How do you make your list?

04Dec09

If you haven’t noticed already, it’s list season! There’s a great discussion brewing over at NPR Music, and it’s centered on this question: How do you make your year-end list? Since tk and I have been posting our past lists for you this week (and our 2009/2000s lists are coming soon), we thought we’d share our methods with you beautiful readers.

ck weighs in:

My process is meticulous, but not so meticulous that I’m working on it all year… well, for the most part. At the beginning of the year, I do create an iTunes smart playlist called “2009 in music” (for example). That way, whenever I acquire new music, it automatically shows up in that playlist and I have an idea of what came out during the year. Sometime around October or November, I start looking through the playlist and picking out the albums that immediately jump out to me as great ones.

I list them out in a Pages document and start assembling them into tiers. Certain albums immediately jump into the top tier, because I realize that they’ll be in the top two or three. Others sit toward the bottom of the page because I know they’ll be borderline.

As I go through my playlist and my Pages document, I also focus on listening to albums from the year that I enjoyed but have set aside for one reason or another, as well as those that have been recommended to me but I haven’t gotten around to listening to. Sometimes, those albums have unexpectedly grown on me and jump up the list during the couple weeks of December.

I write a rough draft of the list sometime around December 15-20, commentary and all. That way, I’ll be able to let the ideas marinate before actually posting to Facebook, along with whatever blogs or projects I may be participating in. Generally, I wait a week or so after beginning the actual list composition before sitting down and finalizing the order, commentary, and additional categories. After a marathon blogging session, I post. Then, I sit back and obsessively wait for comments.

I don’t know how tk makes his list. As far as I know, it’s dropped down the chimney by a griffin on Festivus.

tk weighs in:

You asked for it, you got it, Smarty Pants.

Since 2007, my method of list compiling has looked something like this:

On second thought, my method looks nothing like this.

No, in all seriousness, each year I save an RTF document via TextEdit on my Desktop as “Albums of [Year]” Within this document, I set up three categories in bold: Favorite So Far, Maybe, and Ruled Out. Every couple of weeks I sort my iTunes by ‘Date Added’ and then note the new releases that I’ve uploaded. I type each release from the year in question into the ‘Maybe’ category of my document initially. From there, some albums move up to ‘Favorites’ and most move down. If I notice an album that has been neglected in the ‘Maybe’ group for quite some time, I put an asterisk next to it and make sure to give it some iTunes/iPod attention.

Of course, my ‘Favorites’ group outgrows itself and eventually an Honorable Mention category emerges (usually by about November) to catch the runoff. At about this time, I start playing with numbers and develop a tentative Top 10. This is always flexible and often I’ll stumble upon something that totally throws it off.

By mid-December, I have my Top 10 list, 10 Honorable Mentions, and about 50 albums that have been ruled out. All of these 70 or so albums, by this time, have been given *proper attention.

*I define proper attention as at least 3 start-to-finish listens (with the tracks, of course, arranged in the order that the artist intended them to be)

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One Response to “How do you make your list?”


  1. 1 vocal colds

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