Deciphering The "Best Albums" Lists

best albums

hide captionThere's one artist you're bound to find on any list: the latest act more famous for ‘being big on Twitter’ than selling records.

and_she_was/Flickr

"Is it me, or did this past year of music just fly by?" asked one of my friends during our annual end-of-the-year music chat. This time around, we had about ten buddies brainstorm the most effective ways to come up with our "Best of" lists. As we grow older, we readily admit that there is no shame in embracing some "mainstream" music — you like what you like. Our days as college DJs are represented by our stacks of promo CDs and concert ticket stubs. And besides, isn't the definition of "indie" pretty blurred these days?

Many of us admitted that there were only a few handfuls of records that truly stuck out amid the overflow from all sorts of media, both old and new. Part of our blame goes to our increasingly busy lives with significant others and (gasp) jobs. The other part, well, goes to the Internet buzz bands (Local Natives, for example), the over-the-top show-stoppers (Lady Gaga), and the proclaimed teenage heart throbs (Justin Beiber). For that, we rely on other people to help us remember them all.

Still, I spend at least a week trolling my favorite music sites (Paste, Filter, A.V. Club) and others I tend not to agree with as much (Pitchfork, Rolling Stone) to remind myself of what actually was released in 2010 and not the year before. And as I looked at the lists over and over, I realized that many of them seem to have some similarities — your most anticipated album(s), the comeback kings and queens of the year, etc.

The writers and reviewers of all things musical deserve the utmost respect for the hours of listening (both favorable and utterly dreary) they go through. But Vice Magazine's "The Only Top 50 Albums Of The Year Countdown You’ll Ever Need" was a good reminder that my feverish to attempts to cull ideas from other lists shouldn't be all that complicated:

50. Something described as “witch house” that six months ago would’ve been described by the same people as “post-dubstep”.

28 – 25. Collectively-reviewed albums by three grungey lady-bands, which gives editors a chance to wax groovy about ‘the year of women in rock’/ ‘the return of grunge’ (DELETE AS APPROPRIATE).

8 – 2: Records that were OK: no one was mad about them, but no one disliked them much either, so they swum through the middle course, whereas intense records that some people were truly passionate about but others really hated all ultimately failed to make the cut.

Whether you're a big fan of electronica or R&B, I'm sure you can relate to this list. You can read the rest here. Perhaps it'll jog your memory a bit.

So, which music sites or magazines do you trust for a "best album" roundup? Do you see any similarities in the lists you look through?

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