Saturday, December 27, 2008

On Lists

I've been saying for a little while now that I'm going to put together my Best of '08, and its done, but before I post it (on Monday) I thought I would just comment on lists in general by addressing what I think are a few common complaints other people have about these year end compilations.

... a warning before you get reading this is (basically) a rant about "indie-kids" and people who hate indie-kids... for the record, I like Barack Obama (yes, I just compared myself to Obama and yes, I'm about to try and justify it -- but, in all fairness my grandma had Tyra on yesterday and she compared Wayne Brady to him so, I don't feel so bad). I feel like there is some type of middle ground we can strike here...

Complaint #1: The lists are all the same.

First, no they're not... they're similar... don't be a drama queen (or king). A lot of artists show up on more than one list, in fact, a few artists (Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver in particular this year) will show up on just about everyone's list, and you know why? Because they're really good albums. So if you haven't heard them let me be the five hundredth person to say, you really should hear them. If you have heard them they may not be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but they're very good and you need to chill out a little when other people (particularly people who haven't heard them before) freak out because they're really good (and they don't sound like Franz Ferdinand - or whatever else is cool these days...).

Second, a lot of people are sheep. I mean, people like music for different reasons (entertainment, art, it makes them feel better, its something to do), but, most people (I think) have/use the same sources for new music (radio, pitchfork, stereogum, etc.) which produces similar lists. That said, with more new bands, blogs, music network things, I think these lists are becoming increasingly diverse...

Complaint #2: The list only include really obscure artists/bands.

I think a lot of people will look at a lot of year end lists and say to themselves "how can ten bands I've never heard of have put out the best ten albums of the year"? I would explain it this way...

My year end, best movies of 2008 might look like this:
1. Batman
2. Ironman
3. Wall-E
4. Up the Yangtze (which, turns out, was actually released in 2007)
5. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
6. Vicki Christina Barcelona

But, I'm not really all that into movies ... I don't spend much time watching them (I've seen maybe 30 - 40), let alone reading about them, discussing them. Something like Up the Yangtze - which was a terrific movie - I only came across by a fluke recommendation of a friend, and, also, its not this year so it probably shouldn't count.

I'm not that into movies, I'm not up on the latest movies, and naturally my list is pretty narrow. So, the lesson is: the more into something you are, the more you are going to acquire specialized knowledge of the subject area, the broader your contributions are going to be. And sometimes, and you know who you are, these lists are ways for bloggers/indie-music-snobs to prove that they know more different/cool bands than other people... feel free to call me on it if I ever fall into that category.

Complaint #3: The lists aren't/can't be objective.

Uhhhh .... yeah. So what? Everyone has their own opinion (whether or not they are well founded, or strongly supported is another story), but its really a waste of time complaining about #1 or #2. If you're interested in getting the best/most objective look at what's going on there are a couple of great opinion aggregators out there (see: metacritic, also - stereogum's "Gummys" are also a pretty good) that give a good overview of what's gone on in music this year. If you've made complaint #2 to someone recently, those two are good places to start.

If you've made complaint #1, find people that you like reading that your taste matches up with, and check out what they recommend (see the sidebar).


ack said...

See, I think that if your list mirrors 'Gum or P4K or G vs. B, there is no point to creating said list.

Everyone who reads blogs - even if they pretend to hate those sites - still reads the big ones or references them for "terrible scores".

I think the point of smaller blogs is to point out records that might fly under the radar of those major blogs and PR firms.

My feeling is, if you have to go to herohill to find out about Fleet Foxes, you probably aren't coming to herohill... ever.

I'd much rather see a band like GHBG or Olivier Jarda and really take a chance on someone I'd never hear without the recommendation.


The R.O.B. said...

Definitely agreed that if you list mirrors 'Gum, P4k, etc. that there is no point... in fact, I had a post ready to mock those people, but left it in the bag.

Agreed I would rather hear about artists who are lesser known, but I guess my problem is that without discussing bigger acts its tough to determine whether a recommendation is really credible.

I mean, its not that Fleet Foxes needs the publicity, but sometimes its cool to hear what you think about something we've all heard (i.e. I was really interested to hear what you had to say about the Knux album).

... maybe someone could write a better response on my behalf...

ack said...

Ha... I know. We've realized that and our traffic stats show what people want :)

I just think with everyone and their blog talking about how fantastic Fleet Foxes are (and really, they are) or posting the hottest songs from the hottest bands we are stuck in that sheep mentality you talked about.

It's the worst for blog hip hop. People that never listen to hip hop all see one of the big guns mentioning someone like Cadence Weapon or Shad (or stick to the tried and true like Lil Wayne, Kanye) you see people change their tune from Shad is a token Polaris nominee to "he's the best rapper ever!"

I guess this comment should have just read - "bitter old blogger"