29. Belle and Sebastian, Tigermilk. Another controversial pick. Every one of my sources says that If You're Feeling Sinister is Belle and Sebastian's opus grande. And yes, it too is a great album. (Greatest B&S song, in my opinion: "Seeing Other People") But I stand behind my pick, and I don't think it wins by a tiger's whisker either, ha ha. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the best albums have this kind of organic quality to them, where you have to hear the songs in their natural order to appreciate them to their fullest. Tigermilk is so organic, it makes PCC look like an abattoir. The songs aren't carbon copies of each other; instead, they show off the various facets of a wonderfully talented band, like ... a diamond. The fact that this art-school project ever became one of the landmarks of independent rock is a miracle in itself - read about it sometime.
28. REM, Murmur. I still remember seeing the video for REM's "South Central Rain" on MTV at age 12 or so and thinking to myself, "What the hell? What's that guy's problem?" But at the same time, I had this sort of uneasy sensation, deep down inside, that there was something appealing about the song, but I couldn't admit that to anyone or I would get beaten down. (I grew up in a small, somewhat backwards town, you see.)
Thankfully, by the time I reached college, I had matured into a semblance of the man that you all know and love today. And Murmur was the album that finally put me in touch with my REM side, although it did mess somewhat with my preconceived notions of The South. (You were supposed to be walking around barefoot in overalls and spitting tobacco juice through your snaggly teeth, Stipe! Not writing songs about moral kiosks and shit like that, for chrissake.) I may love other albums more than Murmur (again, I'm kicking myself about not ranking King Crimson higher), but where would modern American music be without REM? If they're not in the Top 5 of the most "important" American bands ... no, they're definitely in the Top 5. Not just my Top 5: anyone's Top 5.