19. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
Though the impact of this album has worn off slightly over time, it's still one of the most powerful albums in terms of dynamics. Labeled post rock by most, I'd describe this as classical music with a rock influence, replacing melody with sheer force and volume. It could be music for the apocylipse.
18. Thrice - Vhiessu
I thought I'd largely written off post hardcore a long time ago as a generally adolescent genre full of petty anger and immature frustration, but this is one of the few exceptions. The power in this album is in its maturity, thoughtfulness, and illusions to Christian theology.
17. Joanna Newsom - Ys
This album is just pure fun to get lost in. It's classic Van Dyke Parks storytelling combined with a shrill female vocalist and a harp with orchestration around it all. Sound intriguing? Probably not. But you'd be the fool for not giving it a chance.
16. Radiohead - In Rainbows
This was a nice surprise after the really disappointing Hail to the Thief. For once, it almost seems as if Thom as become a little less gloomy, and though the music is hardly lighthearted, it is more relaxed and settled in. It doesn't stray too far from the electronic-rock they've been doing this decade, but it's just done really well with great songwriting. Nothing is done for show or for expiramentation, like I felt was the case for the aforementioned album. "All I Need" is their best song since 2000.
15. Elliott Smith - New Moon
Although these songs weren't recorded in the year of its release, let alone this decade, it still was released this decade so I'm counting it. These songs, supposed "throwaways" from his golden Either/Or period, are little less amazing than his album material. And a full two discs worth at that.
14. Sleater-Kinney - The Woods
I think I've heard these gals labeled as the girl version of Fugazi. It's a pretty apt comparison. They share the same aesthetic of punk combined with straight out rock, progressive arrangements, and a powerful lead singer. I haven't heard many Sleater-Kinney albums, but if this isn't their peak I'd be highly surprised.
13. Antony & the Johnsons - I Am a Bird Now
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined loving music by a homosexual, operatic chamber-music type male singer. Stunning, I know. But the songs are so heartfelt, and his voice is so sincere, and the arrangements are so gorgeous, it would almost be more shameful to admit that you didn't have the heart to love this music.
12. Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
Besides having basically the coolest album title of all time, the reason this has turned into my favorite Yo La Tengo album is because of how great all the songs are despite being so diverse and the sheer quantity of them. From the raukus guitar jam opener, to the guiet ballads, to the garage-y rockers, to the nearly doo-wop-esque pop, they seem to do it all, but they do it all so well. This band is so incredibly underrated.
11. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
I was ultimately disappionted with Strawberry Jam. I could appreciate the direction they were going, but it didn't hold much for staying power. Their fun side seemed to have been replaced with maniacal craziness, which is fun for only so long. So I was surprised when this, their next album, had much more of a pop influence. And it works perfectly for who they are as musicians - carefree, fun, and unhibited. It was only natural for them to translate that into a largely pop album, and it makes for a really addictive set of songs.
10. PJ Harvey - Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea
For some reason maturity is the golden word for this list, and it fits here, too. PJ used to be a raw, rough-edged rocker, but here she's a slightly more polished, sophisticated woman playing rock music. Even the album cover denotes such, with her looking so urban with her shades and handbag walking across a busy street. But her songwriting has matured as well, into some of the best songs she's ever written.