4. Okkervil River - The Stage Names
Various versions of this list had this album at the number one spot. I didn't expect this level of excellence from this album, even as much as I liked Black Sheep Boy. Okkervil River made "the leap" this year, stepping it up to another level. Not a note goes astray on this album. While they lost some of the twang (and Lord knows I like me some twang), the album is better for it. "Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe" would also have to be in contention for song of the year if I were detail oriented enough to make such a list.
3. Panda Bear - Person Pitch
To quote my friend Craig, Panda Bear changed the way I listen to music. Person Pitch was so different, so genre deconstructing that I'm still not even sure how to categorize it. Jumping off from Brian Wilson, this album went places that I didn't even know existed. It's no surprise that it's ranked so highly on so many year-end lists.
2. Battles - Mirrored
The perfect commute album. Again, an album that a couple of years ago I would have been surprised if I'd rated it so highly. "Atlas" would have to be considered in any song of the year lists. The craftsmanship of the artists here is masterful, but that doesn't take away from the actual songs. They are at once catchy and challenging, leading to a very rewarding experience during listening.
NP: "Animal or Vegetable" - Stereolab