Compiling year-end lists is an art form. Lucky for everyone, our own Michael Lopez understands that art very well. So does Consequence of Sound. The Associated Press, on the other hand... not so much, which is why the Houston Press, among others, famously and understandably shit all over AP's 2009 year-end list.
How come we music critics make these lists of the best albums of the year? Why do people want to compare their own personal tastes to ours? And why do some lists suck so badly?
As Michael Lopez pointed out, some critics base their lists on several key elements so as to seem well-rounded. Consequence of Sound goes for a healthy balance of their personal tastes and the biggest hits of the year. If you read AP's terrible 2009 list, you'll notice their formula simply consisted of only including albums they liked the best while excluding other albums that the rest of the world thought was fantastic or important, as proved by record sales. For goodness sake, the album Dark Night of the Soul by Danger Mouse and Sparkelhorse wasn't even released in 2009; it officially came out this July.
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So why do we make these lists in the first place?
Well, for a few reasons, some of which are better known than others. Some of us make them to define an album's significance and establish it for posterity. Some of us compile these lists to show how hip we are as a critic, or if we're truly hip, show how "anti-hip" (and thus super hip) we are. Some desire to inform readers about cool records they should check out that they may have overlooked. Others write them to covertly promote a lesser-known artist who released an awesome album this year.
In short, our job is to pay attention throughout the year and pick out the gems while summarizing the year and bringing it to a close. Anybody could make a solid year-end list if they're consistently up to speed on what's hot in music. The best we can do is shoot for a great big ten execution. I suppose it comes down to offering our opinions in order to share common interests with our readers. And if you share no common favorite albums on those lists, at the very least maybe you'll learn something about an artist or an album.
Either that or we'll just hope you'll pay more attention to the music scene next year.