Kanye West -- College Dropout
The man behind some of Jay-Z's best work makes his debut, without a college degree to boot.
Brian Wilson -- SMiLE
37 years after its inception, Brian Wilson re-records his "teenage symphony to God," who was pleased, but wanted more cowbell.
Modest Mouse -- Good News for People Who Love Bad News
After 10 years, Modest Mouse are finally garnering some fame. It was nice while it lasted, indie world.
The Roots -- The Tipping Point
The Philly band's most recent release even won over Amy Gutmann. What else could you want?
Franz Ferdinand -- Franz Ferdinand
This debut from the Scotland hipsters won not only England's esteemed Mercury Music Prize, but the hearts of every hipster-wannabe at Penn as well.
Interpol -- Antics
So it wasn't as good as Turn on the Bright Lights, but who cares? "Public Pervert" is the shit.
The Arcade Fire -- Funeral
This album is so sad, but in a good way. "Neighborhood #4" especially, the kettle whistles just create too much tension for my poor tear ducts to handle.
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists -- Shake the Sheets
One of these days, people will understand how good Ted Leo is. Although Sheets is no Tyranny of Distance, it beats the crap out of Hearts of Oak. Which was good too, though.
The Fiery Furnaces -- Blueberry Boat
Blueberry Boat resurrects the term "encyclopaedic" in reference to a song's lyrics. The most random album of the year... after William Shatner's.
Sonic Youth -- Sonic Nurse
Nurse is the New York rockers' 19th album. How can they still possibly be so creative?
Jill Scott -- Beautifully Human
North Philadelphia R&B child Jill Scott returns, bringing back with her her soul, her street smarts and her poetic license.
Loretta Lynn -- Van Lear Rose
"Miss Being Mrs." is the most heartbreaking song of the year. "Portland, Oregon" is pretty good too, but why do Jack White and Loretta Lynn kiss in the video? WTF?
Comets on Fire -- Blue Cathedral
This psychedelic rocker of an album is scary at first, but soon enough the drugged-out, angry guitar screeches reveal its inner charm.
Mos Def -- The New Danger
He made us wait five years for a new album, but it turned out to be worth it, most definitely. What a horrid pun.
Jesse Malin -- The Heat
This sophomore solo album from the New York moodster has proven his worth. Can ya feel da heat? Well can ya?
Dillinger Escape Plan -- Miss Machine
Four years after their sophomore album, D.E.P. is keeping the hardcore kids happy, even with a new lead singer.
Scissor Sisters -- Scissor Sisters
OK, so they did a disco cover of Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." Definitely not getting any points for that. But the rest of the album will make you work it, and isn't that all that really matters?
The Killers -- Hot Fuss
Somebody told Brandon Flowers that you had a boyfriend, and he's not going to take it. Instead, he's going to sound really British/ new wave and have a hit album.
Secret Machines -- Now Here Is Nowhere
On their major label debut, the Texas trio show they can rock out as well as psych out, and that doesn't come a dime a dozen.
Wilco -- A Ghost Is Born
Jeff Tweedy's "migraine album" received mixed reviews at first, until Tweedy smote the nay-sayers with his God-like powers.
Sufjan Stevens -- Seven Swans
Well, it isn't about Michigan like his last album was, but it is about being alone with God, which is cool. No, actually that's creepy.
The Streets -- A Grand Don't Come For Free
Any album that includes a "plot twist" in the last song shows enough effort to merit a spot on this list.
Mirah -- C'mon Miracle
Mirah's finally made an album that does justice to her potential. Now if she'd only give us her phone number...
Rilo Kiley -- More Adventurous
Country-tinged rock + Jenny Lewis' (sometimes) hot self = an enchanting major label debut.
Marah -- 20,000 Streets Under the Sky
Having created an album that breathes Philadelphia like no other doesn't change the fact that Stephen King is a huge Marah fan.
Rachael Yamagata -- Happenstance
Sweet, sad and romantic singer-songwriter Yamagata gets back at ex-boyfriends and serenades secret crushes.
Elliott Smith -- From a Basement on the Hill
Given the context, Smith's last opus is arguably his saddest. But that's what made people love him in the first place -- his delicacy.