Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe
The problem with year-end top-ten lists like the ones in the Reader's current issue is that summing up a whole year's worth of music in such a small, arbitrary number of picks means a lot of really-good-but-not-top-ten-good albums get left out, doomed to obscurity because they didn't appear on my list. (Sorry, Spoon. Sorry, Lil Wayne.) The solution is a list with a larger, equally arbitrary number of entries. Like 40.
Picking up where my top ten left off:
If all you know of disco is "YMCA" or, worse, if you think you hate disco from having "YMCA" shoved repeatedly down your ear holes, you need Fabriclive 36. With this mix LCD Soundsystem's resident DJs--yes I know I'm jocking them, no I don't care--celebrate kitsch-free underground classics that bang as hard now as they did the last time coke was this popular.
Taken individually, the songs on Fancy Footwork are proven dance-floor fillers and mix-CD destroyers. As a whole, the album makes two convincing arguments: one against po-faced rockist sobriety and another for the often-forgotten idea that "fun" isn't a bad thing for music to be. In a sea full of faces that only scowl or sneer it seems like salvation to find a full-on grin.
Tulsa's record is more an EP than an album, so maybe including them here is cheating, but the way I Was Submerged balances a reverb-laden floaty vibe with solid songwriting makes it one of the best sets of songs to come out last year, and one of the ones I returned to most often. If I listen to the Mazzy-Star-for-dudes cut "Mass" once, I can easily end up putting the song on repeat for an hour.
These evil Swedish black metallers are masters of scorched-earth brutality, but they also have a sneaky way of working actual hooks and a surprising range of dynamics into their songs. But as incredible as Sworn to the Dark is, it's only a pale reflection of the band's astounding, terrifying live performances, which may be the best metal shows on earth by a band that isn't Slayer.
Continuing the proud tradition of fucked-up country-music albums by literary degenerates, A Celebration of Hunger is an extended sigh of unfulfilled ambition, substance abuse, and flat-out depression. But thanks to its sharp lyrics--which are packed with John Denver jokes and quotable bits of brilliance like "There ain't no curfew on hard livin' in this poorly painted town"--and unexpected pop jams like "Waking Up Drunk," it never drags.