1. Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteen. An obvious choice if you know me, but the right one. It's definitely his strongest album since "The Rising," most likely his strongest since "Tunnel of Love," and possibly his strongest since "Born in the U.S.A." The change in producers resulted in a different sound, the freshest his music has sounded in quite some time.
2. Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance, Patterson Hood. The quieter side of Hood, reflective and never less than impressive.
3. Tempest, Bob Dylan. Not quite at the level of his back-to-back masterpieces ("Time Out of Mind," "Love and Theft," "Modern Times"), but certainly within shouting distance.
4. Underwater Sunshine, Counting Crows. When I opened this one up and realized it was an album comprised entirely of covers, I was disappointed. I shouldn't have been; this is their strongest album in years, and many of the covers are so obscure that they might as well be new songs.
5. Blunderbuss, Jack White. As I wrote the other day, the most impressive thing about this album is its modesty. White knows he's a guitar god, but doesn't feel the need to prove it on every song, as it sometimes felt on even the best White Stripes records. The focus is the songs, and the songs are good.
As for the rest, there were parts of each that I actively enjoyed, with the exception of Madonna's latest travesty, which was embarrassingly bad.
- Psychedelic Pill - Neil Young & Crazy Horse
- Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran - Jamey Johnson
- Sunken Condos - Donald Fagen
- Glad Rag Doll - Diana Krall
- The Carpenter - The Avett Brothers
- Sun - Cat Power
- Handwritten - The Gaslight Anthem
- Not Your Kind of People - Garbage
- Americana - Neil Young & Crazy Horse
- Banga - Patti Smith
- Neck of the Woods - Silversun Pickups
- The Idler Wheel... - Fiona Apple
- Older Than My Old Man Now - Loudon Wainwright III
- Chimes of Freedom - The Songs of Bob Dylan
- Slipstream - Bonnie Raitt
- Barton Hollow - The Civil Wars
- Boys & Girls - Alabama Shakes
- MDNA - Madonna
- Voyageur - Kathleen Edwards
- Hell on Heels - Pistol Annies
- Nothing Is Wrong - Dawes
- 21 - Adele
- Wild Flag
- Four the Record - Miranda Lambert
- Mylo Xyloto - Coldplay
- El Camino - The Black Keys
- Chief - Eric Church