I have a list of my ten favorite albums. It has changed a bit over time, with seven remaining fairly constant and the other three spots a revolving door of albums that may or may not claim permanent positions on the list after a few more listens. However, by no means would I ever claim that my list is of the ten “best” albums ever made, nor would I foist it upon someone else as such.
When I read “best of” lists, I usually feel like this is exactly what the people behind the lists are trying to do; it’s probably why I have so much trouble taking them seriously. (An aside: I use semicolons wayyy more than everyone I know. I think I’m using them correctly, but I might just be coming off as a miseducated tool. Help me out here, y’all.) I think many music critics have a tendency to conflate “best” with “favorite” - the former seems like it could possibly be objectively determined, while the latter is the result of one’s personal, visceral reaction to the music they’re hearing. That said, feel free to tell me I’m full of shit, as I know that the best music is frequently emotionally driven and not necessarily technically correct or masterful.
My boyfriend is a guitarist, according to the literal “one who plays guitar” description, rather than the “this is my career!” sense. This is entirely unsurprising, as he is a white boy from the suburbs. Growing up, he was totally into solo guitar albums by the technically-talented Yngwie Malmsteen. Ever heard one of his albums? They’re boring as fuck. “It’s not great music, but holy shit, it’s good guitar,” Jesse said, when I mentioned that I’ve never been able to really enjoy albums by Yngwie, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, or their contemporaries. I don’t deny that they can play the fuck out of their instruments, but their music is mechanical, serving only as a vehicle for their ego trips. Jesse is also an engineer in a highly technical profession, and he finds 80s hardcore, which I fucking love, absolutely unlistenable. It is totally unsurprising that he still carries a torch for prog rock and all things Favored Nations.
Did I mention I can’t play a single instrument? I’m gonna stop undermining my own point, and leave it to y’all to do so instead. Anyway, do feel free to throw in your own thoughts, even if they are just as incomplete and disorganized as mine. Eh? Ehhh.
this is a thing i’ve been thinking about a bunch lately! i’m getting to hate “best of” lists. i will always find an individual’s list of favorites way more interesting, even if i totally disagree with their picks. i like hearing why specific people like the things they do. the thing that really bothers me about “best of” lists is that murkiness—not quite that they’re conflating favorite and best…more like most favorite—as in, a favorite of the most people—and best, which i think is maybe even more screwy. at least if it’s a single author’s favorites that they’re calling the Best you can kind of deduce their criteria and adjust yr read accordingly, but i mean, a million people could like the same album and they definitely won’t all like it for the same reasons, so an aggregate obscures more than it illuminates about the album itself. and you end up with this feedback loop, like the same stuff getting on every list because it’s already on all the other lists; important because it’s critically acclaimed then critically acclaimed because it’s important, and so on. it’s boring! it dulls the discourse in a way that i think that can really fuck up especially kids forming their own tastes about stuff. like, when i was getting Seriously into music (jr high, high school), i read a lot of best albums ever lists and stuff, and i actually took “best” at face value. i just assumed that since the people writing them were professional critics, they must know what they’re talking about and if i didn’t get some of it it must’ve been because i wasn’t smart or mature or sophisticated enough to get it yet. (tbh i still struggle with this kind of thinking a lot.)
(i have a lot of thoughts/feelings about this but i’m having a super hard time articulating them, i’m sorry, i feel like i’m probly abusing the “incomplete and disorganized” permission here)