At a point in time when any mook with a laptop can produce and release "mind-blowing" musical experiments quicker than most people can tune a guitar, this year has, for me (and I know this makes me sound like your dad), been all about a return to the value of the song. Simple songs that, should one feel so inclined, one might feel the urge to sing along to. For this reason my albums of the year lists is headed up by Wilco, whose Sky Blue Sky feels like coming home after all those years of sonic experimentation. Iron & Wine's The Shepherd's Dog, meanwhile, proved that just because you have an album's worth of catchy songs doesn't mean that you can't take a chance musically.
In a year without a real standout record, it's impossible not to mention Radiohead's In Rainbows, which, though it moved the goalposts of the music business more than it did music itself, was still a state-of-the-art statement by the only British band that matters. It's also impossible not to mention Raising Sand, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss's take on the alt.American songbook, which is a work of simple, majestic beauty.
For the future, Brooklyn band Yeasayer's All Hour Cymbals suggests a band capable of making 2008's album of the year and Mark Olson's The Salvation Blues has me licking my lips for the Olson/Louris Jayhawks reunion album due out in the spring.