The traditional record industry may (or may not) be collapsing, but critical consensus will never die. Just look at a few "Best of 2008" lists and you begin to wonder if all critics spent the past year listening to the same 50 albums.
Which is why we're opting for the year's best overlooked songs, a list that should, by its very nature, fall outside the parameters of traditional pack journalism.
Of course, your mileage may vary when it comes to defining "best," or, for that matter, "overlooked." And yes, this list may include a relatively well-known track or two that we couldn't bring ourselves to leave out, as well as a couple 2007 releases that didn't become widely available until this year.
Still, the following litany of personal faves should be sufficiently esoteric to provide you with alternatives to the usual suspects and, just maybe, a few new favorites of your own. (And hey, don't forget to send us your own lists!)
"Soldier," Erykah Badu
Amy Winehouse, Adele and plenty of other R&B-loving limeys have climbed onto the retro-soul bandwagon, but Badu (pictured above) got there first. And, as this intense and addictive track suggests, she's still doing it best.
Forget "Mercy" this is the only Duffy song that matters. Producer Bernard Butler gives the Welsh singer-songwriter the feel of vintage Lee Hazelwood without sacrificing an ounce of vitality.
"Time," the Rumble Strips
Any group that can get you to sing along with a verse like, "Good evening, Mister Reaper / What's that you say? / All my hopes and dreams are dead? / That I should go back to my bed," obviously deserves your attention. Big hooks, big horns, big heart.
"I Don't Always Know What You're Saying," Ladyhawk
If you remember groups like Pearl Jam and the Call, or just wish they'd written better songs, this undeservedly obscure Canadian group may well be your next big thing.
"I Woke Up Today," Port O'Brien
When people started comparing my dog's howling to "Intervention," I realized Arcade Fire comparisons no longer amount to much. This alt-sing-along, with its big wordless chorus, gets that kind of thing all the time. Which is weird, because it's at least a thousand times more fun.
"Ready for the Floor," Little Boots (Unreleased find it at youtube.com/watch?v=N6tLRCDqJ2c)
Yikes, I just found out that Little Boots is the English translation of Caligula. Happily, the British singer (real name: Victoria Hesketh) prefers covering Hot Chip songs to raping and pillaging. This version, with just her singing backed by a handheld Tenori-on sequencer, quietly surpasses the original. Kind of like Tori Amos covering Nirvana. Except, you know, good.