An A+ record is an organically conceived masterpiece that repays prolonged listening with new excitement and insight. It is unlikely to be marred by more than one merely ordinary cut.
An A is a great record both of whose sides offer enduring pleasure and surprise. You should own it.
An A- is a very good record. If one of its sides doesn’t provide intense and consistent satisfaction, then both include several cuts that do.
A B+ is a good record, at least one of whose sides can be played with lasting interest and the other of which includes at least one enjoyable cut.
A B is an admirable effort that aficionados of the style or artist will probably find quite listenable.
A B- is a competent or mildly interesting record that will usually feature at least three worthwhile cuts.
A C+ is a not disreputable performance, most likely a failed experiment or a pleasant piece of hackwork.
A C is a record of clear professionalism or barely discernible inspiration, but not both.
A C- is a regrettably successful exploitation or a basically honest but quite incompetent stab at something more.
A D+ is an appalling piece of pimpwork or a thoroughly botched token of sincerity.
It is impossible to understand why anyone would buy a D record.
It is impossible to understand why anyone would release a D- record.
It is impossible to understand why anyone would cut an E+ record.
E records are frequently cited as proof that there is no God.
An E- record is an organically conceived masterpiece that repays repeated listening with a sense of horror in the face of the void. It is unlikely to be marred by one listenable cut.
Via Merlin Mann at 41 Folders, who argues that all critics should disclose their rating methods in order to gain back some public trust. For my part, I have a love/hate relationship with music criticism that leans increasingly to the hate side because of the horrible, meandering, showy, self-indulgent writing that most music critics are guilty of. The problem is getting worse, I think, because of the rise of blogs and the common confusion between the aim of a blog post and the aim of a music review. It suffices to say, I agree that critics could be more transparent about their methods — and in fact, they could be much more methodical in their reviewing.