2. Band of Horses: Infinite Arms One of my biggest regrets as a music journalist was the exclusion of Band of Horses' last album, Cease to Begin, from my Top 10 of 2007, because I didn't hear it until 2008. In retrospect, not only was it the best album of 2007, but, for my money, the best album of the past decade. With Infinite Arms, BoH has created a follow-up that may not attain the perfection of its predecessor, but is still one of the year's best offerings.

3. Fen: Trails Out of Gloom Another foreign prog-rock album, Fen's Trails Out of Gloom is more accessible than The Ocean's discs but still doesn't skimp on the bombast. The Vancouver-based band writes catchy, melodic prog, à la Porcupine Tree, highlighted by singer/guitarist Doug Harrison's haunting falsetto. Throughout Trails, Fen sounds like a focused, less spastic version of The Mars Volta. Less coke, more weed, perhaps?

4. Zoroaster: Matador — Atlanta's Zoroaster take another quantum leap forward with their third album, Matador, injecting the straightforward doom metal of their previous work with healthy doses of melodicism and psychedelia.

Music editor Martin Cizmar
Music editor Martin Cizmar
Chris Hansen Orf
Chris Hansen Orf

5. Kylesa: Spiral Shadow — Maybe it's something in the water, but the state of Georgia is producing great metal bands at an alarming rate. Mastodon and Baroness had two of last year's most acclaimed releases, and the trend continues this year with Zoroaster and Savannah's Kylesa. With three vocalists and two drummers, Spiral Shadow is this year's headphone masterpiece.

6. Atmosphere: To All My Friends, Blood Makes the Blade Holy Kanye West may have trouble walking these days with Rolling Stone swinging from one nut and Spin lovingly clinging to the other, but all the praise heaped on hip-hop's golden boy could just as easily apply to Minneapolis indie-rap godfathers Atmosphere. After all, Slug was doing the whole introspective self-examination thing long before Kanye spit it through the wire. To All My Friends is Atmosphere's second release to feature live instrumentation, and they've clearly jelled as a band, ranging from up-tempo funk to lo-fi trip-hop. The best part? There's no nine-minute celebration of douchebaggery.

7. The Sword: Warp Riders — The Sword bounce back from their sophomore slump with improved vocals and catchier hooks on their sci-fi stoner-rock opus, Warp Riders.

8. Torche: Songs for Singles — Songs for Singles is the aural equivalent of a Fun Size Snickers bar; you barely have time to appreciate its sugary deliciousness before it's all over. Still, it's hard to think of a better way to spend 20 minutes than listening to Torche's latest.

9. Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy I loved it. It was much better than Cats. I'm going to see it again and again.

10. The Flaming Lips: The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs with Henry Rollins and Peaches Doing The Dark Side of the Moon — It was digitally released on December 22, 2009, well after most critics had put their "Best of '09" lists together. It'll probably get overlooked this year too, which is a shame. The Flaming Lips et al. make the Pink Floyd classic their own, thanks to a keen sense for when to stay true to the original material or veer wildly off course. It's a fascinating new take on a familiar favorite.

Name: Martin Cizmar

Most played song on my iTunes: "Won't Be Home" by Old 97's

Best concert I saw in 2010: Sufjan Stevens at Mesa Arts Center

Favorite single of 2010: "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga

Favorite album of 1970: The Grateful Dead's American Beauty

1. Band of Horses: Infinite Arms It's my policy to list only albums I actually enjoyed on my Best of the Year list and to present them ordered roughly according to how frequently and eagerly I listened to them. This year belonged to Band of Horses' Infinite Arms, a record that may just as well have melted into my car's CD player in mid-May for all the time it spent there.

The car is a perfect place for this record, actually. Written in part in a cabin near the Canada-Minnesota border, this country-flecked indie-rock masterpiece is abidingly naturalistic, evoking serene scenes viewed through a pane of safety glass on a comfortably silent car ride into the countryside.

Infinite Arms is as effortless as indie rock comes, and certainly not overly ambitious in any way, so I can understand why it was left off a lot of critics' lists. Still, it makes me sublimely happy.

2. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs — The third record from Arcade Fire is broadly ambitious and almost without fault, beginning with the title track opener. Win Butler sings about trying to reconcile the nostalgic comforts of his suburban Houston upbringing, the values he espoused as a hipster 20-something in Montreal, and the longing for parenthood that comes with his budding maturity.

On the second song, "Ready to Start," Butler starts grinding his ax with the expectations of the people who made him, singing, "If the businessmen drink my blood / Like the kids in art school said they would / Then I guess I'll just begin again." Here's hoping Arcade Fire does just that — taking their talents to another level yet, perhaps even outgrowing their dedicated base of bloggers in the process of creating a timeless classic with the sort of commercial appeal we'd expect from U2 or R.E.M.

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