Monday, November 8, 2010

Almost-Perfect Albums

Thanks to the internet and, specifically, widely popular sites like Rate Your Music and Sputnik, people have been under the (somewhat misguided) impression that their opinions about music actually matter a little and, thus, should let others know of what they think of album X by artist Y. I am, of course, one of these people. My RYM account is here and, frankly speaking, I quite enjoy critically evaluating what I listen to and determining where it stands under the grand scheme of things.

Where I'm going with this is that most people and websites rate albums either out of 10 in whole numbers (Pitchfork are the obvious outliers), or out of 5 possible stars with half star increments. Simply speaking, there are, generally, 10 possible numerical values one may assign an album that indicates its quality. However, the absolute highest rating, whether it be 10/10 or a full 5 stars, is always approached with caution. People seem very hesitant to give an album the highest possible rating unless it quite literally is the second coming of Jesus and whose only flaw is that nothing so beautiful will ever be recorded again (Rate Your Music is particularly guilty of this with many users having rated thousands of albums, yet I can count with my hands how many have been designated 5 stars). I don't completely support this and am somewhat more liberal with my maximum rating, but, at the same time, I completely understand their hesitation. The jump from 4.5 to 5 or 9 to 10 is pretty big mental barrier, one that I, despite claiming to be more liberal than most, will always cross with caution.

So, I guess the point of this post, other than to finally update this site a little bit, is to pay tribute to some of those albums who didn't quite make the absolute top tier, but, any anxiety about rating too many things too highly aside, probably should be at the max (at the very least, they're high 4.5's).

Animal Collective - Feels

Why it works:
First of all, Feels is probably my favourite Animal Collective album, and considering my shameless devotion to this band, that already makes it pretty special. It features both the older and 'zanier' A.C screwing around with how a song should sound as well as the newer, more pensive and, perhaps, more serious A.C. It's also the only album of theirs where an acoustic guitar features quite prominently and, rather startlingly, fits in quite well.

Why it's not perfect:
You'd be hard pressed to find an Animal Collective fan who likes every single song they've released. The whole point the group is to try new things. As such, there are a few songs on here that don't sit with me as well as others. Not to say they're terrible or even bad, just not fantastic.

Atheist - Unquestionable Presence

Why it works:
Probably one of the most technically accomplished albums released (not that that's necessarily a good thing, Dream Theater still suck for example), Unquestionable Presence is an amazing fusion of death metal with Latin and jazz drum beats and rhythms. It also features some of the best bass lines I've heard, which is always welcome as the bass is an immensely underused instrument. This wouldn't mean anything if the music weren't any decent, but, thankfully, it is. Definitely one of those albums I'm always happy to crank out as I never get tired of it.

Why it's not perfect:
The tracks are a little 'samey'. Also, I simply don't seem to find it quite as good as Loveless or some of my other 5-star masterpieces.

Glenn Branca - The Ascension

Why it works:
The Ascension summarises quite nicely what I liked about underground music from the early 80's. It's noisy and abrasive at times, but behind all this there is a very solid structure with respect to what the song is actually doing. I think a pretty big reason I like this so much is that every track has an excellent build-up and climax, it's like Glenn Branca is rewarding me for not skipping half way through.

Why it's not perfect:
It simply isn't, only by a whisker though.

Have a Nice Life - Deathconsciousness

Why it works:
Because 2 guys with only a little money and shitty equipment went on to make the best album since 2007. Seriously, it's amazing.

Why it's not perfect:
I still think disc 1 isn't as good as disc 2. It's also probably longer than what it needed to be.

Natural Snow Buildings - The Dance of the Moon and the Sun

Why it works:
Those who read my ramblings may remember that I mentioned this a few months back in one of my 'Album of the Week' posts. What's happened since then is that the seed this album planted has germinated and is now really starting to bud. It's just so deep and dense that I can't help but keep coming back to it, wanting to find out more, even months after I first got it. The Dance of the Moon and the Sun now sits, quite comfortably, as my most played album on and, considering the average track length isn't exactly short (6 and a half minutes or so), that's a hell of an achievement. I wish there were a way I could sum up 2 and a half hours of intricate music in a few sentences, but my ability with words only goes so far. Instead, I'll tell you to go listen to it, if you've got the time, of course.

Why it's not perfect:'s very long? Fuck it, I'm bumping this up to a 5.

1 comment:

  1. You know, I actually blame Discogs for making me more critical of music. o_O
    After I decided to keep track of my music collection there, I then figured I may as well use the rating system (1-5, no half-points, but user totals are averaged). So, I inevitably found myself going "hmm, if Boys For Pele is one of the most phenomenal and unmatched albums around --which it is-- how can I give The Beekeeper a 5 as well? It would defy logic! :o

    I gave it a 5 anyway. I'm a rebel in my own little logic-defying sandbox.