36 I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass [Listen]
YO LA TENGO
Nobody else should even bother entering the competition for the Year's Dumbest Album Title, but this is the most effortlessly spectacular music Yo La Tengo have made in years. The attention-getters are the opening and closing ten-minute guitar jams, with Ira Kaplan mangling the feedback over Velvets-sharp trance-riffs. They mess with acoustic ballads, country, Motown soul, but there isn't a bad song on the album, with special honors for the folk-rock twang of "The Race Is On Again."
37 Alive and Kickin'
Topped only by Nonesuch's Our New Orleans 2005 among Katrina records is an old man's album recorded in and around 2000. Like the levees, but with far better follow-through, these tracks had to await the disaster before they got the funding attention they deserved. The sense of irrepressible fun that made Domino the biggest African-American rocker of the Fifties is replaced by a reflectful calm that never turns blue. Rhythmically it's so astute you can only assume his reflexes are as sharp as ever.
38 10,000 Days
The pointlessly elaborate packaging (the 3-D specs just give you a headache) contradicts the no-gimmicks fury of everything else Tool does, to obsessive perfection, on Days -- and that includes actual songwriting. Even at seven and six minutes apiece, respectively, "Vicarious" and "The Pot" are packed with clever twists on instant-hit-single kicks: Adam Jones' nagging, grinding guitar riffs; the catchy, mounting-fear stammer of drummer Danny Carey's odd time signatures. That's more than enough to leave you seeing double.
39 The Tragic Treasury
THE GOTHIC ARCHIES
These songs, aimed at the precocious youngsters who jones for the gleeful gothic gloom of the Lemony Snicket novels that have made sometime Magnetic Fields sideman Daniel Handler very rich, are of a thematic piece. Perfect for Stephin Merritt's melancholy baritone, they also satisfy his appetite for rhyme. "The world is a very scary place, my dear," Merritt intones. "It's hurled and it's twirled through outer space, I fear." Comedy album of the year.
40 Make History [Listen]
THUNDERBIRDS ARE NOW!
In sweet home Detroit, Thunderbirds Are Now! are not garage enough; in outer Alternia they're not arty enough. Les Savy Fav fans think they're a rip-off. But there's a reason you've never heard Les Savy Fav, and that reason is tunes. Figure that keyboard man Scott Allen provides those, with his guitarist brother Ryan pitching in when he's not riffing angularly or yelping, generally about something social if not political. Perfect for anyone who believes complex song structures are best served by punk attitude and pop amenities.