As 2011 slams the brakes on, editors the breadth of the land put their feet up on their desks and serve you some reconstituted yesterdays—the top-10-20-30-50-100 countdowns of stuff that happened over the past 12 months. But as you grind your way through one end-of-year music supplement banging on about Metronomy and TV on the Radio after another, your eyes go oblong and there’s a sense of intense, giddying deja vu. Haven’t we seen it all before? In every other magazine/paper/webzine/cereal box? Like, every year? Forever?
Slice through the crap—this is The Only Top 50 Albums of the Year Countdown You’ll Ever Need. HERE’S THE BIG LIST (2011 edit).
50 – 43. Stuff you've never heard.
42 – 41. Stuff you never want to hear.
40. Band managed by ex-music journalist now furiously milking his old contacts for snippets of friendly press.
35 – 39. Albums bearing the traditional inscription "feat. Nicki Minaj."
34. Band on a perennially "plucky" indie label that has so far managed to avoid anyone noticing the massive cash injections it regularly receives from Universal Records.
33. Million-seller grudgingly voted for because no one wants to be seen as unduly snobby by holding its success against it.
32. Band that released their record using an innovative web distribution model, three years after anyone last gave a shit about anyone using an "innovative web distribution model."
31. Horrible chop'd, screw'd, fuck'd album inspired by 90s RnB, made by basically just twiddling filter knobs over a lot of 90s RnB till it sounds unrecognizable.
29. Act who all the staff are into, forgetting that their readership are a good decade younger and have therefore never been alive through a period when this band last produced good records, so really couldn't give a crap about this latest supposed "return to form."
28. Album made by hip-hop artist while in jail.
27. Obscure folk album raised almost indiscriminately from a stack of similar such one-man witterings and dubbed "This year's Bon Iver."
26. Bon Iver.
25. Chillwaver who already knows his brief ellipsis of fashionability is over, and two years from now will re-emerge with a new name, a pencil moustache, and a not-so-shabby attempt to catch the 2013 electroclash revival.
24. "Supergroup" of people you've never heard of.
23. Album everyone thought would definitely win anyway, so decided to vote for their favorite lesser-knowns, hence its mid-table ranking.
22. Band who have successfully hidden the fact they were all born, raised, and formed in Brooklyn, specifically in order to avoid the international market ghettoizing them as "a Brooklyn band."
21. Someone who says "swag" a lot for no particular reason.
20. Whatever Damon's latest record of ethnic meandering about a 12th century Persian theologian is.
19. Underground-y stalwart now on 12th record, whose annual list position varies inversely with the amount of coverage received that year.
18. Act unironically being described in the supporting copy as "post-James Blake."
17. Shabazz Palaces.
16. Artist whose record has spiked to prominence mainly because they are dating someone else on the list.
15. Middle Eastern pop record into which writer has weaved copious references to The Arab Spring, despite the artist in question spending the past nine years living in Peckham.
14. Band that are now signed up to a mag-promoted early 2012 tour, so need to be here for promo purposes.
13. Band of ladrockers who think that the sudden rush of year-end critical appreciation is because all those sitars they crowbarred in have made their new album exotic and refined, when in fact everyone just secretly enjoys a bit of ladrock.
12. Paul Simon or Tom Waits.
11. Iceage or Fucked Up.
10. Bjork or Kate Bush.
9. Fleet Foxes or Fleet Foxes.
8. Member of Odd Future.
7. Someone who also used to be in Odd Future, apparently.
6. Dubsteppy album which, to the writer charged with penning its commendation, "utterly sums up a year of discontent, riots, and civil disorder."
4. Album that had the good sense to be released in mid-October, at the precise point all of these lists were being compiled, thereby marking itself out to forgetful hacks with a fortnight's worth of reasonable release hoopla, despite the fact that, had it been released in May, it would be yesterday's sonic chip paper by now.
3. Band everyone voted for to impress the magazine's editor because they know it's one of his personal favorites and frankly they need all the brownie points they can get if they don't want to be sonic journalism woodchips in 2012.
2. Album no one heard, but everyone had heard was really good after it got that 8.5 from Pitchfork, and so voted for to fill the extra space on their ballots when they realized there were only nine albums they actually loved this year.
1. PJ Harvey (Q), PJ Harvey (NME), PJ Harvey (Mixmag), PJ Harvey (Uncut), PJ Harvey (Fresh Produce Journal), PJ Harvey (Classic Rock), PJ Harvey (Source), Steve Jobs (Pitchfork), people humming transcendentally over distorted tape loops of concrete being laid (Wire).
Previously: The VICE Albums of the Year 2010