Pazz & Jop Comments: Top 10-Plus

The year's big albums, from tUnE-yArDs on down

Why doesn't everyone's sound laboratories sound as much fun as Merrill Garbus's?

Serene Dominic
Phoenix, Arizona

I listened to PJ Harvey's Let England Shake during every critical moment of the year. Ten years since 9/11. The death of Osama. OWS. #OWS. The Resurrection of Godfather's Pizza into popular conversation. And in a strange way, this album continued to be relevant and adopt itself to whatever political moment was going on at the time, however important or nonsensical it was. Maybe it was just me projecting, but the ability to do this marks the nature of a great work of art.

Details

Pazz and Jop 2011
Essays
Joyful Noises
Finding the bright side of 2011
By Maura Johnston

Suffering from Realness
The spotlight shines on Adele's heartbreak
By Katherine St. Asaph

Written on the Body
tUnE-yArds, PJ Harvey, and St. Vincent get physical
By Eric Harvey

Guarding the Throne
Jay-Z and Kanye West try to bring back the group listen
By Mike Barthel

Games People Play
Lana Del Rey lights up the Internet
By Tom Ewing

Riding the Bummer
Drake and the Weeknd wallow in their miseries
By Nick Murray

The Incredible Shrinking Album
Pazz & Jop's album results get Soundscanned
By Chris Molanphy

Confuse the Market
Post-crossover, indie retreats
By Scott Plagenhoef

California Demise
Tyler, the Creator and EMA feel the bad vibes
By Jessica Hopper

Most Valuable Supporting Player
André 3000 has a great year without a single starring role
By Andy Hutchins

Just Dance
The year ravers and pop fans learned to (file) share
By Michaelangelo Matos

Comments
Top 10-Plus
The year's big albums, from tUnE-yArDs on down

Singles Going Steady
Rolling down from "The Deep"

Raves and Rants
Making cases for the great and the grating

The Personals
Feelings, whoa-whoa-whoa

Mike Ayers
New York

The only reason people have embraced Let England Shake is because it's brilliant—it's some sort of masterpiece that makes expectations irrelevant. But if she doesn't start giving us more electric guitar on her next one, don't be shocked if the reviews are snarkier.

Mark Deming
Ypsilanti, Michigan

I honestly didn't know that PJ Harvey was gonna be one of the most exciting artists of, like, the last 30 years! How could I know? Who knew? PJ Harvey, Sade, and Kate Bush. Three of the most creative pop forces of the 21st century. I didn't see that coming, although I suppose I should have.

Scott Seward
Greenfield, Massachusetts

I deleted Watch the Throne from my iPhone three times. It still refuses to disappear. #OtisIlluminati

Phillip Mlynar
Brooklyn, New York

Mo' money, mo' predictable records. Is there an album more out of step with the times than Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne? Beats aside, I'm pretty sure I've heard as much "luxury rap" bullshit as I need from Mitt Romney and Donald Trump.

Daniel Durchholz
Wildwood, Missouri

"Riot Grrrl Supergroup" sounds stupid. Luckily Wild Flag's album doesn't.

Serene Dominic
Phoenix, Arizona

Tom Waits's albums never fail to be interesting, but sometimes they can get a bit light on the pure fun—put it this way, it's been a while since he put out an album with a song the Ramones could cover. Bad as Me has a few: the herky nihilism of "Get Lost" or the foulmouthed chant of "Hell Broke Luce." And there are a few to play when your bourbon's for crying into.

Lissa Townsend Rogers
Las Vegas, Nevada

21 is a map of Adele's reactions to her recent breakup, but those who claim that the album is over-sung and overdramatic miss its more central concept: her age. She has called her now-finished relationship "the biggest deal in my entire life to date," which is the sort of ridiculous but romantic pronouncement that the young are prone to making.  

Joey Daniewicz
Morris, Minnesota

Video might not have killed the radio star, but overamped hype can kill almost anything. When Adele sings "hard," many of my critical peers allow themselves to be more impressed than they get when, say, Patti LaBelle or the gospel duo Mary Mary sing "hard."

Carol Cooper
New York

Thanks to two consecutive Kanye and Drake albums, not to mention the critical success of The Weeknd and Frank Ocean, monstrous self-regard and after-hours sobbing are the new mean. What's fascinating is how both Drake and Kanye depend on aural chambers whose intricacy is inversely proportional to the boys' rapping/singing skills. Where their influences didn't sweat the technique, Drake has none to speak of, and that's the way he likes it; it makes him, in his own mind, the realest guy in the game.

Alfred Soto
Miami, Florida

Take Care was my favorite slab of music of 2011 in part because I admire Drake's willingness to appear ridiculous, but I would totally buy him a tuna sandwich if he would shut the fuck up about his sex life for five seconds.

Michael Robbins
Hattiesburg, Mississippi

If Justin Vernon is going to insist on talking nonsense, he should take a lesson from Sigur Rós and invent a new language for his lyrics lest someone make the mistake of dissecting them.

Joey Daniewicz
Morris, Minnesota

Apparently it's now cool to like fucking Bon Iver but not TV on the Radio.

A.S. Van Dorston
Chicago, Illinois

I don't have beef with Justin Vernon, artistically. He's doing exactly what he should be doing: making bold choices and putting his shoulder into them. The glacially-paced, ambient "rock" on Vernon's second Bon Iver album takes the biggest risk I can imagine from an aspiring mainstream musician: It stakes itself on mind-numbing dullness.

Marty Brown
Brooklyn, New York

If Das Racist are in a constant state of processing the world and spitting it back at us reconfigured, Shabazz Palaces are only concerned with the world inside their heads. I take "Recollections of the wraith" as words to live by—"clear some space out so we can space out." That deep bass drum sounds like it is programmed to reconfigure a heartbeat and the flanged, wobbling guitar easily disengages me from whatever is in front of my face. Unplug your shit. I like how it feels.

Marc Gilman
New York

 
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