After taking the UK by a storm, Mumford & Sons hit the North American talk-show circuit with one blistering performance after another, until USA Today - powerless to resist - named it on its "five buzz bands to see live" list.
One of the few bands to cut through the clutter and crowds at Lollapalooza with - of all things - melancholy Celtic rock. Lovely, thrilling, goosebump-inducing stuff:
2. Robyn - Body Talk Part I, II, and Body Talk
Forget Gaga and Katy, the true "Dancehall Queen" is Sweden's Robyn - with a three-album set of instant dance-floor classics. Double entendres and drummers, a duet with Snoop, top-notch boasting ("Even the Vatican knows not to f**k with me!") and a convincing argument that Fembots have feelings too. Knocks me over, I'm in love!
3. OMD - History of Modern
Dismiss them as 80s has-beens at your peril.
Like Madness's late-career creative resurgence last year, OMD returned with one of the best synth-pop albums of their 25-year career. The sound is still pure 80s, but the duo proves that great songwriting is never out of style.
4. The Drums
I arrived at this party late, but I'm glad that I arrived at all: fun, breezy pop that knows from whence it came (errr...the 80s or the 60s or someplace between. The 70s?).
5. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
It's nice to see that the desire to escape the soulless sprawl is alive in the songs of its new champion: Arcade Fire. At the time, I called this album "an awesome soundtrack to the long, hot dog days of summer," but it sounds pretty great in winter too.
6. The Divine Comedy - Bang Goes the Knighthood
God, I love sarcastic jokes delivered with an English accent, which is why I love this album - one great hook after another amidst shout-outs to Margaret Thatcher, the Pixies, Francis Bacon, and the Lost Art of Conversation:
7. The Kissaway Trail - Sleep Mountain
Too often dismissed as the Danish Arcade Fire - even if that's what they are - this band knocked my socks off at Lollapalooza and then did it again when I brought home their (autographed!) CD. No, you can't autograph iTunes downloads. I've tried.
A great band, shot badly by me on my Flipcam:
8. The Heavy - The House That Dirt Built
A barnburning blend of blues, R&B, and rock that's so irresistible, even grumpy David Letterman demanded - and got - an encore.
How you like them now?
9. The National - High Violet
Not even close to being the "difficult listen" I was expecting (thank you imposing album art and beard), but the sound of a band striving for - and reaching - something very special: a critic's band for everyone.
10. Graham Parker - Imaginary Television
Punk folkster/folk punker Graham Parker is always the bridesmaid and never the bride (that would be Elvis Costello), but he's riding a wave of resurgence on the back of three, incredible folk-, jazz-, pop-, and country-influenced albums.
His latest, Imaginary Television, is high concept: TV themes for shows that don't exist. Tantalizing to psychoanalyze: