Every year, a group of respected music critics gather ’round the proverbial campfire and submit their picks for the Best Music of 2009 to New York’s alternative weekly The Village Voice for what has become an institution-the Pazz & Jop critics’ poll.
The poll has honored the year’s best album since 1971 (a prize that went to The Who for “Who’s Next”) and has honored the year’s best single since 1979, when the honor went to Ian Dury’s “Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick”. Over the years, top honors have gone to artists running the gamut from straight ahead rock to pop to R&B to hip-hop. Public Enemy’s “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” being voted 1988’s Best Album was a watershed moment when it came to the critical viewing of hip-hop as an art form. For comparison’s sake, it’s worth noting that, while Grammy voters are widely seen as being out of touch while the Village Voice crew are thought of as hipper than thou, the two have agreed on the Album of the Year choice several times-Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life” in 1976, “Thriller” in 1983, Paul Simon’s “Graceland” in 1986, and most recently, OutKast’s “Speakerboxx/The Love Below” in 2003.
This year’s winner for best album is Animal Collective’s “Merriweather Post Pavillion”. Animal Collective are fairly well known in the indie-rock world, and I must say that the overall flavor of this year’s Voice list is more Pitchfork-y than I’m comfortable with. Perhaps it’s a testament to how out of touch I am when it comes to current popular music, but I only own three albums in the Top Ten (Phoenix, Grizzly Bear and the Flaming Lips), and quite honestly, don’t really have an overwhelming urge to hear anything else on the list. So any argument about whether Animal Collective honestly have the best album of 2009 is one I’m gonna have to respectfully bow out of.
The year’s winner for best single is Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind”, which has been ubiquitous over the course of the past three or four months. Indie rock takes over the next several spots, until an explosion of Lady GaGa occurs in the lower single digits/early teens.
Dear reading public, as someone who either scratches his head or shrugs his shoulders at the majority of this list, I leave it to you to school me. Check out the list and let me know: do you agree with these choices? What albums or singles got left out?