Digging into the Best of 2009 Music Lists

It’s one thing to create a year-end Top 10 list. Let’s face it, it’s a totally subjective process, so there is no right or wrong.

On the other hand, it’s quite another thing to try to figure out what somebody else’s list is supposed to mean. Alas, there wasn’t much fun to be found with the Capital Region media’s selections this year.

The Albany Times Union, The Troy Record and The Saratogian didn’t weigh-in with best-of-the-year arts and entertainment lists for 2009. Really? That’s no fun at all.

On the other hand, The Daily Gazette offered a big batch of best-of-the-year arts lists. But few of the lists were numbered. Instead, most were listed chronologically or alphabetically. Karen Bjornland named the Top 10 visual art exhibitions (all of which were in museums or large college galleries).

And in the arts realms where the Gazette boasts more than one writer, their lists were combined into a single list rather than offering a full Top 10 from each writer. Theater critics Carole King and Matthew Morross collaborated on a Top 9 list of theater productions. The Top 10 jazz performances were selected by reviewers Tim Coakley, Michael Hochanadel and David Singer. Hochanadel, Singer and Brian McElhiney also collaborated on a Top 10 pop concert list (with 15 honorable mentions).

And Hochanadel and McElhiney also joined forces to pick a Top 10 list of pop albums (with 15 honorable mentions). Listed alphabetically, there’s no official No. 1 album, but here’s the list:

The Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet: “Crazy 8’s” (Hochanadel)
Amadou & Mariam: “Welcome to Mali” (Hochanadel)
Animal Collective: “Merriweather Post Pavilion” (Hochanadel)
Lou Barlow: “Goodnight Unknown” (McElhiney)
Bell X1: “Blue Lights on the Runway” (McElhiney)
Neko Case: “Middle Cyclone” (Hochanadel)
Maxwell: “BLACKsummer’s Night” (Hochanadel)
The Noisettes: “Wild Young Hearts” (McElhiney)
Sonic Youth: “The Eternal” (McElhiney)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: “It’s Blitz” (Hochanadel)

Finally something we could really sink our teeth into. Metroland offered lists. Lots of them. And not collaborative lists, either, but rather competitive lists.

On the film front, Laura Leon, John Brodeur and Shawn Stone each offered their Top 10 along with a handful of “worsts.” There were a number of movies that landed on two best-of lists (including “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Up,” “Inglorious Basterds,” “Goodbye Solo,” and “The Informant!”) but only a single film that earned a spot on all three lists – “The Hurt Locker.”

Of course, what we find infinitely more interesting is the variable opinion on “Up in the Air,” which soared into the Top 10 according to Leon and Brodeur, but sunk to Stone’s worst of the year list.

There was less agreement – and less opposition – on the pop concert lists. Six critics weighed in with a total of 49 selections – as some critics offered fewer than 10 picks. No show appeared on more than two lists, and only two shows earned that much consensus – Ray Davies at The Egg (the No. 1 selection by Kirsten Ferguson and John Brodeur) and the Meat Puppets at Valentine’s (named by Ferguson and Mike Hotter).

NOTE: Eddie Vedder‘s two-night stand at the Palace Theatre landed on two lists as well, but Brodeur picked the opening night, while Hotter selected the second night. And the Figgs found themselves in a similar situation, with David Greenberger picking their December show at Valentine’s, while Ferguson chose the following night when the Figgs played at Putnam’s Den.

Perhaps more interestingly, precious few of the top concerts took place at the Capital Region’s largest concert venues. Only two Saratoga Performing Arts Center concerts (Ferguson selected Bruce Springsteen; Brodeur chose Def Leppard/Poison/Cheap Trick) and one Times Union Center shows (AC/DC, also on Brodeur’s list) were included in the 49.

On the other hand, the relatively small Valentine’s nightclub placed five different shows on the list – including the Hold Steady, the Baseball Project and the Felice Brothers, in addition to the Meat Puppets and the Figgs.

The most popular venue, though, was clearly The Egg, which hosted seven of the 49 shows, including Los Lobos, Brian Wilson, the Joshua Redman Double Trio, the Low Anthem, the Church and Cassandra Wilson, in addition to Ray Davies.

1 Comment
  1. Andy Gregory says

    One could conclude that a lack of cojones to rank is akin to the t-ball “everybody wins!” mentality. But, me thinks last year was a banner year for all arts – bad economy or not – that saw more quality shows pass thru and/or originate in N-Town than usual. Tougher to rank, imho.

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