Perfect Albums?

by chaotarroo

I love music and like everything else that I love, I adore pondering on why do I love it and how do I love it. But it’s not always that I confess this love, or less ostentatiously, review new album releases on my blog. It’s mainly because I find it difficult to write on something I have little knowledge on. But I do make it a point to compile my list of favourite albums as each year ends. Those list are decided mostly through intuition. Other than enjoying album X more than album Y, I must admit I haven’t gave a good and long thought on why is X necessarily better than Y.

I lazed in bed today and thought of it with some success. Consequentially, it goaded me to think, “Is there a perfect 10/10 album?”. Given the weight of the word Perfect, to my surprise, there are a few. I think.

Here are the criteria used in deciding these “perfect albums”. The albums will be revealed later laconically.

I must love it

This may be truism for everyone else but not for me. There are albums which I dislike but genuinely feel it’s good. I know it sounds ridiculous but you didn’t read that wrong. There are albums which I vomit at the sound of but still think of them as brilliant albums. My first impression on Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion was such. On first listen, I knew it’s an album that will find its way into the top 10s list on the year end issue of every music magazine but I just didn’t like it. It took me awhile before I started to find some tracks agreeable. Deerhunter – Microcastle and Arcade Fire – Funeral has the same effect on me. I suspect it has something to do with recognizing the sophistication of the album but simply not liking how it sounds, which brings me to my next point.

There must be depth

Depth, like most words used to describe music, is ambiguous and subjective. To me, it primarily has something to do with the instruments. They must be layered or at least appear layered – the only instrument I can play is recorder and I play it badly, so feel free to cheat me. A crisp voice accompanied by a soothing ukulele can never be a 10, I don’t care if it sounds better than the moaning of an angel as Chuck Norris fucks her. Bon Iver’s debut album or King of Convenience – Declaration of Dependance exemplifies this, both are brilliant albums that I can’t associate Perfection with for the same silly reason. Albeit knowing it’s an erroneous yardstick to use, I find it indispensable.

The lyrics must be decent

I am not particular on lyrics. It doesn’t have to be literary like a prose by Shakespeare, it needs to be decent. As long as it isn’t repetitive, or about your angst towards the world, or on your desire to grope that redhead in your school, or just downright stupid, it should be good enough for me. But of course, to have lyrics like Wild Beasts – Two Dancers is a bonus.

There must be synergy

More precisely, there must be synergy between the tracks. 10 outstanding tracks doesn’t make a perfect album, 10 tracks packaged outstandingly does. I especially enjoy albums with tracks that flow from one to the other without discernible interruption – Owen Pallet – Heartland comes to mind. But that isn’t all, to uphold this synergy, the tracks can’t be too alike, each track must sound unique. An album will great individual tracks but ultimately falls short as an package would be Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix; it could use some diversity. This however, is completely subjective.

It must be enduring of time

No matter how earth-shattering an album is on first listen, it can’t be a 10. A perfect album is one that starts of as 9, or lower on rare instances, and progresses through time – a period no less than 6 months – into a 10. During this time, new insights must be made about the album and it must either maintain its novelty or even better, better itself. A 10 is an album that’s persistently brilliant in retrospect, withstanding the onslaught of time.

The criteria are stated, here are the albums.

Albums that I consider 10.

Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
Elbow – Seldom Seen Kid
Owen Pallet – Heartland
Owen Pallet – He Poos Clouds
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

Potential 10s that require more listening.

Sufjan Stevens – Age of Adz
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Destroyers – Kaputt
These New Puritians – Hidden
Mum – Go Smear the Poison Ivy
Arcade Fire – Suburbs

That is all.