On the music scene, critical consensus - like record stores and multiplatinum albums - has gone the way of MTV's "TRL." In other words, that ship has sailed. The good news is that the diminishment of the days of the anointed few has given rise to the era of the celebrated many.
As in other mediums, the only sure thing in 2008 was vampires (and Auto-Tune, but we're not rewarding that). In pop music that meant Vampire Weekend. The New York-bred quartet of musical polyglots managed to make its buzz last all year, no mean feat in our accelerated times. For that, the band gets a shout-out on four lists here, the closest thing to agreement this group of critics could manage. Otherwise there was but a smidge of overlap, with fellow Big Apple hipster Santogold gracing three lists and soul man Al Green and free-thinking indie kids Delta Spirit, Girl Talk, and TV on the Radio each making two.
Otherwise, it was a genre-spanning, demographic-smashing free-for-all. There are well-known names offering fresh takes in the autumn of their careers - R.E.M., Dave Liebman, Pete Seeger - and upstarts impressing in their first at-bats - MGMT and Lykke Li. From an unearthed Neil Young treasure to jazz standards to the complete works of a contemporary classical giant, we've compiled a multitude of grade A soundtracks for anyone seeking momentary escape from dismal financial prognostications. And unlike vampires and the economy, these gems won't bleed you dry.