where “worst” = Top 5 albums I just couldn’t get into this year, no matter how hard (or little) I tried.

5. The National, Boxer

It’s his voice. It’s also the inaccurate Springsteen references (can we please stop trying so hard to find people to carry the Springsteen torch? we really don’t need to find “the next Bruce Springsteen” just yet – why is everyone in such a rush?). Everyone talks about how this is one of those albums that grows on you, and maybe it does. The first five listens to “Mistake for Strangers” were dull, but by the seventh time or so, I thought, “hey, this is pretty good.” The rest of the album just hasn’t grown on me, though. It’s still just boring.

4. Arcade Fire, Neon Bible

Speaking of people who are anxious to label “the next Bruce Springsteen,” the Arcade Fire is not it, either! I was a late adopter to Funeral – I refused to listen to it until the hype had died down, and when I finally did, I was glad that I had waited. It really is a good album – though it was definitely blown out of proportion a bit – but with such lofty things being said about it, there was really no way for most people to go into it with realistic expectations. I did the same thing with Neon Bible, and it’s just not as good as Funeral, nor is it as good as so many people are still insisting. The whole thing feels incredibly over-wrought, over-dramatic, over-everything. It’s too much.

3. Wilco, Sky Blue Sky

Snooze-fest 2007! Honestly, it’s not the album so much as it is the band. After countless attempts to hear what it is that everyone else does, I’ve given up on liking anything by Wilco other than “Jesus, Etc.” and a couple songs from A Ghost is Born.

2. Dan Deacon, Spiderman of the Rings

Quick, somebody get this guy a prescription for Ritalin!

1. Animal Collective, Strawberry Jam

It’s absolutely mind-blowing that so many people are calling Strawberry Jam Animal Collective’s most accessible album. Sung Tongs or the Prospect Hummer EP, with their soft, lush tones, are infinitely better introductions to the unfamiliar with Animal Collective ear. Strawberry Jam, on the other hand, is endlessly jarring, headache inducing, and likely to make a new listener reach for the nearest knife in order to carve out their ear drums. This is your brain on music. You see the cover art above? That is your brain on Strawberry Jam. And I don’t mean that in a positive way.