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August 4, 2007 8:36 AM   Subscribe

What are the five most mind-blowing, fanmaking, yet accessible albums of the past ten years?

One of my best friends is an ex-Dave Matthews fan who has now graduated to Death Cab for Cutie. Last night, I drunkenly scoffed at this perceivedly rote fandom. I think my penance should include giving her some new music to try out. What are some albums guaranteed to make someone with a taste for such emotional, conventional, lyrics-oriented rock melodies, intrigued in exploring more music off the FM beaten path?

I'm probably going with The Sunset Tree, by The Mountain Goats, because it knocked my personal socks off, for example.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur to Media & Arts (60 answers total) 95 users marked this as a favorite
The Shins - Oh, Inverted World
Arcade Fire - Funeral
The National - Alligator
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 8:45 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

flotation toy warning - bluffer's guide to the flight deck
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 8:47 AM on August 4, 2007

I second Funeral. Also OK Computer.
posted by marxfriedrice at 8:52 AM on August 4, 2007

The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time

Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
posted by fair_game at 8:55 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
posted by dagnyduquette at 8:57 AM on August 4, 2007

Although parts it might be a little less accessible (it's hard for me to say, my judgment is skewed), Radiohead's OK Computer would fit the bill.

Radiohead is a fantastic gateway drug.

On preview: Damnit, marxfriedrice.
posted by dismas at 8:58 AM on August 4, 2007

Modest Mouse - The Lonesome Crowded West
Three Mile Pilot - Another Desert, Another Sea

If you're willing to expand the timeline to 15 years, I'd include Sebadoh's "Bakesale" in that list too.
posted by saladin at 8:59 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Uh, there's a gigantic difference between Death Cab for Cutie and the Dave Matthews band. Dave Matthews always sucked, and the current hate for Death Cab exists only because so many people like it now that one cannot be cool and like it.

otherwise, exactly what fair_game said, but I've never heard of the Band of Horses.

Currently obsessed with Bishop Allen.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:05 AM on August 4, 2007

Ted Leo seems like the ideal candidate here. I have a ton of friends who have followed that DMB-DCFC path or similar, and everyone seems to get stoked on his music. It's more upbeat than either of the former, but they will probably like it anyway. (Go for Shake the Sheets, probably. His newest album is rather inaccessible and not very poppy.)

If you really want a musician with a very similar feel (melodic, kind of simple, emotional), go for Ben Lee's Awake is The New Sleep.

Note that neither of these albums "Blew my mind" per se, (although they are both very very good, and still get decently regular play in my house) they are simply highly accessible and good "transitional" albums that have worked for me in the 'broaden a friend's musical horizons' game. I generally save the mindblowers for the second round.

Ps:If you want my recs for "mindblowers" (ie: albums that changed my musical leanings heavily), there would probably be a Modest Mouse album (Personally, it was The Moon and Antarctica, although their new album is really excellent as well. You can't really go wrong when you're playing with The Smiths' own Johnny Marr.).

Speaking of, there would also surely be The Smiths on that list. Yes oh yes. The Queen is Dead is the obvious choice, but if you would rather an anthology, go for Singles, rather than the one called "Best of".

Also, Radiohead's OK Computer. It's just too old by about a month, but I'm going to throw it in anyway.

pps: I love that Mountain Goats album. so much. I've had the fortune to see them live a few times, and it was awesome each time.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 9:10 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Obligatory link to the Andrew Bird FabChannel concert, he's brilliant and IMO more accessible than Modest Mouse or the Goats (although they're both great, too!)
posted by theiconoclast31 at 9:12 AM on August 4, 2007

That OK Computer link should be OK Computer
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 9:12 AM on August 4, 2007

Accessible, fan-making, last 10 years? Might I infer indie oriented since you mention Death Cab?

Postal Service
Arcade Fire - Funeral
Shins - Chute's Too Narrow
Peter Bjorn and John - Writer's Block
Spoon - Gimme Fiction
Stephen Malkmus
Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:16 AM on August 4, 2007

aaand two people beat me to OK Computer. ok. Also, what Ironmouth said. also also, get her The Garden State Soundtrack. For real. Sooo many of my friends have used this as their gateway album.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 9:17 AM on August 4, 2007

I was also going to say Modest Mouse, but for me it's Everywhere and His Nasty Parlor Tricks. Weird how everyone's favorite MM album is different...
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:17 AM on August 4, 2007

Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It In People
Electrelane - The Power-Out
Buck 65 - Talkin' Honky Blues
Neutral Milk Hotel - Aeroplane Over The Sea
Constantines - s/t
Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress
Ani DiFranco - Evolve
Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
Animal Collective - Sung Tongs
The Decemberists - Picaresque
Devendra Banhart - Rejoicing In The Hands
Elliott Smith - s/t (1995, but his best IMO)
Hawksley Workman - Entire Discography
TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
Deerhoof - Reveille

Note: One is a folk/hip-hop album. But the guy sounds like he could really expand his genre horizons anyways.
posted by ageispolis at 9:18 AM on August 4, 2007

Blonde Redhead – Misery is a Butterfly
The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America
Muse – Showbiz
Placebo – Without You I'm Nothing
Silversun Pickups – Carnavas
TV On The Radio – Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes

I can't narrow it any further.
posted by ads at 9:23 AM on August 4, 2007

Oh Jesus Christ,

The Weezer Green Album came out in 2001. Does *anyone* not love the pure pop goodness of this album?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:26 AM on August 4, 2007

british sea power - open season
the beautiful south - quench
ian mcculloch -- slideling

seconding: flaming lips/yoshimi/robots.
posted by dorian at 9:28 AM on August 4, 2007

I can't imagine someone interested in modern music not having heard of Radiohead, but the album that will attract new fans isn't OK Computer, it's The Bends. It still holds up best.

My top choice: The New Pornographers, either Electric Version (more uptempo) or Twin Cinema (a bit more melancholy). It's been a long time since I've been that happy to be introduced to a band.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:32 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Greg Laswell, Through Toledo

seconding (or whatever)
Radiohead, OK Computer
Arcade Fire, Funeral

My two favorite albums from the last few years probably don't fit the bill, unfortunately:
Muse, Absolution (example)
Hi-Fi, Stars of CCTV (example)

Get her to check out Pandora. Set up a channel for her with the stuff she likes, and play away. I bet there will be something there to strike her fancy.
posted by gemmy at 9:38 AM on August 4, 2007

"emotional, conventional, lyrics-oriented rock melodies"

Hmm. Let's see.

Aimee Mann, Lost in Space.
Francine, Airshow.
PJ Harvey, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea.
Eric Matthews, The Lateness of the Hour.
The National, Boxer.
The Pernice Brothers, Yours Mine & Ours.
Sloan, One Chord to Another.
The Spinanes, Manos.
Sun Kil Moon, Ghosts of the Great Highway.
Laura Veirs, Year of Meteors.
Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear The Hearts Beating As One.
posted by mykescipark at 9:52 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Dave Matthews to Death Cab is a sad step down.
posted by xmutex at 9:58 AM on August 4, 2007

I'm exactly sure if these fit the bill, but you can decide. They may not be far enough off the FM path.

Seconding Muse.

North by Something Corporate

Even though Over My Head has been played way too much, the CD How to Save a Life by The Fray is excellent.

Divine Discontent
by Sixpence None the Richer

Mary Star of the Sea
by Zwan, is a bit harder-edged in parts

The Beautiful Letdown by Switchfoot
posted by The Deej at 9:58 AM on August 4, 2007

Voxtrot - Raised by Wolves EP
posted by exogenous at 10:03 AM on August 4, 2007

Bright Eyes' "I'm wide awake, it's morning" is the album of the last 10 ten years, ESPECIALLY if you are interested in lyrics. I wouldn't call it "conventional," but no one else around right now is writing lyrics at even close to his level.

Second prize goes to Rilo Kiley, "The Execution of all Things."
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:10 AM on August 4, 2007

oh yeah, and "Give Up" by the Postal Service is truly a perfect album. And your friend can hear the real version of "Such Great Heights," which she may know from the crappy cover version which was put on the Garden State soundtrack by the supremely tasteless Zack Braff.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:13 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have really fallen in love with M.Ward's Post-War album. As a big fan of well-crafted classic rock and 60s/70s singer-songwriter stuff (e.g., The Band, Dylan, JJ Cale), M.Ward's album feels like a throwback. Here's's (linked above) take on it:
Laconic California indie minstrel M. Ward's fifth offering is a thrift shop photo album filled with histories that may or may not have been, dust bowl carnival rides, and slices of sunlit Western Americana so thick that you need a broom to sweep up the bits that fall off of the knife. Ward makes records that sound like he just wandered in off the street with a few friends and hit the record button, but what would feel lazy and unfocused in less confident hands comes off like a tutorial in old-school songwriting and performance that hearkens back to the days of Hank Williams and Leadbelly if they had had access to a modern-day studio.
He reminds me of what that barefooted mediocre prepackaged hack Jack Johnson guy might sound like if he had... oh, I don't know... vision, talent, a desire to reinterpret what came before him in a unique way and more than just one arrow in his quiver to fire.

Here's the link to the YouTube video of "Chinese Translation" off that album.
posted by peacecorn at 10:15 AM on August 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

The Modern Lovers
The Velvet Underground
The Sea and Cake - Nassau
Iron & Wine - Our Endless Numbered Days or the EP Woman King
Neko Case - Blacklisted
Belle & Sebastian - If You're Feeling Sinister
Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs, Pt. 1

More votes from me for In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Give Up, Post-War, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, Illinois, and anything by The New Pornographers and The Decemberists.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:24 AM on August 4, 2007

not all emo/rock, but all music. good is good:

mars volta - de loused in the comatorium (but only if you have time for the whole thing)
queens of the stone age - songs for the deaf (but the whole catalog is awesome)
squarepusher - big loada (listen to this and realize it's 10 years old)
aphex twin - richard d. james album (ok 11 years old, but still worth a listen)
dashboard confession - the places you have come to fear the most (just try to not cut yourself and cry)
alkaline trio - self titled (no snarky comment for this one)
posted by knowles at 10:24 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

One more:

Cat Power - The Greatest
posted by hydrophonic at 10:31 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Jim White's Wrong-Eyed Jesus (The Mysterious Tale of How I Shouted) is just extraordinary and, if you'll pardon the whiff of hyperbole, life-changing.

And, on preview, agree wholeheartedly on the M.Ward.
posted by Haruspex at 10:35 AM on August 4, 2007

I'm not a huge fan myself, but I can't believe nobody has mentioned wilco's yankee hotel foxtrot. It's pretty accessible, but it's weird/dissonant enough in places to make a good introduction into music that's a little more idiosyncratic than the shiny shiny pop droppings off the radio.

Regina Spektor's Begin to Hope is polished and melodic enough to be mistaken for FM radio fare at first blush, but a close listen reveals a sublimely quirky outing from a unique voice. She's a pretty good lyricist, too, IMHO, and for more willing to go out on a lyrical limb than Ben Gibbard or (sweet christ on a toothpick) Dave Matthews.

Seconding Andrew Bird. His new album, Armchair Apocrypha is unbeatable. Unless the competition is his previous album, The Mysterious Production of Eggs. Bird's brilliant sense of rhythm and sound echo make his lyrics immensely entertaining (sometimes silly, sometimes poignant), and dude seems to like $10 words, which is always nice in rock.

Your friend should probably also get her Bright Eyes phase out of the way ASAP. Give her Lifted and I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning to make this as painless as possible.

I'm in love with the new Art Brut album, and the lyrics are mostly about the importance of music in one's life, which seems appropriate here. It's very different from your friends current interests, but that's not always a bad thing. Pretty accessible, too, I think.
posted by scarylarry at 10:36 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Any of The New Pornographers' albums,
posted by mattholomew at 10:39 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

oh man, Jim White. Yes, please.

Also, Black Sheep Boy by Okkervil River is gorgeous. To my mind, Okkervil River occupy a nice middle ground between masturbatory emo whining and literate folk-rock brilliance. They're a good transition band. The new album, The Stage Names, will be out soon and what I've heard is fab.
posted by scarylarry at 10:43 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding Spoon's "Gimme Fiction", it's one of the best produced records and not a bad song on it.

The Pogues early records ("Red roses for me" "Rum sodomy and the lash" "If i should fall from grace with god" and "Peace and love". "Hell's ditch" is ok too). not necessarily "conventional" in the way i think you mean, but it's rock tinged irish music. Here's Fairytale of New York. A great song and in the video you get a good shot of Shane McGowan's grill.

I just discovered this in the last year. The Ditty Bops it's like contemporary '30s music, great vocals and live shows. Not only good but they've got a great aesthetic as well.

Calexico are an amazing band, here's a good song Service and Repair and here's more recent stuff I'm not familiar with. I recommend the albums "Blacklight" and "Feast of wire", I wish everyone knew about this band.
posted by andywolf at 10:57 AM on August 4, 2007

It's slightly out of your ten year window, but Beck's Odelay fits all the other criteria.
posted by wsg at 11:12 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding -

PJ Harvey - Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (not my fave of hers by a long shot, but very radio friendly compared to her other records)
Yo La Tengo - I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
Spinanes - Manos
Neko Case - Blacklisted

Afghan Whigs - 1965
Silver Jews - American Water
Luna - The Days of Our Nights
posted by citron at 11:22 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Any Shins record.
I'd go with Electric Version for the New Pornographers, myself.
Don't start with In The Aeroplane Over the Sea. If she's not ready, she may not like it. I find that I like people a little bit less if they don't like that record. No sense losing a friend here; give it to her in six months.
There's a thousand Smiths records/compilations/whatever. Just give her Louder Than Bombs and call it a good start.
For Wilco, I'd start her out with Summerteeth, though Being There or YHF wouldn't hurt you.
She may not go for If You're Feeling Sinister from where she's sitting now, but if she does, she'll thank you forever.
posted by willpie at 12:02 PM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

The first time I heard Interpol's Turn on the Bright Lights, I was impressed.
posted by dagnyduquette at 12:15 PM on August 4, 2007

I'm going to second/third/nth the Shins (Chutes Too Narrow), Wilco (Summerteeth or YHF), and Beck (Odelay, even though it's a bit outside the time window).
posted by smably at 12:36 PM on August 4, 2007

Oh, and later on the Hold Steady is a must. Actually, Boys and Girls in America might not be too inaccessible right now, but at some point every lyric fan needs to hear Separation Sunday.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 12:53 PM on August 4, 2007

Doves- Some Cities
Hot Chip- The Warning
Clearlake- Amber
Built to Spill- You in Reverse

Also seconding Foxtrot, Spoon, the Shins, and Weezer. While I'm a big fan of Muse, I'm not sure someone on the Dave Matthews/ Death Cab bandwagon would be into their more heavy arena sound.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:54 PM on August 4, 2007

Sufjan Stevens -- (Come on feel the) Illinoise (aka Illinois).

Arctic Monkeys -- Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. (Super accessible, much more so than Sufjan).

OK Computer.

Anything by Spoon.

Cat Power's The Greatest.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 1:23 PM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Cassandra Wilson "Belly of the sun" (2002), Lucinda Williams "World without tears" (2003) and Elliott Smith "Either/Or" (1997). Slightly older than 10 years: Jeff Buckley "Grace" (1994).
posted by iviken at 3:07 PM on August 4, 2007

OMG now I want to blow a few hundred dollars on CDs, this list is reminding me of all the great albums I haven't gotten around to buying the last few years. Anyway, as someone who's introduced my friends and family to this type of music, I'm whatever-ing Spoon, The Decemberists, Ted Leo (go for something poppier, I liked Hearts of Oak), Beck, Sufjan Stevens, The Hold Steady, Belle ad Sebastian, Elliot Smith, etc etc etc. Lots of *great* suggestions here, imo.
posted by MadamM at 4:12 PM on August 4, 2007

Porcupine Tree - Fear of a Blank Planet, Deadwing
Play them loud.
posted by rockhopper at 4:43 PM on August 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

So many great suggestions! I'd definately agree with Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, The Hold Steady, Ted Leo, Okkervil River and M. Ward.

And I don't think any of these have been mentioned..

Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour of Bewilderbeast
Tegan & Sara - If It Was You / So Jealous
Loveley Feathers - Hind Hind Legs
The Stills - Logic Will Break Your Heart
John Vanderslice - Pixel Revolt
Turin Brakes - The Optimist LP
posted by paul003 at 6:56 PM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Lots of good suggestions in this thread (and thanks for posting this Ambrosia Voyeur!)

Some more -- none of which are mindblowing like Buckley or Flaming Lips or NMH, but which haven't been mentioned yet:

Citizen Cope: "Every Waking Moment" -- not exactly mindblowing -- but accessible, fan-making, and a good vibe

The Cat Empire: "Two Shoes" -- again, not mindblowing but meets all other criteria.

and I'm intrigued by the Battles album called "Mirrored". Kind of mindblowing.
posted by edverb at 7:21 PM on August 4, 2007

I like most of these suggestions, but this list needs some strum and twang. Let me add:

Drive-By Truckers -- Decoration Day
The Dexateens -- Hardwire Healing
Lucero -- Tennessee

And some smart pop:

Dr. Dog -- We All Belong
The Negro Problem -- Post Minstrel Syndrome
Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3 -- Ole! Tarantula
Through The Sparks -- Lazarus Beach

And some rawk:

Earl Greyhound -- Soft Targets
The Raconteurs -- Broken Boy Soldiers
Vietnam -- Vietnam

And some electro-syntho-dweedly stuff:

Eels -- Blinking Lights and Other Revelations
Portishead -- Dummy
Panda Bear -- Person Pitch

And something to make her undergarments fall to the floor:

Morphine -- Cure For Pain (ok, it's more like 15 years old)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:21 PM on August 4, 2007

nthing Sloan (Sloan!), the Decemberists, M. Ward, and Neko Case.

also: "Earthquake Glue" is a nice Guided By Voices starter, Shearwater's "Winged Life" is shivery-good addictive for something like M. Ward but more poppy, and "The Slow Wonder" is Carl Newman (the head, I guess, of the New Pornographers these days) gets a little weirder than most of the Pornographers' stuff while still being really easy to get sucked into. And humming for weeks.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 8:31 PM on August 4, 2007

Well, I see I'm in an extreme minority, but my answer would be the first Libertines album (Up The Bracket).. and, to a lesser extent, Franz Ferdinand's self-titled debut. I don't think I could come up with anything else. (Once you've listened to Sparks, it's really difficult to be blown away by more recent stuff. Oh, there is last year's Hello Young Lovers by Sparks, but I wouldn't name that as their best album.)
posted by Mael Oui at 8:40 PM on August 4, 2007

and I'm intrigued by the Battles album called "Mirrored". Kind of mindblowing.

i thought of mentioning that album. It's not the most accessible, but you just have to give it a little time. Just give the song Atlas a shot though, it's one of the greatest singles in the last ten years. The video is really great too, I love how guys playing music so insanely complicated are totally dancing around while making it. I honestly can't try and push this album on people enough.

Oh, maybe it's off base and it's way past your ten year mark (btw, so little music is actually any good that you've gotta widen the parameters a bit. the further you go back just increases the odds of finding music worthwhile), but Yes "Close to the Edge" changed my life in regards to music.

Good poppy music needs to mention the first couple Elvis Costello and the Attractions records. "This Year's Model" oh, and....

I'll shut up, you've got me digging thru the 7 inch box.
posted by andywolf at 8:49 PM on August 4, 2007

another vote for The Decemberists (Picaresque was my first, but Castaways and Cutouts and the 5 Songs LP are incredible), and yeah Porcupine Tree!

I highly recommend Aberfeldy's album, "Young Forever." I don't think they were mentioned before -- very fun and poppy with really good lyrics.
posted by chihiro at 8:50 PM on August 4, 2007

The White Stripes: Elephant.
posted by 4ster at 9:27 PM on August 4, 2007

How is it possible that no one has yet mentioned Feist? The Reminder is probably the best place to start. Let It Die is also good, but I personally can't get behind the covers (aside from the Bee Gees).

nthing PJ Harvey's Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, and Sloan (either Action Pact, Between the Bridges, or One Chord To Another).

I can't think of any album more accessible than Brain Heart Guitar by The Dudes.
posted by dropkick queen at 11:08 PM on August 4, 2007

the Strokes: Is This It (UK version, please, as the change of one song takes it from superlative to transcendent).

I also second Amy Winehouse's Back to Black.
posted by bijou at 11:25 PM on August 4, 2007

You need some socks-offgeknockening jazz. These qualify (for generous values of 'jazz').

Songbird, by Eva Cassidy.
Yours, by Sara Gazarek.
Shifting Sands of Time, by the Wayfaring Strangers.
Perennial Favorites, by the Squirrel Nut Zippers. (It was 1998, I checked.)

And some freakin' amazing bluegrass/acoustic:

Unit of Measure, by the Tony Rice Unit.

And some Ukrainian rock/pop-rock/blues-rock/jazz-rock/piano-rock ... any album at all by Плач Єремiї (Plach YEremiyi, blues rock with jazz influences) or Океан Ельзи (Okean El'zy, hard and pop and piano flavors of rock). It all knocks me for a loop, all of it, and that's before I listen to the lyrics (at which point it knocks me for another one).
posted by eritain at 12:06 AM on August 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

many people may laugh at this, but i think the album "the con" by tegan and sara matches your description. this album really blew me away, and i was NOT a fan of theirs before. i have been listening to it every day for weeks.
posted by fac21 at 3:32 PM on August 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Awesome thread. You might try to target it more by defining a genre range (e.g., whether "no depression" stuff can be included).

Seconding Aimee Mann, though I would recommend Bachelor No. 2 or The Forgotten Arm as the gateway.

Any of several Fountains of Wayne albums, or Patty Griffin albums, certainly on the accessibility front.

Incidentally, Aeroplanes was the first Neutral Milk Hotel album I heard, and I got into it.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 10:04 PM on August 5, 2007

Not enough hiphop. So how about:

The Notorious BIG - Ready to Die
Jay-Z - Reasonable Doubt
Kanye West - College Dropout
Eminem - The Marshal Mathers LP
Jay-Z - The Black Album
Nas - Illmatic
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:22 AM on August 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

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