I like You & Me, by the Walkmen, but seeing it on so many year-end lists made me a little suspicious. After all, it seems almost designed to appeal to anyone listening to it in November or December. It’s not only a wintry album, warm and soft and a little bit logy, like you’ve just eaten a big turkey dinner—but there are even explicit references to the holiday season in there, including a whole song about New Year’s. Since year-end lists get made in precisely this period, and the album does sound uniquely good on a snowy day, it made me wonder if the idea of best albums lists really being “best winter albums” lists was a widespread problem.
One way to find out would be to see what the lists would be like if they were made around, say, the fourth of July. There’s probably a better way to do this, but my first thought was just to check Metacritic and see what the top albums were around the middle of the year. This seems fair; their top-rated albums for 2008 look pretty much like everyone else’s.
And so, here are their top-rated albums from January 1 to July 4 of 2008. At first it might seem a little off, but once you scratch the reissues and the oddballs (Protest the Hero?), you’ll see a lot of albums that ended up on year-end lists, too: Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Hercules and Love Affair, and Portishead are all in the top ten, which could make up half of a fairly representative year-end list’s top 10, too. But maybe these are just wintry albums in disguise, I thought; maybe they came out in the early part of the year. Nope: one January, but then it’s nothing but April and June. We can quibble over mood, but there’s no apparent bias in the release date.
The answer to the question then, would seem to be no. Music critics may suffer from certain downbeat tendencies, but year-end lists have no particular lean toward November and December.
Best Albums of 2008 [Metacritic]