This Brooklyn band spent most of its first three albums emptying out the tool shed in pursuit of weird things to make noise with. This time they haul out all their usual unusual props out-of-time drums, jazz horn squawks, power tools but in the service of great tunes. With its Beach Boys '"ba-ba-bas" and killer lo-fi guitar, "Halfway Home" is all propulsion and energy, the best album opener of the year. "Family Tree" is a rock ballad sung with great tenderness by Tunde Adebimpe while "Red Dress" is the smartest thing about race this year not written by Barack Obama. Hopefully the merging of their cerebral side with melodies you can actually hum will finally get TVotR an audience outside their borough.
Listen to TIME's top 10 albums of 2008: