1. Wilco, Summer Teeth (Reprise): Wilco have achieved the Grail of dark, art-damaged pop. In comparison, Radiohead sound coldly inhuman, the Flaming Lips too esoteric and the Elephant 6 records like unfinished science-fair experiments. Summer Teeth is a contemporary Revolver, and that's not hyperbole.
2. Freakwater, End Time (Thrill Jockey): The once-creaky acoustic duo's sound swells with strings, drums and pedal steel. No, you're not in Kansas anymore this isn't a fleshing-out but a great leap forward.
3. Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin (Warner): Lips mastermind Wayne Coyne has yet to meet a boundary too daunting to cross or an idea too wacky to try. This might be his band's best album.
4. Johnny Dowd, Pictures From Life's Other Side (Koch): Dowd, the closest thing we've got to Captain Beefheart and Screamin' Jay Hawkins, makes Tom Waits sound like Barry Manilow. Buy this record if you dare.
5. Beck, Midnite Vultures (Geffen): Beck's funk full-frontal has everybody talking. But listen: His Raymond-Carver-crossed-with-Lewis-Carroll lyrics shouldn't be neglected amid all the rump shaking.
6. Tom Waits, Mule Variations (Epitaph): There's something for everyone here, whether you're a grizzled vet of Waits' boho-barfly days or a Johnny-come-lately who warmed to the clank-boom-steam of his recent work.
7. Julie Miller, Broken Things (Hightone): A heartbreaking record that, with her husband Buddy's "Cruel Moon," provided the perfect soundtrack to autumn. For fans of Victoria Williams and Emmylou Harris.
8. Bonnie "Prince" Billy, I See a Darkness (Palace Records): Almost entirely devoid of the obtuseness that has cluttered his previous work, Will Oldham's latest effort is a thing of stark beauty.
9. Ibrahim Ferrer, Buena Vista Social Club Presents (World Circuit/Nonesuch): 1999 saw the Buena Vista Social Club explode into a multimedia empire. Ferrer's luxurious voice and mischievous charisma are big reasons why.
10. Dave Moore, Breaking Down to 3 (Red House): A haunting, open-hearted album about memory, family and fulfillment. Moore, a veteran of the Iowa City folk scene, tells his well-worn stories with an economy of language that doesn't shortchange imagery.
Year's most memorable moment in music: The First Annual Music Against Brain Degeneration Revue tour brainchild of Wayne Coyne and headlined by his Flaming Lips stopped in Chicago on July 1718. As at all shows on the outing, concert-goers listened to a broadcast of the show through headphones while they watched the band (along with live video images of the band and Coyne's hand puppet that lip-synched all the words and the carefully choreographed footage of explosions and embryos that pulsed in perfect time). When he wasn't banging a gong (that's right), Coyne was both bandleader and ringleader, singing his songs and directing his circus. When the set ended with Coyne crooning "The Spark That Bled" as fake blood dripped down his face, there was little doubt that this would be the year's most unforgettable performance.