The past few years I’ve kind of half-assed my albums of the year lists. I may have even skipped 2009, I’ll have to look into that…. This year I was planning on ranking 2010 albums the way I’ve always done it, which is to start with an album, then add an album either above or below based on which I thought was better. “Well, Microcastle was better than In Ghost Colours, but not better than Los Angeles.” Something like that.
Random today I stumbled across this site, which went over a pretty awesome rating system this guy came up with using iTunes track ratings to come up with a whole album rating. Instead of just having a simple average, his ranking system balances having one or two amazing tracks on an album to having more consistently solid tracks. It shows slight favoritism to shorter albums, but overall, it’s really a super solid formula.
After making some slight adjustments the final list of 30 or so albums that I was going to rank, I plugged the numbers. It was extremely exciting to see the final ratings come up. While it’s definitely not my final list, the formula will definitely aid my final decisions dramatically.
First off (for shits and giggles), let’s look at the ranking based purely on average song ranking (side note: songs were ranked on a 10 point scale using half stars):
Teen Dream by Beach House – 4.2
Love Remains by How To Dress Well – 4.12
Crazy for You by Best Coast – 4.12
See Birds by Balam Acab – 4.1 (Only 5 tracks)
Crooks and Lovers by Mount Kimbie – 4.09
Innerspeaker by Tame Impala – 4.09
Sisterworld by Liars – 4.05
Crystal Castles by Crystal Castles – 4.04
Cyanide Sisters by Com Truise – 4
n˚ 3 by jj – 4
Penny Sparkle by Blonde Redhead – 3.95
The Drums by The Drums – 3.92
Astro Coast by Surfer Blood – 3.9
Contra by Vampire Weekend – 3.8
Splazsh by Actress – 3.75
White Magic by ceo – 3.69
Swim by Caribou – 3.67
$O$ by Die Antwoord – 3.65
Topp Stemning På Lokal Bar by Casiokids – 3.63
Aphrodite by Kylie Minogue – 3.58
Before Today by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – 3.58
Odd Blood by Yeasayer – 3.55
Contact, Love Want, Have by Ikonika – 3.54
At first glance, this seems to feel pretty accurate, but a few things stand out to me. First off, Ikonika’s album in my mind should be placing a lot higher. What’s holding it back is no stand out “jams”, but at the same time, it’s a super consistent album. On the flip side, Kylie and Die Antwoord have really amazing individual tracks, but their albums as a whole aren’t super amazing. I have similar problems at the top half of the list. Kanye’s album is amazing, but (in my opinion) it has some weak points other albums below it don’t have.
Now let’s look at the formula:
Crooks and Lovers by Mount Kimbie – 7.65
Innerspeaker by Tame Impala – 7.60
Sisterworld by Liars – 7.57
Crazy for You by Best Coast – 7.56
Love Remains by How To Dress Well – 7.51
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West – 7.50
n˚ 3 by jj – 7.5
Crystal Castles by Crystal Castles – 7.49
Penny Sparkle by Blonde Redhead – 7.45
Teen Dream by Beach House – 7.447
Astro Coast by Surfer Blood – 7.440
There is Love in You by Four Tet – 7.43
Cyanide Sisters by Com Truise – 7.42
Contra by Vampire Weekend – 7.38
The Drums by The Drums – 7.359
See Birds by Balam Acab – 7.358
Splazsh by Actress – 6.99
Contact, Love Want, Have by Ikonika – 6.58
Swim by Caribou – 6.55
White Magic by ceo – 6.54
Topp Stemning På Lokal Bar by Casiokids – 6.46
Odd Blood by Yeasayer – 6.45
Aphrodite by Kylie Minogue – 6.32
Before Today by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – 6.23
$O$ by Die Antwoord – 6.21
The formula definitely made some fixes. Ikonika is up higher, Kanye is moved down a couple notches, and Die Antwoord is at the bottom where they belong (again, in spite of having some really great tracks).
For both the averages list and the formula list, these rankings have really shocked me, even though I was the one scoring the tracks. It makes me wonder how my lists would have looked over the years if I had been more systematic about ranking instead of “this one is better than that one”.
Salem and Robyn don’t surprise me at all, but Zola Jesus and Twin Shadow are a complete shock. If I hadn’t been forced to closely evaluate song by song I think both of these albums would have ended up in the 20-11 range. How to Dress Well and Flying Lotus are a surprise as well, as I thought they’d be a lot higher. Cosmogramma always in my mind has been in the top 3 of this year.
I think the biggest flaw in the formula isn’t necessarily the formula completely, but the ranking of the tracks. Even though there’s a 10 point rating system (0.5 through 5.0), all 5 star tracks aren’t equally amazing. They’re all definitely amazing, which is why i gave them a 5, but “Do the Astral Plane” by Flying Lotus might not be quite as good as “Indestructible” by Robyn. But again, i guess that’s more my issue of how to rate properly.
To sum up, neither of these is my final list (I’ll post that later), but it’s definitely been a really, really enjoyable exercise. The formula isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s definitely better than relying purely on an overall impression. I think there are a lot of other factors that go into what makes an album good or bad than just the tracks. One day maybe I’ll figure out a better evaluation system, but I think I’d need a mathematician to help me with that.