While "heartbreakingly beautiful" comes off as overwrought in most situations, there truly is no better description for Bon Iver's debut, For Emma, Forever Ago. Told through Justin Vernon's haunting falsetto, the album chronicles the songwriter's lovelorn seclusion over a Wisconsin winter with a genre-bending mix of folk, neo-soul and a meticulous attention to atmosphere. While Vernon's lyrics are deeply introspective, his gift for aural storytelling pulls the listener beyond empathy into the visceral tension between frigid despair and inspired beauty. In a year replete with solid releases from both freshman and veteran songwriters, For Emma, Forever Ago establishes Vernon as the pack's most enthralling and promising voice.
Fully separating themselves from the malaise of uninspired rehashers hung over after the electro binge, Hercules and Love Affair's self-titled debut offered one of the year's defining musical experiences. Beyond breathing new life into disco's sonic palette with intelligent and elating compositions, songwriter Andy Butler imbued each track with a personal and emotional depth that's fully realized through a diverse cast of vocalists. The result is an album that elicits cheers from the dance floor while offering an introspective and moving headphone eperience that transcends anything their dance peers strived to offer.
With hardly a club track in sight, posse kingpin 50 Cent led his band of merry menaces out of the bootlicious woods to remind the villagers why G-Unit once struck fear in their hearts. When they pulled up to the town square in the tinted out Bugatti of T.O.S., the crew was blasting cyber jeep beats and had a mountain of work under the dead body the trunk. Sure, they could probably pay someone to take care of this dirty work for them, but it was reassuring to see these professionals are still willing to handle business themselves.
Death Magnetic is an enigma. It's easily Metallica's fastest and heaviest album since …And Justice For All, but it's also their most introspective offering yet. On Death Magnetic, the band has struck a balance between the raw thrash violence of their heyday and the more emotional leanings of the past decade's output. That's the perfect place for the heavy metal juggernaut to be. Metallica have recaptured Master of Puppets' unique unpredictability, and they're as dangerous as they've ever been.
Circus, Britney Spears' follow-up to the last year's much loved Blackout is larger-than-life, explosive dance till you drop pop. The album overflows with Britney's full of life, energetic hits from the perpetually embraced dance numbers such as "Circus," to the say it fast, oh-so controversial "If You Seek Amy." Her hip-hop persona is uncovered in "Kill The Lights" as is her Prince-esque style in "Lace & Leather". The unforgettable dance party hit "Womanizer" brought us back to the “Toxic” era, and her essential Britney album ballads, "Out from Under" and "My Baby," paid tribute to her boys. Circus reinforces Britney’s never-ending reign of the pop world.