All in one place . . . like a Christmas list. I'm not numbering them 1 to 10 because they're too good -- and too different -- to rank absolutely. Click on each title for a link to my original post.
Graham Parker & The Rumour:
Three Chords Good
Even I, a confirmed Graham Parker fanatic, didn't predict just HOW good this reunion album would be. I'm gobsmacked by its brilliance.
The Shins: Port of Morrow
A combination of gorgeous melody, striking lyrics, and a sweetly melancholy worldview -- it's almost drunkenly beautiful.
Corb Lund: Cabin Fever
Ranging from honky-tonk to rockabilly to bluegrass to Western swing, Lund doesn't approach country music like an artifact or an ironic affectation; he approaches it like a cowboy..
Rhett Miller: Dreamer
From the Old 97s front man, an entire alt-country album about love, lost and found, sour and sweet.
Paul Weller: Sonik Kicks
Ever the restless risk-taker, Weller loads up this album with studio effects and sonic experiments, while his insane commitment to melody and to syncopation shines gloriously through.
The Ben Folds Five:
The Sound of the Life of the Mind
I adore Ben Folds' solo work as well, but the driving energy and impish wit of the Ben Folds Five is something else.
The dBs: Falling Off the Sky
Reuniting this beloved late 70s band so many years down the road seems like a joyful and natural thing, judging from the copasetic energy of Falling Off the Sky.
John Hiatt: Mystic Pinball
Start to finish, that raspy voice, the visceral rhythms, the crunchy guitarwork, all come together to craft a sound so authentic and idiosyncratic, it fits like a glove.
The Avett Brothers: The Carpenter
Scott and Seth Avett have never shed the upbeat sweetness of their southern folk roots, even as they steer it into rock territory.
Mumford & Sons: Babel
Hipster indie Brits forge their own peculiar Americana sound, like O Brother Where Art Thou? meets Martin Amis, full of post-modern angst and old-time religion.
M. Ward: A Wasteland Companion
OOF!! Released way back last April, I forgot at first to put this on my 2012 top ten list. But I adore its acoustic reverbed charm, a retro-flavored meditation on love, loss, and resilience.