Since 2010 I have determined my favorite albums of the year solely by the amount of plays tracked in iTunes. For my 6th annual list something needs to change as I’ve predominately listened to music via Apple’s streaming service in 2015. My play counts are not being tracked.
Like Christmas decorations, the best-of lists come out earlier and earlier every year. We celebrate things in December, but we don’t celebrate anything that happens in December. December is for re-caps. My yearly project of having iTunes select my top albums each year based on play counts, and then recording myself playing at least one song on every album, has caused me to be cynical of all other lists for not doing the same thing, which I understand is a ridiculous thought. My yearly project is absurd and unsustainable with 2 small children, but I’m unwilling to give it up just because iTunes can no longer dictate the list.
There’s something pretentious and lazy about most best-of music lists. To call a list “best-of” doesn’t imply opinion. The author is saying these are the best albums of the year as if to say the album choices were dug up on a stone tablet and signed by Dio himself. I doubt that the folks over at Pitchfork took the 2015 Gloryhammer release into consideration. They’re presenting an image just as much as they are ranking albums, and if an album doesn’t fit that image it’s not considered.
My 2015 list is no longer fact based so I must now play the game that Pitchfork and Rolling Stone play and use my own judgement. How do I pick my favorite 30 albums of the year when I don’t even remember what I listened to in September? I have no magical answer but I’ve decided what to do going forward. I’ll pick 30 albums that were important to me in 2015, and the price I pay to put them on the list and go into a quirky anecdote about each is to learn and record a song on the piano. If I can’t/won’t do that, I can’t write about it. It gives me an easy out this year on albums that aren’t friendly to piano covers. I’m still deciding whether Native Construct or the Hamilton soundtrack is worth the effort. But the number is still 30, even if it takes me until June of the following year, as it did for the 2014 list.
Of all the things I may do I still find this project unique. I had visions of getting called in for the Today Show which would inevitably lead to playing keys for Bruce Springsteen. But in the end my lists are just as successful as any other list from a completely unknown source, whether it takes 100 hours or 10 minutes to compile. Is my list more or less pretentious than Pitchfork’s list? It’s debatable, and a case can be made that anything posted to the Internet is pretentious at some level.