By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Coldplay's X&Y is the ultimate iPod album, that rare record meant to be enjoyed privately, a soundtrack to young professionals' situational angst about job downsizings, romantic commitment hesitations, and Joshua Tree-reminiscent spiritual neediness.
Dear Misters Christgau and Eddy: So I was navel-gazing the genre mix of my iTunes library when I received your email asking about 2005's "Best Albums." While waiting for Prince's "Te Amo Corazon" to finish downloading, I kept wonderingwhat is this "album" thing you keep referring to? Waitnever mind. My download finished. Hmmfile that under "Latin Pop" or "Lite R&B"?
Yonkers, New York
You can't help but love Aphex Twin for his little joke on all the mp3 stealers. The records in his covert collection of vinyl-only singles are named after computer viruses. My favorite: type the name of tracks "Pw.steal.LdPinch.d" or "Backdoor.berbew.Q" in Google and try to rip it.
Brooklyn, New York
As someone who reviews loudspeakers for a living I have an obligation to use the highest-quality sources possible. I use my universal disc player and two turntables more than my iPod.
The only way to achieve true sonic satisfaction is to dump all that nasty SS (Solid State) gear infecting your ears and replace it with some quality NOS (New Old Stock) tube-based equipment. Good 6SN7 based rigs can be had for a mere grand or two, tubes from Ken Rad, Telefunken, Sylvania, RCA, and TungSol transporting you to an era when music and its reproduction meant quality and craftsmanship, not download times, remembering your Soulseek login, and ringtones. If you really wanna spill for the ultimate, consider Solovox speakers (Germany), Shindo electronics (Japan), and a Kuzma turntable (Czech). Then melt that freaking iPod and praise the Lord!
Ringtones are music and not just sound: if done right, you want to hear them again. I've seen it on the subway, too: kids clicking through ringtones because it makes them happy.
Brooklyn, New York
I did not vote for Arular, but I liked it enough. I downloaded the ringtone version of "Fire Fire" but http://www.miauk.com/ringtones.html sounds like a jackin version of Super Mario Cart. Why can't the ring tone be the sound of her hair in the wind?
Podcasts: the free and easy way to share your favorite songs with the public all grouped together in one large, clumsy mp3 file! Thanks technology!
The cure for the common r&b jones is satellite radio, where Raheem DeVaughn, Anthony Hamilton, and Leela James are in regular rotation, singing, you know, quality songs, and leaving Ashanti to rule over the seventh level of hell, otherwise known as terrestrial radio.
Yonkers, New York
Since I'm living mostly in the sticks these days, satellite radio rocks my ride, although as a costumer it annoys me that Sirius programs songs in rotation as numbingly heavy as broadcast radioespecially on its new country and hip-hop channels. And since it's not broadcast, Eliot Spitzer's chivalrous anti-payola crusade can't help me.
Saugerties, New York
In a weird way, big radio companies like Clear Channel may be more primed for a comeback than the rest of the music business. After all, terrestrial radio has always been free. With fewer ads, digital sound, and better programming, radio could be a category killer. All it needs to do is make the Top 40 the Top 40,000.
A serious take on what "Stroke of Genius" jokingly conjectured, "Since U Been Gone" leaves mash-ups feeling out-outrageoused by the material they've come to cannibalize.
Jersey City, New Jersey
I treasure the physical properties of collecting music, the tangible benefits of running my fingers and eyes across stacks of CDs (and record albums, and 45s) and stumbling upon an old and forgotten friend.
If somebody sends me a CD or CD-R, it works on my schedule; if somebody sends me an MP3, I work on its schedule. As some Internetter wrote this year, people aren't made to feel like dinosaurs for, say, not using an electric toothbrush. And sorry, but there's no difference. (On the other hand, as of last year, I do use an electric toothbrush. At home, anyway. At work, I use a manual.)
Sunnyside, New York
I spent way more time this year downloading out-of-print records on the Internet than browsing the bins at my local record emporium. Almost all of my (non-vinyl) listening was done via my computer or my iPod, while my once-state-of-the-art three-disc CD player with dubbing capability basically just gathered dust.
Los Angeles, California
For someone like me, who grew up with the vinyl album as the king of music dissemination, it gets harder every year to come up with a list like this. The internet and the iPod have reduced the status of the album-as-album to virtually nil. It seems like albums have become less the latest statement by a particular artist and more just fodder for the never-quite-perfect 24/7 radio station I'm continually tinkering with.