Boiling an entire decade down to 200 albums across all genres of music is a daunting and somewhat questionable task. Nevertheless, Pitchfork made such a list and in turn provide a shining example of what makes lists of this variety difficult — not only to compose — but to trust.
One of the greatest issues with compiling lists of the “best music” is that there is often a genre bias. As far as Pitchfork’s list is concerned, there is a fair amount of variety to speak of (electronic music is represented especially well with the likes of SOPHIE, Oneohtrix Point Never, Tim Hecker, and FKA Twigs).
Despite this inclusion of multiple styles, there are still some gaps present.
Some of the greatest oversights are in the worlds of rock and metal, especially considering how many of albums have been placed for their cutting-edge ideas. Based on this criteria, an album like Animals As Leader’s The Joy of Motion certainly has a place on the list, given Tosin Abasi’s unique approach to extended range guitar.
Furthermore, Gojira are nowhere to be seen despite being one of the most standout metal acts right now with their distinct knack for groove and creative riffs. A similar case can be made for experimental rock band Black Midi and their debut, which is easily one of the most refreshing rock releases this decade.
While the variety of this list is initially an admirable quality, it’s ultimately more of a problematic one.
How does one come to the conclusion that Death Grips come out just above Leonard Cohen but sit right beneath Janelle Monáe? These artists all occupy a very different musical realm and it seems a bit pointless to try to compare them to one another when they aren’t that related to begin with.
This is the core issue.
Pitchfork would have probably done better to break this undertaking down into genre-specific lists rather than expecting Arctic Monkeys, Lady Gaga, Playboi Carti, and Mac Demarco to be in close proximity of one another and it all make sense.
One possible solution to the confusion is to list everything in no particular order. With a list as diverse as this, it’s almost necessary, otherwise everyone disagrees because an artist they can’t stand will almost invariably be above their favorite — if it is even on the list to begin with.
It’s not about making everyone happy, but about producing a list that doesn’t make readers scratch their heads because apples and oranges are being compared.
If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.