Thursday, October 1, 2009

Best Album of the Decade

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The end of the decade will mark eight years since I first visited Pitchfork. It's been a roller-coaster-- many great reviews, some bad ones, a number spectacular groups they introduced me to (the Avalanches, the Arcade Fire, the Knife, Deerhunter, to name a few).

It all comes down to this: Tomorrow, Pitchfork announces their top 20, and number 1 album of the decade.

But making a countdown, ranking artists, naming the #1 album of the decade, inherently makes no sense. Everything is subjective to where we are right now--what musical path that album, and ones similar to it, has carved. The problem is there is no way to tell the future, no way to tell what this same album will influence 1, 5, 20 years from now.

We tend to think of music as following a singular path. In our attempt to understand where or how an artist is inspired we pinpoint times, places, feelings, and other musicians to their work. And so when it comes to the closing of 2009, the first decade of the new millennium, we can look at what music was and is and find the albums that inspired them. But we can't look forward, and that is a fatal flaw to making and hardcoding this venerable list.

So far, the countdown is full of snippets like "...Mirrored didn't set any new trends: for the rest of the decade, indie mostly shifted back to its fascination of working against constraints..." and, about the Boredoms' Vision Creation Newsum, "...RECORDED A PERFECT RECORD FOR THE MILLENNIUM THE YEAR BEFORE IT STARTED," which is evidence of the obsession with the past and present. The writers need a way to materialize their album, to create this path, to explain how and why music sounds a certain way today.

Take a look at their top albums of the 1970's. David Bowie's Low, while an undoubtably monumental album, would probably not end itself at number one today. In 2004, when this list was created, the albums that Low influenced are notably different from five years on. I'm sure London Calling would have found itself at #1 at least once if this list were rewritten between now and then.

Don't agree with me? Think of what you would have said your top five albums were in 2004 vs now. I'm sure your perspective has changed drastically. Still don't agree with me? Look at their Top 2000-2004 Albums and compare it to the top albums they have selected just this week. They are not in the same order.

In one month, year, decade, I guarantee this list would change if it could. But it can't, the artists get the deserved and undeserved acclaim for their work.

So then who the fuck cares about what gets number one?

I do.

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