I'm just gonna go under the assumption my tastes run more mainstream than most of the people who check this out, but oh well. Here's my top ten:
1. "Whirring" The Joy Formidable. Man I love this song. Just as you think it cant get better, the second half of the song kicks in.
2. "Do Better To The Young" Cody Chesnutt. Cody's first album was R Kelly meets Bob Pollard. Now he's cleaned up his act, so he's more Marvin Gaye "What's Going On" meets Pollard now.
3. "Donut for a Snowman" - Guided by Voices. So if you've met me, you know I'm a fan of all things Pollard. I've kind of burned out on him after 15 years of following every move, but I cant resist a short sugary pop song about Krispy Kremes with the reunited old lineup.
4. "Earmarked for Collision" Boston Spaceships. So maybe it's cheating to have a second Pollard song follow up, but the Boston Spaceships side project has been top nothc Bob the last few years, and I played this song tons all year.
5. "A Sucker for Your Marketing" Sarah Jaffe. I saw Sarah live a lot this year, because it's nice to see a $10 show again, and also because she's an amazing live singer. Most of her stuff is like moody Cat Power, but with a better personality. She can quiet a room, even if she's the opener, and make you pay attn. But this song, hearing it live the first time, came out of nowhere for her, and I pretty much keep going to see her just to hear that part about two minutes in where she lets it rip. Her cover of Drake's Shut It Down barely missed my list, but is really great too.
6. "A Lack of Understanding" The Vaccines. I listened to this album more than any others all year, it's not groundbreaking, it's just super catchy, swerving from 80s modern rock stuff to amped up 60s ravers. The album's first song is terrible, but the rest are winners.
7. "Empty Room" Arcade Fire. I came to this album very late. I loved Funeral, and seeing them on that tour in a small club is one of the top three shows I've seen. But then Neon Bible was a big yawn, and I gave up on them. My cousin offered me a ticket to the Dallas show, and they were amazing. So much so that I went two nights later to see them in Houston (and on a pure lucky break scored second row seats). Top 5 show for me. Moreso because the album is pretty much aimed at me. I grew up in the Texas suburbs they write about, I remember the pre-internet, write a letter days, and this year, the line about sending him a daughter and a son hit home for me this year. I appreciate the fact that Arcade Fire didnt slam the suburbs or write a love letter to it, it captures a lot of feelings subtly in the lyrics, and in the production too where there are nods to Penny Lane, Fascination Street, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Empty Room is the one I latched on to the most. I loved the My Bloody Valentine meets the Beach Boys's In My Room mood of it. Not exactly an obscure album, but one I blew off but was really surprised by.
8. "Bloom" Radiohead. Another one not so obscure. I love that when a new Radiohead album comes out, my first reaction is "what is this crap?" Then a year later, it starts to make sense until I love it to death. Bloom, man I hate this on the album, but the version "from the basement" cleared it all up, made perfect sense, and completely smokes. The show this is from also has The Daily Mail and Staircase. If both of these were on King of Limbs, I'd love it as much as In Rainbows.
9. "Saving a Free Seat" Centro-Matic. Like Sarah Jaffe, from Denton Texas. His voice comes off reedy and weak on albums, but live it's strong and clear. And unlike most alt country bands, they have really great SONGS. Most alt country today is about the sound but forget how to be catchy. For years I'd heard OF these guys, but this year I fnially checked them out via a free 24 song sampler you can get from their website. If you like any alt country, I highly recommend them, and Will Johnson's Little Raider EP from this year was 100% great.
10. "East Harlem" Beirut. This guy can be a bit precious for me, but I love this one. Annoyed my daughter with it one day when I couldnt stop playing it.