Yeah, there’s another couple of weeks left, but even if I bought a masterpiece a week from now, I wouldn’t have time to love it enough to bump any of the albums listed here off the list, so why bother?
Rather than doing the usual stock list of numbers 1 to 20 (which forces me to decide whether a given disc should be number 16 or number 17, a pretty meaningless distinction by any measure), I took the approach of clustering the albums into four groups, based on how I responded to them through the year just past, and not ranking any further within the four groups. I’ve linked to each of the artists’ websites so you can explore further, as the spirit moves you.
The “Best of the Best” (Numbers 1-5) go into “The Permanent Spin” category. These were the five albums that I just kept returning to over and over again throughout the year. They might leave the car stereo for a brief spell while something new got test run, but then they came back and pleased me just as much as they did before their short reprieves:
The Permanent Spins
The “Best of the Rest” (Numbers 6-10) get categorized as “The Big First Impressions, Lacking Longest Legs.” These are records that really blew my socks off for a few weeks, but then once they came out of rotation, never really managed to work their way back into the regular listening schedule:
The Big First Impressions, Lacking Longest Legs
The next category, the “Rest of the Best,” (numbers 11-15) are defined as “Flawed Albums With Masterpiece Songs.” Every one of these discs has at least two songs that are as good as anything I head this year, and which are staples on my mix CD’s and the family iPod, but none of these records maintained that same level of brilliance throughout. For this category, I’ve also identified two masterpiece songs per disc, in case you just want to (legally!) download them to test run:
Flawed Albums With Masterpiece Songs
Chris Letcher, Frieze (masterpiece songs: “Deep Frieze” and “Milk”)
Ween, La Cucaracha (masterpiece songs: “Blue Balloon” and “Your Party”)
St. Vincent, Marry Me (masterpiece songs: “Now Now” and “Your Lips Are Red”)
The National, Boxer (masterpiece songs: “Fake Empire” and “Squalor Victoria”)
Via Audio, Say Something Say Something Say Something (masterpiece songs: “Presents” and “Developing Active People”)
Finally, the “Rest of the Rest” (numbers 16-20) I would call “The Solid Citizens.” These are robust records that offer very pleasurable listening experiences without generating any masterpiece singles or obsessive listening patterns. Most of these took a while to grow on me, but I’m glad they did, and think you would enjoy them too:
Happy listening in 2008, and I hope you have the chance to score some of these 20 excellent discs as well, since they are all worthy additions to your music collection, I promise.