(90) Coldplay "Parachutes" (2000, Capitol)
Cynics hated Coldplay from the start, but for a teenage semi-anglophile who had just discovered the joys of Radiohead, "Parachutes" seemed like manna from heaven. Hilariously, they were viewed as a slightly inferior version of Travis at the time, but within a few spins it became clear that Chris Martin's gorgeous laments would endure far longer. They're rock stars now, coming off their best album in some time, but I preferred them when they were nothing more than friendly lads with some earnest songs to sing.
(89) Fleet Foxes "Fleet Foxes" (2008, Sub Pop)
If you told me the de facto indie rock album of 2008 would feature five-part vocal harmonies from woodsy Beach Boys fans in beards and flannel, I would have wondered if you were really describing the same demographic that had just spent the previous year cheerleading M.I.A. and LCD Soundsystem. But here it was, folk without the freak, dominating the discourse and melting frozen hearts.
(88) Houseguest "High Strangeness" (2006, Audio Eagle)
Rigid, rapid and almost too smart for its own good, High Strangeness was like a straight-A student hopped up on Ritalin. Houseguest's herky-jerky take on power pop isn't for everyone, but it's certainly for me.
(87) RJD2 "Deadringer" (2002, Definitive Jux)
When I first experienced Deadringer in the waning months of my senior year at Westerville North, I had no idea RJ Krohn grew up 15 minutes from my house. I just knew Pitchfork had proclaimed him the heir to DJ Shadow and his tour de force debut was making me inclined to agree.
(86) The Hold Steady "Boys and Girls in America" (2006, Vagrant)
This is where Craig Finn and company pulled together all the loose ends and made the badass classic rock record they always dreamed of. I'm as guilty as any critic of overusing the word "anthems," but how else can you describe this music? It was tailor-made for blasting from your mid-life-crisis Camaro.
(85) Lil Wayne "Tha Carter III" (2008, Cash Money)
After interminable delays, there was no way this was ever going to live up to the preposterously high bar Weezy set with his mixtape work and serial guest spots. Revisited 18 months later, it sounds like the kind of monument he can be proud to hang his hat on, a variety show spotlighting his eclectic tastes and drug-fueled, syllable-by-syllable dissection of the English language. He was the biggest star in the world there for a minute, and here he sounds like he deserved to be.
(84) Loose Fur "Born Again in the USA" (2006, Drag City)
Wilco has released three albums since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and none of them are as good as this side project from frontman Jeff Tweedy, drummer Glenn Kotche and frequent conspirator Jim O'Rourke. The record counts a whistling ditty about Christ coming back as a crackhead executive, an uptight rocker built on tentacle guitar riffs and a Wilco-worthy bit of piano pop among its highlights.
(83) Constantines "Constantines" (2001, Three Gut/Sub Pop)
Grim and gritty and glowing like neon, Guelph's finest delivered a hard-hitting, world-weary debut that would have been great for post-9/11 rage and reflection had I discovered it yet. They've been reliable post-punk craftsmen ever since, but none of their later albums hit the spot from front to back like this one.
(82) Beaten Awake "Let's Get Simplified" (2006, Audio Eagle)
After moving on from some of the greatest post-hardcore bands in the world - Harriet the Spy and Party of Helicopters among them - where does your muse lead you? To warm and weathered indie rock colored as much by tuneful folk music as the members' scrappy DIY bands of yore.
(81) M.I.A. "Kala" (2007, XL/Interscope)
M.I.A. already seemed like an anomaly after "Piracy Funds Terrorism" and "Arular" made her an indie star. Then this album dropped, and holy crap was it crazy. "Bird Flu" banged with a fit of screeching heaves. "Jimmy" spiraled into Bollywood disco nirvana. "20 Dollar" captured Pixies' "Where Is My Mind" in a digital tarpit. And of course "Paper Planes" turned a squealing Clash sample, Maya's sing-songy raps and a kids' chorus singing about a stickup (complete with gun blasts) into pop music gold.