By: By Maxwell Paparella
20) Be Your Own PET – Get Awkward
Although nowhere near the spunk and originality of their debut, this release tries to compensate with pure energy, which works much better as a live show, one I was privileged to experience earlier this year. It was sad to see them break-up prematurely just a few months later, but I doubt this is the last we've heard of any of these Thurston Moore-approved Nashvillians.
19) Sebastien Grainger & The Mountains – Sebastien Grainger & The Mountains
Honestly, I didn't listen to the album proper very much, but the early demos received such heavy play that I felt the LP deserved a nod. The final product's a little overproduced for my taste, but track down the demos and you'll be treated to a fulfilling collection of yelps and power chords. Helped me out of my DFA79 withdrawal.
18) Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Lie Down In The Light
Pleasant, restrained folk music that might have been better appreciated in 1968. Lives somewhere in between going to church and listening to Paul Simon. In a good way.
17) Thank You – Terrible Two
A driving, percussion-driven trip. Noisemakers and sleigh bells abound, somehow coming off as inspired.
16) Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing
Droning, shouting two-man experiments in sound that provide exciting and original results.
15) Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
All the hyperbole aside, this is a remarkably confident debut from a group of Ivy League urbanites with nothing to sing about but Louis Vuitton and vacation towns.
14) The Very Best - Esau Mwamwaya and Radioclit are The Very Best
A collection of originals, covers, and pseudo-remixes that somehow remains consistent and cohesive. Its world/dance tunes offer an exciting taste of what's to come when their official full-length hits shelves next year.
13) Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles
Thumping, grinding, explosive dance music for those with the time and energy to actually get up and dance.
12) Burbis – Curse of the Golden Dracula
Showing some local love for an instrumental band that takes their sound beyond Explosions In The Sky's (astonishingly effective) quiet-loud-quiet dynamic. Album stand-out "Surf Song" alone puts most peers to shame.
11) The Mae Shi – HLLLYH
A pop masterpiece, especially when everyone's singing at once. You wouldn't know it was a concept record about religious paranoia unless I told you.
10) Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
Heartbreakingly beautiful songs complimented by Justin Vernon's twangy acoustic guitar and mournful falsetto. A break-up album for the ages.
9) Max Tundra – Parallax Error Beheads You
Six years in the making, this album feels fully conceptualized and balanced. Don't let the Nintendo sounds fool you.
8) Animal Collective – Water Curses EP
The remnants of their Strawberry Jam recording sessions yield a surprisingly-cohesive, bubbly release in their own right.
7) Vivian Girls – Vivian Girls
Washed-out, punk-y, surf-y bliss. A good reason to like girls. Best experienced in an automobile on repeat.
6) Beck – Modern Guilt
Forget its lukewarm critical reception, this is his best-crafted album ever. I've had a problem with Danger Mouse's mellow, clean production on other albums (notably Attack & Release by The Black Keys,) but here it emphasizes the best elements of Beck's sound.
5) Ponytail – Ice Cream Spiritual
Incredibly urgent, indulgent, and excited. It's no coincidence that this 33.9 minutes of feel-good is about the duration of a typical sugar high.
4) Marnie Stern – This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That
A frenzied trip up and down the frets of Marnie's electric, this album is much more than a mouthful. While her previous effort, In Advance Of The Broken Arm, got played out after fifteen or twenty listens, this one should never leave the turntable.
3) The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride
Far and away the most lyrically-brilliant album of the year, and elegant delivery and instrumentation to match. A godless, soulful masterpiece. The only album on this list that made me cry.
2) Man Man – Rabbit Habits
After two albums of raspy-voiced, jangly abundance and variety, Man Man released an extremely focused effort. Every note is pitch-perfect (except when they're not supposed to be) and every song is a hit.
1) No Age – Nouns
Sun-drenched punk rock that sinks into your soul and stays there. This album provides insightful, genre-be-damned experiments in sonic excellence. Plus Dean and Randy seem like the kind of guys you'd invite over for a DIY, all-ages, vegan-tastic good time.