70. BOB DYLAN- LOVE AND THEFT (2001)
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While hardly the legendary Bob’s greatest album, “Love and Theft” sits alongside his previous album, 1997’s “Time Out of Mind” as his best album since 1976’s “Desire” and confirmed that his late period comeback was not a mirage. “Time Out of Mind” was a very dark record, obsessed with mortality and filled with apocalyptic visions, where “Love and Theft” is a much breezier, fun album (at least for Dylan). Dylan touches on all of the styles that he has been influenced by (and has influenced!)- country-blues, folk, absurdist poetry. He has assembled a top notch band who keeps things loose and both Dylan and his band sound like they are having a absolute blast.
69. PETER BJORN & JOHN- WRITER’S BLOCK (2006)
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“Writer’s Block” is the third album from the trio from Stockholm, Sweden is a treat from start to finish. This group was completely off my radar until this release so this album had me listening to them with completely fresh ears. Many of you already know the world conquering lead single “Young Folks” with guest vocals from Victoria Bergsmen of The Concretes. Trust me you’ve heard it- you’ll know as soon as you hear the first whistle. But the rest of the album is high quality as well- PB&J blend 60’s pop, 70’s power pop, early 80’s new wave and modern indie-rock to create hook filled songs filled with heartache and heartbreak. Their follow-up release was a comparative disappointment. Here’s hoping such a talented band will again find their footing.
68. JENS LEKMAN- NIGHT FALLS OVER KORTEDALA (2007)
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What is it about Sweden lately? Well it is a country that greatly values and grants subsidies to its artists so maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that they have come up with more quality music this past decade than almost any other country in the world. Jens Lekman is another one of Sweden’s budding musicians. “Night Falls Over Kortedala” is his second album and a great leap forward over his solid debut album along with some excellent EP’s that he had recorded over the prior three or four years. Lekman is a true romantic- not afraid to sound bombastic or overly sappy, but also with a wicked sense of humor. More than any other musician I liken him to Honathan Richman, but his music is much less stripped down. While with Richman it’s normally just him, his guitar and a tom tom drum, Lekman is not afraid of big orchestrations and heavy production; he also often incorporporates recording samples in his songs. This album is filled with catchy, sweet pop tunes about love sung in a rich baritone by a sensitive young Swede. If this sounds like your thing, hop on!
67. THE HOLD STEADY- SEPARATION SUNDAY (2005)
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“Separation Sunday” was my first Hold Steady album. The Brooklyn “bar” band, made up of former members of the Minneapolis band Lifter Puller had made a very good debut album in 2004 but not many heard it. I didn’t hear it until years later. Singer and lyricist Craig Finn, already then in his mid-thirties, takes the writing of Bruce Springsteen on his first two albums as his template- instead of writing about blue collar kids from Jersey, he writes about going-nowhere kids from the Midwest. Like early Springsteen, his writing is incredibly descriptive, tells a great story and is full of clever twists of phrase. Critics could call it verbose but I find it refreshing. However, if you’re looking for tight songs suited for radio playlists these are not them. Luckily the Hold Steady hits hard musically and plays these songs up as the arena-rock anthems they need to be despite their lack of structure and big choruses. The Hold Steady would go on to become one of the most consistently good bands of the decade and a nice touchstone for those who appreciate the sound of old school rock n’ roll.
66. THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS- ELECTRIC VERSION (2003)
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It’s tough to choose the better album between the one-two punch of The New Pornographer’s debut “Mass Romantic” and their similarly sounding follow-up “Electric Version”. I went with the latter. With “Electric Version” the NP’s sound like a tighter band rather than just a one off super-group recording. “Electric Version” is a bit slicker and more polished than the debut but I also find it to be the more consistently good album. Their debut was top heavy with great songs but also had some weak moments, while EV is stellar from start to finish. With this album the NP’s proved that their lovable power-pop was here to stay.
65. THE DECEMBERISTS- PICARESQUE (2005)
“Picaresque” is the third, and I say best album to date from this eccentric, yet extremely reliable band of theater geeks from Portland, Ore. It amazes me that a band that on paper seems so out of left field can be so consistently good. They sing tales usually set in time periods at least two hundred years ago, use over the top SAT words at a constant rate, and are as theatrical and unsubtle as a cheesy Metal band with a juicy dollop of feyness. They also know their way around good hooks and medley and stand out above much of the indie riff-raff because of both their ability and their own uniqueness. The only band I can even think to compare them to is Belle & Sebastian but B&S at least still seems lyrically rooted to modern times (for the most part). “Picaresque” reigns supreme for me over their other excellent albums mostly due to the standout tracks “16 Military Wives”, “The Sporting Life”, “We Both Go Down Together” and “The Engine Driver”. Although I truly dig every album they’ve made so far none of the other ones sport a top of the order quite like “Picaresque”.
64. RADIOHEAD- HAIL TO THE THIEF (2003)
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“Hail to the Thief” is what I consider to their weakest album since their debut “Pablo Honey” so the fact that it still places on my top 100 of the 00’s list is quite a statement of the awesomeness of Radiohead- at least to me it is!. Radiohead is an unstoppable force. The narrative on “Hail to the Thief” is that it was their return to a more rock, song oriented format, after the experimental “Kid A” and “Amnesiac” albums. This is true up to a point. Though several songs do rock anyone expecting a return to the post-grunge/brit pop rock of “The Bends” will be disappointed. And there is still plenty of experimentation going on here as well. After the cohesive conceptual masterpieces of “OK Computer” and “Kid A” and the still cohesive Kid-A outtakes “Amnesiac”, “HTTT” feels like a stepping stone album to the next phase of Radiohead’s career. But don’t let that stop you from listening. Though the album is a bit long and some of the more experimental songs don’t really work, there are plenty of winners here too- “2+2=5”, “There There” and “A Wolf at the Door” in particular are three standout tracks to add to an already mighty canon.
63. PORTISHEAD- THIRD (2008)
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It’s a rarity when a band can come back from such a long absence and deliver a great album. Even rarer is when a band does so along with drastically changing up their sound yet somehow still sounding unmistakably like themselves. Over ten years separate “Third” and Portishead’s second self-titled album. Gone is the trip-hop sound that Portishead practically invented and that was pretty much done beaten to death by countless pale imitations throughout the rest of the nineties and beyond. Where the old Portishead was spooky, but chilled out, Portishead 3.0 is more psychedelic, industrial, uptempo and abrasive. There are still many moments of beauty, mostly due to Beth Gibbons’ haunting voice but the music can be relentless and unforgiving. A depressing sen timent but you could say it’s a perfect album for these times.
Buy Silence – Third
62. ARCADE FIRE- NEON BIBLE (2007)
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“Neon Bible” is a very worthy follow-up to one of the best albums of the decade and one of the best debut full length albums of all time. Certainly “Bible” lacks the surprise factor of the debut but this intense band from Montreal refines their sound enough to move themselves forward- sounding almost like an indie-rock version of Bruce Springsteen while the debut had more in common with “Disintegration”-era Cure. The debut was more focused on familial and personal issues while “Bible” focuses on worldly events- unsurprisingly The Arcade Fire are full of condemnation and spite for our lovely (not so much) modern times. A light, joyous ride this is not but if you like your music intelligent, beautiful, angry and righteous buy it up.
61. LOS CAMPESINOS!- HOLD ON NOW, YOUNGSTER (2008)
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Los Campesinos!, a seven piece Welsh group of Cardiff University students, came out of nowhere in 2008 to put a big, wide grin on my face. They are lo-fi, bratty, witty, angsty and self aware in a way that reminds me of the beloved Violent Femmes. “Hold on Now, Youngster, is non-stop fun from start to finish. It’s wordy, sloppy and frantic and has wonderful boy/girl call and response vocals. Not a boring moment on the whole album. Full of punk rock energy but with no male bravado. It has the nerdiness and manic intensity of the great eighties band The Feelies but sounds much more fun-loving and high spirited Though Los Campesinos! Have had two very fine releases since, neither reaches the heights of this debut.