If Santa didn’t leave the following CDs under your Christmas tree this year, you need to find the dude.
And punch him. These are my favorite albums of the year, and you should all have them whether ol’ St. Nick knows how to do his job or not.
Lil Wayne, "Tha Carter III": He’s rare, like Mr. Clean with hair. His voice is a comic book character drawn outside the lines with Silly Putty for a larynx, and Lil Wayne, the Cybil of hip-hop, uses it to spin tales that are sometimes wizened, sometimes weird and always compelling.
Portishead, "Three": Beth Gibbons’ voice quivers like a wet dog left out in the cold over machine gun beats and enough tension to fill 1,000 Hitchcock flicks. "Three" is an album as difficult as its muse, love itself, and just as rewarding.
Torche, "Meanderthal": Woolly mammoth guitars usually portend heavier-than-thou concussiveness, but Torche harnesses forest-dense thickets of dexterously plucked riffs in the service of bright, swelling melodies that blossom like flowers on a freshly dug grave.
TV on the Radio, "Dear Science": You could drown a six-pack of baby rhinos in all the drool critics have secreted for "Science," but, you know, it’s pretty much worth it, because this album of disembodied electronica, gut-punch punk and doomsday R&B manages to be both urgent and seductive in the same hot breath.
Blood Ceremony, "Blood Ceremony": Bell-bottom clad ’70s witchcraft rock with spine-tingling organ jams and a serious case of the munchies. Think an even more stoned Black Sabbath, but with a chick singer and Ron Burgundy on the jazz flute. Now pass the Cheetos.
Gutter Twins, "Saturnalia": A solar eclipse of a record, "Saturnalia" pairs Mark Lanegan’s subterranean rumble with Greg Dulli’s soul blurt on late-night ballads and hard-eyed rockers that lower heart rates and raise blood alcohol levels.
Opeth, "Watershed": Intermingling stately, mournful melody with full-on death dirges, this epic prog-metal labyrinth is like a T-bone the size of a Honda Civic: a lot to digest.
Roy Orbison, "The Soul of Rock and Roll": A must-have box set that excavates every nook and cranny of the expansive career of a man whose voice is singular in its grace and prismatic in its beauty.
Coldplay, "Viva La Vida": Finally, Coldplay makes a record where you can’t always see what’s coming around the next corner, a much more textured, adventurous disc, with this bunch wearing their cards up their sleeves instead of on their foreheads.
Nachtmystium, "Assassins: Black Meddle Vol. 1": Melody and groove were once as taboo in black metal as smiling, but this Chicago battering ram harnesses both into moments of dirt-beneath-the-fingernails grandeur that adds new hues to the genre’s monochromatic palate.
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476.