Rounding out 20-11:
12. The Beatles [UPDATE: moved to number 11.]
Where would the world be without The Beatles? But then again, where would The Beatles have been without Elvis? And where would Elvis have been without Big Boy Crudup? And Crudup without Lead Belly and Blind Lemon Jefferson? And Blind Lemon Jefferson without Hobart Smith? STOP! INFINITE REGRESSION! So basically Hobart Smith founded The Beatles, who would become the single most influential musical group in history. I know what some of you are thinking: ‘Beatles not in the Top 5, let alone the Top 10! Blasphemy!’ They are phenomenal, and if George Harrison had written more of their songs (I’m in love with George) and they didn’t write all of their cute pop music that preceded Rubber Soul (and even Rubber Soul isn’t entirely free of it) they’d probably be higher on my list. While The Beatles will find their way into what seems to be every other Top 10 list, their lack of longevity also plays a factor here. Still, two of their records are found on my Top 50 Albums list: The Beatles [The White Album] (1968) and Abbey Road (1969).
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ from their 1967 album Magical Mystery Tour:
‘Let it Be’ from their 1970 album of the same name:
11. Neil Young [UPDATE: moved to number 14.]
The legendary Neil Young has often been noted for his sincerity – noticing a pattern in my preferences? It’s true that I’m a sucker for artists that I can truly believe, and among them Neil Young is the Godfather. This personal touch plus his unique vocal style (oftentimes accompanied by driving guitars) have made him an incredibly distinct artist in a music world full of clones over the last five decades. His album Harvest (1972) is featured on my Top 50 Albums list and 1970’s After the Gold Rush should probably in there as well.
‘Needle and the Damage Done’ from the album Harvest, performed on The Johnny Cash Show in 1971:
‘After the Gold Rush’, from the album of the same name, live in 1978:
Greg has done an excellent job of raking in this year’s best (at least in his highly-informed opinion) albums. That’s great stuff (I’m only speaking generally because I think Coldplay’s Viva La Vida is mostly rubbish), but how much of it will we be listening to in two years? Because music is in-and-out so frequently I’ve composed what I consider the best albums of 2008, though none of them were released this year. Lend me your ear eye.
If you or I were to look at a list of our favorite albums from two years ago it would probably be different than the list we would make today. I’m suspecting a lot of the albums that I considered my favorite from two years ago have lost ground in my personal rating and that is not to say that the latest albums have replaced them. What I’ve found is that through recycling the music I listen to I sit with an album longer and it really grows on me. For instance, I first heard Elliott Smith’s Figure 8 in 2001. Since then this album has been climbing its way up my list and I considered it my favorite album of 2005 (even better than Come on Feel the Illinoise!, the quintessential indie-folk hit that year). If Greg’s picks were subjective, mine will likely be hyper-subjective. This whole thing also has to do with the fact that the music I listen to usually gets to my ears one of three ways: by way of NPR/KCRW, by way of associated acts (i.e. I heard of Sufjan Stevens because he once played in Danielson, an earlier favorite of mine), or by way of a highly sophisticated (and elitist) filtration system consisting largely of Greg Stump.
With all of that said, I must also add that I have not purchased much new music from this year. In fact, as I look at my computer the only albums I see in my iTunes library from 2008 are Ratatat’s LP3, Danielson’s Danielson Alive EP (free online), and Danielson’s Trying Hartz. I’m not against new music, but I suppose that after sampling I wasn’t compelled to buy many new full albums this year. That is not to say that I’ve not grown in my musical breadth: according to my “date added” information in my iTunes library I’ve added more than forty albums to my iTunes this year (and it’s not over), thus I’ve purchased more than forty albums this year (buying used music on Amazon is incredible). So out of the albums that I’ve purchased this year here are my top ten.