|My sister, Jessica, and me visiting Santa, probably 1984|
I love this time of year not only for the days off from work, the Christmas cookies, and the smells of evergreen, but also because it's the time of year that everyone starts to share their best music of the year lists. This is one of the easiest ways to expose yourself to great new and/or obscure music.
A few of my favorite lists that are free...
The All Songs Considered, The Year in Music, 2011, List on NPR.
Mighty Girl's 2012 Victory Mix (Ok, this isn't really a best of 2011 list, but it's a great list anyway.)
My friend Ben's the 2011 cuts list on Spotify.
And one that is completely worth the $0.99 it costs to buy the issue...(Which also gives you the right to download 31 songs, half of which are on my favorites-of-the-year list.)
Paste's Best of 2011 Issue
I highly recommend that if you only have time to listen to one, you spring for that $.99 issue of Paste. The songs you can download make it more than worth it, I promise.
UPDATE: Also, this time of year is one that seems to encourage people to give a lot of good Christmas mp3s away for free. Check out the 25 Days of Free on Amazon and the weekly free songs on iTunes.