Sheesh. When I started writing this thing, I had no idea it would take my sorry ass through the Summer of the following year to finish it! But no matter; it made no sense to come this far and not finish, so here we are at long last - the best metal, indie, hip-hop, rock, pop, and electronica albums I heard in 2011. And while I'm fully aware that anybody who read the first installment or two has long forgotten about this, I'm overcome with a ridiculous sense of satisfaction over having finally finished this damn thing. Anyway, let's get on with it! Wooo!

25. Vektor - Outer Isolation

There were more than a few metalheads fawning over Machine Head's Unto the Locust when it dropped, and understandably so. For my money though, when it came to metal of any variety in 2011, Vektor's sophomore release utterly blew everything else out of the water. Outer Isolation is a blistering, thrashing affair, with tight composition recalling the thrash of old while throwing in enough of their own flair to keep things from sounding dated. There's break-neck speed, there's exceptionally smooth transitions and breakdowns, and the riffs are as crushing as they are catchy. Plus there's vocalist Dave Disanto, who is quickly establishing himself as quite the unique frontman, sounding like something between Dave Mustaine and Ihsahn... just great stuff. This one did a wonderful job of resurrecting my inner sixteen year old.

Recommended Tracks: Dying World, Venus Project

24. FaltyDL - You Stand Uncertain

Sometimes disparate styles are mixed together with such fluidity that for a moment, you're tricked into thinking that you're hearing something entirely new. Drew Lustman (god, what a cool name), the man behind the FaltyDL moniker, may have a solid dubstep feel in his latest release, but there's so much else going on; Open Space serves as a 90s time capsule, with its old school house synths and jazzy flavors, while Tell Them Stories is a glitch-ridden two step hurricane that hits much, much harder. There's such a remarkable flow to the album though, and everything feels so unified; it's not so much a collection of different styles as it is Lustman showing off all the sides to the sound he wants to create. It's also one of those rare albums that can get your head bobbing or help you chill out; a truly multifaceted beast.

Recommended Tracks: Gospel of Opal, Lucky Luciano

23. BNJMN - Black Square

After the startling amount of house I've put on this list. BNJMN's outstanding Black Square (his second release of the year, and his first, Plastic World, was no slacker either) is at the top of the heap. Every track is so clean, and almost organic sounding, ethereal yet with a steady beat. It's disarmingly pretty, and furthermore it's far more danceable than anything befitting that description usually is. And for as minimal as it sounds, there is a hell of a lot going on; melody is piled upon melody, the bells and whistles are oh-so-painstakingly applied, and again, it just results in such a gorgeous product. Get your hands on this one.

Recommended Tracks: Wisdom of Uncertainty, Black Square

22. Florence and the Machine - Ceremonials

Ah.. what a wonderful thing when the hype for something is not only warranted, but doesn't even touch how great that something really is. How I would love for Ms. Welch to take all the songstresses who have emerged around the same time as she did, and sit them all down and tell them how to write a damn pop song. Lead single Shake It Out arguably demonstrates even better than the massive Dog Days Are Over what a staggering songwriting presence this woman has, from her knack for absolutely owning a melody to the fire behind those spellbinding vocals. There is such passion, such catharsis here, all wrapped up in a neat little package to prevent it all from being too exhausting. Not to discredit Adele in the least, but this is the album I had hoped 21 would be.

Recommended Tracks: No Light No Light, Spectrum

21. The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck

John Darnielle has a consistency that is absolutely baffling. He is not without his missteps (though even those were still pretty good), but he's one of those artists who releases great material so prolifically that I'm almost waiting for him to put out something subpar. So here we have All Eternals Deck, and we've got pretty much what was expected; another spectacular set of articulately passionate (hyper-literate, if you will) indie folk tracks. Darnielle just does what he does, and he never phones it in; there's always such intensity to his delivery, all the more impressive by how eloquent and poetic his lyrics are. Something as somber as Never Quite Free feels just as fiery as the punk-ish attack of Estate Sale Sign, and this man means every word that comes out of his mouth. Like the aforementioned (and admittedly quite different) Tech N9ne, Darnielle is a man who loves what he does, and is ALWAYS on top of his game.

Recommended Tracks: Damn These Vampires, Age of Kings

20. tUnE-yARDs - w h o k i l l

What a kooky, cut-and-paste pastiche of an album we have here. Merrill Garbus, the mad genius behind tUnE-yARDs (don't you DARE leave out any of those capital letters), lets her exceedingly charming personality take the forefront with her music; quirky simply because it is, not quirky for quirkiness' sake, something that indie music is sadly saturated with these days. There is no pretension here, just an extremely creative and talented musician deconstructing pop music and rearranging it to their liking. From the croons to the pseudo-raps, the funky bass to the saxophones, the chopped up vocals to the treated guitars, it's quite clear that everything here is pure Garbus (she even snuck in a Simpsons quote on Es-So) and nothing else, yet so damn accessible. An absolute joy to listen to, every time.

Recommended Tracks: Gangsta, Powa

19. The Dear Hunter - The Color Spectrum Complete Collection

 Out of all hundred albums on this list, The Dear Hunter's ridiculously sprawling Color Spectrum has easily been the most difficult to write about, mostly because it isn't actually an album, but a collection of nine four-song EPs, each one named after a color, and each quartet of songs comprising a sonic embodiment of their parent EPs color. Meaning that on this collection (there's also an album-length version with eleven selected tracks, but fuck that shit... the complete set is where it's at), you're going to get sounds ranging from post-hardcore to blues to country, and every style is handled so shockingly well that at times you can't believe you're listening to the same band. As daunting a project as this must have been, the Crescenzo brothers (yes, it's just TWO GUYS behind this!) have so much to say, and so many ways to say it all, that they seemingly never run out of ideas. This is definitely best digested in multiple sittings, but it's a humbling listen to say the least.

Recommended Tracks: This Body, Things That Hide Away

18. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

I remember hearing Written on the Forehead back in November of '10 (jesus, it has been a while, hasn't it?) and just knowing that this album was going to be great. And lo and behold, here we are, and great it is indeed. Widely described as her political/protest album, Let England Shake is an unapologetic dissection of war, and using the fragile, beautiful music as a vessel for a downright vicious attack on not just war, but the inflated pride and nationalism that often leads to it. She never gets preachy though, which is one of the strengths of this album; Miss Harvey is taking the everyman role, looking over and giving a nudge that is not so much concerned as it is frustrated. As is one of the very few predictable things with her, this album is yet another left turn for her musically, with everything sounding tremendously subdued, with all the emotion buried just a tad, letting the vocals take charge. And take charge, they do.

Recommended Tracks: The Last Living Rose, Hanging in the Wire

17. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

Just about every indie-loving guy is absolutely smitten with this lovely young lady, and and it's not exactly a mystery as to why. One of those musicians talented enough to channel their quirks into creativity, Miss Annie Clark's third outing is her most imaginative yet, lending even more of her delightfully weird sensibilities to her catchy brand of indie pop. Yet given the (mostly) delicate nature of the music, there's such confidence here; everything is so deliberately messy, from the off melodies to the oddly treated guitars, and it all sounds perfectly in place. She's undeniably become one of those songwriters who can produce a piece of music that could have come from no one but her (the increasingly infamous "If I ever meet the dirty policeman who roughed you up, no I don't know what" comes to mind), and she's at the height of her powers here.

Recommended Tracks: Cheerleader, Strange Mercy

16. The Weeknd - House of Balloons

As difficult as it was to pick just one of the three outstanding mixtapes this young man released last year, I have to go with House of Balloons for one simple reason: it was the perfect debut for Abel Tesfaye. House has such a sense of "Here I am" about it; the album immediately pulls you into Tesfaye's world (or someone else's, as recent controversy revealed) of the partying lifestyle's dark underbelly. It somehow cherishes the drugs, casual sex, and misadventures, while simultaneously embracing the facts that the drugs will leave you feeling like shit in the morning, the hot girl who's fucking you doesn't care about you, and the wild ventures ultimately mean nothing - just listen to that throbbing, musical dry-hump of the title track pulsing beneath the melancholic melodies and listless lyrics. Sure, The-Dream has already taken this approach, but Tesfaye has arguably mastered it here.

Recommended Tracks: The Morning, Coming Down

15. James Blake - James Blake

Very few people with an ear to the ground are unfamiliar with this album; an early favorite for the year (like Beach House's Teen Dream and Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion before it) that stuck around just as long as all the hyperbolic praise suggested it would, James Blake's self-titled full length debut is packed to the brim with ideas that elude the listener for the first few listens. There are so many tremendously subtle touches going on underneath the poppy-soulful-R&B-over-a-dubstep-beat template he's created here (and probably won't even stick with for long, taking into consideration how different his previous efforts sounded), and so many different faces; Why Don't You Call Me alone takes a trip from an organic, longing soul tune to a glitch-heavy, completely electronic track, while never really even going anywhere in the process. Ain't that some shit?

Recommended Tracks: The Wilhelm Scream, I Mind

14. The Roots - undun

Black Thought has long been my favorite MC; he may not be the most intense, or even the most technical. But this man is such an intelligent, passionate poet; he tells stories and he makes statements that really hit you... then when you re-examine his lyrics, they hit even harder. So here we are with undun, the Roots' eleventh studio album, a concept album about a troubled young man's life in reverse, beginning with his murder and ending with the beginning of his adult life. A concept that could be hackneyed as shit, no doubt, but Questlove and Black Thought are just too smart and too genuine to mishandle such a potentially touching story. The music is so poignant and catches each phase in its essence; from Kool On's fun yet ominous vibe to Stomp's overwhelming sense of determination, the brilliant lyrics are backed up wonderfully. And they are; from the wordplay of "Like when Autumn leaves fall from the trees... like when Autumn leaves" to boldly straight-forward statements like "Life was only a moment in time and it passed by," there's just so much to say about this one. Nothing short of stunning.

Recommended Tracks: Sleep, The Other Side

13. Sleepmakeswaves - ...and so we destroyed everything

After Mogwai's shockingly 'meh' Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, I was in quite some need for a new post-rock album to knock my socks off, and sleepmakeswaves' debut full-length did a spectacular job. Admittedly, this is pretty standard stuff, but they're just so god damned good at it. The teasing lead-ins, the left field melodies, the raging climaxes.. not to mention that there's this strange sense of modesty to the music, something that's been missing from Mogwai's repertoire since, dare I say, Young Team. Everything here is so powerful, yet so unassuming, and that gives it all the more character. Emotional, technically proficient, and hungry as hell; this is hands down my pick for best post-rock album of 2011.

Recommended Tracks: to you they are birds, to me they are voices in the forestnow we rise and we are everywhere

12. The Jezebels - Prisoner

Prisoner sets right out its gate with the intense title track, and from the get-go, it's a puzzler to pinpoint what this band makes you think of. The National's tasteful sense of americana comes to mind, as does Arcade Fire's knack for giving their songs a real sweeping feel. Then you hear vocalist Hayley Mary (who is spectacular, by the way) and think of Kate Bush or PJ Harvey. After a while, it becomes evident that there are so many influences at play here that we've got a band on our hands with their own signature sound, and when that happens on a debut LP, it's always exciting. There is such unbridled passion here, and it goes hand in hand with the ridiculous creativity and eclecticism (americana-styled guitar on Trycolour blending into 80s-reminiscent guitar to sync up with the following Rosebud? Nice!). Their sprawling ambition does get the best of them on rare occasion, but really... with songwriting this clever, rousing, and honest, the few flaws present almost sweep themselves under the rug. This is one of those bands where you can't wait to hear what they do next.

Recommended Tracks: Endless Summer, City Girl

11. Bullion - You Drive Me to Plastic

This one is cheating a bit, as it's more of an EP than an LP, but it's just too friggin' good to overlook. Instrumental hip-hop at its finest, from the insanely clever intro to the infinitely charming outro (not to mention the seven outstanding tracks in between), this one just has 'fun' written all over it. In a mere twenty minutes, Nathan Jenkins crams everything from retro-funk to modern bass into his instrumental hip-hop mold; it's no surprise that he got his name from a mash-up of the Beach Boys and J Dilla (Songs in the Key of Dee, if you're unfamiliar), as Jenkins has Dilla's knack for putting multitudes of good ideas together without ever letting one go on for too long. My recommendation? Just put this on repeat, let the background soak it up, and enjoy.

Recommended Tracks: Magic Was Ruler, Too Right

10. Andrew Jackson Jihad - Knife Man

I'm not sure if you'd call this punkish folk or folkish punk, but either way it's a fantastic blend. Very catchy, aggressive stuff that isn't afraid to bust out the acoustics, or get introspective and quirky. The writing is full of oddball idiosyncrasies, though they all feel so real; Sean Bonnette can go from half-jokingly rattling on about how great it is to be a straight white male in America, to a full-depth analysis of why people are so miserable, to pining for an ex, to musing about how maybe he does drink a bit too much these days, and more. Much more, and all with a tremendously unique brand of commentary. The thing that really sells it though is just how honest it is; not once on this album (or anywhere in the band's catalogue, really) does it feel like the band is presenting a false image for sake of looking unique, or worse, flat out lying to you. And in this modern indie landscape, that shit alone is pure gold.

Recommended Tracks: Distance, Zombie by the Cranberries by Andrew Jackson Jihad

9. Chad VanGaalen - Diaper Island

Much like the previous album on this list, Chad Vangaalen's latest masks a great deal of its bleakness with a lot of oddball personality (Shave My Pussy, for example, is far more heartbreaking a song than the title would ever lead you to believe), though it's far more bare and straightforward. Songs like Heavy Stones and Sara are so crushing in their sorrow and loneliness, yet there's an odd, nearly tuneless catchiness to them (kind of reminiscent of early Flaming Lips and Pavement, now that I think of it) that you get reeled in. Then there are tracks like Freedom for a Policeman or Can You Believe It!?, which definitely serve as a bit of relief, keeping things from being too heavy, yet they are clearly cut from the same cloth. A very tightly-knit, lo-fi masterpiece. ...okay, well maybe not a MASTERPIECE, but it's pretty damn close.

Recommended Tracks: Do Not Fear, Burning Photographs

8. Submotion Orchestra - Finest Hour

This album's title alone could suffice for a description, but I don't want to be any worse of a pseudo-journalist than I already am. So the basic idea here is a seven-piece group experimenting with dubstep, trip-hop, and jazz with live instruments. Great idea, right? However it was only intended as a one-off, just releasing one EP. People began to talk though (as they often do), and before long the tremendous reception was so great that it became clear this group needed to stick together. And here, we have this; their first full-length, a piece of music as beautiful as it is intriguing. All three prime elements at work here are given equal moments to shine, from the shuffling drums, the haunting bass and smoking atmosphere, and the passionate brass instruments in the hands of ridiculously talented individuals. And floating over everything is Ruby Wood's honey-like voice, as if a finishing touch to all the brilliant musical chops present. It all blends and blurs the lines so well, it's no surprise Submotion Orchestra made a name for themselves so quickly.

Recommended Tracks: All Yours, Secrets

7. Cunninlynguists - Oneirology

When you can take the 'Hip-Hop Album of the Year' title from The Roots, you know you're doing something right. Hot off the heels of his wonderful solo album, Kno turns in perhaps his best production job yet in the Cunninlynguists' latest, Oneirology. A loose concept album based on dreams (I'm not embarrassed to admit that yes, that title got me reaching for the dictionary), the production is simultaneously hazy and slick, and it feels big enough to devour the listener. And lesser MCs too, might I add; but Kno, Deacon, and Natty are so on point with their lyricism that the production takes the background. Accordingly with the surreal theme, the lyrics are all over the place - stories about loss, dark fantasies, regrets, even the occasional soapbox mounting. As ridiculously engaging as the beats are, they're awash with clever rhyme after clever rhyme, and everything ties together so neatly under the extremely interesting theme the group chose to work with. Their name was a bit off-putting when I heard of them back when, but this one woke me up. Great, great group, and this one could well be their best yet.

Recommended Tracks: Get Ignorant, Enemies with Benefits (feat. Tonedeff)

6. Zomby - Dedication

A stark left turn from the rave breakbeats and trance meeting dubstep on 2008's glorious Where Were U in '92?, Dedication is almost a polar opposite. Rather than looking back to fun, bright influences, here it's looking back on loss; there's an undeniable melancholy present here. Where '92 felt more extroverted, this is definitely more introverted, and it feels rather personal. While this is clearly new territory for the anonymous dubstep producer, the hallmarks of his style are ever-present: the agonizing attention to detail, the sleek production, the tendency to ditch ideas before they have the chance to grow stale (very few songs surpass three minutes), and the seemingly random endings to each track. It's certainly not as fun as his previous full-length, but Dedication is no less captivating than its predecessor, just a different face to an ever-evolving producer.

Recommended Tracks: Alothea, Mozaik

5. Dom & Roland - The Big Bang

This one is just fucking fire. While Noisia's Split the Atom was amazing in its own right, The Big Bang is every bit as good, but without the need to push any boundaries. This is, for all intents and purposes, classic drum & bass, and while Noisia's scattershot brand of the style is missed in 2011 (save the wonderfully hard-hitting Friendly Intentions single), Dominic Angas is batting cleanup with this monster of an album. Everything is so loud and booming, the beats are absolutely furious, and great samples are woven into the music every so often for good measure. There's an incredibly atmospheric feel to Bang as well, which is rather uncharacteristic of something so aggressive. The Big Bang isn't just a party, it's an explosive work of drum & bass art.

Recommended Tracks: Cigars N Money, Capsicum

4. Klātu - Mutual

Remember a while back on this list, where I referenced an album coming up that was the next best thing to Burial? Well here we are, with Klātu's astounding debut album. The towering darkness found here is astounding, feeling absolutely huge and yet impossibly intricate. Rémy Sealey plays around with numerous types of percussion, stellar vocal samples, massive loops, and who knows what else. This is one of those albums you just get hopelessly lost in while loving every second; it's utterly hypnotizing. It's also startling in how much it tugs at one's emotions; listening to Future Mistakes while in a vulnerable state is almost up there for me with watching Dumbo visit his imprisoned mother on the "If this doesn't hit you, at least a little bit, there's something wrong with you" list. This is an album that bathes in darkness, yet sounds not a single bit less beautiful for it.

Recommended Tracks: Dirt Vs Wind, Zealous

3. EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints

This is one of those albums where I'll admit, personal bias may have led me to rank it this high (as few people seem to love it as much as I do), but oh well. Erika M. Anderson's first solo effort after the dissolution of her previous band, Gowns, is cathartic as hell to say the least. Past Life Martyred Saints embraces its imperfection and runs with it, free of both self-checking and pretension. Whether it's openly accepting empty sex to fill the void in Milkman, the fierce devotion found in Coda and Marked (the former introducing the latter, with a mantra surprisingly easy to listen to on repeat), or Butterfly Knife's self-directed anger, there is absolutely no question that this is unedited and straight from the heart. And the music does the talking just as much as the lyrics do, as it is by turns raging and melancholic (sometimes even both at once) with so much conviction that it's hard not to at least admire. Many musicians attempt to truly pour their souls into their music, and while many have done it better than Miss Anderson, few have done it with this much savage honesty.

Recommended Tracks: California, Anteroom

2. Swarms - Old Raves End

Far and away the most beautiful album of the year. Where Klātu represented the dark side of dubstep and future garage, Swarms represents the light; bright, gorgeous, and immediately seducing. From the chest-swellingly fragile moments in Flikr of Ur Eyes or Roulette to the aching melancholy of tracks like Polar or Sky Below Sea, from top to bottom Old Raves End is a piece of music so delicate and angelic that it only makes sense to be intangible; it feels as though if it were a physical object, it'd shatter once touched by a mere finger. I'm hardpressed to describe Raves without hyperbole, it really is that overwhelming. As I mentioned in my review of this a while back, Raves is so ethereal that it borders on sensory overload at times. It would've topped this list too, if not for the next album which was released less than two weeks later...

Recommended Tracks: Chapel, Hostile

1. TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light

And here we are at long last, concluding with the consistently brilliant TV on the Radio's most recent album (and final with the sorely missed Gerard Smith). While predecessors Dear Science and Return to Cookie Mountain were very smart records, Nine Types of Light is one that opts rather to speak to the heart. Emotion rules throughout, and it's so genuine and so overpowering that lines like "You're the only one I ever loved" or "A heart doesn't play by rules and love has its own demands," which would sound clichéd in lesser hands, come across as nothing less than honestly lovelorn, at-a-loss statements. Then there are highlights like New Cannonball Blues, which express blatant frustration, or the beautiful Killer Crane, which simply takes joy in enjoying the moment, or the immensely sweet-natured Keep Your Heart. Nine Types of Light is a clear emotional outlet, and what better way to end it than with its blow-out of a closer, Caffeinated Consciousness? The band has most definitely shifted songwriting gears here, yet without sacrificing a thing that made them great in the first place and still growing and evolving as a group. Without question, the best I heard in 2011. Aaaaaaaand we're out.

Recommended Tracks: You, Caffeinated Consciousness

At this point, my belated coverage of the year's albums has become a matter of my own stubbornness rather than trying to get material out to prospective readers. But enough about that! Self deprecating humor will only get you so far, particularly when what you're supposed to be doing is getting on with the god damn article. So in the spirit of such, let's rub our palms together and dive back in...

50. Bomb the Music Industry! - Vacation

Whenever I see the the phrase "Feel-good," my stomach turns just a little bit, and I try to use it as seldom as possible. However, as overly maudlin and processed as this term is, I can't come up with a better way to describe Bomb the Music Industry!'s fifth full-length. The band's unique pop punk sound has always had a "I'm kinda sad, but fuck it, let's have fun" attitude to it, and it's as overpowering as ever this time around. Its real strength is how relatable it is while making you feel better about whatever's bothering you; there's a cavalcade of lines like this. "I'm such a guarded guy, 'cause I've been hurt too many times," "The shit that you hate don't make you special, no one cares, we're all in trouble," and so on and so forth. Gotta love when something naturally uplifting isn't afraid to get gritty with its emotions.

Recommended Tracks: Sick. Later.Felt Just Like Vacation

49. Class Actress - Rapprocher

What with so many young women taking stabs at replicating the electro pop from decades ago, it's so refreshing to hear it done this well. As I've pointed out numerous times (and inexplicably am about to once more), the best retro music always has a modern touch, something that belongs exclusively to the music's creator, rather than just miming a forgotten sound and calling it original. Songstress Elizabeth Harper and her bandmates have accomplished this to a T with their debut LP's robotic, icy pop ballads. The sounds are just so rich, from the lush synths to that sensual voice, and the songwriting is sharp as a tack - catchy, and with just the right amount of moodiness.

Recommended Tracks: Weekend, Missed

48. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

Well, this is a surprise. With the exception of their first two albums, the Foo Fighters have been one of those bands that every couple of years comes up with a handful of great songs, and accompanies them with a so-so album littered with filler. It seemed that The Colour and the Shape was about as good as it was going to get with them, and that was that. Then nearly a decade and a half after their excellent sophomore record, we have this; a consistent set of absolutely stunning songs so energetic that it feels like a private live show every time you listen. I've never thought of Dave Grohl as anything less than a complete bad ass, but this time he and his band have really outdone themselves. My hat's off to you, good sir.

Recommended Tracks: Bridge Burning, I Should Have Known

47. GusGus - Arabian Horse

Funny how it took this far into the countdown for me to realize just how much house music I listened to last year, and this one is quite possibly the smoothest of the bunch. The sensual groove that drives the album is downright hypnotic, and it's awash with utterly gorgeous synths and melodies, as well as some ridiculously smooth singing voices. Just listening to the incredible five-song streak between Deep Inside and Magnified Love, you can almost see the well-dressed Icelanders with their slicked-back hair singing into a ribbon microphone and casually playing around with their synthesizers. Very catchy and concise stuff, and probably the only house album of the year I'd recommend to someone who isn't a fan of the genre.

Recommended Tracks: Within You, Arabian Horse

46. Emika - Emika

I've been waiting for someone to produce a brand of dubstep this creepy and sinister for a good while, and at long last, here we are. Emika's self-titled debut is just staggering, with its shuddering bass clattering through a warbled darkness, occasionally tripping over the broken beats. Taking pounding bass and combining it with malevolent dark ambience has produced an utterly brilliant sound. It's almost disturbing at times, but so intriguing at the same time that you can't help but listen (they just gotta sit in it. They can't move until they find out how the story ends).

Recommended Tracks: Professional Loving, Double Edge

45. Feastem - World Delirium

It's not easy to stand out when you're a grindcore outfit, especially when your aim is to sound as turbulent as possible, but Finnish quartet Feastem pulls it off in fine style. The touches of black metal and thrash give the material a huge boost, somewhat reminiscent of Black Breath's debut LP from a few years back (who also have just released another excellent album, though that's neither here nor there), establishing a bit of dynamism but without compromising any of  the white-hot rage that drives the music. And the rage is utterly unyielding here, which is how any grindcore fan worth his salt likes it.

Recommended Tracks: Dead Eyes, The Lie

44. Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi

Not even having progressed two tracks through Anna Calvi's impressive bluesed-out debut, Nick Cave and PJ Harvey comparisons were already ricocheting around in my head (in fact, learning that she opened for Grinderman gave me a forehead-slapping "of course" moment). Musically speaking, the atmosphere is very raw, with more than just a tinge of darkness to it. Everything from the pounding drums to the jagged guitars reels the listener in, but the real draw is Miss Calvi's powerful vocals - this girl has got quite a range on her, and more importantly a strong sense of when to belt out a gut-busting wail and when to just relax - case in point being her performance on The Devil, where she seems to channel both Jeff Buckley and Florence Welch somehow. Keep an eye on this girl. Er, ear, rather.

Recommended Tracks: Suzanne and I, I'll Be Your Man

43. Beyond Creation - The Aura

Of course, it's a matter of taste, but I simply have never cared for too much melodicism in death metal - while I certainly appreciate a good polish, I just don't feel this genre needs a whole lot of it. Like everything else, moderation is key, and Beyond Creation is one of those death outfits that nails a perfect balance. The guitars switch from crushing riffs to melodic solos and back on a dime, and when the solos do go on for a bit longer than they really need to, they're just too catchy for you to really care (much like the great Chuck Schuldiner). Along with the spectacularly intricate drumming and great basslines that you can actually hear (the production is crystal clear), Beyond Creation's debut LP is both sophisticated and brutal; appealing to both the urge to analyze your music, or just rock the fuck out.

Recommended Tracks: Coexistence, The Aura

42. Bon Iver - Bon Iver

Justin Vernon seems to have fallen into the same trap as so many other musicians, that of producing an absolutely stellar debut album which the majority holds at near-classic status. Indeed, Bon Iver's follow-up to said debut has been met with more than just a little flak, partly because Vernon decided to share in the creative process, and perhaps even more so because it's frankly not as personal as For Emma, Forever Ago. But how could it? There plainly was no way to replicate such a gorgeous, aching piece of music, so rather than attempting to mimic the naked, hollowed out soundscapes, he elected to fill up the holes with a rich production, and an occasional dash of, dare I say it, hope? The admittedly cheesy Beth/Rest aside (which recalls the theme from Chariots of Fire just a little too well), Bon Iver's self-titled sophomore effort does a wonderful job of meeting in the middle between his personal, stripped down debut and a more lush sound.

Recommended Tracks: Holoscene, Michicant

41. Desolate - The Invisible Insurrection

Before Burial released Street Halo (and this year's absolutely phenomenal Kindred), and another artist in a similar vein released an album which is a bit further up on this list, The Invisible Insurrection was my "I miss Burial" go-to. And yes, I realize how unfair it is to start this write-up with comparisons to superior material, but Desolate's first LP stands on its own quite nicely. There's a beautiful longing in the air of this album, with masterfully blended samples, choppy percussion, and light, wispy sounds floating on in the background. It's ghostly sounding, really, but there's so much heart present that it feels so alive; like seeing a bed sheet wrapped around nothing and walking around. ...I dunno, something like that.

Recommended Tracks: Follow Suit, Divinus

40. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

Like fellow 2008 folk giant Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes return with a bit of a beefier sound this time around, though with all due respect to Mr. Vernon, in this case it produced an album superior to its predecessor. Helplessness Blues is a step up in just about every way from their self-titled debut; the music is far more lush, the warm soulfulness is much more poignant, and the lyrics are a bit sharper (there's a lot of frustration and sadness expressed here with some truly poetic lines... plus quoting Yeats can never hurt). The greatness hinted at in the debut is no doubt being reached here, with vocalist Robin Pecknold really letting go (there are points on the mammoth The Shrine/An Argument in particular where he's not so much singing as shouting out with a barely concealed rage) and the band getting a little louder and a little fuller (is fuller a word? Meh, it is now).

Recommended Tracks: Battery Kinzie, Helplessness Blues

39. Corrupted - Garten Der Unbewusstheit

Two half-hour slabs of sludge, drone, and doom sandwiching a lovely, four and a half minute acoustic breather would be the easiest way to describe this album, but anyone who's heard this knows that it's far more than that. The dynamics here are incredible, from the build-ups to the climaxes, everything is so deliberate. The loudest moments still have such a delicate, human element to them, while the softer ones tend to carry a heavy sense of foreboding, as if you can already feel where the music is heading. The progressions are tremendous, and every moment is dripping with weighty emotion, almost as much as the next album on this list...

Recommended Tracks: Garten, Gekkou No Daichi

38. The Antlers - Burst Apart

Yet another indie artist with an astounding album to live up to, The Antlers follow the rather emotionally heavy Hospice with something not quite as hefty (though how could it be?), but just as sharp. The genuine bleakness is still present, but in a different light; where Hospice was the traumatic event, Burst Apart is trying to rebuild while dealing with the aftermath. There is arguably every bit as much emotion here, just channeled in a different way (if you weren't impressed by that mournful falsetto at the end of I Don't Want Love, then I don't know what to tell you). The music has seen a shift as well, particularly on the almost new wave-ish French Exit or the sharp, bluesy Putting the Dog to Sleep. All in all, another excellent effort, and another example of how great it is to see a young band making all the right moves.

Recommended Tracks: I Don't Want Love, No Widows

37. LV and Joshua Idehen - Routes

For those who want a little more dub in their dubstep. LV has long been known for their tastefully bass-heavy and, well, exotic sounding production, but what really sells it here is Joshua Idehen fronting the trio. He has such a unique delivery, and frequently switches it up; he gives a bizarrely half-spoken word and half-croon performance on Deleted Scene, and sounds almost sarcastically obnoxious with his bouncy repetition on Northern Line. Plus there's that accent of his, it gives the music such a grimy feel, and makes you feel as if you're walking the streets of London in the middle of the night in between pubs. This album is culturally rich, tremendously well textured, and a shitload of fun to boot.

Recommended Tracks: Lean Back, Never Tired

36. This Morn' Omina - L'Unification Des Forces Opposantes

Here's a group I was rather late to the party with, and are frankly one of those rare groups who sound like nothing I'd ever heard before. Combining world music and electronics (recalling Leftfield a quite a bit, actually) with an attack tailor-made for industrial dance floors, L'Unification Des Forces Opposantes is an unusual listen, to say the least. And daunting, too; this double disc monster consists of a mere thirteen sprawling tracks. but with as much as each track has going on, and as brilliantly as each one comes to fruition, the minutes really do fly by. And with as packed to the brim this album is with ideas and details, plus how left field (a-huh huh, y'see what I did thar) the pairing of genres is, the fact that it's all so listenable is nothing short of astonishing.

Recommended Tracks: (The) Ruach (Of God), (The) Sixth Order

35. Black Swan - The Quiet Divide

Good dark ambient has a way of sinking in and chilling you to the bone with seemingly the barest of efforts, and as you may have gathered, Black Swan's second full-length effort does just this. Easily the best ambient I have heard all year (and it had quite a bit of competition), The Quiet Divide is so relentlessly unsettling. Melodies are (naturally) scarce, but light synths are throbbing left and right, discordant piano notes are randomly dropped, static comes in and out, samples of gibberish are introduced at unexpected moments, and the air is just so god damn menacing. There is so much depth to be found with what initially sounds like very little that it goes beyond beauty; it's utterly fascinating. This music truly puts you in a scary place, yet intrigues; like a gesturing hand beckoning from the darkness.

Recommended Tracks: Black Eulogy, Angel Eyes

34. Tom Waits - Bad As Me

Tom Waits is one of those musicians who has an incredibly broad spectrum of styles, yet never sounds like anybody but himself, and Bad As Me serves as a reminder of sorts. From the beautiful, flamenco-flavored Back in the Crowd to the dark blues of Talking at the Same Time (which features an impressive falsetto that only Waits could pull off), the songwriting giant employs a dizzying array of instruments, fantastic melodies, and clever lyrics that could only have come from his head. Waits can make surf rock on crack (Go Get Lost),  he can make a love song sound like a listless night in an empty bar (Kiss Me), and he can give jazz almost John Zorn-ish levels of frenzy (Chicago). Tom Waits' best may likely be behind him, but his music has not lost its consistently high quality by any stretch of the imagination.

Recommended Tracks: Bad As Me, Hell Broke Luce

33. Björk - Biophilia

One of my favorite things about Björk has always been her childlike fascination with everything around her, from cars to the sun, and her ability to make metaphors of these things from that mindset. Her last two albums, while good in their own right, saw her getting a bit too mature for her own good, and all the hoopla with iPad apps for each song and whatnot made me suspect that Biophilia would be more of the same. Mercifully, I couldn't have been more wrong. The music is pieced together so intricately, but with the charm of not sounding like it at all. The shuffling beats and melodies crashing into that pulverizing drum & bass outro of Crystalline, the first song released from this album, are a perfect example. The music has an imagination to it that she hasn't exhibited in years, as do the lyrics - a tumor singing a love song to its host? Finding a connection between love and plate tectonics? Pure brilliance, and more importantly, pure Björk.

Recommended Tracks: Virus, Mutual Core

32. Laura Stevenson and the Cans - Sit Resist

Aw shit, girl... you so cute. Seriously, this is about as charming as music gets - there's such an honesty to Sit Resist, and it wastes no time in sweeping you off your feet (opener Halloween, Pts. 1 & 2's seductive emotional punch grabs you almost immediately). It's tempting to credit it to Stevenson's adorably quirky way of getting to the point or her tremendously emotive vocal, which can range from a fragile near-whimper to a powerful, cathartic shout, but the music itself is so vibrant and beautiful, and expressed with a tastefully wide array of instruments. There is much heartache and longing in this album, but it's not expressed so much with melancholy as it is with an appreciation for it all, as if to support the argument that the times where you're hurting are some of the times where you're the most alive.

Recommended Tracks: Caretaker, 8:08

31. Omar-S - It Can Be Done but Only I Can Do It

Arrogance is almost always a turn off, be it in a person or an album title. But sometimes, it's so justified that it ceases to be arrogance and can be interpreted as mere confidence, and that's precisely what we have here in Omar S' rather boldly titled full-length. Unabashedly taking house through just about every direction it's been in since 1989, It Can Be Done is a whirlwind of an album packed to the brim with oddball ideas (like I Come Over's ridiculously tantalizing minute-long hook, or Look Hear Watch's mournful synths over porn; I assume it to be an entire scene, given the audible insertion, ass slaps, and money shot) that somehow work. It's this kind of adventurousness and efficiency that makes house music great, and makes you loathe the talentless DJs getting by with simple pounding beats all the more. Not mentioning any Guetta names.

Recommended Tracks: Ganymede, Here's Your Trance Now Dance

30. Ulcerate - The Destroyers of All

It feels odd referring to an album with such a crushingly bleak atmosphere as "refreshing," but it's just nice to see a death metal outfit running with an idea other than simply playing either as fast or technical as they can. The focus here is purely on songwriting; establishing mood, developing cohesive yet dynamic progressions, and really just getting the most out of as little as possible. The riffs are excellent, but Jamie Saint Merat's drumming brings even more out of them by merely throwing in a simple blast beat or some rhythmic cymbal work at just the right moments. A dense and challenging listen to be sure, but a potentially addicting one as well.

Recommended Tracks: Burning Skies, Beneath

29. The Field - Looping State of Mind

The Field's music has become infamous for its use of repetition, and as such it has become noticeably divisive. Many find it to be boring, plodding along to the same beat with a random additional sound thrown in here and there for good measure, which is perfectly understandable. I, however, belong firmly in the opposing camp, treasuring the subtle shifts, the almost organic-sounding samples, the lush and mesmerizing sonics. Listening to this album gives off such a warming, entrancing feeling, meeting somewhere between ambient and dance music. As Wayne Gale once said, "Repetition works, David. Repetition works."

Recommended Tracks: Is This PowerArpeggiated Love

28. Tech N9ne - Welcome to Strangeland

At one point, All 6's and 7's had a place on this list, but Tech N9ne's second full-length of the year was just too damn good. Which speaks volumes about the man, the fact that he can release two albums of such high quality in one year without breaking a sweat. Tech's trademark spitfire style with which he spits, well, fire, is here in spades, but more importantly his rhymes seem to have been bumped up yet another notch - the guy is a fucking rhyming dictionary with legs. Just listen to the chorus in Unfair, his verse on Kocky, the list goes on and on. Also there are the guest spots with astonishing exchanges, and along with the cleverly subtle story being told throughout the album, it really gives off the energetic feel of a Tech show; and if you've ever been to one, you know it's not so much a concert as it is a raucous house party. Simply outstanding.

Recommended Tracks: Who Do I Catch, Slave

27. Stendeck - Scintilla

It never fails to baffle me when an extraordinarily talented artist consistently releases elite material to little or no acclaim. Now on his fourth album, Swiss producer Alessandro Zampieri sounds as good as ever, crafting charming ambient pieces with edges jagged enough to keep the listener hooked. As psychedelic, dark, and even menacing as these tracks can sound, there's always a vivid prettiness shimmering underneath, something even more emphasized by the oh-so-poetic titles (Thieves of Watercolour Memories?? Fuck, why didn't I think of that...), giving the arresting sounds a solid accompanying imagery. This is one of those albums that takes the notion of electronic music being devoid of emotion and utterly demolishes it.

Recommended Tracks: Catch the Midnight GirlThat Foolish Fascination of a Ghost Light Collector

26. Sepalcure - Sepalcure

Truth be told, I do genuinely hate to be sucking on the cock of a genre as overly saturated as dubstep, but in the midst of all the shit that has unfortunately seen the light of day, there have been some absolute gems as well; and as I'm sure you've surmised by now, Sepalcure's long-awaited debut LP is one that positively shimmers. Beautiful, straight forward garage that isn't afraid to throw a little house or hip-hop in the mix here and there, the music towers over the vast majority of its contemporaries in terms of sheer inventiveness and creativity. The samples and synths are woven together impeccably, and the finished product is a fiercely intelligent beauty traveling on a beat that simply will not quit.

Recommended Tracks: Pencil Pimp, Hold On

Jesus Christ, it's almost March. I hope nobody had developed hope that I'd forgotten about this just-a-little-overly-long countdown, as I hate to disappoint. But in any case, after a long, chaotic month, I'm pleased to continue with this Best-of-2011 list according to some random guy you've never met. As we all know, however, the only thing better than reading pointless pop culture countdowns is not having to read the even more pointless paragraph that precedes it. So... let's continue, shall we?

75. Amon Tobin - ISAM

When a guy can not only make an album out of random samples he put together himself (and we're not talking vocal hooks from old, obscure R&B songs, I mean shit as random as electrical feedback and painstakingly recorded movement of insects), but make it absolutely phenomenal as well, you know there is some ridiculous talent on your hands. Or in your headphones, rather. With ISAM, Amon Tobin has toned it down just a bit, keeping the adventurous, wild beats but with a bit less of the eccentricity. Which is not to say that the random nature has been completely thrown out the window of course (this is still about as leftfield as it gets), simply that it's just a bit more accessible. And leave it to someone this clever to pull the juggling act off without a hitch.

Recommended Tracks: Kitty Cat, Dropped from the Sky

74.  Skindred - Union Black

It only took seven years and more than a few iffy efforts, but Skindred have finally mastered their reggae-metal blend, and sounds as good as anybody could have hoped. The Welsh quartet haven't lost any of their aggression or heaviness to achieve this, either; just some serious tightening in the songwriting department, and having a few more tricks up their collective sleeve this time around, particularly their dabbling with electronics. The fist-pumping choruses of stompers like Cut Dem and Bad Man Ah Bad Man are tremendously rousing, not just in how animated the music is, but how much soul is behind it.

Recommended Tracks: Warning, Living a Lie

73. Ulver - Wars of the Roses

Probably the most diverse band in existence with such consistent success, and albums embracing genres as disparate as trip-hop and black metal, Ulver has proven themselves to be impossibly good at just about everything they try their hand at, and this time around Garm and co. have got their fingers in a few different pies. From the unexpected poppiness of opener February MMX to the haunting ambience of closer Stone Angels, Wars of the Roses is a thoughtfully crafted piece of work, not only with shades of nearly everything they've done up to this point, but making a cohesive unit of it all to boot. Even without the beautiful songs, that alone is a massive triumph.

Recommended Tracks: Providence, Island

72. Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation

Something about The Year of Hibernation feels as if it should be permeating sadness. And indeed, melancholy is abound in the dreamy waves, but there's just something so life-affirming about Trevor Powers' debut under the Youth Lagoon moniker; just how gentle and fragile this album is. Lines like "When I was seventeen, My mother said to me, 'don't stop imagining, the day that you do is the day that you die'" can be found up and down the eight stellar tracks, and one can't help but smile at the charming innocence behind it all. Powers has an endearingly childlike wonder in how he expresses himself, both lyrically and musically, and that is what makes this such an audible treat.

Recommended Tracks: Cannons, Montana

71. Loss - Despond

As heavy with its guitars as it is with its melancholy, funeral doom act Loss' long awaited follow-up to 2004's Life Without Hope... Death Without Reason has proven more than worthy of its predecessor (as well as the teasing splits released over the past seven years). Taking a bit more of a melodic path without sacrificing any of the unyielding bleakness, Despond is a cohesive and pitch-black slab of sorrow, yet with songwriting and production so sharp that aurally speaking, it's tremendously enjoyable. Like taking a trip through the nether regions of the soul with excellent in-flight service.

Recommended Tracks: Cut Up Depressed and Alone, The Irreparable Act

70. Deaf Center - Owl Splinters

Cleverly blending neo-classical with ambient, Owl Splinters places gorgeous piano pieces alongside captivating soundscapes to create a downright haunting package. Then there are moments where the two elements are combined, namely on the wonderful The Day I Would Never Have, with its astonishingly powerful build-up and fiercely morose atmosphere. This isn't rainy day music so much as it is end-of-the-world music; at times it practically paralyzes the listener in its tenebrous beauty. Sounds a bit dramatic, I know, but... fuck, just listen to the thing.

Recommended Tracks: Time Spent, Close Forever Watching

69. The Kills - Blood Pressures

2008's Midnight Boom was a certainly an enjoyable affair in its own right, but Blood Pressures finds the duo back at what they do best; good old fashioned gritty, bluesy rock. This is the dirtiest and most aggressive Jamie Hince's guitars have sounded in a while, and it's a large part of why The Kills came out head and shoulders above The Black Keys this year. Not to mention that Alison Mosshart's vocals are as venomous and sexy as ever; maybe it was their time apart, maybe it was Mosshart's time with The Dead Weather, but whatever the reason, the duo is back at the top of their game.

Recommended Tracks: Satellite, Pots and Pans

68. Arms and Sleepers - The Organ Hearts

Like so much of the trip-hop of old, Arms and Sleepers' latest has a sweetly dark way about it. The charm doesn't lie so much in traditional hooks or melodies nearly as much as in how alluring it all sounds. At times it can be a bit despondent and at others a bit swelling, but there's never too much of one thing going on at any given time to disrupt the cool, wispy air about it. Everything is smooth and controlled, with just enough liveliness to keep things from getting dull.

Recommended Tracks: A Smile in Sofia, Airport Blues

67. Bill Callahan - Apocalypse

A sardonic baritone can make just about anything (in this case, "Oh America!" comes to mind) sound brilliant, but Bill Callahan's witty lyrics and laid back delivery already do that to the man's music all on their own. Not to mention the masterful subtleties sprinkled throughout Apocalypse's delightfully americana-drenched brand of folk, from seemingly random tempo changes to startling musical progressions, all of which can be found on early album highlight Baby's Breath alone. Callahan's soothing voice is enough, but the broad instrumentation and gentle sound brings it all together quite nicely. A lovely listen.

Recommended Tracks: Baby's Breath, Riding for the Feeling

66. Jehst - The Dragon of an Ordinary Family

As he asserts on the closing Two Point Four, "Yeah the kid spits flames, you'll have to call the fire brigade to fix this place." With his latest, Jehst places himself comfortably alongside Orphans of Cush and Klashnekoff as the premier voices in modern UK hip-hop. Clever line after clever line fly from this guy's mouth, the least of which off the top of my head is how he uses A Tribe Called Quest's infamous call-response "Can I Kick It?" only to respond "no, you can't" on The Illest just to illustrate how lyrically untouchable he is. And really, any listener would be hardpressed to disagree.

Recommended Tracks: Zombies, England

65. Wormrot - Dirge

One of the joys of listening to grindcore is that if you've got eighteen spare minutes, you can listen to a fantastic album in its entirety. Which is exactly what Singapore based trio Wormrot give us with their second full-length; eighteen blistering, screaming minutes. More importantly, however, is the (relative) versatility shown. Yeah, it's harsh and in your face and all that, but the mere fact that these guys don't have to limit themselves to simply thrashing away as fast as they possibly can for the entire duration of the album says more than anything else - after all, when you can tell the songs apart on an album like this, that alone is a huge step forward! As the shortest song here not to be a Napalm Death reference proclaims, "Fucking fierce, so what?"

Recommended Tracks: Overpowered Violence, Principle of Puppet Warfare

64. Austin Peralta - Endless Planets

Despite the lack of electronic influence, Endless Planets fits right in on the label that Flying Lotus calls home; the meticulous layering, the prodigious songwriting, and that knack for capturing a mood and not letting go until the album's dying strains. As stunningly clean and beautiful this smooth, jazzy affair is, it's all the more impressive when you consider the fact that the man behind the piano leading this lovely music was a tender twenty years of age at the time of recording. When I was twenty, I remember (vaguely) writing term papers, waiting tables, and finagling alcohol by whatever means were available to me; not exactly much of a comparison there.

Recommended Tracks: Capricornus, Ode to Love

63. 2562 - Fever

From the get-go, Dave Huismans shows off a remarkable skill with manipulating samples on the third release under his 2562 moniker. Playing almost like a dubstep equivalent of a Pollack painting, Fever takes a good few listens to digest; there's a constant sense of familiarity, yet without being able to easily place the origin. The styles implemented range from disco to eighties pop to nineties rave along with numerous others, and Huismans makes them all work together far better than anyone would ever expect. As scattershot as the overall album feels, everything begins to make sense in its own way, and all while keeping the listeners nodding their heads.

Recommended Tracks: Aquatic Family Affair, Brasil Deadwalker

62. Septic Flesh - The Great Mass

The Philharmonic Orchestra, the Choir of Prague, and gothic death metal, a combination which normally spells out an overly bloated, symphonic mess. And to write off Septic Flesh's latest as such would be completely understandable, but a gross oversight as well. Not only does the band avoid the cheesiness that bands like Cradle of Filth (I'm a fan, but let's be honest here) are infamous for, but there is such attention to detail in balancing the metal, neo-classical, and melodicism, and fantastic interplay among all these elements. Too often do extreme metal bands' efforts collapse with overwrought ambition, but here it's quite possibly been done as well as it's ever going to be.

Recommended Tracks: Five-Pointed Star, Apocalypse

61. Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise

Another absurdly talented young man, Nicolas Jaar's debut album takes funky basslines, garage rhythms, chopped up samples, and a harrowing ambient feel to create an atmosphere entirely his own. The middle portion of the record alone, from the gloomy, Ray Charles sampling I Got a Woman to the strangely danceable-yet-unsettling Space Is Only Noise If You Can See, exhibits just about everything Jaar has to throw at the listener, all bundled up in a tasteful little package. It serves as a great sample of its parent album, as it's probably the best ambient music of the year to not even really be ambient at all.

Recommended Tracks: Colomb, Keep Me There

60. Ash Borer - Ash Borer

The mere fact that forty minutes of black metal crammed into three densely packed tracks doesn't get old after the first five minutes is proof enough that Ash Borer's self titled debut LP is something special. But beyond that, there's so much going on here; for one, the raw, ear-scraping production lines up perfectly with the intense emotion driving the music, as opposed to the poor production so many black metal acts fall victim to, presumably under the impression that that's simply what it's supposed to sound like. The music is crushing, the vocals are piercing, and everything is just so fucking loud. As nature intended.

Recommended Tracks: In the Midst of Life We Are in DeathMy Curse Was Raised in the Darkness Against a Doomsday Silence

59. Steffi - Yours & Mine

Quite possibly the best love letter to early house music since Zomby's near-classic Where Were U in '92?, Steffi's first full-length release has a delightful no-frills approach. Both pretty and fun, while being deliberately dated to the point of sounding modern, Yours & Mine is too inoffensive to dislike, yet carries none of the boredom that an adjective like "inoffensive" often carries. This is just an extremely adept DJ doing her thing, spinning modestly crafted house music that wriggles its way into your ear and gets you dancing before you even have a chance to think about how inherently lovely it is.

Recommended Tracks: YoursMine (yes, I realize this looks like a lame joke)

58. fLako - The Mesektet

Trippy, and almost sad. Almost, because you can just imagine the half-baked freestyle sessions that this album has likely played host to since its release. A charmingly mixed bag of instrumental hip-hop, The Mesektet is something that any J Dilla fan would do well to give a listen; a hodgepodge of thirty mini-tracks, all with their own allure yet unquestionably all parts of the same entity. With all the different styles and moods that fLako visits here, nothing ever feels out of focus or forced, but rather a smooth, fun trip through the imagination of its creator.

Recommended Tracks: WedjitShake It Harder

57. A Winged Victory for the Sullen - A Winged Victory for the Sullen

In a word, breathtaking. Ordinarily, music that sounds as tragic as this is only able to convey so much beauty, but A Winged Victory for the Sullen's self-titled debut exceeds overwhelmingly on both counts. The music is so delicate, so fragile, and almost seems to tell a tale so heartbreaking that it could only be told through something this arrestingly gorgeous. It's no surprise that half of the duo which crafted this ambient work of art hails from Stars of the Lid; in fact, what would be a surprise would be if it had been produced by two no-names just putting out their first piece of music. There is so much emotion, so much power behind Sullen that, well to be perfectly frank, I wouldn't judge you if it made you weep a little bit.

....pussy.

Recommended Tracks: We Played Some Open Chords and Rejoiced for the Earth Had Circled the Sun Yet Another Year, Requiem for the Static King, Part One

56. Dela - Translation Lost

Mainstream hip-hop isn't quite as bad as many purists would have you believe, however it's undeniable that there are a few too many so-called MCs getting by with simply mumbling like an idiot over bad techno, calling it rapping, and collecting a paycheck. A source of frustration, to be sure, but when a guy who grew up listening to all the right hip-hop comes along and does it right, it's all the more rewarding. On Transition Lost, Dela employs the best things about the nineties east coast sound: impeccably placed samples, a smooth, jazzy sound, and gentle melodies with an upbeat presentation. The tracks that don't already feature somebody on the mic are begging to be rapped over, underlining one of the most important qualities one can have in the game, whether a rapper or producer - just being hungry.

Recommended Tracks: Lucy's&LooseLeavesJay Electropietricus

55. Tim Hecker - Ravedeath, 1972

Where A Winged Victory for the Sullen seems to mourn the loss of beauty, Ravedeath, 1972 seems to revel in its destruction. So much of this album is warbled, distorted, and with more than a hint of menace, yet with the strains of a sense of longing dying underneath it all. And with as densely packed as this ambient tour de force is, the imagery conjured up by these sounds is hardly set in stone; several people I've discussed this album with have walked away with something entirely different. This is largely what makes Ravedeath so remarkable, that there is so much being said here, yet not enough to cleanly define it. Not exactly, anyway. And really, that's one of the best things a piece of music can offer.

Recommended Tracks: Analog Paralysis 1978, In the Air: II

54. Roman Flügel - Fatty Folders

Rarely is such adventurous house music this lovely. Everything about Roman Flügel's first full-length is an absolute pleasure to listen to, from the laid back moments awash with gentle synths to the more complex tracks ridden with almost haphazardly paired melodies. Then there are the most aggressive moments, particularly The Improviser, a bass-heavy number with a definite animosity bubbling just beneath the surface, yet subdued enough to keep it fitting in smoothly with the rest of the album. Everything ties together quite nicely on Fatty Folders, and its greatest strength is that gentle sound woven into the music's inherent ability to make you want to dance.

Recommended Tracks: How to Spread Lies, Krautus

53. Demdike Stare - Tryptych

A compilation of three vinyl-only releases from the previous year (though it does contain a fair amount of bonus tracks), including Tryptych is probably cheating just a tad, but the dark ambient here in this sprawling set is just too good to be excluded. This isn't haunting so much as it is downright frightening; there are horror films with scores that have nothing on the Forest of Evil disc alone, much less Tryptych in its entirety. And while there's over two and a half hours of meandering, uneasy ambience, there's always something new being thrown in to keep it from growing stagnant... though to be honest, the music has such a presence to it that it probably wouldn't have been necessary anyway. Fun trick to play on your roommate #427: just as they're drifting off, put this on, then in the morning listen to them go on about the weird dreams they had.

Recommended Tracks: Forest of Evil (Dusk), A Tale of Sand

52. Maybeshewill - I Was Here for a Moment, Then I Was Gone

Maybeshewill has always been a band who does post-rock that gets right to the point, without sacrificing any of their intensity in the process. Their ability to condense ten to fifteen minute songs to a length of about five has always been a calling card, and with as rapidly as this band has progressed, it's great to see that they haven't lost this. While I Was Here for a Moment isn't perhaps the largest leap forward, it finds them honing their skills just a bit more, with the only real loss being the movie samples which popped up rather frequently in the past. Those were always a nice touch, but when compared to a superior flow and song layers that compliment one another better, it's hardly much of a loss.

Recommended Tracks: Farewell Sarajevo, To the Skies from a Hillside

51. Radiohead - The King of Limbs

The King of Limbs has drawn quite a bit of flak from fans old and new, what with its brevity and somewhat minimalist sound. And following the somewhat sprawling In Rainbows, it's not a complete surprise. But if this band has taught us anything, isn't it to not expect the same thing twice? No first listen to a Radiohead album has ever bored me; I remember loving trying to wrap my head around the uncompromising bizarreness of Everything in Its Right Place and Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box, getting a little startled when the distortion kicked in halfway through 2+2=5, and finding my head bobbing along to the infectious rhythm of 15 Step. So when the shuffling piano and drums against that pitch-black backdrop of Bloom filled my headphones, there was only one thing I expected: another great album, and that's exactly what we got. At the end of the day, Limbs is a flat out fantastic record. Yes, even by Radiohead standards.

Recommended Tracks: Little by Little, Lotus Flower

Judging by the article's somewhat less-than-ambiguous title, and the fact that anyone reading this is more likely than not a music nut well-versed with wandering around the net, there's not much need for a wordy introduction here. But let's do that anyway! 2010 set the bar staggeringly high, and it's nothing short of a marvel that 2011 measured up with such apparent ease. From artsy pop sirens to dubstep wunderkinds to old hip-hop favorites, the year was dominated with heavy hitters, to say the least.  So let's stop rambling and survey the year's wreckage with an another needlessly large countdown, shall we?

100. Grouplove - Never Trust a Happy Song

There's something to be said for music with such an infectious catchiness to it that any lack of originality is completely forgiven. Which is not to call Grouplove's debut derivative or unoriginal at all; while this lovely slice of summery indie pop goodness is sprinkled all throughout with familiar sounds and influences, everything fits wonderfully with the band's own individual stamp. Not only does Never Trust a Happy Song give off such an absurdly good and energetic vibe, it puts 2011 indie contemporaries Foster the People and The Drums to shame with its impressive consistency.

Recommended Tracks: Lovely Cup, Love Will Save Your Soul

99. Little Scream - The Golden Record

Laurel Sprengelmeyer (who painted the cover art herself) proves to have quite the Midas touch with her debut, the aptly titled The Golden Record. While the bulk of this album's material points to folk, Sprengelmeyer tries her hand at incorporating a number of different styles, resulting in a surprisingly effective blend. The mood ranges from sad and wistful to restless with not just a startling lack of difficulty, but such a genuine nature that the music doesn't once feel as if crafted by an overly eager musician trying too hard, which can be a tremendously difficult pitfall to avoid with such ambition, and that could well be Little Scream's greatest strength.

Recommended Tracks: The Heron and the Fox, Black Cloud

98. The King Blues - Punk & Poetry

Not to say that I'm the biggest fan of The Clash, but honestly, they're just one of those bands where you'd be hardpressed to find someone who doesn't at least respect them. Enter The King Blues, who carry the same spirit of playing with punk rock not just in how it can sound, but what it can say, and they do a marvelous job with their third LP. Outspoken vocalist Jonny "Itch" Fox's subject matter ranges from tender love songs to taking fierce socio-political stances at the drop of a dime (and sounding just as passionate every time) while the band behind him toys with styles as disparate as dancehall and doo wop. And with as long the gamut they run is, the band makes it feel as if it shouldn't be any other way.

Recommended Tracks: The Future's Not What It Used to Be, Five Bottles of Shampoo

97. Cass McCombs - Wit's End

As bleak as Wit's End can come across, it's admirable just how damn mesmerizing it is. McCombs has such a knack for emanating his influences (Syd Barrett and Nick Drake, to name a few) while making his melancholic songwriting his own. The songs express themselves by way of storytelling, venting, and even at times rambling, and each one is like a successful, dark little experiment. And Wit's End is a dark listen, even unbearably so at times, but there is such attention to detail and such a feel of authenticity behind it that it's unimaginable for a fan of any folk between 1965 and today to not find something they would like here.

Recommended Tracks: The Lonely Doll, Buried Alive

96. Tombs - Path of Totality

For an album stumbled upon simply because it shares its title with Korn's latest misguided attempt at reclaiming relevancy, Tombs' fourth full-length is a find and a half; as intelligent as it is blistering, and a great direction in which to send someone who wonders where the hell Neurosis has been hiding. Totality has got a serious kick to it, sludging and thrashing its way through impressively intricate progressions and building up to downright explosive peaks. Booming, raging, and even morose at times, Tombs exhibits a depth in metal that just isn't as common as it used to be.

Recommended Tracks: To Cross the Land, Cold Dark Eyes

95. DeVotchKa - 100 Lovers

One of the most culturally rich bands around, DeVotchKa (don't you DARE leave out that typeset!) returned this year with essentially more of the same; an album that may not be as cohesive as it could, but songs that absolutely nail any aspect of world music they attempt, incorporating it seamlessly with their gentle brand of indie rock. With such a unique style, and what with how every Devotchka record (see? Doesn't that look HORRIBLE?) takes its listener on a such a convincing musical journey around the world, it's hard to fault the band for the few flaws they do show.

Recommended Tracks: All the Sand in All the Sea, Exhaustible

94. Necro Deathmort - Music of Bleak Origin

Utterly bizarre. Music of Bleak Origin couldn't possibly have a more appropriate title; pitch black from start to finish, with so many heavy and dark genres thrown together to create something that's soul crushing in its own special way. It pounds like industrial, it deafens in the same way that drone does, and it maintains a barely concealed beauty underneath all the ugliness in a way that shoegaze always has. Bleak grabs you immediately, and holds your attention as only something mildly disturbing can. To put it plainly, there's an extremely good chance that you've never heard anything quite like this.

Recommended Tracks: For Your Own Good, Blizzard

93. Banner Pilot - Heart Beats Pacific

Banner Pilot's third effort finds the quartet doing what they do best, crafting catchy pop punk with just enough edge to keep it interesting. And like the best outfits in this scene, Banner Pilot has a way of making the most silly and every day things sound absolutely brilliant by merely singing about it with a soaring poppy chorus. "So if you wanna stay up all night, we can hit the record shops or just stay in bed drinking Spanish Reds, waiting for the rain to stop." A band this good can make just about anything sound great.

Recommended Tracks: Forty Degrees, Spanish Reds

92. The Horrible Crowes - Elsie

It doesn't really come as a surprise that something so bluesy, dirty, and downright raw could come from a side project of The Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon, but that doesn't make it any less impressive. Fallon is known for his outstanding storytelling abilities and lyricism, and these truly take the stage on Elsie; loneliness, anguish, and frustration are evident in even the most raucous numbers, but they're no more prevalent than the hope and resilience that are able to register in the saddest and most pensive of the tracks. As direct as it is complex, Elsie is quite the emotional trip.

Recommended Tracks: Sugar, Ladykiller

91. Sims - Bad Time Zoo

Yet another obscenely talented MC on the Doomtree roster, Sims' sophomore record boasts incredibly catchy and seemingly radio-tailored beats that are too fun to not get your head nodding. On top of this, however, is an impressive flow expressing quite a few ideas and protests that almost don't fit the music's unbridled merriment; politicians, technology, ignorance, greed, solipsism, and several more topics make up quite the conversational buffet that is Bad Time Zoo's lyrical platter. The great thing is, though, that the music and lyrics balance each other out perfectly, and you can be in the mood for only one and still enjoy the shit out of this.

Recommended Tracks: Burn It Down, Weight

90. Jenny Hval - Viscera

In a word, sexy. Not many singers can let their looming voice carry the brunt of an album, much less blurt out words like "clitoris" or "erection" so offhandedly yet with such profound effect. Viscera is just that, a woman embracing her sexuality from the inside out and expressing it with music and vocals that are thoroughly dripping with lust. Hval manages a peculiar balance musically as well, keeping her melodies and instrumentation with a strong variance yet with an unmistakable uniform sound to the album as a whole. As engaging as it is challenging. And as you may have guessed, quite thought provoking as well. Ehm... if you'll excuse me, I need to regain my focus.

Recommended Tracks: Blood Flight, This Is a Thirst

89. Thrice - Major/Minor

Seeing the ever-evolving Thrice on an end-of-the-year list isn't exactly a shocker, is it? Thrice is that rare beast in music who never sounds like anybody but themselves, though gives you something new every time, and Major/Minor is of course no exception. And while the atmosphere and melodies are more than enough to carry this album, it's is a stunner if only for that voice. Dustin Kensrue's rasp has so much character in it that the "singing the phone book" cliche most definitely applies here, making the already stripped down affair sound even more raw and pack even more of an emotional punch. Thrice, you've done it again.

Recommended Tracks: Yellow Belly, Treading Paper

88. Sarah Fimm - Near Infinite Possibility

Let's pretend for a moment that Dredg and their god-awful "dark pop" doesn't exist for a moment, and simply embrace the notion of a pop-rock singer/songwriter embracing a bit of a dark edge to their somewhat radio friendly approach, and this is roughly what you get. Sarah Fimm has got more than just a touch of Sarah McLachlan in her, but she is far more daring and eclectic, and on this outing she is wearing her heart on both sleeves. There may be a bit of a streamlined sound here, but make no mistake - the emotion boiling underneath the surface is very real. Dredg may have coined the term referring to dark pop, but this is the real thing.

Recommended Tracks: Invisible Satellites, Disappear

87. Modeselektor - Monkeytown

Perhaps, for whatever reason, the German duo feared that their already staggering collection of electronic styles was in danger of growing stale, and that could be why Monkeytown is so eclectic (even more so than their flooring first two albums). In any case, one can only assume that Modeselektor wanted to go even more all out this time around; more guest spots, a more dizzying array of genres blended together, and more densely packed tracks. There is so much going on here that it can take a while to digest; which isn't to suggest that Monkeytown isn't concise, of course. In fact, it's an absolute joy to feel growing on you.

Recommended Tracks: Berlin, This (feat. Thom Yorke)

86. Onry Ozzborn - Hold On for Dear Life

The vocal half of Dark Time Sunshine (who released the tremendous Vessel just last year) returns with his fourth solo album, and it's loaded with great beats and smart rhymes, both of which come with an extremely dynamic delivery. Alternately fun and gripping, it's not how much he has to say (and there is quite a lot) so much as how he says it; Onry Ozzborn is extremely inventive with his wordplay and with how he stacks the rhymes in his flow. Absolutely relentless.

Recommended Tracks: All to Herself, Electric Dreams

85. Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know

Fresh off the heels of  last year's spectacular I Speak Because I Can, Laura Marling churns out yet another excellent piece of folk, forcing me to gush for the second consecutive year about the twenty-one year old with a beautiful, textured voice which spouts out words that sound like they once belonged to a poet of old. It's astounding how not only can she pour her soul to such a complete degree into her gentle music, but how eloquently she does it. And she's just getting started.

Recommended Tracks: The Beast, Rest in the Bed

84. Givers - In Light

For better and for worse (depending on your taste, of course), Givers' debut In Light debut LP more than made up for the absence of a Vampire Weekend release in 2011. All the bright, bubbling melodies, the worldly influences, and that cheerful attitude are present, though it could be argued that Givers offer even more eclecticism and dynamism. These guys seem to go through so many different modes (check out the seemingly random celtic jam on Atlantic and how startlingly well it fits) but don't lose their focus once.

Recommended Tracks: Meantime, Noche Nada (A Lot from Me)

83. Sebastian - Total

Given how watered down the electro house scene has gotten with knob twiddlers getting by on bells, whistles, and bass farts, it's become easy to forget that it doesn't have to be complex to sound great; you can mess around with random noises all you want, but for fuck's sake, give it some melody! Thankfully, French producer Sebastian has got the balance down pat. As abrasive as the music can be, there's not only a pounding beat demanding you to stop whatever you're doing and to just have fun and fucking dance, but the melodies are too damn catchy to ignore. And this, my friends, is what good dance music is all about.

Recommended Tracks: Embody, Tetra

82. The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient

It's an amazing thing when an album can tell you "yeah, I've been there." Slave Ambient gives off this feel not just in how worn and genuinely destitute it sounds, but simply because the way it embraces its influences is so satisfyingly honest. Vocalist Adam Granduciel doesn't resemble Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan so much as he happens to be in the same boat; an everyman who just wants his story to be told and has extraordinary means with which to do so, backed by a band which is every bit as capable. With so many nods to the past, the mere fact that Slave wouldn't be at home in any other era is mesmerizing alone.

Recommended Tracks: I Was There, Your Love Is Calling My Name

81. Amatorski - TBC

Sometimes something can sound very fragile at first, and lures you in with the gentle sound it initially projects, but underneath the surface it's a crisp, and at times menacing beast. Belgian act Amatorski pulls this off with remarkable ease, resulting in what many have dubbed a hybrid of Portishead and Sigur Rós, a description which is a tad more accurate than one might expect. Delicate and beautiful, yet with a strong sense of foreboding, and the different sensibilities harmonize wonderfully.

Recommended Tracks: Never Told, 22 Februar

80. Toxic Holocaust - Conjure and Command

No self-respecting metalhead in this day and age is unfamiliar with any given band trying to replicate the thrash sound from the days of old. However, there is certainly something to be said for a band that takes the basic sound and runs off in their own direction with it. Throwing in just a touch of black metal, Toxic Holocaust really sets themselves apart from their thrash contemporaries on Conjure and Command just in how uncompromising it is. The band is not interested in following a template so much as using it for a stepping stone; Conjure may thrash harder than just about anything else in 2011, but it truly is something all on its own.

Recommended Tracks: Agony of the Damned, I Am Disease

79. Samiyam - Sam Baker's Album

As doomed as this already was to J Dilla comparisons (prior to release, even), the slightly melancholic nature lying just beneath the surface of the funky boom bap beats was bound to grab at least a few on their own merit. Thankfully, Samiyam is a more than capable producer, and molds all the influences into his own brand of instrumental hip-hop, from the wonky bass to the 8-bit synths. Even more crucially, the tracks never go longer than they need to; While an album having seventeen songs can give off a bit of a daunting feel, no idea is pushed any more than is necessary, and everything flows to a spectacular degree.

Recommended Tracks: Where Am I?, My Buddy

78. Thursday - No Devolución

One of the finest swansongs in recent years. Thursday have always had quite the flair for the dramatic, and it makes all too much sense that (what seems to be) their final release pushes it to the furthest edges possible without coming across as over the top. With aggression and utter beauty meeting halfway, No Devolución strikes an incredibly new sound for the band without ever sounding like anybody else. As vocalist Geoff Rickly said of the drive behind the album's writing process, "You know what? Who cares? Let's say our career is over tomorrow, who fucking cares? Let's make something beautiful." Only a fool would say that the band didn't accomplish exactly this...

Recommended Tracks: Darker Forest, Empty Glass

77. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee, Part Two

An issue that often arises for a band which has experienced twenty-plus years of consistent success is relentless fanboy-isms regarding anything they may put out. Well, as a rabid Beastie fan who didn't care much for To the 5 Boroughs (or The Mix-Up, for that matter), I can honestly call bullshit. The Beasties may not be in completely top form here, but anyone who denies that Hot Sauce finds them firing on all cylinders in a way they haven't in over a decade is lying to themselves. Everything our beloved New York based trio has excelled at (rapid fire trade-offs, random bursts of punk, making sure to have fun above all else, etc.) is here in spades. What's not to love?

Recommended Tracks: Nonstop Disco Powerpack, Lee Majors Come Again

76. Russian Circles - Embros

What makes Russian Circles' latest such a fascinating listen isn't so much those usual post-rock (or post-metal, if you like... you know how we music nerds love to tack "post" onto the front of things) conventions with their boxes checked as it is its remarkable ability to explore the best parts of a metal song six to eight minutes at a time. This could very easily come across as a random and pointless exercise, but the Chicago three piece are so good at making it all flow. Atackla alone goes from a brooding somber mood to aggressively pounding away to a startling sense of serenity; it's not so much a build-up as it blindly following its muse, and Embros is all the better for it.

Recommended Tracks: 309, Batu

Alright, after many delays (it's FEBRUARY for fuck's sake!), the conclusion of my silly little list is finally here. Anything you feel I may have missed, please feel free to make mention of, as this year had spectacular music coming out of its ass, and there is no doubt some great stuff I simply haven't heard (or even forgot about entirely).  So without further ado, let's DOO DIS THANG.

20.  How to Dress Well - Love Remains

Yet another album drowned in lo-fi production, but with the marvelous twist (what a twist!) of implementing a bit of R&B flavor to the music. This has been compared to artists as diverse as Burial, Bon Iver, and even D'Angelo, and interestingly enough, they're all perfectly reasonable nods. It's nearly as atmospheric, haunting, and soulful as the aforementioned (respectively), but with a peculiar warmth that leaves it with a strangely anonymous emotional quality. A darkly beautiful piece of work.

Recommended track: Decisions

19. The Felix Culpa - Sever Your Roots

What The Felix Culpa lacks in originality, they more than make up for with their grit and passion. Perhaps it's true, as the band's detractors say, that they're not doing anything that Brand New or As Cities Burn haven't already done, but these guys unquestionably mean every single word and note that comes out of them. There's great texture to the music too, with fantastic, catchy riffs along with the occasional inclusion of horns and strings to back up the zealous vocals. While it's not the most groundbreaking album you'll hear all year, it just might be the most genuinely emotive.

Recommended track: What You Call Thought Control, I Call Thought Control

18. Hour of Penance - Paradogma

Gulp. All the sheer, relentless brutality Hour of Penance brought to the proverbial table on The Vile Conception is back this time around, but with a remarkable step forward in the songwriting department. The structure has tightened up considerably, with sections flowing into one another with seamless transitions. For every pummeling 500,000 mph bit, there's a bit with a strong, steady groove, and all the while hooks are abound in the utterly crushing riffs. Everything, from the booming vocals to the intricate but furious drumming, comes together marvelously; sadly though, it makes the departure of vocalist Francesco Paoli and drummer Mauro Mercurio all the more disappointing, as it's somewhat doubtful whether or not the band will ever sound this good again.

Recommended track: Caged into Falsehood

17. Immolation - Majesty and Decay

For me, this was in a tight race with Hour of Penance's latest and ended up winning out simply because it displays so much more restraint and diversity. In fact, in Divine Code alone Immolation shows as broad a range as the entirety of Paradogma, but without losing any of its fierceness. Steve Shalaty's incredibly precise drumming deserves mention as well, shining even more on the slower, deliberate moments (A Thunderous Consequence) than the chaotic ones (A Token of Malice). Majesty and Decay captures everything that is great about this genre, and shows none of the stagnation that is often expected from death metal bands around twenty years in age. As one comment I came across put it, "The first three tracks alone killed my whole family." Well said.

Recommended track: The Purge

16. Phaeleh - Fallen Light

So they call this one future garage (dubstep would be too easy, apparently), and Phaeleh does an amazing job with it, crafting thoroughly hypnotizing pieces that take their time revealing themselves to the listener. Fallen Light is lush and beautiful, but its dynamism is such that it boasts moments appropriate for a club as well as those appropriate for that bleary-eyed trip back home the following dawn (which admittedly fall into the majority). Dark, enveloping, and endlessly charming, this one has grown on me to an absurd degree, and given its relaxed nature and excellent production, surely far more will be reeled in sooner than later.

Recommended track: Fallen Light

15. Menomena - Mines

Another superb album followed by the disheartening departure of a key band member, Mines (as in "this article is mines") sees the band trading in even more of their quirkiness and random musical detours for something a bit more emotional, and at times, even downright listless. This is not to suggest that Mines is a bare-boned affair of any sort though, in fact it's quite the opposite. They're merely sharper at slipping their personalities into the music, like in the slow, calculated progressions of Oh Pretty Boy, You're Such a Big Boy or Tithe, where the layers are in no rush to present themselves and feel all the more powerful for it (not to mention the heartbreaking delivery of lines like "My love is just not enough" or "Nothing sounds appealing"). If they do end up calling it quits, this is as good a swansong as any.

Recommended track: Dirty Cartoons

14. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma

Cosmogramma is pure imagination, and really reminds you what is so great about electronic music in the first place: when there's a sound you want to express that organic instruments simply can't produce, glitches, manipulated samples, and the like just may be the answer. Particularly if you're as skilled as Steven Ellison with putting it all together. In no other genre could this many other genres be so seamlessly placed alongside one another, to such an extent that it resembles its own new sound entirely. The great thing about tracks like Computer Face//Pure Being and especially the massive Do the Astral Plane is that they harness such unbridled creativity, and yet they absolutely throw down. The beats are so busy and messy, with touches of everything from jazz and soul to hip-hop and electro that, on paper, this album should be a complete mess - somehow, though, Cosmogramma repeatedly wraps one musical style around another to masterful effect, with a staggering cohesiveness that keeps everything sounding smooth, controlled, and fucking fun.

Recommended track: Nose Art

13. Amia Venera Landscape - The Long Procession

The second reason I'm glad I waited until after December to put this together is this massive sledgehammer of an album. Italian sextet Amia Venera Landscape's full-length debut is almost overwhelming with its riotous guitars, frenzied percussion, and incredibly charged shouts over it all (though paired with a startlingly adept melodic singing voice). What keeps it from losing its edge is how well random ambient pieces are thrown into the mix, letting you catch your breath every so often before slamming you with another intense wave of hostility. Any post-hardcore metalcore whatever-you-want-to-call-it fan should really keep an eye on these guys, they're off to an impeccable start.

Recommended track: A New Aurora

12. The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt

Listening to this, it's easy to take Kristian Matsson's moniker as literal. Armed with only his guitar and incredibly emotive voice, he is able to take what should be an intimate, bedroom sound and utterly encompass listeners with his confident playing and sincere, vivid lyrics. The imagery his poetic words brings to mind feelings ranging from bittersweetness to hope to heartbreak, weaving tales of seemingly everything from theology to desire. Overall, it's an intense listen that impressively transcends its humble origins of a simplistic singer/songwriter album.

Recommended track: Love Is All

11. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

Kanye this. Not to discredit My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which is certainly astounding in its own right, but Big Boi has done something even more impressive with his solo debut; he managed to make a spectacular hip-hop album without the aid of bells or whistles of any sort. The tools at use are the usual suspects; huge, head-bobbing beats, incessant self-reference, skits (that are actually funny!), and guest spots, but most importantly, an unbelievably proficient MC at the forefront just doing his thing. Big Boi's flow is as impossibly slick as always, with simple yet effortlessly ingenious one-liners such as this one (from the stunning single Shutterbugg) that I'm going to end this write-up with: "It's the nigga to B-I-G.  B-O-I?  O-U-T."

Recommended track: Tangerine

10. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

Halcyon Digest is delightfully psychedelic, as the bulk of Deerhunter's catalog is, but not only is it dominated with an indescribable and infectious warmth... the band just sounds so cool about it. Rather than gravitating towards pop, it's as if they simply kicked back and waited for it to come to them. Most songwriters would kill for the catchiness of Desire Lines or the dark, almost creeping air of Revival, but Bradford Cox and Co. toss it off with an almost nonchalant ease. What's more is that one (or in other words, my hapless wannabe-journalistic ass) is hardpressed to describe what exactly makes it so great; there's nothing particularly new presented here, it's just four guys cranking out spacey rock music that could well be far better than even they are aware. Halcyon Digest has been described as the 'new classic rock,' and frankly I'm inclined to agree.

Recommended track: Coronado

9. Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid

A pop album themed after a long forgotten 1927 classic sci-fi film? That description alone suggests a near-psychotic ambition, much less when you include the ungodly musical diversity therein. How Monae is able to make soul, 60s folk, modern R&B, funk, classical, hip-hop, swing, and the rest of The ArchAndroid's endless motorcade of styles all coexist so harmoniously is beyond me, but fuck if it doesn't sound staggeringly good. Everything is woven together into such an impressive aural tapestry that even without the relentless hooks (the record's first half is particularly rife with these), it's a completely flooring listen. Not to mention the absolutely phenomenal voice that this woman has! But forget about all that, really all that you need to- ...oh wait,  no. Don't forget about all that, it was my whole point.

Recommended track: Tightrope

8. Perfume Genius - Learning

Like Bon Iver and The Antlers before him, Mike Hadreas' full length debut as Perfume Genius has quite a story behind it - a history of experiencing far more harsh realities than one person ever should culminating in a drugged out downward spiral, before moving back home and sitting in front of his mother's piano until inspiration finally struck. Only a person channeling a tremendous pain into a positive, creative endeavor could make the simple storytelling of Mr. Peterson sound so fragile and tragic, or concoct something as dramatically heartbreaking as Gay Angels without coming across as over the top. The spaced out sadness of Learning rivals that of Grandaddy's Sophtware Slump or Sparklehorse's Good Morning Spider not just in Hadreas' skill for creating melodies, or even in just how bluntly honest he is, but for the glimmer of hope to which he clings all throughout. As the man himself said of this album's creation, "I felt like my heart actually broke but in this sort of hopeful, genuine way. Like I could finally rebuild it."

Recommended track: Look Out, Look Out

7. Cyanotic - The Medication Generation

The Medicated Generation is not just the most dense and painstakingly detailed industrial album you'll hear in 2010, it's also the most gripping. While the lyrical themes are nothing new for an industrial record (conformity, drugs, society, and the like), Sean Payne's snarling delivery is so chock full of conviction that he never sounds contrived or generic. It's the music behind him, though, that really sells this. Sample after sample after sample is intricately fused into this glitch-heavy metallic hurricane of an album, with everything from Slayer to Homer Simpson cleverly placed to enhance the idea behind each track. Even the more downtempo moments are packed like sardines with details, particularly Efficacy's foray into left field electronica, or Comadose's beautifully lackadaisical guitar-led dejection. It may not be accessible enough to convert someone who isn't a fan of industrial, but for someone who is, this is an absolutely essential album.

Recommended track: Dissonant Dissident

6. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Option Paralysis

Getting into this band is a funny thing. Initially, the relentless musical chaos sounds sloppy, unorganized, and scatterbrained; once given a chance though, the music exposes its true (and downright startling) intricacy and attention to detail. From their debut Calculating Infinity on, the band has added twist after twist to their uniquely frantic, complex time signature-ridden brand of hardcore, culminating in 2007's Ire Works, which many argued pushed the experimentation a bit too far. Whatever wrinkles were present in their last effort, however, have definitely been ironed out on Option Paralysis; the catchy melodies and broad array of influences are interlaced with the brutality more fluidly than ever before, as evidenced by tracks like the astoundingly ambitious Widower's gradual and seamless move from mournful jazz to raging hardcore and back, the hauntingly beautiful closer Parasitic Twins, and especially how they can coexist so easily alongside the towering, pulverizing throwbacks to 1999 like Crystal Morning. This is easily the group's most fully realized work  yet.

Recommended track: Gold Teeth on a Bum

5. These New Puritans - Hidden

If this band's debut saw them rubbing sticks together to make fire, their sophomore effort Hidden finds them mastering space travel. It is seriously that big a leap forward, and presents a wonderful thing for anybody who perhaps follows music a bit too closely - proof that yes, every once in a while, something truly new and fresh really is just around the corner. While post-punk inflected indie rock is hardly anything new, here it's infused with dance beats, tribal percussion, and set atop a dark, never ending orchestra. Mark my words, these guys have laid the groundwork for something huge, and the stunning creativity shown here could well spawn its own genre.

Recommended track: Fire-Power

4. Beach House - Teen Dream

Like last year's Merriweather Post Pavilion, Beach House's Teen Dream managed to stay in the heads of critics and fans alike all throughout the year to keep their own place on more than just a few '2010 top ten' lists. It's not difficult to see why, either; Teen Dream oozes a simple beauty that refuses to let its listener go; it shimmers with an almost overly heavy haziness, but is rife with gorgeous melodies, and atop them all is Victoria Legrand's beautiful, immediately grabbing voice. There is an odd combination of longing and contentment on this album, which by definition shouldn't work, but Alex Scally's guitars, keyboards, and the like coax them all into one another before Legrand sings over it and gets it all to make sense. Teen Dream may lack in versatility, but more than makes up for it with its sheer emotion and genuine nature.

Recommended track: Silver Soul

3. Noisia - Split the Atom

After seven years of singles, splits, EPs, compilations, and remixes, the groundbreaking Dutch electronic trio have unleashed their first proper full-length, and it's everything fans had hoped it would be and more. Stretching drum & bass well past its breaking point, Noisia incorporates so many different subgenres of electronic dance that its cohesion is nothing short of a marvel; from old school drum & bass all the way up to dubstep and ambient, Split the Atom mashes them all into one massive collective and makes it its own.  The shining moments here are numerous - the teeth-rattling bass of Shellshock, the funky electro house of Red Heat (which gives Justice a serious run for their money), the frantic beat underlying the gorgeous air of Thursday... shit, I could go on and on. Hands down, this is the best 2010 has to offer in electronica.

Recommended track: Machine Gun

2. Deftones - Diamond Eyes

No album that was a mere two months in the making should sound this good. The tragedy that befell this group is of course no secret, and their reaction is laid out here in fine detail; not necessarily in the lyrics, but in how their performance leaves no doubt that they threw absolutely everything they had into this. They hit harder than perhaps ever before (Rocket Skates, CMND/CNTRL) but are at their most delicate and introspective (Beauty School, Sextape) as well, bringing these dual sides together to such an amazing effect that it's tempting to suggest that Diamond Eyes is not just their best since White Pony, but superior to the landmark 2000 album altogether. Everybody is firing on all cylinders, from Abe Cunningham's always impressive drumming to Chino Moreno's astounding vocal instrument, with what is arguably their most focused songwriting yet.

Recommended track: Prince

1. The National - High Violet

Yo Kanye, I'm really happy for you, I'ma let you finish. But The National had one of the greatest Runaways of all time! OF ALL TIME!

Ahem... sorry.

Despite all the outstanding albums I've heard in 2010, there was never any question as to what was the best in my eyes. High Violet continues The National's extraordinary ability to articulate the experience of growing up through music, but their fifth LP has such a diction to it that it threatens to overshadow their last two albums (which were also just about god damned flawless). The lyrics, their vocal vessel, and the music behind it all serve just to express how the band feels about where they are, and it's done so well that a documentation of a man hitting middle age almost feels universal. For example, I know absolutely nothing about being a husband disenchanted with the family life, yet Conversation 16 fills me with the angst of being overwhelmed with apathy, of drowning in alienation, yet with that undercurrent of a barely breathing hope that, however weakly, is able to persevere. And when you have been where Matt Berninger is talking about, be it the out of place homelessness of Bloodbuzz Ohio or the unshakable faith in love that the closer Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks retains, it hits even harder. Albums that can pull that trick off only come around every so often, and this one (and this band in general, really) is truly something to be treasured.

Recommended track: Anyone's Ghost (though simply saying "the whole fucking thing" was quite tempting)

Alright, we're inching our way to the close of this little countdown. Getting a smidge exciting, no? Well anyway, let's get on with it, shall we? And please don't mind if my descriptions this time around are a bit odd, as it's six in the morning, and I've been drinking. Speaking of which, I hope everyone had a happy new year!

40. Tyler, The Creator - Bastard

This one is cheating a bit, seeing as it was released on Christmas day of last year, but fuck it - I didn't get around to hearing this rather recently, and it's some of the best underground hip-hop you're likely to hear in 2010. The dark, wicked synth-led beats and relentless, smart wordplay-ridden flow of this album is impressive enough without taking into consideration that this guy was eighteen when he wrote and recorded it. Then there's the extremely dark sense of humor all throughout, which tackles just about every unpleasant topic from deadbeat dads to anal rape with a knowing smirk. And let's not lie to ourselves, we all love deadbeat dads and anal rape.

Recommended track: Seven

39. Four Tet - There Is Love in You

When's the last time that a nine minute single kept you gripped for its entire duration? The two notes that lead the scant main hook of Love Cry are startlingly effective, and that's scarcely where Kieran Hebden’s massively successful minimalistic approach begins. Chopped up female samples, warm, seductive synths, and lively beats are abound here, and it's so much catchier and more fun than an... ugh... "IDM" release should be.

Recommended track: Angel Echoes

38. Warpaint - The Fool

Never has such a huge, shimmering sound come across as this intimate. The atmosphere of Warpaint's full-length debut is such that it threatens to swallow you whole at any given moment, all while striking a marvelous balance between hazy psychedelia and alluring pop. The Fool also serves as evidence that music doesn't necessarily need release or a climax, as it never really goes anywhere, but is somehow all the better for it.

Recommended track: Majesty

37. Vampire Weekend - Contra

Ah yes, the band that isn't hip to like because Pitchfork fellates them repeatedly. Well I, for one, would like to step around the kneeling online publication and pat the band on the back, because this is great shit. The band has really run off with their "what if Paul Simon and Fela Kuti were in an indie rock band?" notion and are getting progressively more unique, without losing any of their pop sensibilities. Contra is such a feel-good affair that it leaves me puzzled over the subset of music fans who are deliberately not liking this.

Recommended track: Cousins

36. Gonjasufi - A Sufi and a Killer

Speaking of unique, that's one of the most appropriate words I can muster for this astoundingly eclectic album. Yet for all its diverse influences, A Sufi and a Killer channels them all through a crackling psychedelia that comes out sounding dirtier than the man's dreadlocks look. Just under twenty tracks fly by, utterly demolishing musical styles ranging from blue-eyed soul, disco, funk, and classic rock. As I said in my review of this earlier in the year, I'm hardly a vinyl enthusiast, but this is an album I would love to hear on a record.

Recommended track: She Gone

35. Dangers - Messy, Isn't It?

If seething, excessive rage has ever been better paired with fresh ideas on tweaking the hardcore formula than on Dangers' second album, I am yet to hear it. Right from the opening scream of "Why didn't you kill yourself today?" the band's attack mercilessly batters you with its furious commentary on popular music, general complacency, modern romance ("If meat is murder, what the fuck is love" gets me every time), and the like. The sheer intensity of this album shines through on even its more experimental moments, like the off beat of Under the Affluence or the creeping and darkly funny Cure for AIDS ("YOU ARE GOING TO DIE"). Messy, Isn't It? is the year's friendly reminder that yes, shit still sucks.

Recommended track: I'll Clap When I'm Impressed

34. More Than Life - Love Let Me Go

More Than Life's full-length debut is energetic and unapologetically emotional, with the ear catching riffs almost matching the vocals in how damned passionate they are. Jane Doe it's not, but Love Let Me Go captures post-break up frustration exquisitely, with agonizing screams raging on over the surprisingly dynamic music with an incredibly genuine emotional weight to it. Definitely a must-hear for anyone with even a passing interest in melodic hardcore.

Recommended track: The First Night of Autumn

33. iTAL tEK - Midnight Colour

Without a doubt, the dubstep album of 2010. Midnight Colour explores every facet of the genre and much more, embracing bass and shuffling beats as well as deep, melodic electronica, and all with an indescribably futuristic sound. And with as dynamic as this album is, everything comes together wonderfully, with a superb flow and consistently gorgeous quality that makes the highly rewarding repeat listening a pleasure and a half.

Recommended track: Moment in Blue

32. Ghostface Killah - Apollo Kids

The first of two albums here that made me glad I waited until December's end to compile this ridiculous list. Just like Raekwon's Cuban Links II from last year, Ghostface's new LP is a reminder of just how great the Wu-Tang alumni are still capable of being (a most welcome one at that, coming after the somewhat disappointing Wu Massacre). Ghostface's trademark soul samples are all over the place along with his fast and furious flow, and some spectacular guest appearances (Busta Rhymes in particular absolutely kills his verse in the funky Superstar).

Recommended track: Black Tequila

31. Caribou - Swim

Dan Snaith continues his remarkable winning streak with this spectacular, drugged out journey of an album. Everything is so warm and spaced out that it actually feels like some sort of psilocybin simulation (and yes, this is a hell of an LP to listen to while you're bakin'), from the psychedelic head-bobbing Sun to the made-for-giant-headphones Hannibal. There's also a very well balanced focus on both details and densely packed layers as well as melody, which makes for a rewarding as well as fun listen. Especially if you're high.

Recommended track: Kaili

30. Swans - My Father Will Guide Me a Rope Up to the Sky

If only every comeback could be this good! Michael Gira picks up right where he left off fifteen years ago, with his own unique brand of powerful and eerie music. It's so impressive how heavy this thing is in such creative ways - acoustic ballads should not sound as crushing as grinding blast outs like My Birth.. not to mention the ways in which it's achieved, like the near-nausea inducing finale of You Fucking People Make Me Sick - beautifully disturbing.

Recommended track: Reeling the Liars In

29. Holy Fuck - Latin

Throwing a bunch of crap together and hoping for the best has never sounded so good. When the throbbing beat in P.I.G.S. subsides just for a brief, downright euphoric segue, it really shouldn't work at all, but it does. Pounding drums backing a combination of a simple piano melody and a playful synth? A relentless drone intro paired with a choppy excursion into funk? It's as effective as it is random, and so irresistibly weird that you can't help hitting that repeat button, wondering what the hell you just heard.

Recommended track: Latin America

28. The Black Keys - Brothers

The exceptionally consistent Black Keys are back with another helping of their trademark bluesy rock, but this time around with a healthy heap of soul. Brothers (at least I think that's what it's called, it doesn't say on the album cover) is chock full of groove and an impressive range - strutters like Howlin' for You go oddly well with smooth, sexy tracks like The Only One. With all the bands trying to replicate that old fashioned dirty and bluesy rock style, The Black Keys are far and away doing it the best.

Recommended track: Everlasting Light

27. High on Fire - Snakes for the Divine

Behold; the almighty riff. Okay, that was unbelievably cheesy, but that's all this album leaves me able to think. Matt Pike could well be the new master of the riff (the legendary Tony Iommi himself is a huge fan), crafting some extremely catchy ones to make this band's thundering, grinding goodness accessible to even those not predisposed to sludge metal. Epic build ups, raw vocals, and of course that towering guitar all make High on Fire's latest one of the finest examples of metal around.

Recommended track: Frost Hammer

26. Silje Nes - Opticks

Norwegian singer/songwriter Silje Nes' debut is as simplistic as it is relentlessly gorgeous. The composition consists of her vocals and lightly plucked guitar, but with warming electronic flourishes in the background that help the already lovely melodies swell to absurd heights. The result is an exquisitely beautiful set of tracks that almost brings to mind a more minimal minded Sigur Rós.

Recommended track: Crystals

25. Little Women - Throat

Now we go from beautiful to its exact opposite in Little Women's full-length debut. Throat rivals even the great John Zorn's Naked City in its creatively chaotic approach to bringing jazz and noise together, by turns progressive and ferocious. All around though, Throats is a very challenging listen that certainly won't appeal to everybody, but chances are that those who are charmed by its raging saxophones and guitars will have quite the love affair.

Recommended track: Throat IV

24. Dark Time Sunshine - Vessel

Another record that flew under the radar, Dark Time Sunshine's Vessel is such an impressive album as to actually broaden the very idea of what hip-hop is capable of. Like pioneers Company Flow and Aesop Rock before them, the duo presents a fantastic collection of forward thinking beats (courtesy of producer Zavala) as well as a unique flow and captivating storytelling (courtesy of MC Onry Ozzborne), simultaneously harking back to golden age hip-hop and looking ahead with fresh ideas - it's even immediate and catchy enough to be enjoyable for fans of the underground and mainstream alike.

Recommended track: Little Or No Concern

23. Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can

What's even more stunning than these deep, cleverly emotive lyrics and wonderful melodies and instrumentation is that someone so young put it all together. At a tender twenty years of age, Laura Marling has blown just about every other folk album of the year out of the water with her extraordinary sophomore release. The texture and emotion in her voice belies her age, as well as her ability to make obscure mythological references parallel to her own personal trials (He Wrote, for example). It's all the best things about folk wrapped up in a pretty young girl - what's not to love?

Recommended track: I Speak Because I Can

22. Eluvium - Similes

It's unfortunate that Similes will be doomed to comparisons to Copia, Eluvium's (or simply Matthew Cooper) last outing, as this is fantastic stuff. Deeply affecting post-rock with an almost poppy heart to it, Similes has a different kind of warmth to it than its predecessor, but it's every bit as gorgeous and easy to enjoy. The addition of vocals this time around doesn't seem particularly inspired so much as a natural extension of the man's sound, with Cooper still gracefully building up on beautiful melodies as well as he ever has.

Recommended track: The Motion Makes Me Last

21. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

What can be said about this album that hasn't already been said? Hell, even THAT'S probably already been said. Forget the flooring ambition that this is rife with; forget the stellar guest spots, the broad instrumentation, the mesmerizing beats, the brilliant sampling ("LOOKATCHA!"), and even the fantastic lyrics and wordplay. Just consider for a moment that the owner of one of the biggest, most obnoxious egos in music today had the balls to lower that facade, if only for slightly over an hour, and agree with all his detractors. And sound fucking amazing while doing it.

Recommended track: Monster

Here we are once again, rambling on about putting the year's albums in a specific order. Today we crack the top fifty (I felt the need to add that, because the article's title didn't make that obvious or anything)! So I guess the proper thing to do would be to get on with it, without blindly typing any more stream-of-consciousness nonsense... alright, here we go.

60. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - The Social Network

Not since 2007 have I been so enamored with a soundtrack (Nick Cave & Warren Ellis' The Assassination of Jesse James, in case you were wondering). Like Cave and Ellis' score, I heard this well before I saw the movie, and upon seeing it couldn't help feeling like "wow, they made a movie for this album!" This feels so fully realized on its own, like a more complete Ghosts, but better. From the more simplistic piano led tracks to the ambient pieces to the light throbbing beats, The Social Network never loses its dark allure or its edge. Even the rendition of In the Hall of the Mountain King fits, surprisingly enough.

Recommended track: Intriguing Possibilities

59. Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be

I keep hearing about Wavves this and Best Coast that, well what about this? It's got a hell of a lot more heart than Wavves and more diversity than Best Coast, not to mention that the production hits this perfect spot in between a sharp, crisp sound and that harsh, lo-fi element that so many bands seem to be so fond of these days. Kristin Gundred (or Dee Dee, rather) shows great skill in the songwriting department, not just because the melodies are great, but because she really manages to evoke whatever she's trying to express in the listener, particularly when she adopts that lovelorn croon of hers (Rest of Our Lives, Baby Don't Go). This album really deserves so much more credit than it gets.

Recommended track: Blank Girl

58.  Max Richter - Infra

Whether you're a fan of modern classical (an admittedly silly name) or not, there's no denying the jaw-dropping beauty that Max Richter has been consistently able to bring to the proverbial table, and Infra is no different. Divided into two jumbled suites, Infra and Journey, Infra is a masterful blend of static ambiance and neo-classical compositions ranging from minimalist piano to lush, soaring strings (and sometimes a combination of all three), and in the process nails an odd combination of being both harrowing and an utter beauty.

Recommended track: Infra 5

57. Home Video - The Automatic Process

Home Video's brand of electronica has gotten more than its share of comparisons to post-Kid A Radiohead, and it's not difficult to see why: downtrodden beats, themes of alienation and disenchantment, and of course vocalist Collin Ruffino's delivery, which is rather similar to Thom Yorke's. Admittedly, their latest does little to step away from this, but it does find the duo growing more comfortable with incorporating more elements into their own sound (taking advantage of David Gross' classical training on Business Transaction, the dirty electro synth of the title track, etc.), and with as skillful as they are with making minimalist music sound intricate, that's good enough.

Recommended track: You Will Know What to Do

56. Dead Letter Circus - This Is the Warning

Forget Circa Survive (yes I know, hello bold statement). Dead Letter Circus' debut is an astounding blend of  experimental rock and crowd pleasing guitar hooks and soaring vocals that blows just about everything else in this genre out of the water. You can hear the best things about bands like Muse, the Mars Volta, Dredg, and the aforementioned Circa Survive all wonderfully blended into one cohesive sound, and what's more is that the young band actually knows what to do with it. Dead Letter Circus is very much a band to watch for in the coming  years.

Recommended track: Cage

55. Whitey - Canned Laughter

Whitey recently announced a hiatus from recording due to a lack of funds, and it truly baffles the mind as to how someone with such a knack for melody and creativity with instrumentation could meet such a fate. From the brilliantly laid synths of opener Dinosaur to the demented swing revival of Count Those Freaks and so on, there is so much inventiveness being veiled with poppy hooks that one can't help but wonder why this guy never really got anywhere...

Recommended track: I Had a Wonderful Night (It Just Wasn't This One)

54. Matthew Dear - Black City

Sex. This whole album reeks of sex. Even in its lighter, David Bowie referencing moments (Slowdance, the bulk of  Little People (Black City)) still give off a dark, threatening sexuality that reflects the album's title all too well. Matthew Dear's low register sounds thoroughly predatory over these dirty synths, but it's ultimately the beats that give off the dark, brooding sound. Unbound creativity meets a raging libido and a tremendously tasteful array of influences, and results in one of the darkest, most successfully experimental dance records of the year.

Recommended track: You Put a Smell on Me

53. TOKiMONSTA - Midnight Menu

For anybody who misses Nujabes' brand of lightly ethnic instrumental hip-hop, TOKiMONSTA is easily the next best thing. The youngest (and only female) DJ on the Brainfeeder roster, Jennifer Lee brings a certain energy and playfulness to her music that keeps anything from sounding too heavy; psychedelic and ethereal, yes, but fun, and strangely funky as well. Clever beats, overly enjoyable hooks, and frankly everything has such personality to it that the music is almost as cute and quirky as the woman creating it.

Recommended track: Solitary Joy

52. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Talk about nailing a concept - as the magnificent We Used to Wait based project helps illustrate, the Arcade Fire has not only captured the feeling of growing up in the suburbs (hey, that's what the album's called!), but the wistful feeling of reflecting upon it. With such complex emotion, too; longing, regret, and even hope ring all throughout this sliiightly overlong album (the only reason The Suburbs isn't higher), and they come across as eloquent and genuine as ever. And of course let's not forget their towering composition skills, further embracing their Bruce Springsteen-esque roots rock in some areas and branching out in others (like the glorious synth pop of Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)).

Recommended track: Suburban War

51. Clubroot - II MMX

Perhaps the best whack at Burial's deep atmosphere-ridden brand of dubstep since... well, since Clubroot's self-titled debut from last year. Dark, enveloping, and tremendously rich in just how much there is to explore, sonically speaking. A slightly ethnic flavor can be heard throughout the album, spicing up the already somewhat harrowing soundscapes (I love how music critics get to make up words!) with enough to differentiate the album from, say, Burial.

Recommended track: Whistles & Horns

50. Pantha du Prince - Black Noise

It's very unusual for something so densely packed with layers to be so accessible. Black Noise does something that even the best electronica albums often forget to do - it doesn't repeat itself. The lack of repetition is a huge part of its appeal, but even more is how oddly warm and inviting the melodies are; they're almost earthy, something that you just don't find in an album of this style every day. Extremely surreal, but never getting lost in itself, with the music constantly evolving through each track.

Recommended track: Abglanz

49. 65daysofstatic - We Were Exploding Anyway

Maybe post-rock wasn't the most obvious choice of genre to throw electronics into (and perhaps not even the best), but 65daysofstatic nail it here with this incredibly inspired hybrid. The beats and flitting synths go unexpectedly well with the building guitars, and add quite a strong layer to each track's progression. And really, the growth of each song is as organic as any of the band's older work; while the electronics are  clearly at the forefront, they really are implemented seamlessly enough to be just another layer to the complex compositions.

Recommended track: Go Complex

48. Titus Andronicus - The Monitor

Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles reminds me of the drunken philosopher; you know the one, that guy at the party who is oh so eager to explain everything to anyone who will listen, making as many unorthodox parallels as possible in expressing his point. Like comparing a bad break-up to the Civil War, for example, as this irresistible sprawl of an album so gleefully does. It works somehow, though... mostly thanks to fantastic lines like "You ain't never been no virgin, kid, you were fucked from the start." Musically speaking, it's a wonderful marriage of ambitious rock and seemingly random bursts of punk, and while it takes a few listens to warm up to, it is very much worth it.

Recommended track: To Old Friends and New

47. Edge of Dawn - Anything That Gets You Through the Night

I guess it's futurepop, but this is the best take on the genre that I've ever heard. Yeah, it's got that synth pop/industrial amalgam going on, but it's so brilliantly written and layered that it's far more charming than just about anything else carrying this tag - it really feels like what futurepop was intended to sound like, as it's free of pretense and not overly concerned with sounding dark. The melodies are incredibly captivating, the hooks are instant, and overall it strikes a marvelous balance of being cold and being emotional.

Recommended track: Lucid Dreams

46. A Guy Called Gerald - Tronic Jazz / The Berlin Sessions

It's amazing how a guy (called Gerald LOLZ) who's been in the electronica game for twenty plus years can STILL be this on top of things. Consider the fact that this is essentially just plain house music, but it's Gerald Simpson's approach that makes it special. Beats materialize unexpectedly in the midst of gorgeous ambiance (and visa versa), and there's a fashionably dated sound with unmistakably forward-thinking electronics, with the outstanding Wow Yheah being the first example that  comes to mind.

Recommended track: Dirty Trix

45. Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks

Frightened Rabbit are a bit more uplifting this time around. ...actually, make that a LOT more uplifting. There's something to be said for a band who can make a wordless chorus (The Loneliness and the Scream) sound like one of the most honest expressions of elation you've ever heard. It's a bit more immediate than its stupendous predecessor, and perhaps more than just a little bit less deep, but leaving bitterness and regret behind was probably the best move this band could have made.

Recommended track: Nothing Like You

44. The State Lottery - When the Night Comes

Americana meets punk? Why not, especially when it's done this well. There's a distinct blue collar feel to this album, like that feeling you get when you walk into a bar after a shitty day at work and are greeted by the joyful roar of the group of friends who've been waiting for you. And yet still, the music is quite ambitious - I'm yet to hear a punk record so adventurous as to have a prominent saxophone popping in at just the right moments. Just get this. Seriously.

Recommended track: Greysers

43. Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini

Just about as progressive as black metal can get, without sucking its own cock in the process. Axioma Ethica Odini has got a fantastic combination of experimentation, crushing heaviness, and even a good poppy melody here and there (believe it or not; just listen to opener Ethica Odini). This thing has got some outstanding riffs and startlingly catchy melodies, but still keeps things nice, heavy, and dark, keeping that delicate balance with ease.

Recommended track: Giants

42. Klute - Music for Prophet

When you hear 'drum & bass,' chances are that you're not imagining warm synths, imaginative melodies, or any sort of visiting other ends of electronica. And you'd be right; the average drum & bass album (or mix, for that matter) seldom approaches any of those qualities. However, Klute is anything but your average DJ. His impeccable taste for things not usually included in this genre (namely the aforementioned) are presented here in fine fashion, and still with a persistent breakbeat that could please simple dance music-loving folk and dance floors filled with e-tards alike.

Recommended track: Buy More Now

41. Eminem - Recovery

If you would, please permit me the lame joke of starting this off with "Guess who's back!" While I rather liked Relapse, it's great to see that he had this up his sleeve all along, because while Relapse appealed to an admittedly small subset of Em's audience, Recovery is undeniable evidence that he's still got it. The dark sense of humor, intense flow, and ingenious wordplay he's known for is very much in tact, along with some gigantic beats (look at No Love's smart-as-hell reworking of Haddaway's What Is Love) to back him up. Em's on fire.

Recommended track: Almost Famous

Welcome back to the end of 2010. I'm your host, Dagan, and... okay yeah, that was lame.  Anyway, yes! On to part two of my top 100 countdown of the best albums of the year. Excited? I don't blame you, neither am I. Well, that's enough aimless rambling for now, let's just go ahead and get down to business. "Finally," says the reader...

80. Robyn - Body Talk

What with all the clamor about Robyn being the next big pop star and all that, it was quite easy to be skeptical... and after giving Body Talk a few dozen listens, I can honestly say that yeah, she just might. She harnesses that oh-so-important skill of singing about the most asinine things possible, but actually getting you into it. How many female singers go on about boy troubles, to which all you can think in response is "I don't really give a rat's ass what's going on with you, lady"? When Robyn worries that her fuck-buddy might be getting too close, or that whoever she's dating on the sly won't dump his current girlfriend, you can't help but dance and think, "aw, well I hope she gets all that sorted out."

Recommended track: Love Kills

79. Fear Factory - Mechanize

I really didn't think they had it in them. After two missteps, and then the (second) split, and Arkaea being as... well, as terrible as they were... hearing this album kick as much ass as it does was one of the year's many pleasant surprises. Burton C. Bell sounds as vital as he ever has, and the legendary Gene Hoglan hasn't made Raymond Hererra's presence feel missed at all. Not to mention that Dino's riffs, the very heart of the band, are finally back! Forgive my fanboy-isms, but it feels like they picked up right where they left off with Digimortal, and it's all quite exciting for me.

Recommended track: Christploitation

78. Eels - Tomorrow Morning

One of the last musicians I ever expected to put out something this cheerful, E has decided that maybe life isn't so bad after all, and made a smug-free tribute to it on record. And what's more is that it's actually really good! He's still got his quirky sense of humor, but not the miserable loner armed with a wisecrack anymore, so much as the witty guy who's too quiet to tell his jokes to more than one person at a time. It really is a bit startling to hear something so genuinely self-affirming as What I Have to Offer coming from him, but it works very well, simply because he actually seems to mean it.

Recommended track: This Is Where It Gets Good

77.  Simian Mobile Disco - Delicacies

After the near-disastrous pop flirtation that was last year's Temporary Pleasure, the electro duo decided to take a step in the opposite direction, and go a bit more subtle. ...make that a LOT more subtle. Delicacies is a bass-heavy, rhythm dominated album with its tracks taking their time to build up and reveal more of themselves. It's still a dance record, for all intents and purposes, but it's a challenging one that requires an attentive ear for all the details - and this album is rich with them.

Recommended track: Casu Marzu

76. The Flashbulb - Arboreal

Pretty, ambient music is all well and good, but why not try and mix it up a bit? That seems to be the proposal behind Benn Jordan's most recent outing, and the results are largely astounding. As with his last album, 2008's Soundtrack to a Vacant Life, his compositions are unfailingly beautiful, but this time around he's tried throwing in shuffling, glitchy beats, mildly abrasive synths, hip-hop beats, treated guitars, and... well you get the idea. What's also impressive is that with all the different elements he's applying with different tracks, there's still a remarkable flow to the album. Both sprawling and emotive, Arboreal is not something you want to miss.

Recommended track: A Raw Understanding

75. M.I.A. - MAYA

Maya is incredibly abrasive and confrontational, which is a huge part of why I like it as much as I do. All the talk of conspiracy theories, global inequalities, and other unpleasantries go along with the power drills, chopped up samples, and smarmy wordplay (tell me you can't see her smirking during the chorus of Lovealot), all to force an opinion out of you. It's little wonder (you little wonder, little wonder, you) how it's come to be one of the most (if not THE most) polarizing albums of the year; I can't help but imagine that she wouldn't want it any other way.

Recommended track: It Takes a Muscle

74. Mount Kimbie - Crooks & Lovers

So, have you noticed how popular dubstep has gotten? ....no, that pick-up line doesn't work, but I'm still trying. In any case, what with this genre's different ends (particularly the bone-rattling bass obsessed end and the haunting atmosphere obsessed end), it's quite refreshing to see somebody trying something different. Dominic Maker and Kai Campos make wonderful use of chopped up samples in particular, making songs that threaten to drown in their own ambiance come alive with a makeshift hook, probably displayed best on the outstanding Mayor. Mount Kimbie are able to come across as fun as well as ethereal, which could well be one of the best combinations to achieve in this style of music.

Recommended track: Ruby

73. Be My Enemy - This Is the New Wave

There's something about good old fashioned crushing music tailor-made for industrial dancefloors that makes me want to neglect proper comma use. I'm not sure what's better about this album, the fact that half of the much celebrated Cubanate put this together, or that it makes waiting for the promised new Cubanate material so much more tolerable. Phil Barry hasn't lost a beat - pounding beats, brutal guitars, and an unwavering danceability to even the most aggressive moments.

Recommended track: Helter Skelter

72. Actress - Splazsh

Splazsh plays like a trip through different types of electronic dance music, from complex techno to electro bangers, but all with Actress' individual stamp. What keeps it all from unraveling is his ability to weave together elements that shouldn't really go together; Bubble Butts and Equations, for example, sees an almost IDM (God I hate that term) sounding jumble of melodies meander on until they hit a solid four to the floor beat, and suddenly it sounds like a subdued electro house number. As the album progresses, these pairings pop up more and more, each one more clever than the last, and it keeps things more than just a little interesting, wondering where he'll go next. A huge grower.

Recommended track: Maze

71. Godzilla Black - Godzilla Black

"I'm the kind of girl that makes you want to get a sex change." So begins Godzilla Black's gleefully bizarre self-titled debut, which is stylistically all over the place, but somehow unified in the sheer oddity of it all. The group's chaotic brand of indie rock visits surf rock (From Here to Clare), psychedelia (imaresident), experimental noise (The Drought), and so on, leaving an utter mess behind them each time. This flew under the radar a bit, but really needs to be heard, even if only for people to scratch their heads over.

Recommended track: The Bad Place

70. Ceephax Acid Crew - United Acid Emirates

Bleep bloop bleep. Acid and 8 bit, together at least! And they make for quite the cheerful little dance party, let me tell you - the melodies are so bright and bubbly that it's nearly impossible to listen to this without cracking a smile at some point; hell, just give Sydney's Sizzler an ear and try not to get sucked in by that infectious giddiness. There are also several other more low-key moments on United Acid Emirates that are excellent in their own right, such as the tranquil pair of Trabzonspor and Denizlispor. Bloop.

Recommended track: Castilian

69. Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh

What with the intense political overtones found in New Amerykah Part One, it's so nice to hear Erykah Badu sounding so playful on her latest. Just around every corner, some facet of love is embraced, and what's better is that it's rooted more in simple moments and fleeting feelings than anything direct, like how she details the elation that comes with a new love in the infinitely charming Gone Baby, Don't Be Long. Return of the Ankh is a very warm, pleasant record, and whether you're feeling any of the things she's singing about or not, it's a lovely listen all the same.

Recommended track: Fall in Love (Your Funeral)

68. Prometheus Burning - Displacement Disorder

Some seriously savage industrial (or rhythmic noise, if you prefer) that's got groove and rage to spare. It's an interesting thing when an album can utterly kick your ass, but at the same time make you feel like dancing - well, maybe just mimic that zombie looking kid from the Peanuts with the outstretched arms, but dancing all the same. The production is absolutely fierce, with abrasive yet head-bobbing, addictive beats, and it sounds more crushing and dense than most guitar-based heavy music.

Recommended track: Anonymous Death Threats

67. Year of No Light - Ausserwelt

Ausserwelt's cover image is about as accurate a visual you're going to get for Year of No Light's latest: dark, bleak, brooding, and heavy. Opting to go instrumental this time around, the band embraces elements of drone, doom, and a hell of a lot of sludge to make an album that manages to pull off the ugly/beautiful dichotomy with striking ease. Even considering that it's three guitarists and two drummers (!) playing on the record, it's still a wonder how they got it to be so damn loud. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Recommended track: Hiérophante

66. MGMT - Congratulations

As I noted in my review of this album from earlier this year, it's difficult to sympathize with people who found MGMT's second album a bit jarring, as they obviously weren't really listening to the bulk of Oracular Spectacular. The duo set out to make their own brand of 60s psychedelic rock, and they did a damned good job of it. Congratulations is the best kind of retro; making no qualms about its influences, yet updating it for the current era while adding their own panache. This is a seriously fun record, and I can't help but feel bad for those who simply write it off.

Recommended track: Song for Dan Treacy

65. StrangeZero - Newborn Butterflies

Not to suggest that there was a STAGGERING race for the title of 'Best Dark Ambient Album of the Year' or anything, but this would clinch it in spades. It's always remarkable to hear something so deceptively simple reveal its intricacies to you over the course of a few listens, and this is a quality that StrangeZero could write a fucking book on - the samples, the synths, the glitches, there is so much going on and so much to discover. Of course, this wouldn't be of much use without the tremendous atmosphere that Newborn Butterflies uses to suck you in; it's somehow both soothing and haunting, and able to evoke much more thought and feeling than you might expect.

Recommended track: Mirteaux

64. Mono/Poly - Paramatma

I'm still not sure whether or not it was a good idea for Charles Dickerson to capture the sensation of being in the midst of an intense, paranoid trip. Not because he failed to do this, mind you, in fact it's because he was a little too successful! The first half of Paramatma plays out exactly like this, with insulated samples of religious and political rhetoric weaving in and out of hazy, psychedelic, half-wonky and half-subdued beats, peaking with the massive, nine minute opus Waters of Duality when the paranoia finally begins to fade away and the album takes on a progressively peaceful and laid back feel. A trip and a half.

Recommended track: Analysis (DNA)/Fire Passion

63. Anathema - We're Here Because We're Here

Seven years is a long time to wait for anything, and when it comes to new albums it's a bit of a gamble; the longer the wait, the higher the expectations, and more often than not once enough time has passed it becomes a practice in setting yourself up for disappointment. Unless you're waiting for the new Anathema record, it seems. We're Here Because We're Here sees the band dropping most of the metal from their musical approach in favor of atmospheric, progressive rock that is flooring in just how gorgeous it is. One of the most ridiculously sweeping and uplifting albums I've heard all year.

Recommended track: Dreaming Light

62. Rosetta - A Determinism of Morality

As much as the band may detest the post-metal tag, this album could well be its very embodiment. Opener Ayil is everything a great metal track should be - crushing guitars, clever breakdowns, roared vocals, and spectacular drumming, then it eases into more gentle, calculated sonic ventures only to explode again into furious bursts of emotion. And yes, it is startlingly emotional - not in the traditional 'emo' sense of course, but Michael Armine's vocals just have such a fire behind them that they can't help goading on the already extremely passionate music. Everything is meticulously set up, perhaps best illustrated by how the longing instrumental Blue Day for Croatoa fades into the raging (and appropriately titled) Release. It's hard to imagine Rosetta sounding more fully realized than this.

Recommended track: Revolve

61. Deadmau5 - 4x4=16

Here's another album (or collection of singles, I guess I should say) that's getting way more hate than I can wrap my head around. After rising to prominence with his last two full-length releases, expectations were understandably high for his third. However, critics have seemed a bit too eager to sharpshoot the guy over this - Sofi Needs a Ladder is bad because of Sofi's grating vocals. Animal Rights is bad because the hook is too blatant. Raise Your Weapon is bad because it has a dubstep drop. And so on, and so forth. While I'll agree that One Trick Pony comes off a bit awkward, 4x4=16 is a solid exercise in progressive house, and a natural extension of the branching out that Joel Zimmerman started to toy with on For Lack of a Better Name. The high octane first half settles quite nicely into the more creeping nature of mid-point tracks I Said (Michael Woods Remix) and Cthulhu Sleeps, which in turn do a great job of leading up to his foray into dubstep. Not his best, but an excellent dance record nonetheless.

Recommended track: Some Chords

Yes, a countdown of the year's best - how original, right? I'll bet you haven't seen one of THOSE before! Nah... I'm fully aware that this is about the 853,329th year-end list to surface on the internet, and little more than yet another opinion tossed onto the rather large heap. But hey, it could turn out to be a good read - you might discover a new band, or in the very least have your own opinions backed up (or better yet, disagreed with entirely, and you can make annoyed groans at your monitor). And what else have you got to do, anyway? Why not read about what some random guy on the net thinks about the year in music? Trust me, those hot thumbnails you were checking out on spankwire ain't goin' anywhere. So, without further ado, let's get on with it, shall we?

100. Interpol - Interpol

Really, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the constant criticisms this album has fallen prey to - I mean yeah, I was somewhat underwhelmed too when I first heard it, but with repeated listens this record revealed just how intricate and carefully constructed it really is. Not since their massive debut have the instruments contrasted so well against one another, or has the overall mood felt so powerful. The experimentation is quite welcome too; the looming arrangements, the pairing of their brooding and energetic sides, the questioning of how one can attach value to achievement, and hell, why not mumble in Spanish at some point? No, it's not the next Turn On the Bright Lights, but it's the closest they've gotten yet.

Recommended track: Success

99. Balmorhea - Constellations

I confess to having a soft spot for bands who more or less do away with traditional song structure and melody for sake of just sounding pretty, and as you may have guessed, Balmorhea's latest does just this. Acoustic guitars, piano, and fragile harmonizing make for a classical-tinged sound so delicate that once the simplest percussion or flourish of strings comes into play, they feel spectacularly rousing. Constellations is admittedly one-dimensional, but that one dimension is done so intimately and beautifully that, provided of course you're in the mood for that sort of thing, the album ends too damn soon.

Recommended track: Constellations

98. Ratatat - LP4

LP4 isn't exactly a departure for Ratatat, but it refines what made LP3 such a fun listen - dense, intricately layered soundscapes molded into fun, head-bobbing beats. In any other hands, the bright and cheerfully psychedelic Sunblocks would be standard chill-out fare, but Mike Stroud and Evan Mast make it sound strangely upbeat and lively, with Stroud's weeping guitar weaving in and out of Mast's hazy production. The whole album is a barrage of drowsy hooks presented in different, interesting ways, and shows that just a bit of inventiveness in blending instruments and sounds really goes a long way.

Recommended track: Neckbrace

97. Spoon - Transference

Not too many bands are charming enough to simply do their thing album after album without giving the appearance of treading water creatively, but Spoon pulls it off with fine style. Showcasing one fantastic pop hook after another (not to mention that trademark quirk of vocalist Britt Daniel), Transference is a largely carefree and upbeat affair that feels about impossible to dislike, with scant, slower moments like the grungy I Saw the Light and lullaby-esque Goodnight Laura to mix it up a bit. In fact, it's probably those darker shades that keep this from sounding like just another Spoon album - not that that's a bad thing, of course.

Recommended track: Got Nuffin

96. Cee Lo - The Lady Killer

When the glorious jilted ex anthem Fuck You dropped a few months back, it seemed poised to overshadow whatever album might be unfortunate enough to contain it... but The Lady Killer holds up far better than at least I had expected. The production is absolutely superb, rich with horns, strings, and funky bass, and Cee Lo tops it off with his all-too-likable personality throughout these fourteen tracks. This is probably the best retro soul this side of Jamiroquai, ranging from animated (Bright Lights Bigger City) to mournful (I Want You) and everything in between.

Recommended track: It's OK

95. Hindi Zahra - Handmade

For anybody who's a fan of Django Reinhardt, Hindi Zahra is a must-hear. It's downright inspiring to hear all the genres she takes (jazz, blues, soul, and at some points even the faintest hints of hip-hop) and molds into her own thing. Then there's her voice; it's not quite breathy, and not quite weathered, but something else entirely, and carries such character that songs like Beautiful Tango and Kiss & Thrills are rendered uniquely seductive.

Recommended track: Oursoul

94. B. Dolan - Fallen House Sunken City

Fallen House Sunken City provides some of the most scathing social commentary in quite a while - with as hard as these beats hit (and they hit hard), they can't touch B. Dolan's furious flow. He takes on societal ills from civic indifference all the way up to corporate greed, all with a passion that only a young, hungry, pissed off rapper (MC? Emcee? I dunno) can muster. His history as a slam poet is evident in his highly intelligent wordplay as well as how eloquently he's able to express his ideas, and his stream of consciousness flow just kills.

Recommended track: Fifty Ways to Bleed Your Customer

93. Parades - Foreign Tapes

As so many albums did last year, Parades' impressive debut does a great job of exploring the facets of indie rock, taking the tag with them as they explore other musical styles. Subtly implementing various additional instruments, toying with song structures, and a spontaneity to its ever-changing mood that ebbs and flows far better than it should. It's always exciting to hear a new band with this many great ideas, but it's something truly special when they can execute them this well right off the bat.

Recommended track: Marigold

92. Grinderman - Grinderman 2

Hearing that Grinderman's sophomore effort smooths out the group's rough edges a bit might give off the impression that it sounds more like a Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds record than Grinderman... well, at least that's the impression I got. With the exception of Palaces of Montezuma (brilliant) though, this isn't the case at all. All the dark imagery and rawness (just listen to Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man or Kitchenette, sheesh!) is still in tact, and the side project still sounds very much like its own thing, but Nick Cave and Co.'s knack for melodious songwriting took the forefront this time around. Soulful harmonizing is as abundant as the jagged guitars, and the result is an unexpectedly great match.

Recommended track: Worm Tamer

91. Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me

True, at two hours spanned across three discs (just kidding, three folders; I downloaded it like everybody else), Have One on Me is a daunting listen to say the least. Given its length, however, it's a startlingly personal and unpretentious piece of work; yes, three and four minute songs are stretched out to seven and eight minutes, but it feels more like Newsom taking her time and embracing where the music is taking her, so to speak, rather than egregious self indulgence. Just listening to how her harp swells on songs like Go Long is so dazzling that it's easy for its eight minutes to fly past you.

Recommended track: In California

90. The Irrepressibles - Mirror Mirror

Oh man... it really doesn't get any more flamboyant than this. Mirror Mirror feels like an operetta in the guise of a pop album; extremely dramatic musical flourishes, intricate arrangements, and of course vocalist Jamie McDermott’s ever present vibrato. McDermott's range is indeed impressive; tackling everything from longing croons to commanding shouts that bring Danny Elfman to mind. Still though, what seduces about this album is the music, and its focus on texture over traditional hooks and song structures... and of course, the intense theatricality doesn't hurt, either.

Recommended track: Forget the Past

89. Kno - Death Is Silent

Known best for his inventive southern-style beats with the Cunninlynguists, Kno picks up the mic for the first time in seven years for his solo debut, and listening to how witty he is, it's a wonder that he didn't venture out on his own earlier. Death Is Silent, as the title may hint, is all about death - ultimately accepting its inevitability and celebrating life while you still have it. With as dark as this album can get (I know, an album about death being dark? How unuuuusual), it never strays off into morbid fixation or self-pitying, but simply plays as an in-depth discussion about something that nobody really understands. Kno's Slug-ish flow (as in reminiscent of Atmosphere's Slug, not actually sluggish) is startlingly on the money, and his beats as good as they've ever been; frankly, I'm hoping he stays solo for a while.

Recommended track: Loneliness

88. The Walkmen - Lisbon

I am yet to read a review of this album that doesn't make mention of the line "I am a good man by any count, and I see better things to come," and it's quite easy to see why; obviously it's an awesome line, but more importantly it embraces the spirit of the whole album. Lisbon is so positive and confident that you really have to make an attempt to not feel good while listening to it. Armed with that attitude, as well as those pretty, jangly melodies that are all over the place, it may not be the most immediate record, but it's definitely one that's hard not to love.

Recommended track: Angela Surf City

87. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

Admittedly, it's no Demon Days, but Plastic Beach has a retro-drenched charm that grows on you like a fungus. Shamelessly dated bleeps and bloops are scattered throughout, with a bizarrely pervading warmth that exudes even on the album's most melancholic moments (such as the rather appropriately titled On Melancholy Hill). Then there are the numerous guest spots, which at first seem somewhat gimmicky but after a while end up showing just what a specific vision Damon Albarn had for Plastic Beach. Lou Reed and Mos Def, especially, are perfectly cast in Some Kind of Nature and Sweepstakes: Reed's detached vocal goes wonderfully over Nature's plodding beat, while the almost dancehall-sounding Sweepstakes makes a perfect fit for Mos Def's alternately rapid-fire and lazy flow. I didn't like Plastic Beach at first, but (and maybe more than any other album on this list) its aura just refused to leave me alone.

Recommended track: Rhinestone Eyes

86. Shining - Blackjazz

The term 'Avant-garde Metal' is a tremendously uninviting one, particularly when any given band that falls underneath its umbrella is given any sort of description. "Prog-rock, black metal... and jazz? With disseminated synthesizers and strings? And fucked up time signatures, bizarre vocals, chaotic guitar playing, and droning sections that completely forsake melody? Yeah, no thanks." The thing is though, Blackjazz is one of those albums where as left-field as the combinations of genres feel, after a while it all starts to make sense. Blackjazz Deathtrance, for example, made me think that perhaps synth pop, drone metal, and breakbeats are more parallel than they seem. This is an extremely dense record that requires a good few plays to make much sense of, but it makes for a truly fascinating listen.

Recommended track: Fisheye

85. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles (II)

For a band that can't be bothered to give their albums proper titles, Crystal Castles certainly knows how to deliver the goods. Frankly I wasn't expecting this to be so good, as their debut seemed more to be capitalizing on the 8-bit trend than to make any sort of individual statement, but it startled the hell out of me when it dropped back in April. Smoothed out melodies, dark synths set up next to random blowouts (the synth pop bliss of Celestica and Baptism sandwiching the ear-scraping Doe Deer, in particular), and an atmosphere that borders on haunting, the duo really came into their own on this one.

Recommended track: Vietnam

84. The Dig - Electric Toys

The Dig's lack of popularity is not the most confounding thing; after all, they're a pretty standard indie rock band. They're hardly original, and could in fact be called downright derivative. Their style is nothing that hasn't been done before, and is hardly unique at all. So, you might ask, what the hell makes them so damn special, then? The answer is that they're just so good at it, so good that when you hear blatant flourishes of indie heroes like The New Pornographers and Spoon, you're so caught up in the moment that it's kind of hard to care. Through the intensifying passion of Sick Sad Morning, the fist pumping I Just Want to Talk to You, and so on and so forth, the band's personality and knack for hooks just proves to be too irresistible.

Recommended track: Two Sisters in Love

83. Vex'd - Cloud Seed

While Jamie Teasdale and Roly Porter's second full-length under the name Vex'd is a far cry from the harsh and abrasive sounds of their debut, it is by no means any less menacing. Cloud Seed sees the duo shifting from one extreme of dubstep to the other, focusing significantly less on hitting hard and more on creating a strong groove and atmosphere. On tracks like Out of the Hills and Disposition, the groove is absolutely enveloping, and particularly on the latter, it feels like, well, dub. Then there are also moments where the different components are aligned beautifully, like how the closer Nails descends into a cacophonous bedlam and abruptly ends.

Recommended track: Killing Floor (MAH Mix)

82. Hammock - Chasing After Shadows... Living with the Ghosts

Looming, atmospheric, and doleful, Hammock's latest is textbook post-rock, albeit a tad more on the minimalist side. The duo of Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson has a fantastic capacity for milking as much emotion as possible from every somber moment, be it the earnest build up of tracks like Tristia or the dense ambient textures found in The Whole Catastrophe and Something Other Than Remaining. While Chasing After Shadows may not offer a whole lot as far as variety is concerned, what is presented is done exceedingly well, and it's got more than its share of stunningly gorgeous moments to offer.

Recommended track: Breathturn

81. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz

Given the staggering scope of Sufjan Stevens' ambition here, just the fact that this isn't a contrived mess is impressive, much less the fact that it's actually really, really good. Taking inspiration from the life of schizophrenic artist Royal Robertson, as well as his own recent bout with severe illness, Stevens pairs his usual heavy orchestration with equally heavy and intricate electronics, breathing life into the latter to such an extent that the synths and glitches almost feel more human than the strings and brass. Although the sound is utterly massive, the elaborate junctions of melodies are very cleverly done, and his lyrical focus on life in general is surprisingly touching.

Recommended track: I Walked

How exciting that even now, while we're so close to the year's end, there is STILL such phenomenal music being released at every turn - which is why I've still got a shred of hope in me that Radiohead will end up capping the year with their promised new album that has been drooled over for some time, now. In any case, here's a quick run-through of my top tracks for November; as usual, please feel free to include your own favorite tracks of the month. Aaaand let's get on with it. Daft Punk - Derezzed

The legendary house duo may not have seemed the obvious choice to score the upcoming Tron: Legacy, but as they display here, it's rather unlikely that anybody else could've done it better. Derezzed is basically Daft Punk toying with a simplistic, futuristic beat for just under two minutes, and it absolutely screams Tron. The whole soundtrack is rather impressive, but it's the moments like these where they let their electronic sensibilities take the forefront that it really shines. This track is doesn't even come close to wearing out its welcome; it's fun, addictive, and most importantly, it makes me want to see the shit out of this movie.

PJ Harvey - Written on the Forehead

Probably the most criminally unsung musical chameleon around, the new song off of PJ Harvey's upcoming tenth LP shows yet another drastic change in direction, and once again it sounds great. The highly visual lyrics detail the horrific aftermath of war, but with a lightly treated vocal that sounds utterly beautiful over the hazy guitars, rhodes piano, additional vocal samples, and upbeat drums. It's oddly sad but uplifting, and it's got my expectations for the new album ridiculously high.

Jamiroquai - Never Gonna Be Another

While there was certainly nothing wrong with Jamiroquai's last few rather dance-heavy albums, the second half of their latest, Rock Dust Light Star, is a most welcome display of just how diverse this band's sound really is, with Never Gonna Be Another being the peak for me. Bluesy and longing, but managing to sound more soothing than depressing, Jay Kay beautifully mourns the loss of a lover over tastefully sparse keys, guitar, and of course that ever-present bass. It was fairly difficult choosing which song to include off of this album, but the more i listen to this smoky, downtempo gem, the more I fall in love with it.

Rihanna - S&M

Rihanna really puts her best foot forward on her latest album, kicking off with this banger of a track. S&M drips with an unabashed sexuality that never comes across as classless, and let's not forget the maddeningly sing-a-long melodies and that delightful nod to The Cure's Let's Go to Bed. The confident and upbeat songs like this off of Loud probably do the best job of showing just how well Rihanna is coming into her own.

Hercules and Love Affair - My House

Andy Butler and co. have got the follow-up to their excellent debut just around the corner, and My House - a slab of old fashioned disco house, livened up with a series of dirty glitches - is the taster. And it tastes damned good, let me tell you. It's always so remarkable when an artist can take such a dated sound and make it sound fresh, and if My House's ability to walk the line between fun and cheesy is any indication, the upcoming Blue Songs is going to be fantastic.

Kid Cudi - Mr. Rager

Now here was a pleasant surprise - while Man on the Moon 2 is by no means perfect, it shadows its predecessor simply because Scott Mescudi has gotten better at embracing his strengths. On tracks like this one, he absolutely nails it with the production, the harmonization, and themes of loneliness and alienation, without indulging in any one quality too much. His listless vocal and the intricate, downtrodden beat go together perfectly, and unlike several moments on his debut, it never goes over the top.

Home Video - The Automatic Process

The title track off of Home Video's long awaited new album starts out with what sounds like a typical euro-trash hook, but the way it's built upon is truly remarkable. Even with the band's notoriously minimalistic style, vocalist Collin Ruffino's voice is weighed down with unmistakable despair, which in a recent interview he chalked up as an attempt to reflect the current state of the world through personal struggle. Once the snare drum and guitar kick, the song just takes off, and you can really feel what Ruffino is trying to express.

Iron & Wine - Walking Far from Home

Yet another tantalizing new single hinting at greatness to come, Walking Far from Home shows Sam Beam trying on a new sound, keeping the band behind him and dropping the intimate, potentially haunting aura that he's been known for through his career. Walking hinges more on its lyrics than the cleverly progressing music, though - it's very impressive how Beam draws out such intense introspection from merely observing (Sam Beam? Yup! Just sits there all day, singin' about what he sees...), and with how Sufjan Stevens branched out so brilliantly this year, it'll be interesting to see what Beam's got up his sleeve.

Kanye West - So Appalled

Kanye and his slew of guests (who, even without the RZA's quick appearance near the track's conclusion, all display a trade-off worthy of comparison to the Wu-Tang Clan) all say it best - this song is fucking ridiculous. Everybody does such a great job (Jay-Z's verse in particular is excellent), and Kanye really outdid himself with the beat; it has this intense air of paranoia about it and doesn't let up once throughout its six-plus minute length. Just another example of why this album is far and away the best thing the man's ever done.

The National - You Were a Kindness

The reissue of The National's jaw-dropping album High Violet has a good number of previously unreleased tracks to boast, with You Were a Kindness resting easy at the top of the heap. Yet another tale of mourning over a departed lover, Matt Berninger delivers one devastating line after another ("I was careful, but nothing is harmless," "Why would you shatter somebody like me," "It doesn't work that way, don't leave me here alone," etc.) with the band's gorgeous harmonization backing him up along with a somber piano, guitars, and (I think?) an organ. This one is a heartbreaker, plain and simple.

More than a bit later than I had originally intended, but it's here all the same; my usual roundup of monthly tracks for October. Aren't you excited?? ...that's okay, I probably wouldn't be all that excited either. In any case, let's get on with it; and as usual, please feel free to suggest anything I may have missed.

Crystal Castles and Robert Smith - Not in Love

This is one where I am yet to hear anybody express a disliking for; it feels like Smith's vocals couldn't possibly be more well placed throughout the shuffling verse, but when that bright, overpowering chorus hits, it somehow sounds even better. While their second LP from earlier this year definitely proved the duo to be more than the flash in the pan act their debut made them seem to be, this ridiculously captivating collaboration has proven them to be quite a growing force in the indie electronica field.

Kno - La Petite Mort (Come Die with Me)

On Kno's solo debut, he masterfully combines a storyteller-like flow reminiscent of Atmosphere's Slug with the emotional, heartfelt subject matter of Kid Cudi - except he succeeds far better than Cudi ever did, with this track being a prime example. Over a dark yet seductive beat, Kno examines death (in one of the many shades taken throughout his consistently impressive album, Death Is Silent) without once coming across as self-pitying or shortsighted, always offering insight and always explaining why he feels what he feels, and is thinking what he's thinking. With a flow, beat, and lyrics this good, it's a wonder why he hasn't taken off.

Be My Enemy - Disintegration

Another solo debut, this time from Phil Barry (half of the mighty industrial unit Cubanate from the late 90s), caught my ear in October, and it's a fuckin' scorcher. It may not be anything particularly new, but This Is the New Wave (and Disintegration especially) is a stomping, furious affair that is going to be every good industrial DJ's secret weapon for some time.

Digitalism - Stratosphere

While the electro duo's long awaited new single Blitz has been met with mixed reactions (and I personally found it painfully average), its parent EP of the same name is also home to the delightful Stratosphere. Gentle, hazy, and toying with its layers just enough to keep its simple elements interesting all throughout its length, this is a fun and downright euphoric house-y jam that's got my faith in the group still going strong.

Agalloch - The Watcher's Monolith

"Epic" is a term thrown around far too liberally these days, but it's always been closely associated to this progressive black/folk/post/whatever-you-want-to-call-it metal group, and appropriately so. Not only is this typically long (clocking in at an anything but lean twelve minutes), but offers such depth that each listening gives a new perspective, and a song of this length that is able to ceaselessly grow on you deserves quite a lot of credit. An excellent set-up that threatens to meander but never does, a blasting, raging midsection, and a beautiful, piano led conclusion. Great stuff.

Sufjan Stevens - I Want to Be Well

It's a wonderful thing when an artist capably moves on past their trademark sound, but it's even better when they create a bridge of sorts and blend their previous element with the new - and that's exactly what Sufjan Stevens (someone else who is no stranger to the "Epic" tag) does on I Want to Be Well. The woodwinds battling against the subdued, almost danceable glitches on this track could be one of the best musical moments of the year for me, it's just so cleverly implemented that it becomes one of those songs where you're baffled by the idea of someone not liking it. For anybody underwhelmed with the All Delighted People EP, this glorious standout off of The Age of Adz should be a breath of fresh air.

Trophy Scars - Sad Stanley

Post-Hardcore has become a very large blanket term for bands embracing hardcore's energy, but Trophy Scars just might embody the very term with their new EP. Dropping the punk tendencies in favor of bluesy jams, jazzy playing styles, and progressive song structures, but maintaining that aggression has made their latest release an endlessly fascinating one. Sad Stanley finds them taking on blues quite strongly, but without sounding like anything but a hardcore band with more ideas than any one group could possibly have. It's the perfect representative of Darkness, Oh Hell.

Skrillex - Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites

Speaking of bursting at the seams with ideas, Skrillex's latest release offers an ungodly meld of beautiful melodies and a downright filthy wobble,  registering somewhere in between dubstep and house. Considering that this is barely even a mid-tempo track, the sheer energy it gives off is insane, boasting relentless glitches and some the deepest, dirtiest synths around.

Ulcerate - Dead Oceans

Any death metal fan who is unfamiliar with these guys needs to be formally acquainted ASAP, and Dead Oceans is a great example of why. Off of their highly anticipated new album to be released in early 2011, Oceans is both blistering and groovy, with some of the best and most intricate drumming you're going to hear in this genre (which is admittedly is a claim and a half, but still). Rousing beyond belief all throughout its seven minutes, and a bit more straight-forward than their previous album, it's got me looking forward to what's coming next.

Deadmau5 - Sofi Needs a Ladder

The house community is teeming with anticipation over Deadmau5's upcoming compilation 4x4=12, and its first official single has only heightened the sentiment. While there is a bit of a difference in opinion over Sofia Toufa's rather in-your-face vocal performance (with many fans preferring the original instrumental, You Need a Ladder), there's no argument that the beat is spectacular. Starting out with pounding psychedelia that gives way to Joel Zimmerman's trademark thick, dirty sounding bass, Ladder is a damned exciting track, one that frankly makes me feel as though I could use a ladder myself.

Holy shit. Is it just me, or was September bursting at the seams with good music?  From predictably great stuff to overwhelmingly pleasant surprises, it really felt like this month had it all. For the first time, ten felt like too small a number; there was just too damn much great stuff that I wanted to include here. But you know, I am a professional guy-who-sits-at-his-computer-and-rants-about-music, and as such, I finally whittled this week's list down to the article's namesake. So let's get on with it, shall we? Bad Religion - The Day That the Earth Stalled

It's so nice to hear an almost thirty-year-old band kick this much ass. Stalled kicks off the band's latest with a fucking kick and a half, with Greg Gaffin sounding as youthful and energetic as he ever has (arguably even more than their somewhat sluggish late 90s period). This thing is incredibly aggressive and catchy as hell, armed with great vocal patterns and killer riffs that make the minute and a half fly by waayy too quickly.

Weezer - Ruling Me

For all the Weezer fans who kept the faith throughout this past decade, who ignored how shitty Make Believe was (Perfect Situation withstanding), who gave credit to the band for experimenting with the Red album, who resisted irritation with the persona taken on Raditude (like "hey, white people rapping! That's funny!"), and who didn't even throw their arms up in the air and declare "to HELL with it!" when they found out that yes, the new album's cover is a god damn close-up of some TV actor's face: this is their reward. While Hurley is (thankfully) nowhere near as reliant on a scant handful of good songs as its predecessors, with as good as this song is, I don't think even the most cynical Weezer fan would mind. The harmonizing vocals in the chorus are just plain brilliant, and the chugging guitar is somehow reminiscent of both old and new Weezer, without alienating either camp. This is easily the best song they've done in a long, long time.

Deerhunter - Desire Lines

When your main hook is more than just a little reminiscent of a song as great as Arcade Fire's Rebellion (Lies), it's going to be a hell of a struggle to make yours really sound like your own. "No problem," said Deerhunter's Bradford Cox and Lockett Pundt, before crafting this ethereal, addicting, and flat out wonderful track. Like the rest of Halcyon Digest, Desire Lines sees a startling accessibility to the band's take on psychedelia, even with the way the guitars ramble on and on to close things out. Despite being nearly seven minutes in length, this track never feels meandering or boring, and the smooth, relaxed chorus could well end up one of the year's most memorable.

The Birthday Massacre - Shallow Grave

Dropping a bit of the creepy atmospherics this time around, goth rockers The Birthday Massacre display a startling grasp on anthemic choruses on their latest album, Pins and Needles, with Shallow Grave being a shining example. The new wave-sounding synths, loud guitars, and of course the lovely Chibi's vocals all go together very well, with a fun dance beat and ear worm melodies to boot. They sound the closest they ever have to pop music here, and it works far better than one might have thought.

Enslaved - The Beacon

For a while it was looking like Watain's Lawless Darkness might clinch the best black metal album of the year title, but the ridiculously consistent Enslaved and their latest, Axioma Ethica Odini, have come along and snatched it without breaking a sweat. The band's excellent musicianship is in top form here, finding them moving so briskly through The Beacon's different sections that even the bits that should feel jarring (stomping riffage stopping on a dime to accommodate mid-tempo chanting, for example) come across as completely natural. Anyone who's looking to get into black metal should definitely check this album out.

Swans - You Fucking People Make Me Sick

For me, Michael Gira reviving Swans out of nowhere rivals Hurley as the best unexpected bonus of the year. Fourteen years after their last album, the band picks up right where they left off, with Gira delivering his special brand of misanthropy in typically forward thinking ways. A song with this sort of title might make you expect a loud, raging sound, but Sick takes a different approach entirely, really getting under your skin with its quiet intensity and creepiness. Devendra Banhart's guest vocals are unexpectedly effective, but what really clinches it is the second half, with the dirty sounding piano and brass; the discordant notes the ragged instruments hit are unsettling to the point of making your skin crawl.

Interpol - Always Malaise (The Man I Am)

I'll make no apologies for gushing over this song a second time - it really is that good. In fact, I like it even more now than I did when I reviewed the album! Malaise pulls off such a gloomy, dramatic build-up that you can't help but be in awe of it; Carlos D.'s arrangements are absolutely impeccable, with how the piano and progressing horns lead into that climax, and the drums and guitars kick in just underneath Paul Banks' murmured lyrics. Incredibly powerful stuff, underlined even more by its abrupt ending.

Blonde Redhead - Oslo

Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino has always had a highly seductive vocal, but on Oslo she really takes it to a new level. The XX, Brazilian Girls, Portishead, this song trumps them all just in how loomingly sexual it feels, with her breathy voice over stuttering electronics, lightly shimmering guitars, and varied percussion. This one is going to dirty up many, many minds.

Das Racist - You Can Sell Anything

From the depraved creative minds that brought us Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell comes some more clever, self deprecating, good humored hip-hop. Diplo's bare-boned production shows once again that all you need for a good beat is a catchy melody, while Himanshu Suri and Victor Vazquez absolutely kill it with their funny and astonishingly intelligent flows. At first glance, particularly with the Pizza Hut song from earlier this year, it's easy to write these guys off as a novelty act. However, a much deserved closer look would show just how talented they really are.

Grinderman - Palaces of Montezuma

Only Nick Cave could sing about JFK's spinal cord and make it sound romantic. Really though, everything about this song just clicks perfectly - from Cave's always-poetic lyrics to the gorgeous vocal harmonizing, the band hasn't sounded better than they do here. The added polish to Grinderman's second album gives moments like this a slight Bad Seeds flavor, but it Montezuma still sounds like the quartet's own unique brand of garage rock. Endearing, rousing, and assuaging all at once.

Take a moment to think of your favorite band, or if it's too difficult to pick just one, grab a favorite at random. In the unlikely event that you've selected an artist with a single album, well.. this week's list is for you. This is going to be all about bands who've put out a lone full-length, and left fans wondering what could have been.. would they have gone on to release one fantastic album after another? Or simply fall back into mediocrity, or worse, become total shit? In any case, here are ten bands and their solitary albums, which have surely made far more people than just me why the hell they didn't just crank out at least a few more albums. Anyway, on with the list... Operation Ivy - Energy

Well before both ska and pop-punk exploded in the mid to late 90s, Operation Ivy put out their one, highly influential, incredibly fun, and highly appropriately titled album, Energy. While clearly drawing on early 80s punk and second wave ska, Energy was really groundbreaking not just in its approach with blending the styles but with how fucking energetic the whole thing is. The twenty seven tracks breeze by, and even the songs that are less pleasant lyrically (Officer comes to mind) have such a carefree attitude that it rubs off on the listener. While Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman went on to bigger things with Rancid, Energy remains a stone cold classic.

Deltron 3030 - Self Titled

Del the Funky Homosapien, Dan the Automator, and Kid Koala are all quite familiar with collaboration, but here they were each arguably at their peak. Armed with great futuristic beats to match the album's sci-fi theme (laid out brilliantly by Del, with humor laced social commentary) yet never taking itself too seriously, Deltron 3030's debut is textbook alternative hip-hop. There's been a lot of talk of a sequel to this, but sadly it remains mostly that, and this is a story that deserves a quality follow-up.

Circle Takes the Square - As the Roots Undo

There are so many original takes on post-hardcore here that it boggles the mind. Ambient sections, traded off male and female vocals, thrash metal-inspired guitar, frantic, grindcore-inspired drums, mumbled poetry, harps, and so on and so forth. So much random shit is thrown into this album that it's a wonder it worked at all, much less as tremendously well as it has. Perhaps a follow-up never came because the band was conscious of this, and feared never being able to get everything to click this well again.

The Avalanches - Since I Left You

Second only to DJ Shadow's Endtroducing, Since I Left You is the most impressive mix of samples on an album. Everything is mixed perfectly, which is even more impressive when you consider how varied the sampled artists are - and yes, if you're not familiar, the Avalanches blow Girl Talk away. This is perfect party music - it's fun, it's relentlessly feel-good, and if you pay attention you're bound to recognize something. Now there's just the matter of following it up... the joke is that the second album has long been completed, and the band is still waiting for all the samples to clear.

Radiation 4 - Wonderland

Likely to be some of the most bizarre and challenging metal you'll ever hear. Radiation 4 forcibly puts awkward time signatures, styles, and even genres together (Tick. Tock. Tick.'s angry offbeat hardcore concluding in that almost clown-reminiscent "la-la-la-la-la-la" being a perfect example) and makes it sound not only easy, but even charming. From epic to silly and everything in between, it's easy to imagine that perhaps the band said everything they wanted to with Wonderland, but you can't help wondering if they could've gotten any weirder than this.

Gospel - The Moon Is a Dead World

One doesn't really associate progressive rock with genres names like "Emo" (or the even more unfortunately named "Screamo"), but that's exactly the angle Gospel took with their one and only album, The Moon Is a Dead World. The music is heavy, erratic, and raw, but its aggression really comes second to the emotional aggression, which is even more unrelenting and engaging. Post-hardcore, screamo, whatever you want to call it, this album is one of the most unique of its kind, and is a definite must-hear.

Mad Season - Above

An excellent effort from a mid 90s supergroup comprised of members of the grunge elite, Above is a dark, harrowing trip through Alice in Chains vocalist Layne Staley's mind, with a bluesy approach to the music courtesy of Pearl Jam's Mike McCready on guitar and top blues bassist, John Baker Saunders. The rockers are harsh, the blues jams are fun, and the gentler tracks are downright haunting. This is clearly all we're going to get, what with both Saunders and Staley being dead (and both due to heroin use), which is a damn shame - Above suggested that this band was capable of even better.

Jimmy Chamberlin Complex - Life Begins Again

While we're on the subject of 90s alternative, how about that Jimmy Chamberlin! The Smashing Pumpkins drummer founded a solo project in the early-mid noughts with a jazz fusion-meets-alternative rock sound in mind, and it's accomplished surprisingly well on their debut. Along with songwriter Billy Mohler, Chamberlin constructs highly progressive (and at times beautiful) fusion built around his excellent drumming, with a revolving door of guest musicians (including Billy Corgan) helping out. What with Chamberlin's involvement in the resurrected Pumpkins, this may end up being a one-off, which is a shame - it's easily the most accessible and fun that any recent rock-based approach to jazz fusion has been, and Pumpkins fans would do well to give it a listen.

Yndi Halda - Enjoy Eternal Bliss

What with the post-rock scene burgeoning at the time of this release, it's remarkable how well it was able to stand out. Yndi Halda prove themselves to be masters of not only establishing tension and progression, but with instrument application as well - there are special little moments where a traditional drumbeat with pop up with a sweet violin hook riding it before crashing into something else, or a lone, intensifying bluesy guitar being joined by strings, horns, and marching drums, but they never feel random or the result of meandering. The approach used here is very similar to that of post-rock pioneers Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but much brighter and uplifting. And four years later, it's starting to look sadly as if they've nothing else to say.

The Postal Service - Give Up

Here's one where it's easy to think that perhaps it's for the best that the musicians involved (Death Cab's Ben Gibbard and Dntel, or Jimmy Tamborello) don't seem anywhere near following up their collaboration's debut. Give Up just has a certain air about it, like it was created at just the right point in not just the collaborators' lives, but in the music scene as well.  Everything, from Gibbard's lyrics to Tamborello's quirky electronic flourishes, feels so genuine, and even fresh - upon its release, there really wasn't anything else that sounded like it, and it's spawned quite a bit of mimicry, both well-conceived (Bright Eyes' Digital Ash in a Digital Urn) and god-awful (anything by Owl City) alike. Even now, seven years after its release, it still sounds unique, and stands quite well on its own.

Perhaps the best thing a band can do when covering a song is to interpret the track in their own unique way and truly leave their stamp on it; after all, very few covers that play it safe are particularly interesting. Most of the covers on this week's list radically rework their original counterparts, or at least give a new general perspective, which I think should be the whole point of re-doing a song in the first place. Also, I'd like to give a mention to the Deftones' spectacular cover of the Cars classic Drive, which I would've included, but didn't want to use a band two weeks in a row. ....though I guess this is really the same thing more or less, isn't it?

Anyhow! Enough rambling, let's get on with the list.

Mindless Self Indulgence - Bring the Pain

Making a Method Man track sound tame is not the easiest thing to do, but Mindless Self Indulgence pull it off with abundant style here. This cover is all over the place, with the only thing bearing resemblance to the original being the lyrics - even the flow is different, which James Euringer spits furiously, and while he may not be as smooth as Clifford Smith, he makes up for it with sheer energy. Euringer's trademark random falsettos along with that frantic beat really make this feel like an MSI song.

Bjork - It's Oh So Quiet

Easily the most faithful rendition here, the reason this song is here is simply because Bjork is so startlingly good at capturing the jazzy, vocal style of Betty Hutton's Blow a Fuse, particularly in how it descends into chaos and back again, and making it sound like her own. It's Oh So Quiet really should stick out like a sore thumb on Post, but Bjork injects so much of her personality into this that it manages to blend in with the throbbing trip-hop of her sophomore album quite well.

Tricky - Black Steel

While the Public Enemy original is an outstanding song in its own right, Tricky gets massive points for throwing so many unlikely elements together and still making it all work. The original beat is completely gone in favor of a heavy, distorted guitar, clanging percussion, and Martina Topley-Bird's sweet vocals singing harsh lines like "picture me giving a damn, I said never" with a vocal pattern not terribly far removed from Chuck D's. All the anger of the original is still in tact, but with a bit more of a mystique to it; a hallmark of Tricky's great debut (and this song's parent album), Maxinquaye.

FM Belfast - Lotus

Lotus is one of those covers that strips just about everything from a song and rebuilds it from the ground up. On the first listen, it might take a while to recognize Zach De La Rocha's lyrics for Killing in the Name, particularly given the rather indifferent vocals and trippy, sexy beat, but that's exactly what this head-bobbing track is tackling. It's a very clever take on the raging (augh, pun) original.

Chris Cornell - Billie Jean

Speaking of rebuilding a song from the ground up, this is precisely what Chris Cornell does with Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. Doing away with the dance beat entirely and giving it a bare, singer-songwriter approach, Cornell's vocals and acoustic guitar are on the verge of sounding totally off throughout the verse before the band kicks in for the chorus. The frustration in the lyrics that were masked by the original's fun sound are brought directly to the forefront on this version, with Cornell milking it for all its worth, and to an unexpectedly great effect.

The Helio Sequence - Satellite

There are two highly unlikely accomplishments this cover pulls off - firstly, while it appears on a compilation of nearly all unknown bands covering a single artist, it's actually really good (these kinds of compilations rarely yield anything all that great). Secondly, and more importantly, it manages to make an Elliott Smith song sound even MORE depressing. Brandon Summers' voice matches Smith's surprisingly well, and while really all that is added are a few synthesizers, the resulting atmosphere and depth is phenomenal. None of the emotion from the original is lost; in fact, it actually feels sharpened here. One of those rare instances where the cover just might be better than the original.

Dynamite Hack - Boyz-n-the-Hood

Mid 90s one hit wonder Dynamite Hack struck gold with this almost folksy reworking of Eazy-E's hip hop classic. The mellow music backing softly delivered lines like "I went in the house to get the clip, with my Mac 10 on the side of my hip" sounds charming well after the initial humor passes, and the nuances in the music suggest that this is more a goofy tribute than an all-out parody. Even better is the video, which shows the gritty details of the suburbs: dinner parties, strolling through parks, playing golf, and waving hello to police officers.

Anal Cunt - 311 Sucks

I've been a 311 fan since they burst onto the scene back in 1995, so make no mistake - you don't need to be a detractor of the band to enjoy this mocking reworking of Down (though I imagine it couldn't hurt). While admittedly derisive, it's just so funny to hear Seth Putnam replace S.A. Martinez's raps with complete gibberish, only to explode at the end with that "YOU FUCKIN' SUCK!!" As with the rest of Anal Cunt's catalogue, this is only to be listened to with tongue firmly in cheek. Now that I think of it, I could've made an entirely separate list of amusing covers and parodies... oh well, too late now.

Johnny Cash - In My Life

On the same album featuring his infamous (and deservedly loved) cover of Hurt is this intensely personal take on a classic song of retrospection. Hearing something written by a 25 year old John Lennon being reinterpreted by a 70 year old Johnny Cash is already guaranteed to be astounding, but given the song's subject matter (and the fact that Cash died a scant few years after recording this), this one can't help but be an overwhelming listen. The fact that this was slammed by music critics upon the album's release utterly baffles me.

Fever Ray - Mercy Street

Peter Gabriel has long been renowned for his originality and creativity, so when someone comes along and makes what is probably his darkest, creepiest song sound even more dark and creepy, a lot of credit is due. Karin Dreijer Andersson's typically moody synths, vocal treatments, and oddball percussion replace the eerie sparsity of the original with a full, downright sinister sound, but without sacrificing any of the nuance or drowning out the beautiful melodies. I wouldn't be surprised if this popped up on numerous 'Best Songs' lists at the end of the year.

Drug use is such a prevalent theme in modern music that I'm surprised it took me this long to get around to blabbing on about it here. In any case, here's another installment of my weekly blabbings, this time tackling (you guessed it) drugs - from fun times and general glorification to cautionary tales and the gritty details of addiction. As usual, please feel free to make any additional suggestions. Cypress Hill - I Want to Get High

Kicking off the outstanding Black Sunday is this doped up, half-sinister and half-giddy ode to smoking weed. B-Real is by turns energetic and sedated here, backed by a drowsy, hazy beat that hits you like that first cloud of smoke from behind the opened door of a hot-boxed room. Hell, my eyes feel a little red-rimmed just listening to this.

Primal Scream - Loaded

Another gem from an early 90s masterpiece, Loaded embodies the rave mindset of the time not with its music so much as its attitude. The whole psychedelic-rock-meets-dance-music of Screamadelica was perhaps best expressed by the sample from The Wild Angels: "We wanna be free, to do what we wanna do! And we wanna get loaded."

Buckcherry - Lit Up

There are many, many rock bands who do nothing more than make you wonder why they exist - Buckcherry would be one of them if not for the two good songs they ever wrote (seriously - I've had the misfortune of hearing a few of their albums from front to back... they're pretty bad), and as you might guess, I consider this one of those two songs. It's not difficult to make a coke-addled night sound like fun, but it's the way they pull it off that makes it special.  While the contrived bunch clearly wish they were Guns N' Roses, the band really captures that sleazy, boisterous feel almost as well as their hard rock idols, and it's just so damn catchy.

The Notorious B.I.G. - Warning

Yet another 90s classic - Ready to Die gave a lot of insight to the life of a drug dealer, and Christopher Wallace's stories of these occupational hazards are still as captivating as they were when he first laid them to tape. Here, he goes over the paranoia of a well-off drug dealer, knowing all too well that the next attempted robbery could well be right around the corner, be it rival dealers or strung out customers, all with his trademark rapid-fire flow and that smart Isaac Hayes sampling beat.

Deftones - Beware

There are plenty of songs warning of the dangers of dabbling in drugs, but very few are able to sound not only this genuine, but this haunting as well. Chino Moreno delivers a typically passionate vocal performance, and the music is so dark and harrowing that it's impossible to simply write this off as a cheesy "don't do drugs, kids" sentiment. This bypasses preaching altogether and screams out experience with a staggering sense of creativity and force; it really is a lesson in how to make an anti-drug statement.

The Dandy Warhols - Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth

This one comes from the perspective of someone watching an old friend destroy themselves with heroin addiction, which goes oddly well against the bright, poppy, and hook-filled music. Courtney Taylor-Taylor's smarmy declaration that "heroin is so passé" makes for one of the most unexpectedly catchy choruses of the 90s. As Patrick Bateman should say, it's a "song so catchy, most people probably don't listen to the lyrics. But they should!"

Velvet Acid Christ - Fun with Drugs

This song's title (as well as the abundant Fear and Loathing samples) may give the impression that it's embracing drug use, but the menacing whispers of "I see you, I feel you, I know you, I own you" and especially "I know you never wanted this" over that throbbing beat make its intent quite clear. Presenting addiction as a malevolent antagonist alongside the cheery samples shows the dichotomy of drug use very well, and that trademark EBM gloomy danceability certainly doesn't hurt, either.

Alice in Chains - God Smack

Dirt is one of those albums where it seems like if you look closely, each physical copy can be seen to be dripping leftover cooked heroin. Just about every song here feels dirty, dark, and overpoweringly hopeless, but then there were more philosophical moments like this. Layne Staley cleverly compares following a religion with addiction to heroin, reasoning that "God's name is smack for some." If only the band that took this song's title as their namesake had ever been this interesting...

Spiritualized - I Think I'm in Love

Not many songs that seem to capture the feeling of being on heroin musically as well as lyrically, but I Think I'm in Love does it perfectly. The way the music gradually feels more and more warm and psychedelic as the track progresses is brilliant, as well as Jason Pierce's murmurings. He starts out describing the beginning of the high, and then goes off describing a plethora of  feelings, all of  which he immediately contradicts, and they range from dry ("Think I'm in love, probably just hungry") to nearly absurd ("Think I can fly, probably just falling") to flat-out depressing ("Think I could be your man, probably just thinking"). Eight minutes about drug use as an escape from heartache that fly by every time.

Elliott Smith - Coming Up Roses

It's rather difficult to pick just one song by Elliott Smith, but this one won out simply because of how well he weaves the strong drug slang into his lyrics. He often said that these references were not meant to be taken literally, but whether or not that really was the case, this song paints a very bleak picture of seeking escape in drugs and shunning the resulting judgement of others, only to judge yourself even more harshly. Listening to tracks like Coming Up Roses now after seeing how clearly tortured the man was makes it all the more heartbreaking.

Wow, this Tuesday is kind of late into the month! In any case, here's the usual monthly list of new tracks I think everyone should know and love as much as I do. Just like last month, I guess there's not much of an intro I can write (boy, wasn't August great?!) so I'll just get on with it. As usual, any and all suggestions are welcome. Eels - What I Have to Offer

As if it wasn't enough to put out the wonderful and cathartic End Times, E went ahead and released a complete polar opposite (in the same year, no less) with Tomorrow Morning, a startlingly convincing, positive affair. What I Have to Offer is the perfect representative of the album, in that while it is hardly a musical departure, for the first time you can see E cracking a smile that is free of irony. This is music for appreciating one's self, love, and looking forward... who knew a band like the Eels would be the one to capture that so well?

Atmosphere - To All My Friends

Two years after their excellent album When Life Gives You Lemons... comes this positive, upbeat single with a predictably catchy beat from Ant and great storytelling from Slug. To All My Friends is basically in praise of the duo's career as musicians, and Slug's flow over the almost bluesy guitar sounds so genuine and contented that you can't help but feel optimistic while listening to him.

Fleshwrought - Inner Thoughts

Death metal of the tech and melodic varieties tend to get a bit too self indulgent with the instrumentation and sport production that is way too clean for this kind of music, at least for me, and the fact that Fleshwrought's debut has neither of these flaws, and in fact embodies each of these qualities to just the right degree, is reason enough to like them. There's a great flow to each song's multiple sections, and Inner Thoughts has not just this, but a saxophone solo near the end that sounds as well-placed as it is unexpected. Killer stuff.

Nils Frahm - Über

Modern classical, ambient, piano music, whatever you want to call it, the B-side off of Nils Frahm's latest single is just about too beautiful for words. With such a seemingly basic series of melodies, Über's lone piano gives off such a reflective feel, but not so definite as to make one feel particularly happy or sad. Anyone who likes this kind of music would do well to check this track out.

Skream - Wibbler

While most of the dubstep pioneer's latest is sadly bland, this track is one of the few exceptions - tremendous bass and reverb, pummeling layers of sound, and it's just simple enough to be catchy and danceable without losing its hard edge. Looking for crossover success seems to have watered his music down more than making him accessible, but in neglecting this formula, Wibbler finds the DJ with his energy still more than in tact.

Autolux - Spots

After a four year wait, Autolux have finally returned with another set of songs too good to make you wonder for very long about how much Sonic Youth they've been listening to. Still, they've adopted more dimensions this time around, which the moody, jazzy Spots illustrates beautifully. The passive vocal harmony floats over that clean piano, with more and more elements (keyboards, feedback, what I'm guessing to be a xylophone?) subtly thrown in, making a highly somber mood sound absolutely lovely.

Comeback Kid - Symptoms and Cures

2010 has seen some spectacular hardcore releases, and as you might guess I'm including Comeback Kid's latest. A great quality that shines throughout the album is the ability to blend almost melancholic melodies with a raging fury, which the album's title track (while it's a close call) probably does the best. Vocalist Scott Wade roars on against the wailing guitars while the song grows all the more forceful, with the music catching up to his energy by the end.

Matthew Dear - You Put a Smell on Me

The inspiration for the 'Lust' list a few weeks back, this song throbs with sexual energy, presented in an aggressive, brooding package. The almost cheesy 80s sounding intro doesn't stay as such for long, as the atmosphere darkens by the moment with the muffled backing falsettos, blasts of bass, and that moaning climax. It's Dear himself who really steals it though, sounding almost too much like a predator on the prowl.

Cee-Lo - Fuck You

Cee-Lo's first post-Gnarls Barkley release still reeks of neo-soul, and is as usual stuffed to the gills with his personality. How many other singers could take break-up angst and tweak it to sound not just this funny and cheerful, but with such an addictive, sing-a-long quality? The sentiment of telling someone to fuck off should always sound this fun.

Arcade Fire - Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)

In true Arcade Fire fashion, their third LP The Suburbs is finished off with a soaring, epic closer - although I'm sure nobody expected such an unabashed synth pop sound. When the second verse comes along and that dancing synth pops in along with Régine Chassagne's typically vulnerable, gorgeous vocals, I can't help but grin like an idiot - despite the daunting subject matter, everything sounds so positive; like I've said before, hoping in the face of hopelessness really is what this band does the best.

For whatever reason (most likely the rather grumpy mood I've been in for the last two days), obnoxious and abrasive noise seemed quite an appealing topic for this week's list. So if blaring loud and aggressive music or even avant-garde gibberish to annoy those around you is your thing, by all means read on. As usual, please feel free to add any suggestions. Sunn O))) - Death Becomes You

Thirteen minutes of a sludge sounding riff, that's all this song is. And yet it sounds so huge, dark, and brooding... it's amazing that a few guitars can create this much fucking noise. Then there's the finishing two minutes, with that absurdly rumbling bass and the odd way the track seems to collapse into itself - odd because there wasn't really much going on to begin with, mainly. How this kind of music can actually sound good still baffles me.

Aphex Twin - Ventolin

Leave it to Richard D. James to take such deliberately ear piercing noises, throw them together, and make a followable melody out of them. Yeah, it sounds like taking repeated sonic blows to the ear drums until they draw blood, but it's strangely appealing; even stranger considering that the abrasiveness only gets worse as the track progresses...

Melt-Banana - Giggle on the Stretcher

Contemporaries like the Locust or Boredoms cover a lot of the same ground this Japanese noise rock group does, but there's a certain quirky personality to Melt-Banana, most of it courtesy of Yasuko Onuki's vocals... er, shouts, and guitarist Agata's wide array of effects pedals and tremendous creativity with the treatment of the sounds produced. Giggle is an early example of both at their finest.

Hour of Penance - Thousands of Christs

There are several death metal groups getting great acclaim this year; some understandable (Immolation) and some puzzling (Defeated Sanity), but Hour of Penance's latest easily blows the competition out of the water. Not only is this unrelentingly brutal (and LOUD), but the incredibly tight structure is evident right away, and it even has what is probably the best quality a death metal record could have - you can actually tell the difference between the songs!

Venetian Snares - One Eye

Chopped up snare and bass drums, mangled guitars, spliced vocal samples, and fuck knows what else propel this pounding cacophony through its four minute length. Not only is it unforgivingly ear scraping to begin with, but Aaron Funk teases with the slightest traces of a melody in spots, before piling on even more confrontational noise to mask them.

Sonic Youth - Pacific Coast Highway

Certainly no strangers to creating noisy (and at times in their earlier days, downright deranged) soundscapes, this cut off their 1987 album Sister shows everything that makes Sonic Youth so damn fun to listen to - that loud, creepy opening for instance, with Kim Gordon sounding as unsettling as ever, making lines like "Come on baby, just like that, you say," sound far more frightening than they should.

Pig Destroyer - Boy Constrictor

This track carries more unreasonable rage in its minute running time than most songs can accomplish in five. Random injections of groove, instruments pounding in conjunction, and of course J.R. Hayes' towering screams.. it's no surprise that this band is such a huge favorite in the grindcore scene right now.

John Zorn - Demon Sanctuary

However John Zorn got the idea to mix surf rock, grindcore, and jazz fusion is beyond me... but the the results are ingenious. The utterly insane gibberish being shouted over everything is the icing on the cake, and is pretty much guaranteed to get anybody in your vicinity to wonder just what the hell it is you're listening to.

Boom Bip & Dose One - Questions Over Coffee

DJ Bryan Hollon (also known for his part in the popular duo Neon Neon from a few years back) provides some seriously spacey, drugged out production to back up MC Adam Drucker's borderline pretentious ramblings that frankly seem to drift in and out of any sort of  genuine sense, until the point where he bluntly admits that he's making it all up as he goes along. "And it feels goooood."

Ween - Mister Richard Smoker

No one has ever made such obnoxious music sound so appealing and... well, good. Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo Jr. have always been spectacular songwriters and musicians, and their country parody/tribute album, 12 Country Greats, was no exception. Some of the tracks feel like genuine (if a bit silly) takes on old country and western, but the songs like this feel as if they were made for the sole purpose of making people think "...what the fuck is this shit??"

Sex is not exactly a rare subject in music, and in fact many songs are infamous simply for how graphically they depict it. A bit less popular though, it seems, are songs more focused on the expression of the actual desire that precedes the act, and that's what I wanted to focus on with this week's list. So without further rambling, let's get on with it, shall we? As usual, feel free to add any suggestions. A Tribe Called Quest - Electric Relaxation

One of the best qualities of this song  is how utterly blatant they are about trying to get into girls' pants... and yet it still sounds so classy and poetic. A lot of this is that slow, jazzy beat, which is about as smooth as I've ever heard hip-hop sound. Then there's Q-Tip and Phife's flawless trade-off throughout, flirting away with the objects of their affection while making their intentions perfectly clear.

Elysian Fields - Black Acres

Like most Elysian Fields songs, Jennifer Charles truly makes this hers with those ungodly gorgeous vocals. On Black Acres, she gives such a lurid description of temptation gone awry that the imagery of lines like "Pressing close, I can't behave" or "I'm up against his downy chest" practically jump out at you, all while the spare instrumentation carries on its dark tune behind her. Behind her... sheesh.

Massive Attack - Inertia Creeps

While this song's lyrics apply more to lust as something to trap somebody in a destructive relationship, the dark, dull throb of the music along with Robert Del Naja's sinister, whispered vocals feel more like embracing it and recollecting an impassioned night with a lover in every sweat drenched detail than anything else. Fuck knows how many people have had sex with this song playing, but I can assure you that none of them are complaining.

Queens of the Stone Age - Make It Wit Chu

While the Queens have always been great with rockers, they're a lot more adept with the slow jam style than one might think. They show quite a seductive groove here, with slow, bluesy hard rock backing Josh Homme's low croon, detailing the rather few things he's interested in at the moment. With how direct the lyrics are, regardless of how calm and cool Homme's singing is, you can't help but imagine that he's moments away from tossing his guitar aside and assaulting the next woman he sees.

A Perfect Circle - Thinking of You

With all the popular songs about female masturbation, it's always nice to stumble upon a male equivalent (a well-written one, at least). The lyrics feel as if they could be vague if it wasn't for Maynard James Keenan's breathy delivery, which makes the words feel far more graphic than they really are. Then there's the music; that sharp bass, aggressive percussion, and pumping break that can't help but make one envision-..um... pumping gas.

Janet Jackson - If

Speaking of female masturbation... while it's a popular enough topic in song, Janet Jackson tackled it quite well here. This whole album, really, was the peak of her artistic embracing of sexuality before it got to be a bit over the top (and of course this is long before the infamous wardrobe malfunction with which she's become sadly synonymous); I remember the video for Any Time, Any Place being a distinct hallmark in my sexual awakening as a pre-teen. In any case, If is so blunt with its raw lust, and that chorus leaves no doubt as to what she was on about.

Pulp - This Is Hardcore

This is probably one of the most appropriately titled songs ever written. While the fantasy Jarvis Cocker describes in the song is quite vivid unto itself, the music provides perfect accompaniment - the crawling, throbbing build-up, the pounding, crashing climax, and how everything slowly and almost tragically fades away in the end.

Soft Cell - Sex Dwarf

Probably the earliest song to give such an unabashed portrayal of S&M debauchery (not to mention that it beats Depeche Mode's Master and Servant by a country mile with how well it captures this). Everything is so over the top, with the dark brooding music, the whips and moans, and of course the lyrics, which are lewd to such excess that they can be hysterically funny just as easily as alluring. It's aged remarkably well too; nearly thirty years on it remains a staple in industrial and goth clubs.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Hard On for Love

Nick Cave has never been a stranger to writing about lust, but this song positively drips with a lust so foul that it borders on frightening. There aren't many lyricists who could use religious imagery this abundant for this kind of subject matter, especially the kind of violent sexual aching expressed here, but it's all-too-familiar for Cave. He brings such intensity to these vocals (just listen to him shout "Just when I'm about to get my hands on her" near the end!), as do the Bad Seeds with their respective instruments; in their early days, they were spectacular at descending into chaos, and Hard On for Love is no exception.

Burial - Archangel

Lust's more subdued, tortured side - Burial brilliantly takes samples from Ray J's One Wish to turn a cheesy R&B break-up song's vocal pattern into this agonizing articulation of longing. Playing against this is a Metal Gear Solid 2 sample (!) that sounds downright ghostly, and makes the track sound even more harrowing, and with all the manipulation the vocal sample receives, it's easy to picture the singer drowning in his own desire. The whole of Untrue is infamous for its looming atmosphere, and this is one of its best moments.

Nothing enhances a great scene quite like a well chosen song, and for some reason I had that concept in mind this week. In any case, I thought it best to keep from making this list TOO obvious (Tiny Dancer, Bohemian Rhapsody, etc.), but if there's anything missing that you feel should be represented, by all means, repre-SENT. Wow, these introduction paragraphs get shorter every week... anyway, let's get on with it. Dr. Dre - Still D.R.E. (As used in Training Day)

It's hard to describe just how well this scene sets the tone for the rest of the film, with this song's near-sleazy quality and addictive yet simple beat. It really does feel like you're at the start of a long ass day, and it's somehow both fun and foreboding.

Simon & Garfunkel - The Only Living Boy in New York (As used in Garden State)

You don't have to be at a proverbial crossroads to enjoy this movie, though it certainly helps. The characters are so easy to get behind that when this scene hits it really feels good - and though the subject matter of this song is about as opposite as can be with what transpires underneath it in the film, the beautiful harmonizing couldn't possibly be more right.

Kiss - Shout It Out Loud (As used in Detroit Rock City)

I don't even like Kiss, but when I'm watching this movie every single Kiss song is fantastic simply because I'm experiencing it through these four guys. The scene with the friends screaming along with this all too appropriately chosen song captures the feeling of going to a concert with your friends as a teenager so well that it feels like you're going along with them.

Huey Lewis and the News - Hip to Be Square (As used in American Psycho)

Probably the most obvious one on this list, but just too hard to resist. Carnage with a pleasant backdrop isn't really anything new, but it was done so well here that it can make you laugh at pettiness, unreasonable rage, and of course, a guy getting his face split in half by an axe. Also one of several examples of the screenplay's clever interweaving of different parts of the book.

The Rolling Stones - I Am Waiting (As used in Rushmore)

Given the just about perfect track record that Wes Anderson films have with their soundtracks, it was rather difficult to pinpoint a single moment in a single movie. This edged out the rest for me simply because of how impeccably it underlines the characters' collective sadness; the themes of reaching out, pulling away, and general loneliness in both the scene and song come together all too well.

Cowboy Junkies - Sweet Jane (As used in Natural Born Killers)

The Cowboy Junkies' cover of this Velvet Underground classic carries such a sense of doomed romanticism that it only makes sense for it to become this psychopathic white trash couple's theme. The song gets even better past the single verse that sees use in the film, but really the cooed vocals and dark, bluesy guitar are more than enough.

Talking Heads - This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) (As used in Lars and the Real Girl)

There are lots of songs that fail to really fill you with a single powerful emotion, much less two. Much less two contrasting ones. It works perfectly here, the happy-but-not-really (or sad-but-not-really, depending on how you look at it I suppose) music and lyrics in a movie that similarly makes me feel strangely both happy and sad.

Bonnie Hayes - Girls Like Me (As used in Valley Girl)

Valley Girl shares a trait with any given John Hughes movie in that in lesser hands, it would have been complete shit. There's a certain quality about this movie that captures its era so perfectly, and unsurprisingly the soundtrack is no different. With all the great songs to choose from, I had to go with this - simply because there's something to be said for a scene with young scantily clad girls that makes you think about being one of them more than actually having sex with them. Then again, that could just be me...

Massive Internal Complications - Strawberry Wine (As used in The Basketball Diaries)

After a long hunt for anything by this band, it seems that the one thing they did was this song, which was used for the brutal withdrawal scenes. It certainly wasn't chosen where it isn't so suitable, either; Strawberry Wine is harrowing to a ridiculous degree, and I can't help wondering if anyone could hear this song without having seen the movie first and picture anything BUT heroin withdrawal. Few songs seem as tailor-made for desperation as this one.

The Knack - My Sharona (As used in Reality Bites)

A one hit wonder from the late 70s should do just about anything but transport me to the 90s every time I hear it, but that's exactly what this song does, and it's all because of Reality Bites. Much like Valley Girl, it's a fantastic time capsule with, admittedly, a very trite and predictable story, but it just has that charisma about it that can make you overlook its flaws. Even if this moment in the film wasn't so obnoxiously fun, it's an oddly funny reminder that hipsters have always liked twenty year old music.

Inspired by one of the songs that appears here (and no, it's not that god awful Papa Roach song), this week's list is admittedly rather depressing. But there really is something to be said for songs that not only can pull you into environments where you really don't want to be, but can convince you to let them as well - especially if you've ever experienced any of the material expressed here. As usual, feel free to add anything I may have left out. Now, on with the sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows... The National - Conversation 16

Easily the most recent song on the list, Conversation 16 details a man's disenchantment with the married family life, and how it slowly descends into apathy. Probably the saddest part is where he starts bargaining, with lines like "I'll try to be more romantic, I want to believe in everything you believe" and their less-than-believable delivery. That haunting, echo-slathered harmonization makes the song feel even more harrowing and hopeless... so much so, in fact, that the "I was afraid I'd eat your brains" sounds startlingly genuine!

Depeche Mode - Precious

It's so impressive to see a band this old still churning out great singles like Precious. Dave Gahan's soothing voice really drives home the sad haplessness of Martin Gore's typically poetic lyrics, with that catchy and strangely danceable melancholy as only Depeche Mode can do it. The notion of children being caught in the middle of a taxing divorce is nothing new of course, but the take here is just so heartfelt and honest, accepting the blame and acknowledging that no, everything is not going to be alright.

Bad Religion - 21st Century (Digital Boy)

Now we go from torn, caring parents to the ones who throw gifts at their children rather than attention. A subject that could easily have rendered the song an exercise in empty self-pity, Greg Graffin handles guitarist Brett Gurewitz's lyrics very well. There's a real edge to his voice with the delivery, and the chorus is of such a fun, anthemic sing-a-long quality that it avoids any real heavy handedness.

Placebo - Black-Eyed

A bit of a different approach here, Black-Eyed comes across more as a mocking of people who quickly use bad childhoods as an excuse for bad behavior. It's quite clever too, what with how tragic and urgent the music feels, and it really makes the song all the more indicting. Placebo has always been one of those bands to get flak for receiving more attention from their image than their music, but as Black-Eyed shows, they've had more than their fair share of good ideas.

Billy Bragg - Valentine's Day Is Over

The sadly forgotten 80s indie figure paints a rather bleak picture of a wonderful courting period culminating in spousal abuse here, with just a bluesy guitar and his passionate vocal. The way Bragg captures the female perspective in this song is unexpectedly insightful, particularly how it moves back and forth from listless musing over the failed relationship to the harsh reality of the situation. Very dark, but with a slight glimmer of hope.

Company Flow - Last Good Sleep

Speaking of dark, Last Good Sleep could well be one of the most disturbingly realistic depictions of spousal abuse ever committed to tape. El-P grabs you right away with the chorus, "At night I cover my ears in tears, the man downstairs must've drank too many beers," and along with that incredibly sinister beat, he makes it clear that this story won't have much of a happy ending. The perspective is from a young boy who witnesses as some truly vicious beatings transpire, simultaneously terrified and guilt-ridden by the fact that he is as helpless as his battered mother.

Eminem - Kim

Even though this is essentially an anger purging fantasy, this is probably the only song of its kind that can stand up to Last Good Sleep in how fucking scary it is. Those sharp, stabbing piano notes are so extreme that the song is unnerving even before Em shouts "Sit down you bitch, you move again and I'll beat the shit out of you!" Kim is one of the most fearlessly personal I have ever heard, and it gets very uncomfortable listening to him portray himself as this wounded monster who's snapped into a homicidal rage - which makes it all the more remarkable just how spellbinding it is.

Stabbing Westward - Sleep

And now we get into the child abuse. One of the better bands to come out of the post-Nine Inch Nails industrial boom of the mid 90s, Stabbing Westward was never a stranger to darkly intimate subject matter, but it probably peaked with Sleep. Backed by a very tense blend of samples, keyboards, and guitars, vocalist Christopher Hall tells a story of a young girl suffering abuse at the hands of her father, with a level of vagueness that only serves to heighten its upsetting nature.

Korn - Daddy

I couldn't have been older than eleven or twelve when I heard this for the first time, and it freaked me the fuck out.... to tell you the truth, it still kind of does. It's not even the brutally graphic depiction of the act that gets me so much as the equally detailed parental apathy, and then when the song falls apart along with Jonathan Davis toward its end, there's just no not feeling for him.

De La Soul - Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa

Hip hop's answer to Janie's Got a Gun, by some of the genre's earliest (and best) storytellers. There's a very light foreboding to the song, cleverly splicing the in-the-moment obliviousness and after-the-fact hindsight that often accompanies a child's sexual abuse. Despite the fact that the song culminates with the daughter snapping and killing the father, with an ending so abrupt that it almost startles, the beat is so gentle that the song never feels as grim as it should, and it works wonderfully.