Not really in any particular order...
TORCHE - "Meanderthal" - the most bone crushing pop record you will ever hear. some of the riffs these guys write are so simple and elegantly brutal, it's amazing that no one has ever written them before. these guys will have you nodding your head for hours after you've listened to the record.
METALLICA - "Death Magnetic" - no fucking around. i was skeptical as everyone else when this came out. i heard the early clips, i thought they sucked, etc. after putting this record on my jaw dropped and my head started rocking out something fierce. sure, the record is not without it's faults, it's way too long, there's a few tracks that are pretty meh, but after 20 years of bullshit, this is the record that metallica fans deserve.
BLACKLISTED - "Heavier than heaven, lonlier than god." - these guys have always been pretty straight forward judge influenced hardcore. but with this record they really brought it to another level. diverse, heavy, dark, aggressive, intense. 11 songs and 20 minutes later, i was left desperately wanting more.
JOAN OF ARC - "Boo Human" - this record is breathtaking. taking a break from the balanced annoying unlistenable meanderings and brilliant math inspired jangles, these guys opted for a more subtle collective approach to making this record. acoustics are abound, crafting actually well written songs that deserve more than one listen. super angry and depresed lyrics, this is one for the record books.
LEMURIA - "Get Better" - sure, girl involved pop punk/rock has been around forever. stylistically, there's nothing unique about this band. quality-wise there is. the songs are beyond catchy, they're more diversely crafted than your standard pop punk outfit, straight forward lyrics that don't feel cliche, just feel genuine.
SUN KIL MOON - "April" - mark kozelzelekzek understands something the rest of us don't. i can't put my finger on it, but if you listen to "april" enough times i think eventually you could begin to understand it too. this man is a master of songcraft.
MAPS & ATLASES - "You and me and the mountain" - moving away(very slightly) from the spastic explosions of their previous work, this band wrangles in their finger tapping just enough so you can actually hear how many notes they're playing now. and just like almost everyone else on this list, songwriting is key. i find myself singing these songs to myself for days.
SIGUR ROS - "blahdy blah blabbity blah blah blah" - the first few times i listened to this record, i did NOT like it. after a few more, it started to grow on me, and shortly after that, i couldn't stop thinking about it. it's different, yeah. but "post rock" doesn't mean you just have to drone on for hours. and now i can appreciate "takk" more as being an appropriate midpoint between "( )" and this record. this one has some of their best tracks ever on it.
THEY AND THE CHILDREN - "Home" - i'm biased b/c these guys are old friends of mine. but this is the best "post hardcore(?)" record i've heard in a long time. it slays. it's heavy. it's fast. it's brutal. it's dense. it's creative. in a world filled with a million hardcore bands that all sound the same, this one stands out.
NARROWS - s/t 7" - duh, it's the dude from botch screaming his head off like a maniac.
YOUNG WIDOWS - "Old Wounds" - this record is amazing for a few reasons. one, it's a kickass record. two, half of it was recorded live at shows, and aside from a spot of crowd noise here or there, you can't even tell. that's how fucking tight this band is.
fuck, i already forgot a bunch of good ones, so i guess i'll just put them in "honorable mentions"
David Byrne & Brian Eno "everything that happens" - david byrne is one of my all time favorite songwriters/musicians/epic people. this record is no exception.
Bonne Prince Billy "lay down in the light" - this record rules.
TV on the Radio - "dear science" - where cookie mountain was boring, this record is not. funky, sexy, groovy.
Mountain Goats - "satanic messiah ep" - i like the mountain goats.
nick cave & the bad seeds - "dig, lazarus, dig!" - nick cave is just a badass. warren ellis makes awesome sounds.
Make Believe - "Goin to the bone church" - angular weird math indie with songs about the vietnam war.
the walkmen - "you and me" - this record is kinda weird and really different, but is totally great.
unearth - "the march" - this is the best metal record of '08, and really deserves to be in the top section, but ya know, i'm lazy.
fuck i just remembered a bunch more... ah, fuck this.