1. PJ HARVEY
“Let England Shake’’ War and its lingering devastation are not the most obvious hallmarks of riveting rock music. Yet somehow Harvey wove them together against a backdrop of clanging melodies on the year’s most visceral album in indie rock. It was a train wreck for the ears: The imagery was gruesome, but you couldn’t stop listening.
2. KURT VILE
“Smoke Ring for My Halo’’ Shedding some of his cult status, this Philly singer-songwriter finally broke through with what he aptly called an “epic folk record.’’ Except this one flickered with traces of Neil Young and Lou Reed at their most dejected.
3. RAPHAEL SAADIQ
“Stone Rollin’ ’’ For his follow-up to 2008’s acclaimed “The Way I See It,’’ Saadiq looked beyond Motown and Stax to make a modern soul classic that was not afraid to rock, roll, and sometimes even lull.
4. GILLIAN WELCH
“The Harrow & The Harvest’’ Slow as molasses and just as dark, Welch’s latest collection of sepia-toned Americana was eight years in the making and well worth the wait.
“4’’ How’s this for a diva reinvention: One of pop’s brightest stars turned inward to take stock of her life and realized she is pretty content. More introspective than exclamatory, “4’’ was nevertheless deeply satisfying - no doubt for the artist as much as for her fans.
6. BON IVER
“Bon Iver’’ No longer an underground sensation, frontman Justin Vernon dared to recast his austere folk songs into something far more spectral and grandiose. It paid off: Bon Iver is nominated for four Grammys, including best new artist, at next year’s ceremony.
7. TOM WAITS
“Bad as Me’’ He has always been full of surprises and quick to take a detour, but on his latest, Waits finally found the sweet spot among his various guises: carnival barker, tender balladeer, rockabilly hellcat, and ramshackle bluesman.
8. WASHED OUT
“Within and Without’’ The debut from Ernest Greene’s one-man synth-pop band got lumped into the chillwave movement, but it couldn’t have been any warmer. It was the rare dance album that had heart and soul in mind as much as beats and hooks.
9. LIA ICES
“Grown Unknown’’ A torch singer masquerading as folk musician, this Brooklyn, N.Y., singer-songwriter bewitched on her sophomore release with shape-shifting textures and her gossamer soprano.
10. DUM DUM GIRLS
“Only in Dreams’’ Everything popped in Technicolor on the Dum Dums’ confident second album: The guitars were heavier, the melodies more streamlined, and lead singer Dee Dee summoned the sass of Chrissie Hynde when she went in for the kill. “Coming Down’’ still gives me chills.
K.D. LANG & THE SISS BOOM BANG “Sing It Loud’’ Backed by a lean new band that knew how to frame and complement that big voice of hers, lang returned to form with an album that easily ranks as her most memorable in at least a decade.