February 11, 2014

Critics Poll XXIV — My Ballot, Part 2


The front of Paramore gives you everything you need to know going in. The band is now a trio. Hayley Williams is on the right side and she isn’t looking directly at the camera; she’s trying to convince you that she isn’t the focus, but of course she is. It’s pitch black behind them ‘cuz they’re coming out of the darkness, see. They are stained with pigment like they’ve been to a paint party, which advertises their awareness of present trends and an allegiance to new wave. Also, they’re mad as hell and not going to take “it” anymore, where “it” is defined as opprobrium from anybody… MORE

February 8, 2014

Critics Poll XXIV — My Ballot, Part 1

On May 17, 2013, a man’s face appeared on the side of a building in the heart of the city. We recognized this man, but his face was defamiliarized by the context and the message. He began saying things that, for fear of getting called hypocritical, pop stars don’t ordinarily say. For instance, he said that materialism had made us slaves. He referred to the prison-industrial complex and the drug war as tools of underclass control. The images he used were violent: he alluded to lynchings, surveillance, slavery, forced miscegenation, institutional racism. It was designed to shake you up. It was a transmission from within the entertainment industry, but it did not… MORE

February 7, 2014

Critics Poll XXIV: Miscellaneous Categories

The miscellaneous categories section is usually a hoot — a place to blow off steam for eight thousand words or so. But this year, it cannot be, as Matthew Sweet once put it, 100 per cent fun. Negative categories lead to mentions of Miley Cyrus, and mentions of Miley Cyrus leads to writing about Miley Cyrus, and there was nothing I enjoyed less about 2013 than writing about Miley Cyrus.

Now you might think that as a card carrying member of the news biz — a fellow who literally carries a NJPA card around all day — I would be happy as hell for the existence of Miley Cyrus, a… MORE

February 4, 2014

Critics Poll XXIV: Singles

I hoped against hope that at least one could be put to bed. I told my editors that if the cold and snow held through the Super Bowl, it would finally drive a stake through the conspiracy theory about weaponized meteorology and weather control. The national security state wouldn’t jeopardize its big showcase event, right? The NWO wasn’t going to make its fighter jets fly through the hailstorm, right? No slush on Old Glory during the anthem, right?

Then the temperature spiked, and it was a suspiciously pleasant 40-something at kickoff.

The very next day… well, you’ve got a window.

So this one is going to hang around, and hey,… MORE

February 3, 2014

Critics Poll XXIV: Albums

I think back about a quarter-century. If I’d been asked then if there were any other people writing unsolicited Top Ten lists anywhere on earth, I probably would have answered no. I knew about the Pazz & Jop poll — I started this Poll because of my teenage frustrations with Pazz & Jop consensus — but I figured that those characters were out there hitting deadlines. The writer at Newsday couldn’t possibly be motivated by the same pathological desire to adjudicate between the merits of pop albums, could he? That would suggest he was driven by the same furies I was. And if he was, there’s no way he’d ever be able… MORE

January 1, 2014

Critics Poll XXIV

This is the form for Critics Poll XXIV. The deadline for voting is Jan. 25, 2014. I’ll begin to publish the results on Jan. 27, and continue until the first of February.

February 10, 2013

Critics Poll XXIII — My Ballot

so i will tell you why

because of the beats because of the rhymes because melody is radical because auto-tune is tasty because of sun high against the skyscrapers of miami in april and it’s forty two degrees back in newark and the world knows the single but i am hearing the album for the first time, just shaking hands with the year, the marlins have a new ballpark and traffic on the causeway is moving like we’re in one of those japanese future cities where the cars are all automated and the breeze smells like citrus and everything is swell because of may in the pine barrens, speeding through… MORE

February 4, 2013

Critics Poll XXIII — Miscellaneous Categories


Before we dive into this annual madness, a few general observations. While there were no shortage of long comments and smart-aleck questions this year, the essay-length kvetching in the negative categories has dried up like the Aral Sea. A few of you even scolded me for keeping them on the Poll. Thing You Felt Cheapest About Liking drew the most blank stares. You are all shameless and regret nothing. I admire this.

Not everybody votes in every category, which is probably for the best. That would guarantee that I wouldn’t have this up on the site until April. The popularity of the categories has shifted over time, and it’s… MORE

January 31, 2013

Critics Poll XXIII — The Singles

A man woke up one dismal day and the All-Music Guide had doubled its stars. Once there was a single column of red stars. Now, there’s a parallel column of stars in a puke terra-cotta. I am the man, by the way, and the dismal day wasn’t so long ago. Or maybe it was; I could be confusing it with other interchangeably dismal days on a dismal Internet where the sun never comes out anymore. I will take the gross booger color of the new stars as a tacit indication that All Music  knows that it has made a dreadful mistake and undermined its own authority. I will take it… MORE

January 5, 2013

Critics Poll XXIII