Every year, I'm one of the many critics invited to select their top 10 albums and singles for the Village Voice's venerable (if interesting largely only to other music critics) Pazz & Jop poll. I stopped writing about music for a (fractional) living seven years ago, and most music criticism gives me hives now, but I still love music itself, and the nice thing about Pazz & Jop is that you don't actually have to wax adjectival about your picks, you're just like: White Stripes. I liked it. Boom.
But every year for the past several years, I've blown it off, either intentionally or not. Mostly intentionally—I'll get to that in a second—but this year, I was ready. I had my lists in scrawled-on-a-scrap-of-paper draft form. And then I took a couple of days off from looking at email, and the deadline passed me by once again.
All right, so I've been pretty lukewarm about Pazz & Jop since 2003, which was the year that Outkast's Speakerboxx/The Love Below swept the poll, and also the year that Voice musical eminence grise Robert Christgau staged a hellishly wordy freakout in his accompanying column, in which he took to task all the indie-rock stalwarts who voted for Outkast but not, say, Dizzee Rascal, cursing the institutional racism of Pazz & Jop before praising Fountains of Wayne to the skies. It's a little nuts. Some other critic then took it upon himself to post an online list of all the critics whose one hip-hop pick had been Speakerboxx/The Love Below. And yes, I was one of them.
It's bad enough that Pazz & Jop forces me to reveal all my clichéd aging-hipster picks—Wilco! Radiohead! Feist!—but I am not all that psyched to be judged on the fact that my taste in hip hop was for the most part arrested in the early '90s with The Low End Theory. But since I'm in a listmaking mood, here's what I would have sent to the house of Big Daddy Robert, in no particular order:
Rihanna, Good Girl Gone Bad. This was my soundtrack for the elliptical trainer much of this year, and the fact that I'm not sick of it yet means either it's that amazing or I'm not going to the gym all that much.
Amy Winehouse, Back to Black.
Elliot Smith, New Moon. With his posthumous releases, Elliot Smith is fast becoming the Tupac Shakur of sad-bastard indie rock, and I am 100 percent behind that.
Radiohead, In Rainbows. I should note that, despite the band's ingenious straight-to-the-people online release of this album, I didn't actually buy it — Briar downloaded it. And she probably paid the same price she would have in a store, 'cause she's fair like that.
Blonde Redhead, 23.
Feist, The Reminder.
Soundtrack, Once. Is voting for a soundtrack in a critics' poll a party foul? Probably. But my friend Megan and I went to see this movie last week, and though going in I was like, Okay, Irish buskers, we'll see, coming out I was transfixed and couldn't get the songs out of my head. Megan's boyfriend later revealed that she too had run out and bought the soundtrack, and then he rolled his eyes at both of us.
Wilco, Sky Blue Sky. Although, in fairness, they could release an entire album of Lawrence Welk covers and it would probably still make my top ten.
The New Pornographers, Challengers. See above.
Kanye West, Graduation. Yeah, it's the only rap album I bought this year. Suck it, Christgau!