Miranda Lambert, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."
The young Texas wrangler's sharply written and rendered album brims with personality, energy and edge: Yes, Lambert has a soft side ("More Like Her" is a yearning stunner), but she's still the most dangerous-sounding woman in country music (see "Gunpowder & Lead").
This grimy global sound clash is a perfect blend of invention, imagination and appropriation as M.I.A. mixes African chants, Bollywood samples, Aboriginal instrumentation, breakneck Baltimore club beats and her own worldly lyrical concerns.
Arcade Fire and Feist got all the attention, but the preferred Canadian import of 2007 was Dan (Caribou) Snaith, whose high, feathery voice, sun-kissed melodies and kaleidoscopic productions sound like something out of Brian Wilson's psychedelic dreams.
Amy Winehouse, "Back to Black."
The British soulstress has 99 problems, but a talent deficit isn't one: She specializes in blunt, confessional relationship songs in which her fierce, 100-proof voice is framed by an alluring wall of sound. The result is riveting.
Lil Wayne, "Da Drought 3."
On this marvelous mix tape, over borrowed tracks both new and old, Wayne flexes his metaphorical muscles, rapping about random topics in that swaggering, unhinged style of his.
Patty Griffin, "Children Running Through."
Griffin is a gifted storyteller with a knack for emotional exactitude, but it's her crystalline voice that elevates this rangy album, on which she sounds equally comfortable singing a spare, subtle spiritual and a noisy, barn-burning kiss-off.
LCD Soundsystem, "Sound of Silver."
On which LCD daredevil James Murphy leaps off the bridge between rock and electro-dance music, pulling us along for the exhilarating descent.
Bettye LaVette, "The Scene of the Crime."
Few artists drill down to the emotional core of a song quite like this fiery soul survivor, whose intensity is fueled by her indignation after years of music biz neglect.
Black Lips, "Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo."
Unruly Atlanta garage-rock revivalists go to Tijuana to record a live album: It's not the start of a joke, but the premise behind the year's most feral rock recording -- one that oozes raw power.
White Stripes, "Icky Thump."
Those other exalted garage-rock revivalists make a triumphant return to heavy form, even surviving the introduction of bagpipes to their arsenal.