Over the years I’ve made no secret of my ambivalence toward the end-of-year-lists tradition, even as I’ve participated it. Peter Margasak has written a couple times recently about these lists and and critics’ polls; I agree with him that it’s futile to try for consensus, and I disagree with him that it’s even remotely desirable.
When the Reader music writers’ lists are published next Friday, it’s highly doubtful that the same record will make any two people’s lists. Does this mean we’re a bunch of snobs who care only about being as obscure as possible? No. It means there were hundreds, even thousands, of records released this year, in dozens of different genres and formats, that brought us great pleasure. The more writers we have talking about their individual idiosyncratic favorites, the more great records get brought out into the light for others to discover. It means we “suffer” from an embarrassment of riches, not a paucity of obvious masterpieces. It means the idea of a consensus on Greatness, Spokespeople of Our Generation, et cetera, is anachronistic, if there were ever any basis to it to begin with.
Trying to determine–and announce–what is and isn’t “historically important” while it’s happening is ludicrous and pompous; let the coming decades decide. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations is what I like to see.