This is what the whole 'private universe' aspect to the consumption of music has come to: if two writers list the same artist on their list, it counts as group consensus. It doesn't matter if the band isn't name-checked by a single other writer on the staff – if two people were listening to the same thing, that's a big deal. And the last time we checked, there wasn't a single album or song that appeared on more than two of our writers' lists this year, with the sole exception of the subtitle of this piece. Cee Lo = awesome.
Still, that lack of commonality seems pretty messed up, doesn't it? And yet, that sums up music's state of affairs as well as anything. Downloading and the instant accessibility of music has produced a ton of minor hits but few major ones (we're obviously not talking about the Taylors and Carries and Rihannas of the world with that statement), and while this staff loosely had an identity five years ago, we are all islands today. This is good in that we can all browse each other's lists and hunt down albums or songs we had previously missed in the endless barrage of press releases, but it's bad in that it results in staffers wrestling for control of the tunes at the company holiday party. And really, you don't want to get in between the music editor and the stereo after he's had a few. He gets testy.
All kidding aside, there was lots of good music to be found this year; it just takes a lot more effort to find it than it used to. Comb the lists below, and see what jewels we uncovered.
#1 ALBUM: Mark Ronson: Record Collection
If I get to heaven, this is what the radio station will sound like.
#1 ALBUM: Tom Jones, Praise & Blame
There's no song by Bono and the Edge nor uber-hip production from Future Cut. There's just Tom Jones, age 70…and, by God, he's still got it.
#1 ALBUM: Foxy Shazam: Foxy Shazam
Foxy Shazam aren't just a band; they are a force of nature that will kick your ass, steal your lunch money and make sweet love to you all at the same time.
#1 ALBUM: The Silver Seas: Chateau Revenge
The Silver Seas continue to make some of the best music that, unfortunately, most people have never heard. So do something about that. Go buy the Silver Seas' music, and tell them I sent you.
#1 ALBUM: Ellie Goulding: Lights
While there isn't anything on Lights that is as obviously radio-baiting as Katy Perry's inescapable "California Gurls," there are at least six or seven tracks that top it in quality.
#1 ALBUM: School of Seven Bells: Disconnect from Desire
There's no other album that made me feel like I was hearing a new sound.
#1 ALBUM: The Gaslight Anthem: American Slang
The Gaslight Anthem are able to use the old wine skins that have influenced their music and make a new wine that's tasty, taut, and thunderous.
#1 ALBUM: The Roots: How I Got Over
It is my fervent hope that Steven Tyler's defection to television does what 20 years of shitty Aerosmith records was unable to do—namely, stick a fork in a band that has rattled on long past its expiration date.
#1 ALBUM: "Fade Like a Shadow," KT Tunstall
Fade Like a Shadow' has everything you want in a single: a passionate delivery, a great melodic hook, and a unique rhythm that helps it stand out from other songs.
#1 ALBUM: Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
As much as Kanye's childish tirades infuriate me, I'll be damned if his music doesn't always win me over.