PM Pick

Year end lists

There are some obvious problems with the publication of year-end best-of lists for books and music and films, the most obvious of which is that many years don't produce anything that deserves a superlative. Such lists impose a horse-race approach to entertainment commodities, as though they are all striving to finish in the money. I tend to think that sales figures are the real measure of a commodity's significance, but critics will continue to try to correct the expression of the popular will with these annual interventions, telling us all what we should have been buying and listening to. You might protest that what is popular and what is good shouldn't be conflated, but these lists always serve a promotional purpose; they are trying to make neglected albums more popular; they are shoppping guides.

What makes something "best" too is always a pretty random matter, which is why I would prefer to see a list of significant records or films, works that made a cultural impact of some sort, rather than a list of what some critic preferred. The criteria for significance seem much more rigorous than those for being "the best." Alos, there is the problem of forcing comparisons between incomparable things. What is the sense of evaluating 50 Cent's record against some obscure independant release? The history of their production and promotion is so different that that really have nothing in common. And 50 Cent is a cultural fact that one must reckon with is one hopes to understand the climate of popular entertainment; obscure artists are not social facts, they are of local importance at best and tell you nothing in and of themselves of the zeitgeist -- they are only significant in the aggregate with other obscurities, pointing to "underground" trends. And then there is the fact that no one actually listens to all the albums that come out in year or read all the books -- with film it might be possible but it is becoming less so.

My main problem with composing these lists for albums is that I've spent most of 2005 listening to pop music that came out in other years. My top 10 for 2005 in terms of the albums that meant something to me, that crowded their way into my life, looks like this:

1. Thin Lizzy -- Fighting.

2. Donovan -- Open Road.

3. Nas -- Illmatic.

4. Bee Gees -- Mr. Natural.

5. Buckingham Nicks.

6. Emmitt Rhodes.

7. MIA --Arular.

8. Tegan & Sara -- So Jealous.

9. Iron Maiden -- Killers.

10. Blind Faith

Not a very useful list, one that is entirely specific to me, one that would only become less interesting if I elaborate my reasons. It's really a personal thing, oriented to a narrative of my life how it unfolded over the year. A list of the best records of 2005 that I could come up with would be little more than a list of records that I listened to more than once. I'm sure I'm not alone in that. Compiling such a list, I'm tempted to include albums I've merely heard of, albums I never even listened to, just beause I liked the band in the past. This may be why these lists end up so predictable; everyone is filtering in terms of the same hype and hearsay.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image