The year of our lord 2009 might not be over yet, but nevertheless, we couldn’t fight the urge to huddle around our server, toss back a few cold ones and argue passionately about the best new releases of that past 8.72 months. Here are the results – in no particular order, because no one could agree – so you can pretend you were there, too. It’s … almost like we’re friends. Weird.

Grizzly Bear

Best for: driving through the mountains, sitting around on a Sunday afternoon
Download: “Southern Point,” “Cheerleader”

With a sound that’s hard to categorize – some call it ‘psychedelic pop’, others ‘lo-fi’ or ‘experimental rock’ – Grizzly Bear, the Brooklyn-based quartet that burst onto the music scene with 2006’s acclaimed Yellow House, makes a good business out of multi-layered harmonies and melodies that conjure eerily specific moods. The title refers to a small island in Massachusetts, but the tracks are, as they say, out of this world. [Buy it]

Bat for Lashes
Two Suns

Best for: winning the argument for quality pop music
Download: “Siren Song,” “Pearl’s Dream”

School teacher-turned-alt-rockstress Natasha Khan, a.k.a. Bat for Lashes, created an album that pays homage to a forgotten musical time with its vintage, synth-laden sound while still being forward-thinking enough to break the pop mold in ways few other musicians have in recent years. A return to the concept album, Two Suns tells the story of Pearl, Khan’s alter-ego (born in the Joshua Tree desert during Khan’s search for musical inspiration), whom Khan describes as ‘garish’ and ‘ultra-feminine.’ Regardless, the album is damn good, and proves that pop can be so much more than Britney and boy bands. [Buy it]

Dirty Projectors
Bitte Orca

Best for: drinking Johnny Walker Black with your girl
Download: “Stillness Is the Move,” “Two Doves”

Front man Dave Longstreth’s distinctive indie-electro sound, first heard on his self-produced 2002 album The Graceful Fallen Mango, reaches a high point on Bitte Orca by maximizing melodious harmoniousness and minimizing unlistenable experimentation. Alternately revered and reviled by critics, Longstreth seems to have taken on the role of composer-artiste as of late, but it works; Bitte Orca is an art pop triumph that retains indie cred while telling a cohesive musical story from start to finish, something that will likely give this record’s popularity staying power for more than just its shock value. [Buy it]

Mos Def
The Ecstatic

Best for: putting some life into your next party playlist
Download: “Quiet Dog,” “Life in Marvelous Times”

Mos Def might not be the mos amazing actor (see: Bamboozled… except, don’t), but his most recent musical effort is a rather delightful mixture of epic political commentary and experimental beat combinations that deserves a listen (or many). Widely recognized as one of today’s finest MC’s but under-appreciated since his 2006 flop True Magic, Def returns with full force on The Ecstatic, even reserving some time for his old Black Star partner in crime Talib Kweli (“History”). Let’s hope he keeps up the good work. [Buy it]

Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion

Best for: tripping and/or road tripping
Download: “My Girls,” “Brother Sport”

Animal Collective has gained a loyal following in recent years for its fusion of tribal-inspired chants and layered post-punk melodies, and Merriweather Post Pavilion feels like the celebratory pinnacle of a quest to achieve ultimate artistic freedom without compromising creativity or vision. The production quality is fantastic and the songwriting is tight on this album – one that numerous sources have claimed is and will be the best of the year – effectively recreating the feeling of ecstatic release generated by participating in a jam session at, say, the titular Merriweather Post Pavilion, a Maryland venue the high school friends who make up Anima Collective visited religiously in their younger days. [Buy it]

Crack the Skye

Best for: rocking out, rocking on
Download: “Oblivion,” “Quintessence”

Mastodon’s powerful rock sound helped create American new wave heavy metal, and the tracks on Crack the Skye live up to, and at times exceed, this reputation. Even if heavy isn’t your thing, after hearing opener “Oblivion,” you can’t help but be sufficiently intrigued as to continue on with the rest of the album; the dark melodies and sinister-sounding thematic content, inspired by such light and airy stuff as family tragedies and massive cranial injuries, take listeners on a journey through astral travel and the philosophy of Steven Hawking. Through the eyes of a quadriplegic, no less. What’s not to love? [Buy it]

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
It’s Blitz!

Download: “Heads Will Roll,” “Hysteric”
Best for: blasting from the convertible, pissing off your neighbors

From humble Ohio college students to fully-assimilated New York indie gods, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have grown up a lot in their near-decade together. It’s Blitz! represents the genesis of the Facebook generation from scruffy and pissed off to a showered and a little less pissed off. This effort is shinier and dreamier than the group’s previous work, but still manages to be irreverent in all the right places. If you’re a fan of the Killers or MGMT, then be sure to make a date with Karen O and her pals. You won’t regret it. [Buy it]

Green Day
21st Century Breakdown

Best for: remembering your youth, indulging fleeting feelings of political activism
Download: “Know Your Enemy,” “Viva la Gloria!”

Green Day is one of the few groups who’ve managed to stay current for some number of decades while still retaining the sound that originally made them famous. 21st Century Breakdown isn’t in and of itself a breakthrough album, but the band’s remarkable journey from singing about jerking it on the couch to calling for revolution is something of a wonder, especially considering the overall decency of their latest album. It has the catchy hooks and jumpy guitar riffs that you know and love, with a healthy dose of grown-up angst thrown in for good measure, which, in a way, harkens back to the protest rock of elder generations (albeit with more studio and less CBGB). All in all, entertaining and catchy. [Buy it]

Mr. Brooks…A Better Tomorrow

Best for: the after-after-after party
Download: “On the Rock,” “Overcome”

Reggae doesn’t get nearly enough cred anymore. Luckily, the world has David “Mavado” Brooks, a Jamaican-born artist rumored to have more street cred than Biggie or Tupac, and someone whose edgy beats and heavy words have made a serious mark on the worlds of dance music and politically-charged art. In a dichotomy fitting of the finest tortured artists who’ve come before him, Mavado at once laments the impoverished, crime-ridden streets of his home and threatens to lay his enemies “in a tomb,” but everything he says seems to have a deeper meaning desperate to be discovered. An excellent sophomore effort, Mr. Brooks… A Better Tomorrow is a harbinger of great things to come for this artist. [Buy it]

Regina Spektor

Best for: one last trip to the beach
Download: “Eet,” “Laughing With”

If you haven’t yet fallen in love with Regina, one listen to her eccentric pop stylings and introspective, illuminating lyrics should do the trick. She has a bit of a mid-90’s essence that calls to mind Alanis and Joan Osborne, but with an immediacy and forward-looking style all her own. From heartbreaking expressions of longing to bouncy Caribbean-esque melodies, Spektor’s eccentric music is the kind of thing you listen to over and over again, at first with curiosity, then with enjoyment, and finally with a nod to whatever’s happening in your own life. She has a way of singing like she knows what the world is going through, even if she’d never admit it. [Buy it]