Friday, December 15, 2006

It's the most wonderful time of the year ...



No, not that! It's time for the

TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2006



Except not right this instant, because I'm going away for the weekend ... the lists are done, so for now, here's the blurb that I will probably submit for the Jackin Pop poll. This will serve as my pre-list preamble. You know I hate wide-sweeping "This was the year of _____ music" reviews, so this sums up a few of my recent personal feelings about music.

I'll return in a couple of days with a lot more to say.

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The way I remember it, 2005 was widely hailed as the Year of Indifference, the year of non-consensus, of critics sitting on the fence and refusing to be either overly enthused or disappointed by the music they'd heard over the previous twelve months. Everybody resigned themselves to the notion that MIA, Kanye West, and Sufjan Stevens would eventually top all the major polls. There wasn't much excitement about any of this, although yawn-related reactions became quite contagious. Every publication's year-end list turned out to be disturbingly similar, like inbred copies of one another. More yawning.

As for me, I thought 2005 was a fantastic year for music -- kicked off by the strongest run of Feb-March releases that I can remember, and barely letting up until the year was through. My turntables and hard drives were overflowing with decidedly non-fence-sitting music, and I had no reason to expect that these high quality levels (and my enthusiasm) wouldn't carry forward into 2006 ...

So what happened? In comparison with such a great 2005, could 2006 be anything other than a relative disappointment? Did it take me one whole year to accept what others already understood? Or was 2006 simply a shit year for music? My hard drive became a graveyard for songs and albums that I could remember nothing about, despite having heard them a few times over. Even looking at the very best releases of the year (as in the ones that I'm voting for here), there isn't a single album that I would recommend unreservedly to everyone within earshot, nothing I would try to force upon both my friends and my enemies alike. I also can't be sure that I'll still adore most of this stuff in two or three year's time. Consuming music in relative isolation is probably not the ideal. You miss feeling that buzz around you -- on the radio, on the internet, wherever -- all of which feeds back into your positive perception of the music.

Well, maybe I'm being overly pessimistic. Take a look at my albums ballot ... as a group, they're not the kinds of records you would try to inundate your unsuspecting friends with. Would you play those albums at a party? This is the first year in approximately forever that I feel more of a connection to my singles/tracks list than my albums one, and maybe I've just found the reason why. Simply put, there are happier times to be found on the singles list. It's more of a fun list, better suited for sharing.

It's also true that relocating for a new job has shaken me out of the musical routine I enjoyed for so many years in Toronto. Music became more of a home-listening activity. I saw fewer live shows and went to fewer clubs. My MTV/Much Music-related channel flipping was gradually replaced by the regular practice of absorbing the rotating Winamp playlists in my new favourite bars. But the change is good. The new routine isn't better or worse, it's just different. Sometimes very different. For instance, I DJ'ed a party last week on the rooftop of an eight-story particle accelerator and had a room full of scientists dancing to all ten minutes of L'il Louis' house classic "French Kiss". Come on, let's see Richie Hawtin top that.

4 comments:

cathrina said...

indeed Barry...i completely support.. so whats the plan for new year..

Anonymous said...

I like the year end lists because as someone who doesn't stay on top of music I could get a quick survey of what I might want to check out.

Thanks to RSS I keep on top of a lot of blogs. I still think "indie" music is over represented everywhere and I can guess what will be on most of the lists.

This is the what's hot from the Hype Machine :

Sufjan Stevens
The Knife
Decemberists
Camera Obscura
TV on the Radio
Hot Chip
Mtn Goats
Pipettes
Beirut
Belle & S.
Grizzly Bear
Joanna Newsom
Lily Allen

Metacritic does somewhat the same thing, but lists a broader range of music (as well as movies etc.)

I didn't have to wait until December to see a list like the above.

Barry said...

The contents of year-end lists (from publications) shouldn't be *too* surprising. That would mean they subjected you to other, presumably inferior music for the entire year, only to let you in on their secret stash of better music once the year was over. With individuals, it's a different story though -- my list contains music that I didn't talk or write about all that much. That's one more reason why individual lists can be a lot more interesting than overall poll results.

Indie is definitely overrepresented. I think that's going to be the main "story arc" behind this year's crop of lists.

Hopefully I can make a new post later tonight.

Anonymous said...

Chromewaves has a post about year end list, which pretty well summarizes my feeling about them:

http://www.chromewaves.net/?itemid=2469

"as I scan this year's lists, be they from blog, magazine or wherever, I find very few records that I've never heard or heard of. Most I've already formed some opinion on at some point in the past year and while minds can be changed, there's no longer the thrill of discovery, of reading a synopsis or review that jumps out and says, "you must hear this!" - just the dull satisfaction of having an opinion reinforced"