Top albums of the school year

David deFina

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – “Magic”

Admit it. If you’re a Bruce Springsteen fan, you probably spent the days leading up to the release of “Magic” scouring Youtube for concert videos and refreshing your Ruckus homepage. “Magic,” the band’s follow up to 2002’s “The Rising” was released amid as much hype as any other album this year. It certainly delivered; “Magic” is classic E Street Band. “Girls In Their Summer Clothes” is a song everybody should be dancing to this time of year, although those faced with a lengthy trek home might appreciate “Long Walk Home” a more reserved, nostalgic throwback.

Hot Tracks: “Livin’ In The Future” and “Girls In Their Summer Clothes”

British Sea Power – “Do You Like Rock Music?”

Let’s just say that you better if you’re going to listen to this album by British Sea Power. The entire album consists of guitar riffs, epic choruses and power chords amplified to staggering proportions. Somehow, it all ends up sounding pretty good. Pitchfork had it right when they compared this effort to a U2 album. Tracks sound more conducive to being blasted over stadium speakers than cheap headphones, but this is a relatively solid album front to back.

Hot Tracks: “Waving Flags” and “Lights Out For Darker Skies”

Vampire Weekend – “Vampire Weekend”

Somewhere along the pop-rock equilibrium fall the majority of today’s “do it yourself” preppy, start-up indie bands. Yet even highly pop-oriented bands employ elements of rock in their song writing. Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut album is unique in that it conveys a purely pop sound. The result is a clean-cut melody with no distractions and simple tinges of keyboard, drums and guitar to accentuate the brilliantly crafted lyrics. Of course, Vampire Weekend is entirely comprised of students from Columbia University, so the clever song writing is to be expected. Lead singer Ezra Koenig’s voice has a bit of a yelp a la’ Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but for the most part the vocals are easy to listen to. The tracks are also inspired by Afro-pop roots, so what results is a unique and refreshing foray into the frequently hazy world of pop.

Hot Tracks: “The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”

The White Stripes – Icky Thump

This late in the band’s career, fans of the White Stripes know what to expect from a new release by Jack and Meg White: Blaring guitar riffs, liberal use of distortion pedals, minimalist drum beats, a little bit of country influence and an oddball cover song or two. “Icky Thump” delivers in all of those ways and even manages to throw in some stylistic mix-ups to keep the Stripes sounding fresh. From horns on “Conquest” to bagpipes on “Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn,” there’s a welcome new sound coming from the band. Jack’s searing guitar solos are still present and his blues rock roots aren’t lost to the newer styles. “Icky Thump” is certainly the White Stripes’ loudest album to date and nothing could be better for waking the neighbors at home this summer.

Hot Tracks: “Rag and Bone” and “300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpoor Blues”

Against Me! – “New Wave”

Punk rock fans can be a fickle bunch. Against Me!, one of the most well-received new artists in punk rock finally made it to mainstream notoriety with their major-label debut, “New Wave.” As a result, many fans denounced the band, calling them sell outs and questioning their standing in the punk world. Truth be told, “New Wave” may be a little more pop than Against Me!’s earlier work but that is no reason to skip the album. These boys from Florida tackle social and political issues in a way that should make Green Day feel like real “American Idiots.” Against Me! are still punk, still awesome and always rocking out.

Hot Tracks: “Thrash Unreal” and “Borne on the FM Waves Of The Heart”

Radiohead – In Rainbows”

Thom Yorke and company are no strangers to top albums lists. Critics and fans alike can’t get enough of the British alt-rock demigods, and with good reason. They just keep delivering. Radiohead sounds surprisingly new-listener friendly on “In Rainbows,” minimizing the experimental electronic sounds from their past few albums and offering songs with a full-band feel. The album’s release was one of the most innovative in recent memory; the band allowed fans to pay any amount they wanted for a digital download of the album. “In Rainbows” is no longer available for download in this way but that shouldn’t stop anyone from picking up this excellent album.

Hot Tracks: “15 Step” and “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”

Black Lips – “Good Bad Not Evil”

The Black Lips’ particular brand of garage rock feels so out of time that the release date for “Good Bad Not Evil” is questionable. The self-described “flower punk” band crank out vintage pop songs that manage to evoke the past without ever sounding old. The Lips’ lyrics are never all that deep, but they manage to get slightly political on a few tracks. “Good Bad Not Evil” is the first major-label album by the Atlanta rockers and it has catapulted them to much broader recognition but their initial fame arose from their stage-rocking live show. They will be touring with the Raconteurs this summer as well as playing several of the major festivals around the country.

Hot Tracks: “Veni Vidi Vici” and “O Katrina!”