By now I’ve bought and heard most of the top CDs recommended by sources such as Pitchfork and Spin, and overall I find them to be a well executed but fairly uninspired group of recordings. (Best of all, try the Ben Southwood music aggregator.) What I really enjoyed this year was:
1. Aphex Twin, Syro. Especially impressive after such a long hiatus because his later recordings were not always first-rate.
2. D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah. Self-recommending.
3. Calypso Craze, 1956-57 and Beyond. From the Bear label, this is by an order of magnitude the best Calypso compilation ever. Seven CDs, and you don’t need to buy any more Calypso again. You’ll also learn how much influence Calypso has had on subsequent popular music, including Chuck Berry (“Havana Moon“), Harry Nilsson, and a good deal of rap, among others.
I’ll listen to some Swans in the year to come.