1. Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest (Warp) Answering pre-release pressure with aplomb, Jay-Z's favorite indie rockers continue to bring the quiet storm with unassailable harmonies, suite-like tracks and sticky melodies. Veckatimest closed the indie-rock decade on a stunning high.
2. The Avett Brothers, I and Love and You (American) A major-label contract and the production of Rick Rubin were sure to piss off the Avetts' devoted base. What possibly infuriated them even more was that these choices, along with a near-abandonment of the barn-burning bluegrass tones of their previous highlights, proved to be the right ones.
3. Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino) Some bands hit on a strong debut and spend their careers sliding downhill; others take years and several records before hitting their stride. Animal Collective are one of the few bands with fans who view their career either way, and I'm firmly in camp with the latter; Merriweather finds AC with their poppiest (read: least difficult) set of songs to date.
4. David Bazan, Curse Your Branches (Barsuk) Certainly the year's most curious — and devastating — breakup album, as the former Pedro the Lion leader leaves behind the evangelism of his old band for a grown-up look at faith, love and loss, all set to his finest set of melodies.
5. Built to Spill, There Is No Enemy (Warner Bros.) Don't call it a comeback! Oh, wait, I guess you could, as Doug Martsch and company close what had been a sleepy decade with a record that, much like their mid-to-late '90s peak, manages to always find a sixth gear of riffage and melody.
6. Other Lives, Other Lives (TBD) Formerly a primarily instrumental outfit known as Kunek, this Oklahoma band regrouped with a stronger vocal presence and a new name. Coming across as a sadder, more autumnal Radiohead, Other Lives deserved more buzz for this graceful full-length bow than they received.
7. Girls, Album (True Panther) San Fran duo Girls built upon major SXSW buzz to deliver what is easily the most divisive indie-rock record of the year. Love it or hate it, Christopher Owens' melodies and nerd-king vocals mask a markedly sad Album in a deceptively cheery sound.
8. Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, Know Better Learn Faster (Kill Rock Stars) A nice enough debut in 2008 was scant preparation for Thao Nguyen's breakthrough. Purportedly written and recorded in one week's time, the record's straightforward rock 'n' roll feels far more lived-in than that.
9. Antlers, Hospice (Frenchkiss) A grand, sweeping concept record about illness and death really shouldn't sound this triumphant. It also shouldn't come from someone as young as Antlers leader Peter Silberman, who turns Jeff Buckley and Okkervil River fixations into a wise-beyond-his-years meditation.
10. Vetiver, Tight Knit (Sub Pop) Andy Cabic's friendship with freak-folk leader Devendra Banhart always damned Vetiver with guilt by association. Tight Knit puts that to rest (finally) with a sweet Laurel Canyon vibe.
1. 16, Bridges to Burn (Relapse) California stoner-metal band reunited for a big, ugly ball of pure misanthropy. It's a collection of brass-knuckles tunes about betrayal, disappointment and wasted time. "Flake" is the riff of the year.
2. Mastodon, Crack the Skye (Reprise) Rock heroes rebound after a dud, splitting the difference between metal and prog.
3. Neko Case, Middle Cyclone (Anti-) The red-headed Canadian alt-country/indie queen presents herself as either the best or worst girlfriend ever — and the only way to find out which is to die trying. Which seems like a totally worthwhile risk.
4. Kylesa, Static Tensions (Prosthetic) This Georgia band's rocking, psychedelia-tinged metal is a must-hear alternative to the overhyped snoozefest that is Baroness's Blue Album.
5. Mr. Gnome, Heave Yer Skeleton (El Marko) Co-ed Cleveland duo overlap witchy vocals and fractured riffs. The hypnotic disc sounds like both a siren call and the ensuing shipwreck.
6. Sage Francis, Sick of Wasting ... (Strange Famous) This free-download mixtape samples Bowie's "Fame" and Joy Division's "She's Lost Control." But mostly, it's nice to hear someone just say "Fuck you, Sarah Palin" (in "Pump").
7. Hot Cha Cha, The World's Hardest Working Telescope and the Violent Birth of Stars (Exit Stencil). All-woman Cleveland quartet writes fun, bouncy, sexy pop tunes that evoke Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon songs and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at their best. Frontwoman Jovana Batkovic sings in at least three languages and writes songs with actual subtext.
8. Converge, Axe to Fall (Epitaph) Volcanic album of metallic hardcore with long passages you can chill out to. Seriously.
9. Slayer, World Painted Blood (American) Title is crud, album is rad. Thrash gods' best since 1990.
10. Doomriders, Darkness Come Alive (Deathwish Inc.) Members of Converge and Cave In collaborate on stoner-hardcore songs about how people are motherfuckers, but fuck 'em and don't let 'em win. I see this as a positive message.
11. Skarhead, Drugs Music Sex (I Scream) Some of the catchiest New York hardcore in years, a grooving Grand Theft Auto thrill ride.
12. Tegan and Sara, Sainthood (Sire) Sister duo and their backing team bounce back with an LP that could have been an '80s classic from either the new-wave or college-rock eras.
1. Placebo, Battle for the Sun (Vagrant) Placebo didn't just get a new drummer, they also got their second wind. Battle for the Sun is now tied with Without You I'm Nothing for my favorite Placebo record — believe me, that's no easy task.
2. Our Lady Peace, Burn Burn (Coalition Entertainment) After their lackluster 2006 effort, Healthy in Paranoid Times, Raine Maida and company went back to the drawing board for the brooding Burn Burn.
3. Matthew Good, Vancouver (Universal Canada) It seemed like it'd be impossible to top Matthew Good's 2007 record, Hospital Music. Vancouver comes about as close as humanly possible, which still means it's way better than most albums.
4. Moby, Wait for Me (Mute) It's not the first time Moby has thrown us a curveball, and that's why we love him so much. Wait for Me is slightly apocalyptic and depressing in tone, and has more guitars than it does drum beats. Misery loves company
5. Hayden, The Place Where We Lived (Hardwood) The Canadian folkster returns with a somber break-up record that simply aches with sadness. It's unfortunate that Americans go crazy for Bright Eyes but still aren't hip to Hayden — get with the program, people!
6. P.O.S., Never Better (Rhymesayers) Forget the new disc by Jay-Z. Minneapolis' P.O.S. easily had the best hip-hop album of 2009. If you're one of those people who complain that rap sucks today, try saying that after hearing Never Better.
7. Eels, Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire (Vagrant) Maybe I'm biased, as I've never not liked an Eels record, but Hombre Lobo is absolutely fantastic. It's got the perfect balance of lo-fi sentimental tunes and fuzzy foot-stomping rockers.
8. Cage, Depart From Me (Definitive Jux) Cage reinvents himself and creates his best work to date. It's dark, it's moody and it reaches outside the boundaries of hip-hop. Maybe Chris Palko will finally get the respect he's always deserved.
9. Blockhead, The Music Scene (Ninja Tune) While he's most known as Aesop Rock's producer, Blockhead's solo discs are severely underrated. The Music Scene will please DJ Shadow fans tired of waiting for him to top Endtroducing ... .
10. Passion Pit, Manners (Frenchkiss) Sure, it got a ton of annoying hype from hipsters, but Manners deserves the praise. You'd think that dude's high- pitched voice would get old, but for some reason, it still hasn't.
1. Passion Pit, Manners (Frenchkiss) Michael Angelakos has the gayest hetero falsetto since Barry Gibb, but his band's debut album wouldn't be the indie-disco monster it is without it. The sun-kissed synths are the heart of Manners, but the soul belongs to the kids' choir that powers several songs. One of the decade's happiest records.
2. Miranda Lambert, Revolution (Columbia Nashville) This Nashville bad-ass kills her supper, refuses to play dress-up and takes zero shit from anyone. On her terrific third album, she explores the divide between the left and right, the blue and red, and the pretty and the ugly. It's a monumental record filled with great songs and kick-ass attitude.
3. Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote) Just when you thought France was capable of spawning only dangerously hip electronic duos, these dangerously hip indie-rockers inject their cheery songs with blasts of brittle guitar and relatively soulful vocals. Plus, they have hooks as big as the Eiffel Tower. Oui, oui!
4. Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino) These NYC noisemakers get a little less noisy and a little more tuneful on their eighth album, a psych-soaked mash-up of Beach Boys pet sounds and tribal freakouts. There are no real songs here — just a series of not-so-random sounds that fall together in gorgeous, four-minute chunks.
5. The-Dream, Love vs. Money (Radio Killa/Def Jam) The year's best R&B record is filled with bedroom jams for people who like some winks served with their bump-and-grind. The-Dream wrote Rihanna's "Umbrella" and Beyoncé's "Single Ladies," so he knows how to hook. On this towering album, he also shows he has staying power.
6. Jay-Z, The Blueprint 3 (Roc Nation/Atlantic) It's more a collection of great singles than a knockout album (the first Blueprint is the standard), but what great singles: "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)," "Run This Town" and "Empire State of Mind," which hit one after the other in the sequence. Plus, Jigga still has hip-hop's smoothest flow.
7. Green Day, 21st Century Breakdown (Reprise) Green Day's second concept album about how fucked we all are contains Billie Joe Armstrong's best batch of songs since Dookie. It's also a tougher record than American Idiot. The whole rock-opera thing falls together as haphazardly as it did in the '70s, but it sure beats those clunky Yes albums.
8. U2, No Line on the Horizon (Interscope) Originally seen as the third part of the band's new-millennium resurgence, Horizon now sounds like a self-reflective meditation on the two albums it released earlier this decade. It's big, heroic and epic — everything you want from U2. It's also vulnerably human beneath all the myth-making.
9. Bruce Springsteen, Working on a Dream (Columbia) Springsteen's most hopeful album in years is also his loosest. After the stifled Magic, the Boss quickly went into the studio with his band and recorded a set of songs about love, life and Obama. It's sexy, optimistic and brimming with casual songcraft. It's the sound of legend settling in.
10. Neko Case, Middle Cyclone (Anti-) On this nature noir, the modern-day torch singer imagines herself as Mother Nature, a killer twister and a big-ass whale. It's all very epic and earthy, right down to the endless choir of crickets that ends the record. Case breaks down genres into spectacular set pieces that are as big as her voice.
1. Mr. Gnome, Heave Yer Skeleton (El Marko) When it comes to otherworldly rock 'n' roll, Cleveland's Mr. Gnome tops the list for amazingly ethereal albums. On Heave Yer Skeleton, singer-guitarist Nicole Barille and drummer Sam Meister create a moody dream world of two-piece punk, smashing guitar-textured tectonic plates with hypnotic atmospheric effects and volcanic percussive power.
2. The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Communion (Yep Roc) In a year full of impressive Swedish releases, the fifth album from Gothenburg's retro rockers is the best record to emerge from Europe in 2009. These 24 songs recapture the folk-rock psychedelia of '60s bands like Love and the Byrds with hook-heavy guitar rock that's as carefree and complex as its new-age hippie title and cover.
3. Royce da 5'9", Street Hop (M.I.C.) Detroit's Royce da 5'9" may be in league with Eminem and his vanity project D12, but 2009's Street Hop is better back-alley poetry than anything in the Motor City. Through a murky prism of breakbeat production, vivid storytelling and great guest appearances (from DJ Premier to Busta Rhymes), Royce da 5'9" creates a hip-hop masterpiece that's as unforgiving as classic rap albums from BDP and Rakim.
4. Coffinberry, Coffinberry (Collectible Escalators) Cleveland's alt-rock underdogs record a lo-fi classic in their basement on West 117th Street. The 14 tracks on Coffinberry's self-titled sophomore album are full of down-and-out strangers sung by the Cross brothers — blue-collar roots rockers, filtered, distorted and re-recorded to morph everything from acid folk to heartland rock.
5. The Swell Season, Strict Joy (Anti-) Glen Hansard's Irish alt-pop outfit the Frames have been making bittersweet melancholy rock since the early '90s, but never has he reached the beautiful orchestrated echelons of the Swell Season (his side project with Czech multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Markéta Irglová). You'll have a hard time finding anything more cohesive, vibrant and charming released in 2009.
6. Mount Eerie, Wind's Poem (P.W. Elverum & Sun) For those who enjoy obtuse and awesomely bizarre musical adventures, Wind's Poem should be a big fuck-you to most Top 10 lists. As Mount Eerie, Phil Elverum has been creating some of the most dynamic and difficult soundscapes in indie-rock since 2003. Not only is Wind's Poem as whimsical and creepy as its title suggests, this CD/double album is full of two types of songs — black metal guitar static and vintage slowcore.
7. Kid Tested, Pop Era Laundry (self-released) Cleveland's mad punk science project Kid Tested is a dark, buzzing trio that simultaneously subverts and pays tribute to the metal-grunge greatness of Seattle's heyday. On its highly unstable debut album, Pop Era Laundry, the band embraces guitar squall, shuns macho-metal stupidity and formulates 13 songs of pure proto-punk voltage. It's the culmination of seven years' songwriting by frontman Shawn Mishak, and finally these waves of noise are storming Lake Erie's shores.
8. Lily Allen, It's Not Me, It's You (Capitol) Maybe it's because Lily Allen has a mouth like a longshoreman, singing one second about giving head, the next telling George W. Bush "fuck you very much." Perhaps it's the way she's a drunken ass like British pop stars are evidently supposed to be. But it's most likely because It's Not Me, It's You is the most deliciously complete album of the year.
9. And So I Watch From Afar, And So I Watch From Afar (Smalltown) Innovative Irish music outfits dominate the list. While Glen Hansard created the year's most poignant pop record, And So I Watch From Afar has forged 2009's sharpest and most magnetic metal album. These four lads pay homage to the cosmic post-rock of Mogwai with jet-fueled instrumentals.
10. Dan Auerbach, Keep It Hid (Nonesuch) The voice and guitar behind Akron blues-rock duo the Black Keys, Dan Auerbach released a dynamic and diverse solo album in 2009. Combining the psychedelic soul of songs such as "Heartbroken, In Disrepair" with the poignant folk of tunes like "When the Night Comes," Auerbach navigates a whole new river of brooding guitar blues.
1. Jeremy Udden, Plainville (Fresh Sound New Talent) If Wilco played Americana-infused jazz, they might sound like Jeremy Udden.
2. Ben Allison, Think Free (Palmetto) Sharp, clever, organic jazz made by rock fans.
3. Pastels/Tenniscoats, Two Sunsets (Domino) Twee, retro, tender, cozy, comforting and low-budget without being lo-fi.
4. Wadada Leo Smith, Spiritual Dimensions (Cuneiform) Wadada Leo Smith emerged from the late ’60s avant-garde but he refused to be limited even by its conventions; today he’s making jazz that crackles like Miles Davis’ best electric music without sounding anything like it.
5. Pugwash, Giddy (Ape) Andy Partridge’s own Ape label brings America (and the world at large) an Irish band that beats the High Llamas and Eric Matthews at their own game — retro-pop nirvana!
6. Or, The Whale, Or, The Whale (Seany) Imagine the Band at their Big Pink peak crossed with Sandy Denny-era Fairport Convention. This sophomore disc is loaded with powerfully evocative songs and wonderful singing.
7. Towner Galaher, Courageous Hearts (self-released) Smoking hot hard bop jazz played with the fury and gusto of the early Clash and circa mid-’60s James Brown’s JBs.
8. Rosanne Cash, The List (Manhattan) One of the best tributes to not only her late father but to country music itself.
9. Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, Know Better Learn Faster (Kill Rock Stars) 1960s pop/Motown/folk-rock for the brooding (and unbowed) broken-hearted, both quirky and gutsy.
10. Tinariwen, Imidiwan: Companions (World Village) Truly a band of… wandering minstrels, this band of desert Africans (Tuaregs) play what can only be described as North African psychedelic blues that could put a scare into Spiritualized and R.L. Burnside.
1. The Big Pink, A Brief History of Love (4AD) The London-based duo takes the best elements of shoegazer and noise-rock and layers them onto attention-getting rhythms for something that stands well above a hipster scene drowning in its obsessions with the avant-garde.
2. Jesu, Opiate Sun EP (Caldo Verde) Where Godflesh epitomized crushing sonic oppression, Jesu radiate catharsis and open-air release, using sprawling guitar dirges and organic drumming. Justin Broadrick once again proves you can take "heavy music" into rarely explored areas and put something both interesting and hard to define.
3. White Lies, To Lose My Life ... (Geffen) Basically everything that Interpol's last album should have been. Yes, White Lies wear their post-punk influences on their sleeves. But they do wear them well, as the title track demonstrates.
4. RevCo, Sex-O Olympic-O (13th Planet) Granted, besides Al Jourgensen's participation, this iteration of RevCo has a completely new lineup. However, they've held themselves closely to what the touring band of brigands have always been about: salaciousness and excesses down on the farm. Not for the easily offended.
5. GWAR, Lust in Space (Metal Blade) Speaking of easily offending, heavy metal's ultimate piss-take once again leave their listeners either banging their heads or gagging in a fit of disgust. Either way, listeners inexplicably come back for more.
6. Apoptygma Berzerk, Rocket Science (Harddrive) With Rocket Science, Stephan Groth turns things around and puts together a solid rock album in a slick electro wrapper. This is the record the Killers wish they would have made.
7. False Icons, God Complex (13th Planet) God Complex strikes the right tone for an industrial-rock record — complex electronics and technical skills mated to solid song structure. False Icons offer the strongest qualities of a genre often stuck in the early '90s in songs relevant to today.
8. Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions, Through the Devil Softly (Nettwerk) Although Mazzy Star have been inactive for nearly 13 years, singer Hope Sandoval's current musical project keeps much of her previous band's sound alive, adding touches from blues and alt-country.
9. Faunts, Feel.Love.Thinking.Of (Friendly Fire) Faunts' latest full-length makes for intense listening, fusing together warm synthesizer inspired by Vangelis' Blade Runner soundtrack to intriguing guitar work reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine. It's a sinister recording, both musically and lyrically, with so many suggestions and subtexts.
10. Loop, Heaven's End (Reactor) Robert Hampson dug up the masters of his former band, Loop, and meticulously restored the original recordings, which had been out of print for nearly 18 years. Hampson spares no effort in providing a complete package, including alternate mixes and noise-laden Peel Sessions.
1. Neko Case, Middle Cyclone (Anti-) Case has outgrown the alt-country ghetto, conjuring a sultry, sophisticated rock sway and developing songwriting chops strong enough to match her peerless, heart-melting vocals.
2. Japandroids, Post-Nothing (Polyvinyl) Drenched in distortion, the Vancouver duo distills the roar of Superchunk, shout-along vocals reminiscent of the oi! movement and bristling vibrancy comparable to noise rockers No Age. These elements coalesce into something catchier than it has a right to be.
3. Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca (Dominos) Adding a pair of female vocalists to his quirky disjunctive arrangements, DP auteur Dave Longstreth weaves subtle snaking melodies through the most vocally arresting album of the year. It's exceedingly idiosyncratic but big and strangely alluring.
4. Avett Brothers, I And Love And You (American) Continuing a dizzying creative trajectory, the Americana band completes its transformation into a great pop band on its Rick Rubin-produced major- label debut. The beautiful harmonies, intelligent, evocative lyrics and rich pop sensibilities boast a broad appeal like the Beatles.
5. St. Vincent, Actor (4AD) Like taking a Cuisinart to your music collection, Annie Clark combines a dizzying array of tones — baroque pop, experimental rock, jazz, electro-pop — veering from pretty to abrasive with gymnastic grace. The music clothes deep-reaching and affecting lyrical themes of equal sophistication.
6. Mastodon, Crack the Skye (Reprise) The epic album they've been building toward all along, the thick moody roar blends metal and art-rock into a style the transcends description. More than just technically impressive, its genre-spanning musical fluency conveys emotion more effectively than anything they've created.
7. Converge, Axe to Fall (Epitaph) The culmination of their groundbreaking career, Converge offer a similar program to Mastodon, only calibrated for the hardcore set with a feral intensity and brutality as dark as Sauron's sphincter. This album could break rocks on a chain gang.
8. Brother Ali, Us (Rhymesayers) A full-bodied rap album that digs deep into Motown soul and conjures memories of golden-age hip-hop without being trapped in the past. Ali's storytelling is even tighter than usual and the music really grooves.
9. Camera Obscura, My Maudlin Career (4AD) This Scottish ensemble composes another album of subtle, intoxicating beauty beholden to '60s pop buoyed by hearth-like melodic warmth and Tracyanne Campbell's aching, unflinching honesty.
10. Girls, Album (True Panther) Though over-hype plagues most blogger darlings, this SF duo's debut is exceedingly charming, surrounding sunny '60s Cali-pop in atmospheric sway balanced by a nasal hipster croon that grounds it fear and (self-)loathing.
1, Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote) Phoenix deserves their recent Grammy nomination and the worldwide recognition they're getting for crafting 40 minutes of near-perfect ear candy for the synth-loving generation. On Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the Parisians reveal how to transform '80s cheese into an album of spunky pop effervescence and experimental wonder.
2. Japandroids, Post-Nothing (Polyvinyl) My love for this album is as vapid and shallow as its lyrics, which are passionate odes to lust and reckless young behavior. The loud, lo-fi debut, a messy mastery by two dudes from Vancouver, is ferociously alive with rollicking drum fills, biting guitar licks and unison shouting.
3. St. Vincent, Actor (4AD) On Annie Clark's second album under the St. Vincent moniker, her angelic voice is haunting and her cinematic orchestra recalls romantic French cinema. Then she pulverizes all that beauty with ferociously angry synths and irregular chord progressions, twisting Actor into one of the most thrilling, startling rides of the year.
4. Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest (Warp) The songs on Veckatimest build on 2006's critically acclaimed Yellow House, adding a fourth dimension with layered vocals, hints of dreamlike ambient guitar, and swelling choruses. "Two Weeks" finds the four-member band at its best; frontman Ed Droste's voice floats over bright, sparkling piano like a honey-sweet Jens Lekman.
5. The Avett Brothers, I and Love and You (American) How often do you find a band that writes utterly sincere music, masters the spirit of Appalachian punk and folky balladry, and gets Rick Rubin to produce an absolutely flawless tribute to love? Get your hands on this album.
6. Dan Auerbach, Keep It Hid (Nonesuch) He's no Barry White, but the Black Keys' guitarist takes sexy to a new level on a solo album full of blues-ridden rock and soulful crooning, where the slow-churning ballads are as hot as the barnburners.
7. Metric, Fantasies (Metric Music International) Emily Haines continues her rein as hottest frontwoman of the decade. As she wails atop skittering drums and hooky electronics, your legs are prone to cramping from all the uncontrollable dancing you'll be doing.
8. White Rabbits, It's Frightening (TBD) If the members of Spoon had a musical baby, it would sound a lot like White Rabbits. Boasting tribal dual drumming, spastic keyboard plunking and scratchy, indier-than-though vocal stylings, It's Frightening is a blast of hipster greatness.
9. Bowerbirds, Upper Air (Dead Oceans) My summer was devoted to Upper Air. I woke up to the delicate piano of "Northern Lights", fell asleep to the harp-like finger-picking on "Crooked Lust" and spent hours telling my friends about the spacious, natural beauty this North Carolina duo captured.
10. M. Ward, Hold Time (Merge) Embarrassing secret: I was so stuck on the timeless energy of M. Ward's latest masterpiece that, while listening to his Buddy Holly cover, it took me five listens before I realized he was not crooning "When you say I love you, I say Ray Vaughn." It was "Rave On."
Michael David Toth
1. 357 Lover, Diorama of the Golden Lion (self-released) The new band featuring indie rock accordionist/singer Corn Mo. This debut sounds like they were attempting an album like Sparks' Propaganda or Ween's Mollusk. And they actually succeed. Gloriously.
2. I Was a King, I Was a King (Control Group) These Norwegian psychedelic power-poppers masterfully assimilate everything cool about Creation Records acts like Teenage Fanclub, Ride and the Boo Radleys.
3. Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino) For years, Animal Collective hinted at yet-to-be-realized masterpiece potential. This dense slab of pervasive pop euphoria is it.
4. Afternoon Naps, Parade (Happy Happy Birthday to Me) The national debut from one of the most charming bands to ever emerge from Cleveland. The quirky bubblegum/twee pop tunes glow warmly with vibrant personality.
5. Benjy Ferree, Come Back to the Five and Dime Bobby Dee Bobby Dee (Domino) A wonderfully weird study of the sordid life of Disney child actor Bobby Driscoll that offers a distinctly American twist on 1970s U.K. glam rock.
6. John Wesley Harding, Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead (Rebel Group) Although the "singer-songwriter" genre overall feels tired and spent lately, veteran Harding delivers the most exquisitely crafted album of his career.
7. The Handsome Furs, Face Control (Sub Pop) The latest from the husband/wife guitar/synth duo featuring Wolf Parade's Dan Boeckner. The happy couple hurls a fierce onslaught of irresistible, urgent, melodic, danceable noise.
8. The Postmarks, Memoirs at the End of the World (Unfiltered) Classy, epic, female-vocal orchestral pop that's deliciously inspired by exotic 1960s soundtracks, particularly James Bond scores.
9. Princeton, Cocoon of Love (Kanine) Unusually mature debut from this young band. A lush stylistic mix of the Kinks, Joy Division and Belle & Sebastian.
10. Green Day, 21st Century Breakdown (Reprise) Kudos to the Dookie dudes for preserving the dying art of the thoughtful — but still accessible and catchy — mainstream-rock concept album.