You can read reviews for the highlighted albums below.
- Thurston Moore, Demolished Thoughts – In which the Sonic Youth leader goes all Sea Change-era Beck (with help from the man himself).
- Ron Sexsmith, Long Player, Late Bloomer– For the love of God would people smarten up and start listening to this guy! He’s one of the best songwriters out there and proves it again.
- The Raveonettes, Raven in the Grave – Another Scandanavian export, this one producing 1950s/1960s pop through the lens of British noise guitar music.
- Radiohead, The King of Limbs – Loopy electronica and the occasional distorted piano piece from the kings of Art Rock.
- PJ Harvey, Let England Shake – Polly Jean Harvey makes the protest album cool again.
- Peter, Bjorn and John, Gimme Some – Holy Catchiness, Batman! Can’t stop singing “All art has been contemporary” and people are looking at me funny…
- Paul Simon, So Beautiful or So What? – He’s one of the all-time greats and still curious and exploring after all these years.
- Noah and the Whale, Last Night on Earth – I’m surprised to find myself including this. After all, I found it rather clichéd and derivative, if enjoyable, in my review. But when I look at the songs I’ve played most, this album is high on the list, which says something.
- My Morning Jacket, Circuital – I’ve got tickets to see these guys in a month and I’m psyched. Killer arena rock with an all-time vocalist.
- The Mountain Goats, All Eternals Deck – Simply but well executed folk rock with great lyrics and careful phrasing.
- Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes – Her voice is sometimes not the right instrument for the material but still a commendable effort, opting for moving her music forward over simply repeating her previous formula.
- Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues – A toss-up between this and PJ Harvey’s opus for album of the year so far. Exquisite vocals, incredible songcraft, timeless music. And they kick ass live, too.
- The Decemberists, The King Is Dead – This is an album that may not be on my year-end list. It still merits inclusion as of now, but I don’t find myself listening to it as much as previous Decemberists albums. The “tribute to R.E.M.” approach may not have the staying power, authentic though it might be.
- Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi, Rome – A unique offering, like music for a film that hasn’t been made and featuring contributions from Jack White and Norah Jones.
- The Boxer Rebellion, The Cold Still – I wish I’d reviewed this one when it first came out. Great vocalist with slow wistful and dramatic pieces mixed with kick-ass tunes like “Step Out of the Car.”
- Bon Iver, Bon Iver – Justin Vernon proves that he doesn’t need to be a hermit in a cabin in the woods to produce heartbreakingly beautiful music.
- Austra, Feel It Break – An album I never got around to reviewing, this is dramatic and soulful electronica with a mournful vocalist reminiscent of Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard.
- The Antlers, Burst Apart – Along with Bon Iver and Lykke Li, the Antlers are part of the wave of artists releasing sophomore albums after much beloved premieres. Like the others, they meet expectations mostly by ignoring them and following their muse.