1. Kanye West
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Universal)
How do you recover from repeatedly embarrassing yourself in front of millions of people and getting a reputation as King Douchebag? By proving all the haters wrong with an ambitiously creative album that tackles your demons head-on and artfully humanizes your egomaniac tendencies.
2. LCD Soundsystem
This Is Happening (DFA/EMI)
If this does turn out to be the last LCD Soundsystem album, as James Murphy has been threatening, then the NYC dance punks have gone out on a hell of a high note. Music about music isn't supposed to be this emotionally affecting, but these guys proved that they own that niche.
3. Arcade Fire
The Suburbs (Merge)
The third studio album from the Montreal indie rockers shows they're more than capable of becoming the stadium-rock heroes we worried they might grow into. Without sacrificing any of their arty ambitions, they come up with a universally accessible meditation on growing up that perfectly captures the mood of the end of the 00s.
Dundas, Ontario's, most famous musician sets his sights on underground club music and comes out with a collection of songs that are just as engrossing to listen to in your living room as they are on the dance floor. It's the answer to any indie rock Luddite who still thinks techno is a fad.
5. Janelle Monáe
The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III) (Warner)
A sublime voyage into the mind of a musical virtuoso, Janelle Monáe's superb, genre-defying full-length debut aims big and succeeds. It's a record collector's delight, full of orchestral swells, raps and toe-taps, unified by Monáe's wondrous wail.
Grinderman 2 (-Anti)
The second instalment of Nick Cave's delightfully seedy garage rock side project reveals that it isn't a one-off fluke. If anything, the swampy grooves and acidic riffs are even tougher and more menacing than the first time around, which bodes well for a third chapter.
Majesty Shredding (Merge)
While all the glory went to Pavement's oversold reunion, North Carolina's finest 90s college rockers quietly reformed to release one of the year's strongest alt records. Considering Merge's huge success and their age, this could have been brunch-date music. Instead, they sound young and hungry like it's 92 all over again.
8. Best Coast
Crazy For You (Mexican Summer)
If you argued that the L.A. music scene officially took over from Brooklyn this year - a theory that wouldn't meet much resistance - then Beth Cosentino led the movement. Ariel Pink and Dum Dum Girls might have hit their targets first, but Crazy For You was a blissed-out and fuzzy, feel-good A-bomb.
9. Dum Dum Girls
I Will Be (Sub Pop)
Not all fuzz-drenched 60s girl-group pop is created equal. When there are so many competitors in the lo-fi buzz-saw bubble-gum world, it takes carefully crafted shimmering harmonies, unique approaches to distortion and some rock-solid songwriting to rise above the crowd like these girls do.
10. Big Boi
Sir Lucious Leftfoot The Son Of Chico Dusty (Def Jam)
OutKast heavyweight Big Boi raises the stakes with a series of heady and hooky bass-driven productions as unpredictable as his rapid-fire rhymes. The best thing to happen to the club all year.