WHAT ARE “MUSIC JOURNALS”?
This is a practice started by members of a web forum I participated in, appropriately called “The Phorum”, for all of us to keep track of new releases we were listening to in a given year and compare notes on how we ranked them. That forum went dark in December of 2017, so I transferred all of the journals from past years here so that they wouldn’t get lost. Each year’s journal is meant to strictly represent music released in that calendar year, though it may continue to get updated well after the fact, as I listen to releases from that year that I wasn’t aware of until after the year ended, or sometimes as I go back and change my mind on how I would grade or rank albums I had previously listened to. My Top 10 and Honorable Mentions for each year will all get a year-end write-up that I’ll post in my “Best-Of Lists” category, explaining my thoughts about them as that year drew to a close, though that write-up will not get rewritten as the Music Journal for that year gets further updates. So the year-end write-up is more of a time capsule, while the Music Journal is meant to represent my ongoing opinion and be a more thorough list of everything I was listening to, not just the highlights.
HOW MY GRADES WORK:
A+: The rarest of the rare. An artistic achievement and a highly listenable collection of tunes. Flaws are negligible or nonexistent. Such outstanding work that I would recommend it to almost anyone with no hesitation.
A: An awesome and unique piece of work. Not quite at the level of greatness to be considered an undisputed classic, but any weaknesses present are nitpicks at best.
A-: Impressively consistent, with most tracks being highlights. Maybe an occasional weaker track here and there, but still no major flaws.
B+: Incredibly solid, with the occasional middling track or two keeping an “A” grade just out of reach, but no major screw-ups. The highest grade that I will likely feel compelled to “gush” about.
B: Good job. Might not get me totally excited, but still a largely positive and enjoyable listening experience. Worth a try for those on the fence about the artist.
B-: Reasonably enjoyable. Still above average, but inconsistent. Highlights tend to stand in stark comparison next to mostly average tracks (and maybe a few bad ones).
C+: Just slightly above average. Aside from one or two notable highlights, it either blends in with the middle of the road, or demonstrates a volatile level of inconsistency from one track to another, to the point where it makes getting through the album difficult despite the strong points.
C: Shows a bare minimum of competence, and little more. There are likely few highlights that would compel me to go back to it, but I might still give it a recommendation to existing fans with several caveats attached.
C-: The point where the flaws outweigh the highlights. Stronger tracks might show promise of better work ahead, but the rest is disappointingly sub-par.
D+: Mediocre. Highlights are a surprising exception to the rule here.
D: Pretty lousy, but not to the point where its failures are the stuff of legend.
D-: Astonishingly bad; approaching the point of dismal failure, with any brief redeeming factors causing a reaction such as, “Wow, where the hell did that come from?”
F: The lowest level of musical hell. A thoroughly dull or obnoxious record, without a single redeeming quality to be found. I wouldn’t wish it upon a mortal enemy. You pretty much have to be trying to suck this hard.
HOW MY LISTS WORK:
The Best: Keeps track of my 10 favorites of the year. Must rank at least a B- to be included.
Honorable Mention: Items #11-20 after the “Top 10”. Must rank at least a B- to be included.
The Rest: Everything not good enough for “Honorable Mention” (usually starting with some B- albums that didn’t make the cut for that list), but still decent enough to warrant a cautious recommendation (ranking a straight C or higher).
Dishonorable Mention: The worst items on the list. Must rank a C- or lower to qualify. Basically, anything that I don’t enjoy enough to recommend as a whole, even with reservations. #1 is the absolute worst in this case.
Don’t Get It, So I Can’t Rate It: Music that I personally couldn’t get into, but that I can see is well-respected enough by others that it doesn’t seem fair for someone like me, who has a limited perspective on their music, to give it a low grade. Established artists who I have rated before and feel comfortable evaluating based on their previous work should never end up here – it’s generally reserved for artists I’m trying for the first time who end up being too “out-there” for me to really form a solid opinion.
Compilations/EPs/Singles/Re-releases: Anything that isn’t long enough to be considered an “album”, or that consists largely of previously released recordings. My “Top Albums” list is meant to be reserved for new material, or at least new recordings of said material. (Live and remix albums are borderline cases that could go on either list, depending on my whims.)
Digesting: Albums that I’m still listening to, and don’t feel ready to rate just yet.
Already Released, Need to Hear It: Anything formerly my “Anticipating” lists that has reached its release date, but that I haven’t been able to listen to yet. With the advent of music streaming, it’s rare for anything to show up in this category these days – it would have to be available for purchase in some form, but not on Spotify.
Eagerly Anticipating: The upcoming releases that I am looking forward to the most, based on past performance of the artists involved. These are ordered by their expected release date, when one is known.
Meagerly Anticipating: Albums that I’m sort of looking forward to – I don’t expect them to be bad, but I don’t expect to totally fall in love with them, either. Also ordered by their expected release date.
Morbidly Anticipating: Stuff that I expect to suck, but will still listen to, in the interest of fairness (or because I’m running low on things to make fun of).
See You in 20XX: Stuff that I’ve been given good reason to expect will see an actual release, but not until the following year.