1. Porcupine Tree: Fear of a Blank Planet (Atlantic). Panoramic, transcendent, sonically impeccable, and simply beautiful. You want music that'll take you to a higher plane? Start here.
2. Radiohead: In Rainbows (radiohead.com). The most talked-about "music event" of the year is actually a damn fine album. Thom Yorke wails, guitars flail, strings sail. An in-the-zeitgeist triumph.
3. The White Stripes: Icky Thump (Third Man/Warner Bros.). The power of two: Jack and Meg create the hardest-stomping and most mystical Zeppelin set in years.
4. Rush: Snakes & Arrows (Anthem/Atlantic). Prog vets thunder ever onward, displaying apt muscle, sinew, and an unbreakable Geddy - er, giddy - spirit of adventure.
5. Robert Plant/Alison Krauss: Raising Sand (Rounder). An unexpected yet satisfying duo that brilliantly merges Percy's latter-day smoky atmospherics with Krauss's bountiful bluegrass harmonies. Credit producer T Bone Burnett with laying the groundwork.
6. Crowded House: Time on Earth (ATO). A bittersweet reunion that transcends melancholy and reinforces Neil Finn's singular songwriting gifts.
7. Iron and Wine: The Shepherd's Dog (Sub Pop). The introspective Sam Beam branches out of his usual magnificent gloom to dive into a fully realized group setting. A full-length chronicle of a whisper to a scream.
8. John Mellencamp: Freedom's Road (Universal Republic). Forget the TV ad flack: Road is a solid winner, chock full of slice after tasty slice of JM's organic heartland rock. A great American songwriter captured in continuing full bloom.
9. Bloc Party: A Weekend in the City (Vice). The latest in British generational angst, fueled by angular guitars and skittery drum 'n' bass.
10. Arctic Monkeys: Favourite Worst Nightmare (Domino). Shrugging off the hype, these postpunk Brits avoid the sophomore slump by keeping it short and sweet, with gobs of harmonic riffs and clever lyrics.
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