“Cold Roses,” Ryan Adams & The Cardinals
Adams returned to his country roots with this double-disc gem, which ranks in my personal top three of his career. Perhaps even more important than the record itself, though, is the addition of The Cardinals as Adams’ official band, which over time seems to have helped settle the erratic singer/songwriter into a solid groove in the years since. Their work on “Cold Roses” is outstanding throughout, spurring Adams on to some of the finest work of his career. Standout cuts include “Magnolia Mountain,” “Easy Plateau,” “If I Am A Stranger,” and …
Favorite Track: “Let It Ride,” one of my all-time favorite Adams songs.
“Shine,” Trey Anastastio
Phish doesn’t do all that much for me, but Anastasio’s first post-jam band release struck a real chord with its power pop/rock and thankfully lack of, well, jams. Dude can play the heck out of a guitar, especially on songs like “Tuesday,” “Come as Melody,” the title cut, and …
Favorite Track: the romping “Air Said to Me.”
“The Alternative to Love,” Brendan Benson
Speaking of awesome pop/rock, here’s another example from he-who-would-become-a-Raconteur, Brendan Benson. Though I love his work with Jack White, Benson shouldn’t give up his other day job, either, because this album is stellar through and through with entries such as the title cut and my …
Favorite Track: "Cold Hands (Warm Heart).”
“The Warrior’s Code,” Dropkick Murphys
This is the record that can match any mood: Ebullient, depressed, pissed … its boundless bagpip-fueled energy will lift your spirits and inflame your heart no matter what. The boys from Boston do their city proud on anthems like “The Warrior’s Code,” “The Auld Triangle,” “Sunshine Highway,” “Captain Kelly’s Kitchen,” “The Green Fields of France,” and Red Sox hymn “Tessie.” The shining light of them all, though, is …
Favorite Track: “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.” The “Departed” theme song, with its malevolent string part, jaunty mandolin riff, and rousing chorus, is without question one of the songs of the decade.
“Curtain Call,” Eminem
Em’s full-lengths are too visceral to get through in one sitting, but this collection effortlessly demonstrates why he became the best rapper alive around the turn of the century. I still wish he had channeled those considerable talents more often for serious fare, because he’s absolutely brilliant on tracks like “Sing for the Moment,” “Like Toy Soldiers,” and especially “Stan.” But even lighthearted throwaways like “Without Me” and “The Real Slim Shady” offer mesmerizing twists of language. In the end, though, nothing compares to my …
Favorite Track: “Lose Yourself,” another challenger for the title of Song of the Decade.
“From Under the Cork Tree,” Fall Out Boy
Before the screaming woo girls and the magazine covers and the Ashlee Simpson pregnancies, this heretofore little known quartet delivered one of the best pop/punk albums of the decade. They went huge with good reason after this.
Favorite Track: “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down”
“You Could Have It So Much Better,” Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand pulled off an amazing double whammy in 2005, releasing this outstanding record just one year after their breakthrough self-titled smash. This effort might be even more impressive, because even without the surprise factor the band managed to sound just as fresh and exciting. In fact, based on the strength of “Do You Want To,” “I’m Your Villain,” “Eleanor Put Your Boots On,” “Evil and a Heathen,” and …
Favorite Track: “The Fallen,” this album might be even better than the first. Here’s looking forward to the long-awaited third CD in 2009!
“Alligator,” The National
I guess it speaks to this record's greatness that after listening to it for just a few months, it has already becoming one of my favorite releases of this or any other year. The National seem to be one of those bands that took awhile to find their true sound; they flirted with it on the previous album, but here it’s out in full force (probably because this is the first one they wrote as full-time musicians). There’s not a bad track on this CD, and several are spectacular, such as “Secret Meeting,” “Lit Up,” “Abel,” “Mr. November,” “All the Wine,” and my …
Favorite Track: the breathtaking “Daughters of the Soho Riots.”
“The Woods,” Sleater-Kinney
The trio from the Great Northwest called it quits soon after, but they couldn’t have gone out any better with this, their best record. “The Woods” delivered some of the most memorable songs of the year, including “What’s Mine Is Yours,” the 11-minute epic “Let’s Call It Love,” and …
Favorite Track: “Modern Girl.”
“Kicking Television,” Wilco
With this double-disc release, Wilco accomplished what few other bands can: Deliver a live album as good—or maybe even better—than their original LPs. “Kicking Television” marks the peak of Wilco’s post-alt-country powers. It takes the dense and challenging songs from the band’s previous two albums and opens them up to their full potential, thanks in large part to drummer Glenn Kotche and newcomer Nels Cline, guitarist extraordinaire. You could make the argument the band has never sounded better before or since.
Favorite Track: “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”
“Silent Alarm,” Bloc Party
“Demon Days,” Gorillaz
“Employment,” Kaiser Chiefs
“Devils & Dust,” Bruce Springsteen