Adam Faucett: Show Me Magic, Show Me Out

That voice… Arkansas’ Adam Faucett comes straight from the netherworld releasing his second album, Show Me Magic, Show Me Out, that somehow manages to upstage his brilliant debut. Here, Faucett again showcases what an unparallel fingerpicker he is in the folk music realm, but it all comes back to that voice. It’s unforgettable and his tales come from a place without time, pure emotion and introspection.

Chris Zabriskie: O Great Queen Electric, What Do You Have Waiting for Me?

So simple, but simply stunning. Florida’s Chris Zabriskie delivers a knockout of emotion and thoughtful musings on love, God and cinema. O Great Queen Electric, What Do You Have Waiting for Me? is a great exercise in discipline and unhinged sensitivity culminating in a beautiful quiet that’ll stay with you in your sleep.

Existential Hero: The Great Sublime Melancholy!

Isla Vista’s Existential Hero spent some time away last spring and came back delivering a memoir of its worldly travels. The Great Sublime Melancholy! is its most experimental yet most holistic work to date. The songs ebb and flow like the tide and images of nature, cities, cinema and poetry and the end of the world are all used to deconstruct notions of identity.

Gang of Virgins: Virgins?
Almost literally an ode to Isla Vista, Virgins? is a breathtaking exercise in songwriting and guitar playing. The duo, comprised of Silly Rob Childish and Maxwell Lewis, brings the ferocity 200 percent and continually blows heads sonically and mentally. Aggressive and beautiful, Virgins? is perfect for any occasion, especially when you’ve got some whiskey on hand.

Kanye West: 808s & Heartbreak

Bold, brave and terribly bleak, Kanye West’s latest album, 808s & Heartbreak, is quite a revelation. Filled with tribal drums, auto-tuned vocals and synths galore, Kanye uses his sadness to propel hip hop into new dimensions one could only dream of. Minimalist in approach and with the fat trimmed down, Kanye’s ego finally comes into check. Listeners reap the rewards of such (808s &) Heartbreak.

Lil Wayne: Tha Carter III

The world’s greatest rapper alive, Weezy Baby released 2008’s most anticipated album. So what was all the hoopla about? Ironically enough, Tha Carter III is a hurricane and Lil Wayne is the eye of the storm. Whether you love him or hate him, you’ve got to acknowledge that Dwayne Carter, Jr. is a force of nature.

Secret Owl Society: Ghosts of Children Past

The elusive Secret Owl Society has released its best work yet, and this is the album of your dreams. To put it simply, Ghosts of Children Past is the most hypnotic collection of songs to ever be encoded in “ones” and “zeros.” This is ambient psychedelia at its finest and most delicate.

Tinyfolk: Sic Semper Equis

Indiana’s Tinyfolk creates the best album of its career by shedding off everything it’s done before. Sic Semper Equis is a hilariously absurd and sad landscape populated by goats, horses, birds and beasts paralyzed with fear about Y2K. Composed almost entirely by GarageBand, Tinyfolk’s strictly electronic record uses auto-tune in a completely unique context, positioning Tinyfolk as DIY’s most postmodern artist.

Scarlett Johansson: Anywhere I Lay My Head

As if my love for Scarlett Johansson couldn’t get any greater, she had to go along and make a Tom Waits cover album that oozes atmosphere, sexuality and somehow manages to best a few of the originals. Special thanks should go to Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio fame for deftly handling the whole affair.

Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend

All of you should shut the hell up; Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut is definitely the most fun record of 2008. Featuring expert musicianship, tight melodies and a surprising lack of pretension, these Columbia University boys know how to take the lessons learned in their world music appreciation classes. Music lovers will note the influence of Paul Simon’s Graceland and the Strokes’ Is This It? This is one of the finest pop albums of the year.