1. the soundtrack of our lives Behind The Music (Republic/Universal)
Sweden's psychedelic pop freaks wear the band's post-60s rock influences as bizarrely and impressively as country-mates ABBA did years ago. The hard-hitting, groove-driven songs on Soundtrack's third release evoke the Kinks, Zeppelin, Love, Captain Beefheart and the Sweet, filtered by the twisted pop sensibility of a band that evolved from 80s cult garage punks Union Carbide Productions. This is rock 'n' roll on a grand scale by a band as big as its name.
2. orchestrA baobab Specialist In All Styles (World Circuit)
One of West Africa's most important super-groups comes back after a two-decade hiatus. Baobab's Latin-laced, jazz-infused tunes were an inspiration to Senegal soulmate Youssou N'Dour - who returns the favour on the band's triumphant return.
3. the roots Phrenology (MCA)
Philly's Roots keep hiphop real with live instrumentation and the hardest-rocking rhymes out right now. They move through genres easily, with a smooth sound and hardcore jams. But Phrenology, the Roots' best disc yet, never loses its power. And the live beats never fail.
4. eminem The Eminem Show (Aftermath)
2002 saw Eminem become one of the world's biggest multimedia superstars, as he kept unloading amazing rhymes, powerful beats, cool hooks, and haunting, disturbing images. Surrender, because there's no stopping this amazing talent.
5. rush Vapor Trails (Atlantic)
Delivering more hard rock and less mysticism than in the early days, Rush roar back with a powerful, punchy return that distinguishes the band from other long-time rock stars who seem to have passed their due date. In fact, this disc shows that Rush's best work is now.
6. missy elliotT Under Construction (Elektra)
She can rap dirty and as well as any man, with great beats and some smooth soul vibe, too. But she's always got more to say than just boasting she's the queen of the sheets. One of hiphop's biggest talents (she's a writer, artist, producer and CEO of her own label), her latest disc resonates with progressive new sounds combined with old-school samples.
7. mary margaret o'hara Apartment Hunting (Maple Music)
This immense, enigmatic talent gives us the dreamy, irresistible songs that remind us why we wait so hungrily for an elusive full album release. A small soundtrack to a small movie, handled by a small distributor, this fresh-sounding disc is the hidden treasure of the year.
8. blue rodeo Palace Of Gold (Warner)
One of Canada's best bands storms back with mid-career invigoration. Fuelled by strings and horns, Blue Rodeo have rejuvenated their roots rock sound to produce one of their best discs in years. And this disc's Bulletproof is another ballad for the ages.
9. queens of the stone age Songs For The Deaf (Interscope)
Nasty, hard-rocking tunes from these ex-Palm Springs punks - who see a scarier desert than the Eagles ever did - provide a soundtrack for sandblown creepiness. An often hooky rock assault, powerfully propelled by guest drummer Dave Grohl.
10. dap dippin with sharon jones and the dap-kings (Daptone Records)
Smooth soul from Brooklyn's Sharon Jones and members of the Sugarman 3. Dap Dippin captures the essence of soul so convincingly, you almost believe it's a re-release, but the sound and energy are fresh and alive.