Dinosaur Jr., Farm (Jagjaguwar). With Farm, Dinosaur Jr. offers a strong statement about its continued relevance. The record's soaring guitar riffs, pensive vocals and speedy tempos refine the band's early work from the '90s. Indeed, songs like "I Want You to Know" and "Plans" aren't simply a rehash of the group's glory days as alt-rock pioneers; rather, they're an ideal musical evolution. — Goldstein

Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca (Domino). So you see Bitte Orca's merits — wealth, a good family name, vocal arrangements that blew Grizzly Bear's right out of the East River — but you're not in love with it? Dave Longstreth understands; all he asks for is time and respect. With these, love for his batshit but fearsomely controlled vision cannot fail to grow. You'll see. — Smith

DJ Quik and Kurupt, BlaQKout (Mad Science). The fire of youth has given way to nonchalant mastery of their craft, and years spent with the West Coast's titans haven't stifled this pair's limitless creativity. Quik is especially mesmerizing in producing "Hey Playa!" and Kurupt matches him on "9x's Outta 10" with a flow so dense we still can't find a way out umpteen spins later. — Kiernan Maletsky

Fall Out Boy, Folie à Deux (Island). Time to reconsider these dudes. The Neptunes are on the boards, and Elvis Costello shows up for a line or two. That's not why the album is good, though: Costello doesn't really know what's going on, and Pharrell's best days seem to be behind him. No, this one's a winner because it turns out that Patrick Stump can write a hell of a pop song. "America's Suitehearts" is unstoppable. Seriously. —Maletsky

Fever Ray, Fever Ray (Mute/Rabid). Shorn of the dance trappings of her work with her brother in the Knife, Karin Dreijer Andersson's music becomes even creepier on her solo debut, her bizarre tales of childhood and strained domesticity reminding us that Sweden is not all beautiful people and dance pop: It's also mostly dark for half the year. — Smith

Finn Riggins, Vs. Wilderness (Tender Loving Empire). Fascinatingly eclectic throughout, this is the sound of a talented band flexing its creative muscles with songs that weave together jubilant pop music, classical structure and an experimental edge. Artistically ambitious and playful, Vs. Wilderness hooks you with infectious melodies but keeps your attention with its imaginative songwriting. — Murphy

The Flaming Lips, Embryonic (Warner Bros.). Embryonic is the Lips at their psych-freakout best. Instead of being rebirthed again, Wayne Coyne and crew crawled into a dark and moist musical womb of sorts, where kraut-rock pioneers Can play the soundtrack to S&M films. It's bass-heavy and mastered super-loud, but it's still absolutely magnificent. — Solomon

Fruit Bats, Ruminant Band (Sub Pop). A group of girls sang along to nearly every song the Fruit Bats played at the Larimer Lounge last summer. It's easy to see why, since frontman Eric Johnson just writes inherently charming songs that are catchy as hell, even if they're a bit dark at times. — Solomon

Fuck Buttons, Tarot Sport (ATP). Noise and dance are still in the early stages of their flirtation with one another, but this sophomore release suggests that a marriage of the two would beget...post-rock? Ambient techno? Grandiose as the former, hypnotic as the latter, this album could make us wish we hadn't wasted the term "big beat" on the Chemical Brothers. — Smith

Future of the Left, Travels With Myself and Another (4AD). Sure, it's ex-Mclusky. Sure, it's also face-searing rock music — but that doesn't mean it can't be intelligent, introspective or fun. Travels With Myself and Another is the soundtrack of the year for those who like to drink heavy, ride fast and bang hard. — Klosowski

Girls, Album (True Panther Sounds). By now you've heard the Beach Boys comparisons and the escape-to-San Francisco-from-a-cult backstory, which makes lines like "But what is life without a dream? And even I know dreams can still come true" not trite at all. Living is fun no matter what. — Maletsky

Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest (Warp). In the last year of the decade, Grizzly Bear has submitted the final word on "indie folk." Where do you go from here? The dudes have all the trappings: the warm instrumentation, the dulcet tones, the soaring harmonies. Yet somehow they also sound bad-ass, unafraid to actually wail. Jay-Z isn't just a fan for show. — Maletsky

The Handsome Family, Honey Moon (Carrot Top). The evocative lyrics and stirring string work of Brett and Rennie Sparks are in top form on Honey Moon, an album that seamlessly sews together unlikely ingredients. The two easily combine vintage country-and-Western song structures with abstract verses about sparrows and paper cups. The resulting hybrid feels heady and novel. — Goldstein

Handsome Furs, Face Control (Sub Pop). True love kicks ass, somehow. Dan Boeckner can never again be that dude from Wolf Parade. Not when he and his wife, Alexei Perry, are making music like this. Their passion is palpable and that drum machine is relentless, and this time they made it sound like house music with an urgent soul. — Maletsky

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