10. The Decemberists, The Crane Wife (2006)
Any album based on a Japanese folk tale carries with it a great degree of ambition, but on The Crane Wife, The Decemberists smartly tempered their ambition (particularly for ten-minute-long epics) with frontman Colin Meloy’s unassuming voice. As a result, The Crane Wife succeeded on both a personal and conceptual level; while “Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)” and “Sons & Daughters” were musically inventive, they remained relatively straightforward where lyrics were concerned. The Crane Wife ably demonstrated that for a group to succeed as much as the Decemberists did in making the past contemporary was no small feat.