1. Fiery Furnaces-Blueberry Boat(Rough Trade)
This is one of the most inventive albums I have ever heard. The sheer number of musical ideas on this are worth the price of admission alone. No one could have predicted they would go in this insane direction from their first album. This is like a rock opera taken to extreme measures. Most songs go over the 5 minute mark. I know this album tested a lot of people's patience but I feel if you absorb it you would see how great this beast of an album is. The liner notes read like a novel. I saw them live for this album and they did what I still think is a near impossible feat. Instead of playing straight songs from this and their first album they played an hour and a half long medley that doubled back on songs multiple times and they managed to play the entirety of their two albums in cut up snippets and it still is one of the greatest things I have ever witnessed and that cut up nature perfectly encapsulates this album. This album is 1001 ideas all thrown at the wall and everything sticks.
Genre: Progressive Pop, Art Pop, Indie Pop, Psychedelic Pop, Experimental Rock
2. Comets On Fire-Blue Cathedral(Sub Pop)
Pure Rock n Roll insanity. This one was a little more melodic than "Field Recordings From the Sun" and I think it benefits from that. This has a strong classic rock feel to it. Most of the songs start out kind of mellow, following a very classic sound and then each song either explodes or peels back it's layers to reveal a psychotic roar of balls to the wall rock. I would equate their sound to the audio equivalent of Led Zeppelin dropping acid and playing the best music of their lives.
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Heavy Psych, Hard Rock, Noise Rock, Blues Rock, Stoner Rock
3. Madvillain-Madvillany(Stones Throw)
In my mind, the second best thing Madlib has been involved in. This album is a stone cold hip hop classic. This melded Madlib at his near most inventive production-wise with one of the laziest sounding(good thing) MCs in the form of MF Doom. The match was perfect and they complimented each other insanely well. Even Quasimoto shows up! This is the definitive chilled out hip hop album.
Genre: Abstract Hip Hop, Jazz Rap, Experimental Hip Hop, Instrumental Hip Hop
4. Liars-They Were Wrong, So We Drowned(Mute)
This is where the Liars said fuck it. They didn't care if you wanted a melody. They didn't care if you wanted to dance and they sure as shit didn't care about where you wanted their next direction to be. This was noisy, nasty, abusive and punishing stuff. You either loved this one or hated it. I could see the hatred if you liked their dance sensibility on their previous album. I could definitely see the love if you appreciate forward movement in music and hearing something against the norm. I ate this up when it came out and I still eat it up. This was one of the last truly great examples of a band taking a huge risk.
Genre: Post-Punk, Experimental Rock, Noise Rock, No Wave
5. The Robot Ate Me-On Vacation(5RC)
This album is a real weird one. It's based off old ballroom recordings from the 1910s-1920s. Ryland Bouchard uses these samples as a jumping off point to sarcastically and satirically skewer what it seems like British Colonialism and Fascism and pretty much any other exploitative "ism" regarding other non-white cultures. In that regard, you do not want to blast this album from your car. If you don't know the satire behind it, this album could come off as racist. It is NOT racist I can assure you that. This is one of the more inventive albums to be out in the last 20 years.
Genre: Indie Pop, LO-FI
6. Man Man-The Man In A Blue Turban With A Face(Ace Fu)
This sounds like what would happen if Tom Waits made "Rain Dogs" in his teens. It's full of life with a gruff singer front and center singing about insane stuff. It's extremely theatrical with an ear towards the old timey sounds of yesterday.
Genre: Indie Rock, Gypsy Punk, Dark Cabaret
7. Wrangler Brutes-Zulu(Kill Rock Stars)
One of the meanest punk albums I have ever heard. The songs whizz by at a breakneck pace and the mouthpiece of the band(Sam McPheeters) berates everything in the conservative world he has his eye on. The band backing him is basically the amazing band Skull Kontrol which lend an incredible musicianship to this insane racket. This is kind of like Circle Jerks on steroids.
Genre: Hardcore Punk
8. The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster-The Royal Society(No Death)
Produced by the mastermind of the Desert Scene(Queens of the Stone Age, Masters Of Reality) this is a great British version of that sound. This is a nice mix of the type of hard rock that QOTSA makes mixed with some old country and rockabilly traits. Mainly the vocals echo rockabilly vocalists while having a strong resemblance to Danzig. This album rocks hard all the way through and the production tricks are subtle yet very impacting to the overall feel of the album.
Genre: Garage Rock, Psychobilly
9. Animal Collective-Sung Tongs(FatCat)
Pairing down to just a duo for this release, Panda Bear and Avey Tare get acoustically weird. They augment their weirdo version of "freak folk" with plenty of electronic flourishes but always keep it rooted in the organic sounds of acoustic instruments. I feel this album best conveys their interesting vocal interplay as well. They really stretch themselves out in the vocal sound department. Notice how I don't mention lyrics. For most of this album the lyrics are very obscured and they are instead relying on noises and chant like vocalizing in the place of more traditional singing. This matches the tribal campfire mood of the whole proceedings perfectly. This is the weirdest camp sing along album you will ever hear.
Genre: Freak Folk, Neo-Psychedelia, Avant Folk, Psychedelic Folk
10. Secret Machines-Now This Is Nowhere(Reprise)
Take the heaviness of Zeppelin and mix it with the repetitive rhythms of Krautrock. That's pretty much what you get when you pop on this album. Super hard hitting rock songs that push the boundaries of repetition. The drums are as hard hitting as Bonham's. The guitars don't match Zeppelin's fury but are important to the music in their own more subtle ways. One of the nicest things about this album is how each track flows into one another, yet remain singularly distinct with each playthrough. This album also has one of the prettiest songs I have ever heard with "Leaves Are Gone".
Genre: Alternative Rock, Progressive Rock, Space Rock, Krautrock
11. On! Air! Library!-Self Titled(Arena Rock)
Probably the best modern Shoegaze album. The dual vocals of the twins are perfect for this dreamy yet hard hitting album. This album sounds like the perfect mix of a noisier Yo La Tengo mixed with Cocteau Twins.
Genre: Post-Rock, Shoegaze, Ambient
12. J-Zone-A Job Ain't Nothin' But Work(Old Maid Entertainment)
It begins with a burp. A burp in the face of the world of hip hop. A burp in the face of convention. A burp in the face of trends. Basically this album hates all the scenes and all the garbage that surrounds it all. Listen to this if you need a break from the bullshit.
Genre: East Coast Hip Hop
13. Mclusky-The Difference Between You and Me Is That I'm Not On Fire(Too Pure)
Not as great as their second album but man is this also a beast. This time around they spread out a bit musically. A little goofier yet also angrier in parts. This would turn out to be the last Mclusky album and that's a shame because they were on a roll!
Genre: Noise Rock, Indie Rock, Post-Hardcore
14. Mouse On Mars-Radical Connector(Thrill Jockey)
Crazy electronic pop with intense noisy breakdowns. I feel like this is their electroclash album or something like that. It's got a hell of a lot of melody and catchy choruses. If it wasn't so weird you would think they were trying to sell out and make it huge. They sabotage this theory too many times to make it true. If you want a real messed up catchy dance album you can't really find a better album to listen to.
Genre: IDM, Electronic, Electropop
15. Joanna Newsom-The Milk Eyed Mender(Drag City)
The start of a long and illustrious career. This is some extremely weird folk music. With an affected voice like a chipmunk and a mystique steeped deep in madrigal medieval tropes I can definitely understand why people would hate this. For me, at the time this was a breath of fresh air. I will always welcome the weird over the normal and this was definitely weird. Her harp and piano playing on this album is really nice. This is probably her simplest album. After this she would explore some very odd song structures and ideas.
Genre: Contemporary Folk, Singer/Songwriter, Chamber Folk
16. Devendra Banhart-Rejoicing In the Hands/Nino Rojo(Young God)
Very similar to the album above it. These two albums came out in the same year and could be seen as companion pieces. I tend to enjoy "Rejoicing" more than I do "Nino Rojo" but honestly they sound too similar to really split hairs. There was a deep sadness to this music yet it was also strangely uplifting and downright funny in parts. Devendra was definitely a joker and it was easily seen on these two albums. Together with Joanna Newsom, Cocorosie, Vetiver and Josephine Foster they created the neo-freak folk scene and the rest is history.
Genre: Contemporary Folk, Singer/Songwriter, Freak Folk, Psychedelic Folk
17. Rogue Wave-Out Of the Shadow(Sub Pop)
An extremely catchy indie pop album. Kind of like the first Shins album but even catchier and weirder. This was immediate and in your face but it was a quiet intensity. This was a perfect distillation of what was going on in the music scene at the time. He borrowed liberally from all his contemporaries and in many cases bested them at their own game.
Genre: Indie Pop, Indie Rock, Indie Folk, Folk Pop
18. Wolf Eyes-Burned Mind(Sub Pop)
A very industrial affair. This WAS their attempt at some kind of notice and underground success. This album's popularity could never happen again. This is music NOT meant for the masses. No one in the underground or overground would accept this in 2016. This was their only chance, they went for it. The fact that SubPop took a chance on them speaks volumes for them. This music is not for the faint of heart. It draws heavily from industrial, experimental and metal influences. This album is sick, dirty and ugly.
Genre: Noise, Industrial, Noise Rock, Musique Concrete
19. Arcade Fire-Funeral(Merge)
The contrarian and hater in me wants to hate this album. I can't stand the band now and haven't been able to since after this album but damn if I can't help but kind of love this album. It's epic in a non-shitty way. It's extremely bombastic but it's an almost quiet intensity. You can feel the nervousness in Win Butler's voice. It's almost like while they were recording it they knew they would have a huge audience but weren't quite yet comfortable with that. You can feel the tension and the lyrics were pretty interesting. This is not an insane masterpiece. It is a very smart and enjoyable indie rock record and they would never be the same.
Genre: Indie Rock, Chamber Pop, Art Pop
20. Brian Wilson-Smile(Nonesuch)
Not as good as the Beach Boys version we would get years later. Yet, this still does have it's charm and this was the first real good listen we got at all the melodies off this "lost" album. Because of that, this album holds a special place for me. The arrangements are super weird yet very comforting and familiar. His voice was starting to go, and while some people couldn't stand that, I feel it gives the album kind of a homespun charm. Brian is giving it his all and it still sounds really incredible. I will not write this off now that we have the "definitive" version of the album.
Genre: Psychedelic Pop, Baroque Pop, Pop Rock, Sunshine Pop, Progressive Pop
21. William Basinski-The Disintegration Loops I-IV(2062)
Initially I found this album to be ridiculously boring. Then I started getting into making music like this and it all clicked. These were tapes he had in his collection that he had made that had begun to deteriorate due to the nature of the materials the tapes had been made out of. He went to categorize them and discovered they were beginning to fall apart. He liked what he heard and decided to collect them together. Apparently he finished compiling the tapes the morning of 9/11/01 and because of this used imagery from the attacks as the album art for all 4 volumes.
Genre: Tape Music, Ambient, Minimalism, Drone
22. Black Dice-Creature Comforts(DFA)
Continuing their path of sonic exploration they pulled back on the vast sound of their first album and became more insular on this one. This is the last album they would record with their drummer who would soon after be fired for embezzling money from the band. This album relied more on short burst style loops instead of the longer passages found on the first album. It actually ended up making this album sound even more alien in contrast. This was extremely challenging stuff.
Genre: Electronic, Neo-Psychedelia, Noise, Experimental, Sound Collage
23. Vetiver-Self Titled(Dichristina Stair Builders)
In my opinion their best and their only album that really soars. This was a cornerstone of the freak folk movement. Andy Cabic was probably the least noticed out of the whole bunch, even though he had Devendra Banhart in his band and Joanna Newsom is on a couple tracks. Sometimes the world just doesn't make sense. Out of all the freak folk albums that came out in 2004 this was the only one that felt like a full band. The other albums were definitely in the vein of a single person sitting down and making an album for themselves. This album felt very welcoming. It wanted you to sing along with it but it also wanted you to bring your friends.
Genre: Contemporary Folk, Psychedelic Folk
24. Black Eyes-Cough(Dischord)
Moving father away from their dance punk/post punk roots into dubbier more experimental territory these guys created quite the racket. This is not to say this album is better or worse than the one that proceeded it. I would say this is an excellent companion piece. This was definitely for the more adventurous listener. Someone who preferred Jazz, free form experimentation and just odder music in general is gonna go for this one of the two. I loved both of them equally so I could never pick a favorite. This was like a Blood Brothers album on crack.
Genre: Post-Hardcore, Art Punk, Experimental Rock, No Wave, Free Jazz, Noise Rock
Their one and only masterpiece. The one before it came close. The one after it did too. This one did it for me. The song "Seabeast" is worth it alone. There isn't a weak song on this album. If you like your metal both simultaneously progressive and regressive than this is definitely for you.
Genre: Sludge Metal, Progressive Metal
26. Frog Eyes-The Folded Palm(Absolutely Kosher)
A strong continuation of the sound they forged with their first album but this time everything was a bit more intense. A bit more manic. Just that more unhinged. This was definitely still the same band, just a little more intense.
Genre: Indie Rock, Experimental Rock, Art Rock
27. Tom Waits-Real Gone(Anti-)
Who would have thought we would ever have a Tom Waits album with record scratching on it? Not me! He had his son add turntable scratching to a couple tracks. Not only does it add an element no one thought they needed to his music it also has a sweet quality having his son provide musical backing. Also it shows his ability to adapt to the modern era, Bob Dylan would probably never let Jacob do some record scratching on his albums and this is why Tom Waits still says ridiculously relevant and I am extremely happy for that.
Genre: Experimental Rock, Singer/Songwriter, Blues Rock
28. Loretta Lynn-Van Lear Rose(Interscope)
Great reemergence of an old star that had kind of faded away at that point. Jack White produced this one and she was back with a newfound vigor. She is in top form on this release. She doesn't update her sound too much but what her and Jack White do is refine her existing sound to a perfected razor sharp point. The recording is beautiful and the songs are written beautifully to match the music.
Genre: Country, Alt-Country, Americana, Progressive Country
29. Cocorosie-La Maison De Mon Reve(Touch and Go)
A very unsettling and downright creepy at times freak folk album. This was definitely on the weirder spectrum of that scene. They used cheap audio toy samples to form the beats on some of these songs. Even though this is essentially a folk album there are a lot of tracks that have backing beats very close to hip hop. The two sisters that comprise this band have two very distinctly different vocal ranges. One sister is a trained opera singer and it shows, the other sings in a very high pitched childlike voice, not unlike Joanna Newsom. Very creepy and very oddly childlike.
Genre: LO-FI, Freak Folk, Art Pop, Folktronica, Avant Folk, Experimental, Psychedelic Folk, Chamber Folk
This is probably the thickest sounding Deerhoof album. The bass is very heavy on this one, the drums have a loud thud-like quality to them all the time. This album is when they started to break away from their punk roots into something artier. Not to say they weren't arty before but this had more of a museum quality to it's art than the previous albums did.
Genre: Noise Rock, Experimental Rock, Indie Pop, Noise Pop