Anger and longing

When Arcade Fire won a Gram­my for album of the year, Win But­ler came to the podium clinging to his identity as one of the band geeks. "We're gonna go play another song because we like music"—just in case anyone had forgotten about the music after Lady Gaga emerged from an egg, Katy Perry swung from the ceiling and Gwyneth Paltrow danced on a piano.

The Head and the Heart

This new band's sound has roots in the indie-folk scene, with its moody treatments of simple chord progressions and Americana rhythms. But the larger thread here is classic pop, and The Head and the Heart offers the complete feel-good package.

Hollywood Town Hall & Tomorrow the Green Grass, by the Jayhawks

Alt-country is typically traced to Uncle Tupelo, but the early '90s Jay­hawks made better records. Where Uncle Tupelo found scrappy affinities between traditional Americana and punk, the Jayhawks brought '70s country-rock to the alt-rock '90s.