The holidays are a time of family and of schmaltzy Christmas commercials that somehow make you cry. If you're a music journalist, they're also the time for making lists — lots and lots of lists.
Over the past few years, the availability of year-end critics' lists has grown faster than the worry lines on Ben Bernanke's brow. Right about now, the net and the magazine rack at your local Borders and Barnes & Noble are brimming over with a cornucopia of rankings, featuring such de rigueur albums as the Arcade Fire's Neon Bible, the National's Boxer, Spoon's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, M.I.A.'s Kala, Radiohead's In Rainbows, LCD Soundsystem's Sound of Silver, and Battles' Mirrored. If you want to debate the exact sequence of those albums on the best-of lists in your favorite publication or on your top website, have at it. We're going in a different direction.
In a few cities from here to Los Angeles, we asked semifamous musicians, DJs, and politicians to tell us what music they loved most this year. It could be albums, songs, or the collected works of an artist, and it need not have come out this year. We just wanted to know what was moving folks right now. The way people listen to music these days — with everything available to everyone free — probably means that waiting for an album's release date and treasuring new music are going out of fashion. — John Nova Lomax, executive music editor, Village Voice Media
South Florida's Motley Crew
With a Monkee, two indie rockers, a Latin-soul DJ, and the Ice-Man, it's just a pity this quintet hasn't formed a band
It's been a while since Fort Lauderdale resident Davy Jones was hip (if indeed his former band the Monkees ever was), but that doesn't mean he doesn't have good ears. Jones staves off old age these days by listening to tunes that are at least new to him. "I'm mostly into music from the '60s and the '80s," he says. "I actually missed the '80s the first time around, so I'm catching up finally and listening to lots of music from that decade." Jones kindly gave us an annotated list of albums on his radar:
Sir Paul McCartney, Memory Almost Full
"I got used to it after a while. He's getting older, but I especially like the song 'Dance Tonight.' "
Kenny Chesney, Just Who I Am: Poems and Pirates
"I kept hearing so much about the album, I figured I'd go out and buy it. I like it, but I'm thinking, Country Artist of the Year?! There's more meat on Willie Shoemaker's whip than there is on Chesney's whole body."
James Blunt, All the Lost Souls
"It was a bit twee, but he's got great songs on there."
Norah Jones, Not Too Late
"My favorite artist of the year was Norah Jones by far. My grandchild was born to Norah Jones' music — that probably says a lot about me. I'm old, man. I'm at the point where, when I walk up a flight of stairs, by the time I get to the top, I forget why I went there and walk back down again."
You might think rapper/hardcore vet Vanilla Ice wouldn't know good music if it bit his ass. He's been the butt of a million jokes from his early days behind "Ice Ice Baby," but the Palm Beach County-based MC actually has eclectic tastes, especially for a one-hit wonder. Robert "Ice" Van Winkle is keeping his career afloat these days by recording with rapcore legends Insane Clown Posse and making fresh tracks in his spare time. "I've got a subculture following in the hard-core hip-hop scene," he explains. "I've got the 16- to 25-year-old market. They totally missed the 'Ice Ice Baby' stuff — and that's a good thing."
The White Stripes, Icky Thump
"They're just an amazing band. Jack White is one of the most amazing musicians in the world, ever. Just to hear him put it down, he's one of the most original artists out there right now, and this album is incredible."
Slim Thug, Serve and Collect
"He's really doing it for Houston right now. I like his whole style."
Chamillionaire, Ultimate Victory
"I really like that slow flow. Ever since [DJ Screw] started slowing everything down and screwing up the beats, I've really been into this music. Chamillionaire is just a dope rapper. I'm feeling this one."
"They keep reinventing themselves. They've got a great live show, and just when you think their whole style is dead and gone, they find a way to stay on top of the game."
Justin Timberlake, FutureSex/LoveSounds
"Man, I never liked him when he was a Disney act, but he's laying it down right now. I've forgotten about all that 'NSync shit. You gotta give credit where it's due... This album is solid."