Wednesday, January 16. 2008
Based on my tracking of numerous year-end lists, here's my WAG -- (stands for "wild ass guess," shortened from the SWAGs we used to estimate software projects) -- for the big year-end critics polls. I'm thinking more of the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop Poll, but also Idolator's anti-Voice poll (more on that below):
The top two could go either way. Same for the next two. Actually, my raw data puts Radiohead ahead of MIA and LCD Soundsystem above Arcade Fire, in both cases by tiny margins. Spoon is pretty clearly next. The next five slots are actually a toss-up. The raw data favors Panda Bear, then the National, both of which strike me as marginal (not to mention not that good, not that I'm a fan of the others).
Beyond that, the list is likely to look something like this:
My raw data also nominates records by: Ryan Adams, Andrew Bird, Björk, Blonde Redhead, Caribou, The Field, Jens Lekman, Liars, Queens of the New Stone Age, Joshua Redman, Rihanna, St. Vincent, Robert Wyatt. The raw data didn't nominate Wu-Tang Clan or Ghostface Killah, but they came out late, and as good records by well-known artists are likely to do better than my data suggests. I've tended to upgrade rap and to downgrade electronica -- Burial and Justice do better in the raw data than on my projections, but I doubt most voters have heard them. My data includes a lot of jazz lists, so that's one skew that won't show up in the polls.
I've heard most of these records (exceptions: Battles, Grinderman, Lil Wayne, Menomena, Kings of Leon, Deerhoof, Beirut). I'm not offering any opinion on the listed records: some I like, some I don't. There may be slight tweaks according to my taste, but they're pretty minor. My own ballot included one of the top 10, one more in the next 40 -- although Mavis Staples would have cracked my top 10 had I heard it in time. Only 4 of the top 10 made my A-list, 15 of the top 50 -- I doubt that's any different from past years (may be up, since I doubt that I've ever heard 43 of 50 pollwinners before).
OK, the Idolator Pop 07 poll (451 critics) is out now. I had 4 of the top 5, 9 of the top 10, 40 of the top 50. The top spot went to LCD Soundsystem, which I had at 4. My top 3 shifted down one slot. Amy Winehouse bumped Spoon from 5 to 6. My only top 10 projection that slipped was White Stripes, which finished at 16. It was replaced by Of Montreal, which I had at 10. Some others that did significantly better than my projections: Battles (11/15), Lily Allen (13/24), Burial (15/41), Animal Collective (18/33, Against Me! (21/38), Okkervil River (22/31), Tinariwen (30/40). Some of my picks that slipped but still wound up in the top 50: Jay-Z (23/14), Bruce Springsteen (25/12), Iron & Wine (34/23), Les Savy Fav (44/19), Bettye Lavette (45/28), Rilo Kiley (46/17), The Shins (46/21), Band of Horses (49/25), Modest Mouse (50/27).
The following 10 records made the Idolator top 50 but weren't on my list:
Three of those (Lekman, Field, Bird) were in my leftover list, with 10-12 mentions. UGK, Deerhunter, Spears, and New Pornographers has 7-10 mentions, making them outside shots. Tegan & Sara, Low, and Amerie had 3-4, putting them way out of my mind. I've only heard 2 of the 10 (Lekman, Spears; didn't like Lekman, and, well, you know about Spears). The ten I projected instead finished as follows (my projected finish in brackets):
It took 15 votes to get into the top 50. At 113, Common got 8, which isn't all that far off. Most of these mismatches can be blamed on my decision to skew the raw data toward hip-hop and away from electronica. I expect the Voice poll will be closer to my expectations. For one thing, the Idolator poll is run by electronica specialist Michaelangelo Matos. The Voice poll will have a lot of overlap, but should be larger, with more print journalists, a bit older and more mainstream. The big split last year between the two polls was over Bob Dylan. I expected Bruce Springsteen to do better in the Voice poll, and now it looks like White Stripes will too.
As I expected, MIA and Radiohead were neck to neck, 141 to 137. But LCD Soundsystem more than doubled Arcade Fire, 169 to 77. That's a huge shift from my raw data. It will probably close up a bit in the Voice poll, but it's too big to imagine it being reversed. Lily Allen picked up votes from 2006, when her album got a lot of advance publicity. I expected that to improve her standing, but didn't have a good idea of how to gauge the effect.
By the way, I've put together a page with the Village Voice Jazz Poll results. I list each of the albums, then by album the critics who voted for it. I haven't tabled this up into a database yet where one could make some interesting queries, like what would the totals be if you threw out everyone who voted for 3 of the top 5 albums. One thing you can see is that the top album I voted for camd in at 24, which is pretty far back, but not the farthest out.