1. Shelby Lynne, "Just a Little Lovin'." This Southern soul collection examines love gone wrong with a penetrating and provocative minimalism.
2. TV on the Radio, "Dear Science." These Bowie-loving Brooklynites made arty party rock with a purpose, message and flair for fun.
3. Fleet Foxes, "Fleet Foxes." Pretty and spacey with gorgeous vocal harmonies, this is Seattle's answer to Iceland's mesmerizing Sigur Ros.
4. The Roots, "Rising Down." Not the Philly band's best album, but it is the best hip-hop disc of 2008 with its dark but righteous social commentary.
5. R.E.M., "Accelerate." These veterans rocked with renewed purpose and more potency than ever.
6. Metallica, "Death Magnetic." Hey, Axl, this is how to make a comeback: Play like an actual band, and let those guitars slash and thrash while the singer snarls and rages.
7. Jamey Johnson, "The Lonesome Song." A sensitive outlaw with a louder-than-Waylon voice reflects on divorce, drugs and drinking in the year's most intriguing country album.
8. Lucinda Williams, "Little Honey." She's in a love-struck (not love-sucks) phase for a change. Which means: less poetic but harder rocking.
9. Estelle, "Shine." Versatile, charismatic and sweetly soulful, this John Legend discovery is deeper than more-hyped U.K. newcomers Adele, Duffy and Leona Lewis.
10. Rodney Crowell, "Sex and Gasoline." The best Dylan album of 2008.
1. TV on the Radio, "Dear Science." Yup, it really is that good. Alternately the prettiest, freakiest, boldest and catchiest rock record in a long time.
2. My Morning Jacket, "Evil Urges." The Kentuckians branch out into falsetto soul and spacey funk while still offering overturistic guitar work and stirring songwriting.
3. Metallica, "Death Magnetic." As powerful as the heyday stuff, meaning pre-"Black Album." This. I. Swear.
4. Bon Iver, "For Emma, Forever Ago." This confessional and eerily beautiful indie-folk masterpiece by Eau Claire, Wis., resident Justin Vernon hit stores in February and is in full rotation now that winter's here again.
5. Nas, "Untitled." Clumsily executed and overhyped, it was nonetheless fascinating and sometimes even fun.
6. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!" Second-heaviest album of the year, and with way better lyrics than Metallica.
7. Fleet Foxes, "Fleet Foxes." Hip, psychedelic folk with the best young songwriter to emerge in years and group harmonies as high and icy as the Cascade Mountains.
8. Adele, "19." Her voice is more soulful and powerful than Norah Jones' or Amy Winehouse's, and her debut record is almost as good.
9. Girl Talk, "Feed the Animals." Pittsburgh DJ Gregg Gillis mashes up T.I., Huey Lewis, Jay-Z and Twisted Sister -- in just the first track.
10. Nine Inch Nails, "The Slip." Trent Reznor followed up the instrumental "Ghosts I-IV" with his most straight-ahead, brutal disc in a decade.