Oh, are you fucking kidding me, NPR? 50 fucking albums? You expect us to give 50 albums worth of a shit about what you guys think? And you’re not going to rank them in any kind of an order? Are these albums in Album Montessori School or something? All fucking FIFTY of these albums are equally good? Does that mean that all the other albums that aren’t on the list are equally good in the "51st best to infinity-est best" category? How fucking DIPLOMATIC of you pricks. I hope Michelle Bachman does something about this when she’s president.
Adele, 21: Amy Winehouse’s body isn’t even cold yet, guys. Who’s this Adele? Is she even on meth? Is her face at least rotting? Tell me why I should care about a jazzy crooner lady whose face is not melting.
Alexandre Tharaud, Scarlatti: Sonatas: Probably like my twentienth favorite collection of Sonatas this year. NPR really has their head up their asses on this one.
Antlers, Burst Apart: Oh wow, a shitty album of heartfelt shitty indie pop that nobody else is really talking about. Nice deep pull, NPR. No.
Ashton Shepherd, Where Country Grows: YouTube put up an ad for "The Scottish Plumber" before this video loaded. Huge thumbs up for The Scottish Plumber and all the great work they do pumping rivers of human shit to and from people’s houses. I feel like there’s some sort of analogy I can make here to the music of Ashton Shepherd, but I can’t quite wrap my industrial-strength human shit gloves around it.
Ballake Sissoko & Vincent Segal, Chamber Music: No, thank you.
Beirut, The Rip Tide: No.
Beyonce, 4: No.
Bombino, Agadez: I listen to this and I just think "good for them," you know? If I had a civil war and no air-conditioning, I wouldn’t be able to get out of BED, much less start up a whole new music genre that sounds completely the same as itself at all times. That said, I’m extra glad I have this watered-down version of Tuareg Rock to buy on CD at Starbucks, because that Group Inerane stuff on Sublime Frequencies is just too nasty (pronounced with a Galifianakis lisp on the "s" in nasty).
Bon Iver, Bon Iver, Bon Iver: NOOO!!!
Book Of Mormon, Cast Recording: No, but okay, I mean we all know you’re NPR so by all means.
Bright Eyes, The People’s Key: Never.
Brooklyn Rider Brooklyn Rider Plays Philip Glass: A string quartet playing Phillip Glass music? Color me intrigued. I’ve always been a fan of Glass’s sense of texture, and… sorry, guys. I just walked past a college.
Captain Black Big Band, Captain Black Big Band: I would say that big band jazz is back, you guys, but we all know it never left!
Civil Wars, Barton Hallow: I’m excited for the encroaching popularity of Neu-grass. I was watching TV the other day so of course one of the country music awards was happening, and some of the artists were young dirtbag-looking people, and I was glad. Country is way better when it’s ugly.
Colin Stetson, New History Warfare, Vol. 2: Judges: One of the primary motivators for this list seems to be "can we use this as interstitial music that will make whatever we’re trying to say on NPR seem more idea-y and important?" I actually like this, it’s a great collection of pretentious experimo-electro jazz that both indicates and embodies culture without being too clever about it, plus it’s got a ballsy "long lost saxophone player for Suicide" quality. I would be super into if I were stoned in a comfortable chair and he was playing live in my own living room (other less ideal scenarios present immediate difficulties which would be fatal to my potential enjoyment). But as recorded music, this Colin Stetson album’s number one asset is that any given 20 seconds of it would be totally fucking excellent at subliminally convincing me that somebody on All Things Considered just said something interesting.
Cormorant, Dwellings: At NPR, even our taste in metal is progressive.
Davila 666, Tan Bajo: Never would have popped up on the NPR radar if not for the condescending "multicultural" angle, but I’ll take a little actual awareness of the kind of shit that’s good wherever I can get it.
Demdike Stare, Tryptych: Is there a more pretentious word in the English language than "triptych?" This sounds like the work of somebody who uses that word in regular conversations without using the caveat of "I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s a…" And also that conversation is between them and somebody who didn’t even remotely ask.
Donnacha Dennehy, Gra Agus Bas: Sounds like one of those middle eastern yelling things that the ragheads listen to. I’m kidding of course. Ragheads would never listen to this. It’s for white people. It’s actually an Irish composer. Which is great because it lets white people seem smugly and condescendingly multicultural without having to actually give money to a brown person. Bonus: it’s actually pretty good if you have a Julian Cope-esque stomach for modern "composer" stuff.
Ebene Quartet, Fiction: You’ll just love this. It’s a string quartet doing all of the songs from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. I think it’s darling, and it might just be the best album of ninteen ninety NEVER.
Eric Church, Chief: Alright, middle America. Please don’t cut our funding. We’re just regular people like you. See? We like country music about getting stoned. What? You don’t like that? Why, because it’s not about Jesus? My God, you people are sheep. Please don’t cut our funding, though. Look: this is the best we can do. Just try and meet us halfway, here.
Frank Ocean, Nostalgia, Ultra: No.
Fucked Up, David Comes To Life: No.
Girl In A Coma, Exits And All The Rest: Hey, a new one! Oh. No.
Glenn Jones, The Wanting: Now’s as good a time as any to ask what the fuck is going on over at Thrill Jockey. Actually, I think I know. Thrill Jockey seemingly has always existed to put out music that’s "interesting" but not quite fun, and that used to be Tortoise and glitch and now it’s droning psychedelia and Fahey guitar picking. Ah ha ho. Mystery solved.
Gretchen Parlato, The Lost And Found: It’s a jazz singer with a side mullet. Pretty unspectacular. What is not unspectacular is the extreme difference between technical proficiency and complete lack of taste inherent in the drum solo in this.
James Blake, James Blake: I always had a kneejerk reaction against this guy because his name reminds me of James Blunt, so I was always just like "yuck! Stay away!" So I just now bravely dropped that senseless prejudice in order to check out this guy’s YouTubes, and it turns out he’s exactly fucking James Blunt. Nice trick, buddy. Now I know to trust my completely unfair and arbitrary avoidance instincts and just accept that for every wrong there are at least ten time-saving rights.
Joseph Calleja, The Maltese Tenor (Decca): Like for instance right now, I’m just gonna take this guy at his word and assume he’s a tenor from Malta and send him on his merry way.
Julianna Barwick, The Magic Place: If you ever want your living room to sound like the inside of a museum so you can achieve that special kind of pass-out-at-6pm museum exhausted without leaving the house, I’ve got just the thing.
June Tabor, Ashore: Oh good, some light piano ambient Irish librarian soul croons! NO!
Kendrick Lamar, Section.80: If you want to know what this sounds like, go to a store that sells $300 men’s shoes.
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins, Diamond Mine: "Beautiful" melodramatic caterwauling for the middle aged academic for whom Coldplay is too much rock.
La Vida Boheme, Nuestra: Finally there’s Ratatat in Spanish.
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Symphony 2 (Mahler, Jurowski): No thank you.
Los Rakas, Chancletas Y Camiseta Bordada: If you want to know what this sounds like, go to a store that sells $300 men’s shoes in Mexico City.
Miguel Zenon, Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook: Come on, guys. You clearly just put this on the list because it says "Puerto Rican" in the title. It’s smooth jazz.
PJ Harvey, Let England Shake: Kudos for actually mentioning the person that those other albums are trying to emulate, but no.
Radiohead, King Of Limbs: No fucking way.
Roots, undun: No.
Shabazz Palaces, Black Up: Druggy electro-beat hip hop by "Butterfly" from Digable Planets released on Sub Pop. It should by all rights be, more than anything else I’ve heard so far, the most credible obligatory "street"(black) artist album of the year on every white rock guy’s list. This is pretty much an excellent thing that fuckin’ NPR just taught me about, and 17 year old me could not be more ashamed right now. You will hear it in a place that sells $300 sneakers.
Sonny Rollins, Road Shows Vol 2: As the "last living legit jazz guy," 80 year old Rollins gets the hero treatment just for still being capable of blowing through a saxophone because it’s like "he’s the last living legit jazz guy, so that had to be legit. FYI: I’m not sure I actually like jazz, but I am sure that I’m supposed to."
St. Vincent, Strange Mercy: No.
STS, The Illustrious: You know what my beef is with hip hop? Once you take away the beat, it’s basically just shitty slam poetry. The best hip hop is stuff that people would be offended by if you did at a slam poetry night. Like talking about killing people and selling drugs and fucking bitches and dropping n-bombs in a nonchalant way. Or else it’s lyrically and/or technically so fucking nuts that it transcends slam poetry and becomes something enjoyable. Slam poetry is a motherfucking hard thing to transcend, you guys. Slam poetry is the worst.
Tim Hecker, Ravedeath, 1972: I’m glad that the "experimental modern pretentious horseshit" genre has not gone overlooked in 2011, but NO.
Tom Waits, Bad As Me: No.
Tommy Guerrero, Lifeboats & Follies: This is one of the guys from The Search For Animal Chin skate movie that I thought was hot shit when I was like 9 years old. Apparently he’s got a second career as a Money Mark-esque instrumental funkateer. What a story. "At what point is there a synergy between your skateboarding and playing guitar?" -Terry Gross. "Zzzzzzzz." -Me.
tUnE-yArDs, w h o k i l l: No.
Wilco, The Whole Love: No.
Wye Oak, Civilian: No.
GRADE: REGULAR PERSON F+, NPR PERSON A+++