Music madness continues with my 20 favorite albums. Look for the top crop Friday. Have a great New Year's Eve. If you're looking for something to do, DeVille and I will be joining the Drowsy Lads for a show at Claddaugh Irish Pub in the Brewery District.

20. Pennywise Reason to Believe Listen Besides its affiliation with MySpace Records, the main argument against this record from the SoCal skate-punk standby is that it sounds like every album they've released so far. (Purists will say it doesn't sound as edgy as About Time, but the thinking is, "Yeah, dude, this is kind of the same stuff.") Well, I've loved their previous albums. I don't fear change -- but I don't always need it. In similar fashion to Bad Religion's 2007 classic New Maps of Hell, Pennywise sounds re-energized on Believe. And that's a good thing.

19. The Epochs The Epochs Listen "Thunder & Lightening," the name of the opening track, is exactly what you get on this solid indie-rock debut. It borrows from the arena-rock vocal and production style of Phil Collins, and that's OK.

18. Brightblack Morning Light Motion to Rejoin Listen If you read this blog, you know the deal with this freak-folk outfit: Hippies take to the woods with some instruments and lots of grass and make sleepy, repetitive songs with beautiful, shimmering layers. This time around, all instruments were powered by solar. And they're even more obsessed with crystals. And rainbows. And something called "hologram buffalo."

17. Dengue Fever Venus on Earth Listen So much of pop music is based on shared experience that it's often hard to identify with -- and therefore enjoy -- songs sung in a foreign language. I guess that makes the eerie, cabaret rock of this Cambodian band all the more powerful for making the list. In her native tongue and English, vocalist Chhom Nimol alternates between lounge crooning and gut-wrenching wails, and the band draws heavily from indie, surf and out-there acts like Combustible Edison. Its power is never lost in translation.

16. Willits + Sakamoto Ocean Fire Listen Even harder to understand than pop music from Cambodia is the work of Christopher Willits and Ryuichi Sakamoto, a pair of experimental musicians who teamed up to make an album that sounds, as the title implies, like slow-burning flames riding an endless ocean. At times it's so simple that it becomes almost excruciatingly complex. It twists, turns, reforms and then sits in peace. It's not one to bump in the car -- or anywhere people are around to bother you -- but few albums have as much vitality.

Music madness continues with my 20 favorite albums. Look for the top crop Friday. Have a great New Year's Eve. If you're looking for something to do, DeVille and I will be joining the Drowsy Lads for a show at Claddaugh Irish Pub in the Brewery District.

20. Pennywise Reason to Believe Listen Besides its affiliation with MySpace Records, the main argument against this record from the SoCal skate-punk standby is that it sounds like every album they've released so far. (Purists will say it doesn't sound as edgy as About Time, but the thinking is, "Yeah, dude, this is kind of the same stuff.") Well, I've loved their previous albums. I don't fear change -- but I don't always need it. In similar fashion to Bad Religion's 2007 classic New Maps of Hell, Pennywise sounds re-energized on Believe. And that's a good thing.

19. The Epochs The Epochs Listen "Thunder & Lightening," the name of the opening track, is exactly what you get on this solid indie-rock debut. It borrows from the arena-rock vocal and production style of Phil Collins, and that's OK.

18. Brightblack Morning Light Motion to Rejoin Listen If you read this blog, you know the deal with this freak-folk outfit: Hippies take to the woods with some instruments and lots of grass and make sleepy, repetitive songs with beautiful, shimmering layers. This time around, all instruments were powered by solar. And they're even more obsessed with crystals. And rainbows. And something called "hologram buffalo."

17. Dengue Fever Venus on Earth Listen So much of pop music is based on shared experience that it's often hard to identify with -- and therefore enjoy -- songs sung in a foreign language. I guess that makes the eerie, cabaret rock of this Cambodian band all the more powerful for making the list. In her native tongue and English, vocalist Chhom Nimol alternates between lounge crooning and gut-wrenching wails, and the band draws heavily from indie, surf and out-there acts like Combustible Edison. Its power is never lost in translation.

16. Willits + Sakamoto Ocean Fire Listen Even harder to understand than pop music from Cambodia is the work of Christopher Willits and Ryuichi Sakamoto, a pair of experimental musicians who teamed up to make an album that sounds, as the title implies, like slow-burning flames riding an endless ocean. At times it's so simple that it becomes almost excruciatingly complex. It twists, turns, reforms and then sits in peace. It's not one to bump in the car -- or anywhere people are around to bother you -- but few albums have as much vitality.

15. Chromeo Fancy Footwork Listen Hercules & Love Affair rightly gets mad props for a blank-faced, unapologetic retread of disco, and Chromeo should receive the same for a note-perfect update of the music that gradually transcended the dance floor and hit the airwaves. That would mean things like Kool & the Gang, Sanford & Townshend and the like. Magnificent synth riffs, saccharine vocals, dance beats and a sense of humor dominate one of the funnest records of the year. (Warning: The group's Vampire Weekend remix is awful. Do not listen to it.)

14. Girl Talk Feed the Animals Listen This record didn't hit me quite right until I heard it recently at a dance party. (Thanks, Pat Reeder.) Then, in GT's ridiculous flurry of samples and energy, it was all very clear: This is the best dance record of the year. It takes a certain crowd -- one that, for example, can pick out UGK and Spencer Davis Group samples from "Play Your Part (Pt. 1)." But for those in the know, nothing tops a frenetic, schizophrenic mix of your favorite records.

13. Lil Wayne Tha Carter III Listen Even without one of the best full-length albums of 2008, Weezy F. Baby would be the most important entertainer of the year. He's been all over everything, dropping his zany mix of rasp and machismo, doom, gloom and humor. Overall, this record suffers the pitfalls of all hip-hop -- down time and filler -- but its standout tracks indicate the game's top emcee at the top of his game.

12. No Age Nouns Listen The members of No Age can never seem to make up their minds about their greatest love: post-Sonic Youth noise or the sunny surf-influenced rock of the '60s. They don't really have to, as this record proves. Nouns is a study in how to integrate sounds on opposite ends of the spectrum. The middle that results is neither compromise nor capitulation -- only a peculiar minotaur, one of the most intense records released this year.

11. Kanye West 808s & Heartbreak Listen I fear the backlash set to rain down on me for listing West over Weezy, but that's largely because most still view that matchup as one hip-hop record over another. In truth, 808s is much more -- and much less. The most egotistic rapper since Too Short has dropped his clumsy rhymes for anything able to convey a state of despair over the loss of his mother and the breakup of his engagement: beat machines, the Antares AutoTune, blips, minimalism and one-liners delivered without remorse. As Tom Briehan points out, this is a brutal portrait of a man who hates himself, hates his ex-girlfriend and isn't looking for answers.