10 all-time favorite albums (as if I could limit it to ten), in no particular order. Albums that really made an impact and are still on your rotation list, even if only now and then.
Welcome to the 2000s (for now at least)! In the early years of this strange, new millennium, living by myself in a new town, I had more time on my hands than I had music to fill it with. Radio was (and remains) an unproductive place to look for new music. Fortunately, I has Spin magazine and the MUCH music channel. Between the two of them, I found more great new music than I had during any other period of my life.
That brings of, naturally, to Mr. Leo and his Pharmacists. Hearts of Oak was an album I bought on the basis of great reviews and a ton of mentions on end-of-year best lists. None of that gave me any sense of what to expect with how it would sound ("dancing about architecture" indeed, and I understand the irony of what I'm doing now). What it sounds like, in a nutshell, was brilliant.
I was intrigued by the intro, "Building Skyscrapers in the Basement", but it was the riff that starts "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?" that made me start giggling like a loony alone in my apartment. I didn't just like this album; I loved it from the first listen. It's guitar rock with a nod or two to Thin Lizzy and The Jam, heart-on-the-sleeve sincere with a complete lack of hipster irony (so, of course, hipsters loved it).
I like Ted Leo so much as a person that I'm sure my bias affects how I hear his music. That may matter when it comes to giving recommendations, but from the point of view of my own enjoyment, I see no reason to separate them. Hearts of Oak is great, in no small part because it restored my belief that great music was still being made, I'd just stopped looking for it.