What Use Are “Best Of” Lists, Anyhow?

Dan Gibson | December 2, 2008 5:00 am

As has been mentioned in several recent year-end wrapup posts, the merits of putting together arbitrary listings of the year’s “best” musical phenomena are somewhat negligible beyond their ability to create some controversy among music nerd types. For me, the ideal when I’m filling out one of the ballots proffered to me is that someone out there might check out one of the albums listed that the world at large hasn’t shared my particular enthusiasm for up to that point (The Myriad’s You Can’t Trust A Ladder, now in stores!). What I’m wondering is this: Has reading any of these lists actually inspired you to make a music purchase this year?

I’ve been a bit slow on the African import game lately, and the title of the Kasai All Stars’ disc (in the 7th moon, the chief turned into a swimming fish and ate the head of his enemy by magic), which was on the Mojo list, was enough to get me to give it a shot. Once I saw the album is part of the Congotronics series, which included the Konono No.1 disc I still enjoy, I was inspired to pick up the disc. Sure, the amount of enjoyment you should expect from the album is relative to your appreciation of electric thumb piano, but I’m glad I coughed up the cash.

Have you had any luck yet with the mysterious albums that seem to populate the middle of these lists? Is that Girl Talk disc everyone seems to list any good?