Serious Music for Serious People | the continued betrayal of music
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.
- Frank Ocean (serious!)
- Kendrick Lamar (serious!)
- Swans (über-serious, but does ANYONE in the world except critics still listen to Swans?)
- Jessie Ware (serious!)
- Julia Holter (serious! and a little playful)
- Grimes (sexy!)
- Actress (oddball and serious)
- Fiona Apple (sexy and serious!)
- Tame fucking Impala (mediocre, but serious)
- Chromatics (some mistake, surely?)
And so it goes on…
- 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).
- Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City
- Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
- Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…
- Tame Impala – Lonerism
- Swans – The Seer
- Grimes – Visions
- Beach House – Bloom
- Chromatics – Kill For Love
- Death Grips – The Money Store
- 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.
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.