Best albums of the decade: Hank Shteamer

1. Cheer-Accident Introducing Lemon (Skin Graft, 2003). Tons of weird rock records have streamed out of Chicago over the past two decades, but none have blended pop smarts and avant-garde impulses as skillfully as this marvelous brainteaser of an album.

2. Andrew Hill A Beautiful Day (Palmetto, 2002). One of the most beautiful and unusual jazz releases of this or any decade found pianist Andrew Hill (RIP) successfully translating his inimitable brand of fractured lyricism to the large-ensemble idiom. Many praised an unearthed 1969 Hill nonet session, Passing Ships, upon its 2003 release, but A Beautiful Day makes it sound like a mere warm-up.

3. Graham Smith & KGW Yes Boss (self-released, 2008). Has any songwriter ever done a better job of funneling emotional anguish into hyperliterate, sad-funny pop than DIY genius Graham Smith did here? (Grab the album as a pay-more-or-less-what-you-wish download here, and find out for yourself.)

4. Ween
White Pepper (Elektra, 2000). Listeners who thought they had Ween pegged as a lo-fi novelty act couldn't help but be dazzled by the array of styles and moods on this lush, multigenre fantasia.

5. Hella Hold Your Horse Is (5 Rue Christine, 2002). It's exceedingly rare to hear a musician breaking down a technical barrier over the course of a single album. But Zach Hill's fantastically dense percussive assault on Hold Your Horse Is represented the next frontier in drum-set mastery after the work of '70s-era giants such as Neil Peart and Billy Cobham. It didn't hurt that Hill and guitarist Spencer Seim's math-rock instrumentals were as catchy as they were complex. Lightning Bolt got much of the glory, but it was this incarnation of Hella that truly revolutionized the art of the seismic future-rock duo.

6. The Strokes Is This It (RCA, 2001). I was too cool to admit I loved the Strokes when they first emerged. Eight years on, I blast "Soma," "Hard to Explain" and the rest of this garagey yet carefully plotted masterpiece with pride.

7. Krallice
Krallice (Profound Lore, 2008). Heavy music matured infinitely over the past decade, and there's no better proof than this grim yet gorgeous slab of progressive black metal.

8. Deerhoof Milk Man (Kill Rock Stars, 2004). Paving the way for Ponytail and other boldly peculiar indie sensations of the past few years, this intrepid San Francisco outfit issued record after record in the aughts that suggested an alternate-reality version of the Beatles: utterly off-the-wall yet wholly accessible. Milk Man is where the band really hit its stride.

9. Propagandhi Supporting Caste (Smallman, 2009). I've spun this vitriolic prog-punk masterpiece so many times since its release this past March, it feels like a years-old favorite.

10. Elliott Smith Figure 8 (DreamWorks, 2000). Many preferred this sadly departed songwriter's stripped-down early work, but for my money, he was at his best on this tastefully fleshed-out chamber-pop triumph.

Click past the jump for my favorite single of the decade.

Best single of the decade:

Lumidee "Never Leave You (Uh-Oooh)" (Universal, 2003). Yearning hooks from this young Puerto Rican singer mingled with an ultraminimal beat, yielding a hauntingly spare track that outclassed every other R&B hit of the aughts.