Thursday, October 1, 2009

This is a completely unpremeditated post (which I realize is not an unusual thing in the world of blogging but it is sort of unusual for me, since I'm still relatively new at this), prompted by having just quickly skimmed Pitchfork's list of the the best albums of the 2000's, from #200 to #21 (the top 20 are still to come). I have mixed feelings about Pitchfork. I'm not an "indie rock" person, but a fair bit of the music I like falls under the indie rock category; and Pitchfork's reach in their review section, while narrower than I'd prefer, is broad enough to encompass enough music that I might at least potentially like that I find it worth reading. How's that for qualified interest.

Still, I'm such a compulsive reader of things about music, and even more so, one of my big guilty pleasures is that I can't resist a good list. I've only included one list so far on this blog but I can assure you that more will come (see below). Lists can be completely trivial but they can also force you to exercise your own critical judgment in a visceral way. There's something about seeing music or movies placed into a list - especially a "best of/top 10" list - that immediately makes me want to figure out how much I agree or disagree with the rankings, even if I think the overall enterprise is sort of dumb (for instance, if Guitar Player magazine offers a list of great rock guitarists I'm a lot more likely to take it seriously than if the same list were offered by Rolling Stone, but either way I'd be inclined to go through it and see what I think).

Lists of records especially feed into my compulsive side because then it becomes not just a matter of, do I agree or disagree; but becomes also a game of, how much of this stuff do I own? And that's exactly what I fell into with the Pitchfork list. How many of Pitchfork's choice for the top 200 (minus 20) albums of the 2000s do I own? The reveal is below, but first a further word on why I care.

In this case, I was especially interested to check the list against my own music collection because I'm well aware that my tastes lean in a decidedly retro direction. When I'm shopping for music I always favor older material over more current stuff; and one of the main reasons I read music magazines is so that I can better force myself to buy the occasional newer album rather than only feeding my desire for more 1970s hard rock or 1960s free jazz. Seeing that Pitchfork had assembled such a list, I saw it as an opportunity to test just how much my consumption habits are completely stuck in the past.

As it happens, they're not quite as stuck as I thought, although overall I only have a small proportion of what's there - but then again, I don't like everything Pitchfork reviewers like anyways so I'd guess that half the stuff there is stuff I could easily live without.

So far, I own - get ready - 20 out of the 180 albums listed so far. I'm guessing I'll have at least a few of the top 20 since I always find that as lists get higher I'm more likely to have more of what they feature, since the things at the top of any such list are the things that have tended to get more attention and to be more universally appreciated - and while I pride myself for going against the musical grain much of the time, good reviews do get my attention.

Now, to make this whole thing really meta, here's my list of the albums I own that are featured on the Pitchfork list, sans anything that might be in the top 20 (I've noted the ranking of each album in parentheses, from low to high):

Lightning Bolt, Wonderful Rainbow (#157)
My Morning Jacket, Z (#146)
Fiery Furnaces, Blueberry Boat (#145)
TV on the Radio, Dear Science (#140)
No Age, Weirdo Rippers (#136)
Sleater Kinney, The Woods (#127)
Mastodon, Leviathan (#126)
Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP (#119)
Jay-Z, The Black Album (#90)
No Age, Nouns (#78)
The White Stripes, Elephant (#74)
Portishead, Third (#71)
The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America (#64)
Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend (#51)
Deerhunter, Microcastle (#50)
The Streets, Original Pirate Material (#36)
Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (#32)
Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago (#29)
Kanye West, The College Dropout (#28)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell (#24)

And now, to get even more meta, here's my own ranking of these same albums, from high to low:

1. Sleater Kinney, The Woods
2. Mastodon, Leviathan
3. The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America
4. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
5. The White Stripes, Elephant
6. Fiery Furnaces, Blueberry Boat
7. Jay-Z, The Black Album
8. My Morning Jacket, Z
9. The Streets, Original Pirate Material
10. Kanye West, The College Dropout
11. No Age, Nouns
12. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell
13. Portishead, Third
14. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
15. Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP
16. TV on the Radio, Dear Science
17. No Age, Weirdo Rippers
18. Deerhunter, Microcastle
19. Lightning Bolt, Wonderful Rainbow
20. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend

A caveat: several of the albums above are very recent purchases for me (I just bought the Portishead album a few days ago, and TV on the Radio I just got a couple weeks before), so my opinions will likely shift as I have more occasion to listen to them. That's the final point I'll make about lists: they are not permanent, but capture a momentary opinion that poses as something more enduring.

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