Every music critic likes to imagine, even if only subconsciously, that their year-end wrap-up will have some neat tale or trend that encapsulates the year in a couple of easy paragraphs. Unfortunately, the nearest one I could find is that two of the year’s best albums both had ‘England’ in the title and wrote about the country from completely differing, yet equally telling angles; and not only is that a drastic over-simplification that ignores 96% of my yearly top 50, but writing about that on an American website is hardly all that user-friendly, is it? (And hell, it’s probably about as relevant as pointing out that another two of the year’s best were also recorded by women with the surname Roberts.) For a while, I though the fact that I couldn’t find an angle might be the angle, that I’d end up writing about how music had splintered so much that it would be impossible for a story-arc like 1967’s psychedelic revolution, 1977’s punk outbreak, 1991’s ‘year of grunge’, or 1995’s Britpop wars to ever happen again.
Then I looked at the music I’d listened to this year, and I suddenly realized what the real story was – this was a fucking great year for music. There was so much good going on this year that I feel like I’ll still be catching up with it in April; there’s at least a dozen acclaimed albums I’m sure I’d like that I simply haven’t got around to yet (hello,