On the New Yorker website, I'm offering a year-end list of ten exceptional recordings. No, I don't like lists either, but it's one more way to salute good work. I'd like to append various honorable mentions, to wit: Jonathan Harvey's Bird Concerto with Pianosong (NMC); Ensemble Plus Ultra's Victoria edition (DG); Alex Mincek's Pendulum V and Third Quartet (Carrier); Saariaho's Clarinet Concerto (Ondine); recitals by Joseph Calleja and Aleksandra Kurzak (both Decca); yMusic's Beautiful Mechanical (New Amsterdam); Weinberg's The Passenger (Neos); Feldman's Orchestra and other pieces (Mode); Beethoven's "Archduke" live from Marlboro (Marlboro Recording Society); Meredith Monk's Songs of Ascension (ECM); Donnacha Dennehy's Grá agus Bás (Nonesuch); and Handel's Ariodante (Virgin Classics). Yet more recordings are listed on my CD Picks page. I didn't get to hear much in the non-classical arena this year, but my ears warmed to Björk's Biophilia, Radiohead's The King of Limbs, St. Vincent's Strange Mercy, Gabriel Kahane's Where Are the Arms, WOLD's Freermasonry (hat tip Brandon), Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer's Re: (hat tip SFJ), Nettle's El Resplandor, Reuben Butchart's Nameless and Awake, and the Roots' Undun. (For a magisterial display of pluralistic taste, see Seth Colter Walls's list.)
I'd also like to mention some notable music books from the past year, many of which I planned to write about on the blog and lamentably failed to cover. These are: Will Hermes's Love Goes to Buildings on Fire, Wendy Lesser's Music for Silenced Voices, Rob Young's Electric Eden, the late Ellen Willis's Out of the Vinyl Deeps, Michael Broyles's Beethoven in America, Sabine Feisst's Schoenberg's New World, Dermot Gault's The New Bruckner, Bálint András Varga's Three Questions for Sixty-Five Composers, Elizabeth Eva Leach's Guillaume de Machaut, Patricia Hall's Berg's Wozzeck, Vincent Giroud's French Opera, and, in the fictional-composer division, Wesley Stace's widely and deservedly adored Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer. Glenn Watkins's The Gesualdo Hex came out in 2010, not 2011, but I'll tout it here anyway, for reasons that will become apparent when The New Yorker hits the newsstands next week. (Yes, Gesualdo approaches.)
The Rest Is Noise Persons of the Year are Jane Moss and Tom Morris, for their hearteningly inventive programming at Lincoln Center and Spring for Music/Ojai.
While I'm rambling on in this listy fashion, I'll name a few favorite novels (Amy Waldman's The Submission, Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child), non-fiction books (Joan Didion's Blue Nights, Roger Ebert's Life Itself), TV shows (Breaking Bad, Homeland, Bored to Death), and films (The Tree of Life, The Miners' Hymns). The best film of 2012 will be Jonathan Lisecki's Gayby.