Best of the year lists are the ultimate hand job for music bloggers. So here are the three categories that rocked 2010. All you need are a few from each category and you are on your way to making the best “best of” list ever.

1. Indie Darlings:

Arcade Fire, The Suburbs (Merge Records)

The National, High Violet (4AD)

Broken Social Scene, Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts)

Indie darlings returned to the scene en masse this year, and Arcade Fire leads the pack.  This album is catchy and gentle.  The title track, “Half Light II (No Celebration)” and “Ready to Start” are stand out tracks. There’s a constant theme of maturing into adulthood across the album: from having kids, taking things slowly, to just plain getting old. In fact, all the Darlings talk about getting old; if you need party anthems, stick to the ultimate Darling, LCD Soundsystem.

2. Girls, Girls, Girls:

Charlotte Gainbourg, IRM (Elektra/Asylum)

Janelle Monae, The ArchAndroid (Atlantic)

Robyn, Body Talk (Cherry Tree)

Bloggers seem to be quick to give Beck the credit for IRM but make no mistake, the ladies are wearing the pants this year.  Gainsbourg, Monae and Robyn have been kick-ass long before this year, but this was the magic time for them to grab boring pop music by the balls and swing it around nunchuck-style.  Gainbourg’s album is darkly influenced by a water-skiing accident that could have killed her.  Monae swings, screams and soothes her way through an odyssey concept album. Robyn combined her three EPs released through the year for one magnificent album that shows both her feisty and vulnerable sides.

3. Hip Hop:

The Roots, How I Got Over (Def Jam)

Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Roc-A-Fella)

Eminem, Recovery (Aftermath)

Historically, many geniuses have been assholes.  Should Kanye or Eminem be included in the pack? Kanye’s newest has been overshadowed by his incendiary artwork choice and general antics. Eminem’s venom is relentless and eager to point middle fingers at the world and himself. The Roots show a slightly brighter perspective, though still plagued by outside judgments and inner demons. Even if you don’t admit you like any of these, you’re not going to be able to escape without raising a glass to the douche bags.

And for extra “I listen to everything because I’m superior” credit….

4. Film Scores

2010 could be deemed “the return of rock” or “the return of hip hop,” but some very heavy hitters put out some game-altering movies scores this year. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross take The Social Network to an eerie, urgent and dark level. Daft Punk breathes their electronic life into the score of Tron Legacy; give it a listen and you’ll start to believe it is you leading some mega-budget action movie. And Clint Mansell drops one of the most haunting scores of all for Black Swan. Don’t be afraid of instrumental tracks—they are just as good (if not better) in a year chock full of awesome releases.

Culture Great Albums of 2010: Three Easy Steps