8. The Black Keys - Attack and ReleaseIsabelle's Picks:
The blues rock two piece shows Jack White how it's meant to be done. 2004's Rubber Factory, the only other Black Keys record I'm very familiar with, was a great album of blues jams, but this album, produced by the brilliant Danger Mouse (and it sounds like he brought his keyboards with him!), truly takes the band a step further conceptually. Rather than just blasting you with gritty guitar and drums, this set of songs swirls around you, unraveling more with each listen.
7. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Sometimes divorcing yourself from the buzz works really, really well. This was one of those cases: when this band's name started whipping around the internet early in 2008 I didn't want to know anything about it. Eventually, I heard the record, and I was blown away. It's such a nice record, I can't believe there was all that buzz about these breezy melodies and vaguely African rhythms. This isn't a new trick (see: everything the Talking Heads recorded) but these kids are doing it well on this LP.
8. Jazmine Sullivan - Fearless
Philly jawns stand up. This album would be higher up on my list, but there are like three tracks ("After the Hurricane," "Dream Big" and "Live a Lie" could all be better) that I feel hold this record back from flawless greatness. Otherwise, Missy Elliott's protege's album has been on repeat since dropping. "Call Me Guilty" is the best abused woman revenge tune around and of course the first singles "Need U Bad" and "Bust Your Windows" are stellar. My favorite one though, is "In Love with Another Man," which is all emotion, a bittersweet ballad about being unable to move on, even though it's in every one's best interest.
7. Rhymefest - Mark Ronson presents Rhymefest in The Man in the Mirror
Technically not an album per se, but nevertheless, a cohesive and amazing effort from one of my favorite rappers out there. First of all, the "conversations" between 'Fest and MJ are nothing short of perfection and secondly, this tided me over marvelously because Rhymefest's "sophomore" record El Che got pushed back to '09. This mix tape is the ultimate low key party or BBQ record--it revisits every fantastic Jackson tune from his childhood days on, with the added bonus of Rhymefest's straight up genius.