- The Both, s/t
I've been a big Aimee Mann fan for a long time, but her last two albums have been...well, let's say “dull.” This one crackles from minute one.
- Counting Crows, Somewhere Under Wonderland
The best thing this band has done in ages. This is fun and loose...and I suspect that if it was any other band in the world, this would be ranked a lot higher in the general population. Plus let's face it: the song “Elvis Went to Hollywood” alone should earn them props.
- Centromatic, Take Pride in Your Long Odds
Damnit, why do so many bands break up right after I start to really get them?
- TheMikeDuBose, Skeleton Coast
Is it self-serving to put my own album on my top ten list? Sure. Selfish? Undoubtedly. But this has had the largest impact on my understanding of music of any album. It would be ranked higher, but I heard it so much in the recording process... Available on Bandcamp.
- Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else
Lydia is something else, and she's firing on all cylinders. Also, I met Todd May this year, and he was just too cool.
- Against Me!, Transgender Dysmorphia Blues
Politically, this would be one of the most important albums released in recent history. But forget all that. Against Me! just really rocks on this one.
- Band of Skulls, Himalayan
I've got a soft spot for these guys. Much more solid than their last album.
- Mastodon, Once More 'Round the Sun
I like the variety of The Hunter a bit more than this one, but this is still really cool.
- Kitty Glitter, Meow Hear This
Personal choice, but these guys just bring a really nice mix of pop sensibility and heaviness. Available via Bandcamp.
- Flaming Hot Marbles, We Play For Keeps
Prog rock meets good rock and roll. These guys are one of my favorite area bands and one of my favorite overall. Available via Bandcamp.
Also: Black Swamp Casket Company, Fish Fisher, TroubleGiant demos.
Disappointments: Ryan Adams (I generally like him, but snoozeville this time), Tweedy (gotta love the guy, but honestly, I haven't cared for much after Sky Blue Sky), The Hold Steady (horrible production).
Film of the year: Grand Budapest Hotel
TV of the year: Agents of SHIELD (man, did season one pick up)
Book of the year: Information Doesn't Want to be Free by Cory Doctorow (essential reading for anyone in the arts)