I should be more forthright. This is the music that was Good! A record of the records! Don’t argue with me – there’s Baileys on my chin! A customary critic treats December like an exam: what did we think of the year? What did it signify? As if we have somehow managed to listen to everything everywhere when it mattered and drew a line from J to D. Which is hard. Even harder when you’re trying to work out what ‘colazione’ meant to Harry Styles or ‘moderation’ means to Taylor Swift’s publicist. Are we supposed to wolf down albums between courses of polemics? You can do one or the other well. Or maybe that’s me. The nagging truth is that every year, when people talk about the artists that made sense of a time defined by a rock circling a star, I’m increasingly unable to summarise it. To convince you. Alone, unqualified.
So, let’s leave it to the big boys. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably had your fill of The Best Of The Best Of The Best Ofs – the standout musical projects from your geography, culture and personal horizons, pawed at and fawned over by legions of critics who are more comfortable with consensus. These lists are there for you. Some of them have quirky jazz and black metal picks, scaring the neighbours with the likes of Cattle Decapitation, which will inevitably land near #40 of a top 100. Read them again. A few have enlivened my final weeks of 2023, helping me finally appreciate 100 Gecs and Olivia Rodrigo and the loopy generosity of DJ Sabrina The Teenage DJ. There’s still time to gaze past the year’s disappointments (boygenius, at least one Caroline) to the real, decent state of many buzzed-about albums that have come out since you last pulled turkey from your teeth.