Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Top 10 Albums 2020

December 28, 2020

From 2011 – March of 2020, I’ve worked 3 jobs, but they’ve all had this in common: A small team of 2-4 people sitting in an open office environment, working on computers all day. Due to a combination of my own obnoxiousness and others’ apathy, I normally end up determining what music everyone listens to all day. This is great (for me, at least) but it also comes with some responsibility to make sure people aren’t miserable. So, I listen to a lot things that everyone that I work with, who is generally within 10 years of my age one way or the other, find tolerable. For me this means a lot of 2000s era rap & indie-ish rock. Kanye West, Outkast, Girl Talk, The Strokes, The White Stripes, etc. And then I also listen to new things coming out that I think other people might be able to tolerate, to mixed results.

But what if I had the majority of the year to pick music just for me, without feeling the need to moderate my selections to please others? Thanks to a flexible job & a global pandemic, 2020 is the year we find out! If I want to listen to the same mopey album on repeat for 8 hours in a row, there’s no one to stop me. I know, because I did that a lot.

What a great year to be stuck at home picking your own music. 7 artists on this year’s list are new to my top 10 (2006-Present). This was an incredibly tough year to whittle down to 10. One of my favorite artists (The Mountain Goats) released two great albums this year, and neither made my Top 10. Another one of my my favorite artists (Sufjan Stevens) released two albums this year that I couldn’t get into, and it didn’t even bum me out.

You can get a general feel for what I was listening to on my Mix that features songs from 20-ish of my favorite releases this year. But let’s just move into the Top 10 (playlist link, but the albums are in no particular order):

10. Long Neck – World’s Strongest Dog

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Don’t know who this is or how they came into my life. Maybe it was a Spotify Release Radar. Maybe it was an artist I follow on Twitter. But, they have a cool name, and a great sound. 10 songs, 29 minutes. Short, catchy good rock songs.

9. Christian Lee Hutson – Beginners

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I know exactly how I got into Christian Lee Hutson. He’s apart of the Phoebe Bridgers Expanded Universe, which is where I spend a lot of time these days. He was involved in some way w/ both of Bridgers’ side-projects Boygenius & Better Oblivion Community Center, and also did work on her 2020 release Punisher. Bridgers produced this album.

Anyway, this album is noticeable on this list because it’s the only one with a guy who sings & plays guitar. Quiet songs about relationships & stuff. Kind of got some Carrie & Lowell vibes, but I don’t think it’s about his parents or Jesus. There’s also a real banger called “Get the Old Band Back Together”

8. Beach Bunny – Honeymoon

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California pop rock, via a Chicago band. Short songs (7/9 less than 3 minutes), short album, big hooks. Fun summer music for everyone. This band has released a lot of great EPs but this is their full length debut.

7. Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud

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A lot of people I know LOVED this album, and I just think it’s great. Waxahatchee has been around & critically acclaimed for awhile, and has been appearing frequently on Spotify’s infinite playlists for years, but this is the first album I was able to get into. Great voice, melodies, guitars, etc.

6. HAIM – Women in Music Part III

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Of the ~6 people who read this list every year, I’m on a group chat w/ two of them who love HAIM (Hi, Joel & Collin) but for some reason I hadn’t found a way to really connect with their first two albums (Sorry, everyone). This one really got me though, from the first listen. Bops from the first track to the last. (Aside: Albums that release, at launch with only one version that includes “Bonus Tracks” are confusing/annoying to me, because I don’t actually know where this album ends, but the bonus tracks are also bops, so I will allow it.)

5. Frances Quinlan – Likewise

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Frances Quinlan released two worthwhile projects this year: This one, her first (On Spotify at least) titular release and “Freshman Year” a re-release of her first album using the “Hop Along” name that would bring her to indie darling status. Hop Along’s “Bark Your Head Off, Dog” was my favorite album of 2018 and remains in heavy rotation as one of 2 CDs in my car.

Likewise is a much sparser project than Bark Your Head Off, Dog, which means it highlights her voice & songwriting, both of which are delightful. The first track, Piltdown Man, is an exemplary example of Quinlan’s strengths as a songwriter. A simple childhood memory, vivid & relatable, perhaps framing a larger issue, perhaps not. Other favorites of mine are “Went to LA” (the last minute, that voice, my goodness) and the closer “Carry the Zero” a great take on a Built to Spill classic.

4. Liza Anne – Bad Vacation

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My top 3 albums on this list are pretty widely regarded as some of the best of the year (#6, #1, #4 according to MetaCritic) but this one which almost cracked the top 3 really flew under the radar. Another mystery on how they showed up on my radar, but it was probably a recommendation someone in the Phoebe Bridgers Expanded Universe, as three of them (Phoebe, Lucy & Christian) follow her on Twitter. A catchy upbeat album about depression, substance abuse, etc. My jam! Big Saint Vincent-esque guitars at times.

3. Run the Jewels – RTJ4

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Miller Mike & El-P are back, and they aren’t disappointing because they are heroes & masters of their craft. This isn’t my favorite Run the Jewels album (RTJ2) but, it probably takes the #2 spot. Best beat: Oh La La. Best lyrics, maybe song of the year: Walking in Snow.

2. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters

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In April, a couple weeks after this album came out, if you had told me it wouldn’t be my favorite album of the year, I would have said you were crazy. Perhaps too much has already been said about the nature of this art made by someone who had more or less locked themselves in their home for years, coming out as we were slowly realizing we’d be more or less locked in our homes for a year. This album has an incredible energy to it that I think will prove to be timeless and came out at the time it was most needed.

1. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

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So, what could be better than that? Phoebe Fucking Bridgers, who has had a prolific and nearly perfect three year run, with 4 releases with 3 different groups: 2 solo albums, 1 perfect supergroup EP (Boygenius) and a full-length with one of her childhood idols, Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes with Better Oblivion Community Center. Punisher (the song) is about a different one of her childhood idols, Elliot Smith, who I have never gotten into (sorry!).

Her debut album, Stranger in the Alps might have been my favorite album of 2017… but I didn’t listen to it until 2018, so it didn’t make my list. Punisher is bigger and better in every way. Bridgers musical palette expands wildly here, and her lyricism grows with it. So many beautiful songs about so many different kinds of sadness. She also is really funny & self-aware, in her music and especially on Twitter.

Stuff I really liked that didn’t make the cut:

Ohmme – Fantasize Your Ghost
Sad13 – Haunted Painting
Bright Eyes – Down in the Weeds Where the World Once Was
The Mountain Goats – Songs for Pierre Chauvin
The Mountain Goats – Getting Into Knives
The Magnetic Fields – Quickies
Wolf Parade – Thin Mind

Cool Re-issues & Live Albums & EPs & Other Stuff:

Rilo Kiley – Rilo Kiley
Hop Along, Queen Anslies – Freshman Year
The Mountain Goats – Jordan Lake Sessions
Belle & Sebastian – What to Look For In Summer
Phoebe Bridgers – Copycat Killer EP
Nick Lutsko – Songs On The Computer

Runner Up Albums – 2016

December 23, 2016

Welcome to part two of my year-end music recap. This isn’t much of an article as it is a list of things that didn’t make my top 10 list. You can check out that list or other parts of this thing by clicking something below:

  1. Top 10
  2. Runners Up (You are reading this, right now. No need to click anything)
  3. Stats, Data & Trends, 2006 – 2016
  4. Music Piracy & Discovery

Things that were really close to making my Top 10:

Conor Oberst – Ruminations

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One of my favorite songwriters singing songs like Bob Dylan, by himself with a piano and harmonica and sometimes a guitar. Quiet and nice

Oh Pep! – Stadium Cake

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This band opened for the Mountain Goats, who I saw two nights in a row this year. They were a great opening band and I checked out their album and it turns out it’s great also.

case/lang/veirs – case/lang/veirs

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Women indie super group. Niko Case, K.D. Lang & Laura Veirs. I was worried it would be a letdown, but it’s actually great.

Things that were less close, but still really good:

Okkervil River – Away

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Okkervil River’s best album in a long time, even though the band broke up and Will Sheff found some new people to play with him and call Okkervil River. Nice and acoustic and good.

of Montreal – Innocence Reaches

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Not of Montreal’s best work. Still pretty good. See them in concert whenever you can.

Wolf Parade – EP 4

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With the exception of their incredible 2004 debut, “Apologies to the Queen Mary”, I have always loved the side projects of Wolf Parade’s members more than I have loved Wolf Parade themselves. But it’s still exciting when they are doing things together. This album is fine.

Islands – Should I remain Here At Sea?

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Islands other album made my top 10 list. This came out on the same day, and may have made my top 10 list if it was the only Islands album that came out this year. But I like the other one more, so I listened to this one less and we’ll never know for sure.

Beyoncé – Lemonade

Not on Spotify
Yeah. I like this album.

Operators – Blue Wave

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Here’s a Wolf Parade side project. Dan Boeckner’s Operators released this album. If you like his other projects (Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, the Divine Fits) you’ll probably like this too.

Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing

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Twee as fuck.

Moonface & Siinai – My Best Human Face

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Another Wolf Parade side project. Spencer Krug can do no wrong in my eyes. This is kind of boring though. If I don’t love this, I’m not sure who will. Still worth a listen if you like his stuff though.

Music Piracy & Discovery

December 23, 2016

A remembrance of

Remember Napster? I sure do. I was 12 when it came out. I was just getting into computers and I was just getting into music and Napster basically changed my life.

On our family’s 56k modem, I downloaded songs I heard on the radio that I liked. Here are some early downloads I vividly remember: Papa Roach: “Last Resort”, Limp Bizkit: “Rollin” (both the Air Raid & Urban Assault versions), O.P.M.: “Heaven is a Halfpipe”. Absolute garbage that 4th graders who are just getting into music might be interested in.

It wasn’t a straight upward trajectory, but things got better for me musically. My big obsession in middle school was Weezer (and also a lot of punk rock music we don’t need to talk about). I used Napster (and when Napster got shut down, services like Limewire, BearShare, Kazaa and all the rest) to find rare tracks, tons of bootleg concerts, radio show appearances and pretty much anything else I could get my hands on. It took 15 minutes to download a song and it was amazing.

Eventually, I got on Weezer message boards to learn more about Weezer and also to read about music that other Weezer fans liked (Hereae’s retrospective from the heyday of Weezer’s message board). I’d read a thread about an artist, then head over to whatever music pirating program I was using at that point and download an album to figure out if I was interested in them also.

The quality of these downloads were often terrible. There were low bit-rates and weird bleeps and cutoffs. Sometimes you’d have to download different album tracks from different places, and sometimes it took days to get the rare file you were looking for. But for a young person with an abundance of time, an insatiable interest in discovering new music and a satiable budget, it was incredible!

When I found an artist I liked, I tried to download as much of their stuff as possible. And eventually I’d buy the CDs. As I grew older, I’d attend more and more concerts.

To this day, I buy 10-20 physical albums (some CD, some vinyl) a year and probably attend on average a concert a month. I love music, and I spend money on music.

I really believe that one of the catalysts for me loving my music the way I do today was the ability for me to discover, hunt down and acquire (steal) music on my own at a young age. (The other catalyst is my father’s love of music.) The idea of knowing bands’ whole catalogues, finding bands that my friends had never heard of, or finding weird recordings of bands my friends loved but had never heard… all of it was wonderful.

Eventually, Napster, Limewire, Kazaa and BearShare all got shut down, or became too much of a hassle, or just weren’t that great.

Then eventually I learned about torrents.

Getting music through torrents is like getting music from Napster, but better in almost every way. On a peer to peer (P2P) service like Napster, when you downloaded a file, you were downloading it from 1 person. If they logged off of Napster, your download would stop. With torrents, you download from multiple sources as the same time, sometimes tens or hundreds. When one person logs off… it doesn’t matter! It just redirects and starts downloading from elsewhere.

Another amazing thing about torrents: You could download whole albums at the same time. No more searching for the last track of an album, or getting things from a ton of different sources and bitrates. Everything was right there in one folder.

But some things still sucked: Sometimes music was mislabeled and you’d download a virus. Sometimes the quality was garbage. Sometimes there were no seeders (that’s the term for the people you download music from) and you couldn’t download anything at all. It was tough to find a good torrent site and you’d spend a good amount of time searching for one.

Then, I started to hear about the amazing world of private torrent sites. These were invite-only sites that had rules in place to make sure that the user wouldn’t experience any of the problems above: Music wasn’t mislabeled or a virus, because you could get banned from uploading mislabeled music. Quality wasn’t garbage because they set minimum standards for that, and they were all labeled so you knew the quality of file you were downloading before you started. There were always seeders because you were required to keep a certain ratio of content downloaded to content uploaded.

The first one of these sites, and certainly the most popular at that time was Oink’s Pink Palace. This ugly site had rules like the ones listed above and also silly ones like “You have to have a cute avatar” (almost everyone had pictures of cute puppies). I got into Oink (I think from an invitation from someone on a Radiohead message board) about a year before it got shut down, and even though I had only been a member for a short amount of time, it was devastating when it happened.

Out of its ashes came an incredible site called and I rushed to get access as soon as I could. For the last 9 years, until it was shut down last month, has been my source for music discovery.

Not only did they have the best organized library of music known to man, quickly surpassing Oink’s selection, but they got everything the moment it became available (legally or otherwise), and they also had incredible tools for discovery.

There was a top 10 page where you could easily see the most downloaded torrents that had been uploaded in the last day/week/month/year. Easily visible for each release was the artist, the title, the type of release and the file file format. And even better, each upload was tagged with a smattering of genres: indie, indie.pop, indie.rock, garage.rock, etc. And when you clicked on a torrent’s page, you could participate in a discussion about the release and see what others were saying about it.
It was from this Top 10 page that I downloaded countless releases from artists I had never heard of before… and so many times I was rewarded with incredible music. So many of my new artists on my top 10 lists over the years have been a direct result of a random download.

A lot of times, I wasn’t able to get into whatever I had downloaded. But the cost of downloading was so low and the payoff for finding something great was high, so I kept going.

And just as I did with Napster, when I found an artist I liked, I bought their CDs and went to their concerts. From fourth grade until last month, while my musical tastes have evolved, my general habits of music consumption have not changed.

So it hit me like a punch in the gut a few weeks ago when was shuttered, its servers taken by some government agency in Europe. Like Napster and Oink before it, I knew that illegal music sites are never long for this world. But it felt like this was different. This site felt like it would be around forever.

Now I’m lost and confused. I’ve been depending on something for so long and now it’s gone. I don’t have a plan of attack for music discovery going forward and it is a little scary to me. Do I look for the “next”? Do I trust a combination of Pitchfork reviews and Spotify Discovery playlists to encourage my music growth going forward? I don’t know.

What I do know is that I am not ready to stop listening to new music. I will not give up on finding and supporting new artists I like. When I have children, I will play current music for them that they think is weird in various ways. And I will keep putting together these stupid top 10 lists at the end of every year as long as I can stand to write them. I don’t think I know that I am not a good music critic, but I know the joy that music brings me and that I will keep doing my part to share that joy with others.

Other 2016 Year-end music posts:

  1. Top 10
  2. Runners Up (You are reading this, right now. No need to click anything)
  3. Stats, Data & Trends, 2006 – 2016
  4. Music Piracy & Discovery

Music Data & Trends – 2016

December 23, 2016

Here’s updated data from 2015. Not tracking any new metrics, but you can read last year’s post for more context here.







Other 2016 Year-end music posts:

  1. Top 10
  2. Runners Up
  3. Stats, Data & Trends, 2006 – 2016 (You are reading this, right now. No need to click anything)
  4. Music Piracy & Discovery

Top 10 Albums – 2016

December 23, 2016

You know what was great in 2016? The music was great. This is the hardest time I’ve ever had whittling my list down to ten albums, and there are a few that break my heart to not have made the cut!

This list is full of new-to-me bands with a wide variety of genres, moods and perhaps accessibility. Old friends like Bon Over come back with exciting new sounds, my favorite band of all time is back with their first great album in almost twenty years, and Chance the Rapper literally changed my year for the better just by existing.

This year’s music review comes in four parts… I guess I’ll break these up into four blog posts. Let’s dive in.

  1. Top 10 (You are reading this, right now. No need to click anything)
  2. Runners Up
  3. Stats, Data & Trends, 2006 – 2016
  4. Music Piracy & Discovery

Here we go.

10. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – I Had A Dream That You Were Mine

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Hamilton Leithauser was/is the lead guy for The Walkman, a popular indie rock band that I was never able to get into. Rostam Batmanglij is a side guy for Vampire Weekend, a popular indie rock band that I love. He’s also in Discovery, another band that has made an appearance on this list.

Hamilton Leithauser + Rotsam is a beautiful rock band that is more Walkman than Vampire weekend, but I love it none the less. Excellent rock music for any time. For awhile, I only listened to the first song over and over again and wasn’t that impressed by the rest of the album… but it grew on me.

9. Islands – Taste

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Nick Thorburn (Or, Nick Diamonds) is the lead singer of Islands. He is also the lead singer of indie pop legends, The Unicorns. But YOU probably know his work best as the guy who wrote the score for the smash hit podcast Serial That’s fine too.

Islands has been a mixed bag of musical output in terms of quality, never bad but not always inspiring. Taste, which they released simultaniously with another album, “Shall I Remain Here at Sea”, is their best work since their 2006 debut “Return to the Sea”. Shall I Remain Here at Sea was also very good, but not good enough for this list. Clever pop music and clever lyrics. Exciting song structures. Not cumbersome.

8. Frank Ocean – Blonde

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Did I ever really taken the time to get into Frank Ocean before this year? NO, I DID NOT. Does that make me a bad person? MAYBE. But man, this album is excellent.

This album, which might be most generally characterized as R&B, has so much feeling and intention in every bit of it. Perhaps if I listened to it more, this would be higher up on this list.

7. Whitney – Light Upon the Lake

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Chill pop rock. Falsetto singing. Fun for all occasions but this wins the distinguished award of “brunch album of the year”.

6. Bon Iver – 22, A Million

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been five freaking years since Bon Iver released his last album, “Bon Iver, Bon Iver.” That album, and his 2007/2008 debut “For Emma, Forever Ago” have never really left pop culture, from their placements in movies & TV shows to YouTube covers. It’s rather remarkable for such soft spoken music.

It is easy to hear 5 years of growth in “22, A Million”. So much growth that it’s a bit startling on the first few listens if one goes in expecting more of the same. This album is sparse and weird, at the same time melodic and beautiful. I like it more every time I listen.

5. Chairlift – Moth

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This band announced they are breaking up today (December 16, 2016) which is a bit of a bummer, considering I just found out they existed in January of this year.

Fortunately, I was able to really enjoy their last album, “Moth”, and see them in concert before they broke up. This album is an infectious bit of dance pop and the album is a joy to listen to, dancing around your house and cleaning up or doing dishes or whatever. I guess they are touring a bit more in the spring before they break up, so if they’re coming to your area, go check it out.

4. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

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You already have an opinion about Kanye West and I’m not going to change it. This album is great.

3. Weezer – Weezer (The White Album)

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Who would have thought that Weezer would find its way up this high on any top ten list ever again? I sure didn’t. I didn’t think they would even make it onto my Top 10 ever again. Their most recent effort, “Everything Will Be Alright In The End” was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t seem like they had enough in the tank to make a full album of really enjoyable music again. I have never been happy to be so wrong.

Weezer (The White Album) is EASILY the third best Weezer album. It it closer in quality to their two classics (Blue (1994) and Pinkerton (1996)) than it is to any of the pretty decent to irredeemable garbage albums that they’ve released this millennium.
Don’t miss this album, and if you only listened to it once, listen to it five more times. This is great California pop rock. It never takes itself too seriously, and it’ll make you laugh or be confused without rolling your eyes/pulling your hair out. It’s weird and it’s fun and it’s great.

2. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

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Apparently this has band has been around awhile making pretty great rock music with a small following. But they seem to have picked up steam and coverage this year with their incredible rock album, “Teens of Denial” as they’ve finally reached my ears.
This album is as packed with guitar riffs as it is with clever lyrics that are at times both self-defacing and outwardly eviscerating to their subject. See this stand-out line from one of many standout tracks, Cosmic Hero:

And if you really wanted to be kind,
You’d have forgiven them a long ass time ago.
And if you really wanna know how kind you are,
Just ask yourself why you’re lying in bed alone.
If you believe in rock music, you are doing yourself a huge disservice by not checking this one out.

1. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

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When everything else was busy going to shit this year, Chance the Rapper was out there saving the world. “Coloring Book” is the happiest, most uplifting, most life-affirming, most wonderful album of the year. The joy is infectious.
This album came with a teaser of sorts, as Chance blew up the first track of Kanye’s album, delivering the only gospel verse (and the best verse) on Kanye’s self-described “Gospel Album”.

Coloring Book is a bonafide gospel album, with choirs, hymns and God throughout. It’s also a rap album, with thrilling verses from newcomers and veterans alike.

I haven’t wanted to stop listening to this album since the moment I first heard it and I know that I’ll be listening to it for years to come. Thank you, Chance the Rapper for everything you’ve done.

10 Years of Top 10 Lists: Data

January 10, 2016

I’ve been writing Top 10 Albums of the Year lists for over 10 years now, but this year marks 10 years of lists which are published on the internet. If you’d like to take a walk down memory lane, go for it:
2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

One of the most amazing parts about this, to me, is that all the links still work, across Facebook Notes, Tumblr and for the last 6 years, this very website here. Things have broken though: images embedded from elsewhere on the web, all download links, and who knows what else.

Well, I like data so I decided to take this 10 year milestone as a chance to draw as much as I can out of these top 10 lists. So I made a Google Sheet and I went to work.

Here are some charts. Some have some explanation and others should be more self explanatory. Click on the charts to see bigger versions with interactive data in a new tab.

Does my list contain popular opinions?

Are the opinions on my list widely held? This first chart aims to find out. I put in the Metacritic scores for all 100 albums on my list (when available) and averaged them out for each year. Some years 2-3 albums weren’t available so there are less than 100 data points to work with here.

My list is pretty steady from year to year with my “least popular list” at an average score of 76.1 and 3 of my most popular lists all topping out just above 81.5. Metacritic states that a score of 81-100 is “universally acclaim” and 61-80 indicated “Generally Favorable Reviews”. I put a trend line in there as well which seems to indicate that things are getting more popular:
List's Average Meteoritic Score

Some other trends

Here I took 5 different data points and put them all on one confusing chart.
The red line indicates how many artists made their first appearance on my list that year. Obviously, the first year, that would be all 10 of them.
The blue line indicates how many new artists have showed up on my list that year. This line is troubling because it’s definitely trending downward, meaning I’m listening to less new artists. Boo Jon.
The other three lines are demographics: How Canadian is my list? How female is it? And how many entries on my list are by eponymous artists?
That first chart was a little cluttered, so I made another one that is a 3 year average (one year before, one year after, when data is available):

The Regulars

The last 3 charts attempt to visualize some of my favorite artists of the last 10 years by documenting how frequently they show up on my list, how they rank in the top 10 and finally if they are in multiple bands throughout the years.
Here are all the bands that appear more than once:
Here are how bands with multiple appearances usually rank (shorter bars are best here):
And finally here are the individuals who are leads or co-leads in multiple bands that appear on the list:
For clarification:
Panda Bear is in Panda Bear & Animal Collective.
Dan Bejar is in Destroyer, The New Pornographers and Swan Lake.
Dan Boeckner is in The Handsome Furs, Divine Fits and Wolf Parade (though Wolf Parade never appears on this list!)
Britt Daniel is in Divine Fits and Spoon.
Rostam Batmanglij is in Vampire Weekend (though probably a bit of a stretch to call him a lead) and Discovery.
Spencer Krug is in Sunset Rubdown, Moonface, Swan Lake and lots of other bands that aren’t on this list.
John Darnielle is in The Mountain Goats and Extra Lens which I think was a 1-off project.
And Tim Kasher is in The Good Life, Cursive (not on any of these lists!) and of course, Tim Kasher.
There were a couple surprises for me in this chart:

  • Conor Oberst, despite being one of my favorite artists and in a ton of bands like Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos and Monsters of Folk only has 1 top 10 spot over the last 10 years
  • There’s only 1 Spoon album in my last 10 years of top 10s? That’s crazy
  • Anyway. That’s all for now. The data is available to anyone who’d like to look at it on Google Drive!

    2014 Honorable Mentions

    December 16, 2014

    It’s that time of year again where I remember that I have a blog and get to writing some year-end lists. Just like every year, I promise that I’ll make better use of this blog, but I probably won’t!

    Anyway, I’m putting together my top 10 list right now, and I’m not sure what the order is looking like in that top 10, but I am sure that these three releases aren’t going to make it. But it was really hard to leave them out so I’m going to write about them anyway. Two of my favorite artists’ releases didn’t make the list. What kind of world is this?

    Anyway. Here’s three great releases that weren’t in my top 10:

    Moonface – City Wrecker

    Longtime list-readers will know that Spencer Krug (Moonface, Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade) is maybe my favorite dude making music. I love everything that he does, including this EP.

    But… this release, coming in at 5 songs long is definitely an EP, and it seems to be a “leftovers” release from the excellentJulia With Blue Jeans On LP, released last year. It’s in the same style of that release, featuring the piano and Krug’s voice nearly exclusively for its somber noisemaking.

    That’s not to say that there isn’t some good stuff on here. The first two tracks, The Fog and City Wrecker, are both exceptional tracks which highlight Krug’s skills as a songwriter. I try to save the top 10 for full-length releases, but this was definitely one of my favorites of the year.

    Ex Hex – Rips

    This CD is loud, melodic, and fun. It’s like a punk girl group from the 50’s. You might say that it rips. Standout tracks include: Hot and Cold and How You Got That Girl.

    This was the unofficial #11 on this year’s top 10 list.

    Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In The End

    More words have been spilt on this website about Weezer than any other band, and that’s because I have a lot of sentimental attachment to them and consider them to be one of my favorite bands.

    And this is their 3rd or 4th best CD ever. Is it as good as their first two albums (The Blue Album & Pinkerton)? No. It definitely isn’t. Is it as good as their third, and third best album, The Green Album? It actually might be. Does it stand tall and proud as significantly better than Maladroit, Make Believe, The Red Album, Raditude and Hurley? It stands miles above these releases.

    So, it bums me out to leave it off this year’s top 10 list, but that’s just how it goes. I might find myself listening to this one in 2015 though, which is more than I can say about any other recentWeezer release the year after it’s come out. If you have any sentimental attachment to Weezer at all, this album is worth checking out.

    Ladies & Gentlemen: Harry Marks

    January 24, 2013

    “I Will Not Fix Your Computer”

    Do you own a Mac? Is it under warranty? Take it to the Genius Bar.

    Do you own a Windows PC? Your Google search is as good as mine.

    Ahh! I love this so much. Read the whole thing.

    Dear Facebook, get your stuff together.

    June 10, 2011

    This post has been a long time coming, is multi-faceted and angry. If anyone who works at Facebook reading this, I would like you to read my whole post, but if you don’t want to do that, read this: I would pay $50/month to have phone/live-chat access to someone who could help me deal with problems similar to the ones I describe below. I’d even pay if you provided timely email support. Submitting a “help” form and waiting 3 weeks for a response is not a viable business proposition.

    I work for a company called boom. reactive. Among other things, we help companies out with their Facebook pages. Here are some problems I’ve been having recently.

    Section 1: Merging places

    An important part of this job is claiming existing unofficial pages and merging them with official pages. This has always been a pain, but for reasons that I understand and to some degree appreciate. Unofficial pages get created (to the best of my knowledge) when someone “checks in” to a location using Facebook on their mobile device, and can’t find the location for some reason, so they create their own. From there, other people check in and all of a sudden, in the case of one of our clients, there were 1,226 check-ins and 277 likes at an unofficial page.

    Fortunately, whoever created the page used the company’s phone number in the “information” section. Facebook allows you to verify page ownership by answering the phone and entering a PIN number. “Great,” you might think. “All you have to do is tell your client to answer their phone and send you the PIN number.” Exactly.

    So we did. We claimed the place. Then Facebook did what I wanted it to do. It said “Do you want to merge this page with an existing page?”

    Yes Facebook! It is like you are reading my mind. That is exactly what I want to do. So I select the page I want to merge it with and get an error that reads approximately this: (in retrospect, I should have taken a screen shot).

    “We’re sorry. The locations are too far apart to be eligible to merge. They will remain separate places.” Wonderful. I initially assume that this is my fault and that I had the location of the official page listed incorrectly. I checked:

    The two pages that I wanted to merge not only had IDENTICAL street addresses, and their Bing Maps displayed on the Info page are nearly identical as well. I made an overlay here so that we can see how far away these places allegedly are (despite having the same address):

    Essentially, well within the margin of GPS error.

    So, now I’ve got two separate places. Back in the old days, there used to be a merge places option for admins on the right sidebar, like this:

    That’s not there any more. They got rid of it without any warning and merging places is no longer possible. So now I’m stuck with two different places. I could delete one, but then I’d lose over 1,000 check-ins and 270 likes. That’s not good for any business and shouldn’t be necessary.

    Section 2: Creating Places

    I’m not done with you, Places. There are other headaches that you cause me daily. Another one of our clients who’s page we setup is a food truck. Unlike most food trucks however, they are in the same location every day. This is great for Facebook because it allows them to be a “place” and allows people to check-in there. That means they should be able to offer check-in based deals. All of these things are great!

    There’s the nice telling me that if I enter a valid address, users will be able to check-in using Places. The only issue is, that is a valid address, and people can’t check-in there using places. It isn’t possible. Instead of seeing a map when they go to the info page, they just see the street address. Oddly enough, when you click on that street address, it takes you to a map, which certifies that it is a valid address.

    This is a problem across the board. We can’t register our own office as a Facebook place for the same reason. It is ridiculous.

    There should be a work-around. I should be able to check-in to a place, make an unofficial page and then merge it with the existing page. However as we saw in Section 1, that isn’t possible.

    Section 3: Tagging Businesses

    Another thing… About a month ago, I read a post regarding the ability for people to tag business pages in Photos. I read it, I got excited about it and I tried it and it worked. Then I encouraged fans of one of our clients to tag the business in pictures so that they’d show up on our wall.

    Sure enough, they couldn’t. I had my partner do it. He couldn’t. Some people could tag some businesses, some people could tag no businesses. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to who could tag what. Why?? And a month later, why is the feature still not rolled out properly? This shouldn’t be a big deal.

    Section 4: Where do we go from here?

    Despite problems listed above, I believe Facebook is a great way for friends to connect with each other and for businesses to connect with customers in ways that were never possible before. The product has already changed the way people communicate and allows for more people to stay in touch than was ever possible before.

    The problems I’ve listed above are clearly more complicated than I understand and I’m sure they’ve been removed or changed or not yet implemented for a reason. What I guess I would like is more communication. A blog post that says “We’ve removed the ‘merge pages’ feature because x y and z. It will be back once we figure out how to work through these problems” or “We’re having Bing integration problems and your new pages might not be showing up as places. Bare with us as we figure this out.”

    Instead, if we have questions we get directed to a Help section who’s responses provide mainly vague and common-sense responses. Alternatively, we can browse through the nightmare that is “help discussions” or send off a response that is unlikely to get answered in anything that resembles a timely fashion.

    This is a pain in the butt for me, and it is my primary job to work on company’s Facebook pages. I can’t imagine how frustrating it is for shop owners who are managing pages themselves. What I’d imagine happens is that they get frustrated and they quit. They stop using their pages or they never offer deals because things change without warning, the system doesn’t work like it should, and there is no efficient way to get real answers about what’s going on.

    Which leads me to my point in the first paragraph. Facebook has real customers and they need real customer service. They want businesses to have pages, but when businesses run into troubles beyond the rudimentary FAQ page, they are left with nowhere to go.

    I don’t think it would be unreasonable for Facebook to offer a service where you can speak to a person or chat with them on within a browser. I don’t think it would be unreasonable to charge for it either. I’d pay a lot for it. A small business owner may pay a lot less for it, but it is still something I think a lot of people would be use.

    Alternatively, they could offer better explanations about when they add, remove or alter features. Either way, something’s gotta change.

    p.s. I really like their facial recognition feature and don’t know why people are so mad about it.

    further reading: Ars Technica has had problems with Facebook as well, but on a much larger scale. You can read about it here.

    March, a month in review.

    March 29, 2011

    I’ve tried not to do too many “life-update” type blog posts on this blog thus far, instead focusing on analysis of things that other people are doing, but a lot of stuff happened to me this month, so I’m just gonna roll with it. Everything is divided into sections. There’s still some music stuff here. Just skip over the things you don’t care about. Click through to read the rest!

    Read the rest of this entry »