Great album, Beyoncé. Now please find your place in line behind Speedy Ortiz.

Eighty-five hours have passed since Beyoncé dropped a happy bomb on America, but beneath the glee spasms triggered by her new surprise album, the weekend hummed with confusion.


Beyoncé’s new album is great, but it doesn’t quite crack the top 10. (Robin Harper/Invision/AP)

Why would anyone call this an early Christmas present when we had to pay $15.99 to unwrap it? Does Beyoncé’s latest definition of feminism live up to countless other definitions? Has the music biz really been changed by a release stunt that would only work for pop music’s one-percent? And when Jay Z compares himself to Ike Turner on “Drunk In Love,” is it a sad attempt to mimic Kanye West’s outlandishness, or just sad in its own special way?

Music journalists experienced their own nano-crisis: Do I have to go back and change my best of 2013 list?

On that front, I slept soundly this weekend. Beyoncé’s latest certainly feels like one of the year’s stronger showings. But after two more days in my ears, it hasn’t cracked my top 10. In the spirit of the season — a season of excessive list-sharing — here are the six albums still standing in her way (with quotes from my original reviews).

WARNING: Some of these songs contain explicit lyrics.

11. Pistol Annies, “Annie Up”

The country trio “waltz through a scorched landscape of rotten marriages, ugly divorces, punishing depressions and suffocating addictions — sometimes with enough good cheer to turn your abs sore with laughter while you mop up your puddly cheeks.”

12. Cass McCombs, “Big Wheel and Others”

“His most dense and disparate album. Get out of the way or get buried by it.”

13. Lil Durk, “Signed to the Streets”

“The more he puffs out his chest, the more heartsick he sounds, rhyming in somber, Auto-Tuned melodies that transform boasts into lamentations.”

14. Speedy Ortiz, “Major Arcana”

Bandleader Sadie Dupuis’s “lyrics feel like weird jokes and smudged diary entries, liberally spouted over guitar riffs that threaten to derail into discordance, then self-correct in smog-blooms of distortion.”

15. Hiss Golden Messenger, “Haw”

“North Carolina songwriter M.C. Taylor doesn’t describe faith as a safe place so much as the destination across some unbridgeable gulf.”

16. Best Coast, “Fade Away”

Bethany Cosentino rediscovers her “talent for locating young adulthood’s heaviest emotions and hurling them back at the universe.”

17. Beyoncé, “Beyoncé”

“Be surprised that it’s quirky, and candid, and weird, and raunchy, and so many other things that Beyoncé has never been.”

Chris Richards became the Post's pop music critic in 2009. He has covered D.I.Y. house shows, White House concerts, go-go and Gaga.
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Philip Kennicott · December 13, 2013