(60) Bloc Party "Silent Alarm" (2005, Wichita)
From the beginning, Bloc Party seemed far too polished and radio-ready to adopt such a politically charged moniker. Even closet capitalists Rage Against the Machine at least trafficked in entry-level radical rhetoric, while Kele Okereke mostly spouts emo poetry here, "Price of Gas" notwithstanding. But they were so good at crafting these shiny, self-contained alt-rock nuggets with a pinch of dance that it didn't much matter what they were singing about. Personally, I will always remember blasting this album while driving from Athens to Nashville to see the Ohio Bobcats lose to Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. (They gave 'em a game, though!)
(59) Queens of the Stone Age "Rated R" (2000, Interscope)
I remember quite distinctly seeing the big, blue album cover at Virgin Megastore (R.I.P.), stepping up to the listening station and strapping on the headphones, and laughing my ass off when the verse "Nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol" explodes into a showstopping chorus of "C-c-c-c-c-cocaine!!!" From there I was all in. Thankfully, QOTSA's sense of humor usually helped, not hindered, their quest to brilliantly bridge the gap between pop-rock and stoner metal.
(58) Ghostface Killah "Fishscale" (2006, Def Jam)
Wu-Tang's MVP this decade by a wide margin, Ghostface made several underworld masterworks throughout the aughts. The one I spent the most time with was "Fishscale," an album audacious enough to have a kids' chorus sing about kilos and drop disses like "You staring at the angel of death/ Liar, liar/ Pants on fire/ You burnin' up like David Koresh." It also includes "Back Like That," a Ne-Yo collaboration that predicts and outclasses Ghost's R&B exploits on this year's "Ghostdini."
(57) Times New Viking "Presents The Paisley Reich" (2007, Siltbreeze)
One-upping the raucous debut "Dig Yourself" with a brief, buzzing blast of art-punk party music, Times New Viking established here that they'd be no flash in the pan. And indeed, greater things were still to come.
(56) Jim O'Rourke "Insignificance" (2001, Drag City)
Deadpan crooning all the things embittered people usually say under their breath, O'Rourke shrouded his misanthropic irritation in glorious guitar pop that spanned from the tumbling riffs of "All Downhill From Here" to the clanging insistency of "Therefore I Am" to the soft whispers of "Good Times." And "Memory Lame" is perhaps the politest kiss-off track ever recorded.
(55) The Go Team! "Thunder, Lightning, Strike!" (2004, Memphis Industries)
Sounding like the soundtrack to '70s cop shows built on car chases and tropical getaways, the sample-heavy "Thunder, Lightning, Strike!" was one of the decade's purest distillations of pop pleasure, overflowing with blaring sirens, rowdy cheerleaders, surf guitars and horns that range from sensational to downright sentimental.
(54) The Microphones "The Glow, Pt. 2" (2001, K)
I discovered Pitchfork in 2000 when Radiohead's "Kid A," my obsession at the time, topped an albums-of-the-year list filled with lots of unfamiliar acts. As I dug into those picks, names like Sigur Ros, Modest Mouse and Yo La Tengo transformed from mysterious abstractions to beloved favorites. So when the 2001 best-of list came out, I was eager to hear whatever they crowned the year's best. That meant "The Glow, Pt. 2," an analog masterpiece of stitched-together guitar loops, ominous organ washes and trembling narration from Phil Elvrum's twee twilight zone.
(53) Junior Boys "Last Exit" (2004, Domino)
Call it elevated elevator music - breathy club tracks that would be unforgivably cheesy martini bar tripe were they not so expertly assembled and performed. "Last Exit" is better after dark, but once you remove sunlight from the equation, its minimal, soft-spoken electro jams work in just about any context - the later it gets, the greater it sounds, all the way to the first rays of sunrise.
(52) Radiohead "In Rainbows" (2007, self-released/TBD)
Along with the rest of the world, my jaw dropped on Sept. 30, 2007, when news came down that Radiohead would release a new album online for a price of your choosing. Just as shocking 10 days later was that this was brilliant stuff, and accessible too, from a band thought to be fading after the uneven and overlong "Hail to the Thief." The list of instant classics was almost as long as the tracklist: "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi," "Jigsaw Falling Into Place," "Bodysnatchers," "All I Need," "Reckoner," "House of Cards"... Good show, boys. Good show. Now release another one already!
(51) The New Pornographers "Twin Cinema" (2005, Matador)
"Twin Cinema" captured The New Pornos at just the right moment in their transition from ecstatic harmonizers to sentimental schleps. The result was a buoyant, beautiful collection of heart-rending, fist-pumping pop songs.