10. Tom Vek, Leisure Seizure -- Lost, but not forgotten, Tom Vek returned to music after five long years with a doozy. Leisure Seizure is a hard-hitting electro-pop album with as many crazy beats and off-kilter vocals as you can ask for. His voice is not for everybody, lacking in depth, but when you have some majorly infectious beats, you overlook such things. Could it be that he was toiling away on this little gem for five years? What I want to know is if he's going to disappear into his computer world again. Please don't.
9. Mara Carlyle, Floreat -- I'm a weird guy. I champion acts, bands, singers from an early stage, then abandon them when they become mainstream. Thus, we have Miss Mara Carlyle, who's replacing Florence Welsh in my need for big voiced, spiritually minded UK singers. It's criminal how this singer-songwriter is overlooked on both sides of the Atlantic. This album is a journey through her ambitions, jazzy, poppy, angelic and mostly just beautiful.
8. Wild Flag, Wild Flag -- The best rock album of the year comes a supergroup of talent. Mary Timony from Helium, Rebecca Cole of The Minders and Carrie Brownstein & Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney. This outfit makes Audioslave and Velvet Revolver look like Tin Machine. The result feels like a bunch of women knocking over the speakers and yelling, "Fuck this!" Their shit is tiiiiiiggght, a wounded-up ball of energy that explodes in your brain with every hard guitar lick.
7. Metronomy, The English Riviera -- The third album from the British electro-pop band gained them a Mercury Prize nomination. Previously, their music was garishly dance pop, but they went more musical on this album. The synths are still there, but instead of creating a pulsating beat, they relax and sooth. The whole album is a Phoenix meets Steely Dan mash-up of romantic pop tunes, sweetness and smooth sailing. "The Look" is easily one of the best songs of the year, with those lo-fi organs and catchy vocals.
6. Real Estate, Days -- Now that The Shins suck, Real Estate has come to save indie pop. As a representative of New Jersey, you're welcome America. The second album from the Domino Records band is a lush, evocative lament on escapes and dreaming. It's a perfect road trip album with its echoing guitars and lazy afternoon vocals. It's the perfect travel companion.
5. Battles, Gloss Drop -- Their debut album provided the scorching single, Atlas. Now take that song's energy and creativity and spread out over a whole album with some unlikely guests. Math rock is the genre they sort belong to, but really it's just progressive rock music with the kitchen sink thrown in. Gloss Drop is a hard-driving piece of art rock prowess that throws you off with every inventive rhythm and oddball sound. My vote for song of the year has to be "Ice Cream" with Chilean pop star Matias Aguayo. Anybody heard of him before this song? Me neither.
4. Anna Calvi, Anna Calvi -- The best debut album of the year goes to the UK songstress who recreates the modern American West. What strikes you most is her guitar skills, which runs the gamut of styles from Clapton to Prince. Let's not forget her wide-ranging voice, where her softness comes off as sinister and her loudness makes her sound possessed. The album is one of the most atmospheric I've heard in years. Anna managed to tame the wild beast that is modern rock.
3. Girls, Father Son Holy Ghost -- The San Francisco band's second album cements them as one of the premiere bands in American music. They also displayed that they won't be pigeoned holed into one genre. We can expect many more different sounding album in the future. On Father Son Holy Ghost, Chris Owens brings you a classic 50s rock ditty, "Honey Bunny", a rollicking 60s psych rock jam, "Die" and a 70s singer-songwriter throwback, "Saying I Love You."
2. Kurt Vile, Smoke Ring for My Halo -- Here, you have one of America's best songwriters working at the height of his talent. He's not reinventing the genre, but his voice and message is clear. On his big hit, "Jesus Fever", he plays the preacher heading out on the road. Many of the songs on "Smoke Ring for My Halo" have a strong down home quality with his expert guitar playing and his laconic voice.
1. PJ Harvey, Let England Shake -- It's about time we elevate PJ Harvey as one of the modern masters, worthy of being names in the same breathe as Patti Smith. You have to look at her career in two parts. The first you have the rocking riotgirl of Rid of Me and Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea. The sexually charged, tortured, angry songstress who blazed a trailer for others women to rock out with reckless abandon. Then she retreated from the style of Uh Huh Her. It took her a while to find her new voice and she did it on Let England Shake. It's a protest record that's not a call to arms, but more of "Where are we and how did we get here?"
Previous Top 10 albums: