25. Manners by Passion Pit- More white Indie Rock kids try their hand at dance music. What’s so special about that? I mean MGMT did it last year and we have all listened to LCD Sound System, Daft Punk and others. Right? True, but this is ridiculously infectious music that will make your body move if you allow it to infiltrate your corridors of coolness and detachment (if it worked on me, it can work on you). The highlights are Little Secret, Sleepyhead and To the Kingdom Come, all of which will be heard on soundtracks, commercials pretty much everywhere pretty soon.
24. Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective- I suppose my credibility card will be revoked for having this album outside the Top 10. It is a good album trying to walk the line between dance rock like the aforementioned Passion Pit and MGMT on one side and the forward thinking rock of Radiohead on the other. Sometime is works wonderfully, while at times it still leaves me cold (like Vampire Weekend). Technically it is probably a perfect album, but I miss the heart. I still think Panda Bear’s solo stuff is better.
23. Wilco (the album) by Wilco- At times I think this return to Wilco-ness should be higher. While it does not reach the heights of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or A Ghost is Born, it is light years ahead of Sky Blue Sky. Instead of denying its journey while calling it a return, as Wilco did on Sky Blue Sky, Wilco (the album) ventures through the experimentalism of YHF and AGIB in its return to the simplicity of previous incarnations. Plus, the lightness of touch is a pleasant surprise. Kudos for the best self referential lyric of the year, and the best ever by a non-rap artist, “Wilco- a sonic shoulder to cry On, Wilco.” Thanks for being a sonic shoulder, Mr. Tweedy.
22. Far by Regina Spektor- Paste magazine missed the boat on this album. It gets a lot of airplay in my household, even if it does not hold up to the perfection of Begin to Hope. It is sweet, strange and you can dance to it, plus she is one of the best lyricists/ pianists/ songwriters working today, like Tori Amos or Fiona Apple with a happy home life. While some dismiss the album due to the inclusion of the song Machine, I will not disparage an album for an unfortunate chorus that should have been edited out of the final product.
21. Welcome to Mali by Amadou and Miriam- African music is becoming more musically and practically accessible for Americans. Therefore, any list of great albums of the year that does not include African artists is incomplete. If you want authentically African music you can groove to in a club, music that is at once traditional and modern, check into this album with the Damon Albarn produced gem Sabali. I guarantee you will love that song.
20. The Ecstatic by Mos Def- After his last disappointing turn behind the mic, Mos Def is back reminding us why he was a premier hip hop artist before turning his attention to acting (he is a wonderfully appealing screen presence). This is a smooth, funny, deep album full of lightening fast rhymes and music slightly less ordinary.
19. Troubadour by K'naan- I know, I know. I talk too much about K’naan (I am working on a piece for a magazine just to increase the obnoxious obsession). But, besides the guys at NPR’s All Songs Considered, I don’t hear anyone giving him the love he deserves. First of all, this album is not in the league of his debut. Of course, I think The Dusty Foot Philosopher is the best album of the decade bar none, so this was bound to be a disappointment after hearing a man turn such pain into art, like a rapping African Van Gogh. Aside from the unfortunate remake of Rap Gets Jealous (buy his first album and listen to the power of that song and ignore the crass commercialism of the new version), this is a great album giving us pop hits (Bang Bang), stories of Africa we never hear in the popular media (Somolia, T.I.A.) and the emotionally charged and bring you to tears Bob Marley-esque anthems like Waving Flag, a reminder of his 1st album.
18. A Brief History of the Big Pink by The Big Pink- I have a belief that music perfection must include inordinate amounts feedback, distortion and reverb. In fact, if there is such thing as “too much feedback” I am not aware of this phenomenon. That said, I love BRMC, Spiritualized, Jesus and the Mary Chain and The Verve. Add to the mix a bit of pop song structure and the formula completes itself for a guy like me. Solid album that was my soundtrack for an overcast day walking around NYC.
17. Fantasies by Metric- An album I think got lost in the shuffle when it came to making lists of the best albums of the year, this is apparently an under-heard and underappreciated jewel that is at once aggressive female-voiced led rock and roll and modern pop that is wonderfully open. My entire family loves this album, with smart lyrics dealing with gender issues, power and inner struggles, but in a very singable manner. As you may have noticed I love it when the music is sugar, while the lyrics are bitter. If I can pick one album on this list I can guarantee everyone (besides the snobbish wimpy folkies) will like, this is it.
16. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix by Phoenix- The dance pop album of the year, I dare you to dislike this infectious musical equivalent of Crème Brulee, another irresistible French dessert.