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The title of this post tends slightly into hyperbole, but only just slightly. Yes, it’s time for the end-of-year music reviews that happen over every blog, magazine, newspaper and website. Hell, even I’ve been posting Best Of lists since 2008. In most years, I’ve found the task of list-making and internal debate to be a fun one: it’s enjoyable to reflect on the great music that a full 12 months has supplied, and rewarding to add hype to artists that are deserving.

This year is different. I’ve listened to just as much music (if not more) than I have in any previous year, but the music just doesn’t cut it. In particular, this year appears more bleak thanks to 2010. Yes, last year presented more than 20 records that I could have easily included in a top-10 list. And I am quite honestly still listening to the majority of those releases. The National, Arcade Fire, Spoon, LCD Soundsystem… it’s like a superstar lineup of established acts, and each one delivered another exceptional record. Even the artists I encountered for the first time (Sharon Van Etten, Two Door, Janelle Monae, Best Coast) had exceptionally rewarding music.

This year has neither the abundance of guaranteed talent, nor the exciting new discoveries. Of the list of albums I’ve assembled, only the top pick represents a superb achievement from a typically strong band. And while three new-to-me artists currently appear in the top 10, none of these groups would be very likely to appear in my 2010 top 20 list.

Perhaps the most accurate description of 2011 is how it was dealt an unfair hand. Unlike the perfect storm of album releases seen in 2010, we were left generally waiting in 2011. Modest Mouse and the Shins are in a holding pattern. Radiohead released a very underwhelming set of songs. Bon Iver was not nearly as good as you all think it was.

Even the list of songs I’m working on isn’t as essential or exciting as those seen in 2009 or 2010. Nothing has been able to compare with “Don’t Do It” or “While You Wait for the Others” (although one track certainly put up a good fight). It’s really a shame that the short-form music wasn’t much better, especially with so many albums failing to captivate.

But in my self-imposed music blogger duty, we’re still going to run down the Best of 2011. Don’t interpret the overall lower quality as a claim that everything was bad. In fact, there are things worth listening to and you’ll see them here. Just know that much of the content on these lists isn’t as worthy as what you saw on my old blog in 2009 and 2010.

The Schedule: Best Songs of 2011 #25-11 Monday 1/9, #10-1 Tuesday 1/10. Best Albums of 2011 #15-6 Thursday 1/12, #5-1 Friday 1/13.

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