This is not quite a year-end "best of" list, but if you are looking for gifts, here are my off-the-cuff picks in some select areas.
1. TV show: Season one of Veronica Mars. Matt Yglesias and Dan Drezner are fans as well.
2. Classical music: Maurizio Pollini, Chopin’s Nocturnes.
This recording has none of the flaws that Pollini would have shown in
these pieces 20 years ago; they are lyrical and beautiful. For something
new try Golijov’s Ayre song cycle, and don’t neglect the accompanying Berio pieces. Richard Egarr’s Goldberg Variations is the only harpischord recording which stands up to Glenn Gould. Finally, Paul McCartney’s Ecce Cor Meum was better than most other new releases, and yes I hated Liverpool Oratorio but he finally figured out how to do it.
4. Fiction: A slow year for this category, maybe I will pick Suite Francaise. I’ll bet against the new Thomas Pynchon being any good but if I am wrong I will let you know.
5. DVDs: You might try Solo con Tu Pareja, the new Criterion release of the 1991 Mexican film by the guy who did Y Tu Mama Tambien. After that, stick with TV, at least for the time being.
6. Popular music: You could try the new Dylan, or the new Beck, but so far I think the new Justin Timberlake is — against my will I might add — more interesting than either. My real pick here is the Argentine sensation Juana Molina. Buy Son.
Acoustic guitar, clear voice, light percussive rhythms, ringing bells,
sheer magic. This is that "isn’t it amazing I never heard of her
before" CD you were looking for…