Over at Stereogum, they've posted a list (in tedious slide show format) ranking Elvis Costello's 25 albums. I decided to make my own list, ranked in order of how many 4+ rated songs I have from the album on my iPod, with the number of 3+ rated songs as a tie-breaker. I also decided to check the user ratings at rateyourmusic.com. Here are the three rankings with the Stereogum rating listed first.
1) Armed Forces (#5 on my iPod, #3 at RYM)
2) This Year's Model (#1 i, #1 r)
3) Get Happy (#2 i, #4 r)
4) King of America (#7 i, #6 r)
5) Trust (#6 i, #8 r)
6) My Aim Is True (#4 i, #2 r)
7) Imperial Bedroom (#3 i, #5 r)
8) Blood & Chocolate (#10 i, #7 r)
9) Punch the Clock (#13 i, #11 r)
10) Spike (#9 i, #17 r)
11) Brutal Youth (#15 i, #13 r)
12) Painted from Memory (NA i, #9 r)
13) The Juliet Letters (NA i, #20 r)
14) Almost Blue (#17 i, #18 r)
15) When I Was Cruel (#16 i, #14 r)
16) The Delivery Man (NA i, #12 r)
17) North (NA i, #23 r)
18) All This Useless Beauty (NA i, #16 r)
19) National Ransom (#12 i, #19 r)
20) The River in Reverse (#18 i, #10 r)
21) Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane (#8 i, #22 r)
22) Momofuku (NA i, #15 r)
23) Kojak Variety (NA i, #25 r)
24) Goodbye Cruel World (#11 i, #24 r)
25) Mighty Like a Rose (#14 i, #21 r)
What strikes me most about the 3 rankings is how consistent they are. There are a few flukes due to the fact that my iPod rating system really isn't rating a whole record and also due to the fact that I tend to use the 3-star rating for new-ish songs about which I haven't totally made up my mind. Thus, Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane ends up inappropriately high in my own rankings, as does National Ransom, but to a lesser extent. Also, Goodbye Cruel World doesn't pay as big a price in my rankings for being a poor overall record because it does have a couple of songs I like and there's no particular penalty for terrible songs.
My initial thought upon looking at the Stereogum list was that King of America was way too high. Out of Sterogum's top 7, it's the only record that doesn't get a 5-star rating at allmusic.com, and both RYM and my iPod rank it lower, but not way lower. It's one of 3 records that gets 4 and a half stars at allmusic.
Lastly, I should say that I don't think Get Happy is Elvis Costello's second best record, even thought it's rated as such based on my iPod rankings. It benefits in my ranking from having so many songs, but I don't think it contains any of my top 10 favorite Elvis Costello songs. Combing the 3 ratings, though, it's a very solid #3.