1 Lady Gaga Born This Way (Interscope): Beneath the facade and pop bombast (which managed to produce a slew of hit singles in 2011, including "The Edge of Glory," this year's finest), Stefani Germanotta really is one of the great talents of our time, even if everyone doesn't yet recognize it.
2 Jack Oblivian Rat City (Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum): The highly influential Jack Yarber merges so many diverse elements — garage-rock (both '60s and modern), distorted blues, Johnny Thunders, Beatles, even Tommy James and Clyde McPhatter — into his mix that one is simply amazed when it all gels together into the year's grandest collection of pure rock 'n' roll.
3 The Black Keys El Camino (Nonesuch): One can almost imagine a music-biz sage like Sam Phillips saying, "If I could just find a white boy who could turn that electro-distorto-blues thang into pure pop, I could make a million bucks ..."
4 The Decemberists The King Is Dead (Capitol): The great "folk-rock" album that R.E.M. should've made following Fables of the Reconstruction.
5 Wilco The Whole Love (dBpm/Anti-): The experimental and pop sides blend to create their most cohesive and accessible work since Summerteeth, tempering abstract avant-gardism with Beatlesque rock, acoustic ballads, and even cops from Redd Kross and Simon & Garfunkel.
6 Various Artists Rave On Buddy Holly (Concord): Old-timers such as Patti Smith and Paul McCartney, who owns the catalog, mingle alongside such newcomers as the Black Keys, Cee Lo Green and My Morning Jacket to deliver one of the most terrific Holly tributes ever. (Plus, Detroit is well represented via Kid Rock, the Detroit Cobras and the Jack White-produced Karen Elson).
7 The Rolling Stones Some Girls Deluxe Edition (Universal): The original album holds up remarkably well — but it's the bonus disc that makes this a must-have and perhaps enough to make you fall in love with them all over again, as it's their best album since ... well, since Some Girls.
8 (Tie) R.E.M. Collapse Into Now (Warner Bros.); Glen Campbell Ghost on the Canvas (Surfdog): It's a shame that every legendary act can't go out with this much grace and at the top of their game; also nice to hear new Westerberg material on the latter.
9 (Tie) Iggy & the Stooges at the Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor; Jim Jones Revue at SXSW, Austin, Texas: Rock 'n' fuckin' roll!
10 Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds S/T (Mercury): The best Oasis album in years — and he didn't even include "The Rebel in Me," a recent single B-side that stands alongside anything he's done to date." Liam who?
Honorable mentions: Steve Earle I'll Never Get out of This World Alive (New West); Ron Sexsmith Long Player Late Bloomer (Thirty Tigers); Lucinda Williams Blessed (Lost Highway); Cults S/T (Columbia).