The calendar has barely turned to December and already the first of the year-end albums lists has started flowing in—even though there's almost a month left in 2014. This is the annual ritual of critics and music obsessives alike.
We recount the year, assess which albums had the most impact or staying power, and rank them. We consider what it means to rank one thing over another thing. We re-rank. The benefit of having other lists out before you make your own list is it gives you the chance to reevaluate albums you might have overlooked. You go back. You listen. Maybe you re-rank.
This is the highest ideal for the list: a publication riding hard for an album and helping it find a new audience, or maybe connecting a work with an audience that had written it off, critically.
In fairness, yes, I did make a list—it'll be out next week in our Top 10 issue. And yes, a lot of the albums on there will be the consensus albums in the publications listed above.
And that's another problem with list-making: While I did arrive to many releases on my own, I spent a great deal of time going back and listening to things I didn't get around to because I had a feeling they would be on other lists. I at least need to give them a proper evaluation for my own. Maybe that's a streak of completism on my part, but it also feels like there is a premium placed on sucking up voluminous amounts of music without taking the time to really let an album sink in.
Truth be told, it was much easier for me to come up with my local ballot for our Top 10 list of albums and songs from Baltimore (also out next week). Not because bands in our city are inherently superior—though I do think many are great—but because the music scene is such an important part of the city's ecosystem. The songs come to me in a more organic way, and that's more satisfying than backtracking to the national flavor of the month from back in April.