Gretchen Brennison, BMG, New York, NY

This Top Ten is in no particular order...

Sufjan Stevens - Seven Swans
Any album that commences with the line "If I am alive this time next year..." is OK in my book.  And features a banjo too!  Sufjan toes the Christian music line...yes, I know, gasps and disbelief and all that, but this is a lovely, melancholy, peaceful folk record, Jesus notwithstanding.  The frugal but unique instrumentation is a perfect accompaniment to his soothing voice, almost lilting despite the dark and somber song focus.  Check out "In the Devil's Territory" and "Seven Swans."  If I were rating these, this record might be #1.  Since I'm not, it's not.  On a side note, my apologies to my fiance Dave for waking him up at an ungodly hour blasting this record in the living room...but I just had to hear it, even if it was 3am. Click here to buy.

A.C. Newman - The Slow Wonder
I was surprised I liked this album as much as I do, sinceI don't really care for the New Pornographers.  Maybe I never gave them the chance they deserved.  Or maybe they're just overrated and my opinion is pretty right on.  Whatever...who knows?  A.C. Newman's solo is pretty much NP lite, but more mature songwriting and I find the songs catchier.   I loved "The Town Halo" and "Secretarial," which at first I thought was a tribute to Secretariat (the horse).  It's not.  Click here to buy.

Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose
Everyone loves this record.  Everyone!  I thought this would be the big Grammy record since everyone loves Jack White too.  I was wrong... This album certainly isn't flawless...I thought "I Miss Being Mrs." was sorta silly.  But the standout tracs truly are..well, standouts:  "Van Lear Rose" and "Family Tree" were my picks. Click here to buy.

Black Keys - Rubber Factory
I listened to this record and instantly fell in love...then two people (Marjorie and Crash) pointed out that it sounds exactly like Free.  Indeed.  But yeah yeah, it sounds like White Stripes and Blues Explosion too, only I like the Black Keys better.  Much better.  The music is dirtier and sexier and crunchier. Click here to buy.

Secret Machines - Now Here is Nowhere
I had such high hopes for this album...based on the strength of one great fucking song from their last album, "What Used to Be French", I was convinced this would become my favorite album of the year.  While my hopes weren't exactly dashed, it failed to live up to those lofty expectations.  Still, this is a solid, above-average album with a meticulous attention to timing and cadence.  A B+.  A 7 out of 10. Click here to buy.

Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
Astute yet clumsy...agitated yet relaxed...ragged yet eloquent...this is a band of ironies and inconsistencies.  Yet they're very easy to like. Click here to buy.

Arcade Fire - Funeral
The album Modest Mouse should have made this year.  Of course, the music is nothing new, certainly not groundbreaking, but downer lyrics still pack a punch when coupled with engaging music.  But what the hell!  I just read last week that they're sort of "emo"?  Now I'm really confused.  Every freakin' band is an emo band these days.  Does anyone really know what emo means?  "Emo" is the new "indie", and no one really knew what that meant either. Click here to buy.

The Bees - Free the Bees
Love the neo-psych sound.  Thanks to Dean for this one!  If I had heard this a little sooner in the year, could have taken the top spot.  Fun catchy songs.  The 60's comparisons go far and wide, but just like the Beta Band, they end up sounding fresh and...er, clean. Click here to buy.

Electrelane - The Power Out
Stereolab for a new generation.  They even sing in French too. But they're far more focused and interesting than the former; Veity Sussman sings with determination, equally spitting out and caressing her words (did I really just say that). Click here to buy.

Tie:  Scissor Sisters, Eagles of Death Metal, Wilco, Elliott Smith
All these records had redeeming qualities, but didn't have what it takes to make the list.  Closest was probably Scissor Sisters for not taking themselves or anyone else (except possibly "Mary") too seriously.  I could say more, but I'm tired of trying to sound witty and knowledgable. Click here to buy.

Honorable Mention

Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Like Bad News
I know this is on every critic's list this year, but not mine.  But I'm not a critic, so that's OK.  I just prefer Modest Mouse LONESOME CROWDED WEST-era, with their sloppy, sprawling songs and that "Dude, I'm so wasted, I'm never taking those pills again!!" attitudes.  This sounds too adult (Sorry Sandy!).  I mean, what's with the Tom Waits soundalike?  Still, not a bad record at all.

Unicorns - W.W.C.O.H.W.W.G.
Fun and silly..."we're the Unicorns, we're not just horses..."  Reminds me of the band Home in 1995.  Also reminds me of home.  Lo-fi at a time when lo-fi is so 5 years ago, but the Unicorns pull it off OK.


The Killers - Hot Fuss
Sorry, but I just don't get these guys.

DJ Danger Mouse - The Grey Album
Conceptually a lot cooler than it ended up actually being.


Interpol - Antics
I think the whole world was disappointed in this.

Guided by Voices - Half Smiles of the Decomposed ...maybe?
I really wanted the final GBV album to make my top 10...I tried very hard to make it so.  If it were based on the title track, then it would be so.  But I couldn't do it.  This really doesn't deserve to be on the disappointment list, but it doesn't belong anywhere else either.  But let's be honest, who is Pollard kidding?  I mean, he's already got some 2-CD set slated for the spring and he's not even off his farewell tour yet.  He'll still be cranking out another 7,000 songs a year...and since GBV was really his own band anyway, we're not missing anything except the idea of GBV.  I bet kids will still shout "GBV! GBV!" at all the Pollard solo shows.  Having said that, we segue to...

Best Shows

GBV -Irving Plaza December 5th
Probably the best set list ever...they played everything from the early obscurities to the TVT years to the classics.  And Pollard didn't disappoint with the drunken rants.

The Pixies - Hammerstein December 12th
I know these two are a week apart.  But I didn't see too many other shows this year.  Except for the shitty sound at Hammerstein, this was a pretty good show.  The Pixies were a little sloppy, there were some missed notes, and they looked like they'd rather be anywhere else if not for the hefty paychecks this tour is affording them, but that's exactly how I'd pictured them onstage since I first heard them 13 years ago.

Prince - MSG July
An amazing production, it was worth the money, he got all the hits in, looked fabulous, etc etc.


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