On Tuesday, Paste kicked off the “Top 10 season” with the first lists from a major player in the music criticism business. From here until, well, February of 2012, we’ll be knee deep in “Best of” rankings from everyone from Robert Christgau to your dad’s creepy boss who can’t get enough Bruno Mars. Here’s what you can expect from all of them.
10. Ten is never enough
Perhaps 50 albums from Paste or 100 songs from Pitchfork is a bit of overkill, but it’s almost impossible to boil down a year in music to 10 of anything. (And especially, for that matter, single tracks.) So, move past any Top 10 list and dig a little deeper. Because, when it comes down to it, any sort of compilation truly shines in its ability to aid in listener recall and, most importantly, introduce new music to the previously uninformed.
9. Annoying plural monikers are “in”
Gone are the days of Wolf this and Bear that or The what-have-yous: Now bands have taken to pluralizing without articles. Here come Cults, Dawes and Girls. Yuck.
8. The Grammys still have no influence … at all
The Grammy announcements came in last night and they are as utterly worthless as ever. In fact, nominees like Rihanna’s “Loud” for Album of the Year and head-scratchers like Mumford & Sons’ “The Cave” (which was released in the UK in 2009) for Record of the Year, it might be their most bumbling year of all time. Pay closer attention to your favorite news sources, writers and blogs for their “best of” lists. The Grammys, it seems, deserves its very own unparalleled insult: its very own Grammy.
7. Track the tracks
Spotify has been the nail in the coffin. It’s mostly dorks like yours truly who care about the album lists. All eyes will be on individual song praise.
6. Electronica get unplugged
Perhaps James Murphy’s exit stage left with LCD Soundsystem in April was a harbinger of year to come. Dominating the musical discourse this year has been the guitar pluckin’ lo-fi likes of Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Bill Callahan, Cass McCombs et al. Surely, there were some stellar computerized efforts this year from Zomby, M83, Sepalcure, Cut Copy, The Field, Washed Out, James Blake, Oneohtrix Point Never and others, but even they seemed toned-down. With fizzles from Daft Punk and DJ Shadow, where was all the flooring dance music in 2011?
5. Reissue issues
Every year the “hindsight is 20/20” notches get ramped up more and more and this year is no exception: A quick look at Metacritic’s aggregation of the best-rated albums of the year reveals Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” Miles Davis’s “Live in Europe: 1967” and U2’s “Achtung Baby” to be in a three-way tie for first place, with a perfect rating of 100. But, most interesting for the culminating lists will be the Beach Boys’s “SMiLE Sessions,” as it’s not a reissue per se.
4. The ladies are all over it
As I wrote a few weeks ago, women ruled 2011, from record sales to creative output. But, even those mentioned weren’t all encompassing. Expect to see female-fronted bands like Wye Oak, EMA, Cults and Wild Flag to join Adele and Lykke Li on many a top ten.
3. The bedroom is back
Panda Bear famously recorded his 2007 triumph, “Person Pitch,” in his Lisbon apartment and his follow-up, “Tomboy,” was released this year. It wasn’t recorded exactly in the same manner, but the intimacy still bleeds through. One of the best records of the year — Youth Lagoon’s “Year of Hibernation” — was laid down at Trevor Powers’s Boise home and Bradford Cox recorded a couple of his Atlas Sound tracks from “Parallax” in a hotel room, of all places. Cue Youth Lagoon on “Seventeen:” “It’s just me in my room, with my eyes shut.”
2. What happened to the hip-hop album?
“Watch the Throne” was a bust. Das Racist didn’t bring it on its LP debut. Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter IV” was weak. Some may point to Drake as the rapper of the year, but are his R&B-ish coasts really hip-hop? For my money — which would be zero dollars for these, of course — mix tapes were where to find the best beats and flows this year. As A$AP Rocky asks on his opener from “LIVELOVEA$AP,” “How real is this?” Pretty real, dude.
1. Bon Iver will be right here
Justin Vernon’s got it locked up. He and his band will top Pitchfork’s list, possibly Rolling Stone’s and definitely the Pazz and Jop aggregation. Mark my words. And it’s too bad: “Bon Iver” doesn’t deserve it.
Check back Christmas week to see what does — in the eyes of myself and other Reverb staffers.