Ted Leo's The Brutalist Bricks marks his first CD for Matador — which means it's pretty much his highest-profile release, coinciding with the year he'll turn 40. Leo has made a career out of scrappy underdog charm since his days in Animal Crackers and Chisel, and our love for the guy has a lot to do with that old do-or-die approach to getting it done. Oh yeah, plus the music. The stuff on Bricks distills all the best Leo-isms into a baker's-dozen tracks — rubber-voiced shout-outs to the United Nations, trampoline-pitched choruses, and a little spit on the mic go a long way toward scuffing up the sharp-edged and polished pop of these ditties. Leo's songwriting often draws comparison to Elvis Costello, but if he keeps owning this kind of stuff much longer, don't be surprised if kids start discovering Costello under tags like "Ted Leo for old people."
2. Ezra Koenig [Vampire Weekend]
3. Thomas Mars [Phoenix]
4. Bill Callahan