Sunday, June 6, 2010


I know that all the "one hundred best _____ of the decade" buzz subsided months ago, but I just recently stumbled upon, via wikipedia, this list by Resident Advisor, a electronic and dance music journal. I have to say I am intrigued. Seeing this list really allows a level of transparency about the whole idea of such a project. I say this because, while I'm sure the staff of RA whole-heartedly voted for what they thought was the decade's best, very, very obvious biases show through.

First of all, its not clear whether these are supposed to be the best overall albums or the best electronic and dance albums. Such a distinction should make a really big difference and as you make your way up from the top rated albums this questions looms larger and larger. Sound of Silver presents a good example: Murphy was well known as a DJ before he started his "band" and his first album is his danciest output. Sound of Silver, his second album, is a quite obvious move away from both dance and electronic media (see "All My Friends", "New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down"). It is, however, almost universally excepted as an improvement over the first. So when his first album ranks higher than SOS, its hard to know what's being said. The staff could simply like it better, but is that because they work for a dance oriented journal? Or even worse, are they simply ranking it higher because it better fits their criteria?

Secondly, the staff of RA does not seem to take kindly to outsiders. While I am amongst those who are a little confused about basically every publication ranking Radiohead's Kid A in their top five, RA basically gives it a giant kick in the balls by placing it all the way up at number 38, calling it simply "[a]n album that influenced countless DJs and producers, and was an electronic gateway drug for thousands of rock kids." Panda Bear's Person Pitch, an album I would much rather have take Kid A's place at exalted number 1, is dismissed to number 84 as a "beat driven" side project.

So what do we do with all this obvious positionality? Well, it seems that these sorts of lists say much more about the writers picking the albums than the albums being picked: see a much more obvious example in Rolling Stone, who placed a Bob Dylan album in their top ten. On the bright side, I feel like albums that share top spots on various lists deserve even more attention. Universal appeal has to mean something right? These are the albums that manage to show worth to people with distinctly different tastes. I'm very happy to see albums I adore (Since I Left You, Silent Shout) take top spots on multiple lists, and I have to say that I really would like to check out Burial's Untrue and revisit Daft Punk's Discovery for doing the same. In addition, left field picks (my left field, not theirs) are worth a listen simply because exaltation by anyone deserves at least a little attention. I've already started with their number 1, Villalobos' Alcachofa, and its very apparent that I will enjoy myself if I continue.

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