99. The Hold Steady, 'Almost Killed Me'
This Brooklyn-via-Minneapolis bar band took the world by surprise. They bashed out Seventies-style riffs as Craig Finn spluttered his one-liners about killer parties gone bad, from "She gets low in her seat when she gets high in her car" to "Mary got a bloody nose from sniffing margarita mix." The songs had a Springsteen-size cast of characters, lost kids staggering through America in search of sex, drugs and salvation. The band sounded so real and raw, so loaded with compassion and wit and raunch, they became a word-of-mouth sensation. Suddenly the 2000s didn't look so hopeless after all.
• Rolling Stone's Original 2004 Review