1. Ron Sexsmith: Time Being (Ironworks). Sexsmith has always been a modest boy, and his songs never overstate themselves or overstay their welcome. Louder mouths may get more attention, but Sexsmith's dedication to his craft is absolute.
2. Roddy Woomble: My Secret Is My Silence (7-10 Music). The Idlewild singer makes the solo album I'd been hoping for. Woomble's voice was always the band's biggest drawing card, and here he's free to add and subtract to his sound at will.
3. Akron / Family: Love Is Simple (Young God). Grab a couple of friends, a few mind-altering chemicals, a bog campfire, and a vague idea that you want to start your own religion, and this is what you end up with.
4. Willy Mason: If the Ocean Gets Rough (Astralwerks). This young Martha's Vineyard songwriter has just enough rust in his voice to convince me that, in a few years, he's really going to have something to say. For now, he uses his imagination - and it's a fertile one.
5. Fionn Regan: The End of History (Lost Highway). One of the lonelier albums I've heard this year that makes me want to stay up late into the night without regrets toward the next day.
6. Magnolia Electric Co.: Sojourner (Secretly Canadian). A four-CD boxed set (with a bonus DVD) from the unknown but prolific Jason Molina. Somehow he can settle on just a few chords and wring new melodies and tortured emotions.
7. John Frusciante: Ataxia II: AW II (Record Collection). He makes what seems like an album a month. This loose trio jams out and lets the imperfections fall where they may. Nothing like the sound of a band in a room when the vibe is right.
8. Band of Horses: Cease to Begin (Sub Pop). Ambient tones, gentle silences, strong melodies, shades of Goth, hints of twee - all done as a chance to relax.
9. José Gonzáles: In Our Nature (Mute). Give a man an acoustic guitar and let him ponder. If the man can play the guitar well enough, he can ponder anything and make it seem profound. Because there's nothing more profound than a beautiful melody.
10. Black Lips: Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo (Vice). Whether or not this is a "live album" remains debatable. Sure, there's audience yelling and stage patter, but the Black Lips always seem like they're in the midst of chaos. That said, this is a horrible-sounding album - and that's what's good about it. Garage rock delivered from the garage, barely in one piece.
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