ALEX CHADWICK, host:

We're going to end the show today with a second in our series of album picks for the year. This is where some of the people who review music for DAY TO DAY pick their top three releases from the past year. Today, we're going to hear from John Brady.

JOHN BRADY reporting:

I chose these releases as my top three for a couple of reasons; either they rock hard and stand out as musical entertainment or they're smart-alecky and gleefully buck some of the dominant trends of popular culture. All three are refreshingly non-formulaic, take some risks and end up offering creative takes on the various permutations of pop.

(Soundbite of "Disco Infiltration")

BRADY: James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem has one foot in electronic dance music and one foot in indie rock. For the listener, this can only mean double the fun. Drawing on electronic dance music on LCD Soundsystem's self-titled album, Murphy crafts beat tracks of such crisp tastiness that they set your toes a quiver from the very first measure.

(Soundbite of "Disco Infiltration")

LCD SOUNDSYSTEM: (Singing) Oh! But all that dough is all I know.

BRADY: At the same time, Murphy the hip indie rocker has a finely honed sense of sass, so the beats on this album have a sense of humor. Call it what you will--technosnark, house punk--you'll be grinning while you're dancing.

(Soundbite of "Disco Infiltration")

LCD SOUNDSYSTEM: (Singing) We can't shake the waster. Ah, stop! You got to shake the waster.

(Soundbite of "Last Comic Standing")

BRADY: "Routine" is singer-songwriter Don Lennon's fourth LP. I've always loved how Lennon cuts against pop culture's grain. Like many performers, Lennon confesses details about his private life. But unlike many others who spill the beans, he's not shrill or self-indulgent about telling his story. In this song, "Last Comic Standing," he even sings about his reactions to a television memorial for the late John Ritter.

(Soundbite of "Last Comic Standing")

Mr. DON LENNON: John Ritter died two days ago.

BRADY: This is just the sort of offbeat reference to expect from Lennon's exceedingly creative blend of pop music and personal life.

(Soundbite of "Last Comic Standing")

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) They had a thing with Henry Winkler. They had a segment with his wife. Although I'm still not sure if it was watching TV or real life.

BRADY: Lennon's a clever, understated conversationalist who gives us a wry account of his likes and dislikes, obsessions and aversions. It helps that he has a great ear for a pop hook and a light but sure hand with a melody.

(Soundbite of music)

BRADY: It takes some time to get into Innaway's self-titled debut album, but it's well worth the wait. On first listen, this Southern California-based band sounds scattershot. Like a tipsy driver, Innaway veers from one musical reference to another. There's some Pink Floyd-like psychedelia and some Led Zeppelin-era power rock and even some contemporary ambient electronica. But after a bit, these and many other references blend into a multitextured sound scape. The album can be ethereal, atmospheric; it can also be gritty and earthy. Between the earth and the sky, as everyone knows, there's a lot of space. Innaway brilliantly explores this space, which makes this album such a powerful debut.

(Soundbite of "Tiny Brains")

INNAWAY: (Singing) Losing my tiny brain in my tiny room.

BRADY: For NPR News, this is John Brady.

(Soundbite of "Tiny Brains")

INNAWAY: (Singing) Losing my tiny brain in my tiny room.

CHADWICK: Tomorrow, Kanye West and more; the top three pinks of Sara Bardeen.

(Soundbite of "Tiny Brains")

INNAWAY: (Singing) ...in my tiny room, in my tiny room. Losing my tiny brain in my tiny room, in my tiny room. Losing my tiny brain in my tiny room, in my tiny room. Losing my tiny brain in my tiny room...

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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