5 ALBUMS: Furnace Room Lullaby (2000); Blacklisted (2002); The Tigers Have Spoken (2004); Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006); Middle Cyclone (2009)
WHY: Because it’s hard to do much wrong when you have that voice. Beginning as one of many promising talents in the late-’90s alt-country scene, Case quickly moved far beyond that, applying her laserlike alto to the kind of dusty-needle balladry that occupied the B-sides of jukebox 45s in the late ’50s. With each record, she gets more focused and, thus, more devastating, every note sounding like it was wrung directly from her bruised-but-beating heart.
POTENTIAL STREAK-ENDER: A jokey bluegrass record called Smokin’ Hashtags, with lyrics culled from Case’s never-ending Twitter feed. J.K.
5 ALBUMS: This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About (1996); The Lonesome Crowded West (1997); The Moon and Antarctica (2000); Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004); We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (2007)
WHY: Isaac Brock and gang managed to score a pop single and sell two million albums on a major without sounding fundamentally different from when they were oddball Portland-scene mainstays. And anyone who responds to going double-platinum by hiring Johnny Marr to join the band has a pretty good instinct for fighting off complacency.
POTENTIAL STREAK-ENDER: Sudden friendship with Morrissey. STEVE KANDELL
THEE OH SEES
6 ALBUMS: The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In (2008); Help (2009); Dog Poison (2009); Warm Slime (2010); Castlemania (2011); Carrion Crawler/The Dream (2011)
WHY: After a few tosses as expressionist reverb ghosts, these cheer-bombs rebaptized themselves in Jolt Cola and lava-lamp fluid in 2008, emerging as high-octane, harmony-soaked, paisley-plastered Zombies punx. Through the years they’ve succeeded in making very small tweaks to their sound while losing none of their manic energy.
POTENTIAL STREAK-ENDER: They discover the “White Album.” Or undiscover white powder. C.W.