To supplement this year's Pazz & Jop launch, Sound of the City asked a few critics to expand on the reasonings behind their voting. Here, the British critic Alex Macpherson finds protest music and love songs that were worth holding on to past the end of the calendar year.
Every year, I cavil about the limitations of the Pazz & Jop ballot: the run-up to submitting mine traditionally comprises weeks of attempting to cram a week's worth of music into a ten-piece summation of my year that, like a suitcase on the eve of a holiday, resolutely refuses to expand to fit everything I need. On the other hand, having a mere 10 places at your disposal makes the process wonderfully Darwinian: the weakest contenders are weeded out ruthlessly. No room for those esoteric semi-favourites, it's about the music that formed an integral part of my life in 2011: Miguel's "Sure Thing", sneaking into my heart through sheer loving understatement; Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass", memorized entirely by July thanks to months of hearing it as a go-to house party anthem and trading lines with friends while on public transportation; Todd Terje's "Snooze 4 Love", for all those times on the dancefloor that the first hint of those arpeggios sent the crowd into raptures.
Too much solipsism makes for a pointless list: there were albums that seemed to capture something important about 2011 as a whole. The windswept incantations, elegiac tributes and weary trudges of PJ Harvey's Let England Shake dominated my winterbut her journalistic documentation of the suffering inflicted on ordinary people at the hands of governments also resonated strongly in a year when not just England but the world shook with protest. It seemed ironic that it should cement Harvey's position as part of the British rock establishmentthe woman who had been an outsider heroine of my teenage yearsbut it was also appropriate that she wound up performing to two British prime ministers this year.More »