1. My Morning Jacket: It Still Moves (ATO/RCA). Awash in reverb and drawing beautifully on the best elements of Country, Rock, Pop, Folk, Soul and Blues, Louisville's My Morning Jacket has created an album that bridges the gap between music's timeless past (Neil Young, Buffalo Springfield) and its bright future (Wilco, Lambchop). Stunning.
2. The Shins: Chutes Too Narrow (Sub Pop). How many bands follow up brilliance with brilliance? The Shins prove themselves equal to the task of trumping their exquisite 2001 debut, Oh, Inverted World, with the scaled back but just as exhilarating Chutes Too Narrow. Still taking inspiration from '60s minor deities like The Move and The Zombies, The Shins work in some '80s props in Chutes.
3. The New Pornographers: Electric Version (Matador).
Featuring former Zumpano guitarist Carl Newman, AltCountry chanteuse Neko Case and Destroyer oddball Dan Bejar, The New Pornographers absorb disparate influences (the Kinks' '60s Pop romp, Devo's '70s New Wave twist, the Three O'Clock's '80s paisley confection, Pavement's '90s off kilter kineticism) and gearjam them into one another to make them uniquely their own.
4. Bloodthirsty Lovers: Bloodthirsty Lovers (French Kiss). A strangely satisfying assemblage of Indie Guitar Punk, Southern Soul and classic proggy Pop, all laced together with a slow simmering Electronica. The Lovers score with this often attempted but rarely successful marriage of Pop and Electronica because they're not afraid to let the passion of the Pop mingle freely with the icy precision of the technology.
5. Supergrass: Life On Other Planets (Island). A six-month hiatus was just the tonic for a roadburnt Supergrass, who turned a French vacation into the refreshed and invigorating Rock joy of Life on Other Planets. For a definition of propulsive, press "play," listen, repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Go ahead, hit it again. You know you want another spin.
6. The Weakerthans: Reconstruction Site (Epitaph). The Weakerthans' wonderfully diverse third album displays Semisonic's Pop chops, Clem Snide's gently visceral tug and Sunny Day Real Estate's propulsive underlying tension, brought to a boil with John K. Samson's absolutely compelling sense of wordplay and The Weakerthans' natural ability to soundtrack his musings.
7. Pernice Brothers: Yours, Mine & Ours (Ashmont). Once again, Joe Pernice proves he doesn't have a bad album in his fully stocked Pop bag of tricks. Alternating between the open and expansive elements of his '60s Pop influences (Webb, Bacharach, Bee Gees) and the muscular ring of his '80s loves (Smiths, Cure), Yours, Mine & Ours is just short of the masterpiece he's capable of.
8. Twilight Singers: Blackberry Belle (One Little Indian). Greg Dulli transforms The Twilight Singers from quaint side gig into massively grooved and nuanced band with the magnificent Blackberry Belle, a throwback to Dulli's Afghan Whigs roots and an extension of his sonic advances on the Singers' debut.
9. Fountains of Wayne: Welcome Interstate Managers (S-Curve/Virgin). How proud The Beatles must be of all the children they've spawned over the years. And few have taken the influence and run it further up the hill than Fountains of Wayne. Welcome Interstate Managers is the band's second quasi-concept album in a row and an incredible example of the power of Pop/Rock.
10. Ryan Adams: Rock N Roll (Lost Highway). Some aimless jamming and a return to his '80s Smiths/Cars New Wave roots resulted in Ryan Adams making one of the most unexpectedly terrific albums of the year. All the more impressive considering the equally wonderful Love Is Hell EPs.
Brian Baker is a freelancer for CityBeat.