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Inspired by Nick Carr, I decided to compile a list of my favorite albums for each year of my life. The constraints are: only one album per year and no repeated artists. To make the task a bit easier, I also decided to restrict the list to albums I own, and to only consider studio albums: no compilations, live album, or DJ mixes.
Exercises like this are kind of pointless, but I found it interesting nonetheless. First of all, it drives home how unevenly distributed over time good music is. For some years, like 1981, I had a hard time recalling any albums I liked. Other years like 1984, or periods like 1991-1994 (high school!) made for some difficult choices. Purple Rain, The Pod, and Buhloone Mindstate should really be on this list, as should The Chronic.
The other interesting aspect of doing this is seeing at which point my musical taste formed: it isn’t until 1988 that this list reflects what I was actually listening to at the time (no, my parents didn’t play The Modern Lovers and Lust for Life for me in my crib). From that point on, my tastes have gone through various phases and changes (I like jazz a lot more now than I did back then), but I still like now what I liked then.
Finally, it makes me realize how the album is linked to certain genres and modes of consuming music. I had a hard time recalling albums from 1996-1998, because I was DJing at that time and mostly buying and listening to music in the form of 12-inch singles and DJ mixes. And for the last few years as well, a disproportionate amount of the music I listen to is singles downloaded from MP3 blogs and mixes posted to the web. In fact, I haven’t bought any 2008 studio albums yet, but decided to include I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II because I love Killer Mike and it’s his best album. Which isn’t to say that I believe that the natural unit of music is the track. It’s just that the web allows me to more easily dig for forgotten older stuff, and so most of the albums I’m buying recently are not current releases but older things like Desire Develops an Edge, Joggers & Smoggers and Idiot O’Clock. It’s a great time to be a music maniac…