What a weird year in rock. Guns N Roses, or I should say Axel Rose, finally releases Chinese Democracy and nobody really cares. And those aging weirdos in AC/DC (come on Angus, it's time to lose that school boy uniform, it's getting pretty creepy) release an album that's only available in Wal-Mart.
But beneath the surface, there was a lot of good music being created. I spent the last few weeks trying to figure out my Top 10 list. It wasn't easy. But here we go ...
1. Conor Oberst. Conor Oberst.
Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis recently told Blender that The Mystic Valley Band is the "sh-t." She's right. But so is the main man. Oberst sheds his Bright Eyes moniker and delivers a third straight masterpiece.
Highlights: Danny Callahan, Souled Out!, Get Well Card
2. Fate. Dr. Dog.
For the second year in a row, the Dog lands in Distractions' number two spot. These guys do their thing incredibly well. They are The Band of indie rock.
Highlights: The Breeze, The Ark
3. Wagonwheel Blues. The War on Drugs.
Bob Dylan meets Arcade Fire with a wall of guitars. This Philly band creates a unique, dramatic sound. Keep an eye on them.
Highlights: Arms Like Boulders, Taking the Farm
4. Victory Shorts. Absentee.
This group dropped their alt-country leanings and released a rocking set of love songs filled with singer Dan Michaelson's deep voice and sense of humor.
Highlights: Bitchstealer, We Smash Plates
5. The Stand-ins. Okkervil River
This companion piece to last year's Stage Names stands on its own. Lead singer Will Sheff lampoons the pretensions of the music industry.
Highlights: Pop Lie, Singer Songwriter
6. Dual Hawks. Centro-Matic/South San Gabriel.
Another great set of intelligent, mid-tempo rootsy rockers from Will Johnson, who unleashes a double disc -- each side done by one of his two bands. Give it time. If you love Neil Young and Iron and Wine, this one will grow on you.
Highlights: Twenty-four, All Your Farewells
7. Fleet Foxes/Sun Giant EP. Fleet Foxes
With its choir-like vocals and 70s folk-rock sound, the EP and debut are the two most beautiful releases this year.
Highlights:White Winter Hymnal, Your Protector
Original review for Fleet Foxes
Original review for Sun Giant
8. We Brave Bee Stings and All. Thao
Great sophomore effort by the young indie-folkie with a wispy Chan Marshall-like voice, great lyrics, and playful arrangements.
Highlights: Swimming Pools, Geography
9. Furr. Blitzen Trapper
Woodsy rock with guitars and jams breaking out all over the place. Wilco fans, take a chance on this band.
Highlights: Furr, War on Machines
Tie. 10. Real Emotional Trash. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks.
The former Pavement leader lets loose and shreds all over the place.
Highlights: Dragonfly Pie, Real Emotional Trash, Baltimore
Tie. 10. Parc Avenue. Plants and Animals
They're a trio from Canada. They're an indie band. But they sometimes sound like a jam band. And they're awesome.
Highlights: Mercy, Good Friend
Getting to the Point is Beside It. I Love Math
Volume 1. She & Him
Evil Urges. My Morning Jacket
In the Future. Black Mountain
Auditorium. Radar Bros