(1) The Mars Volta- De-Loused in the Comatorium: I still remember the first time I ever heard this record, and I’ll probably never forget it. Unfortunately, the members’ old band, At the Drive In (who was great, absolutely) get most of the credit for “revolutionizing the genre”. Which genre? Pick one…hard rock, prog rock, prog metal, ambient rock, I don’t care what you call it. Take one listen to De-Loused and tell me it doesn’t change the way you hear and think about music.

(2) Dance Gavin DanceDowntown Battle Mountain: The mixture of fast paced, hard rock, and Jonny Craig’s soulful vocals makes for a new sound that DGD perfected with their second release. Many bands have tried to repeat this sound, but none will ever get the equation quite right.

(3) Sage Francis- A Healthy Distrust: The juxtaposition of hip hop and folk music isn’t something I would have ever thought I would condone. And really, I still don’t. I say leave it to Sage. Lyrical precision, captivating production, and a sound unlike that of any hip hop artist I’ve ever heard.

(4) Cursive- The Ugly Organ: This is one of those that I know has a cult following. I know there ARE people who appreciate the Tim Kasher/Gretta Cohn combination. This is a masterpiece that was approached and written as a full story/live play. “The Ugly Organ” should have been on EVERY top 10 list when it was released, but instead, it was looked over so we could see The White Stripes. Thanks, no one.

(5) The Thermals- More Parts Per Million: Loud, fast, in your face punk rock. Or wait…is it….Sonic Youth’s angry brother? Songs a minute and a half long that have impacted me and my take my music forever. From relationships to political and social awareness, The Thermals leave no stone unturned. The kicker? This album was recorded in the KITCHEN OF A HOTEL ROOM and somehow sounds more powerful than most of the releases of 2003.