Thursday, December 18, 2008

I Have Opinions, Pitchfork Has Opinions

And so on and so forth ...

First, a few words about Pitchfork for the uninitiated: Pitchfork Media is, as much as such a thing is possible, the indie rock establishment. As it is with anything successful, the hipster backlash was instant, and it is now almost required that your blog makes derogatory Pitchfork comments on a regular basis.

And, to be honest, there ARE some things to hate about Pitchfork: they're snarky and cynical a lot of the time, they hate pretty much any established and commercially successful act (except hip hop, where higher record sales pretty much equal higher review scores), they have a nasty habit of hyping bands up only later to tear that same band apart when they get sick of the hype that they themselves created (the best example of this being Black Kids, whose October EP rated an 8.4, but whose follow-up full length the next July scored only a 3.3, despite the band not really doing anything different).

It's undoubtedly true that at some point Pitchfork stopped chronicling culture and started creating culture. A bad Pitchfork review call all but kill a band, while a fawning review almost guarantees a sold out show, and it may not be healthy to give that much power to one reviewer. Deeper than that, though, is Pitchfork's general air of superiority, the idea that their opinions are somehow grounded in fact. People hate being told what to listen to. That's why so many of us were drawn to indie music in the first place - it offered an escape from the top-down dictatorship of MTV and Clear Channel. It's understandable that a lot of us see echoes of that same mentality in Pitchfork's "These are the songs that the cool kids listen to, no exceptions" attitude.

And yet, all that being said, I am decidedly pro-Pitchfork. My reason for this is simple: I actually DO need someone to tell me what to listen to. Do you have any idea how many albums come out in a given year? I don't either, but I bet it would blow your mind. I don't have time to listen to all those albums. But Pitchfork does. And every year, they present me with dozens of bands they have given their seal of approval, bands I never would have discovered otherwise. And those bands, for the most part, make good music. So what right do I have to complain?

The best thing you can do is simply ignore the hate. So Pitchfork doesn't like your favorite band ... it doesn't mean YOU have to stop liking them. On the other hand, if Pitchfork DOES like a band, they're probably worth checking out. It's that simple.

This year's Pitchfork Top 100 Singles list came out on Monday and Tuesday, and contained probably 50 bands I had never heard of. This is like music-piracy Christmas for me (expect a long post discussing all the incredible new songs at some point in the next week or so).

Anyway, here's the list breakdown:

Songs that Were Also on My List: (9)

4) Santogold, "L.E.S. Artistes"
8) Air France, "Collapsing at Your Doorstep"
10) Estelle, "American Boy"
22) Santogold, "Lights Out"
25) The Hold Steady, "Constructive Summer"
29) Vampire Weekend, "M79"
40) T.I., "Live Your Life"
44) Hot Chip, "One Pure Thought"
67) Young Jeezy, "Put On"

Songs by Artists that Also Had Songs on My List: (12)

3) Hot Chip, "Ready for the Floor"
14) Lil Wayne, "A Milli"
27) T.I., "No Matter What"
30) MGMT, "Time to Pretend"
38) TV on the Radio, "DLZ"
51) TV on the Radio, "Golden Age"
54) Lykke Li, "Little Bit"
56) Vampire Weekend, "Oxford Comma"
63) The Very Best, "Kamphopo"
66) Lykke Li, "Dance Dance Dance"
81) Love is All, "Wishing Well"
86) Los Campesinos!, "Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks"

So the numbers looks pretty similar to those of the Rolling Stone list. Here's the difference, though: the songs I hadn't heard on the Rolling Stone list were also songs I knew about, but simply had no desire to listen to (by artists like Madonna, Pink, Sheryl Crow, Ashlee Simpson, LeAnn Womack, etc.) and, now that I've heard them, my suspicions have largely been confirmed, as they are all horrible.

The songs I hadn't heard on the Pitchfork list, however, were songs I had never heard of (by artists like Mae Shi, Max Tundra, Lucky Alliance, Atlas Sound, Women, etc.) and, now that I've heard them ... so many of them are just so incredibly good. Honestly. Like I said earlier, full breakdown to come.

1 comment:

  1. Yo Aaron, how goes it. My friend Ben Everard guided me to your blog, and it has provoked some thoughts. I will now spew them below.

    First of all, kudos to you for having a mind that's open-ended enough to share musical taste and theory. Music is all about how an individual interprets it, and as you have alluded to, this makes it a near-impossible topic to discuss with others. You have more patience than I.

    As for Pitchfork, I know the work they do would lead me to discover some bands I hadn't heard of before, but I just can't get past their condescension. More than once in my lifetime, I've grown to like a certain band, only to read a scathing review of their music shortly thereafter. Inevitably, the review has an effect on my feelings toward the group. Maybe I'm easily influenced, but this is why I'll stick to Pandora as my source for finding new tunes. New bands are thrown at me with just a song title, band title, and album cover, and I can decide how I feel about it without some Pitchfork punk in emo glasses telling me why I'm wrong.

    I mean, who are they to tell me what to like? The audacity of it all! The fact is, if you have a musical opinion, it's probably the correct one. Someone can tell me "I really love Linkin Park. Their music got me through dark times, and it kept me going on days when I thought about simply ending it." Then I'll counter with "Linkin Park sucks." And we're both right.

    I forgot what my point was. This usually happens when I talk music. Good work on the blog, keep posting.