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It’s hard to believe, but we’re cruising towards the halfway point of 2011. We have been absolutely drowning in good, great, and downright amazing new releases this year, and hopefully you have been too.  There’s just too many to even keep track of, let alone listen to and fully digest them all.  But trying to do just that is half the fun, the other half of the fun being jamming your ass off to your favorites, right? Right.

So although there are plenty more incredible releases coming down the pipe in this glorious calendar year of metal, I wanted to offer up some “year-end list” food for thought for fellow blog writers, readers, and trolls everywhere as we begin to think about sifting through the pile of awesomeness to create that almighty list of the best of the best. The question is simple:

Are your favorite albums really your favorite albums?

Before I go any further, let me just say that I really don’t give a shit about year-end lists. They are fun to read, fun to argue about, and I love that they can expose you to some great records that you may have missed or not paid enough attention to during the year.  It’s nice to get different perspectives and uncover some hidden gems, but ultimately they are hopelessly subjective and quite pointless. There is no way that we can all agree on the ‘album of the year’ or even a Top 10 (or 15 or 20) albums of the year, at least in any kind of academic sense.  So try to include this simple and borderline idiotic concept into the equation-which albums did you listen to the most?

The reason I bring this up is because I feel so many people don’t pay any attention to this idea at all.  I could easily sit here right now, having not even heard well over half the albums that will be released in 2011, and put together a very safe, virtually un-trollable year-end list. Devin Townsend’s two new albums at 1 and 2 and we’re off to the races, eh?

It’s pretty easy to create a stylish and mostly bulletproof list. If that makes you feel good, go ahead. But if there’s some guilty pleasure band or generic deathcore band that you would be embarrassed to admit liking, but you happened to-for whatever reason-listen to their album 2,000 times? Congratulations, it’s one of your top albums of 2011. Don’t fear the trolls-man up, be honest and put that fucker on your list. Even if you really enjoyed some hip album like Digital Veil or Scurrilous, but only listened to it a few times? I dunno, but it’s probably not actually one of your favorites.  And what good is a ‘Top Albums List’ if it doesn’t honestly include your favorite albums-the albums you listened to the most?

As I said above, we should definitely factor this into the equation. But there are some exceptions to the ‘most listened to = top albums’ rule. An example that springs to mind is Portal’s Swarth. I’d argue that Swarth is something of a masterpiece, pushing the limits of metal to mind bending new extremes, BUT it’s damn near unlistenable.  I can hardly make it through the bastard, and I only have a time or two. But I think it’s monumental and marks some real, actual GROWTH in the metal genre that is so rare these days, and thus would rightly belong on a year-end list.  Likewise, you can listen to The Acacia Strain’s Wormwood like seven  hundred times (like I did) knowing in your heart and soul that it’s not bringing a whole lot to the table musically, and maybe not deserving of a spot over more accomplished and innovative material. But that’s just the point, I couldn’t (and still can’t) stop listening to it! Maybe albums like those, although uncool to admit even enjoying, deserve some more careful, serious consideration for a proverbial top spot.

Haters gonna hate, so just be honest. What do you think?

– JB

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