(70) Of Montreal "Satanic Panic in the Attic" (2004, Polyvinyl)
This record marked the beginning of Kevin Barnes' dance music fascination, the moment when Of Montreal morphed from a '60s pop museum piece into something wholly unique and unrepentantly strange. They went further off the deep end with each successive release, eventually becoming a parody of the sound they cultivated here. But for one fine moment in 2004, "Satanic Panic in the Attic" had me lost in lysergic bliss.
(69) Jens Lekman "When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog" (2004, Secretly Canadian)
How can Lekman be so self-effacing and so suave at once? The sad-sack Swedish lothario gets gloriously schmaltzy on "You Are the Light (by which I travel into this and that)" and sounds just as splendid stripped down on ballad "When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog," which manages to effectively twist the Stooges' legendarily aggressive pickup line into an asexual twee declaration of friendship: "When I said I wanted to be your dog/ I wasn't coming on to you/ I just wanted to lick your face."
(68) The New Pornographers "Mass Romantic" (2000, Mint)
The side project that brought together Carl Newman, Dan Bejar, Neko Case, Todd Fancey and company quickly surpassed any success of the artists had achieved on their own and helped rocket Case's solo work into iconic songbird status. What was so impressive about Mass Romantic? Try cramming more hooks than you can count on one hand into song after song after song and see if you don't end up with an ice cream headache.
(67) Deerhoof "The Runners Four"(2005, Kill Rock Stars)
Watching Deerhoof's slow metamorphosis from experimental Hello Kitty wackjobs into off-kilter crowd-pleasers was one of indie rock's best storylines of the aughts. "The Runners Four" is their most ambitious and satisfying set of concoctions, always throwing you for a loop when you think you know what to expect.
(66) Dirty Projectors "Bitte Orca" (2009, Domino)
Between the shimmering crackle of those first tremolo guitar chords and the warm embrace of those final keyboard swells, Dave Longstreth and his cohorts freed themselves from the shackles of goofy concepts and geeky restraints and simply let their twisted imaginations run wild from Brooklyn to Africa and back.
(65) Interpol "Turn On the Bright Lights" (2002, Matador)
When "Turn On the Bright Lights" came out, all anybody wanted to talk about was how hard they were ripping off Joy Division. Funny, then, that within a couple years gloomy, "angular" bands were getting derided as Interpol imitators. Why the change of heart? My guess is that songs good enough to overcome Paul Banks' awful lyrics ("Oh look, it stopped snowing!") are good enough to win over the most hard-hearted cynics.
(64) Ted Leo/Pharmacists "Hearts of Oak" (2003, Lookout!)
Break out the Thin Lizzy guitars, the searing falsetto and the angry political rhetoric, and let's have a party! Leo never sounded this good before or since.
(63) Beck "Sea Change" (2002, Geffen)
To follow up his most ridiculous collection of party bangers, "Midnite Vultures," Beck broke out his acoustic and delivered this generation's answer to "Blood on the Tracks." Shattered by a bad breakup with his longtime lover, the mercurial genius recruited his father to do string arrangements and created a set of songs trapped in a fog of despair. Sometimes it seems more than a little overbearing and indulgent, but when you're feeling down about a girl, music doesn't come much better than this.
(62) The Flaming Lips "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" (2002, Warner Bros.)
All it took to inspire a worthy follow-up to the Lips' landmark "The Soft Bulletin" was 9/11, lots of drugs and a little help from Cat Stevens. The result was one big, sad, psychedelic cartoon about a spunky Japanese girl and her valiant struggle against evil-natured robots.
(61) Band of Horses "Everything All the Time" (2006, Sub Pop)
Taking your album title from a Radiohead lyric is even more ballsy than naming your band after a Talking Heads song, but Ben Bridwell didn't need any cool cache to sell songs this gorgeous. It sounds big from the start, when "The First Song" rolls along like a glacier, and it gets bigger further down the tracklist, when "The Funeral" and "The Great Salt Lake" make sure somebody will always have a reason to raise a lighter at Band of Horses concerts.