Three great albums I almost missed this year

Thank God for year end “Best Of” lists.  

With a simple Yahoo News Search, you can find a boat load of critics’ picks for best records of the year. If you look for repeat entries, you’ll quickly see a pattern that helps you grasp the gestalt of the rock year. 

Finding great new independent music is my #1 hobby, and a big consumer of my free time. I scour websites (like Pitchfork), industry pubs and great online stores (like Good Records in Dallas). I even surf iTunes like a music-shopoholic. With all that work, though, the year end lists always surprise me with some new gems I never heard before. 

Here are three great records I just bought, based on the tips of critics.  

This is a one man recording, produced in the dead of winter in a Wisconsin cabin. Bon Iver is loose French for Good Winter, and for singer-songwriter Justin Vernon — it was. Track 3, Skinny Love will break your heart and make you a fan. The CD is moving up the indie=charts fast. 
Every five or so years, a new hip hop supergroup emerges. Remember Arrested Development? Fugees? Roots? Outkast? The Knux are the new soul of hip hop and their single Bang Bang will convince you that this is a great band you need to hear right now.

If you like Vampire Weekend, MGMT or Yeasayer, you will love Gang Gang Dance. This New York collective plays excited electro rock, with a cool world beat twist.  Check out the track “House Jam” and you’ll hear the future of global punk funk.