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With the new year comes not-so-new traditions: purging your closet of heinous holiday sweaters, resolving to dissolve your waistline and, if you’re Rolling Stone , looking to Top 40 lists and tired-and-true troubadours to compile your list of the 50 “Best” Albums of the Year.
I’ve suspected this Stone of rolling downhill for a couple years now (when Beck’s “Modern Guilt” engenders the same critical acclaim as the Jonas Brothers’ “A Little Bit Longer,” one questions Jann Wenner’s editorial prowess). But the magazine’s ranking of the top 50 albums of the past year was the nail in my subscription’s coffin; 2008 seems to have forced Rolling Stone‘s critical condition into just that.
Number one is TV on the Radio’s “Dear Science,” a solid, if predictable, choice. Having no real gripes with that one, I turn the page to find Dylan’s dusty bootlegs “Tell Tale Signs” stealing Lil Wayne’s #2 position. Neither new nor revelatory (nor objectively musically “good,” if such a thing exists), the Dylan album seems out of place on this list. What’s more, British divas Coldplay clock in at #7, while refreshing and revered eponymous debut of Ivy-punk/Afro-pop darlings Vampire Weekend rounds out the top ten.
These are but minor and (by now) expected disappointments from Rolling Stone. And for the most part, I can live with the flaws and false praise until I get to numbers 39 (Taylor Swift, “Fearless”), 40 (Jonas Brothers, “A Little Bit Longer”), and 41 (AC/DC, “Black Ice”). Teen queens Swift and the Jonas Brothers not only beat out time-addled Aussies AC/DC, but the trinity takes precedence over David Byrne and Brian Eno’s collaboration “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.” Eclectic, fresh and always creatively relevant, Byrne and Eno’s work is everything that trinity is not – heck, everything Dylan’s bootlegs, at #2, are not (there’s a reason Dylan is just now releasing those cataloged cash cows).
So that I may let my frustration with Rolling Stone’s list rest in peace, I’ve rearranged their top 10 of their 50 “Best” Albums of 2008:
1. Vampire Weekend, “Vampire Weekend”
2. Lil Wayne, “Tha Carter III”
3. Beck, “Modern Guilt”
4. David Byrne & Brian Eno, “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
5. TV on the Radio, “Dear Science”
7. No Age, “Nouns”
8. Fleet Foxes, “Fleet Foxes”
9. The Magnetic Fields, “Distortion”
10. Girl Talk, “Feed the Animals”