Alright, Still [EMI]
Lily Allen's praise was quickly followed by some hearty backlash, and with good reason: She is brutally intimidating. Simultaneously every man's dream girl and worst nightmare, the outspoken Brit doesn't need you either way, and she makes it quite clear on this. It doesn't hurt that she can sing like an angel, even if angels don't say things like "When I see you cry, it makes me smile." But a tarnished halo is a small price to pay for flawless pop music. ~Mike Krolak
A Hundred Miles Off [Record Collection]
Before the Walkmen's "Louisiana" really begins to take its breezy, languid shape, it's as if the recording began too early and the guitar was mistakenly miked late. Partly muted chords swing into place -- as they do so many times on the Velvet Underground's self-titled LP -- and some barroom piano keys signal a pending stretch of what was for some reason never possible: a brass section on a Walkmen record. What a pleasant romp, even if singer Hamilton Leithauser sounds a little too fatigued to throw much of a party. ~Dominic Umile
Yoyoyoyoyo [Big Dada]
I was vomiting in a hotel room at my boy Sheldon's bachelor party when I first heard this joint. Alex "XXXChange" Epton's dry snare/kick disco beat for Spank Rock's "Bump" packs cowbell, and we usually don't need more cowbell, but it works. So yeah, Sheldon was completely wasted and we'd all put rubber cement in our hair and the shit was just about to dry when "Bump" came on. I lost it when Spank Ro's Naeem Juwan discusses his "popsicle" over sparse analogs, but Amanda Blank's Penthouse-letter-style exiting verse stayed on repeat until I woke in a pool of my own throw-up. Warm memories there. ~Dominic Umile
17. "Hush Boy"
Crazy Itch Radio [XL]
The new Jaxx album Crazy Itch Radio sounded subtler than previous efforts, but the lead single, "Hush Boy," was anything but. "Hush Boy" sounds as though "Romeo" walked into a disco by mistake. Immediate, big, funky and danceable, it fit well within the context of the album while also standing alone as a great song. ~Adrian Covert
16. "Wouldn't Get Far (feat. Kanye West)"
Doctor's Advocate [Geffen]
The good: Almost everything, including a heater of a beat from Kanye. The bad: Nothing ... except for the fact that Kanye opens his mouth for sixteen bars. Since West doesn't humiliate himself this time around, I won't hold it against the Game, who provides one of the year's most entertaining tracks, during which he runs through a list of industry groupies, video chicks and D-list celebrities who capitalize on their physical gifts. And did I mention that Kanye is still as good as ever behind the boards? ~Adrian Covert
Begin to Hope [Sire]
Say what you want about the Russian-born singer/songwriter's decision to go full-band on Begin to Hope, but this song strikes a wonderful balance. The stuttered strings and dense low-end are a fitting complement to Spektor's close-call love song, ably carried by her back-of-the-throat melody. It ain't a self-sufficient chick playing the piano with one hand and drumming on a chair with the other, but hey, love makes you do crazy things. The chorus interruptus ending should satisfy Regina OGs. ~Mike Krolak
The Trials of Von Occupanther [Bella Union]
This song sticks up for the virtues of the rather dorky name Roscoe. And it's from an album clunkily titled The Trials of Van Occupanther. And its first line is the redundant: "Stone cutters made them from stone." Yet it overcame all of this to be one of the most hooky, immaculately crafted songs of the year. Miracles do still happen. ~John Zeiss
"What You Know"
Swagger, man. T.I. glides majestically over Toomp's pronounced, jubilant production on "What You Know," and last summer nothing drowned out forced, bullshit pub conversation better than this slow-cooking triumph from Atlanta. Over four and a half synth-glimmering minutes, T.I. counters every syllable of "What You Know" with a brazen disregard for clarity, beginning with its immediate launch into Toomp's lifting, memorably buzz-ridged backdrop. You and your boys ran "Ride Wit Me" into the ground with massive weekend overplay a few months ago, but "What You Know" never really burned out, did it? Nope. ~Dominic Umile
12. "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor"
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not [Domino]
I tried to resist the hype on Arctic Monkeys for as long as possible, but as long as possible turned out to be until I heard those speed-freak, chiming guitar trills that come in after the choruses of this song. Bonus points for rhyming "capulets" with "deejay sets" -- wordplay even ol' Will Shakespeare would be fond of. ~John Zeiss
11. "Ain't No Other Man"
Back to Basics [RCA]
The video for "Ain't No Other Man" marked the debut of Baby Jane, Aguilera's speakeasy chanteuse alter ego. Jane was the perfect vehicle for the artist with the most formidable pipes in pop to redefine herself: She was an actual singer. Gone was the girlish desire to disrupt with the overly frank aesthetic of sexual overstretching; in its place was a woman confident to feel and declare in the same stunning moment. DJ Premier's backing track was masterpiece: Practicing unimaginable restraint with organic, sample-delic horns, he injected the song with all types of emotional potential and then handed the reins to Aguilera to fulfill the promise with her absolutely hammering vocal. ~AJ Wolosenko
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