Whenever it gets to the end of the year, one of the hardest things I have to do when it comes to work is compile a list of my favourite albums of the year for the various magazines I write for. It’s difficult for many reasons. One is that it’s practically impossible to create a hierarchy of albums – to say that this one if better than that one which is better than that one and so on.
Depending on mood, weather, time of day and all sorts of other immeasurable factors, the impact certain albums have on me constantly changes. One day, I may prefer Artist A to Artist B, the next, Artist E might take the top spot. The second difficulty is that, much as I’d like to, I don’t hear every album that’s released. So there are always bound to be glaring omissions by a worthy contender for the simple reason that I didn’t get a copy or – and this is even more crucial, perhaps – it’s not my kind of thing. There are plenty of acclaimed albums that I can’t stand, just as there are plenty of critically lambasted albums that I love. So really, what I base it on is a very non-clinical, non-professional approach.
My end of year lists tend to comprise the albums I keep (or kept) going back to. And the top spot this year was undoubtedly Superchunk’s Majesty Shredding. Years ago, two of its members formed Merge Records, which recently gave us Arcade Fire, who have since far eclipsed Superchunk, but it was their first record in nine years and it was utterly worth the wait. After that, I’d probably say American Slang by The Gaslight Anthem, which saw the New Jersey band shed the Springsteen tag heaped on them by lazy journalists and create something that was both theirs and of the time as it was steeped in the mystique of rock’n’roll. Speaking of Bruce Springsteen, the deluxe remastered version of Darkness On The Edge Of Town, complete with two discs of previously unheard songs from those sessions, was simply mind-blowing, and just as relevant today as it was in 1978. Straight Lines, who I mentioned in one of my previous columns, hit big with the sharp, spiky punk of Persistence In This Game, while harbinger of doom Jaz Coleman lead notorious UK post-punks Killing Joke to deliver a terrifying, Yeatsian vision of an apocalyptic future with ‘Absolute Dissent’.
Elsewhere, Scottish troupe Frightened Rabbit proved themselves less than timid with a stunning third record, The Winter Of Mixed Drinks, and producer du jour Dangermouse resurrected the recently deceased Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse for a hauntingly beautiful collaborative album called, appropriately, ‘Dark Night Of The Soul’. Surfer Blood’s debut album, Astro Coast took Beach Boys-esque ‘60s pop and added a dose of feedback-dominated nihilism to the equation, to make one of the best pop records of the year, while Avi Buffalo stunned with their self-titled debut album, which somehow managed to capture the shimmering hope and sadness of youth with its gorgeous, summery, sunny songs. All of which brings me to the 10th record. But you know what…I can’t choose. Because there are still so many worth mentioning. So, if you want to add to the list with your choice, feel free to do so!
Mischa Pearlman is a music journalist living in London, who writes for a bunch of music magazines such as The Fly, Kerrang!, Clash, Record Collector and Alternative Press. He does this purely for the love and less frequently for the money, and is always hoping to fall in love with his next favourite band so he can tell you about it.