1. Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam)
Kanye’s ego has, as ESPN analyst Mel Kiper would say, “tremendous upside”: It’s the reason he’s so quotable, the reason he has to try so much harder than any other pop star, the reason he thinks his not-that-douchey douchiness deserves a song as epically gorgeous as “Runaway.”
2. Robyn, Body Talk (CherryTree/Interscope)
3. Elizabeth Cook, Welder (31 Tigers)
You have to salute anyone who can write both a heartbreaking, gratuitously detailed character sketch called “Heroin Addict Sister” and a hilarious honky-tonk anthem about not wanting to sleep with drunk dudes called “Yes to Booty” (“When you say yes to beer/you say no to booty”). Elsewhere she makes use of rock riffs, Boogie Nights and a fine Hank impression.
4. Vampire Weekend, Contra (XL)
5. Sleigh Bells, Treats (Mom & Pop)
6. LCD Soundsystem, This is Happening (DFA/Virgin)
7. Big Boi, Sir Lucious Leftfoot (Def Jam)
8. Everybody Was in the French Resistance…Now!, Fixing the Charts Vol. 1 (Cooking Vinyl)
Eddie Argos and Dyan Valdes write a series of genius “response songs,” reimagining pop hits old and new. Here, the Avril of “Girlfriend” is a stalker; Billie Jean’s kid tracks down and berates his pops; Jimmy Mack is very much back — and pretty fucking peeved about “Jimmy Mack.” Argos’ skills have improved markedly since the first Art Brut record: He’s still laughing to keep from crying, but he’s got better comic timing and better tunes than ever. And sometimes the laughs even come at the expense of someone else.
9. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs (Merge)
10. Cornershop, Judy Sucks a Lemon For Breakfast (Ample Play)
Yes, the new Cornershop album sounds just like the last Cornershop album. But it doesn’t sound much like anything else.
1. Ke$ha, “Tik Tok”
She’s almost as polarizing as Kanye — people really hate this song, which I take as more proof of its genius. I like to imagine she and Dr. Luke kept listening to playback and going, “Not dumb enough!”
2. Robyn, “Dancing on My Own”
The most perfect of all the perfect songs she gave us in 2010.
3. Die Antwoord, “Enter the Ninja”
4. Kanye West, “Power”
5. The National, “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
6. Les Savy Fav, “Let’s Get Out of Here”
Archers of Loaf-style guitar clamor plus raw boy-voices singing, “we got mouths, let’s make ’em moan.” Overtly horny indie-rock — sort of rare, right?
7. Far East Movement, “Like a G6”
The song puking one stall over from “Tik Tok.”
8. Lindstrom & Christabelle, “Lovesick”
9. Spoon, “The Mystery Zone”
10. Gucci Mane, “Lemonade”