Top-ten lists are due when editors ask for them—usually in November or December of a given year—but I think that editors ask for them months, maybe years, too soon. Sometimes all you can do is guess at a record’s impact. For example, in 2006, one of the metal magazines to which I contribute asked for a year-end list several days before the release of Mastodon’s Blood Mountain, a major-label record that was both highly anticipated and hard to come by. A friend burned me an unmastered, unsequenced leak and I spun it only once or twice before putting it at number one.
By the time the issue hit the newsstands I doubt it would’ve made my top five. But, hey, so it goes. A fellow music critic even admitted as much when a mutual friend solicited our favorite records of recent years (he’s been busy raising a kid). “These are the ones that I still listen to,” the fellow music critic wrote. Which gave me the idea of revisiting an old list. For no good reason, I chose 2003 and set about making a top 10, based on records that I still listen to and own. I didn’t look at the old list or check any year-end summaries until I was done.
Here’s my new list in alphabetical order:
Cult of Luna The Beyond (Earache) Down in the Basement: Joe Bussard’s Treasure Trove of Vintage 78s, 1926-1937 (Old Hat) Killing Joke Killing Joke (Red Ink) Lungfish Love is Love (Dischord) Mogwai Happy Songs for Happy People (Matador) Pelican Australasia (Hydra Head) Supersilent 6 (Rune Grammofon) David Sylvian Blemish (Samadhi Sound) Viktor Vaughn Vaudeville Villain (Sound-Ink) Miroslav Vitous Universal Syncopations (ECM)
And here’s the list I sent to Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop poll in 2003.
Two CDs on my original list (Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below and Dizzee Rascal’s Boy in Da Corner) made it into the Pazz & Jop Top 10. But neither has really stood the test of time, which suggests that maybe folks aren’t pulling out those Basement Jaxx and Fountains of Wayne records either.
Or maybe it’s just that the hippest of hip hop is only good for a quick fix. Though Ta-Nehisi Coates was on the Viktor Vaughn record right away, it only charted at 141 on the P&J list.
For those who’ve heard both, who thinks that Speakerboxxx/The Love Below holds up better than Vaudeville Villain? I doubt it’s few—if any.