Tomorrow I’ll begin posting my top 50 albums of 2011, starting with #50-41. How did I get here? It isn’t easy for something who doesn’t listen to the radio (not even Pandora). Instead, I pick up new music through podcasts (particularly Morning Becomes Eclectic, All Songs Considered and the R3-30), reading reviews or checking lists of upcoming releases and then checking the artists out on Spotify or via some other stream, or via recommendations from friends. Between all of these sources, I ended up listening fully to well over 200 full albums this year, plus numerous single tracks and a lot of clips (in making decisions whether to commit to purchasing an album or not if I was unable to find a stream).
I do have one advantage over other reviewers: I consciously avoid certain genres: hip hop, R&B, urban, dance, mainstream country and pop. I may very well get into these genres at some future point (I started listening to a lot of electronica this year for the first time) but there’s only so much time in the day so I have to focus. This makes things more manageable, although it’s still a monumental task!
I rated every album in five categories:
- Creative (worth 30%): This is a combination of artistic vision/integrity, and creativity (trying to do something new).
- Chops (worth 20%): Do they play well? Are they trying to do different things with their instruments? How do they hold together as a band?
- Head Bobbing (worth 20%): My code for a combination of melody and catchiness
- Words (worth 10%): Are the lyrics poetic, musically flowing, unique? Or are they clichéd?
- Feel (worth 20%): This is my “sum of the parts”/gut instinct category, attempting to capture those albums where the creativity might not be amazing and their musical ability might not be superb, but where they somehow pull off something bigger than the whole.