20. Second Stage Turbine Blade (2002) – Coheed and Cambria
This is the first studio album by progressive rock band Coheed and Cambria, led by the recognizable voice of Claudio Sanchez. It’s funny how I just mentioned The Decemberists above, because here’s another band who writes their lyrics as part of a story. In this album, we’re introduced to the married couple of Coheed and Cambria as they embark on their dangerous sci-fi journey. It might sound a bit ridiculous, but somehow Coheed and Cambria makes it work. Their songs are very thick and complex, and although there are only ten tracks on the album, the length exceeds 55 minutes. Many of their songs are borderline epic.
Favorite track: “Everything Evil”
19. Swiss Army Romance (2000) – Dashboard Confessional
This is the first full-length album by the acoustic-emo band, Dashboard Confessional, led by Chris Carrabba. Before the band exploded onto mainstream success and a full band with its hit “Vindicated” from the Spider-Man soundtrack, Carrabba’s music was very personal and stripped down to solely his acoustic guitar and his belting voice. This is the Dashboard Confessional that I prefer. The songs of Chris Carrabba are more effective when they’re raw rather than over-mixed and performed by a full band. It’s easier to relate to his words and the soft quality of the guitar and vocals makes it friendlier to the listener. It’s one of the albums I most remember from my past.
Favorite track: “The Swiss Army Romance”
18. On a Wire (2002) – The Get Up Kids
Despite mediocre reviews, I was impressed with the mature direction The Get Up Kids decided to venture with their third studio album. Their most popular, and certainly their best album (Something to Write Home About), preceded On a Wire, therefore there were great expectations from the band. But instead of staying on track with their pop-emo sound, they explored experimental tones with slower tempos instead of the catchy hooks the fans were used to. I admit that it took me a bit to get used to On a Wire, but after I did I absolutely loved it.
Favorite track: “Walking on a Wire”
17. …Burn, Piano Island, Burn (2003) – The Blood Brothers
This is my favorite album by these post-hardcore screamers, The Blood Brothers. Their third full-length album, Burn, Piano Island, Burn, is a jagged and intense album from start to finish. The first time I ever heard this group made my jaw drop, but not in a good way. I wasn’t yet ready for the tempo-changing, high-pitch yelling, erratic grindcore The Blood Brothers provided. But as I grew up I appreciated the album for what it was, which is a greatly creative and borderline insane production. And it might be strange to admit this, but through all the screams and unorthodox melodies, it’s still quite a popular and mainstream album. There have been numbers of friends whom I would’ve never predicted to enjoy Burn, Piano Island, Burn. That’s only a portion of the genius. Listen and discover the rest.
Favorite track: “Cecilia and the Silhouette Saloon”
16. Happy Hollow (2006) – Cursive
Cursive is one of my favorite bands, so don’t be surprised to see more albums by these indie-rockers from Omaha on this list. Their fifth studio album, Happy Hollow, takes the listener through a fictional town where we meet people invested in a variety of social issues. It’s a carefully crafted collection of tracks, portraying ideas like the American dream, religion, hypocrisy, and more. Cursive is not a stranger to the concept album, which is a very strong reason why I love these guys so much. Although I’m not a fan of every song on the album, it’s hard not to credit Cursive’s accomplishment with Happy Hollow. Kudos.
Favorite track: “Big Bang”
15. Say It Like You Mean It (2002) – The Starting Line
By no means are The Starting Line the most talented band, but this album is certainly one of my favorites. This is the first album released by the pop-punk band from Pennsylvania and it showed all of the potential that TSL never lived up to. I must’ve scratched the crap out of my Say It Like You Mean It compact disc during my youth because I can still recall every song and practically ever lyric from this album. Packed with insanely catchy tunes that’ll make you want to skip instead of walk, The Starting Line was the premiere pop-punk band in the beginning of the decade.
Favorite track: “This Ride”
14. Neon Bible (2007) – The Arcade Fire
Only the second album by one of Canada’s finest, The Arcade Fire, they’ve already made their stamp on the music scene in a huge way. High in production and deep in meaning, Neon Bible is a magnificent collection of unique songs that explore the ideas of religion on a grand scale. The ominous tones throughout is enough to keep any listener captivated. With dark songs like “Black Mirror” and “Black Waves/Bad Vibrations” to more upbeat tracks like “No Cars Go”, The Arcade Fire has taken the world by storm with their ability to pack messages inside their bigger-than-life songs.
Favorite track: “The Well and the Lighthouse”
13. In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 (2003) – Coheed and Cambria
The progressive rock band, Coheed and Cambria, outdid themselves with their sophomore album to the cult-following of Second Stage Turbine Blade. Blending a number of different influences and musical styles, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 is more ways than not “epic.” Without getting into how the lyrics progress The Amory Wars, Claudio still manages to attract the most mainstream success from this album. With singles like “Blood Red Summer” and “A Favor House Atlantic,” the band received some well-received radio and MTV play. The best aspect about this album is the structure of each individual song. Changing tempos and key signatures two and sometimes three times within a song, these 5+ minute tracks are an adventure in their own right.
Favorite track: “The Crowing”
12. The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most (2001) – Dashboard Confessional
The follow-up to Swiss Army Romance is very similar in style, but a lot more effective. For the majority of the album, Chris Carrabba performs his songs solo, giving it the intimate experience that his fans have grown to love. But for the first time, tracks like “Saints and Sailors” and “The Good Fight” include additional members that make up Dashboard Confessional. He didn’t abandon his acoustic guitar yet and that’s why this will always be one of my favorite albums. Carrabba’s emotion reverberates through the strumming of his guitar and the meaningful cry of his voice. I can’t say I have ever listened to songs that represent so much to a singer than of these.
Favorite track: “The Brilliant Dance”
11. Bleed American (2001) – Jimmy Eat World
This is the fourth studio album by emo-rockers Jimmy Eat World. The album was retitled Jimmy Eat World after the September 11 attacks, and rightfully so. Here is Jimmy Eat World’s strongest and most complete album to date. The album has its ups and down, fast and slow, emotional and fun. It’s a roller-coaster of music. Beginning with the loud and edgy “Bleed American” into two catchier tracks “A Praise Chorus” and their hit single “The Middle,” the band is moving at full speed and doesn’t slow down. Exploring a number of situations revolving around relationships, this album solidifies Jimmy Eat World as emo-legends. I will never get tired of this start-to-finish, entertaining and expressive album.
Favorite track: “Cautioners”