1. Quasimoto-The Further Adventures Of Lord Quas(Stones Throw)
In my opinion the most creative thing Madlib has ever done. Sure Madvillain may have been a bit more streamlined and refined but the creativity shown here bests those efforts. There are so many samples it's absurd. He borrows from a wide range of samples, from instructional vinyl to world music from all over the map. Throw Madlib's pitchshifted vocals on top of everything rhyming in a completely abstract way and you have one of the most inventive, interesting and enjoyable hip hop albums of all time.
Genre: Abstract Hip Hop, West Coast Hip Hop, Jazz Rap, Experimental Hip Hop, Boom Bap
2. Sleater Kinney-The Woods(Sub Pop)
The hardest and most intense this band would ever get. The first song "The Fox" is easily their most intense offering. They enlisted Dave Fridmann to produce this one. He is known for covering albums in a distorted haze or a crisp hard hitting clarity. Not unlike an indie rock Steve Albini. This album benefits from both approaches to production. The hard songs are crunchy and nastily distorted. The cleaner songs have a crispness and sharpness to them that really showcase the melodies within. This is by far my favorite Sleater-Kinney album.
Genre: Indie Rock, Noise Rock, Garage Rock
3. Coachwhips-Peanut Butter and Jelly Live At the Ginger Minge(Narnack)
Even better than their excellent "Bangers Vs. Fuckers" album. They stretched themselves out a bit more on this one. Some of the songs incorporated very experimental song structures("I Made A Bomb", "Your Party Will Be A Success"). The rest of the songs fly by at a breakneck pace and are mostly in the vein of blown out garage rock with a twist of rockabilly rhythm thrown in. This is a short, fast blast in the face listen.
Genre: Garage Punk, Noise Rock
4. Fiona Apple-Extraordinary Machine(Epic/Clean Slate)
Originally I didn't like this one. I liked it a lot in it's original version. The original version was produced entirely by Jon Brion, who produced her previous album "When the Pawn...". That original version was more akin to something along the lines of a weird Disney musical. That version was leaked about 6 months before the updated version came along and I enjoyed it immensely. The second version of the album was produced by Mike Elizondo. Elizondo had much more experience producing hip hop than he did a piano driven singer/songwriter. In the end Fiona ended up using two of the Jon Brion tracks to bookend the album("Extraordinary Machine" and "Waltz") The rest of the album had the Elizondo sessions on it. When this official version was released I really did not like it. I thought the Jon Brion sessions were much more inventive and interesting. It actually took me years to warm up to this version. I grew to love the sharper more pop oriented production and gradually over time this version equaled the original I had loved so much. Personally I wish they would reissue this album as a two disc version with both versions available in one package, but who knows if we will ever see that!
Genre: Singer/Songwriter, Piano Rock, Art Pop, Chamber Pop
5. Pissed Jeans-Shallow(Parts Unknown)
The beginning of one of the best modern bands ever. This was their muddiest and grimiest release to date. They would never reach down to such depths of punk rock again. This album is like a disease. A very funny disease, but it sounds diseased, rotten and nasty to it's very core.
Genre: Noise Rock, Punk Rock, Heavy Psych
6. Fiery Furnaces-EP(Rough Trade)
A great collection of their singles from the period between "Gallowsbird's Bark" and "Blueberry Boat". This is definitely not an EP. The running time on this is definitely at full length territory. Every song on here is catchy in one way or another. This is some of their best music and not a bunch of throwaway b-sides or anything like that. This was the last truly great collection of Fiery Furnaces songs.
Genre: Art Pop, Progressive Pop, Indie Rock, Indie Pop
7. Heartless Bastards-Stairs and Elevators(Fat Possum)
Excellent example of unadorned and modest blues rock. This trio played hard and loose on their debut. To me this is their best album. There isn't a weak song on the whole thing. The singer possesses one of the best female voices in rock music to date. There isn't a whole lot to say about this other than the songs are solid, it doesn't mess around with bells and whistles and these are just simply and expertly done blues influenced rock songs.
Genre: Blues Rock
8. Mu-Out Of Breach(Outpost)
Second album by these insane musicians. This, their second album, was a little weirder in parts and a little more conventional in others. The shorter tracks on this really upped the weird factor. It's almost as if they were channeling circus style music above everything else for some of the shorter tracks. I feel Mu's lyrics got even weirder on this one. Also she seems extremely pissed off and confrontational on a few of these numbers. They did throw in some more conventional minded tracks on here. I think they may have been trying to crack the dance market. Just because they went a little more conventional does not mean under any circumstance that this is an easy album to get into, it's still one of the weirdest releases you can sink your teeth into.
Genre: Indie Pop, Electro House, Alternative Dance, Electropop, Dance-Pop
9. Neon Blonde-Chandeliers In the Savannah(Dim Mak)
This is a side project of one of the vocalists and the drummer from Blood Brothers. This was an awesome mix of slowed down Blood Brothers style screamo-ish music mixed with a warped style of Glam Rock that sounded like a mix between Queen, T.Rex and a hardcore band. Excellent trippy stuff and easy to take if you can stomach the weirder vocalist from Blood Brothers.
Genre: Experimental Rock, Electronic, Post-Hardcore, Alternative Rock, Art Punk
10. Animal Collective-Feels(FatCat)
The first half of this album blew me away so much that it took me a few years to fully appreciate the latter half. The first half plays almost like a singles collection. It's all classic animal collective. Super catchy, super weird and very fantastical. On the second side they slow things down considerably to an almost ambient style pace. These tracks are some of the most oozing and dense productions in their entire catalog. That is until you reach the last track "Turn Into Something" which is definitely in their top 5 most poppy/normal songs. This is one of their greatest albums and the third in a run that would last a couple more albums that you will most certainly see in later lists.
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Freak Folk, Psychedelic Pop, Psychedelic Folk, Avant-Folk
11. David Thomas Broughton-The Complete Guide To Insufficiency(Plug Research)
This short album conveys a solid mood. This is heavy and dense stuff. This was recorded in an old church with tons of reverb pedals to push the reverb factor through the roof. It's basically one guy singing and playing guitar in a similar vein to Tim Buckley. It is extremely emotive and moving. It's extremely dark yet strangely uplifting. The whole thing was recorded in one take and even though the tracks are split up this feels like one continuous piece regardless.
Genre: Avant-Folk, Singer/Songwriter, Chamber Folk, American Primitivism
12. Edan-Beauty and the Beat(Lewis Recordings)
Great sample focused hip hop album. This has a lot in common with the #1 on this list but it isn't as weird and I feel leans a little to heavy on a 70s sound. It's a very funky and soulful album and it pulls tons of samples from both funk and soul. One great thing that Edan does that a lot of hip hop producers fail to do, is always keep his eye on rock and rock based genres to pull samples from. He does this to great effect. Another great trait to this album is that it isn't overloaded. Well it is, it's just overloaded with samples, but he keeps things brief and this album breezes by.
Genre: East Coast Hip Hop, Experimental Hip Hop, Abstract Hip Hop, Psychedelic Rock, Psychedelia
13. The Kills-No Wow(Rough Trade)
Their last great album, in my opinion. This one has a very lo-fi feel. It's mostly just a thumping hard hitting drum machine with guitar and vocals. The album has a very "cool" vibe to it. It sounds like how one of the Ramones looks like with a leather jacket on. This would be their last album that would have kind of an edgy borderline sleazy vibe to it. They would go onto polish their sound and the rest is history.
Genere: Garage Rock, Indie Rock, Blues Rock
14. Dirty Projectors-The Getty Address(Western Vinyl)
Extremely odd album of orchestral indie pop mixed with glitchy electronics. They made a huge leap forward with this album. Their previous album was mostly based in acoustic guitar and if you called it a folk album you would most certainly not be wrong. But this was a different beast entirely. Supposedly this album is about Don Henley, 9/11 and the oil industry. Aside from a few lyrical themes you would be pretty hard pressed to find an overarching theme outside of the actual sound of the music. But this one is a wild ride, not for the faint of heart.
Genre: Art Pop, Progressive Pop, Chamber Pop, Experimental Rock, Glitch Pop
15. Lavender Diamond-The Cavalry Of Light(Matador)
Great start for a wonderful LA based singer/songwriter. Becky Stark put this out pretty early on into her career and it was a fantastic start. Her voice is one of the best voices going in today's indie pop/folk circuit. This short little EP cemented her in my musical sphere as someone to watch in the coming years and let's just say I would not be disappointed.
Genre: Indie Pop, Indie Folk, Chamber Pop
16. Sufjan Stevens-Illinois(Asthmatic Kitty)
The second in his attempted "state songs" concept albums(and this would be the last...so far). This upped the ante on what he was doing with "Michigan". He overloaded this album with all manner of bells and whistles. This album took the Disneyland aesthetic to even higher loftier points. This was his attempt to summarize Illinois history. Did he succeed? Musically I feel this succeeds very well. Lyrically? Well I'm not extremely knowledgeable with Illinois history but it sure does sound good to me!
Genre: Chamber Pop, Singer/Songwriter, Indie Pop, Chamber Folk, Americana, Folk Pop, Progressive Pop
17. Sunn O)))-Black One(Southern Lord)
One of their bleakest releases. What is this? Thundering bass married to drone metal. This time around they threw in a few Black Metal influences to go along with their insanely heavy drone. The marriage of styles was perfect for them.
Genre: Drone Metal, Drone, Dark Ambient, Black Metal, Noise
18. Black Dice-Broken Ear Record(DFA)
They lost their drummer and became kind of a messed up industrial dance band with this record. It has melody but it was all screwed up. It had rhythm but that was all screwed up too! What it definitely had was no shortage of ideas. Even though this one felt easier to swallow compared to some of their other works, this was no easy listen. This band basically makes music that sounds how I would guess some alien planets would have their music sound like. In another world this could be as big as Drake.
Genre: Electronic, Neo-Psychedelia, Noise
One track. One brutal 45 minute track. Two instruments. Guitar and drums. Josh Blair on drums. Mick Barr on guitar. Repetition. Patterns emerge. Patterns disappear. The ears play tricks on the mind. Your brain doesn't know how to process. Is this annoying? Is this torture? Is this bliss? Yes to all three.
Genre: Experimental Rock, Avant Garde Metal, Minimalism, Math Rock
20. Giant Drag-Hearts and Unicorns(Kickball/Interscope)
Taking elements from all over the rock landscape frontwoman Annie Hardy released one of the best pastiches to 90s grungy alt rock I have ever heard. Her sweet sounding voice belies a vicious lyricist who rips into her victims with no remorse. She takes elements of shoegaze, grunge, alt rock and spins them altogether for one satisfying slab of near nostalgia.
Genre: Indie Rock, Noise Pop, Shoegaze, Power Pop
21. Deerhoof-The Runners Four(Kill Rock Stars)
By far their most diverse album. It also happens to be their longest. Before this came out they were calling it their version of "The White Album". I definitely agree. Over the span of these 20 songs they try on many hats but instead of cramming them into the same song like their previous work they instead seemingly decided on genre workouts for each song. This is where the "White Album" comparisons take shape. This also, in this writer's humble opinion, is where Deerhoof got the most mature in their career. They still sounded fresh and crazy just a bit more refined.
Genre: Experimental Rock, Noise Rock, Noise Pop, Neo-Psychedelia
22. Mahjongg-Raydoncong 2005(Cold Crush)
Very crazy dance punkish album made with mostly electronic samples. This album is like a less political !!!.
Genre: Indie Rock, Math Rock, Electronic
23. Josephine Foster-Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You(Locust Music)
One of the main contributors to the freak folk scene, Josephine Foster really reached far back into America's and Britain's past musical history to bring us a modern update to a very old timey sound. She borrows from America's ragtime and Appalachian folk traditions and borrows madrigal folk music from Britian to craft her own beautiful blend of folk music that brings to mind many facets of nostalgia.
Genre: Singer/Songwriter, Freak Folk, Contemporary Folk, Chamber Folk
24. Scout Niblett-Kidnapped By Neptune(Too Pure)
Very sparse, very minimal and Lo-FI Scout Niblett takes us on a weird journey through her Psyche through the medium of P.J. Harveyesque pseudo grunge. It's like P.J. Harvey's "Rid Of Me" with half the instruments removed and the noise turned down. Lyrically it is just as intense but musically it's like a well constructed skeleton. Sometimes the lyrics are emotionally raw almost to an uncomfortable point and at other times the lyrics come off as goofy and meaningless. Highly recommended for people who love 90s nostalgia with a modern update.
Genre: Singer/Songwriter, Indie Rock, LO-FI
Extremely intense progressive metal album. He takes many styles of metal(Thrash, Speed to name a few) and filters them through his own micromanaging. This is fast, technically proficient and ridiculously over the top intense metal. Yet at it's core there is a ton of melody so it's not really a terribly difficult listen. These shards of glass go down easy!
Genre: Industrial Metal, Progressive Metal, Thrash Metal