1. In Casino/Out, At the Drive-In Submitted by J.R.
In J.R.'s opinion, this is the band's best album, and I'd tend to agree. One of the best bands of the 90s is oft-forgotten by mainstream music commentary, but not by us. We'd rather pay respects to the group and its hard-hitting excellence which aided in setting the stage for many bands on the scene today. If you're nostalgic for these guys, grab this record, or perhaps, if you're looking for something a bit more current, nothing wrong with listening to Sparta and The Mars Volta, the two bands which formed out of their ashes. Either way, At the Drive-In stands the test of time.
2. Mutations, Beck Submitted by Heath
Well, first off, it's Beck, so I think it's understood that the music will still be relevant a decade later. The appeal of this album may not be as great as the Grammy-winning Odelay, to which this album followed, but that doesn't mean it loses any of its luster. Mutations, as with most Beck material, bounces without being too loud, and provides a fun energy, coupled with the charm he seems to execute all of his songs with. You'll be happy you listened, but sad that it's over...feel free to just press play again.
3. The Boy With the Arab Strap, Belle & Sebastian Submitted by John
This is a great album in the sense that Belle & Sebastian hadn't taken the form of the much-goofier indie pop band they would become later on. The catchy, energetic tunes on this record take on a more-polished vibe, seeming to use the great feelings from 1996's If You're Feeling Sinister (probably one of my favorite 30 or so albums ever). If you've never heard this one, or its aforementioned predecessor, I'd highly suggest picking them up as soon as possible. Everything they made after this one is up to your own discretion whether to purchase or not.
4. Mermaid Avenue, Billy Bragg & Wilco Submitted by Heath
I never have enough to say about this album, and the great story behind it. For those who don't know, Woody Guthrie, country-folk legend died in 1967. Years later, his daughter was looking for an outlet for the nearly-1,000 songs which he had written, but never recorded, and reached out to Billy Bragg and Wilco front man, Jeff Tweedy. Bragg and Wilco collaborated to form a collaborative tribute to Guthrie, which in my eyes is one of the coolest album concepts of recent memory. The songs, all done in the spirt of Woody himself, make for a great listen, for long-time fans, and newcomers alike.
5. Something About Airplanes, Death Cab for Cutie Submitted by Matt
Before Death Cab was the band we all know them as know, they were a small-time Seattle solo project of Ben Gibbard. For those who have never heard, this version of the band is much more stripped-down, has a much different approach to energetic songs, and overall, bares a solid resemblance to The Get Up Kids. For more evidence of this, feel free to check out You Can Play These Songs With Chords, featuring one of my favorite DCFC songs, "New Candles", as well as demos of many of the songs on this superb record.
6. Midwestern Songs of the Americas, Dillinger Four Submitted by J.R.
"One of the most influential punk/hardcore bands today, " says J.R. How can I argue with that? Every song on this record just screams out its affects on the music of the current scene. If you felt like it, you could probably pick through each song and list a bunch of bands that used it as their main influence. Regardless, I'll stop there, so as not to depreciate the praise I'm heaping on these guys. If you enjoy energy, and some good, old-fashioned meaningful hardcore, looks like you've found it.
7. XO, Elliott Smith Submitted by John
I suppose I understand why people criticize this album (major label, etc.), but I can't help but appreciate it, because it's one of my favorites by the late Mr. Smith. I wouldn't try to pass this album off as happy, or anything like that, because, well, it's Elliott Smith, so it's not. I will say though, that there isn't a bad song on this album, from start to finish, you get a great, dare I say, chill, experience. No song is too short, no song is too long. It's just good, reflective art.
8. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Neutral Milk Hotel Submitted by Matt
I would've submitted this one, if Matt hadn't called it already. My favorite album of 1998, and one of my top five albums of all-time, I could just go on and on about it, but I'll spare everyone that day-long rant. Jeff Mangum, of the now-defunct NMH, had dreams about Anne Frank, saw ghosts in his closet, and had tons of other weird, really trippy experiences, leading up to the creation of this fantastic sonic experience, which plays upon so many emotions, it becomes difficult to explain. The success of this drove Mangum crazy, as did life in general, so there has never been a follow-up. In fact, very few people have even seen the man behind this music for the past decade, besides close friends. I wish they'd come back.
9. The Shape of Punk to Come, Refused Submitted by Tom
I'll let Tom take the wheel here. "It should go without saying that Refused and their ideologies were so pungent and widespread amongst a generation of listeners, that they came from a small brooding aggressive Swedish band to counterculture and hardcore fans. It's due to this release, blending elements of hardcore, post-hardcore, electronica, and even jazz to create a sound spectrum so vivid that, even with the advances in post-production of today, most artists can't even dream to recreate. The record is a 55-minute expose into a deeply sophisticated group of talented individuals who may have ben so consecrated that it eventually led to their demise in 1998. This record will change the way you listen to music, and I don't just mean hardcore. I mean all of it."
10. Can't Slow Down, Saves the Day Submitted by Tom
Once again, I'm going to let Tom take this one. "I'll start by telling you that Saves the Day is my favorite my favorite band of all-time. Understanding that, please take with a grain of salt the bias you're about to encounter. The band's first release under the Saves the Day moniker was put out on Equal Vision records, at the time, a decidedly hardcore label. The band broke this mold, releasing Can't Slow Down. The record was melodic, catchy, fast, and rambunctious, and since this release, Saves the Day's songwriting has matured in content and texture substantially, which is to be expected after ten years. While the lineup on this album is far from today's, they had a crucial punk rock sound, not far from their heroes in Lifetime. With this record, Saves the Day boarded the rocket, and with their next releases, they would subsequently take off and land on another planet. I love this record with all my heart, and you should too."