01 - FRANZ FERDINAND / Franz Ferdinand (Domino) - Arty post-punk pop that’s smart, fun, tightly played, and totally captivating. This record is so loaded with favorite songs that it plays like a singles collection.
02 - A.C. NEWMAN - The Slow Wonder (Matador) - AC Newman delivers a minor pop masterpiece that combines the best elements of his past bands (New Pornographers and Zumpano) along with bits of the Posies, Zombies, ELO, Brian Wilson, Kinks, and assorted classic power pop outfits.
03 - AMBULANCE LTD - Ambulance Ltd (TVT) - New York band that sounds very British - at times it’s shoegazer pop similar to Ride and other times it’s Teenage Fanclub midtempo pop.
04 - THE KILLERS - Hot Fuss (Island) - Vegas band with a big bombastic rhythm section, blazing guitars, sharp synth lines, and an over the top lead vocalist. This was one of the records I always had in my car and if the second half of the album was even close to being as strong as the first 6 songs it could been my #2.
05 - THE FUTUREHEADS - The Futureheads (679 Records) - England’s Futureheads make herky jerky art punk/pop that recalls early albums from Wire, XTC, Adam and the Ants, the Jam, and Gang of Four.
06 - DIVISION OF LAURA LEE - Das Not Compute (Burning Heart) - For their second album these Swedes get a bit moodier with their meld of American garage rock and British new wave.
07 - MORRISSEY - You Are the Quarry (Attack/Sanctuary) - Morrissey returns after 7 years with his strongest solo album yet.
08 - PEDRO THE LION - Achilles Heel (Jade Tree) - Confident melodic melancholia that sounds like it could be the Lemonheads album Evan Dando always tried to make.
09 - EVENING - Other Victorians (Lookout!) - Imagine Bends era Radiohead melodies and guitars with some of the sound experimentation and sonic effects of OK Computer and you have an idea of where Evening are coming from.
10 - DOGS DIE IN HOT CARS - Please Describe Yourself (V2) - Fun new wave pop with the ska bounce of Madness and the quirkiness of Drums and Wires era XTC.
11 - THE FINN BROTHERS - Everyone Is Here (Nettwerk) - Impeccable harmonies and intricately crafted melodies make this a subtle pop gem. It’s an album that takes a few listens to fully sink in, but also one that stands up to endless plays.
12 - GREEN DAY - American Idiot (Reprise) - I was a little frightened by the idea of Green Day tackling a political concept album, but the riffs are strong and the hooks are plentiful and it just plain rocks. More mature but still Green Day, which for me, is a very good thing.
13 - DYKEHOUSE - Midrange (Ghostly International) - Lush electronica shoegazer recorded entirely on a home computer by one Michigan college art student with a My Bloody Valentine fixation.
14 - THE LEGENDS - Up Against the Legends (Lakeshore Records) - They steal from the brighter Jesus and Mary Chain songs and the more rocking side of the Smiths and deliver a summer pop album of fuzzy guitars and sugary choruses (and a lot of handclaps).
15 - THE STREETS - A Grand Don’t Come For Free (Vice/679) - Mike Skinner weaves stories of life’s everyday minutia on top of minimalist hip-hop beats and lo-fi production with a thick, monotone British accent. It doesn’t sound like the ingredients for a great album, but somehow he pulls it all together and makes one of the years most interesting records.
16 - MISSION OF BURMA / OnOffOn (Matador) - After 22 years, MoB pick up exactly where they left off with the same intensity and sonic energy of their younger selves.
17 - THE BLUE STATES - The Soundings (Memphis Industries UK) - Pastoral pop from the UK in the vein of Talk Talk or the Chameleons.
18 - CHRIS STAMEY - Travels in the South (Yep Roc) - Relaxed mature pop that isn’t as immediate as what he was doing 20 years ago, but the melodies are beautiful, the musicianship is stellar, and the songwriting recalls the charms of the Holsapple/Stamey album.
19 - SNOW PATROL - Final Straw (A&M/Polydor) - Scotland’s Snow Patrol take the Coldplay playbook and fuzz up the guitars a bit and give all of the songs some extra oomph. Nothing new here, but every song is worth repeated plays.
20 - THIRDIMENSION - Permanent Holiday (Hidden Agenda) - Swedish band that plays a hook filled combination of 60’s psych rock and modern Britpop - like a catchier Soundtrack of Our Lives.
SOME CLOSE CONTENDERS: GRAHAM COXON, THE LIVING END, JEM, CAMERA OBSCURA, CHOMSKY, SCISSOR SISTERS, INTERPOL, MANIC STREET PREACHERS, REIGNING SOUND, AIR, KEREN ANN, AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB, and HINT HINT.