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#50. Deep Forest
by Do As Infinity (2001)
This album sounds like Japan. It reminds me of walking the streets of the big cities, and each track sounds like the opening theme to some anime or video game (the title track was actually the theme song to the anime "Inuyasha"). I tend to listen to this album a lot when I think about Japan. Just pure and simple J-pop, and it always puts a smile on my face. Besides...they always have good album covers (wink wink).
#49. Grateful Triad Years: 1998-2002
by Thee Michelle Gun Elephant (2002)
I had barely heard "Last Night" from The Strokes before I headed out on a mission, but I wasn't impressed. Crappy old-school butt rock? Who needs that? It wasn't until my buddy Kiyo Fuji (whom I found had similar taste in music) gave me this birthday present that I first embraced the raw energy and grit of the "garage rock revivial." These dudes were rockin' Japan earlier (and harder) than either them Strokes or them White Stripes. Maybe not quite as great as the aforementioned, but any true fan of rock n' roll needs to hear the tunes "Smokin' Billy" and "Free Devil Jam" (LOUD!).
#48. The Black Parade
by My Chemical Romance (2006)
This one gained tons of browny points for converting me despite my better judgement. I truly was determined not to like it, but its not something you can resist when the songs are this large and in charge. I couldn't help conjure up obvious images of Queen, or maybe Jack White taking over Green Day. Comparisons aside, this band was able to fuse it all into a sound their own. Goes to show that great songs and a whole lotta passion can always prevail.
#47. Wallpaper For the Soul
by Tahiti 80 (2002)
This group was also introduced to me by my friend Kiyo Fuji. The singer has less control over English than his other French contemporaries, but the simple lyrics add to the pure, no-nonsense tunes. More groups need to make great pop like this. ABBA would be doing the same thing today I'm sure. 70's disco with a little modern hip-hop flair. Its as good as it sounds.
#46. Sounds of Silver
by LCD Soundsystem (2007)
I've always been a sucker for a good groove. This decade ended up having some of the greatest, most sincere, and artistic dance music ever, and it seemed to hit a brilliant high with Sounds of Silver. James Murphy pulled off the producer turned performer beautifully on his debut, but it was this sophomore effort where he truly showed off his abilities as a songwriter. Tongue in cheek humor mix with poignant reflection, often in the same song, and he doesn't miss a single step for nine genius tracks. Rarely does dancing sound so life-changing and epic.
#45. The Information
by Beck (2006)
I think the one thing putting Information slightly above Sounds of Silver is Beck's impeccable and possibly underrated knack for melody. Similar to Gorillaz, Beck manages to take out the jackass egos and vulgarity of popular hip-hop and make it poptastic and emotional (and therefore listenable). I really appreciate it when that happens. I keep thinking if I was a famous (and talented) musician, this is the kind of album I'd like to make.
by The White Stripes (2003)
The first time I heard "Seven Nation Army" I was stunned to figure out it was a "new" song. I wasn't fully convinced until I heard "Black Math." When Jack ripped through the middle of it with his monster guitar and his Elvis-on-steroids roar I was floored. This album sounds like it was recorded in one take and thrown on tape for you to like it or not. And I did.
by Killing Heidi (2001)
I had heard of this group as I became semi-obsessed with all tunes Australian. Enough 90's alternative to appease my still very 90's soul, but enough pure pop brilliance to keep it alive through the decade. Something about it is just so innocent and fun. Could have something to do with the singer being only 17 at the time. Whatever it is, I still really enjoy it.
#42. Get Behind Me Satan
by The White Stripes (2005)
I wondered how a band could follow something like Elephant without doing the exact same thing. Apparently this is exactly how you should do it. Throwing in blues piano over the guitar was the perfect ingredient to keep it interesting. Singing about Rita Hayworth left and right was an added bonus.
#41. Quiet Is the New Loud
by Kings of Convenience (2001)
Extremely heartfelt and intimate. About as raw and passionate as The White Stripes, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. I didn't hear this (their first) album until long after I'd heard their second. By then it didn't take much convincing. One of the most honest and beautiful groups out there. Always good.
#40. White Pony
by deftones (2000)
Slipknot. Godsmack. Papa Roach. These are a few of the groups I was listening to at the turn of the decade/century/millenium.. Deftones fits right in there. But, something changed for this group in the 00's that filtered them out of the previous company. Their atmospheric, experimental, and (dare I say) "artsy" metal was miles above the 90's nu-metal crap of the rest. This album is more My Bloody Valentine than Limp Bizkit. I dare say my liking of groups like Sigur Ros, Mogwai, Serena-Maneesh, and to a degree Radiohead, can be traced to this album.
#39. Why Should the Fire Die?
by Nickel Creek (2005)
I developed a keen liking to this group after my mission. But it wasn't until we overplayed this final (?) album at work that I truly saw their songwriting brilliance. Tracks like "Can't Complain" and "Doubting Thomas" beautifully rip your heart out, then on "Scotch & Chocolate" they melt your face off with their wicked solos. One of the most talented groups there is, no doubt.
#38. Deep River
by Hikaru Utada (2002)
Japan's answer to Brittany. Take away the drama, add the ability to write your own stuff, and throw in a lot more class, and you get Hikaru. She has a couple English albums (going by just "Utada") but they aren't nearly as good as this sublime J-pop classic. It was the biggest thing around on my mission, so naturally I had to get it. (Fans of the game Kingdom Hearts already know this gal, since she does the theme songs.)
by Gorillaz (2001)
I never quite got into Blur. But I think we were all a little blown away when Damon Albarn threw Gorillaz at us. Remember that "Clint Eastwood" video? Genius. Genre mashup perfection. If only more hip-hop were like Gorillaz. If only more pop were too. And rock.
#36. Silent Shout
by The Knife (2006)
Techno? Haven't really cared about that since Mortal Kombat. Wait, here's something interesting. The Knife...? Oh wow, so this is what it sounds like when creepy Swedish ice goblins get a hold of techno! How amazing! Its as if they've been creating this in some snow cave and the last 20 years never even happened! Cool.
#35. Ten Silver Drops
by Secret Machines (2006)
What I like about this album is how it seamlessly mixes epic pop melody into drawn out space rock. That's not supposed to work, but it does, and all of the sudden seven minute songs don't seem so long anymore. Throw in a thumping groove with a talented rhythm section and you strike gold with tracks like "I Hate Pretending."
#34. Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust
by Sigur Ros (2008)
Sigur Ros has not made a bad album. Not a single one. When you make epic elven rock for the Gods, I suppose it has to be this way. But on this album they bring it down to Earth a little more and let us humans sit around the campfire with them. The most "pop" of their albums, and still far more epic than most anything else out there.
#33. Heroes to Zeroes
by Beta Band (2004)
A perfect example of making music out of sound in general. Beta Band is technically a rock band I suppose, but why stop with just guitar, bass and drums? Everything is welcome to the party! As their last album, it is a fitting and grand finale. A sly, mischievous humor floats over the whole thing, and it fits my personality very well.
#32. Give Up
by The Postal Service (2004)
I had no idea who Death Cab for Cutie was. All I knew was this dude's quiet voice and poetic love poetry fit perfectly over the fantastic electro beats and grooves. I don't think I'm the only one who finds this more appealing than Death Cab itself. In my opinion, it has a lot more life to it. Too bad there was only one album. Unless you count the myriad of lesser clones that came out afterward.
#31. The Invisible Band
by Travis (2001)
This was the go-to feel-good album of the decade. Positive lyrics and bouncy, happy jingle jangle. Almost like what Radiohead might have sounded like if Thom & Co. took a lot of Prozac. They were Coldplay before Coldplay came along and became Coldplay. A great, beautiful album, and the first people I ever noticed do the faux-hawk. And not one of them is named Travis.
#30. It's Never Been Like That
by Phoenix (2006)
It took me a bit to finally come around to this group. The cover deceived me into thinking it was another cookie cutter Strokes clone. But when I finally heard them, I realized they were something much better: It was Phoenix! It wasn't a watered-down Strokes, if anything it was a juiced up Strokes, with dance grooves to spare. Eiffel Tower, move over. Phoenix is the new French landmark.
#29. First Impressions of Earth
by The Strokes (2006)
The same year Phoenix slowly but surely blew me away, The Strokes proved they were still the kings of retro-rock guitar noodling greatness. I'm not sure why this album gets panned so easily. Half of it is comprised of some of their best songs they've ever done. Granted, the other half isn't exactly TOP notch, but the good far outweighs the bad to me. Its a flawed album that somehow shines all the better for it.
by Eluvium (2007)
How did this New Age background music of an album end up being one of the most played albums on my iPod? Well, it makes me feel like I'm swimming in an anti-gravity pool in space. It makes me feel like I'm enveloped in a pillow of cloud candy. It reminds me of a higher meaning to life. It dissipates stress almost completely. I suppose that's all reason enough.
#27. Don't Believe the Truth
by Oasis (2005)
Finally! I was waiting for this album ever since '95 when (What's the Story) Morning Glory came out. No, its not nearly as good as that classic, but its far and away the best beside it. This album was stripped of any fake tricks or over indulgence and they just rocked it out with their stadium sized melodies like they hadn't all decade. Finally! And apparently they broke up this year. Wah wah wah. We'll see I guess.
#26. Wincing the Night Away
by The Shins (2007)
Spongebob (not Garden State) actually converted me to The Shins when they appeared on the movie soundtrack (great soundtrack by the way). So I was expecting something like that song when I bought Chutes Too Narrow, but (to me) it failed to live up to the hype. It was good, just not what I was expecting. So when Wincing came out, I was skeptic. This album turned out to be exactly what I was expecting from The Shins in the first place. I know its blasphemous to some, but this, to me, is their most accessible, melodic, and best album. I'm a fan now.