Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Conspicuous Absences

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Hey, A.V. Club! Why didn't [insert big and/or critically acclaimed release here] make the Top 25? Some of those albums flirted with the bottom of the list, and some received no votes at all. In anticipation of angry letters, here's a compendium of conspicuous absences—and the reasons they didn't make it.

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Cat Power, The Greatest (Matador)

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Argument for inclusion: Chan Marshall backed by Al Green's band made a moving, beautiful, surprisingly soulful set.

And against: The base of support wasn't broad; it didn't seem to win new fans, and might have confused old diehards.

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Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere (Downtown)

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Argument for inclusion: The year's catchiest, most ubiquitous single, "Crazy."

And against: Everything else. There's plenty of fun to be had, but the remainder dims near the supernova of "Crazy."

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Thom Yorke, The Eraser (XL)

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Argument for inclusion: It sounds like a solid Radiohead record! Isn't top-10 status automatic?

And against: Without his cohorts' big guns—and the precious name—it ain't Radiohead.

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Joanna Newsom, Ys (Drag City)

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Argument for inclusion: Newsom's voice grates, but her talent is clear, and she's got great things ahead.

And against: In spite of gaudy orchestration heaped on by Van Dyke Parks and Jim O'Rourke—not to mention the absurd cover painting of Newsom gussied up like some medieval lady-in-waiting—the empress simply has no clothes this time around.

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Lady Sovereign, Public Warning! (Def Jam)

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Argument for inclusion: Sov is a charismatic rapper with a unique perspective. Sure, the album has misfires, but try to find a contemporary hip-hop album that doesn't.

And against: The best tracks have trickled out as singles over the past couple of years—and when glued together with lackluster cuts and a throwaway Missy Elliott verse, the result isn't enough to keep things flowing.

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Sonic Youth, Rather Ripped (Geffen)

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Argument for inclusion: Sonic Youth maintains all of its many strengths without getting stale.

And against: There isn't much more, especially for anyone who loved the urgency and catchiness of 2004's Sonic Nurse.

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Clipse, Hell Hath No Fury (Jive)

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Argument for inclusion: The long delays were worth it. The Virginia rap duo made a lean, swaggering record that's on par with classics like Ready To Die or Reasonable Doubt.

And against: It's great to hear Clipse back in action after an extended, industry-bullshit-mandated hiatus, but Pharrell's production frequently crosses the thin line separating minimalist from boring. And Hell lacks the emotional depth and complexity that distinguished Clipse's debut.  

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The Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers (V2)

Argument for inclusion: It's difficult to tell which is more impressive: a supergroup where the members are actually friends, or hearing Jack White backed up by an actual drummer.

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And against: Broken Boy Soldiers is the best Raconteurs record, but only the fourth best White Stripes record.

Bob Dylan, Modern Times (Columbia)

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Argument for inclusion: It's Bob freaking Dylan, and he's still making original music.

And against: That isn't enough. For now, Time Out Of Mind is still the best Dylan album since Blood On The Tracks.

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Bonnie "Prince" Billy, The Letting Go (Drag City)

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Argument for inclusion: On his best album (in a stellar recording career), Will Oldham wanders into the mystic and brings back charmed songs about abiding passion.

And against: Um… Maybe everyone was saving their one Oldham vote to honor his performance in Old Joy?

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Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass (Matador)

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Argument for inclusion: After a couple of samey-sounding records, YLT returned with an eclectic set of smartly realized indie-rock full of the heart, tunefulness, and experimental rumble that made the band legendary.

And against: At the end of the day, it's just another very good Yo La Tengo album, and therefore hard to be rapt about.

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Matisyahu, Youth (JDub/EMI)

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Argument for inclusion: Reggae-inflected hip-hop hippie spirituals are rarely this well-crafted—or toe-tapping.

And against: Dopey one-world lyrics, indiscriminate world-beat collisions and a sincere-but-still-gimmicky religious angle aren't exactly the stuff of permanent canonization.

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The Flaming Lips, At War With The Mystics (Warner Bros.)

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Argument for inclusion: No working rock band reaches higher or tries harder in attempting to understand the way the world works and to explain to a generation bereft of real leadership.

And against: This time, The Lips maybe tried too hard; Mystics is cacophonous and clunky where it means to be transcendent.

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The Killers, Sam's Town (Island)

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Argument for inclusion: Note to aspiring musicians: Even if it's true—which it probably isn't—don't tell people you've made one of the best albums of the past two decades. And a note to critics: Just because an artist thinks he sounds like Bruce Springsteen doesn't mean he actually does. Brandon Flowers & Co. made a solid sophomore record that didn't stray too far from Hot Fuss' winning formula, but expectations killed it on arrival.

And against: Yes, the singles were great, but there's still a lot of filler with these Killers.

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Jay-Z, Kingdom Come

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Argument for inclusion: Jay-Z's ubiquitous comeback album scored huge sales its first week, but fell victim to a massive backlash that ignores some real strengths. Jay-Z still boasts the flow of the century, and Kingdom producers Dr. Dre, Kanye West, The Neptunes, and Just Blaze are no slouches when it comes to making beats. 

And against: Kingdom Come's fierce backlash was not only inevitable, but justified. All those bloggers and mad rappers were right in pointing out that rap's self-appointed king is, if not bare-ass naked, then at least considerably underdressed. The beats aren't bad, but the album feels arbitrary, and a drowsy Jay-Z sounds borderline comatose and out of date. Who makes Matrix references in 2006?

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OutKast, Idlewild (La Face)

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Argument for inclusion: Sure, Idlewild is a sprawling, unholy mess, but it's also overflowing with ideas, personality, weirdness, and wonderful little moments. No one will confuse Idlewild with Stankonia, but it's nevertheless good to hear Andre 3000 and Big Boi collaborating again, even if they do seem to inhabit different worlds.

And against: OutKast usually dominates year-end lists, but this year—to paraphrase N.O.R.E's immortal words—they fucked up and made a half-assed album. What kind of an OutKast album doesn't contain a knockout single?

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones (Interscope)

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Argument for inclusion: For their second full-length, Yeah Yeah Yeahs could have taken the easy way out and turned out echoes of the fluke hit "Maps." But the band left the thorns intact, resulting in an album that's challenging in ways its debut never quite achieved.

And against: Too much time spent wrangling outfits, not enough writing solid songs.

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Beck, The Information (Interscope)

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Argument for inclusion: Whereas the disappointing Guero sounded like a weak attempt to reprise every genre-confusing musical approach Beck has ever taken, the much more satisfying The Information plays like a successful attempt at the same goal.

And against: On the other hand, throwing a few new sounds into the mix might not be a bad idea.

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