Each year around the holidays, music critics regress and become children all over again. We get colicky and overexcited, often an unbearable combination for those who choose to remain within close proximity to us. I won’t make excuses for our opinionated, list-making dispositions, but I do apologize, on behalf of my canonizing brethren, for any amplified insufferableness. Please, do not forget that while it’s only rock ‘n’ roll, we really like it—like, really like it—enough to dissect the ever-lovin’ life out of a multitude of recent releases, place them within the appropriate historical context, and come running to you with the results.
Sure, you can argue that music is a finitely subjective pleasure, which is only partly true; there is a rhyme and reason to it all, to what makes a good record a good record, and no number of precious personal sensibilities can defy such cold logic. You can also argue that numbered lists are reductive, that they oversimplify the entire experience down to a meaningless series of sequential, Ebert-esque thumbs-ups. Let’s not make this any more difficult than it already is: there is just so much to share at the end of a year, so many albums that have both infiltrated cultural radars and soared below them, that it’s necessary to deliver the information in compacted form. Each of these albums mattered to at least one person, so they’re all worth your investigation or at least a paragraph’s worth of your time. You’ll likely see a number of records that you, too, held dearly during certain weeks in the past 12 months, some that you vehemently disliked (see, there go your precious personal sensibilities again), and, with any luck, many that you have yet to discover. In the case of the latter, allow us to possibly introduce you to some of your favorite records of the year. See, it’s worth having us around after all.
This week and next, PopMatters is running an extensive series of genre-specific lists penned by some of our genre experts, highlighting the best electronic music, jazz, country, indie pop, R&B, hip-hop, world music, folk, and singer-songwriter albums of the year; a new list will be published daily, so be sure to check back often.
On Monday, 18 December, we’ll reveal our big official list of the best albums of the year, followed by our list of the year’s best reissues on Tuesday, 19 December, and our big wrap-up of the year’s best musical events on Friday, 22 December. So go on, dig in—there’s plenty of familiar and foreign experiences awaiting your discovery.
Saturday, December 23 2006
At long last, the annual rite of passage, the "best of" list... Here's PopMatters picks for the best 60 records of 2006.
Friday, December 22 2006
At long last, the annual rite of passage, the "best of" list... Here's PopMatters picks for the best 20 reissues of 2006. Stay tuned tomorrow and Thursday for ongoing genre top 10s with our coverage culminating in the year's best musical events on Friday.
Thursday, December 21 2006
This year, the PopMatters concerts crew filed field reports that made Margaret Mead look like Geraldo Rivera.
Begrand and Blood and Thunder look back on a metal-icious 2006: its creative resurgences, its tinges of sludge, its Japanese doom-ridden drones, and its ever-reliable Scandinavians.
Wednesday, December 20 2006
Goodbye to Academia, Pedantry, and even Austin: Roger Holland's favorite country albums of 2006 come from a very broad church indeed.
Tuesday, December 19 2006
English and Scottish ballads, Cajun songs, protest music, and covers of everything from Mississippi John Hurt to Prince populate this year's notable folk records.
Dry lyrical wit, verbal playfulness, and somber epiphanies for the reluctantly mature: they're all part of Michael Metivier's best singer/songwriter albums of the year.
It's the same old complaint every year, isn't it? You do what you can, you hear what you can, and you wait to see what takes root in your brain as a keeper.
Thursday, December 14 2006
Quentin Huff's top-ten list of mixtapers, hustlers, protesters, emcees, and self-proclaimed kings finds hip-hop very much alive and well in 2006.
Wednesday, December 13 2006
Mike Joseph's picks for the year's best in R&B include manly soul men, retro futurists, sex-you-up lyricists, and one funky Jehovah's Witness.
Tuesday, December 12 2006
Sprites, snow fairies, and pants that yell, oh my! Dave Heaton's picks for indie-pop albums of the years are an animated bunch.
Monday, December 11 2006
In a year of stylistic cross-pollinations, sounds from around the world come together on Michael Keefe's list of fun and fascinating albums.
From Thailand to Tanzania, from France to Cuba and Romania: Deanne Sole's wrap-up of the year's best world music trips the globe fantastic.
Sunday, December 10 2006
Tim O'Neil sorts through a multitude of techno, microhouse, mix CDs, and mash-ups to offer up the year's best in electronic music.
Will Layman's list of the year's best jazz records, a hearty baker's dozen, includes iconoclasts, eccentrics, avant-gardists, and some downright swingers.