It’s an inevitability of music journalism that one must sit down and play favourites, so to speak.
It’s not an easy process, by any means. What criteria will you use to make your rankings? What albums will inevitably not make the cut? How many albums will you feature? Do EPs count? Should you break your list by genres? So many questions without easy answers.
The truth is, no one ever agrees completely with any of these Best Of lists: I’ve read a dozen over the last week and vehemently disagreed with all of them. There are albums missing that I blame on the more commercial sites being preoccupied by major label artists. There are artists on them I find completely overrated. Individual tastes factor in as well, of course (you can tell which editors favour which genres by their picks).
So why do we bother? Why not let you, the fans, like what you like?
Simple truth: a Best Of list is a way to examine the year in retrospect and highlight, for one last article, the albums that one really wants to see succeed. It’s an opportunity to make a final pitch, from one fan to another, to give a band a try. It’s also a way for the writer to assess her own shifting tastes and perhaps thin out the collection of music no longer making the grade.
I can promise you will think of at least three albums you feel are missing from this list. I’m certain order choices will be disagreed with. You may have not even heard of some of my choices, given my strong indie leanings. Certain genres and big names will be absent (Fiona Apple seems to be on every list I’ve read; she never came close for me, which pains me as a huge fan). That said, these are 12 albums that stood out for me this year, and I think all of them are worth your sparse time between the day-to-day grind activities to sample and enjoy.
There are albums I enjoyed that were cut from this list. Certain albums I listen to frequently are lower than others I play sparsely, simply because of my moods. When approaching this list, I rated each 2012 album in the running on the following criteria:
- Overall Impression: My core reaction as a music fan. Do I love it?
- Staying Power: Did I want to hear it again after the initial “new album smell” faded? Do I feel I will still be playing it years down the line?
- Coherency: If a concept album, is the message clearly conveyed? If not, do the songs make some sort of sense in being on the same album?
- Emotional Impact: Do the songs elicit an emotional response from me, be it joy/sorrow/wonder?
- Complexity: Do elements like instrumental experimentation, vocal shifts and the like keep things interesting? Do all of the songs sound the same?
- Significance Of Contribution To Music: This is where an album I might independently rate lower could push higher. Is the album taking a genre to a new place, capturing history in a powerful way or inspiring other artists?
- Production Factors: Polish, clarity of sound and vocals, balance/mix and the like.
- Tracklisting/Flow: Do the songs feel right in the order presented from a sonic and/or lyrical perspective?
Now that you have an idea of where we’re headed and what shaped the musical terrain, allow me to present Open ‘Til Midnight’s Top 12 Albums Of 2012!