It all boils down to time spent. The more time I spent with a record, the more likely it was to make it onto this list. Imagine a Christmas or New Year's party with hundreds of people that you may or may not know, and witness how you gravitate towards some and not others, how circumstance steps in and closes a conversation here but continues one there. An old friend may seem a little disheveled as the evening wears on; a new acquaintance might be most intriguing. Overall, there probably won't be any life-changing moments (although there could be, just maybe) and there likely won't be any relationships ruined, but afterwards, the highlight reel of interactions will pop into mind, with some scenes in sharp focus, others a dreamy montage, with snippets of dialogue, plot lines half understood, and an overall feeling of the film's highlights. 2014 was the year of up-and-comers like Lake Street Dive, Sturgill Simpson, Nikki Lane, Courtney Barnett and Parquet Courts, among others. None of these artists made it onto my top 10, but they are on plenty of other folks' lists, and I'll continue to enjoy their music from 2014 for years to come.
In the case of Lake Street Dive, I struggled to find reasons why they shouldn't be on the list. The usual factors leading up to inclusion were all there. Fantastic album? Check. Magnificent live show attended? Yep. Even a guest DJ appearance at WNCW which went swimmingly? Indeed. So what gives? Is their popularity so widespread that it gives me pause? Perhaps a vestige of distrust for smash hits and bands that play on Ellen or Conan is at play here? Cases like this that make me wonder how much personal bias colors all of our listening.
But that personal bias is inescapable, and essential, really. These top 10 lists we're making are really favorite 10 lists. We're not putting albums through some algorythm to arrive at songs which are mathematically superior. Music, like all the arts, is subjective, and our favorite records reveal much about us. These lists are not only a personal highlight reel, but also a lens which magnifies the map of our musical travels, and a hint of our biases and soft spots.
With list making, as the saying goes, it is what it is. Here is mine:
- Hiss Golden Messenger - Lateness of Dancers
- Quilt - Held In Splendor
- Aaron Burdett - Fruits of My Labor
- I Draw Slow - White Wave Chapel
- The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger - Midnight Sun
- Nick Waterhouse - Holly
- Benjamin Booker - Benjamin Booker
- Reigning Sound - Shattered
- David Kilgour - End Times Undone
- Ty Segall - Manipulator
Now that the year is almost over and the rushing river of new music has iced over for the time being, I can finally spend more time with these and other favorites. It is a rare treat, one I hope you get to enjoy as well. - Joe Kendrick