Alright, finally, here is the first part of my list of the best albums of the year. I'll have albums 10-1, top songs, movies and more up later this week. Happy New Year.

Alright, finally, here is the first part of my list of the best albums of the year. I'll have albums 10-1, top songs, movies and more up later this week. Happy New Year.

20. Devendra Banhart Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon Listen Keeping it "freak folk" went wrong for Devendra Banhart -- but only when he went cross-dresser and donned some outlandish burlesque gypsy costume for a photo shoot back when this album was released. Otherwise, the folk hero is in fine form, pulling sounds from South America, the American West and the neighborhoods of New York City into an intimate look at one man's attempt to tackle the metaphysical. Though it sounds a lot like his earlier stuff, it's as melodic and accomplished as anything he's done before. Maybe the third time is a charm.

19. Paul McCartney Memory Almost Full Listen Paul further solidifies his as the best post-Beatle legacy with a release that foregoes weird, misguided experimentations for straighforward pop. The successes are many: sweet hummers ("Dance Tonight"), rockers ("Only Mama Knows") and the bittersweet lamentations of a really cool guy growing old ("Ever Present Past").

18. Bad Brains Build a Nation Listen This is by far the most underrated album of the year. In fact, no one rated it at all, and the resurrection of the DC rock band -- one of the city's absolute gems -- went largely unnoticed. The band still excels embodying the duality that made it famous two decades ago: roots reggae and crushing hardcore. The band's earlier work kept those realms separate, and some songs on Nation feature a split personality. The best, though, find a way to combine them. The eerie, spectacular production brings everything together.

17. LCD Soundsystem Sound of Silver Listen Chris DeVille has already said everything about this record that I wanted to say -- and some things I didn't think of. As he mentions, "It moves you physically and emotionally." Few records do that. For more, check his blog here and here.

16. Kanye West Graduation Listen I don't find Kanye as clunky a lyricist as some, so this record didn't require many listens to like. On the other hand, I don't find his sampling structure and beat composition to be as groundbreaking as everyone thinks. (He's not doing much that Prince Paul and others enlisted by De La Soul haven't done already.) That said, this is a good album from start to finish. There aren't many hip-hop albums like that any more. He should get extra props for keeping filler to a minimum.

15. Justice + Listen The above album title is supposed to be the symbol of a Christian cross, but I don't know how to make it. The French electronic outfit seems to make everything difficult -- except listening to their latest record. Deep, dense, dark and danceable, this album will make a fan of even the most devout rockist. From the opening bars of "Genesis," the synths are loud and crushing, and the beats sound like Orbital in the depths of a siz-erp/methadrine binge. The scratchy, staccato production add intrigue to even the most poppy of the songs.

14. Young Wise The Cocky Mixtape Vol. 4 Listen Local emcee Young Wise has been on fire lately, releasing a flurry of mixtapes in the past several years. This one allows Wizzle to run free atop plundered and original beats, flexing impressive vocal skills on a range of material. Props to guest stars Ty Wills and Cridie Mac and host City for making one of the best hip-hop records of the year. (Yes, mixtapes count, fools.)

13. M.I.A. Kala Listen When listening to current pop music, I care very little about third-world politics, feminism or anything else that obscures what, uncluttered by idealism, could be good music. That's what makes the second record from the emcee from Sri Lanka so appealing: She doesn't let her politics intrude on her music. Instead, pointed, opinionated, intelligent content bolsters her jaded, cosmopolitan attitude and hectic, eclectic taste. This might be the closest anyone has come to the genius -- the wholly entertaining militancy -- of Public Enemy.

12. Radiohead In Rainbows Listen I'll second DeVille's claim that nothing new or important can be said about the latest release from the (British, right??) group. Still, I got on board late, and this is the first Radiohead album that I've loved at first listen. I prefer the weirder stuff from Kid A and Amnesiac, but the softer side sounds nice too.

11. Bad Religion New Maps of Hell Listen The godfathers of Epitaph -- and everything that label has brought forth -- are back in a big way. This is angry music. This is, as the title insinuates, music to bring a corrupt, commercial world to a halt. I wrote more about earlier this year. [Check it]