Come along with me as I try to make sense of this year's local music landscape. As always, there was way more than this going on; these are just the parts I liked best among what I encountered.

Come along with me as I try to make sense of this year's local music landscape. As always, there was way more than this going on; these are just the parts I liked best among what I encountered.

Best meticulously conceived, painstakingly arranged indie-rock concept album:

Normally this would be a pretty narrow category, but in a year this rich with would-be Brian Wilsons, there's a lot of love to go around. This Is My Suitcase's The Keys to Cat Heaven and Wing & Tusk's The Secret of Toadflax Tea were self-contained universes borne of bands that have managed to find a unique voice. I adore them both, but if I had to choose one such selection from this year, it would be Flotation Walls' long-awaited opus Nature.

Best hip-hop release:

Columbus rap has been in a dry spell, though Fly.Union's steady stream of MP3s kept things reasonably damp. Sinatra's The Black Trash Bags Story had some bangers too. Still, the veteran combo of Blueprint and Illogic are hard to beat. Their Electric Purgatory Vol. 1 as Greenhouse seems like a fine way to face doomsday head-on.

Best swan song:

The Sun's Don't Let Your Baby Have All the Fun was a bittersweet reminder of how talented this band was and what a raw deal they got.

Best rustic folk EP:

It's a toss-up between the self-titled entrees from Old Hundred and Saintseneca, two incredibly talented crews whose stomps, strums and hair-raising harmonies demand your attention, stat.

Best metal record:

Churches Burn's pair of online releases and Locusta's tour-only EP were strong, but my favorite by far was Struck by Lightning's blistering, bombastic Serpents.

Most mind-altering:

That would be El Jesus de Magico's inexplicable sonic voyage Scalping the Guru.

Best lo-fi album:

Times New Viking seems like a foregone conclusion at first, but I keep returning to RTFO Bandwagon's masterful Dums Will Survive, which boasts my favorite Columbus track of 2009, the gracefully off-balance ballad "Like a Dan Shearer Over Troubled Water."

Best DIY demo:

I can't pretend to be actively invested in our DIY scene, but I can proclaim it to be vast and fertile. Looking forward to exploring the likes of Biff Boff Barf and Kurt Russell next year. In the meantime, I want to shower much love on Heath Deadger, punks whose melodic bursts of aggression make me long for wasted days watching skateboard videos.

Best compilation:

Peloton Records' City Sampler is a strong representation of the Rumba Cafe-centric scene from which founder Steve McGann is launching his label, with a bastion of Americana acts like Matthew Hoover and The Calamities joined by a diverse slate including artsy electro-pop trio The Alphabet, Southern rockers Deerhead and neo-soul duo Wonder Twin Powers.

Best solo album:

I was floored by Matt Munhall's one-man variety show Three and charmed by Dane Terry's neo-vaudevillian Songs of the Telephant. But nothing prepared me for Jonathan Hape's Microphones-inspired artistic leap, Carnivore.

Best album from a vaguely electronic solo act hiding behind a band name, Trent Reznor-style:

Before skipping town, Kelly Warner made a big impression with Hotel Eden's A Way Back Home. Even better, though, was Eve Searls' long-awaited opening bow as Bird and Flower, the alternately sweet and sorrowful Here We Cease Our Motion.

Best pure rawk record:

Vespin makes a strong case with Model Citizen, but Bush League All-Stars' tour de force Cedar Knees wins out.

Most fun:

Even at its more introspective, there's a wonderful whimsy about Trains Across the Sea's Greetings from the Peach District.

Sophomore stunners:

No slump here! The Receiver's Length of Arms or Paper Airplane's White Elephants are two solid collections from two of the city's most reliable rock acts.

Most intriguing makeovers:

Adding a singer for Breakthroughs in Modern Art helped Six Gallery land a record deal. Phantods got in touch with their softer side on Revival but still burned the tent down by the end. And The Lindsay's Syrup Bag EP was infinitely scratchier and more direct than their instant-classic debut, Dragged Out.

Indie-rock honor roll:

Not sure where else to honor these notable releases, but you'd do well to hear all of them: Monolithic Cloud Parade's Children With Wolf Heads, Ghost Shirt's self-titled EP and Karate Coyote's Little Victories EP.

Best 7-inch:

Columbus Discount Records continues to crank out more amazing vinyl than any label in Ohio, and probably America too. My favorite slab didn't come from CDR, though. It was the self-titled debut from sleepy psych-pop paragons St. Moses the Black. Obtain it ASAP.