(80) The Exploding Hearts "Guitar Romantic" (2003, Dirtnap)
Losing my copy of this garage-pop masterpiece feels like a tragedy until I remember 3/4 of the band died in a van accident on tour. Then I just appreciate the fact that I got to listen to it at all. Thankfully, unlike its creators, "Guitar Romantic" can be replaced with a quick visit to your music retailer of choice, a trip that's long overdue for me (and probably for you too, you lazy bum).
(79) The Fiery Furnaces "Blueberry Boat" (2004, Rough Trade)
The Fiery Furnaces' relatively straightforward debut and the whole brother-sister gimmick made me think they were a White Stripes knockoff. "Blueberry Boat" blew those preconceptions out of the water with meticulous multi-segmented epics garnished with some of the strangest lyrics and sounds I've yet encountered. Not long after this, their shtick got a little overbearing, especially on their ill-advised grandma album, but this album's alternate universe cartoon odyssey will always have a place in my heart.
(78) Animal Collective "Merriweather Post Pavilion" (2009, Domino)
Holy hype, Batman! Yet "Merriweather Post Pavilion" nearly lived up, catapulting Animal Collective to a new echelon of experimental electronic bliss. "I want to walk around with you" seems like a fitting come-on for an album built for headphone immersion in all seasons, and "My Girls" is among the decade's most glorious pop music moments without sacrificing a shred of Animal Collective's unique, ever-evolving approach to music.
(77) Califone "Roots and Crowns" (2006, Thrill Jockey)
Really, I could have slid any Califone album into this slot, such a consistent (and consistently underrated) band they are. I myself overlook Tim Rutili and company far too frequently; I neglected to include their stellar new "All My Friends are Funeral Singers" on my best of 2009 list. But when looking back on the aughts, let's not forget "Roots and Crowns," as good an exhibit as any of Califone's solemn junkyard pop.
(76) Brightblack Morning Light "Brightblack Morning Light" (2006, Matador)
Some music seems made to be injected, inhaled or absorbed rather than simply heard.
(75) Heavy Mole EP (2005, self-released)
Even if their long-gestating LP never sees the light of day, this Columbus quartet has given us enough: four songs that deploy the old "disturbing lyrics in sheep's clothing" trick to perfection. Sam Craighead sings sweetly over piano, guitar and trumpet arrangements that invigorate his sardonic laments with a glimmer of hope. And you gotta love a band that's not afraid to throw around some puns.
(74) Jay Reatard "Singles" 06-07 (2008, In the Red)
It's one thing to be prolific; it's quite another to be good. Reatard managed both, spending much of this decade churning out one brilliant pop-punk track after another. This comp captures the volatile schlub ascending to a career peak.
(73) Sonic Youth "Rather Ripped" (2006, Geffen/Interscope)
Sonic Youth showed its much-ballyhooed aughts renaissance had legs even after shot-in-the-arm Jim O'Rourke left the fold. The hypnotic conclusion of "Jams Run Free" is one of the band's career highlights, and "Incinerate" is so good that my old college band had a rip-off in the works at the time of our breakup.
(72) Deer Tick "War Elephant" (2008, Partisan)
Before transforming into rampaging barroom rockers this year, Deer Tick turned in one of the decade's most astonishing debuts, a compendium of country, folk and psychedelic rock that showed frontman John McCauley is talented beyond his years.
(71) Les Savy Fav "Let's Stay Friends" (2007, Frenchkiss)
The rub on quirky post-punk provocateurs Les Savy Fav was always that they couldn't make a studio album that measured up to their unforgettable live shows. They sort of accomplished it with the singles collection "Inches," but it wasn't until they unexpectedly broke their hiatus and birthed "Let's Stay Friends" that they finally delivered a record worthy of their legacy.