December 31, 2008

Top 20 Albums Heard in 2008

Posted in music at 8:18 pm by berzerkeleyan

Two years ago, I posted my 2006 Top 20 Most-Listened-To Albums. In it, I described how I used iTunes’ nifty filters to list the albums I heard most often throughout 2006, even if they weren’t released that year. I did the same thing this year, but with a slight twist. Like 2006, I sorted my albums based on the total Play Count and the date on which they were added to my library. This year, my Date Added range was between Nov 1, 2007 and Dec 31, 2008. However, I modified my list to better reflect how much I liked an album relative to the others. Here’s why and how.

If you want to get an idea how much you like an album, you can simply filter songs based on the number of times they were played on your iPod. That’s a no brainer. However, that favors albums which were added earlier than others; albums added in 2004 have a greater likelihood of being heard more often than an album added a couple of months ago, right? This slants the results, causing more recently added albums to be ranked lower than albums added earlier in the year. Therefore, I factored into my calculations the date an album was acquired. I did so by dividing the number of times I played an album with the number of days it had been in my library (this could not be done within iTunes; instead, I used a spreadsheet). Doing so gave me a better idea of which albums were favored over others this year.

What is clear from my list are three things:

  1. Only a subset of the albums came out this year. What can I say? Sometimes I get on the bandwagon early (e.g., Glasvegas), and sometimes I lag way behind (e.g., Vampire Weekend).
  2. My age is showing. Most albums would be considered mellow. But that does not mean they lack quality.
  3. My obsession with rankings makes me a TOTAL DORK.

My formula is not perfect. For example, I still can’t figure out how to include albums added to the library long ago, but only finally heard recently. For that, I had to fudge my results further by remembering those couple of albums added prior to my 11/1/2007 cutoff date. Ideally, I would love a way to filter those albums played the most within a given date range, without including the number of times they were played outside that date range. Hopefully, Apple will one day add additional filters to iTunes to satisfy my dweeby anal retentive needs. But I doubt it.

Without further delay, my list:

20. Queensrÿche “Operation:Mindcrime II” (2006)genre: Metal. This is the only “hard” album on the list. It betrays my early influences. Though obviously not as good as its inspiration, I nonetheless came to appreciate the effort.
19. Stephanie Dosen “a lily for the spectre” (2007)genre: Folk. She’s an American who’s hit it big in the UK, but not here. I’m sure someday one of her songs will make it on one of those chick shows on TV, catapulting her to massive success on iTunes.
18. Radiohead “In Rainbows” (2007)genre: Prog Rock. They broke the mold in 2007 with their online sale of this album. It was this album which convinced me to buy all future music online. To this point, out of approximately 55 albums purchased this year, all but five were digitally downloaded.
17. Starsailor “On The Outside” (2006)genre: Britpop. I would normally dub them as Emoschlock. However, this is their most forceful album to date. It’s not their best, but it got a lot of play this year.
16. Patrick Watson “Close To Paradise” (2006)genre: Canadian Indie Rock. Very dreamy stuff. The comparisons to Jeff Buckley are appropriate.
15. Lavender Diamond “Imagine Our Love” (2007)genre: Folk. Straight up Folk revivalists here. If you like ’em sweet, this is your band.
14. Garbage “Bleed Like Me” (2005)genre: Angry Grrl. I finally picked this up this year. It’s as caustic and infectious as their previous three.
13. Turin Brakes “Dark On Fire” (2007)genre: Modern Folk. This album was livelier than what I’ve been accustomed to from this band. The instrumentation was also more varied than in albums past. A nice refresh of their patented sound.
12. Band Of Horses “Cease To Begin” (2007)genre: American Indie Rock. One of the new American bands that’s hit the big time. And they deserve it. They’ve tapped into that “return to roots” so many folks have been longing for as they drive around in their gas guzzlers drinking their extra hot organic soy double pump caramel triple shot lattes. Good times.
11. Elbow “The Seldom Seen Kid” (2008)genre: Emoschlock. Though the ranking doesn’t reflect it, this was probably my favorite album of 2008. Typically excellent effort that shows how much better they are than anybody else out there.
10. Joan As Police Woman “To Survive” (2008)genre: Modern Torch Song. A quieter, more nuanced version of her first (if that’s possible). I just wish her live act was as magical as her studio work.
9. Magnet “The Simple Life” (2007)genre: Space Folk. I listened to this more than any other album this year. My favorite solo artist at the moment.
8. Hard-Fi “Once Upon A Time In The West” (2007)genre: Britpop. The most anthemic album of the bunch. Excellent straightforward British singalongs.
7. Kent “Tillbaka Till Samtiden” (2007)genre: Swedish Britpop. This borders on Clubby Eurotrash. But fortunately it doesn’t quite get there.
6. Bon Iver “For Emma, Forever Ago” (2008)genre: Folk. This is on every critic’s top ten list of 2008. It rivals some of Elliot Smith’s work in terms of how quietly powerful the songs are. That’s good company. Just stay away from sharp objects.
5. The Verve “Forth” (2008)genre: Britpop. A solid comeback, this almost lived up to the hype. Only one song truly rivaled what this band accomplished in the past (“Sit and Wonder”). The rest of the album seemed like an edgier version of a Richard Ashcroft solo album. I hope their next one turns into a better collaboration between all members of the band.
4. Keane “Perfect Symmetry” (2008)genre: Emoschlock. It didn’t catch on right away. But once it did, this album was hard to put down. Less mealy-mouthed than their first two.
3. Glasvegas “Glasvegas” (2008)genre: Emoschlock. Easily the biggest deal to come out of the UK this year. I’m sure their Post Punk Phil Spector sound will catch on quickly here.
2. Brian Wilson “Smile” (2004)genre: California Pop. As I wrote two years ago, Brian Wilson is the grandfather to just about every style of music I love. I purchased this three years ago, and only got around to listening to it this year. It could never rival his greatest contribution to Western Civilization. But it’s still better than just about anything else out there.
1. Serena-Maneesh “S-M Backwards” (2008)genre: Shoegazer. My Bloody Valentine, Lush, Ride, Catherine Wheel. When done correctly, Shoegazer is my favorite genre. Though essentially dead by 1995, the past few years has seen a resurgence of this musical movement. This album is a collection of EPs that were released prior to their debut. And just like their debut, it hits that musical sweet spot of abstract, distorted Wall of Sound guitar with twee vocals. If you like Shoegazer, this is very highly recommended.

And that’s the list. As a final note, these are some 2008 albums that will definitely make next year’s list:

  • Ra Ra Riot “The Rhumb Line”
  • Fleet Foxes “Fleet Foxes”
  • Kings of Leon “Only By the Night”
  • Department of Eagles “In Ear Park”

Until next year then…

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December 28, 2008

Music Rotation — 22 Dec

Posted in music at 1:50 pm by berzerkeleyan

This week:

Brian Eno “Ambient 1: Music for Airports” (1978) genre: Ambient.
Magnet “The Simple Life” (2007)genre: Space Folk.
Jimi Hendrix “Electric Ladyland” (1968)genre: Classic Rock.
Ryan Adams “Hello Tiger” (2007)genre: alt.country.
Department of Eagles “In Ear Park” (2008)genre: Freak Folk.
Joan As Police Woman “To Survive” (2008)genre: Modern Torch Song.
Glasvegas “Glasvegas” (2008)genre: Emoschlock.
Vampire Weekend “Vampire Weekend” (2008)genre: World Indie.
Ra Ra Riot “The Rhumb Line” (2008)genre: American Indie.
Kings of Leon “Only By the Night” (2008)genre: Southern Rock-n-Soul.
Roger Waters “Amused to Death” (1992)genre: Prog Rock.
Mercury Rev “Strange Attractor” (2008)genre: Ambient Pop.

December 21, 2008

Music Rotation — 15 Dec

Posted in music at 3:36 pm by berzerkeleyan

For the week:

Fleet Foxes “Fleet Foxes” (2008)genre: Americana.
Friendly Fires “Friendly Fires” (2008)genre: Techno Geek.
Death Cab For Cutie “Transatlanticism” (2003)genre: American Indie.
Grandaddy “The Sophtware Slump” (2000)genre: Space Rock.
Lavender Diamond “Imagine Our Love” (2007)genre: Folk.
The Charlatans “You Cross My Path” (2008)genre: Britpop.
Serena-Maneesh “S-M Backwards” (2008)genre: Shoegazer.
Keane “Perfect Symmetry” (2008)genre: Emoschlock.
Josh Rouse “Nashville” (2004)genre: Easy Lis’nin’.
Scissor Sisters “Ta-Dah!” (2006)genre: Techno Glam.
Glasvegas “Glasvegas” (2008)genre: Emoschlock.
Hot Chip “The Warning” (2006)genre: Techno Geek.
Ra Ra Riot “The Rhumb Line” (2008)genre: American Indie. Excellent debut. Combines hooks ala The Shins with The Arcade Fire’s orchestral sensibilities. Instantly accessible, and likely to stand the test of time. They’ll be playing at the Doug Fir in Feb. I’ll be there.
Third Eye Blind “Red Star” (2008)genre: Alternative Rock.

December 14, 2008

Music Rotation — 8 Nov

Posted in music at 12:57 pm by berzerkeleyan

This week:

Sara Lov “Three Songs” (2007)genre: Folk.
The Style Council “Confessions of a Pop Group” (1988)genre: Pop Jazz. I have a good friend who, despite his love for Paul Weller, insists on treating Weller’s musings of Soul and Pop Jazz as a career misstep. And every time we argue the merits of this group, it makes me want to listen to them more. I don’t do it as an act of defiance. Instead, our discussions always remind me of how much I like this band.
Keane “Perfect Symmetry” (2008)genre: Emoschlock.
Ride “Carnival Of Light” (1994)genre: 60’s Revival Rock.
Glasvegas “Glasvegas” (2008)genre: Emoschlock. In very heavy rotation at the moment.
TV On the Radio “Dear Science” (2008)genre: American Indie Rock.

December 7, 2008

Music Rotation — Dec 1

Posted in music at 3:30 pm by berzerkeleyan

For the week:

Friendly Fires “Friendly Fires” (2008)genre: Techno Geek.
Devics “The Stars at Saint Andrea” (2003)genre: Folk.
The Black Keys “Attack & Release” (2008)genre: Southern Indie Rock.
Brian Wilson “Smile” (2004)genre: California Pop.
The Killers “Day & Age” (2008)genre: Neo Wave.
Glasvegas “Glasvegas” (2008)genre: Emoschlock.
Harold Budd & Brian Eno “Ambient 2: The Plateaux Of Mirror” (1980)genre: Ambient.
Kent “Tillbaka Till Samtiden” (2007)genre: Swedish Britpop.