The CD is dead in the water. At this point, back-in-fashion vinyl looks to have a brighter future. Because when we're all listening to streaming music on remote devices in the coming cloud culture, there'll be no need for shiny silver discs, and lovingly designed LPs will satisfy those who yearn for a physical product.
But for the purposes of making a mix, a compact disc's 80 minutes still seems about right to me. So the 21 songs below clock in at 78 minutes and change, and will fit on one CD.
That said, I could have made five mixes the length of this one. And I still might. Look for a link on my "In the Mix" blog, at www.philly.com/inthemix, to a streaming version of this list on Spotify.
1. "Lonely Boy," the Black Keys. Chugging, chunky burner from the getting-better-all-the-time blues-rock duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney. First single off the swaggering new El Camino.
2. "Cruel," St. Vincent. Annie Clark, the given name of the dazzlingly talented Texan singer-guitarist known as St. Vincent, sometimes tends to stuff her songs with too many ideas. Here the swoony verses and guitar-shredding interludes work in service of a hooky pop song.
3. "Bright Lights," Gary Clark Jr. Texas bluesman goes to the big city, winds up lonesome, and lets it rip a la Stevie Ray Vaughan.
4. "Stone Rollin'," Raphael Saadiq. Light-on-his-feet retro-soul man adds bottom end to his sound as he praises the female form on the title tune from his latest album.
5. "The Walk," Mayer Hawthorne. Detroit postmodern Motown disciple sounds so sweet as he implores his wayward paramour to walk her long legs out of his life.
6. "How to Unring a Bell," Nikki Jean. Philly soul redux from smooth-operating local heroine who cowrote her Pennies in a Jar album with an army of classic songwriters, this one with Thom Bell.
7. "Rolling in the Deep," Adele. Big-voiced coming-of-age songwriter scolds foolish ex-boyfriend who "could've had it all" had he not inspired an entire album's worth of multimillion-selling breakup songs.
8. "Hold On," Alabama Shakes. Up-and-coming soul-rock band fronted by powerhouse singer Brittany Howard puts its stamp on the Muscle Shoals sound.
9. "Heart on a String," Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit. Another Alabaman, a former Drive-By Trucker, shows off his own old-school soul moves, from his underrated Here We Rest.
10. "Hell on Heels," Pistol Annies. Miranda Lambert and her fellow country bad girls do a deal with the devil, embark on a successful enterprise of breaking hearts and collecting cash.
11. "Over When It's Over," Eric Church. The rare country tough guy who evokes Waylon and Johnny, and has the smarts to back it up.
12. "Stoplight Roses," Nick Lowe. Gracefully aging, quietly soulful Brit tries to get himself out of trouble with a roadside purchase, knows it will never work.
13. "Songs for Women," Frank Ocean. Suave hip-hop soul dude who serves up hooks for Odd Future and Jay-Z and Kanye pines for the woman who would rather be "bangin' Drake in the car" than listen to him.
14. "What You Need," the Weeknd. Spooky minimalist keyboard and bass drum-cushioned soul from the Montreal singer and Drake cohort Abel Tesfaye, one of the indie breakout stars of the year.
15. "Talking at the Same Time," Tom Waits. Reverb-drenched film-noir burlesque blues from Waits, who sounds more androgynously melancholic than sandpaper-growly, while sadly wishing everybody would please shut up.
16. "Video Games," Lana Del Rey. The former Lizzy Grant expertly built buzz on the Web - over what she did to plump up her lips (she says nothing), and appearing to be manifestly "fake," igniting yet again the age-old "authenticity" debate. Shrewd marketing is what that is, and none of it would matter if the song weren't so intoxicating.
17. "Limit to Your Love," James Blake. Dubstep is bass-heavy dance music that made major inroads this year, via electronica producers such as the Grammy best new artist nominee Skrillex. Blake came out of the U.K. dubstep scene, but has broadened his base by embracing his inner Joni Mitchell - as he does most skillfully on this Feist cover.
18. "My Name Is Trouble," Keren Ann. All is smooth on the surface, but watch out, this Parisian chanteuse is packing heat on the standout cut from her sleek 101.
19. "Super Bass," Nicki Minaj. Motor-mouthed cartoon MC at her most irresistibly pop, from the deluxe edition of Pink Friday.
20. "We Found Love," Rihanna, featuring Calvin Harris. Yet another club banger with an instantly grabby vocal hook from the most consistent pop hit-maker of the last half-decade.
21. "Midnight City," M83. And let's go out on a grand note, shall we? Frenchman Anthony Gonzalez doesn't do anything small, and with Hurry Up, We're Dreaming he needed a double album to make room for his synthy, symphonic dance music ambitions. This track escalates ever skyward, and even comes to a crescendo with a sax solo that sounds like a tribute to Clarence Clemons. Blow, Big Man, blow!