40. Broken Social Scene, Broken Social Scene (2005). Toronto was the surprise capital of this decade’s indie rock scene, and its incestuous scene found members of a handful of bands working on each other’s albums. The centerpiece of this scene was Broken Social Scene, which at times included over fifteen musicians and vocalists. Almost any of their albums (or spin-offs) could take this place in the list, but I’ll take this self-titled collection of dreamy mini-symphonies.
39. Get Up Kids, Guilt Show (2004). This Kansas band is quite often lumped into the dreaded “emo” category, but their love of power pop and the Replacements puts them far removed from the whiney annoyances of most of that genre. Guilt Show was their final release (although they reunited for a short tour last year), and while it may not be as powerful as their first recordings in the late 90’s, it’s one of the better finales in recent rock history.
38. Ryan Adams, Gold (2001). This release was supposed to be the album that catapulted the former Whiskeytown leader to worldwide fame, yet even with a song and video (“New York, New York”) that could have raised the spirits of post-9/11 New York City the album failed to meet retail expectations. While a bit overlong, the highlights (“Firecracker”, “Answering Bell”, “The Rescue Blues”) rank with anything Adams has ever recorded.
37. The Decemberists, Picaresque (2005). Although they’re not as well known, The Decemberists’ output of the last decade deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as anybody else. Picaresque is the album where I first noted their “folky pirate” sound, even if I don’t have anywhere near the expansive vocabulary of leader Colin Meloy.
36. Steve Earle, Transcendental Blues (2000). While Earle’s output of the past decade has not quite equaled the standards of the previous ten years, this collection of folk, Celtic, country rock, and Beatles-ish pop tunes is easily his most varied and catchy album of his career.
35. The Weakerthans, Reconstruction Site (2003). John Sampson is one of the most interesting characters in today’s music scene. Besides running his own publishing company, he splits his time between two bands that couldn’t be farther apart. Best known for the recently reunited agitprop Propoghandi, Sampson showcases his melodic side in the Weakerthans. Reconstruction Site is their crowning achievement, a beautiful collection of folkish, almost alt-country pop songs.
34. My Morning Jacket, It Still Moves (2003). If there is one band that has captured the spirit and versatility of The Band it has to be My Morning Jacket. Leader Jim James’ heavily reverbed rustic vocals are as soulful as Rick Danko, yet the guitars are more reminiscent of Neil Young’s collaborations with Crazy Horse. The influences don’t stop with these iconic acts, though, which is why MMJ is as comfortable playing a jam-band festival as they are with folk or alt-country bands.
33. Elliott Smith, Figure 8 (2000). On his final album before his tragic death in 2003, Elliott Smith traveled to London to record at the famed Abbey Road studio. The result was his most varied album of his career, combining the sparse, dark sound of his first solo records with more layered, almost psychedelic tunes that showcased his love of the Beatles and Beach Boys.
32. Morrissey, You Are the Quarry (2004). Fifteen years into a mostly disappointing solo career, the former leader of The Smiths finally delivered the album his fans had been waiting for. Accompanied by a spiky twin-guitar attack, Morrrissey’s pointed barbs attacked American imperialism, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, lesbians, lovers, and even Mexican biker gangs.
31. The Postal Service, Give Up (2003). A word of advice to those who have jumped on the Owl City bandwagon - toss that record in the dump and pick up this side project of Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard. Nothing against the Owatonna, MN “electro-indie rocker”, but his entire sound is based on this record that is one of Sub Pop’s biggest sellers ever.