17. Vampire Weekend - Contra
Initially, I thought this one would finish higher than their debut did in 2008. However, end-of-year listens revealed that this album is just very good rather than excellent, despite the Grammy nomination. Of course, that's nothing to sneeze at.
18. The Magnetic Fields - Realism
The Magnetic Fields are primarily known as Stephen Merritt's creative outlet, but when KJ emailed the band asking for the music to "It's Only Time," from i—with the intention of using it for our wedding ceremony, an idea that was later scrapped—it was Claudia Gonson who responded. Gonson is the female vocalist as well as the manager of the band. She is also a Boston native, as is Merritt, although he now resides in Los Angeles.
On a completely unrelated note, unless you buy into stereotypes about the residents of the city where I live, several years ago writer and music critic Sasha Frere-Jones essentially accused Merritt of being a racist because a list of his favorite recordings of the 20th century was "laughably short on black artists." I guess it's a good thing I don't have a higher profile, considering Sharon Jones—no relation to Sasha—is the only black artist to appear on this list.
19. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
I used to file these folks in the category of bands I couldn't take seriously because of their name, right up there with Death Cab for Cutie and I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness. But, in hindsight, Broken Social Scene isn't really that bad of a name after all. In fact, when I was in college, the brilliant moniker I came up with was A Trifle Paradoxical, inspired by the absurd phrase once used by one of my professors. Thankfully, I wasn't in a band, so it was never put to use.
20. Shearwater - The Golden Archipelago
This band started out as a side project by Okkervil River members Jonathan Meiburg and Will Sheff. Eventually, Shearwater became the primary creative outlet of Meiburg, while Sheff has always been the frontman of Okkervil River. As of last year, Sheff is no longer a member of Shearwater and Meiburg is no longer a member of Okkervil River.
21. The Walkmen - Lisbon
This is The Walkmen's fourth appearance on my year-end list over the past seven years. They peaked at #6 with 2004's Bows & Arrows, but have also found themselves at #26 in 2006 and #15 in 2008. This every-other-year thing they've got going proves they've become a fairly consistent indie rock staple for me.
22. Belle & Sebastian - Write About Love
There are five European artists on this year's list, but, somewhat surprisingly, only two of them are from the U.K. Laura Marling is from the Hampshire region of England, and Belle & Sebastian are from Glasgow, Scotland. I've already mentioned that The Tallest Man on Earth is Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson. That leaves two more European artists to be revealed in the top 16.
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