Making a single list of the major music publications, and seeing the voluminous output of their annual reviews, makes me inclined never to read such lists again (unless of course I make them myself--ed.). Just as the musicians put themselves into cultural silos called Heavy Metal or Indie or whatever the horrible post-Pearl Jam/ post-Green Day schlock is called these days, or even confine themselves to local scenes (certainly prevalent in Athens, Ga., where I've spent much of my life), writers on music rarely engage with those who differ significantly in tastes and background. Only a few music e-zines truly branch out beyond song-composing or electronica artists. Dusted and Tiny Mix Tapes are the principal examples. In print, The Wire's editors often trip over themselves in their efforts at eclecticism; granted, we prefer they try and fail. Its U S doppelganger, Signal to Noise, stays more within the Jazz/ Improvised realm. Otherwise, the dominant trend with these publications and their annual reviews is to lie--not purposely, but indirectly nonetheless. That is, if they offer the "top" or "best" albums of 2012 without acknowledging the obvious broad, genre-based limitations at work, they're being disingenuous at best. At least Metal publications state their area of interest plainly.
Now that personal blogs, even blogs shared by several authors, are no longer faddish, old-fashioned 1990's-style e-zines seem more prevalent than ever (if not prominent). Apparently enough people wanting to write about music, but not willing to create their own site or blog, are willing to work for a pittance writing reviews. Granted, a few publications are largely the work of a few individuals; still one can imagine a different version of music publishing online, closer to the model suggested by Fast 'n' Bulbous. There, a single individual reviews more albums than many publications do. Then he organizes his favorites into an elaborate array of lists. But his approach is uncommon; it requires more time and effort than most can handle. In other words, the relative lack of barriers that defines web publishing certainly has contributed to the current glut of e-zines, but it had more of a direct relationship with blogs and personal sites. Another factor to consider: 2011 was the first year that online music sales surpassed those of C D's, L P's, etc. Yet, again, many of these writers are working for little more than free access to music and gigs. Perhaps as more sales happen online, they'll reap some benefits. That line of thought makes me wonder why more of these sites don't attempt what Insound and E Music are doing: integrating sales with editorial content. Of course, in my cynicism regarding the crap music most of these e-zines are peddling, I'm ignoring the youthful enthusiasm many of these writers undoubtedly feel, presumably having found a coterie of like-minded fans.