The thing that made 2010 such a remarkable year was the fact that the democratization of taste (thank you, internet) has continued unabated. Everyone has the same access to every album, every artist, every song. It’s in no way weird to like both Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” and Salem’s “King Night.” And with this, genre distinctions are becoming increasingly meaningless. The balkanization of genre into ever-smaller units of sounds and artists means that they tend to less impactful and more ephemeral. It’s no coincidence, then, that the best albums of the year were the albums that played with your genre expectations. You wanted a funky hipster throwdown with LCD Soundsystem? Tough luck pal, here’s the best record that David Bowie never got around to writing. Kanye West wrote an emotionally devastating album that barely features a potential radio hit; Crystal Castles recorded the best punk rock album by completing ignoring guitars. Here We Go Magic tried to resurrect motorik-driven Krautrock for the masses, and How to Dress Well casually re-invented 50 years of R&B tradition with a 4-track machine and some spare time. And the most recognizable DJ of our time is a goofy guy who simply holds a mirror up to our culture so we can see it for all its strange glory. But this has been the story of popular music for the past decade, and this is not a new thesis. I’m just thankful to be living in the most productive, most generous era of pop music in history. More people are doing more awesome things than ever before. Here’s the proof: forty albums that were stunning and disquieting, revelatory and cathartic, destructive and piercing, redemptive and exhilarating.