Old/New Albums: 2014 Recap

Check out all the posts in the Old/New Album series here.

Looking back over the year as it draws to a close, it turns out this blog series was the one resolution I truly kept the entire year. I listened to 25 albums I’d never listened to before for two straight weeks each and wrote about them. It was an awesome experiment and I stumbled upon some really fantastic music. Here is the obligatory ranking and wrap-up.

During this whole process, after I finished each album, I would insert them into a ranked list. So I started with Glen Campbell’s Gentle On My Mind and put that at #1. I followed it up with Jackson C. Frank’s Jackson C. Frank, and put that one higher or lower on the list, based on whether I liked it more than Gentle On My Mind. And so forth with every album after that. I understand this isn’t the most logical ranking system in the world, but it worked for me.

To see how consistent this system is, I started the process over, randomly choosing one of the albums from the year and listening to it, placing it on the list and then ranking albums higher or lower based on how much I liked it. In a perfect world, my two rankings would be identical.

They weren’t identical though, so it was not a perfect system. What’s flawed is that when I did it the first time, half way through the year, I was trying to rank albums on a list that included albums I hadn’t listened to for six months. And when I did it the second time for this recap post, I was hearing the albums with ears that had already digested each album so the results end up skewed.

So after 50 weeks of listening to these albums, here’s my final ranking from least liked to most liked (formatting is Album Title, Album Artist), with Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song excluded from the ranking as it’s a holiday specific album:

  • Nilsson Schmilsson, Harry Nilsson
  • Jackson C. Frank, Jackson C. Frank
  • Blowin’ Your Mind, Van Morrison
  • Motel Shot, Delaney & Bonnie
  • Introducing The Hardline According To Terence Trent D’Arby, Terence Trent D’Arby
  • Flamingo Serenade, The Flamingos
  • Teddy Pendergrass, Teddy Pendergrass
  • Up For The Down Stroke, Parliament
  • Young, Gifted And Black, Aretha Franklin
  • Kool & The Gang, Kool & The Gang
  • Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs, Marty Robbins
  • AWB, Average White Band
  • A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing, Black Sheep
  • Done By The Forces Of Nature, Jungle Brothers
  • The Swingin’ Miss “D”, Dinah Washington
  • Chicago VII, Chicago
  • Naturally, J.J. Cale
  • Third Eye Blind, Third Eye Blind
  • Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On, Funkadelic
  • Gentle On My Mind, Glen Campbell
  • Why Should The Fire Die?, Nickel Creek
  • Dave Digs Disney, Dave Brubeck Quartet
  • Vanity 6, Vanity 6
  • ‘Round About Midnight, Miles Davis
  • Hard Groove, RH Factor

This is a pretty awesome listed of albums. I’d be fine chopping off those first five (Nilsson through D’Arby) and never listening to them again, but for the most part I really enjoyed all of these albums.

Probably the most difficult thing about ranking this list is being totally honest with myself. I didn’t put albums in the order of which I thought I should want, but strictly which albums I enjoyed the most. Sure, it looks cool and hip to rank some unknown soul album higher than a drippingly-cheesy pop album, but boo on that. I hate the phrase “guilty pleasure” because it puts an objective measurement on something that should be completely subjective. Does it matter than when placed side by side, I’d rather listen to Vanity 6 than Aretha Franklin? No, and I sure as hell shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about it. Aretha is obviously fantastic, and I will defend the beauty and strength of her voice forever. But I enjoyed listening to Vanity 6 a lot more than Young, Gifted And Black so it got the higher ranking.

One really interesting thing about nearly every single album was that they would grow on me, almost without fail. It just reinforced the idea that judging media too early isn’t fair, especially with the medium of music. The consumer needs time to let this stuff sink in, to digest it, to wrestle with it and figure out what they think about it. Music can’t be judged properly three days after an album is released; it’s just not how the medium is absorbed. It’ll give me newfound patience with albums I’m starting for the first time, whether they are brand new to the world or older than I am.

Which is probably why I’ll take a brief hiatus from this series for the next few weeks or months. With the surprise release of D’Angelo’s Black Messiah and January bringing a few new releases I’m interested in, I want to give all this new music time to blossom as it needs. I enjoyed this exercise immensely and am excited to return to it sometime soon. I’ve got a list of just under 100 albums that I’ll cull from to create my new list for next year. Stay tuned.

If you’ve been following this series, I really appreciate it. Even if you’ve read only one of my album reviews in the last 12 months, it means a lot and I hope you’ve been encouraged to go find some old/new music to listen to and enjoy.

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