Updated All Time Favorite Record Labels

What a difference a year makes.  Last year after I posted my all time favorite record labels, I went out and bought a lot more albums from labels that ranked high but had few albums. I also continue to rank music resulting in some movement.

The updated list of all time favorite record labels is posted here.

Here are the changes…

New Additions

From out of the top 10 to the number 1 spot:  Plan It X Records


Out of the top 10 to the number 7 spot:  Bandcamp (not quite a traditional label, but close enough for this list)



Exits from the Top 10

Was Number 7.  Hush Records (9.410) –> Now 16 (9.070)

  • WAS:  I only have 6 artists, 8 full lengths, and 98 songs on Hush.  What gets Hush into the top ten is the high quality of the releases that I do own.  Of the 8 full lengths, 1 is a 5 star album and 3 are 4 star albums.   50%  of albums good/great is one of the best ratios for any label.  My favorite album is definitely a Kind of Like Spitting album (one of my favorite bands).   Current stats say In the Red.  The other important artist on their label is Super XX Man.  I have not bought a release from Hush since 2007.
  • NOW:  Added 1 artist, 3 full lengths, 80 new songs from Hush since last update (40 still unrated).  None of the albums were 4 or 5 star albums.   Dropping Hush down a few spots.

Was Number 8.  XL Records (9.318) –> Now 15 (9.075)


  • WAS:  I have 14 artists, 7 full lengths, and 94 songs from XL.  My favorite album is Vampire Weekend’s self titled.   My favorite artists are Vampire Weekend and Titus Andronicus.   I did not buy a single album from XL in 2011.
  • NOW:  Added 4 artists, 4 full lengths, and 48 songs.    Rating of new adds brought down the overall average.  Still only one 5-star album and one 4-star album.

The rest of the labels shuffled a bit, but all remained in top ten.   See the whole list here.

Favorite Record Label of 2010

Using my record label formula I analyzed my LPs, EPs, and Singles from 2010 to determine my favorite record labels of the year.

Here is the list:

1.  Bandcamp – 9.703 (10 artists, one 5-star LP, two 4-star LP)



2.  Death to False Hope – 9.175 (7 artists, one 5-star LP)



3.  Asian Man – 9.121 (4 artists, two 5-star LP)



4.  Mom and Pop Music – 8.261 (2 artists, two 4-star LP)


5.  Self Released – 7.713 (37 artists, two 4-star LP)

DIY-No Label

6.  Polyvinyl – 7.446 (9 artists, one 4-star LP)



7.  Arts & Crafts – 7.406 (4 artists, one 4-star LP)



8.  Barsuk – 7.324 (6 artists, one 4-star LP)



9.  XL – 7.307 (5 artists, one 4-star LP)



10.  Thrill Jockey – 7.010 (5 artists, one 4-star LP)


Granite & Tumble versus Others Top in 2010

Out of curiosity, I compared my top 22 albums of 2010 with some of the other popular lists to see how much overlap there was.   The answer is not much.  So, if nothing else my list could be some new music for you.

Favorite Albums of 2010

Here are my favorite albums of 2010.  I bought 133 albums in 2010 (most ever).

Also, I decided to list every album that had average song rating greater than 4, since they would all be worthy of mentioning and buying.   I have 22 albums that earned that distinction.

Using my album formula, here were my favorite 22 albums in 2010:

1.  Mixtapes’ Maps (Death to False Hope) – 9.772


2.  The Wild’s Set Ourselves Free (Asian Man) – 9.763


3.  Cloud Nothings’ Turning On (Speakertree) – 9.714


4.  Sundowner’s We Chase the Waves (Asian Man) – 9.697


5.  Toby Foster’s On Moving and Standing Still (Bandcamp) – 9.658


6.  Rooftops’ A Forest of Polarity (Clickpop) – 9.614


7.  Tokyo Police Club’s Champ (Mom and Pop) – 9.610


8.  Theo Hilton, Toby Foster, & Ryan Woods’ Self Titled (Word Wild) – 9.595


9.  Hoquiam’s self titled (St. Ives) – 9.591


10.  Nana Grizol’s Ruth (Orange Twin) – 9.521


11.  Everyone Everywhere’s self titled (Tiny Engines) – 9.463


12.  Listener’s Wooden Heart (Self Released) – 9.463


13.  Knight School’s Revenger (Make a Mess) -9.455


14.  Paul Baribeau’s Unbearable (Bandcamp) – 9.452


15.  Luke Roberts’ Big Bells & Dime Songs (Thrill Jockey) – 9.439

Luke Roberts - Big Bells and Dime Songs

16.  Defiance, Ohio’s Midwestern Minutes (No Idea) – 9.275


17.  You Blew It’s The Past in Present (Bandcamp) – 9.272


18.  Frightened Rabbit’s The Winter of Mixed Drinks (Fat Cat) – 9.249


19.  Dan Mangan’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice (Arts & Crafts) -9.107


20.  Coffee Project’s Moved On (Paper + Plastic) – 8.840


21.  Eric Ayotte’s Wavering (Plan It X) – 8.751

ayotte wavering

22.  The Taxpayers’ To Risk So Much for One Damn Meal (Plan It X) – 8.545


Favorite Songs of 2010

Here are my favorite songs of 2010 (top ten out of 2083 songs released in 2010)   The list of favorite songs is driven by two factors:  1) must be 5 stars and 2) highest play count.   The list is heavily influenced by songs that my wife or kids like.   I obviously had to still rate the song high, but if the family likes it the play count will be highest.   My top 8 songs were all on my kids favorites playlist.   With that said, I think all 10 of these songs are awesome.

1.  Finish With Starting by Hoquiam from self titled – 145 listens


2.  Cynicism by Nana Grizol from Ruth – 127 listens


3.  Edge of Living by RVIVR from self titled – 107 listens


4.  What to Say by Born Ruffians from Say It – 105 listens


5.  On and Ever Onward by Bjork & the Dirty Projectors from Mount Wittenberg Orca – 101 listens

Bjork + Dirty Projectors- Mount Wittenberg Orca V2

6.  Soups Whatever by Mixtapes from A Short Collection of Short Songs – 101 listens


7.  Music Work Paper Work by Everyone Everywhere from self titled – 99 listens


8.  Car Keys by Hoquiam from self titled – 93 listens


9.  Blue Cool by Paul Baribeau from Unbearable – 89 listens


10.  Galaxies by Nana Grizol from Ruth – 85 listens


Favorite EPs of 2010

I will update the site over the next few weeks with my favorite albums, songs, and labels.    I am going to start with my longstanding belief that favorite album compilations should lag by two years for two primary time constraining reasons:  to address the staying power of the album and to acquire a suitable number of fine albums.

So, let’s start with 2010.

I bought 48 EPs in 2010.   It seemed like a lot of EPs to me.  It turns out it is.  It is 7 more EPs that i have from any other single year.    Even more impressive is the fact that with the exception of 2009, every year is less than 27.    So, 48 is a lot of EPs for me.

Also, I decided to list every EP that had average song rating greater than 4, since they would all be worthy of mentioning and buying.   I have 13 EPs that earned that distinction.

Using my album formula, here were my favorite 13 EPs in 2010:

1.  Mixtapes’ A Short Collection of Short Songs (Animal Style) – 9.760


2.  Jazz Hands’ The Party EP (Death to False Hope) – 9.677


3.  Mixtapes/Direct Hit! Split EP (Kind of Like Records) – 9.674


4.  Annabel’s Here We Are Tomorrow (Tiny Engines) – 9.451


5.  Cloud Nothings’ Leave You Forever (True Panther Sounds) – 9.334


6.  For Hours and Ours’ On A Weekend EP (Ground Records) – 9.257


7.  Cattle Drums’ The Boy Kisser Sessions (Bandcamp) – 9.251


8.  Mixtapes’ Thought About Growing Up (Death to False Hope) – 9.187


9.  Sun Kil Moon’s I’ll Be There (Caldo Verde) – 9.143


10.  The Tallest Man on Earth’s Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird (Dead Oceans) – 9.058


11.  Wavelets’ Friends Followed by Actions (Self Released) – 9.049


12.  Gospel Music’s Duettes (Fierce Panda) – 8.822


13.  RVIVR’s Dirty Water (Yoyo) – 8.311


Sustained Excellence Part 2

After looking at my first list, I noticed a handful of bands that had large spreads but not consistent excellence.   So, I was curious which artists had 5-star songs in the most different years.

As an example, a band like the Silver Jews from the previous list has an impressive 14 year spread.   However, they only released 6 albums in those 14 years.    All 6 had at least one 5-star song and 6 distinct years is impressive, but would not make the top ten.

There was overlap between the lists, but four artists fell off this list:  Bob Mould, The Sea and Cake, Black Francis, the Silver Jews.

The top ten is below…

1.  The Mountain Goats (15 years) – 1993 – 1995, 1997,1999 – 2002, 2004 – 2009, and 2011.

2.  Damien Jurado (13 years) – 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002 – 2008, and 2010 – 2012

3.  Bill Callahan/Smog (12 years) – 1992, 1993, 1995 – 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2010

3.  Will Oldham/Bonnie Prince Billie/Palace (12 years) – 1993 – 2000 and 2003 – 2006

5.  Jason Molina/Songs: Ohia (11 years) – 1996 – 2000, 2002 – 2005, 2007, and 2009

6.  Modest Mouse (10 years) – 1993, 1996 – 2001, 2004, 2007, and 2009

7.   Tom Waits (9 years) – 1973, 1975, 1976, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1992, 1999, 2011

8.  Ben Barnett/Kind of Like Spitting (8 years) – 1996, 1999 – 2002, 2005, 2006, and 2009

8.  Matt Pond PA (8 years) – 2000 – 2005, 2007, and 2011

8.  Dinosaur Jr (8 years) – 1985, 1987, 1988, 1991, 1993, 1994, 2007, and 2009

Sustained Excellence

I was listening to “Full on Idle” by the Breeders the other day (off their Title TK album), which is a great song by the way.    And I got to thinking this song was released a long time after the first Breeders song that I dug, “When I was A Painter” from Pod.    Its 12 years to be precise.   I was curious how impressive this 12 year spread was and what my top ten spreads were between 5 star songs.

As it turns out 12 is pretty impressive, but not good enough to be in top 10.    Also, interesting to see Kim Deal made 12 years, while Black Francis made 15 years.    Man the Pixies were awesome.     I also could have thrown J Mascis in the list below, but felt he was covered with Dinosaur Jr.

Also interesting to me was the fact that so many of bands below are really single minded musicians, not exclusively but large percentage.

I excluded compilations and live albums, unless the live album introduced a new song.

Here is my top 10:

1.  Tom Waits (38 years) – Multiple tracks (e.g. “I Hope that I don’t Fall in Love with You”) from Closing time (1973) to “New Years Eve” from Bad As Me (2011)

2.  Dinosaur Jr. (24 years) –  Multiple tracks (e.g. “Forget the Swan”) from Dinosaur (1985) to “See You” from Farm (2009)

3.  Bob Mould (19 years) – Multiple tracks (e.g. “See A Little Light”) from Workbook (1989) to “The Silence Between Us” from District Line (2008)

4.  Smog/Bill Callahan (18 years) – “I’m Smiling” from the Forgotten Foundation (1992) to “Bowery” from Rough Travel for a Rare Thing (2010)

5.  The Mountain Goats (17 years) – Multiple tracks (e.g. “Sendero Luminoso Verdadero”) off Beautiful Rat Sunset (1994) to “High Hawk Season” off All Eternals Deck (2011)

5.  The Sea and Cake (17 years) – Multiple tracks (e.g. “Jacking the Ball”) off their self titled debut (1994) to “Up on the North Shore”  from the Moonlight Butterfly (2011)

7.  Modest Mouse (16 years) – “Wrong Decision” from their Dub Narcotic Demos (1993) to multiple tracks (e.g. “I’ve Got it All (Most)”) from No One’s First and You’re Next (2009)

8.  Damien Jurado (15 years) – Multiple tracks  (e.g. “The Joke Is Over”) from Waters Ave S. (1997) to “Museum of Flight” from Maraqopa (2012)

8.  Black Francis/Frank Black (15 years)  – Multiple tracks (e.g. “Brackish Boy”) from Frank Black (1993) to multiple tracks (e.g. “When They Come To Murder Me”) from SVN Fngrs (2008)

10.  Silver Jews/DC Berman (14 years) – Multiple tracks (e.g. “Trains Across the Sea”) from Starlite Walker (1994)  to multiple tracks (e.g. “Aloyisius Bluegrass Drummer”) from Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea (2008)

Would love to hear about others lists or bands/musicians that I overlooked.     Some bands in my catalog with very large spreads that did not get 5 stars on the book ends (Bob Dylan,  Neil Young, Mission of Burma, Daniel Johnston, Social Distortion, Sonic Youth, Superchunk, REM, U2, Yo La Tengo, and Guided By Voices).  I would expect some of you have those bands.   Who else?

Check out Sustained Excellence Part 2 for another way to think about this.

1998 – My Favorite Year of Music

For quite some time, 1998 has been my favorite year of music in the last 50 years.  Using my album formula, here are my favorite albums from 1998.

1.  Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over the Sea (Merge) – 9.856

2. Pele’s Teaching The History of Teaching Geography (Star Star Stereo) – 9.786

3.  Pedro the Lion’s It’s Hard to Find a Friend (Made in Mexico) – 9.683

4.  Clem Snide’s You Were a Diamond (Tractor Beam) – 9.651

5.  Gastr Del Sol’s Camoufleur (Drag City) – 9.467

6.  Songs: Ohia’s Impala (Secretly Canadian) – 9.427

7.   Jet’s to Brazil’s Orange Rhyming Dictionary (Jade Tree) – 9.349

8.  Silver Jews’ American Water (Drag City) – 9.300

9.  Split Lip Rayfield’s Self Titled (Bloodshot) – 9.138

10.  Bonnie Prince Billie’s Blue Lotus Feet (Domino) – 8.465

Underground Straight Edge Punk Show

I recently went to one of my best shows in recent memory.   It was a DIY (Do It Yourself) show that switched apartments a couple times.  The final switch happened day of, which happened to be April fools day.   As i walked up to the final location, what appeared to be a vacated second story one bedroom apartment at 4206 N. Western, I half expected this to be an April fools joke.  Thankfully it wasn’t.

The other things that I knew about the show was the lineup and the slogan.  The lineup was unbelievable:  The Ovens, Ghost Mice, Spraynard, and Paul Baribeau.   Since I owned 14 albums from the bands playing someone’s apartment, needless to say I was pretty excited about going.     The slogan for the show certainly reminded me of the straight edge movement, “No Drugs, No Drinks, and No Dicks Allowed”

The door to the building was propped open by some free papers, so I walked in.   At the top of the stairs was a guy collecting $7 for the show.   The door to the apartment was open and there must have been 86 people already inside.    I say that as the doorman wrote the number 87 on my hand.    The place was crowded and people were not yet smashed together, so i could not even get past the entryway.   Although that would quickly change.

The first act was The Ovens.  The Ovens by their own description are a noisy feminist two piece from Chicago.  Their set was fine as an opener and people really started to pile in during this set.   I had migrated across the room to the front room by this time.  The crowd was fuller now.  I saw someone with a 142 on their hand, so at least that many.

When Ghost Mice took the stage the magic began.  

Ghost mice is an acoustic punk two piece (violin and guitar).  They played some new ones and a lot of old ones.   The second song is one of my favorites Figure 8 and closed with the perfectly fitting Up The Punks.  The set was truly amazing.  The crowd was really into it and singing along with Chris and Hannah.

Next up was Spaynard.

Sparynard is three piece punk band from Pennsylvania.   The place was way too crowded for any moshing, but definitely close.   As most of the folks there were pacifists , this was the nicest rowdy punk set ever.  They closed with the great Spooky, Scary.

The closer was Paul Baribeau.

Paul borrowed a guitar from Chris and played an acoustic singer songwriter set.   At this point the crowd had already been whipped into a frenzy, but Paul was able to elevate the show to historic proportions.   Nearly every song Paul played had the entire crowd singing along.  His emotionally charged set that explained the point of being straight edge Never Get To Know, the super cool Blue Cool, and  closed with Ten Things.    I think being at this show was one of my ten things.   It was an unbelievable night.