Philadelphia is teeming with pop music these days. Leaving off Kurt Vile, who made the bigger list with Wakin on a Pretty Daze, this is an alphabetized list of some of the standout music of the year. Most are full-length albums; a few are download-only specials. It wasn't easy to limit it to 10.
B-Room, by Dr. Dog (Anti-). The seventh album by the Philadelphia fivesome, co-fronted by Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken, is a loose, homegrown affair, recorded in the band's converted silversmith mill in Clifton Heights. As dependably catchy as ever.
Be Frank, Furness, by Heyward Howkins (self released). The punniest Philadelphia title of the year plays on the name of the Victorian architect who designed the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Intriguing indie-folk songs like "Sweet Tea Oleander" and "Brite Kites," sung with a keening voice that grows on you.
Light Heat, by Light Heat (Ribbon Music). Quentin Stoltzfus, the long-absent leader of early '00s bright lights Mazarin (whose members also contributed to Howkins' album) returned with this chiming, droning, winning album of psychedelic pop.
"Toynbee Suite," by Lushlife (download only). This 12-minute song suite by producer-rapper Lush Life (real name: Raj Holder) is about Philadelphia's mysterious Toynbee Tiles. It pools the talents of deejay RJD2, rapper Yikes the Zero, orchestral arranger Joshua Stamper, and many others. Very cool. Part of Weathervane Music's Shaking Through series. Free download at wvmusic.com/bandcamp.
On Oni Pond, by Man Man (Anti-). Excellent trick pulled by this cacophonous Philadelphia pirate crew/noise-making indie band fronted by Ryan Kantner. With each release, the musicians turn into more and more of a viable pop act. This one, produced by Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, is easily their most approachable album to date.
Oak Island, by Nightlands (Secretly Canadian). Dave Hartley, bassist for the War on Drugs, branches out with his one-man band debut, melding '70s pop with man-melding-into-machine rhythm and vocal harmonies.
Wise Up Ghost, by Elvis Costello & The Roots (Blue Note). The Roots didn't bring in & Then You Shoot Your Cousin, said to be the title of its next album, in time for 2013. But the Philadelphia-born hip-hop band did fashion this equal collaboration with British songwriter Costello, and it proved to be good for both parties. Now, how about a tour?
Self Titled, by Wesley Stace (Yep Roc). The former John Wesley Harding now goes by his given name, and if autobiographical songs as good as "Piece of the Past" are any indication, Mount Airy's most distinguished English songwriter (and novelist) is in for a fruitful second phase of his career.
Echo Sessions, by Stray Birds (download only). A five-song session cut in Asheville, N.C., by this Lancaster County acoustic trio, fronted by Maya de Vitry. Pristine covers of Nanci Griffith, the Louvin Brothers, and Jimmie Rodgers. Available at thestraybirds.com.
Cerulean Salt, by Waxahatchee (Don Giovanni). Haunting, melancholy songs from West Philadelphia songwriter Katie Crutchfield, with rock-solid songs that ring out with the frailty and uncertainty of real life.