#2 - Grinderman - Grinderman 2: There is so much frantic energy to the record that it’s always walking the fine line between madness and brilliance. Ultimately it settles on the latter category but just barely. Like the album, the live show bordered on the weird but Nick Cave proved that his frontman skills have only improved with age.
#3 - The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards: Jack White projects always have an unfair advantage on my list, but truly this group proved that they are no fluke with this second outing. As a white girl, I can attest that we do indeed trip when Jack sings at Sunday service.
#4 - Gorillaz – Plastic Beach: I was iffy on this record until their live show at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. When they brought out the string and horns sections for the intro, I knew we were in for something really special and Albarn & co did not disappoint. The crowd was on their feet the whole show with guest after guest nailing their parts and looking like they were having an excellent time visiting the candy colored world of the plastic beach. It truly transported you to a magical place. However, the art took a backseat to the music on this disc and as a longtime Gorillaz fan, I missed the pureness of the original concept a bit.
#7 - Slash s/t: This living legend just schooled basically every whippersnapper guitarist/songwriter out there, and it sure doesn’t hurt that he had his pick of vocalists to compliment the tracks he came up with perfectly. I even enjoyed the songs with vocalists who I detest in their day jobs (see: Fergie), but the real treats are the tracks where he’s teamed up with his rock equals like Ozzy, Lemmy and Iggy. My favorite track has to be the appropriately titled instrumental “Watch this” with Dave Grohl and Duff McKagan. This disc has already probably had more spins on my iPod than Chineese Democracy...
#8 - How to Destroy Angels s/t: Like Jack White, Trent Reznor projects are shoo-ins for my list. Trent has written some lovely songs for this EP, but what really upsets me about this new project is that all the songs sound like Nine Inch Nails but instead of Trent there’s some chick singing them. I get that he wants to include the wifey, but I don’t think Mariqueen Maandig’s vocals really lend anything new or better to what are essentially NIN songs. However since I still love NIN songs this EP still makes the cut.
#9 - Zodiac – Electric Six: Another group I can’t get enough of. These guys have been churning out the fun for a long time now - keep it coming, please. The only reason this isn’t higher on my list is this some parts got a little self indulgent, and last year’s Kill was a very tight record whereas this one has a few questionable tracks. They’ve put out a record a year for the last half decade, but they might do themselves a favor by slowing down a bit and self-editing to only release their best.
#10 - Evelyn Evelyn s/t: Let’s hear it for the return of the sea shanty! Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley team up as a fictional pair of conjoined twins and really flush out the back story on this disc which is a mix of storytelling and songs from the Evelyn twins’ first person perspective. The live show really put this content over the top when they played the whole set literally joined at the hip, even going so far as playing piano one hand each. It goes from haunting to childlike joy, but the one downfall is too much talking, not enough music. They could have left the storytelling in the liner notes. My favorite video of the year goes to them –
Honorable Mentions: Scissor Sisters – Night Work, Ben Folds & Nick Hornby – Lonely Avenue, Cee-Lo – The Lady Killer, M.I.A. – MAYA, Vampire Weekend – Contra, Big Boi – Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Best Covers Album - Amanda Palmer Plays the Popular Hits of Radiohead on her Magical Ukulele: Stripped down to their barest elements, these Radiohead tracks are still touching and resonant.
Best Live Album - Under the Great White Northern Lights: Every White Stripes show I’ve been to has been mind-blowingly good and this album is full of gems which really take on new dimension live.
Soundtrack you’d think would be crap but is actually great - Twilight Eclipse: I know what you’re thinking – isn’t this just teenybopper Paramore or My Chemical Romance tracks? With new material from Vampire Weekend, Dead Weather, Beck and many more, this album is actually a shockingly great compilation of tunes from bands you wouldn’t have expected to sign up for this particular franchise.