It was a year of surprises for me. Sufjan Stevens finally returned with a new album of songs (which was amazing), and it sounded like nothing he'd ever done. I started loving singer-songwriters again for the first time in years, thanks to the evocative poetry of artists such as Sharon Van Etten and The Tallest Man on Earth. And I found myself falling in love with sounds I don't normally go for, like the new-wave-inspired guitars and simple beats of Lower Dens. Many of the songs I loved most in 2010 were also studies in extreme contrasts: Play something from the band Sleigh Bells and follow it with a song by Candy Claws, or compare the epic sound of Stevens' record with the quiet intimacy of Deerhunter.
I heard and loved a lot more music this year than what's on this list. But these are the ones I came back to the most; that grabbed hold of my heart and mind and wouldn't let me go.