Friday, January 13, 2012

Less is more: anthologies and best-of's

I am a music obsessive. I love discovering an artist and digging into their back-catalog, down to b-sides and compilation tracks. Even with artists I already love I can find neglected periods in their history that deserve reappraisal. But sometimes I want to separate the wheat from the chaff and listen to just the best bits. And frankly, with so much music at my fingertips I don't always want to hear the second tier material, deserving as it may be. That's where a well-compiled collection does the job. But inevitably, I find there are key tracks missing, a single disc doesn't satisfy or an artist's huge catalog requires a bigger overview. I'm lazy, I want an easy starting point to build a playlist. At this point, here's what I do:

First I read about existing compilations on and, my go-to resources for reviews.
If there's a clear winner, I'll pick it up or recreate it if I own most of it already.
I will often make a spreadsheet and collate tracklistings across comps - this is a quick way of determining if any obvious tracks are missing. If something shows up on four out of five comps but not the one I picked, I'll add it to mine.
Sometimes I'll review the I Love Music or Steve Hoffman forums - they're great sources of discussion for people like me and they usually have threads discussing artists best tracks.
Lastly, I'll add my own picks if I'm very familiar with an artists catalog.

This has served me very well. As I said, I'm lazy - I don't want to listen to and rate tracks off 10 albums! But as I'll discuss, once in a while that is exactly what I do. In the coming posts I'll share how I improved upon, or created, artist compilations.

I told you I was obsessive!


  1. I'm glad you ran this. It reminded me that I promised to let you know when I finished the program for the Cramps compilation. I got behind on a number of projects this fall and by the time I finished in November I had completely forgotten.

    Part 1 is at:

    Part 2 is at:

    And the key to the different line-ups is at:

    If I used your method I'd probably spend less time apologizing and more time putting these together. I still have a monster sized Iggy Pop compilation in the works that I've had in the back of my mind for nearly twenty years. Who'd have guessed he'd live this long, let alone continue recording?

  2. I'm sorry I forgot to follow up on The Cramps best-of you suggested. I pulled it together and gave it a spin - and I'm still not quite there yet. While I love the major entires like "Goo Goo Muck" I just wasn't pulled into their world as you clearly have been. I'll revisit it again, perhaps one day it'll click for me.