The former Tony! Tone! Toni! member continues to build an impressive second act with another release that alludes to (but isn't cowed by) the old-school R&B and rock that still sets his pants on fire. The lowdown-funky title track, 'Stone Rollin',' opens with blues-bar harmonica and features a repeating violin figure that rolls like a deckhand on high seas. The vintage flourishes -- a Saadiq specialty -- only reinforce the song's up-to-the-minute righteousness. --James Sullivan
'War in Heaven'
This title neatly sums up the Danish duo's violently beautiful oeuvre, and the music does, too, mixing Sharin Foo's ethereal coo with chiming skyward synths, programmed drumbeats and waves of reverb-drenched guitar. The band's before-their-time Phil Spector influences take a backseat here to a childhood spent spinning '80s darkwave records, but the Raveonettes' end result sounds as classic as ever. --Joshua Ostroff
'Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)'
In just a minute and 22 seconds, these Brits blaze through five stanzas and a guitar solo, copping the beat from Billy Idol's 'Dancing With Myself' and sugary push of every great Ramones song (as a bonus, there's even a reference to F. Scott Fitzgerald). Watching them play SXSW, we knew backlash was imminent, but so what? As long as the UK sends us guitar bands with good hooks and decent haircuts, we're game to listen. --Kenneth Partridge
Holy Ghost Feat. Michael McDonald
On the closing cut of Holy Ghost!'s self-titled debut album, they ingeniously bring together angelic vocals from the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and verses from blue-eyed soul crooner Michael McDonald. And through this imaginative, unlikely pairing, the Brooklyn synth-pop duo did something almost unimaginable: they lived up to their own hype. --Theo Bark
Reunited and it feels so ... creepy. That's just the mood you want from Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, who've spent the last few years hanging with Jack White and Kate Moss, respectively. The lead single from the duo's fourth album, 'Blood Pressures,' shifts the focus from sexy, grimy electro-blues -- the Kills' signature sound -- to sexy, grimy electro-dub. Not since the Specials' 'Ghost Town' has punky reggae sounded this anxious. --K.P.
Sometimes a video perfectly tells the story of a song. The title track from Manchester Orchestra's latest album replays the life a modern-day 20-something, evaluating choices made and questioning everything. The eerie undertone created by the string ensemble, Andy Hull's haunting vocals and the band's driving post-hardcore sound send you on an emotional roller coaster. And the video brings it all to life. --Mike Spinella
'I Wrote the Book'
Beth Ditto's first single as a solo artist is a step in a much house-ier direction (with beats courtesy of Simian Mobile Disco), and it already has us jonesing to hear it on a crowded dance floor. With its jaded-diva vibe and repeated theme of "don't test me," this talk-to-the-hand summer jam just screams "Oh no you di'in't!" --Jason Persse
Thom Yorke and company's surprise release of 'The King of Limbs' was greeted with snap judgments and a storm of sarcasm across the Web. Love it or hate it, the lightning-rod LP featured a gem of a closer in 'Separator,' a surreal down-tempo track with layers so deep that it's best appreciated with eyes closed, headphones on and all Radiohead prejudices ignored. --Dan Reilly
Once upon a time, Katie Stelmanis trained to be an opera singer. Nowadays, the rising Toronto star applies her classical pipes to crooning dark electro-goth pop songs in her buzzy new trio Austra. On the group's second single, Stelmanis sings of being abandoned all alone in the darkness, with the pulsating beat and crystalline synth shards making the gloom sound like a place where we wouldn't mind being lost. --J.O.
'Pumped Up Kicks'
Foster the People
The first time we heard this infectious little ditty with its quirky gunfire-filled refrain, we thought, "Wow, great song. We'll be sick of it in a month, though." Our mistake. Months later, we still crank it every time it comes on, and after seeing Foster the People rock it live at Coachella this year, we don't think we'll ever tire of it. --Steve Baltin
'The Last Living Rose'
"Goddamn, Europeans" begins PJ Harvey's 'Last Living Rose,' a sentiment that could be shared in the conversations of booze-fueled rednecks. Harvey's song, however, is no bar-top lament under Budweiser lights -- like much of parent album 'Let England Shake,' it's soaked in the stuff of war, a Tommy's lament for dear-old Britain that features a hallucinatory parade of images, fog over the "graveyards and dead sea captains" and the glistening Thames rushing to the sea. --Stephen Dowling
'Waitin' on the Sky'
Earle has a written plenty of autobiographical songs, aAnd with good reason: It's a wonder he's still alive to look back on his life with any sort of clarity. The "hard-core troubadour" gets help from T Bone Burnett and Patti Smith's guitarist son Jackson on this country shuffler, proving that he's only gotten stronger as he's mellowed. --D.R.
It's not just the impeccable musicianship on display that sets GIVERS apart from their contemporaries (note their ability to effortlessly change tempo and time signature on a dime), but their obvious passion for the music they create. On the triumphant 'Meantime,' the Louisiana quintet acknowledge what plenty of indie rocker seem to have forgotten -- it's OK for music to make us feel joy. --Adam Horne
'Under Cover of Darkness'
The lead single from the New Yorkers' long-awaited 'Angles' is a return to the oft-imitated sound we know and love -- and no one does it better. Jangling, oh-no-they-didn't-go-that-high guitar licks, a watertight bass line and Julian Casablancas' too-cool-for-school vocals all combine to make this worthy of a 'Breakfast Club'-esque dance-off. --Rob Smy
TV on the Radio
Booker T. Feat. Sharon Jones and Matt Berninger
Now five decades into his career, Booker T is making some of the most interesting music out there. This year, he tapped soul superstar Sharon Jones and the National's Matt Berninger to lend vocals to this tribute to his Tennessee hometown. Ms. Jones' smooth vocals, Berninger's signature baritone and Mr. Jones' classic organ chops cook up a Southern recipe that properly pays homage to the musical mecca. --M.S.
'All Die Young'
Smith Westerns' 'All Die Young' gently rests your head on a pillow of church organ before opening up an IV-drip of slide guitar, sending you to a world of first kisses and clean swimming pools. For the old, it's a time machine back to an endless summer; for the young, it's a reminder that being young is really friggin' awesome. And just like the halcyon days of youth, you wish this track from 'Dye It Blonde' would never end. --J.P.
'Holdin' on to Black Metal'
My Morning Jacket
Long-term MMJ fans have come to expect the unexpected from a band that has shape-shifted and melded genres at every turn. It's typical that they've come up with a weird, spooky psych-soul ode to black metal ("Catch your waves on Lucifer's beach") that's audacious from the hip-swinging, sauntering groove and swaggering horns down to the soaring choir. Recorded in a church gym to create a massive spaced-out sound, this song has the kind of balls-out bombast to make it the best Bondtheme never written. --Rebecca Laurence
'Take Me Over'
Interviewing Cut Copy earlier this year, we accidentally referred to 'Take Me Over' as 'Take Me Out.' The Aussie dance-rock foursome was quick to correct us, perhaps fearing we'd confused the track with Franz Ferdinand's 2004 breakout single. In fact, 'Take Me Over' makes us think of Men at Work's 'Down Under,' at least until the springy verse gives way to the clubby chorus, and all memory of Vegemite sandwiches goes counterclockwise down the toilet. --K.P.
We got swept away by this Yuck song's swirling guitar riff and throbbing bass line. Add in the uniquely pleading, yearning vocals of frontman Daniel Blumberg -- he repeatedly sings about pain and need -- and you've got yourself one hell of a '90s throwback jam, ripe for bedroom-floor listening while you work some stuff out in your head. --Kim Davis
'Make Some Noise'
Concerned Beasties fans let out a collective sigh of relief upon hearing the trio's first 'Hot Sauce Committee Pt. II' single, an old-school party anthem anchored by a seriously funky breakbeat and fuzzed-out organ riff. Simultaneously winking to their rebellious youth and embracing the socially conscious men they've become, the track boasts one of the Boys' most memorable lyrics to date: "We got a party on the left, a party on the right/We gonna party for the motherf---ing right to fight." --A.H.
The Black Lips
The Black Lips' summer-ready single is nothing if not freaking hand-clapping fun. With a distinct surf-rock sensibility, it's perfect listening for grabbing a friend, hopping in a drop-top car and driving somewhere (anywhere!). Or, as they suggest, you can just "surf the mountain, ride the crest." Yeah, man. --K.D.
'Someone Like You'
Adele has said she'll never write another song like 'Someone Like You.' A love letter to an ex she can't and won't forget, the big-voiced singer gives it her all, showcasing her broad range against a simple piano backdrop. Adele has also said it's the song for which she'd like to be remembered, and while we don't want to preempt the young singer's future output, it's undoubtedly a worthy contender. --R.S.
'Heartaches and Pain'
The final track on Bradley's debut album originally came out a few years back as a 45 B-side, but got its wide release this year, so we're counting it. The song tells the story of his brother's murder, and the emotional wounds sear through speakers thanks to the soul man's raspy screams. Punctuated by the stellar horn playing of the Menahan Street Band, the cut has such an impact that it might as well serve as the definition for both of the titular sufferings. Ultimately, though, the song is about healing -- and who better to tell us about it than a man who's dealt with so much, including time spent living on the streets, before releasing his first record at 62 years old and finally finding the acclaim he deserves? --D.R.