10. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs [Merge]
Sensitive, unsettling lyrics supersized to anthemic, arena proportions. Just like in suburbia, on this album there’s grit beneath the gloss and sass.
9. Interpol – Interpol [Soft Limit]
A moodier offering than their previous work and certainly not their best, but worth a nod. The fact that this album is self-titled stands as an affirmation of everything Interpol: hidden hooks and sinister atmospherics underpinned by funk bass lines and a pervading sense of arrogance and irreverence.
8. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me [Drag City]
This epic album unfolds like a story book in three compact discs. Newsom’s trademark haunting vocals and the inclusion of strings and horns give the album all the wonderment of a fairytale.
7. Yeasayer – Odd Blood [Mute/Secretly Canadian]
Odd Blood was meant to be the “pop” album for the Brooklyn band, but with touches of psychedelia, gospel and reggae, it isn’t exactly mainstream. Nonetheless, the standout track is the pop-infused O.N.E., a liberating festival anthem.
6. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can [Virgin]
Packed with imagery and nostalgia that would send Keats into a head-spin.
5. Bag Raiders – Bag Raiders [Modular]
Just when we were starting to feel a bit nostalgic about the ‘90s (were we?), this cheeky Aussie duo delivered a fast-paced nod to the rave era with elements of sunshine pop, funk and acid house mixed in. The tracks in the middle get a little samey, but it’s hard to care when you’re having so much fun.
4. The National – High Violet [4AD]
We’d all waited patiently for three years and then internet pirates ruined the fun by leaking a low quality version of High Violet online. But the band bounced back, premiering the album on the New York Times website, and quickly shooting to number three on the Billboard chart. A gold star for talent and resilience.
3. Deer Hunter – Halcyon Digest [4AD/Remote Control]
The swoony, layered vocals and tumbling guitar riffs of Desire Lines, the blown-out vocals and meandering sax of Coronado, the eerie echoes and drips of Sailing…
2. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy [Rock-A-Fella]
He threatened never to rap again; thank goodness he changed his mind. Featuring brand new tracks and reworked numbers from his G.O.O.D Friday project, this album is a testament to the fact that a bit of public humiliation is good for the creative soul. His best album yet.
1. Vampire Weekend – Contra [Rough Trade]
I knew this would be my number one when it was released all the way back in January. Vampire Weekend’s over-caffeinated, Afro-infused pop punk proves that even after The Strokes and Talking Heads, NYC’s still leading the charge in terms of style and originality.