By Ryan

This is my list of my personal favorite albums, which means that these aren’t necessarily what I think the 100 “best” albums of the decade were, though there’s obviously some overlap, because I have great taste.

40. Antony and the Johnsons – I Am a Bird Now

I Am a Bird Now was the unofficial coming out party for indie rock’s favorite sexually-androgynous songster.  It features guest appearances by gay heroes Rufus Wainwright and Boy George, as well as the support of fellow freaks Lou Reed and Devendra Banhart.  The future-sadness of “Hope There’s Someone” is moving every time, and the sexually-confused (or sexually-assured, depending on how you feel) “For Today I Am a Boy” is enough to make anyone question the importance of gender.

39. Jakob Dylan – Seeing Things

I like The Wallflowers, but I absolutely love Jakob Dylan.  This collection is criminally underrated, a first-class set of songs arranged to minimalist perfection by mastermind Rick Rubin.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it here: the best album by any member of the Dylan family in at least twenty years.

38. Low – Drums and Guns

Yes Alan Sparhawk’s lyrics are great, and yes the drumming of his wife Mimi steals the show, but can we talk for a second about the mixdown?  This is the first record I’ve ever heard that uses the left and right channels like instruments, creating a quite unsettling feel when listened to via headphones.  Of course, that feels perfect with the doom-and-gloom dredges offered up by the slowcore geniuses.

37. The National – Boxer

How chill is this album?  It almost feels like an autumn night just listening to it.  “Fake Empire,” “Green Gloves,” “Start A War,” and the list goes on; just song after song that feels like something you could scream to if it wasn’t so damn relaxed.

36. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Cold Roses

Jacksonville City Nights gets more love, but Cold Roses is my favorite Cardinals album.  It’s an expansive double that explores “alt” as much as it does “country.”  There are so many highs that it actually feels overwhelming to listen to the whole thing at once.  A friend once told me that either disc alone would be his favorite Ryan Adams album, high praise considering the amount of good music the man put out this decade.

35. Spoon – Kill The Moonlight

It improved upon everything about Girls Can Tell and was more immediate than any of their albums since; Kill The Moonlight is the best Spoon album because it’s the most Spoon-y.  “The Way We Get By” plays like the Spoon manifesto, confirmed on “Something To Look Forward To,” and “Jonathan Fisk,” the album’s strongest songs.

34. Radiohead – In Rainbows

In Rainbows was the first Radiohead album that I actually anticipated, as well as the first one I actually bought—for zero dollars, of course.  But you could forgive the fans who decided to pay for this.  After the semi-boring Hail To The Thief, In Rainbows turned down the paranoia and urgency and played up the lushness of the band’s songwriting, much to the delight of paying and non-paying customers everywhere.

33. Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew – Spirit If…

It’s a Broken Social Scene record that only features songs written and arranged by Kevin Drew—how could this not be amazing?  Drew’s always been my favorite Scenester, and he absolutely kills it by making an album that you can alternately party and break down to.  It’s highest moments recall those of BSS, and his decision to have J Mascis play guitar on “Back Out On The…” proves that Drew knows how to handle musicians to get the best possible end result.

32. The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

How do you follow one of the most beloved debuts of all time?  By making a more mature, more sonically rich version of your first album.  To repeat a metaphor I’ve used before, if Funeral was a soldier marching off to war, Neon Bible is that solider back home, looking around to see what’s still there.  Spoiler alert: he finds real discomfort in place of what was just an existential void.

31. Grizzly Bear – Yellow House

Yellow House is the perfect length for a Grizzly Bear album; not long enough to overwhelm, not short enough to feel incomplete.  “Knife” is a miraculous leap from anything on their debut, and “Easier” and “Little Brother” head the supporting cast.  Perhaps most telling: they almost stole the show as the opening band on a great 2006 tour.  The main attraction?  TV on the Radio.  Two great bands at their best, and you can bet that both pushed each other every night as Brooklyn became a relevant music scene again.

30. The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America

I could wax poetic about every Hold Steady record, but Boys and Girls was something special.  For whatever reason, the band finally got some momentum and toured the hell out of this record, and it helped that this was the most enjoyable and immediate one at that.  The songs seem made from an audience, from the monster riffs on “Stuck Between Stations” to the two-part chorus on “You Can Make Him Like You.”  The Hold Steady finally got the crowds they deserved, and they didn’t disappoint.

29. Deerhunter – Microcastle

Deerhunter was always an interesting band, and for the better part of the decade they were also a good band.  On Microcastle, though, they were a great band.  There may not be a better pair of songs than “Agoraphobia” and “Nothing Ever Happened” anywhere else in the band’s catalogue.

28. Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose

Everyone likes to give Jack White a lot of credit for this record, and that’s completely fair.  What that assumption misses, though, is the face that Lynn gives an absolutely stellar performance throughout.  The title track is the epitome of boot-stompin’ fun, and, on the other end, “Miss Being Mrs.” is the saddest, sweetest song of the decade.

27. The White Stripes – Elephant

Folks were expecting a lot from the Stripes after White Blood Cells, and they certainly didn’t disappoint.  Elephant appealed to both longtime Stripes fans and new converts, an impressive feat for a band that, by its own design, doesn’t have much to work with.  It left no question unanswered, with the possible exception of whether “Seven Nation Army” was the best rock song of the last twenty years.

26. Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Master and Everyone

He’s one of the best songwriters of his generation, but what made Master special was the sequencing.  “The Way” into “Ain’t You Wealthy, Ain’t You Wise” kills right off the bat, and “Joy and Jubilee” into “Maundering” is the best “Is this really just a two-part song?” conundrum ever.  He’s always great, but sometimes he’s perfect, and on Master, Oldham was the latter.

25. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It in People

Some records are so revered that it’s hard to even think about them, let alone write about them.  You Forgot It in People is rightly regarded as one of the most important indie albums of the last ten years, because it made use of lush orchestration and a slew of talented players.  The ultimate compliment I can give it is this: I even listen to the instrumental tracks.

24. Destroyer – Streethawk: A Seduction

The rare album whose second half outshines its first, Streethawk was the album where Dan Bejar became the Destroyer we know today.  Balancing his old songwriting style (“Virgin With A Memory,” “Helena”) with more glam-influenced stuff (“The Sublimation Hour,” “The Crossover”), Bejar officially moved into genius territory with critics and fans alike.

23. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

If you’re keeping track, this is my highest rated 2009 album.  It’s hard to call an album that features only one song under four minutes concise, but that’s exactly how this one feels.  My theory?  “My Girls,” “Summertime Clothes,” and “Brother Sport” are so damn good that one feels like they should never end.

22. M.I.A. – Kala

Take everything about M.I.A.’s debut and make it bigger, louder, and better.  That’s Kala.

21. Low – Things We Lost In The Fire

It’s hard to bestow high praise on a band as unassuming as Low, but Things was a momentous step forward for the Duluth stalwarts.  They became a band with real depth, and the songwriting really hit its stride on tracks like “July” and the immaculate “Dinosaur Act.”

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