Lists like this are always personal, and I live for live music, so all the bands represented blew me away in concert as much as on the album, with one glaring exception.
The Gossip – Standing in the Way of Control
I loved the Gossip going back to their first album of blues-tinged garage rock. I dragged a friend to a show of theirs months before this came out, and we were astonished to hear disco-esque dance punk come out of them. But it was perfect, even better than their music before. This album lived up to that potential.
The New Pornographers – Electric Version
The one band on the list that blows live. But the album shows they are the one band that has found the sweet spot between Elvis Costello and Cheap Trick, and that is a beautiful spot to live in.
The Vivian Girls – Everything Goes Wrong
Their first album got them all the attention, but their sophomore release justified it. This is the album I put on whenever I just want to throw something on for the hell of it. It makes me happy.
LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem
This is the band I end up justifying more than others, because it’s hard to see what is so amazing about it the first four times you hear it. But I keep going back to this album, which is a good sign. The inventiveness of the music sneaks up on you.
TV on the Radio – Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
I got into the TV on the Radio Friday night set at SXSW at the Parish in 2004 in by pulling rank as a native Austinite at the door, and being let in before everyone else in line. The place was packed. I stood by a door crammed between two smelly hipsters and my drunk date. Despite all this, the band made me stop breathing with its beauty. They had a new sound, something quite unusual in the aughts. And they pulled it off.
Danger Mouse – The Grey Album
Danger Mouse owned the aughts, between the Gorillaz and Gnarls Barkley. It all started with this record. Before this, mash-ups were a novelty. After this album, they were an art form.
Basement Jaxx – Rooty
Every couple of years, someone announces some combination of hip hop and electronica music like it’s the next great thing. Basement Jaxx officially perfected the blend of house and hip hop in 2001. The rest is just footnotes.
Peaches – The Teaches of Peaches
The next time I hear someone wax on about how Lady Gaga is some sort of innovator or icon, I’m grinding this album in to her ear until she gets a clue.
Phenomenal Hand Clap Band – Phenomenal Hand Clap Band
It’s hard to stand out at SXSW. They did so with ease. Their album is addictive. It reminds me of the best Sly-inspired rock of my childhood with 70s rock head parents, but without getting caught up in nostalgia. I don’t know how they pull it off. The hip hop touches help.
Sleater Kinney - The Woods
I almost didn’t want to put such an iconic 90s band on the list. But they deserve credit for putting this album, which was a real departure from their former sound, a right turn into a more rock and roll kind of rock that made official the nostalgia with a twist that dominated so much of the aughts. Another SXSW show that will be permanently burned into my brain.