Monday, January 14. 2013
Music: Current count 20938  rated (+29), 591  unrated (+5).
Only eight Jazz Prospecting notes in the scratch file, so I'll hold that back until next week. I do have my first 2013 A record, plus an A-. Neither will be big surprises, although both are steps up, and that's always a bit surprising. Also have my lowest-rated 2012 jazz album to date. I don't expect much else for next week, unless I break into the ECM advances. The incoming has been so uninspiring I'll hold it back for next week too.
Meanwhile, the following is a fragment that I wrote more than a week ago as I started to try to pull together a year-end comment, but didn't get very far. Part of that may be structural: do I keep going down my list? Or, do I try to pull something about of the metacritic data? I'll take another stab at it. Meanwhile, this:
A quick top-ten album list, good enough for the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop ballot (done December 27; numbers in bold are points awarded; numbers in brackets are counts from my metacritic file at that point):
After another week's listening, I'm tempted to say that Live, by The Group (1986, NoBusiness) has cracked my top ten, but I'll leave well enough alone: I don't really want to bump Person, who's nearing 80 and has fifty-some years of underappreciated major-level achievement, in favor of a December release from Lithuania of a 25-year-old session by a bunch of mostly dead guys (Ahmed Abdullah and Andrew Cyrille are the exceptions, and they could use the recognition).
The mean count in the metacritic file is 16.2, 3.0 of which is due to my own evaluation (1 point for B+ or better, 1 more for A-, 1 more for top ten, a formula I apply to about 50 prominent sources, so why not me?), so Knight and Person would have wound up at 0 otherwise -- this counting hundreds of year-end lists, some with 100 or more entries. [PS: Knight actually went on a run after this, so his current count is now 10.]
I've heard 80 of the top 100 records in the metacritic file. The 20 I haven't heard break down into two lists: those I looked for but didn't find (Flying Lotus, Chromatics, Actress, Andy Stott, Ty Segall, Field Music, Taylor Swift), and those I didn't get around to looking up, possibly for fear that I might find them (Father John Misty, DIIV, Ariel Pink, Converge, How to Dress Well, Passion Pit, Baroness, Scott Walker, Deftones, Poliça, Torche, Wild Nothing, Dinosaur Jr). [PS: Since I wrote this, I looked up three more: DIIV (**), How to Dress Well (B), and Walker (C-).]
The only A- records I find in my metacritic file top 100 are:
That's probably about par over the last decade, or at least that part where, thanks to Rhapsody, I've been able to hear close to 80% of the top-100 critically-rated albums. (Before that I heard much fewer than 80% -- more like 20% -- because I suspected most of them weren't worth buying.) I don't eschew popularity in music, nor do I think that most critics are full of shit. In fact, I'd assert that both popular and critical taste correlate positively with good music -- not by a huge amount, but by enough to be significant. For example, of the 80 top-100 records I heard and rated, aside from the 10 A- records above, another 42 got some form of B+. A quick rundown:
I sampled all of those on Rhapsody, so assume the usual caveats: some might improve with more play, and others might slip -- I'm especially suspicious of the five records that made it into our Turkey Shoot.
The next hundred slots in the metacritic file are comparably scattered -- the curve shifted a bit down -- but with twice as many records that I've missed (46 vs. 20):
Beyond that things continue to thin out -- although once you drop below 1000 you find more jazz, specifically jazz that I received, so the ratio of blue/green lines flips. From 201-300, I have another A (Steve Lehman) and 6 A- (Madonna, Homeboy Sandman, Air, Big KRIT [4Eva N a Day], Branford Marsalis, Nicki Minaj). From 301-400, no A but 7 A- (Carly Rae Jepsen, Disappears, Dave Douglas, Kid Koala, Serengeti, Cornershop, De La Soul). From 401-500, no A but 9 A- (Pet Shop Boys, Prinzhorn Dance School, Chiddy Bang, Janka Nabay, Jenny Scheinman, BBU, Ani DiFranco, Charles Gayle, Wadada Leo Smith [Ancestors]. From 901-1000, this thins out to just 2 A- (Fred Lonberg-Holm, TommyWomack), the main difference being that the number of rated records has dropped to 14. Still, I doubt that hearing the rest would make much difference: like I said, there is a small positive critical correlation, plus there is a small bias toward my own preferences (by counting my own grades, plus those of critics with similar tastes.
The metacritic file goes on for 5354 lines -- nearly half (2560) documenting a single reference, 895 with just two. At that level, we aren't sampling opinion; we're just gathering up loose ends.
As long as I'm farting around here, let me try one more table, this time taking the records on Robert Christgau's Dean's List (link below) and mapping them into my grades (* indicates based on something other than a physical copy):
So, I've listened to about 85% of the records in Christgau's list, and more/less agree on about half of those (41/86), with another fourth just marginally off the mark. Some of the others are records I really dislike (Americana, Death Grips, Beach House, Skrillex), and others I just didn't spend much time with (one spin of Ab-Soul and XX way before Christgau reviewed them; same for Mathambo -- I bought a copy later but have only managed one more play, and can't find it now. On the other hand, Jamey Johnson and Pink haven't gotten any better since I bought copies. Thus far the only 2012 release I've gone back to and graded up was Burial, which was helped by combining two EPs (Street Halo/Kindred).
Conversely, the following is a subset of my 2012 A-list after scratching out everything on the Dean's List plus most of the jazz (I kept Neneh Cherry as a critical crossover success and Byron because Christgau has reviewed him in the past; I also added in some compilations). The numbers just count the subset, which started with 115 albums plus 13 compilations. The 31 records here compare to 39 on the Dean's list (41 minus two 2011 releases), so one way to look at this is: Christgau finds about 56% of my non-jazz A-list.
Lots of interesting music there, and hard to really pigeonhole it all.
A (small) sampling of year-end lists I somehow remembered to keep links to:
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