Let's light this candle:
10. Thee Oh Sees, Help -- Fronted by wildman John Dwyer, this San Francisco band have been around in various forms this decade. This was the year they finally gained some recognition for their intense live shows, which spawns from this killer album. With tracks that bristle with kinetic garage rock goodness, the album has the rawness and immediacy that you see in their live shows. While it may not be high-art, but it is high-fun, and sometimes that's what you need -- old fashion driving rock 'n' roll.
9. The Mummers, Tale to Tell -- It was love at first sight when I first heard of The Mummers. Their debut album takes its inspiration from film soundtracks, orchestral pop and vaudeville. When you think of about, calling themselves the Mummers was an appropriate choice, you get a sense with each track of colorful characters marching through magical landscapes. Like with No. 1 album on this list, with every listen I find little nuances that poke presents itself. Take a listen to Wonderland, where you hear a little warped electronic flourish in-between the horns and strings.
8. Headless Heroes, The Silence Of Love -- Released in the U.K. in 2008 and in the U.S. this year, the project spearheaded by Eddie Bezalel and Hugo Nicholson and sung by Alela Diane is a tribute to making music just for the heck of doing it without commercial aspirations. The end result is 10 cover songs that don't come up as cover songs. The aim was to make something new and unexpected. Take the Daniel Johnson's "True Love Will Find You In The End." The original is stripped down, lo-fi recording. Headless Heroes makes it sweeping, epic and more emotional. "Just Like Honey" is reinvented as if Lee Hazelwood wrote it.
7. Heartless Bastards, The Mountain -- From Headless to Heartless, I'm surprised that I didn't see this album on any Top 10 lists. Where critics and taste makers just have short-term memories or are they blinded by the trendy likes of Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear and Dirty Projector?. What you hear in the Heartless Bastards third album is called rock. It's guitars, passion and personality. Similar to the best of Lucinda Williams, Erika Wennerstrom's pain and perseverance comes through in the title track and "Hold Your Head High."
6. Passion Pit, Manners -- On the surface, Passion Pit's debut album can be looked as a bunch of dudes looking for the next party in the cool, underground warehouse district. In actuality, the guys from New England are out to make music that doesn't belong in the velvet rope clubs. It's the same term I use for LCD Soundsystem -- it's dance music for people who don't like dance music. A lot of the electric artists that go in and out of the music scene rely heavily on computer output, but Passion Pit use the electronics to bring out their personality. When you listen to Manners, you hear musicians, not computers.
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It's Blitz -- Looking back at the music movements this decade, my first thoughts come from the beginning of the decade with three indie to mainstream superstars of the New York scene -- YYYs, The Strokes and Interpol. All three bands did their time playing the small clubs in Manhattan and eventually to the big tims national exposure during the chaos of 2001. The Yeahs were the band that didn't want to repeat themselves with their next album, while the other two essentially made the same album with their second effort. Not many people grabbed onto Show Your Bones because it was more melodic and not a "party" album like Fever to Tell. I think it was an album they had to make in order to have a lasting career and be well-rounded artists. Well, gang, It's Blitz is their party album, but done on a global scale. This would have been a masterpiece if it was released in 1999, with the dawn on a new millennium. It's Blitz is glittery and glammy without being gaudy. Karen O stretches her sweet vocals while Nick Zinner can still get wicked with some crazy guitar parts.
4. Neko Case, Middle Cyclone -- Speaking of survivors, Neko Case has been breaking hearts and trying to figure out our world for two decades. In a wild fluctuating music scene where bands have come and gone, Neko Case is making her best music on her own terms. As I've said many times, sometimes great songwriting in lyricism is hard to find. She's made her best album with songs about the weather and her love of the animal kingdom. Even if you're not into looking at linear notes and reading lyrics along with the songs, the music on Middle Cyclone will make you think of the open road, if you have to jump of Mercury Cougar with a sword to get yourself in the mood.
3. Florence & The Machine, Lungs -- My No. 1 New Artist of 2009 had an album that could have easily been at the top. It takes a special kind of performer to make a debut that pulls no punches. Florence Welch has no fear. She's going to win you over with a powerful voice and a production that takes her spirit to the high level. Each song is a epic piece of wonderment and shout from the mountaintop vocals. It's one of the albums where you feel like you can take on the world after listening to it. Out of all the acts on this list, Florence is the one I'm most looking for it what she has up her sleeve next.
2. Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix -- Phoenix is a band I've followed from the start. "Too Young" from United is one of my favorite songs of all time. I was at their NYC debut show and I've followed their every move. So I wanted to see how their other albums compared to this one and to see if this is their best work. Indeed, it is. While United has great tracks like "Too Young," "Funky Squaredance" and "If I Ever Feel Better," it's uneven with tracks I forgot about. I had that same feeling with Alphabetical and It's Never Been Like That, great songs with some okay tracks in-between. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is their most complete album. You can listen to beginning to end and not feel the need to skip a track. With that said, Phoenix made an album that taps into their youth exuberance while making an album that's also a sonic journey. Check Love Like A Sunset, the 7 minutes futuristic soundscape. Both Daft Punk and Animal Collective should take notes.
1. Bat for Lashes, Two Suns -- Listening to this album for the first time was like reading a great book that you didn't know where you were going or how it will end, but you're sticking with because the journey is feels new. I don't think Two Suns has another contemporary equivalent. Like last year's No. 1 album, Portishead's Third, Bat for Lashes might have invented or perfected a new style of music. Every time I listen to, it feels like I'm listening to it for the first time. As I type this, I'm listening to "Moon and Moon" and it's like a ballet between Natasha Khan and her piano. Then you have one the best singles of the year, Daniel, inspired by The Karate Kid. It's a loving nod to 80s pop culture, but it's also dense piece of music mastery with pop beats and haunting vocals. No other album this year made me more excited after every listen.
There you have it, Two Suns goes with Portishead's Third, M.I.A's Kala, The Hold Steady's Boys and Girls in America and Bloc Party's Silent Alarm as album of the years.