7. Dierks Bentley: Up on the Ridge Hometown hero Dierks Bentley has sold millions of records and has plenty of country hits, so why record an acoustic bluegrass album and risk alienating his fan base? Because he can. You won't see Kenny Chesney or Trace Adkins attempt something like this — they don't have the chops to pull it off.

8. Old 97's: The Grand Theatre Volume One After a decade of album misfires and singer/songwriter Rhett Miller's focusing on a rock solo career, The Old 97's have made their best album since 1997's classic Too Far to Care.

9. The Secret Sisters: The Secret Sisters Produced by roots music icon T-Bone Burnett, Alabamans Lydia and Laura Rogers,, sing pure country harmonies as well as any siblings this side of The Louvin Brothers on their retro-country debut disc.

10. The SteelDrivers: Reckless — Eschewing the drawn-out hippie jams of "newgrass" acts such as Yonder Mountain String Band, The SteelDrivers' compact neo-traditionalist bluegrass song structures owe a debt to both Bill Monroe and Jimmie Rodgers.


Name: Michael Lopez

Most played song on my iTunes: "The Bears Are Coming" by Late of the Pier

Best concert I saw in 2010: Caribou at the Clubhouse

My favorite single of 2010: "Tin Man" by Future Islands

My favorite album of 1970: The Stooges' Fun House

1. Caribou: Swim — A true number one album (and if not the entire album, then one select song) stands out on its very first listen. Swim has that indelible standout quality, thanks in part to its transcendent lead single and first track "Odessa." Those lukewarm about Dan Snaith's music in the past — myself included — were instantly hooked the first time "Odessa" came out of their speakers. Swim is Snaith's most club-worthy album to date, yet it embodies a complex narrative that finds its brilliant crux with the hauntingly melodic closing track, "Jamelia."

2. Deerhunter: Halcyon DigestHalcyon Digest may be an album appreciated best while listening to it as you're doing something. Though you may initially marginalize the album, further spins reveal a record that demands one's full attention — and there's no better example of this than the song "Helicopter." It starts off innocently enough, but once the chorus kicks in, there may be no more captivatingly sublime moment from this year.

3. LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening — James Murphy's third LCD Soundsystem album is his most complete work to date. Save the confusing lead single "Drunk Girls," This Is Happening throws right hook after right hook of heavyweight dance-punk blows. The slow tease of "Dance Yrslf Clean" meshes into the Talking Heads-esque "All I Want," while all nine minutes of "You Wanted a Hit" cement the album's legacy.

4. Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy — There is no doubt that West is an insufferable ass. He has, however, more than shut my bitching up with his fifth album. Good music — regardless of genre and egos — is good music. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy puts to rest all the trepidation toward West as a person and focuses on the man's capacity to produce overarching music that even the most curmudgeonly former fans of West can enjoy.

5. Beach House: Teen DreamTeen Dream is one of those albums that is solid from start to finish. Victoria Legrand's vocals are equally as airy and cherubic on every single song. Her vocal laments/warnings on the latter half of "Better Times" are the most fun I've had listening to any album this year.

6. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: Before Today — Endearingly off-center, Before Today finds Ariel Pink at his most '80s pop-nostalgic. Weirdness abounds throughout the album, yet it's the band's polish that propels the songs into such charming, eccentric offerings.

7. Sufjan Steven: The Age of Adz — From the moment Stevens announced his art-inspired concept album, The Age of Adz was destined to become an unorthodox album. It's through that eccentricity that Adz truly shines, though, with Stevens putting down the goddamn banjo and embracing the synthesizer to produce some of his most inspired, grandiose-for-the-sake-of-being-grandiose work to date.

8. Flying Lotus: Cosmogramma — FlyLo managed to outdo himself with Cosmogramma — which is really saying something, since many felt his last album, Los Angeles, was his crowning achievement. Tracks like "Do the Astral Plane" have indescribably vivid acid jazz overtones, thrown in with FlyLo's trademark synths. The mellower quality present on Cosmogramma only helps solidify its place amongst the year's best.

9. Sleigh Bells: Treats — Stripped down and chock-full of ingenuity, Sleigh Bells garnered plenty of hype throughout the year, and justifiably so. Their mix of Derek E. Miller's gnarly guitars and Alexis Krauss' "fuck you" vocals shows how you can create a unique sound with the barest of equipment. Songs like "Infinity Guitars" and "Treats" are loud for loud's sake, but the duo crafts their music with an insane amount of polish and originality.

10. Menomena: Mines — It's not enough to be an indie band these days — there has to be substance along with the beards and ironic haircuts, perhaps even a sax or two. Menomena show off their astuteness on Mines, from the dark, harmonic "Five Little Rooms" to the meandering "Tithe," the payoff of which is one of the more sincere offerings of the year.

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