk "Night Ripper" (2006, Illegal Art)
This music revolutionized house parties and infuriated security guards worldwide. Mashups were old hat by the time Gregg Gillis dropped "Night Ripper" and started spending his weekends stripping his clothes off surrounded by writhing twentysomethings. But nobody had ever created such a sustained ADD sprawl before, or if they had, they hadn't Mr. Gillis' proper pop touch.
(49) Clinic "Internal Wrangler" (2000, Domino)
There's no easy way to categorize Clinic's sound. Whimpers and shrieks and brittle bursts of noise run wild through retro reverb riffs and psychedelic keyboard curtains, all in an incessant, repetitive post-punk framework that confounds more than it comforts. Yet these weird wonders are hardly harrowing; Internal Wrangler is more fun than almost anything else I heard this decade.
(48) Songs: Ohia "Magnolia Electric Co." (2003, Secretly Canadian)
At the height of Jason Molina's career, he dropped his old band name Songs: Ohia and the sad, somber folk that came with it, adopting a big barroom sound under a new banner, Magnolia Electric Company. This marvelous set of mournful country rockers is the fulcrum, introducing the boisterous new direction while maintaining every drop of acidic grief. Molina made a mistake letting his bandmates sing a couple of tracks, but his six contributions more than make up for the unfortunate detour.
(47) And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead "Source Tags and Codes" (2002, Interscope)
Trail of Dead didn't seem to know what kind of band they wanted to be - other than the kind that plays loud as hell then trashes its equipment - so they tried just about everything on "Source Tags and Codes," and most of it worked. The album-ending sequence from "Relative Ways" to "Source Tags and Codes" is one of rock's most majestic big finishes, two gorgeous fits of passion bridged by a dramatic piano interlude that smartly segues from one theme to the next. In retrospect, this was the beginning of a volatile creative spiral out of control that eventually resulted in Trail of Dead losing the plot. That sacrifice was more than worth it, though, for yielding this gorgeous monstrosity.
(46) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!" (2005, self-released)
One of the original blog-hype bands and one of the decade's fastest DIY success stories, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! became an indie household name on the strength of their nervous, nasally debut alone. To prove that their success wasn't all based on hype, they followed this up with a horrible sophomore LP and watched their cool cache dwindle to almost nil. Wait, they didn't make that crappy follow-up just to prove a point? I guess some bands only have one stunner in 'em, but if so, at least these guys made the most of their moment.
(45) The Streets "Original Pirate Material" (2002, Locked On)
For a long time, I preferred the concept album "A Grand Don't Come For Free," but listening to "Original Pirate Material" once more, I'm struck by how much more I like Mike Skinner when he isn't shackled to an album-length theme. As a singles artist - and this album is stuffed with one-off gems - Skinner gets to build bangers of all shapes and sizes: the cinematic drama of "It's Too Late," the goofy cleverness of "The Irony of It All," the club claustrophobia of "Has It Come to This?"
(44) Yo La Tengo "...And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out" (2000, Matador)
Yo La Tengo began the decade on a mellow kick, a trend that would eventually find them caught in a rut on 2003's "Summer Sun." But this album's slow jams were anything but stagnant. Rather, Georgia and Ira (with help, as always, from James McNew) crafted soft, slow odes to deep-rooted, time-tested true love, and not the kind that can only be enjoyed from the inside. And just when another serenade would have lulled listeners to sleep, they broke out "Cherry Chapstick," a feedback-drenched shoegaze rocker so good it would be a standout even if it didn't stick out.
(43) The Shins "Oh, Inverted World!" (2001, Sub Pop)
Driving around Ohio University campus on sunny spring days in 2003, nothing sounded better than a two-year-old record built on hazy reverb and faded memories. The Shins made the kind of beach pop you'd expect from a band landlocked in New Mexico - nerdy, wordy and far too feeble to ride a wave. I never pegged them for world-conquerors; at the time, the prospect of hearing them on alternative radio seemed far-fetched to me. But James Mercer's melodic chops and rhythmic spunk would not be denied. The breezy nostalgia of "New Slang" lured listeners in, and more assertive numbers like "Caring Is Creepy" and "Know Your Onion!" kept them in the fold for good.
(42) Animal Collective "Sung Tongs" (2004, Fat Cat)
"Sung Tongs" was the beginning of a trend that continues to this day: critics proclaiming the latest Animal Collective release to be their "pop" album. That's comical because from "Leaf House" to "Whaddit I Done," there's nothing that could be remotely described as pop music. Sure, much of it's melodic, and yeah, it was more accessible than their previous body of work, but when you're still squawking like monkeys and moaning like ghosts, chances are you have not produced a pop album. You may have produced a great album, though, as Avey Tare and Panda Bear did here.
(41) The National "Boxer" (2007, Beggars Banquet)
The grassroots support that simmered during the Alligator era bubbled over into full-blown hosannas upon "Boxer's" release, and rightfully so. Matt Berninger's rich baritone lent credence to his mournful ruminations on life after 30, for which his bandmates built just the right canvas of dark-hued desperation colored with a healthy smattering of hope.