12. Dead Can Dance, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun. Pompous and overbearing to some, exotic and beautiful to others. I remember buying this album in college and never really tiring of it. A sound like no others, mimicking the music of vanished civilizations, which has stood the test of time on its own.
13. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones. I just got into the Yeah Yeah Yeahs within the past few months. I've listened to this album and Fever to Tell, and I like this one better. If I'd heard it a year earlier ... would it have made my Top 50? A tough question. Lead singer Karen O did some of the music for the film version of "Where the Wild Things Are" - may have to check it out.
14. Kings of Convenience, Riot on an Empty Street. Think A-Ha is the best band to ever come out of Norway? Ok kontrarre, min frair! I think Erlend and Eirik would disagree with you. This is a great album, and the vocal contributions from Feist on several songs really put it over the top.
15. Yo La Tengo, Painful. They've had a lot of great albums, so it was again a struggle to narrow it down to just one. But this album has my favorite YLT song of all time, "Double Dare." One of my favorite songs, period. It makes me want to be young and drive across the country again, with every new day bright and clear.
16. Karp, Self Titled LP. Props again to my friend Brian for introducing me to Karp, one of the greatest bands to ever come out of the Seattle area. Again, I'm not a huge metal fan, but Karp's music was somewhere beyond metal, taking the rage and noise of metal and tempering it with brash intelligence. (What ordinary metal band would have a song called "J is for Genius?" Or a song whose entire lyrics are "Ding dong, I'm fucking with your head, fucking with your head.") I still remember seeing them at Bumbershoot a while back: two guys thrashing on guitar and taking turns bellowing into the microphone, with drummer Scott Jernigan (who died in a boating accident in 2003) pounding away behind them. I don't know if I've ever gotten as much visceral pleasure from another show. Supposedly, there's some documentary about Karp coming out within the next few months.
17. Tortoise, TNT. This one would also probably be in the low-to-mid 50's if I ever made a comprehensive Greatest Albums list. All instrumental, all the time, with impressive variation in the song styles. There's one song on here, I swear, that will transport you to a lazy summer evening in the French countryside circa 1957. If it doesn't, I will gladly refund your money.
18. The Postal Service, Give Up. So which flavor of "Such Great Heights" do you like? The snippet from the UPS commercials, or Iron & Wine's slowed-down, mellowed cover version? I'm actually a bigger fan of "Nothing Better," from its atmospheric opening to Ben Gibbard's wistful lyrics to the sudden, stunning, wonderful entry of Jenny Lewis as his vocal counterpart. Such a sad song, but such a great album.
19. Sleater-Kinney, The Hot Rock. Ah, Sleater-Kinney: another one of those Northwest bands that I hadn't really discovered while I was living in the Northwest. Or maybe I did, towards the end? I can't even remember now. Just wish I'd seen them live at least once; but at least I got to see Janet Weiss perform a few times in Quasi. I think everyone's got their favorite S-K record, depending on their style, and I can't claim to have heard them all. But this one's the bomb ...
20. The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America. I know next to nothing about The Hold Steady. So how can I include them here? Because this is a special place, with magical rules, and I'm kickin' back after grinding through my Top 50. I listened to this album a bunch. It's great. A very distinctive lyrical style.