11. Pixes - "Cecilia Ann"
The Pixie's Bossanova is one of my favorite angsty albums--nothing can boil your vinegar quite like a good Frank Black wail. You've got to wait till track #2 to hear one, though, as the album starts off with "Cecilia Ann", a high-velocity surfrock instrumental. It sounds like "Wipeout" played by hell's houseband.
10. Broken Social Scene - "Meet Me In the Basement"
It's the most recent release to make the cut (it was on last year's Forgiveness Rock Record.) Borne out of the electrohaze coda of "Sentimental X's", it's a spirited lift built around a sturdy string riff. It's as far-reaching as any of BSS's stuff, and serves as a functional intermission in the album's dense midsection.
9. Tom Waits - "Closing Time"
Because I am so cool, I've sat in a downtown Manhattan bar at last call, when the mops are out and the chairs are going up on the tables. This is what that sounds like. "Closing Time"--which punctuates the album of the same name--is mostly drunken trumpets and lounge piano. Keen-eared listeners will note that it isn't strictly instrumental: listen close, and you'll hear an already-gravelly voiced Waits (24 years old, at this point) mumble "Alright, let's do one for posterity."
8. Red House Painters - "Cabezon"
Ocean Beach, the Red House Painters' fourth (and perhaps best) album, begins with a mellow acoustic shuffle. It's simple enough, comprised of a bouncing baseline and a few acoustic guitars sliding over a steady rimshot beat. The warm and easy "Cabezon" deftly establishes the feel of the late-afternoon beachfront, and the rest of the album follows suit, growing darker throughout.
7. Radiohead - "Treefingers"
Kid A was a polarizing album among Radiohead fans--no one disputes this. Detractors might point to "Treefingers" as one of the reasons they gave up on the megagroup. Did the same band that wrote "My Iron Lung" and "Electioneering" really include a four-minute synth track on an album? Actually, it isn't a synth: it's all guitar (processed and sampled, of course.) I always thought this song sounded like aquarium music--I can visualize the blacklist jellyfish exhibit in the Monterey Bay Aquarium when I hear it. On the album, it acts as a recentering device after the frantic final strains of "How to Disappear Completely" die out.