Ratings: A Guide


It seems to me that there must be some sort of justification for why something receives a particular rating versus something else. Why is this album three-and-a-half stars while this one only garners three? It’s easy enough to throw your hands up and say “Because that’s how I feel,” but this doesn’t lend itself to comparison. As such, the below guide should offer some ideas on why your favourite album only got three stars versus the five it clearly deserves.


As perfect an album as could possibly be made by a bunch of flawed and suspect human beings. Every song is a winner and they all fit seamlessly into a cohesive album. These are never given to current albums; at least, I haven’t come across an album that at first blush deserved a 5. I’ll award them in retrospective guides at times for albums that have become regular guests in the Top Records Of All Time charts.


About the best a contemporary album can hope to accomplish. These are albums I find myself wanting to listen to again and again after putting them on. They typically feature at least five great tracks and none of the rest of the songs dip below a certain standard of quality. These albums typically show up in the top half of the year-end list.


A great album that misses being superior because of a few ho-hum tracks; OR an album that manages to rise above its particular genre to make its mark on the year as a whole.


A good album, typically with one or two standout tracks. The other songs on the album typically range from fine to skips. Also used to denote a genre album that functions as an excellent example of its genre.


These albums are fine. They’re fine. I wouldn’t listen to ’em again but you might.


Sub-par records. Might be a genre album that really slacks off on doing anything new or fun within its chosen sound. Might be an album with a good song surrounded by a bunch of boring filler. It doesn’t quite sink to the level of “this sucks” but it definitely isn’t an album worth listening to more than once, if that.


These are 2 1/2 star albums that don’t even have the sense of grace to have one half-standout track.


Actively bad records. Boring. Pretentious. A terrible retread of sounds that weren’t good the first time around. Weezer albums.

Utter trash. Cheap cash-ins, poorly made records whose songwriting and effort match the production. Knock-offs of knock-offs. Mike Love songs.