Quantcast
 Everett True

Serious Music for Serious People | the continued betrayal of music

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

Lana Del Rey sexy

Had a glance at some of my contemporaries’ end-of-year lists. 

You know, the lists put together by the Big Boys. The Big Boys with their ears still tuned to serious music and whatever the hell it is that the Press Agents have sent them that week. And what Pitchfork is covering. You know, the Big Boys who all read the same five column inches of press (and press releases) that all the other Big Boys read. And lo! It came to pass that the Press Agents and Pitchfork ordained that only 50 albums had been released in 2012, but fortunately all the Big Boys heard them and so featured them in their Top 50 End of Year lists. (They all left out Lana Del Rey of course, because she Had Not Played Ball By The Big Boys and the Big Boys, almost as if by collective will, decided it was time to Make A Statement and so they left her out to prove that they are Big Boys indeed and not to be swayed even one bit by Press Agents or Hype.)

This meta end-of-year 25 Best Albums list, compiled by often-fine UK music publication The Stool Pigeon from the following places – The Stool Pigeon, The Guardian, Fact, The Fly, Uncut, Spin, The Quietus, Drowned In Sound, Stereogum, Rolling Stone, BBC–Music, Pitchfork,The Line Of Best Fit, Resident Advisor, Dummy, The Wire and Mojo - sums it up neatly. It’s all Very Serious Music for Very Serious Music Fans Indeed.

  1. Frank Ocean (serious!)
  2. Kendrick Lamar (serious!)
  3. Swans (über-serious, but does ANYONE in the world except critics still listen to Swans?)
  4. Jessie Ware (serious!)
  5. Julia Holter (serious! and a little playful)
  6. Grimes (sexy!)
  7. Actress (oddball and serious)
  8. Fiona Apple (sexy and serious!)
  9. Tame fucking Impala (mediocre, but serious)
  10. Chromatics (some mistake, surely?)

And so it goes on…

  • Japandroids
  • Scott Walker (see comment about Swans and triplicate)
  • Dirty Projectors
  • Cat Power (with the most mediocre but SERIOUS album Chan has ever released)
  • Godspeed You! Fucking Serious Blow It Out Your Arse Emperor

And so it goes on.

  • alt-j (for crissakes, a band that don’t even exist outside the Mercury Award)

Here’s Pitchfork’s Top 10 (this link doesn’t take you to Pitchfork, by the way, but another music blogging site that thinks that reprinting the list with minimal comment justifies a blog entry of its own, despite the fact it also runs its own much-hyped Top Whatever of The Year).

  1. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City
  2. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
  3. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…
  4. Tame Impala – Lonerism
  5. Swans – The Seer
  6. Grimes – Visions
  7. Beach House – Bloom
  8. Chromatics – Kill For Love
  9. Death Grips – The Money Store
  10. Grizzly Bear – Shields

SEVEN of these are in the consensus Top 10 (and Grizzly Bear is at number 12)… unsurprising, you think, until you realise that the consensus Top 10 was drawn from 17 different publications. Seventeen… and yet collectively they agree with seven of Pitchfork’s Top 10. Does this mean that these seven  albums really were the greatest seven albums released in 2012, or that music writers from SEVENTEEN ‘different’ publications were all listening to the same seven albums? Sigh.

Is it any wonder that the pop faction is gathering speed year by year when this is all the indie consensus can offer by way of an ‘alternative’?

As I stated back in 2011:

It’s clear that Pitchfork writers know their place in the world: and RULE NUMBER ONE is that they know they are parasites. How many times do I need to say this? Criticism is only as parasitical as you choose to make it: it is only as parasitical of music as music is of life. By behaving like second class citizens, Pitchfork writers become second class citizens. And what’s even worse, is that so many other places are in thrall to the Pitchfork template – so, by necessity, watered down. All these people will thus – and rightly so – be treated as second class citizens: and their opinions that might have had some worth before now have little or none. For why would you pay attention to the word of a self-designated second class citizen? And so they actually fail to contribute to any sort of discourse going on around music, by ducking their main responsibilities, by being so cowardly and weak and vain. Because all they do is document and neatly stack away, mark – as if they have any fucking right to do so – and assess.

Frankly, I couldn’t give a crap about any of the above – they choose the style they want to write in, and the way they want to present the writing (where those revenue-generating scores take far greater precedence over any turn of phrase): that’s their choice. They and I see different here: I think music writing should entertain first and foremost. They think it should be subservient to music.

Whatever. Pitchfork’s failings in managing to make any worthwhile contribution to the discourse around music is not their main fault. Not at all. It’s not even the lack of individuality among their writers, the fact they’ve coagulated them all into one bigger, all-encompassing brand. Though that’s crap, obviously. It’s not even the way that Pitchfork have turned the alternative into the mainstream (that doesn’t matter: there’s always another alternative, another underground, to be found). Those are not their biggest betrayals. This is.

THE MUSIC.

They have no fucking idea whatsoever about music. To paraphrase David Lee Roth, Pitchfork writers all like Bon Iver because Pitchfork writers all look like Bon Iver.

Collapse Board manifesto number 9: Pitchfork, the betrayal of music & some great songs

9 Responses to Serious Music for Serious People | the continued betrayal of music

  1. Conan Neutron January 3, 2013 at 9:55 am

    FWIW I know a *TON* of people that listen to SWANS that are not music critics. I do not know a single person that will admit to liking Tame Impala.

  2. simon January 3, 2013 at 10:02 am

    The Kendrick album is plenty “serious”, but also has lyrics like “I pray my dick gets big as the Eiffel Tower”, fwiw

  3. Napps January 3, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Bought that Swans album at their show, so I’ve never had any reason to open it…We are assuming that like a pair of Gorilla Biscuit high top Vans, it will be of more value in the future if I never wear it to the arcade, so that’s the current plan…still, nice looking spine on that beast.
    Frank O repeatedly sings about mangos (crap fruit) and peaches (awesome fruit) and limes (awesome juice to add to bubbly water) so he is not actually that serious, he just got the serious people’s attention with a serious juxtaposition he presented to serious culture. But he’s not serious, he’s fun, and made the phrase “hit it raw” sort of romantic, as far as crack head love goes.
    Grizzly Grips are waaaaay too serious and make me want to be at the JayZ Coldplay show.
    Unless you own 3 Peter Allen albums (we do) you can’t really dig Bon Iver (we might if we could bother listening to him but why would we do that when we have 3 Peter Allen albums and a shitload of Paul Williams records as well) so we can’t comment on Bon but we wish him all the best out there Calling Wild Fire.
    All this is a preamble for this awesome joke:
    How do you get the chief nutsack’s attention at pitchfork?
    Put “photos of Billy Corgan’s Penis” in the subject line of your email.
    Goodbye.
    PS. Seriously though, White Male Bloggy is conservative as shit. The fact that these dudes are not Republicans/Tories is simply a matter of them being so anti-stance that they have yet to let their chauvinism manifest fully..
    PPS. The most beautiful song written all year was by Sinead O’Connor.

  4. simon January 3, 2013 at 11:28 am

    mangoes are so not crap fruit

    & The most beautiful song written all year was http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIrhcTkHX_A

  5. Harvey Manfrenjensenden January 3, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    people have the weirdest taste in music

  6. Scott Creney January 3, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Any time you have art chosen by committee you’re going to end up with a conservative list. The same thing happens in literary magazines. Why? Art that takes risks tends to provoke extreme reactions–one person might give it an A+ but someone else on the committee gives it a D-minus. Art that competent and impossible to dislike gets B+’s across the board. And in the end that’s the art that shows up at the top of the list (or gets published in the lit mag). Nature of the beast.

    Or to put it more concisely, Love is subjective and extreme; Like is boring and consensus-building.

    And a list compiling the lists? The mind aches.

    Having said all that I love that Swans album. But then, I’m writing an apocalyptic novel set in Florida.

  7. Derek Robertson January 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    I don’t quite get the snide attitude towards Swans (and Scott Walker) here…..or am I missing something? Surely they are making exactly the sort of intense, crafted, passionate music that you champion here on CB and lament that there is not enough of, the type that bubbles up from the soul and is created without considerations of “playing the game” as it were? In other words, the type of music that regularly features in Song of the Day and so on, and you constantly moan that the “mainstream” wrongly ignores. Isn’t it a great thing that they are appearing so highly on these lists, therefore (hopefully) exposing them to more people?

    Also, while Pitchfork no doubt deserves the majority of the criticism you’ve thrown at them over the years, isn’t it to be commended that they at least seem to be moving away from the “white boys with guitars/indie college rock” bands and championing – gulp! – other genres and women? Of that top ten, only three are all male bands – and both Beach House and Chromatics rely heavily on their respective female members. I’m not saying they are perfect – far from it obv – but credit where credit is due, they seem to have shifted over the last year. Of their cover stories, 50% have been about female artists, and they are now regularly championing up-and-coming female acts (the latest being Eddi Front, who was interviewed by – gulp! – one of their female writers).

    By all means slate them for the air of smug inclusivity, the quality (or lack thereof) of the writing, of pandering to record company/advertiser interests, or even the perceived quality of the music itself – but to keep playing the race/gender card now seems incongruous at best, and down right inaccurate at worst.

  8. Everett True January 3, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    Derek, I’m confused. At no point within this blog entry do I play the ‘race/gender’ card. If you’re referring to the Pitchfork/CB manifesto blog entry I link to, that was written 18 months ago and I deliberately deleted the part about gender in the quoted section because I didn’t feel it had relevance to what I was talking about here. As you say yourself, Pitchfork seems to have shifted over the past year.

    Have another read. I was making a general point about the homogenisation of music writers’ tastes, and the way music critics, when left to their own devices, will often favour ‘serious’ music (because there’s more to write about, or so they perceive). I really don’t understand where you’ve got the gender/race stuff from.

    Also, you’re reading way too much into my commentary if you think I’m being snide about Swans, Scott Walker etc. If you’re wondering which bands I *don’t* like, the giveaway is usually the word “mediocre”.

  9. Brian John Mitchell January 3, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    I think that the time has been here a while where coverage is based on other people’s coverage which is based on advertising dollars. I understand when a magazine tells me (as a label owner) that they can’t guarantee coverage if I place an ad, but can guarantee non-coverage if I don’t place an ad & I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with those publications posturing as indie & people believing it. I will say that I just went to Pitchfork for the first time in a couple years & was shocked by the lack of car & phone ads, are my pop-up blockers getting better?

Leave a Reply