5. White Denim – D / Takes Place in Your Work Space
Because “At the Farm” soundtracks a million badass scenarios and “Street Joy” a million heartaches.
4. The Weeknd – House of Balloons
Because you should not enjoy listening to the stories Abel Tesfaye tells, but every night you click play again, jaw dropped and mesmerized.
3. Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Because beauty this lush and ethereal doesn’t need to make sense, it just grabs you.
2. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Because no record this year sounded better and more familiar on first listen. It only improves as its subtleties are revealed.
1. Destroyer – Kaputt
Because Dan Bejar is a lyrically superior, modern-day Bowie and this is Low, Let’s Dance and Young Americans rolled up into one late night cigarette, smoked with Sade and Bryan Ferry in some swanky elevator.
10. John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
Because John Maus found a way to resurrect Ian Curtis with synth-pop sensibilities and a deeply philosophical outlook.
9. Real Estate – Days
Because this is how autumn sounds and feels for a 20-something.
8. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l
Because Merrill Garbus takes the delightfully strange elements of Talking Heads, Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend and makes them her very own.
7. James Blake – James Blake
Because he was everywhere in 2011 and as winter 2012 approaches, this somber masterpiece still sounds like the perfect remedy to the cold.
6. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Because Robin Pecknold and his band ask profound questions in the most gorgeous way.
15. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo
Because “Jesus Fever”, “Baby’s Arms” and “In My Time” should be played on classic rock radio till the end of time.
14. Panda Bear – Tomboy
Because Noah Lennox brought us with him to meditate in a European cathedral after Person Pitch‘s beach party.
13. Atlas Sound – Parallax
Because the most prolific man in rock keeps getting more in tune with his inner Michael Stipe.
12. Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne
Because only these two can make something so inappropriately out of touch with the times so universally entertaining.
11. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
Because Annie Clark makes the grotesque beautiful in her most pop-oriented album yet. And because of this.
20. Other Lives – Tamer Animals
Because it’s the perfect dystopian disco take on The National.
19. Active Child – You Are All I See
Because white boy R&B and the harp go surprisingly well together.
18. Radiohead – The King of Limbs
Because “Lotus Flower” through “Separator” is the strongest ending to any Radiohead album yet.
17. Ford & Lopatin – Channel Pressure
Because nothing sounds better at full volume, cruising down the freeway.
16. Drake – Take Care
Because “We live in a generation of not being in love, and not being together, But we sure make it feel like we’re together.”