1 ZERO 7 SIMPLE THINGS (Ultimate Dilemma/Quango) Twenty-first-century soul music with an ear for the epic.
2 ORLANDO "CACHAITO" LOPEZ (World Circuit) The Buena Vista Social Club bassist ditches Ry Cooder's sentimentality and makes the first Cuban dub album, mixing mambo with Mingus and bringing in a DJ to cut beats.
3 THE STROKES THE MODERN AGE EP (Rough Trade) Three songs, nine minutes and a year of hype. With an opening salvo like this, why did they even bother with a full album?
4 MANITOBA START BREAKING MY HEART (Leaf) Who knew the future of heartwarming, pop- and folk-influenced electronic music was a math student from Dundas, Ontario?
5 THE AVALANCHES SINCE I MET YOU (XL) Australian pranksters mash up house, jazz, hiphop and overheard club conversations into one thrilling, constantly evolving summer soundscape. The most fun 60 minutes of the year.
6 THE DEARS ORCHESTRAL POP NOIR ROMANTIQUE (Shipbuilding) Montreal drama pop sensations hit their stride with these four gauzy, string-drenched songs. Still the best live band in Canada.
7 GOTAN PROJECT LA REVANCHA DEL TANGO (¡Ya Basta!) The future sound of Buenos Aries. Gotan Project pull the rug out from under Brazil by making Argentine tango South America's funky dance-floor sound of the moment.
8 HERBERT BODILY FUNCTIONS (!K7) Lush, jazzy pop music from reclusive producer Matthew Herbert that's closer to cabaret jazz than to electronic music.
9 SUPER FURRY ANIMALS RINGS AROUND THE WORLD (Epic) The Welsh hams have never been shy about ambition, and given a massive major-label budget, it's not surprising they've created an epic. The sheer accessibility of the songs here is a shocker, though. Features Paul McCartney on celery-chomping.
10 JAY-Z THE BLUEPRINT (Roc-A-Fella) The most talented MC in hiphop returns to the streets on his best set yet, rhyming about fame, cash and life and demolishing Nas and Mobb Deep with the best battle rhyme in ages. IZZO is the song of the year.