Lists have received a lot of flack this year, some of it for obvious, warranted reasons, and some of it just because people love to find particular things to hate on. Honestly, lists are one of the best ways for people to delineate their varied levels of interest in different pieces of art, and to rank art based on its masterfulness. To say the propensity toward list-making has reached an all-time, absurd high is an understatement. But, to write lists off completely doesn’t make sense, as they remain the most effective way of distilling impact, ranking influence and organizing art within the world. To that end, the majority of lists at this time of year focus on the idea of “best,” which seems silly within any form of art, particularly one as subjective as music. Yet, whether it be the aristocracy in our past or the competition instilled in us by Darwin, the idea that one thing must supersede others unabashedly perseveres.
Some of my peers postulate that the world of music criticism is existentially similar to high school — that cliques and gossip populate the hallways of thought more ably than the pursuit of art or culture. I must voice a serious disagreement to this watering down of the career that music writing aims to be. The music writer, the music critic, the rock scribe, the puzzling gazer-in on the world of musicians and music, seeks to convey to culture and to themselves, why specific works of sound and lyric carry great meaning. The highest end of a critic with a truly sharp perspective is to glean the deeper leanings of music and thrust them into the light for everyone to see, and, on the opposite end of that spectrum, to shun the half-hearted efforts of fame hoppers or untalented capitalism machines. The line is a difficult one to walk and it takes an alarming amount of insight and an incisive wit to convey the highs and lows of music in a way that is meaningful and on-point. But, I would also argue that this role, the position of the music critic, is an essential one for a culture that becomes more and more immersed in music. Below I have ranked the writers that affected me this year, whose analysis moved me, whose perspective challenged me, and whose writing just plain made my heart beat faster. Please know that I am a very subjective human just like you, and this list is not an end-all-be-all or meant to hurt or unnecessarily hype anyone. It’s just a list of people that challenge me every time I read a piece, as I too strive to become the best possible music critic I can be. Continue reading