1. The Gaslight Anthem- "The '59 Sound"
The best record of the year is also the simplest, sonically, on the list. The Gaslight Anthem is not out to re-invent the wheel. They have produced a record steeped in punk and Americana ethos which many artists have visited before.
The result is a wonderfully honest record full of heartache and redemption.
2. The Hold Steady- "Stay Positive"
The best rock band in operation. On its fourth record in five years, the band's hooks are still as killer as they were from day one and Craig Finn's lyrics are just as introspective as ever.
The band stepped up its ballad game on this year's release, crafting gems like "Lord I'm Discouraged" to go along with fist pumping jams like album opener "Constructive Summer."
3. Kanye West- "808's & Heartbreak"
A cold, calculating turn of events from one of pop music's greatest artists. Basically stripping his sound of everything which made him the star he is today, Kanye has turned out an ambitious record full of icy synths and pounding drums. His decision to abandon rapping for the most part and sing through an autotuner only magnifies the record's pitiful, inward looking agenda.
4. TV on the Radio- "Dear Science,"
The most accessible record the band has produced is also a layered, sonically thick listening experience. Grasping the dance, funk aesthetic the band has hinted at over past releases has made their newest one of the most engaging records of the year. The band might be laying on the Bowie and Talking Heads influences a bit thick, but doing it with enough originality and musicianship to remain fresh as ever.
5. Blitzen Trapper- "Furr"
On the band's sophomore effort, it has fell face first into the Americana landscape. Borrowing heavily from folk, Southern rock and psychedelia from previous decades, the band has put together the exact opposite of a sophomore slump.
6. David Byrne & Brian Eno- "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today"
Those expecting a record full of Eno ambience and Byrne spitting nonsense over frustrating soundscapes need to check themselves.This is a pop record through and through. The hooks are sticky sweet and choruses sore over the two men's amazing penchant for crafting near-perfect pop gems. A rare, unexpected treat.
7. Bon Iver- "For Emma, Forever Ago"
Recorded in a secluded cabin in the bare, bleakness of a Wisconsin winter, "For Emma, Forever Ago" is a heartfelt, tear stained masterpiece. Guitars are sparse and when percussion and strings pop up from time to time the instruments are welcome additions to each song's torment. Justin Vernon's aching falsetto only adds to the record's turmoil. A great record for the winter months.
8. The Tallest Man On Earth- "Shallow Graves"
The Tallest Man On Earth is in actuality Scandinavian folk singer Kristian Matsson. His debut record has been tagged "Dylan-esque" by nearly every publication who has taken the time to give the record the publicity it deserves. The tag has been applied rightfully so. Each year an artist or two gets slapped with the tag but for few does it actually resonate. Matsson's plucking guitar and banjo and seamlessly engaging voice are the makings of a rich, elegant folk record which should not be missed.
9. Young Jeezy- "The Recession"
In the past, tough economic and political times fostered great music. I cannot and will not compare Jeezy's latest to Dylan or "Born in the U.S.A." or Public Enemy but it has its moments. The rapper shows his flow is more than just adlibs and and tough talk by discussing the perils of hood life and the importance of our new President elect.
10. Jason Anderson- "The Hopeful and the Unafraid"
Anderson's 2008 release is a great exercise in fun, anthemic rock 'n' roll. Grabbing from The Replacements, Springsteen and contemporaries The Hold Steady, this throaty, barroom stomping rocker is full of jams which are locks to be stuck in heads for days.