This was the easiest category for me for one simple reason: I wasn't really impressed with many new additions to the music scene this year. Only one really stood out for me, so they are the only nominee, and hence, the winner. I'm talking about Scars on 45. I already mentioned a bit about them in the Pop Duo/Group Performance post, and they'll make a couple more appearances yet in subsequent posts, so on to the next category...
Album of the Year
Stronger - Kelly ClarksonThe pop diva has always had great singles, but this is really this first time it's all come together on a full album, top to bottom, in my opinion. There's only one throwaway track here - the lyrically goofy "Einstein" - but the rest provide a variety of tempos, beats and melodies with great energy, and of course, other-worldly vocal performances. Clarkson finally lives up to her status as a pop/rock goddess. Standout tunes include, "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)"; "Dark Side"; "I Forgive You"; and "Breaking Your Own Heart."
The Truth Is... - Theory of a Deadman
TOAD has a track record of being able to craft strong melodies while still maintaining their rock cred. They continue that trend here, albeit a little light on the "rock" end of things. The first four tracks are easily the strongest, and at 16 songs total, there is a bit of filler here - even a lame, ill-advised attempt at a wedding song with "Better or Worse" - but still about nine very listenable songs.
Break the Spell - Daughtry
Another real solid album. Not quite the masterpiece their last effort was, but at least 8-10 songs that I could listen to repeatedly, and that's saying something these days.
Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray - Seether
See above description for the Deadman album, except the part about the first four tracks, and substitute a lame, ill-advised attempt at a country ditty with "Country Song" - inexplicably chosen as the lead single. But there are other rock gems here.
No One Listens to the Band Anymore - The Damnwells
In a perfect world, The Damnwells would be a staple on pop/rock radio. Instead, I find comfort in knowing that I'm one of the lucky few to have discovered them (thanks, Pandora). Alex Dezen is a great songwriter, and this effort showcases that talent. Some weaker tracks on the second half of the CD, but all in all, one of the best of the year.
Sky Full of Holes - Fountains of Wayne
This Loud Morning - David Cook
Wasting Light - Foo Fighters
The King is Dead - The Decemberists
The Return of Spring - Mike Garrigan