As 2013 draws to a close you’re probably being bombarded by year-end “Top 10/50/100 Album” lists. And just like every year, I’ll lay down a sizable chunk of my hard-earned money on a handful of magazines to make sure I don’t miss out on anything good. Yes, I’m a sucker for these lists – it’s people like me that are responsible for this year-end pontificating by music journalists…it’s probably the reason I immediately loved Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity with all the top 5 lists rattled off by the lovable slacker Rob and his record-shop sycophants.
Incidentally, High Fidelity is the only film soundtrack to make my list. Read on.
In summer of 2012 I began a project ambitious in scope and execution. At 41 years old, I gave myself the challenge to make my very own top 100 list. I figured I’d spent half my life reading about what others considered to be their top albums and therefore deserved to make my “Top 100 Albums Of All-Time”.
Here are the criteria I used:
- Before an album could make the list, I had to listen to it in its entirety (no track skipping!) and enjoy every track on the album, i.e. the album as a complete piece of work. As you can imagine, this automatically disqualified many worthy candidates which would easily have made my list if it had been a conversation down the pub – the most conducive environment to authentic list-making, in my opinion. Sadly, I made it about 15 seconds into the Jacko-Macka duet, “The Girl Is Mine” off Thriller before it got the boot.
- The album needed to have relevance to me now or was at least still capable of giving me an emotional reaction, i.e. nostalgia alone was not enough. (PJ Harvey / To Bring You My Love ’95 – Yes. Social Distortion / Social Distortion ’90 – No.)
- The third and final criterion was that once the album went on the list, it had to stay there – in other words, no revising. Firstly, it would have become a never-ending project. Secondly, I wanted to trust my gut reaction on first listen. Admittedly, I did give a few albums 2-3 listens to account for the odd bad mood or sub-optimal listening experience. Case in point – Lou Reed’s New York makes the cut on second listen, Steve Miller’s Fly Like An Eagle doesn’t.
As with all lists I’d imagine, it would certainly look a lot different if I now went back with my critically-trained editing pencil. Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti easily knocks out Coldplay’s Rush of Blood to the Head. Case in point. However, I forced myself to abide by the self-inflicted criteria and live with the consequences.
If you’re interested in my final “rough” cut, I invite you to take this visual journey:
If you made it to #100 you might not have recognized this album as it is just came out in October of ‘13. Although it hasn’t stood the test of time like the other 99 entries on the list, The Avett Brother’s Magpie and the Dandelion has all the right stuff in my book – raw, heartfelt lyrics, great melodic hooks, soaring harmonies and most of all fantastic musicianship from this hirsute crew from North Carolina. Watch them with special guest Chris Cornell play “Vanity” on Jimmy Fallon. Hands down, my favorite album of 2013.
Let me know what you agree with or what you think is missing. Or better yet, send me your top 100…or perhaps just your top 5:-). Either way, I’d love to hear your all-time favorite tunes…
Happy holidays and all the best to you in 2014!