The Top 100: An Obligatory Recap
May 15, 2015
Throughout my project, I’ve paused for a moment at the end of each group of 100 to reflect a bit on what came before: to pick out a favorite, a least favorite, to come up with some simple statistics. It’s been a nice little practice–something to break up the flow of regular entries, and to inspire some thoughts about how what I’ve been hearing figures into my larger musical horizons. This one, though, feels like a bit of a pain in the ass–for me, and perhaps for you, the reader, as well. I’m done! Done with this! And while I look forward to being able to offer up a more general overview of the entire project, to have to dwell for a moment on this last subset feels slightly…deflating. And yet the completist in me could never allow for the asymmetrical skipping of this particular recap, so it’s got to be done. So, briefly, if you’ll bear with me:
My Favorite Album of the top 100 wouldn’t necessarily have to be my favorite of the entire project, I guess, but of course it is. This one has caused me some consternation, because I confidently announced in my entry on the album that The Band (the sophomore effort by the group of that same name, also known as The Brown Album) was going to be my favorite of the project. Whereas as I made my way through the rest of the list, and the top five especially, that came to seem like a faintly preposterous notion, or at least one worth seriously questioning. But I’ve done some soul searching (and replaying), and decided to hold to that decision. I’ll offer up my reasons in the forthcoming big recap, but for now, let’s just say that this one is my favorite of the top 100, and of the entire project as well. Other possible favorites are really too numerous–and obvious–to mention.
There’s significantly less reason to expect that my least favorite of the top 100 would also be my least favorite of the entire project, and yet I’m pretty sure that too is the case. That’s another story I’ll save for the big recap, but for now I’ll just say that my least favorite albums of these top 100 is, of course, The Stranger by Billy Joel.
The Best Album I had never heard before would have to be Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band. Physical Graffiti was right up there too. In general, there were fewer albums I hadn’t heard, and those that I hadn’t often tended to be due to longstanding antipathy (as, to some extent, had been the case with Led Zeppelin).
I believe Trout Mask Replica may also win for most pleasant surprise, as I was conscious of a great likelihood that I would hate it, and was very pleased to find that I did not. Other albums that fit that description, though were less of a home run overall, were The Who’s Tommy, and Horses by Patti Smith.
The Biggest Disappointment, I’m chagrinned to concede, might have to go to Purple Rain. It’s going in the “liked it” column, but I had expected, or at least hoped, to really love it. And yet I found myself somewhat nonplussed by it, even after a subsequent relistening. Sign o’ the Times, for example, seemed much more obviously interesting to me, if a bit overwhelming. I had somewhat of a similar experience with Forever Changes by Love, except that I had heard that one before, and only hoped that time and maturity might have made its reputation as a masterpiece less puzzling to me.
So, how ‘bout those statistics? Well, the like/don’t like question has gotten a lot more confusing up at these heights. Throughout the project, I have generally “liked” only about half of the records, with that number inching slowly up as I get higher up. But in the top 100, it seems to have suddenly leapt all the way up close to 90%. Some of that is because there aren’t too many spaces up here for outlying genres like metal or dissonant indie rock that I’ve never quite warmed to. It’s all pretty sturdy, meat ‘n potatoes kinda stuff. And maybe some of it is that I find it harder to say definitively that I “don’t like” something that is universally beloved enough to have made it this high on the list. The number that I actually have real enthusiasm for is likely quite a bit closer to down to that 50% mark. But the standard I established for this question–what is my gut feeling about the prospect of listening to a record again, right now?–only turned up 11 records I could say definitively that I didn’t like–and even some of those are ones I have more or less committed to keep trying to listen to sometime in the future. The albums I had never heard before number also, and perhaps not uncoincidentally, plummeted in these 100 albums. Generally, that number also started out somewhere around the 50% mark, gradually going down to more like 40%. In this group of albums, it fell almost down to 20%, or 21 albums. Most–though not all–of the albums I didn’t like feel within that group of 21, but it’s noteworthy that there were ten or so albums I had never heard before up here in the top 100 that I came away feeling pretty good about. And that feels like a pretty good justification for this whole project right there.