20. 7 Worlds Collide – The Sun Came Out
The most underappreciated record of the year brought together the titans of the rock world (Radiohead, Wilco, Johnny Marr) to create, for lack of a better way to explain it, classic rock. If youâ€™re a fan of straightforward classic rock, youâ€™ll like this album. If not, you havenâ€™t listened to â€œThe Weightâ€ enough.
19. Dark Was The Night Compilation
This album was a hipsterâ€™s wet dream, bringing together the best and brightest of the chamber-indie world. There are too many standout tracks to point out just one, so Iâ€™ll just say itâ€™s two albums of sexiness for your ears.
18. St. Vincent â€“ Actor
The best use of layered vocals this year goes to Annie Clark as St. Vincent. While I wasnâ€™t a huge fan of her debut album Marry Me, for some reason I was sucked in by her guitar-shredding, beautifully layered effort here.
17. Rain Machine â€“ S/T
TV on the Radioâ€™s Kyp Malone (the guy with the beard and the falsetto) stepped out on his own this year with his solo debut as Rain Machine. Much darker, slower, and more stylistically straightforward than his TVOTR material, Rain Machine wasnâ€™t a groundbreaker, but a satisfying listen nonetheless.
16. Harlem Shakes – Technicolor Health
Technicolor Health was the catchy, fun summer album of the year for me. Reminding me of a combination of David Byrne, Bob Dylan, Modest Mouse, TH truly was an amalgamation of a wide array of sources into one jumpy effort.
15. The Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come
The Mountain Goats threw a curveball to its audience, as each track is named after a different Bible verse and thematically structured around the given text. With string arrangements by Arcade Fireâ€™s Owen Pallett fleshing out the beautiful song structures, Darnielle truly has returned to form.
14. Tom Waits â€“ Glitter and Doom Live
The first disc of this two disc live record is culled from Waitsâ€™ 2008 tour and acts as a recent â€œGreatest Hitsâ€, per say. The second is 45 minutes of Waits stage banter. Only Tom Waits could get away with this and have still referred to as brilliant.
13. The Dead Weather â€“ Horehound
Down home blues and raunchy attitude from the hardest working man in rockâ€™s other OTHER band. While Jack White may get all the attention, without The Killsâ€™ Alison Mosshart, this record wouldnâ€™t stand on its own two feet. Sheâ€™s probably the only chick in the world that can make you forget that Whiteâ€™s even there.
12. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
â€œLisztomaniaâ€ and â€œ1901â€, two of the best songs of the year, start off this record. Even if the rest of the album was awful (which it most certainly isnâ€™t), this record would probably make my list. Call me what you want, but this is just good pop music.
11. Flaming Lips â€“ Embryonic
Iâ€™ve always thought the Flaming Lips were a bit noisy with their rock, but for the first time in their careers they truly embrace the noisy freakouts their known for on Embryonic. Like the Bird record, I doubt this will win any new fans, but damn if it doesnâ€™t satisfy the freaks.
10. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
While not as initially catchy as his previous works, Noble Beast gave a peak into a different side of Bird. He recorded the album rather quickly in Nashville, Tennessee, taking himself out of his usual comfort zone, and taking listeners into the even deeper recesses of Birdâ€™s mind. And while it may not win over too many new fans, Beast will certainly please the Bird disciples.
9. Atlas Sound â€“ Logos
Bradford Cox won me over this year with this effort. Hushed and introverted, Logos offers more with each listen than any other record this year. Definitely the headphones record of the year for me.
8. Bon Iver – Blood Bank EP
Give me more Justin! Thatâ€™s what I was screaming when this brief 4-song EP closed. What it lacks in length, it makes up for in kick-ass songs. If this is a glimpse of the future with Bon Iver, sign me up.
7. Monsters of Folk â€“ S/T
Getting all these egos together could have been a disaster, but as it turned out, Monsters of Folk is an effort worth the wait, and the time. This was the grower of the year for me, as with each listen, a different song became my favorite track from the album.
6. Wilco - Wilco (the album)
Americanaâ€™s modern heroes were fully back to the forefront this year with an effort that can best be described as fun. Wilco have exorcised their demons, and have come out better for it on the other side.
5. M. Ward – Hold Time
Indie rockâ€™s favorite troubadour is making a strong case as this generationâ€™s Dylan. Hold Time is M. Wardâ€™s most self-assured, stylistically complex, and ultimately rewarding album to date.
4. Royal Bangs – Let It Beep
Beeps, bops, boops, spits, and spats. The most frenetic album on my list is easily Royal Bangsâ€™ Let It Beep; but thatâ€™s also what makes it so great. Catchy in its hooks, and schizophrenic in itâ€™s style, RBâ€™s music doesnâ€™t fit easily into a genre, and I have a feeling they like it that way.
3. White Rabbits – It’s Frightening
Who said good hooks were dead? White Rabbits sophomore effort was easily the most played record of the year for me, and one that certainly wonâ€™t leave my rotation any time soon. Watch out Spoon, your apprentices just might be better.
2. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion/Fall Be Kind EP
Count me among the Animal Collective converts after Merriweather Post Pavilion. Similar to the Grizzly Bear phenomenon, AC went a much more accessible route with this release, and it paid dividends. Adding even more electronics, and really taking cues from Panda Bearâ€™s solo effort Person Pitch, MPP provided one of two groundbreaking musical moments of the year.
1. Grizzly Bear â€“ Veckatimest
While Yellow House was an exceptionally polarizing record, no one could doubt the complete catchiness tracks like â€œTwo Weeksâ€ and â€œAll We Askâ€ this time around for Grizzly Bear on Veckatimest. Perhaps the most unlikely Billboard Top 10 of the year, these classically-trained, chamber pop masters have reached a wider audience (Jay-Z and Beyonce were seen at a show in Brooklyn) and greater heights than many anticipated.