August 10th, 2012 / 10:55 am

Pitchfork’s Les Misérables List

Kid Cosette

Have you seen that Pitchfork Media finally wants input from their readers, asking folks to vote for their favorite albums 1996–2012? (That’s years 1–16 Anno Pitchfork.) Between this and The Dark Knight Rises, 2012 sure has been good for the proletariat: rise up, ye 99%, and go watch a movie, and vote online! When you’re finished, you can share your list with friends via Facebook and Twitter. If you like, you can even write a little something about your #1 pick for possible inclusion in the final feature!

You can also check a box to enter a Sweepstakes to win a Trip to the Pitchfork Paris Music Festival, but make sure you READ CAREFULLY the Official Contest Rules

Me, I can’t wait to share my commoner’s thoughts, little though they are. Off the top of my head:

1. Sonic Youth: A Thousand Leaves
2. They Might Be Giants: Mink Car
3. R.E.M.: Up
4. The Strokes: First Impressions of Earth
5. Smashing Pumpkins: Zeitgeist

6. Tori Amos: Scarlet’s Walk
7. Weezer: Raditude
8. Pearl Jam: Binaural
9. Flaming Lips: Zaireeka
10. Save Ferris: It Means Everything
11. UNKLE: Psyence Fiction
12. Travis Morrison: Travistan
13. Drowning Pool: Sinner
14. Neil Young: Fork in the Road
15. Lou Reed & Metallica: Lulu
16. Linkin Park: A Thousand Suns
17. Stone Temple Pilots: No. 4
18. Mr. Big: What If…
19. Counting Crows: Recovering the Satellites
20. Dave Matthews Band: Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King

After that, I start running out of ideas. Maybe there haven’t been any other great albums since ’96? Oh, wait, Atlas Shrugged

Let’s see if I can’t predict the eventual People’s Favorite Five:

5. Dismemberment Plan: Emergency & I
4. Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Under the Sea
3. Radiohead: OK Computer
2. Arcade Fire: Funeral
1. Radiohead: Kid A

Very helpfully, when you do start voting for your own favorite albums, “to help you get started,” Pitchfork provides its staff lists from 1996–2011. If you want to include an album not in Pitchfork’s database (i.e., one they’ve not reviewed, or one they’ve deleted because their review embarrassed them later), you have to add it.

So that means I can search on Joan of Arc albums up until 2005, but for anything after that—the year Pitchfork simply began ignoring the band’s existence—I have to enter it myself. Time to start typing…

Update: Related, of course.

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  1. Scott Riley Irvine

      I hate that they’ve ignored JoA’s subsequent albums. There’s some good stuff in there. Not that they’ve ever given them a fair review. Tim Kinsella banged Ryan Schreiber’s girlfriend or something.

  2. deadgod

      That ‘history and meaning of Pitchfork’ post that you’d linked to some months ago… how differently would a history of CREEM read?  The “teenage” excitement at one’s own processing of provocation, the spray of associations presented as real connections and influences, the hysterical swings between celebration and scorn, the recognition and relatively uncomplicated (though outwardly brow-furrowed) embrace of commercial power marking passage into middle age… would the arc of a history of Rolling Stone read much differently?


      For years, a certain strain of indie music had taken a nearly perverse satisfaction in making inscrutable jigsaw puzzles out of the old verse-chorus song form.  Now, […] obscure lyrics and scrambled song structures came to the fore.  [. . .]  Even as the mainstream was beginning to pretend to embrace something other than itself, bands like _______ could wear their inscrutability like armor.  They would remain, at least temporarily, unconsumed and uncorrupted by the industry that had begun to accept them, and that they, warily, had begun to accept in turn.

      He’s talking about Steely Dan, right? circa Hey Nineteen?

  3. Matt_Margo

      I am thankful that Pitchfork has ignored their subsequent albums! “The world got too many haters.” – Riff Raff

      I think that at some point, Pitchfork simply admitted to the lack of substance or merit in all of their past reviews of Tim’s work and opted to “back off” as some sort of half-embarrassed apology. I mean, they did remove Brent DiCrescenzo’s slamming review of “Live in Chicago, 1999” (perhaps as a reaction to that one time when Tim chased Brent down the street and demanded him to explain himself for being such a dick).

  4. A D Jameson

      Those are good points, but I’d rather then review the work, myself. Negative reviews can lead to new listeners. But I’ve always found Pitchfork’s reaction to JoA very childish—as though Ryan Schreiber & co. formed some impression of the band back in 1999 (“I can’t stand those guys”), and have stubbornly clung to it ever since. It’s like a silent treatment, and it doesn’t make me like P4k any more.

      JoA, also, seems to me such a weird band to hate on. I mean, they’re hardly mainstream indie fare, but they’re also hardly the weirdest band on the planet. Plus there’s a lot of variety in their albums.

  5. A D Jameson

      Certainly CREEM and Rolling Stone had/have their faults. And I don’t begrudge the Pitchfork gang their enthusiasms, even as I often think them limited. I’ll even grant that they’ve published some excellent writing—stuff by Nitsuh Abebe, William Bowers, others. Brent DiCrescenzo may have been a dick, as mentioned above, but his reviews often made me laugh.

      What bothers me, rather, about Pitchfork, specifically, is how the site has always been primarily concerned with projecting Ryan Schreiber’s taste and insecurities onto so much of the populace. They’re tastemakers, and the subject is always themselves; they’re like the Ain’t It Cool News of indie rock. And they promote a party line that brooks no difference of opinion. So this new faux-populist list particularly rankles.

      I love indie rock a lot, and reading Pitchfork always makes me feel dirty for liking it. Although maybe that’s a good purpose for them to be serving?

  6. deadgod

      I should have said that I ‘like’ Beck’s N+1 blogicle–it tells its story well.

      It just sounded strikingly familiar to me.  I also found myself remembering the SubPop movie Hype, and the history of indie rock from the ’70s through the ’90s that I saw recommended here (which I don’t remember the title of), and (a bit) the reception of American painting from Greenberg’s ‘abstract expressionism’ through O’Hara to Pop to Wolfe’s creepy but amusing The Painted Word.  It’s a rise-and-fall, loss-of-paradise narrative, and, wherever else in the world it also makes sense to the natives, (we) Americans sure seem to like to put our boards at the end of some uniquely fantastic wave in this way.  It’s like the equal-and-opposite reaction to, what, Manifest Destiny.

      That Pitchfork reflects a single person’s taste–well, hell, bully for him; and if indie-music fans are so easily herded this way and that… eh, maybe Bieber’s fans, who’re constantly told that they’re the pop-sheep, can have a laugh at indie geniuses depending for attention not on the whim of a guy like Schreiber, but rather, on their fiercely thoughtful fans swaying like plants in the sea.  Ha ha!

      To me, the “party line that brooks no difference of opinion” is definitely for shit; I see exactly why you’re provoked to shine light on Pitchfork’s–do they really call it?–“populism”.

      Stone paid Thompson to cover the ’72 election, and CREEM paid Rick Johnson to write; as you say, there must be some effective writing at Pitchfork.  I don’t know for sure, but I think the only way for most indie musicians to make a living in music is to gig constantly, sell t-shirts, and somehow get paid for downloads.  Whatever Wenner-like ‘plans’ Pitchfork has, it can’t completely administer obstreperous, burning-core artists’ work or lives, eh?

  7. A D Jameson

      I can’t say for certain that P4k reflects only one person’s taste. But it might as well, given how relentlessly homogeneous it is (and it only becomes more homogeneous over time). As has already been mentioned, all the Joan of Arc reviews 1998–2005 were essentially the same (“I can’t listen to this noise”), and since 2005 the band’s not been so much as mentioned at the site. Meanwhile, only the kindest of words have been said about bands such as Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Dismemberment Plan, Sufjan Stevens, etc. And, yeah, sure, I like Arcade Fire fine, but being a critic means you can argue against the things you love as well as in favor of them. Even I can see the limits in Viktor Shklovsky, and Win Butler’s lyrics are cloyingly bad—funny how he always gets a pass on that from P4k. Critics who do no more than relentlessly hype the things they like aren’t critics. They’re scenesters, tastemakers.

      As Beck so correctly points out in that n+1 article, Schreiber’s taste and P4k’s taste are largely one and the same, so it’s relatively moot. And as Beck goes on to argue, it’s not that Radiohead and Arcade Fire are bad, per se. They’re excellent musicians in their own right. But P4k has championed them way out of proportion, and especially at a time when other critical music organs have faltered.

      I mean, here’s a really excellent band, popular in Europe, with two+ albums out:
      (More in the right-hand column.)

      They’re hardly obscure; I’ve heard them played at businesses here in Chicago. (Indeed, that’s how I first heard them.) But not a word about them at P4k, and I’d bet it’s because they’re not indie rock / dance punk / mainstream hip hop.

      Or how about Souled American?

      Or Slowblow? One review, from 2004:

      These are examples from off the top of my head, and I’m no music critic. But these are hardly obscure bands. But they aren’t indie rock, and there are just whole swaths of music that, as far as P4k is concerned, may as well not exist. I wouldn’t mind that so much if the site’s attitude was more “we like indie rock and mainstream hip hop.” But they claim rather to represent, and write about, all of music. With one lockstep voice.

      Beck’s totally right: P4k, overall, really is about having “the right” attitudes, and being seen to like “the right things.” About cultural capital and taste, not any serious discussion of contemporary music, or discovery of music’s infinite variety.

      It’s a clique, and if there’s one thing I hate in this world, it’s that.

  8. A D Jameson

      Or what about the Chameleons? They released new albums 2000–3, right when was P4k was singing the praises of Interpol, a band the Chameleons heavily, heavily influenced:

      Those new albums weren’t the Chameleons’s best, but they provided the opportunity to say something about them. But not a peep, not nary a peep since…

  9. Golgonooza


  10. shaun gannon

      TMBG? looks like SOMEone’s a nerd (it’s u) ( B) )

  11. Bobby Dixon

      Ana Ng is one of the most beautiful unrecognized songs ever 

  12. O

      Built to Spill – Perfect from Now On is #1. I’ll let the rest of you sort out the rest. Just don’t forget to throw in The Walkmen somewhere. Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone or Bows and Arrows. 

  13. Boris

      Pat Boone – In a Metal Mood


  14. abysmal

      for real though, i thought everyone agreed that mink car was the worst TMBG album.

  15. abysmal

      IMO, it would be criminal to include the well warranted Psyence Fiction without Entroducing

  16. O

      Yeah, you know, I’m really starting to like this New Sincerity shit. This stuff is good. It makes me feel so alive.  There is a man standing in the alley/He’s been there for a long time/He’s smoking a cigarette/I think they’re mine. The licks are tasty. 

  17. A D Jameson

      It’s certainly my least favorite of theirs. Well, tied for last.

  18. A D Jameson

      I love Bows and Arrows.

  19. A D Jameson

      I know I like it.

  20. A D Jameson

      I have had the good fortune in this life to live among many people who recognize how great TMBG are.

  21. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      Scarlet’s Walk is Tori’s dullest record, what are you talking abt?

  22. xihuan83

  23. A D Jameson

      I don’t think I’ve ever listened to it. I stopped with Songs from the Choirgirl Hotel.

  24. A D Jameson

      Actually, I remember listening to To Venus and Back once or twice, but I didn’t buy it. I haven’t heard anything she’s done since then. I really liked her first three albums, though. (Four, if you count YKTR?)

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