I am not a music critic and I don't see myself as resembling anything like a music critic*. I don't have a very good memory for some names and songs, and I have a rudimentary understanding of music theory from playing the flute during middle school. I can't rattle off the influences and analogs of a band without a lot of research.
*I have some problems with how "music critics" operate nowadays.
I do like a good song even though sometimes I would be hardpressed to say what I like about a song and why. That said, there have been many good songs and albums up to this time of the year. Here are a few:
Dethklok's The Deth Album - a death metal album that is good technically and doesn't take itself too seriously.
The New Pornographers's Challengers - not as immediately rewarding as their previous albums (haven't heard Electric Version, though) but satisfying nonetheless.
Madlib's Beat Konducta vol. 3-4: India & Oh No's Exodus into Unheard Rhythms/Dr. No's Oxperiment - all of which are hip-hop instrumentals that can stand up as cohesive "albums."
Jens Lekman's Night Falls Over Kortedala - almost perfect.
St. Vincent's Marry Me - like Lekman's album.
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists' Living with the Living - despite some weak songs, there are many outstanding tracks (Sons of Cain, A Bottle of Buckie, Bomb.Repeat.Bomb, La Costa Brava, The Unwanted Things, C.I.A.)
Roisin Murphy's Overpowered - more of a Euro dance pop sheen applied this time around but the eccentricities are intact.
The Clientele's God Save the Clientele - a little better than Strange Geometry but with a much brighter outlook.
Electrelane's No Shouts No Calls - of course, like Sleater-Kinney, they go on indefinite hiatus after releasing their best album of their career thus far.
Feist's The Reminder - if having the songs pop up in Old Navy stores and on iPod commericals aren't enough of an indication, this is a really good album.
LCD Soundsystem's Sound of Silver - ditto.
Anoushka Shankar & Karsh Kale's Breathing Under Water - even with a guest appearance from Sting, the album is surprisingly addictive.
Blonde Redhead's 23 - some unfortunate timing with the Jim Carrey/Joel Schumacher film but much, much better than the film.
Waffles' "Need You" - the band and the singer push themselves on this song, and even though they overreach, the results are still wonderful.
Les Savy Fav's "The Equestrian" - because I like mixing horse metaphors and sex?
There will be more but I can't fit it all now...