The Top 20 (and Far Beyond)

Big year for metal, hip-hop, and Paul Simon/pigfucker reconciliation

Ben Detrick
New York, NY

It took economists until Thanksgiving to declare a recession. Jeezy called it in September. They should've asked him about collateralized debt obligations.

Jesse Fox Mayshark
Knoxville, TN

If Young Jeezy's next album isn't called The Recovery, I'm moving to Canada.

Sam Ubl
Brooklyn, NY

I can vividly imagine Kanye West moping around the house for two days, eating a mammoth plate of crackers and peanut butter, spilling crumbs in and around his bed, listening to This Mortal Coil's "Song to the Siren" over and over and over. Eventually, he stops sniffling, lets out his inner goth, and writes "Pinocchio Story" in five minutes while sitting in front of the TV watching Edward Scissorhands.

Barry Bruner
Toronto, ON

Young blog/hipster/Internet/lazy sub-genre rappers of '08:

Wale > Kid Cudi > B.o.B > Charles Hamilton > Asher Roth > Mickey Factz

Number of those artists who released a proper album: 0

Number of albums Z-Ro released: 2

Number of albums Plies released: 2

Sean Fennessey
Brooklyn, NY

Ocrilim's Annwn should probably get closer to 90 points, if that was allowed. A big, dumb, obnoxious, out-there, tries-too-hard, and still successful masterpiece like Berlin Alexanderplatz or Infinite Jest or something. Every year, certain very-good artists will make certain very-good critics' lists, but this is a genuine, incomparable standout. The opposite of the mannered metal of the "doom" sub-genre, Annwn takes the awesome, orgasmic part of metal—the face-melting solo—and stretches it out forever.

Brandon Soderberg
Forest Hill, MD

Nachtmystium, Assassins: Black Meddle Vol. 1: Melody and groove were once as taboo in black metal as smiling, group hugs, and subscriptions to Cat Fancy, but this Chicago battering ram harnesses both into moments of dirt-beneath-the-fingernails grandeur, harsh atmosphere and Pink Floyd–indebted sonic landscaping that add new hues to the genre's once monochromatic palate. The Euros have had black metal in a headlock since its inception, but these dudes begin to pry Scandinavia's clammy hands from around its throat.

Jason Bracelin
Las Vegas, NV

Because of Krallice, I was not late to work once this year.

Nathaniel Hawks
Park Slope, NY

Proof that parental listening habits do have a significant effect on youngsters: Compare 2008 releases from Disney darlings Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. Burnin' Up suggests the Jonases brought these boys up on a diet of reasonably tasteful, occasionally thoughtful new-wave and pop. Meanwhile, Miley's Breakout is a handy compendium of four decades of musical fashion mistakes, topped off by the eight billionth cover of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," which has now reached the exalted status of a classic so classic that no one ever need hear any version of it again. Insert your own gratuitous Billy Ray/mullet-to-soul-patch joke here.

Dan LeRoy
Pittsburgh, PA

Twenty-two years ago in P&J '86, it was Paul Simon vs. the pigfuckers. In October, this year's prime pigfucker (Damian Abraham of Fucked Up) and this year's Paul Simon (Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend) shared the "stage" in the Rogan Store, one block away from the remains of CBGB. And Koenig was an invitee of Fucked Up. Say what you will about the state of the music industry today, but the equality between majors and indies today is something Bob Mould could never have dreamed of in 1986.

Ethan Stanislawski
New York, NY

"All Summer Long" is proof that: 1) Kid Rock is dumb enough to think "mashups" are still cool; 2) Kid Rock is a genius; 3) Popular music is officially tapped as far as new ideas are concerned; 4) Being drunk in the summer on a lake in Northern Michigan is awesome, and no one—not smart-ass rock critics, smarmy radio programmers, or douchebag label guys—can tell you otherwise; or 5) All of the above.

James Montgomery
Brooklyn, NY

I really hope 2009 brings more Goddamn rock 'n' roll that makes me want to get butt-naked and headbang with a box of donuts in one hand and a hot chick in the other. Because 2008 was hella weak on the Goddamn-naked-headbanging-donut-hot-chick rock front. And that's just depressing.

Jeanne Fury
Brooklyn, NY

Jamey Johnson's "That Lonesome Song" wasn't just the darkest mainstream country record of the year; it was also the smartest. I love the way "Stars in Alabama" nods to the '30s standard "Stars Fell on Alabama" when Johnson sings about his mom (who could probably hum you the latter), and I respect his turn at music criticism on "Between Jennings and Jones," an exercise in self-mythologizing that, for once, is fairly true. And I was especially moved by the first verse of "In Color," when his grandpa tells him about a b+w photo from the Great Depression and how Johnson "shoulda seen it in color." Looks like he just might, along with the rest of us.

Will Hermes
New Paltz, NY

At the height of the non–David Byrne Talking Heads' bitchiness toward Brian Eno's extended role in the group, Tina Weymouth complained that Byrne and Eno were like little schoolboys so sickeningly BFFs that they'd probably start wearing the same shoes. That was around the time of Remain in Light, their last truly great album—the group stopped working with Eno, much to their detriment. Byrne and Eno's Everything That Happens Will Happen Today is the sound of two grown men coming back together and realizing that not only are they still wearing the same shoes, but those shoes look a lot better on them than they do on U2 or Coldplay.

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