“Time,” “New York,” And The “Observer” Come To A Consensus

mariasci | December 8, 2008 12:00 pm

Today sees the release of year-end lists from Time, New York magazine, and the Observer Music Monthly. Instead of our usual single-list appraisal, these three seem to offer an opportunity to try and locate some sort of consensus, since they represent (respectively) the mainstream, the middlebrow, and the muso. Compare and contrast:

THE CONSENSUS: Everybody loves Weezy! After weighting and combining the three publications’ rankings of any album mentioned more than once, the overall top 7 would run like so: Lil Wayne just edging out TV On The Radio, followed closely by Bon Iver, then Portishead, Vampire Weekend, Santogold, and Kanye. Also mentioned on more than one list, weirdly: Duffy’s Rockferry. But what made the lists different?

THE OUTLIERS: The Observer‘s list had the most entries not seen elsewhere, of course, given that they’re in a different country and actually cover African music (their No. 2 is Amadou and Mariam’s Welcome to Mali), and while this might explain their inclusion of Elbow at No. 3, it does little to excuse the presence of Kings of Leon at No. 5; the British paper’s critics were also the only ones to mention MGMT. New York holds it down for the yuppies by throwing Beck a bone and giving critfaves Hercules & Love Affair and Fleet Foxes a mention, too. Time reps for the boomers with Lucinda Williams, but is the only list to mention Girl Talk. Most surprisingly, though, its No. 3 is Metallica.

THE ANALYSIS: Tha Carter III is this year’s Speakerboxx/The Love Below, maybe; the only album to hit the sweet spot of critical acclaim and mass availability (Amadou and Mariam has the former but not the latter; Kanye has the latter but not the former) to make it relatively big on lists across the demographic spectrum, at least in America. But do people really like that Portishead record, or do they just like Portishead? No sounds dominate, to the degree that the lists look more like fantasy Grammy winners, coming down as best-ofs for disparate genre categories rather than pop or music as a whole.

The top tens (the Observer‘s full 50-album list is here):

Time 1. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III 2. TV On The Radio, Dear Science 3. Metallica, Death Magnetic 4. Girl Talk, Feed The Animals 5. Vampire Weekend 6. Kanye West, 808s And Heartbreak 7. Santogold 8. Portishead, Third 9. Lucinda Williams, Little Honey 10. Duffy, Rockferry

New York 1. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III 2. TV On The Radio, Dear Science 3. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago 4. Portishead, Third 5. Hercules & Love Affair 6. Santogold 7. Fleet Foxes 8. Erykah Badu, New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War 9. Beck, Modern Guilt 10. Vampire Weekend

Observer 1. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago 2. Amadou and Mariam, Welcome To Mali 3. Elbow, The Seldom Seen Kid 4. Glasvegas 5. Kings Of Leon, Only By The Night 6. MGMT, Oracular Spectacular 7. Vampire Weekend 8. Kanye West, 808s And Heartbreak 9. Portishead, Third 10. TV On The Radio, Dear Science

Top 10 Albums [Time]The Top Ten Albums [NY]50 Albums of the Year [Guardian]