20. Elvis Costello - National Ransom -One of my all-time favorite artists, it's really not so much will the latest Elvis Costello album make the Timmys, it more of how high it will land. Last year he took a turn towards bluegrass and some of those influences are stil here, but it also sounds like a hybrid from past albums: some of the rootsy sounds of King of America, tin pan alley sounds of Imperial Bedroom and some of the New Orleans flavor found on Spike. He's still writing quality songs over 30 years into his career.
19. Gold Panda - To Dreamers - Electronic one man band Gold Panda is big on sound manipulation and samples, managing to loop a lot of sounds into some very interesting grooves.
18. Titus Andronicus - The Monitor- A concept album about the civil war? Doesn't sound all that promising, but Titus Andronicus' second album is (loosely) just that. On the weight of solid songwriting, tight playing and great guests from The Hold Steady, Vivian Girls, Deer Tick, The Felic Brothers and more, it all works.
17. Janelle Monae - The Archandroid - Concept albums are a risky proposition, but a concept that lasts several albums sounds like something to stay away from. So it's a credit to Janelle Monae's songwriting and performing that this so worthwhile. She has Prince's ambition and James Brown's footwork and a soaring voice. Not all songs are awesome, but the ones that are, really are, and you have to admire her gumption in tackling such a sprawling project.
16. Vampire Weekend - Contra- These Ivy Leagers with a love for African guitar sounds are back for their sophomore album, and they keep their streak of success going. Much more of the same as their debut, with enough differences to keep thing interesting.
15. Ted Leo and The Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks - Ted Leo is one of those artists that finds something he's good at and keeps plugging away with it. In Ted's case, it's punky pop that owes debts to The Jam and 80's hardcore punk, topped with intelligent lyrics.
14. Against Me! - White Crosses - In the same vein as Ted Leo, but turning up the punk quotient and replacing Ted's soaring high vocals with Tom Gabel's melodic shouting. And where Leo looks to Paul Weller, Against Me! has some of The Hold Steady/Gaslight Anthem's punkish take on the Springsteen sound.
13. Marina & The Diamonds - The Family Jewels - Marina and & The Diamonds is the work of Marina Diamandis, and she's wise to have released her debut in 2010 as opposed to 2009. In 2009, she would have been overshadowed by Florence and The Machine, who is very similar and has stronger songs. Think of Marina as a poppier Florence, with as many 80's Madonna references as she does Kate Bush/Tori Amos touch points. There is room enough for both Florence and Marina in the following years.
12. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs - What can I say about Arcade Fire that hasn't been covered elsewhere? The darlings of the indie world are back with their third full length, and I feel it's slightly better the Neon Bible and not as good as Funeral. That being said, it's a really good album and worth repeated listens. Their masterpiece is coming soon...
11. Radioclit - The Sound of Club Secousse, Vol. 1 - I generally avoid adding compilations to this list, but I couldn't pass this one by. This is the future of African music, modern dance sounds compiled by two UK DJs. Several countries and styles are represented, and the album has one solid song after another.