The print edition of the year-end Critics' Picks issue of the Reader only had room for our top five album picks of the year, but there's obviously a lot more music to talk about than that. My own list was based on a rough estimate of which records I played for my own pleasure the most times this year. In keeping with that standard, here are the next five:
The Roberta-Flack-via-Dirty-South synth line that opens T.I.'s "What You Know" was as big a gimme as any DJ could ask for this year -- dropping it at any time of night got a reaction from the crowd equivalent to throwing a handful of twenties on the dancefloor. Nothing else on King (Atlantic) was anywhere near that bonkers, but Tip's at the forefront -- alongside Nas, Lupe, and the Clipse -- of the best hip-hop trend in forever: making records you can actually sit all the way through in one listen.
The biggest reason OOIOO's Taiga (Thrill Jockey) wasn't my most-istened-to album this year is that it sat on my desk for too long before I actually listened to it. The ideas Yoshimi and her gang kick out had always sounded better in concept than in practice. But hearing them arrange these psychedelic textures -- from tribal pounding to mellow mindstorms that beg for the "groovy"descriptor -- into a near-perfect whole now has me completely freaked. What if I got it wrong before and I've been missing out on one of the best bands going?
I'm fully against the concept of "guilty pleasures" -- either you like something or you don't -- but I'm still sort of embarrassed about where the Sounds' Dying to Say This to You (New Line) stands in my iTunes rankings. It's everything its critics complain about -- a vapid sugar rush of an album -- but it's also got to have the hook-densest record I've heard this year. Deep inside my mind there's a voice warning me about the long-term effects of ingesting this much candyfloss, but it's drowned out by the chorus that's chanting, "More, more, more!"
This past year brought a deluge of psych rock -- from Brightblack Morning Light's chill-out teepee sounds to the slowly riffing doom metal invasion -- but its high-water mark may have been Comets on Fire's Avatar (Sub Pop). The decision to apply their expert soundscaping abilities within stricter song structures was unexpectedly brilliant. A batch of lysergic rippers to make your stoner uncle weep with joy.
The Hold Steady's Boys and Girls in America (Vagrant) almost drowned under the waves of commentary, meta-commentary, and meta-meta-commentary that followed its release. My two cents: if you judged records solely on the quality of the air-guitaring they inspire, this might be the decade's greatest album so far.