1. GILLIAN WELCH, The Harrow & The Harvest (Acony) Stirring, languid folk that's classic Welch but more uplifting.
2. ST. VINCENT, Strange Mercy (Merge) Inventive guitar sounds and the strongest songs of Annie Clark's career.
3. LOUISE BURNS, Mellow Drama (Light Organ) Deceptively simple, with breezy, classic pop melodies that keep you coming back.
4. BON IVER, Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar) Bon Iver's transition from insular folk to ambitious nine-piece blew more than a few minds.
5. MASTODON, The Hunter (Roadrunner/Reprise) A more straightforward approach made the Atlanta metal giants' songs hit even harder.
6. FEIST, Metals (Arts & Crafts) Metals establishes a dark, intimate, dynamic mood that never falters.
7. KATHRYN CALDER, Bright And Vivid (File Under:Music) Bold, intelligent indie pop born of familial grief.
8. MIRACLE FORTRESS, Was I The Wave? (Secret City) An icy falsetto and emotional melodies soar over a rhythm-focused electronic foundation.
9. BRAIDS, Native Speaker (Flemish Eye) Densely layered, experimental take on art rock fuelled by Raphaelle Standell-Preston's mesmerizing vocals.
10. THE WAR ON DRUGS, Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian) Tom Pettyesque Americana with a driving beat that'll put a kick in your step.
Top Concerts of 2011
1. Reggie Watts, Yuk Yuk's Downtown, June 29
Moving smoothly between a sampler and effects station and a keyboard, Watts blew our minds with his hilarious stream-of-conscious stories, soulful singing and improvised compositions. Truly genius.
2. Gillian Welch, the Phoenix, July 25
Welch and Dave Rawlings stood on an almost bare stage with just a couple of instruments to deliver one of the most moving yet endearing sets of the year.
3. Heart, Massey Hall, February 11
Whoa, Ann Wilson. Her pipes are bigger than ever, sister Nancy's guitar chops are fiercer, and the songs more than stand the test of time.
4. St. Vincent, the Phoenix, December 15
Annie Clark's guitar moves get most of the attention, but at the Phoenix we were reminded that her voice deserves it just as much.
5. Wild Flag, Lee's Palace, October 11
Brownstein and Co. played it tough, cool and inspired at their fearsome debut Toronto show.
6. Joan as Police Woman, the Drake Underground, April 21
The indomitable Joan Wasser along with two stellar backup musicians served up funky, soulful, enthralling tunes - small crowd be damned.
7. Ty Segall, the Garrison, June 16
Segall is such a live wire, his shows never disappoint. Loose and chaotic, with just enough delicious melody to get the crowd roaring.
8. Bon Iver, Massey Hall, December 6
Massey does "stadium" really well, easily translating the epicness of Bon Iver's nine-piece incarnation and big light show.
9. Descendents, Yonge-Dundas Square, June 16
Nostalgia-kissed pop punk under the stars.
10. Tie: Sharon Van Etten, the Drake, April 12, and Jeff Mangum, Trinity St. Paul's Church, August 12
Van Etten's gloomy, impassioned tunes gained levity from her friendly between-song banter, while Mangum stirred our souls at Trinity St. Paul's Church.
Top local albums of 2011
1. Feist, Metals (Arts & Crafts) Love the strong mood weaving through this mellow, heavy effort.
2. Fucked Up, David Comes To Life (Matador) Focused and ferocious, David Comes To Life cannot and should not be ignored.
3. Snowblink, Long Live (Out of This Spark) The re-release of the ethereal space-folky Long Live helped bring it the attention it deserved.
4. Sloan, The Double Cross (Outside/Murder) With this energetic, buoyant release, Sloan proved they're far from finished.
5. Ohbijou, Metal Meets (Last Gang) Simultaneously mighty and fragile, Metal Meets was a 2011 standout.
6. The Weeknd, House Of Balloons (independent) Creepy R&B that gets you the opposite of hot all over.
7. Jennifer Castle, Castlemusic (Flemish Eye) Melancholy blues delivered simply and intimately.
8. Austra, Feel It Break (Paper Bag) Only problem with this album is that Katie Stelmanis's gothy vocal hooks won't leave your head for days and days.
9. Sandro Perri, Impossible Spaces (Constellation) With its inventive experimentalism and soft gorgeousness, Impossible Spaces was one of the year's most exciting releases.
10. Drake, Take Care (Young Money/Universal) An album full of Toronto love, vulnerable wistfulness and solid grooves.