Happy holidays, y'all.

   To celebrate the winding down of 2009 and The Aughts (finally, right?), we'll be counting down the best of the year and decade here at the Backstage Pass over the next few weeks.

   This week, it's the year's best albums. Next week, the year's best singles. After that, the Top 100 albums of the decade.

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25. Cobra Starship, “Hot Mess” (Decaydance/Fueled by Ramen): Come for the fizzy pop of “Good Girls Go Bad,” stay for the lovely “Fold Your Hands Child” and the poignant “The Scene Is Dead, Long Live the Scene.”

24. Regina Spektor, “Far” (Sire):
Balancing laughter and tears in grand fashion, especially in the brilliant “Laughing With.”

23. Portugal. The Man, “The Satanic Satanist” (Approaching Air Balloons/Equal Vision):
Quirky sing-along anthems like “Everyone Is Golden” and “Mornings” from the band also known as the best thing to ever come from Wasila, Alaska.

22. Dashboard Confessional, “Alter the Ending” (DGC):
Forging potent music out of a trying time and making it through. ("Belle of the Boulevard")

21. Robin Thicke, “Sex Therapy” (Interscope):
Sex and love united in playful hip-hop, Prince-ly R&B and some bossanova.