Posted by: Dominic Umile | 11/16/2009

Behind the Best-Of Records List

The Best Of ProcessOver the last week or so, I’ve been compiling Top Ten and Top Twenty Albums lists for this space and for PopMatters, where I am a regularly contributing writer. I’m planning on posting a good deal about my favorite electronic records that have been issued in 2009, and I’ll have a lot to say about my favorite overall records for this year as well (even though there might be a shift or two in the order from now until then).

While I largely cover music of an electronic or DJ/instrumental hip hop nature, I listen to a great deal of other stuff, so I think that some Whisper Council visitors might find some surprises in my favorite overall albums list for 2009, but most of y’all know that The Small Faces make as regular an appearance on the living room hi-fi as Madvillainy, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Boards of Canada, or Trojan Records comps do.

MadvillainyAs long as I’ve been writing about music, whittling down my annual favorite records list into a top ten or twenty releases grows more arduous every year.

It’s always tough to make decisions like the ones that go into crafting an end-of-the-year Best Records list, particularly when the year isn’t over. In recent years, I’ve been blown away by how much good stuff ends up in my p.o. box, or by how many great records I end up spending so much of my paycheck on. I’m also surprised by how much of it sucks, but that’s another story altogether.

Memoirs at the End of the WorldDeveloping a favorites list is a chore because I’m forced to think about all of the records that I listened to so much during the course of a year in a new way — pinned against the others that have grabbed my attention for one reason or another, so that a minor contest of sorts begins to brew (only in my feeble mind), centering on a) why this album stayed with me in the manner that it did; b) why I think it’s better than these others, contextually; c) how I felt when I first heard it; and d) how much of those feelings lingered during the tenth or e) fifteenth listen. These aren’t the exact metrics, but I’m sure you get the point. Anyway, it ends up being a rewarding exercise for me because I get to again sift through, celebrate, and critically think about all of the art and musical innovation that I was fortunate enough to absorb this year. Scouring the end-year lists in the print and web worlds (as well as those that my friends and I tend to send back and forth via email, and in poorly lit taverns) is far more enriching, however. After all, what’s better than finding out that aside from what you see as the greatest records released this year, there’s a whole bunch more out there that you need to hear? I only just picked up the polished new batch of what sounds like discarded (but meticulously arranged) 1960s film soundtracking from The Postmarks, for example (even though I hoped to write about it in August and an editor of mine wasn’t much interested, sadly), and it’s made for some wonderful listening this weekend.

Kind of BlueI’ll post more on my favorite 2009 albums in the weeks to come (or sooner), and don’t forget to check in on PopMatters’ mammoth lists when they go live — they’re always heavy with insight and are expansive as all get-out. You can take a look at last year’s lists here.



  1. I look forward to this. I have been shirking my duties at work all day trying to build a semi coherent list of my own. Still needs a lot of work, luckily there are a lot days ahead of me at my stupid job.

    We shall converse soon, and by converse I mean needlessly swear at and insult each others mothers.

  2. Thanks a lot, Bald Ben. I’ve got a fair amount to say here about this year’s best records. There were a lot, and I missed out on a great deal, which is always the best part — finding out what else there is to spend money on. I look forward to swearing about all of this, too.

  3. I’ve been working on a list too. I’ll send it. Also, the Millions has a cool piece on The List and what it means to make one.

  4. Joey! Thanks a lot for chiming in here, and thanks for reading. I’ll look forward to getting your list, too.

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