Let me get an immediate caveat out of the way. The following words should never be attributed to my list: comprehensive; permanent; canonic. I've narrowed my list down to a favorite fifty albums that I feel reasonably solid about, but I've been tinkering with the both the rankings and with the stragglers at its bottom. Which is to say that, despite the months that I've put into this little exercise (and yes, months -- I started reassessing in November up to (and certainly through) this writing), the complete list still isn't solidified, nor will it ever be, because list-making of this sort is a slow-motion snapshot of taste. And taste isn't static, it evolves and is informed by whatever your current circumstances are; something that I never "got" before suddenly makes sense because of a fleeting mood that might never return again. I guess that deals with the permanent caveat.
The comprehensive caveat. For only a brief time was I ever an active music seeker at a professional level. That commitment wasn't sustainable for me, and it didn't last, clearly. In fact, since that time, the amount of energy that I devote to finding new bands and new genres has quickly dissipated to almost nothing by 2009. Don't get me wrong, I listen to music nearly every day, and even continue to buy CDs (yes, I'm one of those), except what I bought was exclusively from artists that I've been into since 2007 or before, which means that recent critical darlings are a big void for me. Part of getting old, I guess, and at an earlier point in my life, I'd have been upset or disappointed at myself for getting complacent, but now, I can't be bothered about it. (If Barry is in the same boat, I see no reason to feel ashamed.)
Similarly, my listening has always been somewhat haphazard, where I get into something more or less randomly, or on a whim, rather than as a result of some directed listening project, like, "I really ought to check out XYZ scene" (which probably describes a lot of music experiences). However, that haphazardness stands a good chance of not providing the momentum to continue along that artist's work or their genre, so that in my listening universe, they become this bubble floating disconnectedly in space.
In any case (clumsy transition to canon caveat), certain critical favorites have never been anything I'm interested in (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, hip hop that's more about the emceeing than the production (i.e. Timbaland or bust)). Also: don't expect any Radiohead. "Influential" or "important" doesn't make me appreciate an album that just doesn't press any of my buttons. What's more, my taste has really gotten simple: I like music that has any combination of textured arrangements, nice melodies, auditory space, and female singing. (This formulation yields a lot of post-rock and psych rock and noisy indie/indie pop bands.)
So: what follows in the coming weeks is a list of albums that I liked in late 2009/early 2010, no more, no less.
TV rating: The Wire - "Boys of Summer"