1 THE BLACK KEYS The Big Come Up 2002 (Alive) ''It's such a distinct sound; you can't mistake it. You just gotta crank it. It's great to listen to really, really, really loud.''
2 THE KINKS Are the Village Green Preservation Society 1968 (Reprise) ''The songs are probably some of the best pop songs you'll ever hear. Ray Davies is such a smart writer.''
3 NINA SIMONE Silk & Soul 1967 (RCA) ''She does a Burt Bacharach tune 'The Look of Love' and it just kills me. Her voice is like a horn, and she's got that amazing vibrato that she turns on and off.''
4 SARAH BLASKO The Overture & The Underscore 2005 (Dew Process) ''She's an Australian singer-songwriter who opened for me. She's really fun to see live it's like watching an 8-year-old girl dance about on the stage.'' 1
5 MY MORNING JACKET Z 2005 (ATO) ''I love the Jacket! Their new disc? Insane. Really f---ing great. I haven't heard anything from them that I don't like, but this is especially great.''
6 IRON & WINE The Creek Drank the Cradle 2002 (Sub Pop) ''There's a song on here, 'Southern Anthem,' that kills me. It's so cinematic. It makes you feel like you're watching old black-and-white movies from the '30s.''
7 JONI MITCHELL For the Roses 1972 (Asylum) ''I hate to make such a big statement, but she's probably the best songwriter ever. What I took from Joni is that there really are no rules to writing a song. If it sounds right, it is.''
8 LEONA NAESS Leona Naess 2003 (Geffen) ''I was introduced to her by Ethan Johns [who produced this and both of LaMontagne's albums]. I was floored.''
9 THE BAND Music From Big Pink 1968 (Capitol) ''Everybody should have this. Richard Manuel's voice on 'In the Station' breaks my heart every time.''
10 RAY CHARLES A Portrait of Ray 1968 (Magic) ''I found this in a record store years ago. I've tried to get it since then for friends, but it's only an import. It's amazing.''
11 JOANNA NEWSOM The Milk-Eyed Mender 2004 (Drag City) ''She's from another planet. Her lyrics are almost like Grimm's fairy tales. It's a very enchanting record.''
12 PETER GABRIEL Peter Gabriel 1977 (Geffen) ''This has 'Solsbury Hill.' Any songwriter wishes they had written that. He seems to break all the rules and doesn't put himself into any kind of box for very long.''
Ray LaMontagne's new album, Till the Sun Turns Black, is out Aug. 29.