Jason Green | Albums

orton When she insists "C'mon, put a little love in your heart" on the penultimate track "Heart of Soul," you can't help but comply.

 

 

 

 

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Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs [photo: Todd Owyoung]

 

1. Sloan | Never Hear the End of It (Vik/Yep Roc)

After two average albums that concentrated too much on '70s lite rock ballads and monster riffage (2001's Pretty Together and 2003's Action Pact, respectively), Sloan took three years to regroup for their eighth album (out now in the band's native Canada and available stateside January 9 from Yep Roc). A sprawling masterpiece spreading 30 impeccably sequenced tracks over 76 minutes (11 tracks clock in at under two minutes) and featuring ample submissions from all four band members, this is the band's most cohesive statement to date, and a stunning collection of brilliant bite-sized pop where no song is a single second longer than it needs to be.

2. Golden Smog | Another Fine Day (Lost Highway)

The country-rock supergroup-made up of members from the Jayhawks, Soul Asylum, Big Star, Run Westy Run, and Wilco-finally fully lives up to its pedigree. The richly varied track listing stretches from guitar boogie ("Corvette") to somber ballads ("Long Time Ago"), but it's the AM Gold-worthy "5-22-02" that easily shambles its way to the top of any list of best songs for the year.

3. Belle & Sebastian | The Life Pursuit (Matador)

After taking their trademark twee-pop as far as it could go, Stuart Murdoch & Co. branched out on their most versatile record to date, proving they can handle T.Rex-ian glam on "The Blues Are Still Blue" and Sesame Street lite-funk on "Song for Sunshine." For the diehards, gently strummed fare like "Another Sunny Day" proves the band hasn't forgotten what made them famous in the first place.

4. Pearl Jam | Pearl Jam (J-Records)

It took the Bush administration five years to finally light a fire under Eddie Vedder's ass, but thank god they did. The Seattle quintet's eighth studio album (and 186th overall) finds the band more alive than they've been in years, bringing the rage (the blistering "World Wide Suicide") or the passion (the powerful "Army Reserve") with equal ferocity.

5. Blowoff | Blowoff (Full Frequency)

Little of his work in the punk trio Hüsker Dü or the '90s power pop group Sugar would suggest that Bob Mould had a great electronica album in him, but this first team-up with Deep Dish producer/DJ Richard Morel should silence all naysayers. Mould's guitar fills in all the cracks between Morel's mellifluous beats, resulting in a dance/rock fusion sure to please fans from either camp.

6. Beth Orton | Comfort of Strangers (Astralwerks)

Orton left behind the electronic elements of her earlier recordings on 2002's Daybreaker, but it's on Comfort of Strangers that she finally masters the lighter touch, the soft instrumentation supporting Orton's lovely voice with the breeziness of a Nick Drake record. When she insists "C'mon, put a little love in your heart" on the penultimate track "Heart of Soul," you can't help but comply.

7. The Pillows | My Foot (Geneon)

Very few listeners who aren't anime dorks are familiar with this J-rock band or even speak its language, but you don't need to be fluent in Japanese to understand the laser-like slice of the guitars on the soaring title track and album opener. When Sawao Yamanaka sings "All of the people on the earth want to rock 'n' roll" on the catchy-as-all-get-out "Rock'n'Roll Sinners," you'll never forget that great rock music knows no borders.

8. Yeah Yeah Yeahs | Show Your Bones (Interscope)

After gaining massive acclaim with their early EPs and brutal live shows, the YYY's debut Fever to Tell was a bit of a letdown. Not so with its follow-up, which reins in any artsy-fartsy tendencies to concentrate on slick, tight rock songs like the fine, fuzzed-out "Phenomena."

9. Guster | Ganging Up on the Sun (Reprise)

The Boston-based trio leaves the college rock tag in the dust on its fifth album by adding fourth member Joe Pisapia, whose banjo, bass, and keyboards fill out the instrumentation wonderfully. The epic journey crests in the seven-minute" Ruby Falls," a gently rising track that ends in an extended coda awash with shimmering guitars and a jazzy trumpet line straight out of CBS Sunday Morning.

10.Snow Patrol | Eyes Open (A&M/Fiction)

Those only familiar with the Coldplay-ish, Grey's Anatomy-featured ballad "Chasing Cars" may think that Gary Lightbody's greatest accomplishment was beating Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow at his own game, but one listen to rockers like "It's Beginning to Get to Me" or the chugging, Sufjan name-dropper "Hands Open" prove this Scottish band have far more up their sleeve. | Jason Green

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