30. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You – Much like Owl City, the Avett Brothers are apparently heavily influenced by one of the best albums of this past decade, except in their case it’s “Heartbreaker” by Ryan Adams (SERIOUSLY people, if you do not own that one, go out and get it). Their album runs along the same y’alternative lines as that classic, with the occasional rave-up like the potential hit “Kick Drum Heart.”
29. Eels – Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire – Not the best release from E and his band, but his twisted stomping take on the blues is usually pretty enjoyable.
28. Taking Back Sunday – New Again – Another solid set of “emo” pop-punk from this New Jersey group finds them gravitating towards that dreaded “m” word for a punk group, “maturing.”
27. Mastodon – Crack the Skye – A great album’s worth of mind-bending, pulverizing metal riffs wrapped around bizarre lyrics supposedly about Rasputin, among other things. Good stuff.
26. Dashboard Confessional – After the Ending – I still contend that Dashboard main man Chris Carrabba is one of the best lyricists of his generation, and I believe this is one of the best albums he’s had in the past few years. It helps that another of my favorites, Butch Walker, produced the album, and they even gave fans a treat by releasing the album both as a plugged in and as an acoustic version.
25. Art Brut – Art Brut vs. Satan – Eddie Argos and co. once again plow through another hilarious set of sloppy punk, bringing his witty lyrics and non-singing delivery through more great tracks like the title song and “Alcoholics Unanimous.”
24. Matt & Kim – Grand – A great, gleeful album from the duo that is the sonic equivalent of downing a bag filled with pixie sticks and washing it down with a can of Red Bull.
23. Dan Deacon – Bromst – Equally as hyper as Matt & Kim, but much more experimental and genre defying, “Bromst” again sounds like Deacon taking dance music, putting it in a blender, and fast forwarding the results of that sound.
22. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – This one probably would have ranked higher, but I’m now holding a grudge against Phoenix for playing only 4 songs at the XRT Holiday show this past Friday night. “1901” and “Lysztomania” were just about as perfect as pop songs got this year though.
21. Ida Maria – Fortress ‘round My Heart – Although the album loses too much steam by the end, “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked” and “Oh My God” were also among the best songs of the entire year. Very anxious to see where Ida Maria will go from this one.
20. A Place to Bury Strangers – Exploding Head – A massive, rumbling entity, making rock sound more like a force of nature than anything. Heavy on the influence of the Jesus & Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine, and then heavier on the volume. Will be very interesting to see live next year, with a very solid pair of earplugs in tow.
19. Mew – No More Stories are Told… - These Danes put together a beautiful and fascinating space out, sounding something like a twisty, turny message of peace from an alien race. An alien race that can rock, that is.
18. Brand New – Daisy – Brand New is another band that was once considered “emo,” but has thankfully moved on and proven that is not a dirty word in rock anymore. This is their third great album in a row, proving they are in my opinion one of the most underrated bands in the country at the moment. Great, brutally powerful rock when they want it to be.
17. Wilco – Wilco (the Album) – This was an average album for Wilco, but I’ve said it before, an average Wilco album is better than 99% of most bands’ best efforts. The problem with the album was the two star players in the band, drummer Glenn Kotche and guitarist Nels Cline, were held in check for the majority of the album. They were allowed to shine on the excellent “Bull Black Nova,” while other highlights are the amusingly titled fan salute “Wilco (the Song),” and the great ballad “You and I” with Feist.
16. Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs – YLT are a maddening group, live they can be one of the best bands in the world, or one of the most disappointing. There was a string of years early this decade where they moved away from their psychedelic jams towards quieter and introspective material. On this newest album, they seem to want to reconcile these two opposing forces, still touching on their jam side with great songs like “Here to Fall” to the quieter “More Stars Than There Are in Heaven,” with great oddball pop diversions like “Periodically Double or Triple” thrown in between.
15. The Antlers – Hospice – This is the album that is the mystery long shot for me that somehow turned out to be one of my favorite albums of the year. I pretty much bought it only after seeing a very glowing review on it on Pitchfork and nothing else. That turned out to be a pretty good move, since this is a unique and rewarding album that definitely has depth that will only be revealed by many listens. It reminds me the most of the Arcade Fire’s debut cd, although the bands share little in terms of sound, it’s more about the spirit of the album. This isn’t a cd I’d recommend to everyone, it’s a difficult, dense work, but very rewarding for anyone willing to take the risk.
14. Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown – If “American Idiot” was Green Day’s “Tommy,” than this was their “Quardrophenia,” slightly less focused and not quite as strong, but definitely with some standout tracks. “21 Guns” (Bella’s first song she can sing in Rock Band) and “Know Your Enemy” are obvious choices for some of the best songs of the year, but this again shows that Green Day’s ambition is remaining high, and the results are still very enjoyable.
13. The Raveonettes – In and Out of Control – This band has yet to make a misstep, and this is another great addition to their catalog. It takes a special talent for a band to make songs with titles like “Suicide” and “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)” sound like bubbly happy songs to be sung while driving to the beach. Add on top of that, the first single “Last Dance,” a song about helping an addict, sounds like it’s the happiest song the band has written yet. It’s brilliantly deceptive mopey rock at its best.
12. Thursday – Common Existence – This was near the top of my list for most of the early part of the year. Thursday, much like Brand New, are a band that started in the “emo” scene, but have continuously evolved over the last few years, and have put out a string of three fantastic albums in a row now. The band can work up a whirlwind of guitars, and focus it into a flat out pummeling force, best seen on the closing track “You Were the Cancer,” written when the lead singer thought he might have had stomach cancer.
11. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz! – This is another album that was strong out of the gate early in the year. From the terrific one-two punch of the openers “Zero” and “Heads Will Roll” to the gentle ending of “Little Shadow,” the YYY’s once again do a great job of blending punk intensity with dance floor insanity.