Saturday, 15 July 2017

How Do I Rate Albums?

The reality is that us humans like to measure value with numbers and systems to condense the unique and personal experiences. The need to simplify and digest information is strong yet Music is subjective, like art, cinema, etc... Despite this we are wired to be appeased by rating systems and the like. To me its all rather trivial and yet I myself have a rating system on this blog. That decision was mainly for myself as I frequent back to the blog to remind myself of records I'm fond of and listen to them again, id hope the words would do more for the reader than an arbitrary number stapled at the end of a post.

My aim is to describe the nuances of what Ive heard, the emotional response and other thoughts that swirl through my mind as I listen. Sometimes I feel I articulate myself well, on other days not so much but my aim is to write frequently as I get though records. Its an exercise that's therapeutic and useful as a means of self expression and memorializing. The words wont always come out right but the moments where they do are fantastic. Where I don't quite hit it off right the practice of engaging with the process continues and the record of my musical journey resumes.

So what do the numbers mean? They are in a sense a buffer between other records. Everyone has their 10s and based on my enjoyment of a record, the numbers will fall into place accordingly. This is why the words are important too. Take for example Deathspell Omega album I recently reviewed, I could understand its merits, marvel at its technicalities and appreciate its vision yet the emotional connection wasn't strong. Subjectively a lower score than a "objectively" higher one. For me the musical experience Is about finding that connection with the artists vision. Albums that do it best will give me goosebumps, adrenaline and feels time and time again, these are the ones I rank. In short its less about objectivity and more about the subjectivity of my own taste.
  • 4 - Were starting this list near the middle. Four is the benchmark, the passing grade, an entry point. This number represents a comprehensible listen that has what it takes to get an enjoyable listen out of the run time. Its the sort of record that doesn't do a lot wrong, but nothing spectacular either. Everyone's turned up, done their part and the result is mediocre.
  • 3 - A three tips its toes into the negative. Something things are a turn off, ideas fall short and in general the experience gives you the impression it could of turned out better, despite not being awful.
  • 2 - At this point were straddling the threshold of tolerance, a lack of attributes to get on board with and the stench of disappointment turns the air stale. The kind of record you'll never remember a second of.
  • 1 - Not a lot to say about these records, its only merit is its better than silence.
  • 0 - A rarity in its own, to find something so intolerable and irritating that silence would be preferred. Ive only come across one record I gave this score, it was a total and utter turn off were every idea fell flat on the floor. Doubt ill find another so awful.
  • 5 - Now lets good to the good stuff. A five is like a four, however some there is stronger music in store. Not the kind of record to return to but would at least have a song or two that may peak my interest.
  • 6 - At six we can find the music that hits the feels, the sort of record that will lure you back for another listen time to time. Good, strong music occasional with some flaws or quirks.
  • 7 - Strong records full of good songs find themselves at seven. These album Ill come back to often to hear those favorite tracks or the whole record, depending on my mood.
  • 8 - This is where the music I cant get enough of starts, eights and above are my classics, the music that hits me hard in the feels, gets the blood pumping and adrenaline flowing.
  • 9 - A nine is like an eight, just some how its a little better, if that's even possible. These three are all pretty similar in my mind, there just needs to be some system for ordering the best of the best.
  • 10 - My all time favorite records. The ones that hold a special place in my heart. If I write about a 10 its for a good reason, and I am very doubtful of a new record becoming a ten. It usually takes years and years of listening to full verify the musical enchantment at work!
That's about the best I can explain it, with a little humor sprinkled in of course. A few important things to note, length effects the score. Anything below thirty minutes may loose a mark or two. This blog is about albums, I love an experience that unfolds between thirty and seventy minutes. Anything shorter can be equally brilliant but I prefer to indulge in those musical realms rather than swing by for a brief visit. Another factor is my mood. Sometimes writing is easy, sometimes hard and my connection with the music can change on a daily basis based on whatever the chemical in my head are doing. I often go back and revise the number a few days later once the dust has settled so to speak... Thanks for reading this! Hope you enjoyed it. I thought it would be fun to try and explain what a rigid system of numbers means in the spectrum of experience.