11. The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs (Merge, 1999)

Any music geek obsessive enough to alphabetize his 500+ CD collection needs to hear this extraordinary act of chutzpah from Stephin Merritt: a sprawling three-disc set that catapulted him into modern-day Cole Porter territory. Working with five vocalists (including his ever-distinct low register bellow), at least twenty-five genres, and lots of stuff sung by one gender but written for the other, the sheer bulk of it all is obviously impressive. Not everything's as funny as "A Chicken With Its Head Cut Off" or as lyrically brilliant as "Crazy For You (But Not That Crazy)" or as catchy as "I'm Sorry I Love You" or as moving as "All My Little Words"--if that were the case, 69 Love Songs would be number one on this list. Still, fewer clunkers (or even subpar tracks) surface than you'd expect. I originally fell madly in love with this collection because I thought it was so endearing and sincere to hear these people making music in a tiny little bedroom cramped with piles of second-hand recording equipment (or so I'd like to imagine). Of course, sincerity isn't exactly correct for an auteur so fond of irony and pastiche, but the dedication and talent put into this project is such that you almost believe every last word.