Two years have already passed since the launch of OpenAir as Colorado Public Radio’s new music service on 1340 AM and openaircpr.org. It’s been a pleasure working with Colorado’s music scene, engaging with our incredibly passionate listeners, and most of all, bringing you the best music out there every day.
To look back on our two years on the air, we’ve collected this list of the Top 134 (get it?) OpenAir Albums. These are the records we played the most, loved the most, got the most comments on, and listeners raved the most about. The majority are new from the past 2 years, but there are also some of those beloved albums that defined a sound or reflected a particular moment in recent music history. This is what OpenAir is all about and we’re so grateful to have Colorado along for the ride!
1. Various Artists- OpenAir's Colorado Live & Local
OpenAir's Colorado Live & Local, which compiles live performances from Colorado’s cream of the crop in our CPR performance studio, is perhaps the definitive product of OpenAir’s marvelous two-year existence. The now 3 volume set features 58 exclusive performances from local bands that are not only the lifeblood of the Colorado music scene, but also the amazing creative forces whose music OpenAir is proud to spin every day.
2. Jack White- Blunderbuss
By the time of his debut solo release Blunderbuss in 2012, Jack White was an established Rock God. Monumental indie rock duo The White Stripes had broken up after six essential records, and the Raconteurs and Dead Weather, White’s other projects, were both years removed from their most recent releases. Jack had always been in the spotlight with those projects, so a solo record seemed inevitable. When Blunderbuss arrived, its thirteen masterful exercises in blues, folk, and punk came as no surprise either: listeners have come to expect output of the highest quality from White, who is always more than ready to deliver.
3. Tame Impala- Lonerism
Lonerism takes listeners for a reverb-soaked ride. The Australian rising stars gained comparisons to 60’s psychedelia and 70’s classic rock for songs like “Elephant” and “Apocalypse Dreams”, but singer Kevin Parker prefers to liken his band to “Britney Spears singing with the Flaming Lips”. Go figure. Whatever the simile, there’s really no pigeonholing tracks like “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”, one of the most immediate rock songs in recent memory.
4. David Byrne & St. Vincent- Love This Giant
One is considered a godfather of alternative rock; the other is one of the 21st century’s premier indie singer-songwriters. Together they made a memorably groovy, horn-filled dance record that proves the immense power and potential of artistic collaboration.
5. Father John Misty- Fear Fun
Fleet Foxes fans may have been distraught when Joshua Tillman AKA J. Tillman AKA Father John Misty departed the band to focus on his established solo career, but any who gave Fear Fun a spin surely didn’t take long to get over it. The remarkable and light-hearted effort features a healthy dose of dark humor on tracks like the grave-digging ballad “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”.
6. The Black Keys- El Camino
Released in the winter of 2011, El Camino forcefully took over the spring and summer of 2012 with hook after hook of raw rock power. No bar jukebox in 2013 is complete without “Gold on the Ceiling” or “Lonely Boy”, which along with the album itself took home Grammys for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Album, respectively. Danger Mouse provides expert classic rock production for the duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney.
7. Dr. Dog- Be The Void
The blues-touched indie folk of Dr. Dog reached its pinnacle on Be the Void, the Pennsylvania group’s second release through ANTI-. Singers Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken ask the big questions here like “What does it take to be lonesome?” (A: Nothing at all) and “How long must I wait?” (no answer there), all while demonstrating the rock n’ roll aptitude that comes with nearly fifteen years as a band.
8. The Lumineers- The Lumineers
Local folksters make good. The debut album from the Denver transplants set the world’s hearts ablaze with its profound folk numbers like megahits “Ho Hey” and “Stubborn Love”. One of the most vital Colorado acts to emerge in OpenAir’s lifetime.
9. The Avett Brothers- The Carpenter
After the critical and commercial success of their previous partnership on I & Love & You, folk rockers the Avett Brothers again decided to employ renowned hip-hop producer Rick Rubin for 2012’s The Carpenter. The result? The group’s highest charting album to date, beloved by fans and critics alike for its seamless blend of folk, country, and indie rock.
10. M83- Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
“Midnight City” turned up everywhere from Victoria’s Secret commercials to the 2012 Olympics, but there’s plenty, plenty more moody synth adventures on the epic-length Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. Mastermind Anthony Gonzalez is joined by Zola Jesus, Atoms for Peace drummer Joey Waronker, and more throughout the album’s twenty-two shadowy tracks.
11. Tennis- Young and Old
The husband-wife duo of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley serve up indie-pop gems, Denver-style, on this brief albeit lovely sophomore effort, their second for Fat Possum. “Origins” and “Petition” have a lo-fi surf vibe, which makes sense given the idea for the band took root on a sailing expedition.
12. Esme Patterson- All Princes, I
Esme Patterson, whether solo or with Paper Bird, is truly inseparable from the Colorado music conversation. Her output remains indispensable for local music fans, and her solo debut All Princes, I is no exception. Divinely sung and delightfully arranged, All Princes, I is an intimate glimpse from a marvelous musical mind.
13. Alt-J- An Awesome Wave
The British experimental rockers took home the 2012 Mercury Prize for their charming debut on the strength of numbers like the infectious “Breezeblocks” and “Tessellate”.
14. Alabama Shakes- Boys and Girls
One of the most celebrated debut albums released during OpenAir’s existence, Boys and Girls skyrocketed Alabama Shakes to fame with its stirring and soulful roots rock with a Southern edge.
15. The Roots- Undun
The hardest working act in hip-hop used some material from their composition as the house band of Jimmy Fallon for Undun, a concept album told in reverse-chronological order that includes a Sufjan Stevens cover.
16. Deer Tick- Divine Providence
The Rhode Island indie act took a step away from its scraggly folk style for a more aggressive rock album whose name harkens to their hometown roots. “Let’s All Go to the Bar” is one of the finest punk rock sing-alongs this side of Black Flag.
17. Vampire Weekend- Modern Vampires of the City
The indie posterboys’ third and finest album finds the group embracing the past (folk, classic rock) and employing futuristic studio effects, all while remaining engagingly in the present. An instant classic.
18. Fiona Apple- The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
Apple’s prodigiously titled fourth full length champions acoustic instrumentation to back its courageous songwriting. Tracks like “Every Single Night” and “Left Alone” find Apple still fighting her demons, but with a determination we’ve come to know and love from the inscrutable singer-songwriter.
19. Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite- Get Up!
After meeting during a recording session with blues legend John Lee Hooker, harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite and multi-talented songwriter Ben Harper felt something click during their collaboration. Years later, the world got a further taste of the spirit of that blues session. Released through Stax Records, Get Up! bursts with life and the magic of two masters tackling a timeless genre.
20. Cat Power- Sun
The centerpiece of Chan Marshall’s ninth, a self-produced effort fashioned in the midst of serious financial troubles, is the 11-minute epic “Nothin’ But Time”, featuring the marvelous Mr. Iggy Pop. A glorious return to original material following two records of covers.
21. Feist- Metals
Leslie Feist’s fourth doesn’t have any “1234” radio-friendly smash singles, but the “modern ancient” production combined with Feist’s wonderfully smoky vocals make Metals a record to remember.
22. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah- Hysterical
An album some thought might never have existed what with CYHSY’s long hiatus and frontman Alec Ounsworth starting a solo career, Hysterical brought the indie heroes to a major label (Matador) after two albums that were famously self-released.
23. Of Monsters and Men- My Head is An Animal
The most famous musical export from Iceland since Sigur Ros, Of Monsters and Men’s debut charted at number one in the US, Ireland, and Australia on the success of the “Little Talks” single.
24. Iron & Wine- Ghost on Ghost
Sam Beam embraces jazz and pop influences for Ghost on Ghost, an album that relaxes the vibes while keeping the expert lyricism intact.
25. The Shins- Port of Morrow
James Mercer cut ties with the other founding members of The Shins and assembled a new group for their fourth record. The high quality of tracks like “It’s Only Life” proves that Mercer was and always will be worth a listen no matter who is backing him.
26. Radiohead- King of Limbs
Radiohead’s eighth is their most subdued, featuring quiet yet elegant numbers tinged with the electronica Thom Yorke has also embraced in his solo work and his Atoms for Peace side project.
27. Yo La Tengo- Fade
Nearly 30 years into their marvelous existence, Yo La Tengo has done anything but fade: their latest features mostly downtempo but universally gorgeous tracks that demonstrate the New Jersey trio’s masterful songwriting.
28. St. Vincent- Strange Mercy
Annie Clark’s third St. Vincent LP delivers on the promise of her first two albums. Beautifully sung, compellingly arranged, and delightfully weird, Strange Mercy is an album for the ages.
29. M. Ward- A Wasteland Companion
Matthew Ward’s collaboration with actress Zooey Deschanel (who shows up here for some backing vocals) as She & Him may have been a welcome distraction from his solo work, but this brief well-received follow-up to Hold Time is as solid an effort as previous albums.
30. The Black Angels- Indigo Meadow
Psych-rock bands might be a dime a dozen in Austin, TX, but the Black Angels rose above the pack by turning up the classic rock influences on Indigo Meadow, their fourth album.
31. Andrew Bird- Hands of Glory
Bird’s second album of 2012 is a briefer affair than #38 on our list and features several folk covers including Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You”. It was a banner year for the classically-trained violinist/expert whistler, and the title Hands of Glory could certainly refer to Bird’s musical prowess.
32. Phosphorescent- Muchacho
A rambling, gambling, and sometimes haunting folk-rock record, Muchacho chronicles frontman and producer Matthew Houck’s personal struggles with moving, breakups, and drug use following previous album Here’s to Taking It Easy (something Houck no doubt found more and more difficult with his growing success). Great from start to finish, but “Song For Zula” is an absolute showstopper.
33. Devendra Banhart- Mala
Less freak-folk than folk-rock, Mala employs more traditional vocals from the delightfully bizarre and experimental Banhart, as well as an increase in electronic instrumentation.
34. Wild Flag- Wild Flag
Carrie Brownstein may have found more time for her acting career following Sleater-Kinney’s breakup, but by no means did she intend to step out of the music world for good. Wild Flag is her collaboration with members of other seminal female-fronted rock groups Helium and The Minders. Their debut rocks just as hard as the classic S-K records that catapulted her into the indie spotlight.
35. Metric- Synthetica
As its title might suggest, Metric’s fifth album is heavy on the electronics. Emily Haines’ star got even brighter with this heavily rhythmic effort that was followed by a collection of instrumental ambient-electronica outtakes called Reflections. Both are well worth exploring.
36. Santigold- Master of My Make-Believe
A change in her performing name certainly did not alter her immense charisma. The artist formerly known as Santogold recruited Karen O, Diplo, Q-Tip, and Switch for a fast-paced collection that urges listeners to move, and keep moving.
37. Ty Segall- Twins
To call Ty Segall prolific verges on understatement; perhaps only Robert Pollard (see #57) had him beat for sheer output in a short amount of time last year. The hard-rocking indie punk of Twins, his third (and second solo) LP of 2012, proves that, at least for Segall, MORE is more.
38. Andrew Bird- Break It Yourself
Bird’s baroque pop is on fine form on Break It Yourself, which features a duet with Annie Clark of St. Vincent and the excellent Martin Dosh on drums.
39. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros- Here
The sophomore effort from Alex Ebert’s Edward Sharpe moniker is a rollicking feel-good hippie romp that delivers on the promise of debut Up From Below. It opened the door for the Magnetic Zeroes to headline major venues throughout the country.
40. The XX- Coexist
The youthful British indie pop celebrities continue in the vein of their eponymous debut: minimalist, subtle arrangements for songs based on themes of jaded love and loneliness.
41. Gregory Alan Isakov- The Weatherman
Masterfully recorded and produced in Isakov’s Nederland, CO studio, The Weatherman is so much more than just a folk record, albeit from one of the finest of the genre today. It’s a pristine, gorgeous reflection on our often-weary but unmistakably wonderful existence.
42. The Strokes- Comedown Machine
Julian Casablancas and friends strive for broader elements on their fifth studio album, including an 80s synthpop attitude. Their strangest record yet (in a good way).
43. Wilco- The Whole Love
The Whole Love is Wilco’s first album released through their own label, dBpm. It features one of the longer tracks ever recorded by the alt-rock veterans, the intriguing alt-country “One Sunday Morning”.
44. Mayer Hawthorne- How Do You Do
The Michigan native Hawthorne undoubtedly inherited some of the Motown vibes of his homestate and put them to good use on How Do You Do. Wonderfully produced, the album contains plenty of capital-s Soul-fulness and an appearance from Snoop Dogg.
45. Chairlift- Something
The electronic pop group formed in Boulder before relocating to Brooklyn. They honored their roots by stopping by OpenAir around the release of Something, their superb second album which features “I Belong In Your Arms”, one of the finest indie pop songs ever.
46. Portugal. the Man- In the Mountain in the Cloud
The psych-leaning indie group from Alaska finally broke into the alternative radio realm with their sixth album. With great cuts like “So American” and “Got It All”, fans are left wondering: what took so long?
47. Dirty Projectors- Swing Lo Magellan
Dave Longsteth and company had their work cut out for them after the critically adored Bitte Orca album, but the follow-up Swing Lo Magellan continues their success while expanding the band’s already multifaceted sound. Featuring some of the best singers in indie rock today, Dirty Projectors also produce some of the most lovably bizarre song arrangements this side of Remain in Light.
48. Dinosaur Jr- I Bet on Sky
Their finest release since their reunion in 2005, I Bet on Sky proves J., Lou, and Murph can still freak out with the best of them.
49. Jim James- Regions of Light and Sound of God
My Morning Jacket frontman had gone solo before (sometimes as Yim Yames) for tribute albums, but Regions is his first collection of original material. It doesn’t wail as hard as MMJ but it showcases James for the superb songwriter that he is.
50. Animal Collective- Centipede Hz
The Baltimore boys’ quirky science experiment indie pop goes way down the rabbit hole for the follow-up to the highly acclaimed Merriweather Post Pavillion. Often a perplexing listen, Centipede Hz nevertheless contains many gems within its dense sonic atmosphere.
51. Kishi Bashi- 151a
Kishi Bashi, the stage name of Kaoru Ishibashi, spent years in the indie rock circuit as a touring member with of Montreal and Regina Spektor’s band before releasing his debut in 2012. 151a is a marvel of classically-minded indie pop.
52. The Replacements- Let It Be
An album that inspired countless indie rock bands. Its influence in 2013 is as strong as ever, thanks in part to the band’s unlikely reunion shows featuring original members Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson.
53. The Dandy Warhols- This Machine
Nearly twenty years in to a successful career in music, the Dandys show no signs of stopping anytime soon. This Machine occasionally steps off the gas for a bit, but remains as trippy as the Portland band’s definitive work.
54. Divine Fits- A Thing Called Divine Fits
Two of indie rocks premier songwriters, Britt Daniel (Spoon) and Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs) combined their massive brainpowers for this impressive debut that showcases the singular talent of each.
55. Spiritualized- Sweet Heart Sweet Light
“Hey Jane” is possibly the most animated track from Jason Pierce’s Spiritualized project, and the rest of Sweet Heart Sweet Light follows suit.
56. The Raveonettes- Observator
Following a drug and alcohol binge in Los Angeles, Raveonettes singer Sune Rose Wagner pieced together the nine dreamy songs that make up Observator. Despite its origins, the album is among the Danish group’s most focused work.
57. Guided by Voices- Class Clown Spots a UFO
GBV’s second album following their reunion in 2012 (and seventeenth overall) is a highlight of their prolific career, with gems like “Billy Wire” and the title track among frontman Robert Pollard’s finer later efforts.
58. Bat for Lashes- The Haunted Man
Natasha Khan’s gothic ballads on The Haunted Man came about after taking up drawing on the advice of Thom Yorke to cope with writer’s block. “Laura” is an absolute knockout.
59. The Minutemen- Double Nickels on the Dime
Their band could be your life, claimed the late great D. Boon. If there was any doubt that the spirit of punk rock was still alive in the 80s, Double Nickels on the Dime erased it with 43 brief, explicit, and treasured songs. A vastly influential and important record for the indie rock revolution in years to come.
60. Black Lips- Arabia Mountain
The latest from the Atlanta bad boys continues their mean streak of excellent garage rock records since breakout Good Bad Not Evil.
61. Blur- Parklife
Released in the 90’s heyday of Britpop, Parklife remains a vital record due to Damon Albarn’s ability to shape the parameters of pop music into his unique, often bizarre songcraft. Electronics (“Girls and Boys”), orchestration (“To the End’), and above all, an absolute knack for melody all play a role in ranking Parklife among the finest albums of the past 20 years.
62. The Decemberists- The King is Dead
Folky literates the Decemberists reached number one on the Billboard Charts with The King is Dead, an unlikely triumph for a veteran indie act. The album throws in some country influences for good measure on tracks like “Don’t Carry It All” and “Down by the Water” in addition to the chamber pop through which the band gained legions of fans.
63. Tom Waits- Bad As Me
Waits released his seventeenth album after a seven-year hiatus from original material. Stellar cuts like “Chicago” and “Hell Broke Luce” remind us how dearly he was missed.
64. Neil Young- Psychedelic Pill
Young got back together with backing band Crazy Horse in a big way last year by releasing two albums, one of folk covers and the other of originals, entitled Psychedelic Pill. With an 87-minute running time, it’s the longest album Young has released in his 40-plus year career. Long burners like the 16-minute “Ramada Inn” and “Walk Like a Giant” are well worth the time.
65. Tallest Man on Earth- There's No Leaving Now
There’s No Leaving Now sticks to the arrangements that click best for Kristian Matsson AKA The Tallest Man on Earth: there’s a piano here or there, but mostly just Matsson accompanied solely by his guitar or banjo. The richness of Matsson’s voice, the adroitness with his instruments, and the pleasant folk songwriting leave listeners wanting nothing more.
66. Pixies- Doolittle
A record that some maintain must be included in the debate for Greatest Album Ever, and with repeated listens it becomes apparent why. The alternative rock heroes pioneered the quiet verse-loud chorus juxtaposition notably borrowed a few years later by Nirvana and PJ Harvey.
67. Beirut- The Rip Tide
Zach Condon toned down the Slavic folk influences a bit for 2011’s The Rip Tide. The result is a more extroverted and springy album, featuring a fun tribute to Condon’s hometown “Santa Fe”.
68. Neutral Milk Hotel- In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Jeff Mangum recently reunited NMH for a reunion tour, and why not? The record sounds just as timeless today as it did in February of 1998, and it’s about as surefire an album recommendation to astound friends and lovers as it gets. Recorded in Denver, to boot.
69. Elliot Smith- An Introduction To... Elliott Smith
This compilation of the late singer-songwriter’s material should serve as exactly what it is advertised as: an introduction to the sometimes difficult but always rewarding catalogue of the indie icon. No music collection should be without “Needle in the Hay” or “Between the Bars”, and any newcomer who starts here with Smith’s work will surely seek out classic albums like Either/Or and XO soon after.
70. Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Mosquito
Featuring some terrifically goofy cover art, YYY’s fourth album was produced in part by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek and former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy. Resultantly, the dance-punk vibes are notably strong.
71. A.C. Newman- Shut Down the Streets
Newman capitalized on the success as the frontman of indie “supergroup” The New Pornographers with his excellent third solo album, featuring the cheekily titled “There’s Money in New Wave” and “Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns”, which feature fellow Pornographer Neko Case.
72. David Bowie- The Next Day
It took ten years for the legendary singer to follow-up 2003’s Reality, but none can attest that it was not worth the wait. Bowie’s twenty-fourth album is straight-forward masterful songwriting that hearkens back to his classic albums, while not-so-subtly forsaking one of them on the album’s cover.
73. Grizzly Bear- Shields
Grizzly Bear has called Shields their “most collaborative” album: the experimental Brooklyn act is in high form here because of it. The affluence of vocal ability in the band works best when the duties are shared on tracks like “Gun-Shy” and “Speak in Rounds”, while “Yet Again” may be the band’s finest to date.
74. Tegan & Sara- Heartthrob
Heartthrob was twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quins’ highest charting album to date, thanks to the standout synthpop single “Closer”, their catchiest since “Walking with a Ghost”.
75. Thao and the Get Down Stay Down- We The Common
Thao Nyugen and company verge on freak-folk for We The Common, and even employ one of the genre’s other leading ladies, Joanna Newsom, for a duet on highlight “Kindness Be Conceived”.
76. The Magnetic Fields- 69 Love Songs
An audacious, visionary, and ultimately winning achievement from Stephin Merritt, 69 Love Songs is exactly that: three collections of 23 songs on the topic of love, be it the country-western rambler’s “Papa Was a Rodeo”, the randy cat-call of “Let’s Pretend We’re Bunny Rabbits”, the forlorn and melodramatic “I Don’t Believe in the Sun”, or sixty-six other scenarios.
77. Japandroids- Celebration Rock
Vancouver duo Japandroids may be a meat-and-potatoes act, but songs like “Fire’s Highway” and the unforgettable “The House That Heaven Built” rock harder than bands triple their size.
78. Joe Sampson- Kill Our Friends
The mysterious Denver folkster Sampson released his debut Kill Our Friends in 2012. The known associate of Nathaniel Rateliff delivers seventeen wintery acoustic songs that inspire hope for more to come.
79. Flobots- The Circle In the Square
Following the departure of their lead guitarist, Flobots regrouped for their first album released on an indie label. The Circle in the Square is characteristically uptempo and groovy, with Jonny5 and Brer Rabbit in fine form vocally.
80. Arcade Fire- The Suburbs
Though since surpassed by Reflektor, The Suburbs was a notably lengthier work than its two predecessors, though that’s not to say it is bloated: in fact, Arcade Fire does not waste a moment on this bittersweet nostalgia trip.
81. Radar Brothers- Eight
Featuring an expanded lineup, Eight uplifts with relaxed, catchy indie that the veteran group has spent years developing into their potent craft.
82. Dum Dum Girls- End of Daze
The five songs on the End of Daze EP are less than cheerful lyrically: singer Dee Dee Penny sings of emptiness, pain, hatred for flowers, you name it. But her words are jam-packed with more emotion than just despair, and the catharsis of rock n’ roll helps both Penny and her listeners escape their “Season of Hell”.
83. The Outfit- Broken West Wishbone Test
The debut album from Denver indie act The Outfit doesn’t stick around long, but makes the most of its length with jagged guitar riffs and a confident rock swagger. Definitely an act for Colorado music fans to keep their eye on.
84. Bob Dylan- Tempest
Dylan’s latest (his 35th!) may be remembered for its James Cameron-esque take on the Titanic sinking (the title track clocks in at just under 14 minutes), but there’s plenty of quality tunes here that rank among the best of his later career, including a touching tribute to the late John Lennon, “Roll on John”.
85. The Knife- Silent Shout
The brother-sister duo of Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer crafted 2006’s most determined, eerie, and progressive electro-pop record, spawning dozens of pupils in its wake. None of which, of course, really sound anything like the unknowable mayhem and vigor of Silent Shout.
86. Teddybears- Soft Machine
Soft Machine is a must-hear for its ambition in combining rock, reggae, hip-hop, and more. It’s highly danceable throughout and features guests ranging from Iggy Pop to Mad Cobra.
87. My Morning Jacket- Circuital
Circuital combines the various elements of My Morning Jacket’s signature sound: classic Southern rock guitar, cold synthesizer beats, and a healthy dose of occasional silliness.
88. Telekinesis- Dormarion
Named for the Austin, TX street on which it was recorded, Dormarion is drummer/singer Michael Benjamin Lerner’s third Telekinesis album. Opener “Power Lines” and “Symphony” are among the finest indie rock cuts of 2013.
89. Broken Social Scene- You Forgot It In People
Eleven years later, You Forgot It In People remains one of the most important indie records of this century. Featuring essential Canadian talents Kevin Drew, Leslie Feist, Brendan Canning, Emily Haines, and many more, Broken Social Scene’s second album still amazes by being more than the sum of its parts.
90. Dr. John- Locked Down
The Doctor is still in. The prolific New Orleans R&B dynamo brought in the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach to produce this Grammy-winning blues-funk triumph.
91. Future Islands- On the Water
A college radio favorite, Future Islands construct potent synth-pop that has a knack for staying in your head all day. Frontman Samuel T. Herring might look and sound intimidating, but On the Water is a welcoming experience for first-time listeners.
92. Deerhoof- Breakup Song
Deefhoof sound like nobody else, and most of the time they don’t even sound like themselves. Attempting to label or categorize their sound is a losing battle, as Breakup Song is a uniquely energetic experience even compared to the San Francisco act’s other output.
93. The White Stripes- Elephant
White Blood Cells got them onto the radio and television, but it was follow-up Elephant that expanded the Stripes’ sound and established their mystique. And few would argue that “Seven Nation Army” is not one of the absolute pinnacles of Jack White’s recording career.
94. Islands- A Sleep and a Forgetting
The enigmatic Nick Thorburn stripped down the bombast of earlier Islands records for this understated classic. Includes the joyfully self-referential “This is Not a Song”.
95. The Smiths- The Queen Is Dead
The peak of the Morrissey/Marr collaboration features undeniable melancholy classics like “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” and “The Boy With the Thorn in His Side”, but don’t skip the impeccably alleviating humor of minor cuts “Frankly Mr. Shankly” and “Vicar in a Tutu”.
96. Lost in the Trees- A Church That Fits Our Needs
Sometimes sparse, sometimes lush, but always beautiful, A Church That Fits Our Needs plays out as mysterious chamber pop that begs for repeated listens to delve into its many layers.
97. DeVotchKa- Live With The Colorado Symphony
One of the first of the strikingly fruitful collaborations between the Colorado Symphony and local rock musicians, the success of this live album paved the way for Devotchka member Tom Hagerman’s effort composing for the Symphony’s performance with the Lumineers this past September.
98. The Czars- Goodbye
They really meant it: John Grant’s Denver alternative heroes called it a day on this well-received swan song, priming Grant for a successful solo career.
99. Daft Punk- Random Access Memories
Though its release was bloated with media hype, Daft Punk’s long-awaited fourth studio album hit the right notes with fans old and new. Pharrell Williams, Panda Bear, Nile Rodgers, Julian Casablancas and more all show up to give life back to the French duo’s undeniably funky music.
100. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club- Howl
The second follow-up to our number 104 album edges out its predecessor only slightly, as the San Francisco act successfully integrates blues and country influences (and even a “Gospel Song”) into their already retro vibe: going back another decade or two worked wonders for BRMC on Howl.
101. Unknown Mortal Orchestra- II
If there was any doubt frontman Ruban Nielson could not absolutely shred on guitar, well, this album from the New Zealand psych-rockers settled that debate. The ten songs here chug with a raw lo-fi quality reminiscent of the classic Nuggets compilation.
102. Beirut- Gulag Orkestar
“Postcards from Italy” set the internet ablaze with hype prior to Gulag Orkestar’s 2006 release, as it sounded like nothing in indie rock before it. Influenced by Eastern European folk music on a trip to Europe at age 17, Zach Condon returned stateside to record “Postcards” and other standouts like “Mount Wroclai”, mostly in his Albuquerque bedroom.
103. Phoenix- Bankrupt!
French festival-headliners Phoenix took us back to the 80’s for the follow-up to breakout LP Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. “Entertainment!” and “S.O.S. in Bel-Air” sparkle with the glitz and glamour of downtown Los Angeles (or maybe Paris?).
104. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club- B.R.M.C.
Landing right in the midst of the garage rock revival of 2001 spearheaded by countless ‘The” bands (Strokes, Hives, Vines), Black Rebel Motorcycle Club stood out for more than just their name. Their debut is a stellar collection of gritty atmospheric noise rock tracks like “Awake” and “Spread Your Love” that have a wall-of-sound quality.
105. Cold War Kids- Dear Miss Lonelyhearts
Cold War Kids recruited former Modest Mouse guitarist Dann Gallucci for this year’s Dear Miss Lonelyhearts. The album is livelier because of it, with Gallucci bringing a guitar-pop influence that propels the excellent “Miracle Mile” while the bubbling synths drive others like “Lost That Easy”.
106. Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago
The backstory of Justin Vernon’s Bon Iver debut may have played out well for the papers, but there’s no doubt it’s the substance of the record that propelled Vernon to international fame. Though recorded in the dead of winter, For Emma seems to change with the seasons, upholding the universal sentiments of loss, yearning, and hope that lie within its grooves.
107. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings- I Learned the Hard Way
Beloved by mainstream and indie music fans alike, Sharon Jones and her soul revival band the Dap-Kings are a powerhouse of classic R&B style. I Learned the Hard Way explores themes of love and betrayal with refreshing energy and spotless production.
108. Belle & Sebastian- If You're Feeling Sinister
The album cover features a bookish young lad accompanied only by his Kafka novel: that’s an introverted image the Scottish indie poppers spent the rest of their career shaking. But on Sinister, their second album, Belle & Sebastian were the voice of the library-dwellers and English Literature majors, doling out hyper-literate but decidedly edgy numbers like “Seeing Other People” and “Judy and the Dream of Horses”.
109. The Strokes- Is This It
Critics may have derided it as derivative, but Is This It is like nothing before it. Of all the bands it influenced in its wake, Is This It is like nothing after it either.
110. Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
Dye It Blonde gained Chicago indie rockers widespread attention with “Weekend”, one of 2011’s finest earworms. The other nine tracks share that song’s melodic nature with a splash of psychedelia.
111. Blackalicious- Blazing Arrow
Featuring production work from ?uestlove, DJ Shadow, and Ben Harper (!), the second LP from Sacramento hip-hop duo Blackalicious features two of modern rap’s most exceptional lyricists, Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel, in their prime.
112. Johnny Cash- Love, God, Murder
A compilation box set released in Cash’s lifetime with three themes forever linked to his music: his relationship to June Carter Cash (“Love”), Gospel and spirituality (“God”), and the act of killing and its consequences (“Murder”). Love, God, Murder features liner notes from June along with Bono and Quentin Tarantino, three of the more notable of the Man in Black’s millions of fans.
113. Junip- Junip
Swedish folk-rocker Jose Gonzalez amped up his sound by joining forces with keyboardist Tobias Winterkorn to create Junip. Their second album features “Line of Fire”, memorably used in commercials for the series finale of Breaking Bad.
114. Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues
The heavily-bearded folksters sound a tad more forceful on songs like “Grown Ocean” and the title track, but they still register just as emotionally as the softer campfire-folk numbers.
115. Pavement- Slanted and Enchanted: Luxe and Reduxe
The debut from the 90s indie titans holds up just as strong today as its release in 1991. The expanded Luxe and Reduxe edition is a must have for hardcore and casual fans alike (but is anyone really just a casual Pavement fan?).
116. Damien Jurado- Maraqopa
Maraqopa, Damien Jurado’s tenth album in a nearly 20-year solo recording career, is a more delicate work than his previous Richard Swift-produced LP, though its softer moments are some of its most enticing (see: “Museum of Flight”). Check out “Life Away from the Garden” for its somewhat spooky child choir backup.
117. Queens of the Stone Age- ...Like Clockwork
The latest from Josh Homme finds the QOTSA leader taking risks vocally, lyrically, and sonically. Homme might sound a tad more downtrodden than on previous releases, but the band rocks as hard and as comfortably since Songs for the Deaf.
118. Born in the Flood- If This Thing Should Spill
The extraordinarily talented Nathaniel Rateliff established himself as a true Denver music hero not only with his solo singer-songwriter material, but also through his work as frontman of Born in the Flood. With monumental cuts like “Anthem” and the title track, no wonder Governor John Hickenlooper was so agog to introduce them as the closing act of 2013’s Underground Music Showcase.
119. R.E.M.- The Best of R.E.M. In Time 1988-2003
In Time compiles songs from the Athens, Georgia college rock pioneers’ Warner Bros. albums, including classics Automatic for the People and Green. The collection serves as a snapshot of highlights from a music career chock-full of them.
120. Slim Cessna's Auto Club- Unentitled
Featuring renowned Denver musicians Jay Munly and frontman Slim Cessna, the Auto Club has been open for business since 1992 churning out alt-country mayhem. Released nearly twenty years into their illustrious career, Unentitled arouses through banjo and organ-driven rock.
121. Paper Bird- Rooms
Paper Bird’s “Colorado” was the first ever song played on OpenAir two years ago, so there’s no way we could leave them off our album list. Rooms is a more percussive effort than previous work, but it’s just as easy to lose yourself in the transcendent vocals of Genny and Esme Patterson on standouts like “Through These Days” and opener “As I Am”.
122. Foxygen- We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
Foxygen took the national spotlight in 2013 with this “Magic”-al effort of 60’s psych-revival rock. Produced by Richard Swift, tracks like “Shuggie” and “On Blue Mountain” are must-listens for any indie rock fan this year.
123. A. Tom Collins- Stick & Poke
Another fantastic release from the Denver-based Greater Than Collective label. The debut from A. Tom Collins is a jazzy, cabaret-style affair teeming with swagger and energy. Another prime example of the immense variety and quality of the Centennial State’s music output.
124. Beach House- Bloom
Bloom, the fourth album from Beach House, finds the duo fully immersing their songs in the dreamy shoegaze production for which they have become so instantly recognizable. It was mixed at the famous Electric Lady Studios in New York City.
125. Charles Bradley- No Time For Dreaming
Bradley’s story, documented in the 2012 film Soul of America, is an incredible one, from his days as a James Brown impersonator to his homelessness. That film rightfully helped spark attention to Bradley’s debut featuring original soul numbers as well as Neil Young and Nirvana covers.
126. Kurt Vile- Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Vile, formerly of The War on Drugs, shed his slacker image on his fifth solo LP. Songs like the title track and “Was All Talk” may mosey along with Vile’s trademark blasé delivery, but captivate while clocking in well over the eight-minute mark.
127. Gorillaz- Demon Days
Damon Albarn’s genre-shattering Gorillaz project came into full fruition on their second LP, taking the charts by storm with “Feel Good Inc”. Highlights include an apocalyptic short story narrated by the late Dennis Hopper.
128. PJ Harvey- Let England Shake
Harvey has clearly not lost any of her edge eight albums in. Let England Shake is her most decidedly political work, and on songs like “The Words That Maketh Murder”, Harvey employs a more folky, graceful vocal delivery than on previous albums.
129. Emily Wells- Mama
Wells’ wunderkind ability at violin, drums, guitar, and vocals are on full display on Mama, not to mention her skill at blending diverse genres like classical, hip-hop, and indie, often on the same track.
130. The National- Trouble Will Find Me
The Brooklyn indie veterans’ sixth album cuts back on the harder songs for an album of brooding, solemn numbers that still manage a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor courtesy of Matt Berninger’s apt lyrical wordplay.
131. Django Django- Django Django
One of the most universally acclaimed albums of 2012, the Mercury Prize-nominated debut from British art-rockers Django Django manages to be bouncy, trippy, and most of all, inescapably catchy.
132. Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside- Untamed Beast
Portland singer-songwriter Ford has accrued more than a few notable fans for her raw rockabilly tunes, including Jack White and the Avett Brothers. One spin of Untamed Beast and it becomes abundantly clear why.
133. Ian Cooke- Fortitude
Cellist and Denver native Ian Cooke released Fortitude, his second album, through the Great Than Collective (run by Illegal Pete’s owner Pete Turner). It’s a marvelous, sophisticated effort with at least one song about dinosaurs.
134. Best Coast- The Only Place
Bethany Cosentino polished up her lo-fi surf rock with the help of producer Jon Brion for her second album as Best Coast. The heartfelt lyrics about love, summer, sadness, and California remained, and continued to endear fans by the score.