Gauntlet Hair, Out, Don't/Heave (Self-released). A prime example of how a band can employ, then pull away sounds to great effect and use familiar elements in unfamiliar ways. The textured shimmering and echo heard on both tracks highlight how all of the sounds are percussive and how all carry the melody with equal importance. — Murphy

George & Caplin, Secluded Malls and Scenic Byways/Requiem for an Encyclopedia (Plastic Sound Supply). George & Caplin has always been a determined musical duo, but Secluded Malls is its first truly ambitious project. While the first disc features plenty of the Americana-infused electronic sound we've come to love from the act, the second one, Requiem, is awe-inspiring in a completely new and different way. Thorin Klosowski

Git Some, Loose Control (Alternative Tentacles). Although Git Some's brand of Black Flag-on-acid noise rock may seem chaotic, Loose Control features excellent musicianship, cleverly crafted lyrics and controlled dexterity that surfaces above the confusion. Luke Fairchild screams maniacally above the increasing noise about subjects best not explained until you experience them for yourself. — Thomas

Glass Hits, Glass Hits (Self-released). A seven-inch single that might as well be pressed on plutonium instead of vinyl, Glass Hits' self-titled debut is radioactive enough to break down the cellular structure of post-hardcore while retaining its overall shape. Smuggled deep inside, though, is a warped and lethal mutation. — Heller

Greg Harris Vibe Quintet, Glass Gold (Dazzle Records). Having already shown they can master the art of the groove on their previous two efforts, Greg Harris and his quintet step outside the pocket and into more expansive territory on many of the cuts here. With vocalist Venus Cruz adding some supremely divine vocals to the mix, Glass Gold is certainly worth its weight. Jon Solomon

Haven the Great, King Kong (Self-released). When Haven dropped King Kong, the local rap world went a little crazy, and so did Haven, evidently, with his rhymes. Spitting on the joint like there's no tomorrow, Haven turns in a dizzyingly grand performance on the single, "My Hood," effectively crushing all comers with complete disregard. King Kong, indeed. — Johnson

Head for the Hills, Head for the Hills (Self-released). One of the finest bluegrass acts around these parts, Fort Collins's Head for the Hills serves up a hell of collection of tunes on its sophomore release. As the quartet digs in and starts kicking up dust, the players show off some mighty fine harmony work and virtuosic playing, resulting in a thoroughly listenable and foot-stomping album. — Solomon

Hideous Men, Hideous Men (Laser Palace/Bocumast). There is a wealth of influence inside Hideous Men's work: The duo succeeds at blending the beats of DJ Screw and the screaming ethos of Kathleen Hanna into a danceable whole, and the tracks are audibly vivid. Part Biggie, part Yip Yip, Hideous Men's 2010 EP is a source for intelligent, positive bump-and-grind music. Bree Davies

Hot White, Nitetrotter Sessions (Nail in the Coffin). Hot White doesn't give a shit — about anything. But the trio's philosophy of apathy only translates into raw, unadulterated energy, which is perfectly captured here. The dire meanness in Tiana Bernard's voice is countered by guitarist Kevin Wesley's sharp repetitions, while drummer Darren Kulback's haphazard hits only exacerbate the situation, pushing the record to the verge of collapse. — Davies

Hunter Dragon, Blood Bath (Self-released). Bearing the spaciousness of Lee "Scratch" Perry and the unspooled songcraft of Smog's Bill Callahan, Hunter Dragon unleashed his latest creation, Blood Bath. Six songs and a million years long, it's a timeless shimmer of acoustic/electronic polyamory that feasts lovingly on its own echoes. — Heller

I Am the Dot, Bridges (Fight the Future). Of Zach Tipton's many worthy releases this year, Bridges stands out as the most pleasurable listening experience. Half of the four-song EP is startlingly clear and brilliant pop, and the whole thing is sonically pleasing enough to subvert the dark lyrics. Horns and handclaps, anyone? — Maletsky

I Sank Molly Brown, Ishmael Asimov (Self-released). Showcasing a notable amount of technical prowess on this record, the members of I Sank Molly Brown have clearly found a way to write solid pop songs while continually challenging themselves as players and performers. The result: ambitious songwriting performed with a refreshing exuberance and a willingness to risk sounding unfashionably earnest. — Murphy

Innerstate Ike and Will Guice, Diamonds in the Dirt (Self-released). Innerstate Ike and Will Guice offer up their take on the well-worn "best of both worlds" theme here. Fusing R&B with rap, the pair turn away from tales of street love in favor of detailing their surroundings with authenticity, most notably on standout tracks like the soulful "My Hood," an ode to not only surviving the hood, but thriving in it. — Johnson

Jonathan and Bpro, Jonathan and Bpro (Self-released). Jonathan and BPro are pop-music purists, offering up an album full of the most straight-up dance music this year. Besides being perfect for dancing — in your car, on the dance floor, in front of the mirror in your underwear — "Turn It Up" tells the story of a man so bent on getting his beat-pounding, wall-rattling groove on, even his landlord won't stop him. Now, that's determination. — Davies

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