Outlaw-era country cut from the same cloth as Merle and Waylon, rearing its proudly rebellious head in the midst of contemporary
“It might be lonely at the top, but it’s a bitch at the bottom.”
Gems from Bruce’s most fertile period, recast in a lavish—and most deserving—light.
“Billy and me we'd always say/ Thunder Road/ We were gonna take it all and throw it all away.”
Genre-skipping, engrossing second album from a band still growing—and still getting better.
“Said never pick sides, never choose between two/ But I just wanted you.”
Slept-on debut from one of the most creative MCs around, for those who prefer hip-hop that provokes body and mind.
“We choose to lead not to follow, it’s a hard pill to swallow/ Better get prescriptions filled ‘cause there might not be tomorrow.”
11. Maximum Balloon – Maximum Balloon
Futuristic indie-pop, like TV On The Radio with a grab-bag of vocalists. Worth the price of admission alone for the Karen O and David Byrne contributions.
“What a mystery at night they go to sleep alone.”
A perfectly-realized soundtrack to an imaginary film starring everyone from Bobby Womack to half of The Clash, with Damon Albarn directing the proceedings like a man finally comfortable in his own skin.
“If you can’t get what you want/ Then you come with me.”
Loose-limbed joy, cribbed from bits of Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes and Talking Heads before being repurposed into the best American debut this year.
“I’ll endure the night/ For the promise of light.”
The standout of a stellar year for the Philly collective: an album that moves from the ghetto to the church without once descending into tired thuggery or played-out nihilism.
“I pray these wings strong enough to carry me on/I promise every second felt as if it took an eon.”
British folk-Celtic hybrid as traditional in its values—faith, family, and love—as it is unbridled in its raucous, organic energy.
“And I will hold on hope/ And I won’t let you choke/ On the noose around your neck.”
Deservedly acclaimed “concept album” from one of the few acts willing to break new ground every time out. (For those keeping score: They're three for three.)
“I used to write letters/ I used to sign my name.”