By: Ben Johnson
|The vomit monster from Poltergeist II in case you're wondering.|
time: this might be the first time since I did this last year that I’ve
actually visited Pitchfork. So I can’t really
complain. This is not affecting my life in any way. There are a lot of people
whose lives Pitchfork does affect, and they fucking hate Pitchfork with a fiery
burning passion. Could you imagine? Something like this Pitchfork list comes
out, on Pitchfork, and then it actually
makes a difference in your life? Think about choosing a life for yourself
which involves a negotiation of that
particular spiritual hellscape. That’s not “I love music.” That’s “I have
several things that are DSM-V level wrong with me.”
are, according to the editorial staff at Pitchfork, The
50 Best Albums that came out in 2014.
50. Ben Frost - A U R O
You know when you get one of those weird itches
in your fingers where it actually feels better to bite down hard on your own
flesh than it does to do nothing? This is like if that sensation was music and
you chose to listen to it.
49. Mr Twin Sister - Mr Twin Sister
It’s fun to LOL on Pitchfork, but if I had to manufacture an
opinion about this much music, I’d soon get to a point where every review was “7.8?
I don’t know, leave me alone. This is like a neodisco Sade type thing. It’s
probably in my top eight favorite neodisco Sade albums of the last oh God
please let me die.”
48. Clark – Clark
Theory: the entire country of England has done nothing but
record and remix the same dance track over and over again since about 1999. It's just like their little inside joke.
47. Shellac - Dude Incredible
The funniest part of the Steve Albini keynote is when he talks about how everything’s fine because
Shellac is touring in Bulgaria.
46. Ariana Grande - My Everything
It’s pretty weird to me that there’s an overlap
in the Venn diagram between “Ariana Grande fans” and “people who willfully seek
information about music.” I thought you didn’t need to do or say anything about
stuff like Ariana Grande. I thought it was just released from out of a fire
hose hooked up to a magic standpipe out around the back from a Best Buy. I
didn’t even know humans were responsible for it. I thought stuff like this was generated
from random energy signals sent to some sentient mainframe from every
elliptical machine in every Planet Fitness in America.
45. Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers
This is right up my alley because recently I’ve
been experimenting with boredom as a recreational drug.
44. A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Sea When Absent
Pitchfork is also a genre of music. Pitchfork
gave it Best New Music.
43. Madlib / Freddie Gibbs – Piñata
I have an IMPORTANT QUESTION about HIP HOP
MUSIC. How is Madlib not the single most revered figure in hip hop right now?
This is an IMPORTANT THING to FIGURE OUT because HIP HOP is a MUSIC in CRISIS.
And then after we SOLVE HIP HOP we should GET TO WORK on BASEBALL because it is
currently TOO BORING and the TV RATINGS are NOT GOOD. WE NEED TO BE TALKING ABOUT
ALL OF THIS. TALKING IS GOOD.
42. Owen Pallett - In Conflict
Fucking England again. You know what the
problem is? The original population there were the Celts, so when they want to
get as primitive as possible it’s like flutes and dulcimers and reedy Gaelic
folk ballads and Boringest Part Of A Hobbit Movie shit, instead of awesome ass ancient
psychedelic tribal chants and drones like we have cultural access to in America
41. Leon Vynehall - Music for the Uninvited
You know who originally said “talking about
music is like dancing about architecture” (or the reasonable origin of that oft
misattributed or not-attributed quote)? Martin Mull. In 1979. That’s who every
snot-nosed band is quoting when they think they’re being “cornered” in an
interview by a journalist who they sense (accurately) thinks their music is
garbage. Great witty evasion, guys, throwing out a 35 year old thing that the
bad guy from Mr. Mom once said.
Anyhow, dancing to this is like dancing to architecture.
40. Ty Segall – Manipulator
At this point I’d actually be more impressed
and excited if Ty Segall put out a record that sucked.
39. Ought - More
Than Any Other Day
Even though this is pretty good it sounds
exactly like a less good version of a great band, but I can’t put my finger on
which exact one and it’s killing me because it’s the kind of internal
distinction thing that will only ever matter to me but I could nonetheless
waste a whole fucking day on. Man. As soon as I figure this out I’ll be able to
ignore this band for the rest of my life, and it’s making me tense as hell
because I can’t wait. Fuuuck. Let’s just say Tall Dwarfs just for the sake of
not talking about this anymore. I nailed it. It’s less good Tall Dwarfs. This
is like if the dude from LCD Soundsystem fronted Tall Dwarfs, or Tall Dwarflike
thing. Maybe The Feelies. Fuck. I’m gonna end up listening to this again,
aren’t I? I hate that.
38. Hundred Waters - The Moon Rang Like A Bell
This takes itself exactly as seriously as you’d
expect for something called “Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like A Bell.” If this album was your friend, you
would hide its jacket just to watch it go “Hey guys, have you seen my jacket? I
CAN’T FIND MY JACKET!” and you’d go “Hey Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like A Bell, aren’t you cold? Where’s your jacket?”
and it would FREAK THE FUCK OUT. Eventually you feel bad about it and give the
jacket back, which is when Hundred Waters – The
Moon Rang Like A Bell goes “NOT COOL GUYS!”
Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like A Bell has a point. It’s not really cool to take
a person’s jacket just to watch them get all upset about not having a jacket.
Then again, the whole reason you’re even friends in the first place is because
they were the one album in college who had a car, so fuck them. They shouldn’t
have cock blocked you so hard that one time you actually had a shot with Angela
Pruitt, and now you have zero Angela Pruitt sex memories thanks to them but
you’re still supposed to hang out with them like everything’s good every single
time it’s anybody’s birthday.
37. Perfect Pussy - Say Yes to Love
Oh wait this is actually really good? This is
making me afraid to listen to Diarrhea Planet in case they’re really good too.
I know this is childish and prejudicial, but it’s my life and I get to decide.
36. Tinashe – Aquarius
How come shit like this is never called Perfect
Pussy or Diarrhea Planet? This should be called Porn Moan so you know about
what’s happening and about how to feel about it.
35. Shabazz Palaces - Lese Majesty
I guess this is pretty good, but dude was in
Digable Planets, and they had a song with the lyric “Checking out some Fromm,
some Sartre, Camus” in it, which earns lifetime infinity fuck yous for all
34. Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else
Stuff like this used to be on the radio, like
all the time. You’d turn on the radio and the songs on it would sound like
this. I honestly don’t know if that’s good or bad, it’s just weird to think
about whenever I find myself listening to something like this and thinking
“this band has a CULT following.” Like Cloud Nothings doesn’t have a regular
following. They have an “underground” following. It’s like digging for gold and
then going “Stop everything! We found DIRT!”
|Thanks for making music for me, guys. I really appreciate it.|
33. Rich Gang - Tha Tour Part 1
Reviewing hip hop makes me feel uncomfortable.
Any decision I could manufacture about this is informed by so much shit that is
very far afield from the point of these guys making this music. As a white guy
from the suburbs, I basically have two choices, “good job, good for you guys,
etc. condescending bullshit” or “this is not a legitimate form of expression
because it doesn’t cater to my sensibilities enough.” So fuck it. I abdicate my
right to have an opinion about this Rich Gang mixtape. I don’t know what the
fuck I’m talking about and I’m not about to act like anybody could benefit from
hearing my opinion about this. I wish Pitchfork and everybody else would cop to
that more often instead of constantly mansplaining the whole world to everybody
or talking about how this is particularly
good because it displays more emotional depth and vulnerability than other hip
hop releases, so we’re gonna throw it a discretionary young urban white people
crossover bone. Like just give this a ?.? and link to The Source if you think
it deserves attention. This is why I’m just busting out a bunch of jokes here
and saying everything sucks. I don’t have or want any credibility. Credibility
is a hierarchy, and hierarchy is a fucking trap.
32. White Lung - Deep Fantasy
These guys have a video that they shot on what
looks like old VHS tape and it looks and feels, thanks to a fantastically
well-choreographed 90’s-esque lack of slickness and self-consciousness, exactly
like some weird Superchunk video from 120
Minutes circa 1992 and the song sounds exactly like the song from some
weird Superchunk song that you’d see the video for on 120 Minutes. So I guess go buy a Superchunk album if you’re into
this kind of a thing.
31. Taylor Swift – 1989
The blurb on this is 425 words long, and I got
exactly 122 deep before my eyes rolled so hard I had a Lost My Poor Meatball
situation times two.
30. Iceage - Plowing
Into the Field of Love
These guys are still very young and still from
Denmark, but they’re now in the For Carnation portion of their living Slint
29. How to Dress Well - "What Is This Heart?"
I’m starting to understand the glossy pop and
dance fascination. It’s like what awful music do you need to cleanse your
palate with after listening to some moody brooding postpunk emo shit like
Iceage? You can only listen to awful music. That’s a given. But what awful
music? Some kind of lightly neutered Bruno Marsian technofied disco soft rock?
Sure. Please. Let’s just keep switching the awfuls around, guys. We’ll get
|I thought this was going to involve the word "swag" but I was wrong.|
28. Pharmakon - Bestial Burden
I’m starting to play Guess That Pitchfork. I
thought this would be like a Flying Lotus type electric instrumental hip hop
based on the name, but it’s a pretentious noise act on Sacred Bones. One track
is just somebody coughing up a lung. Did not see that one coming, guys. Fuck. This
list just makes me want to listen to The Lovin’ Spoonful or something.
27. YG - My
YG does a really good job here exploring his
vulnerabilities with emotional depth.
26. Ex Hex – Rips
I did my research on this, so don’t worry, I’m
not going to say it sucks without also knowing that Mary Timony is involved.
25. Azealia Banks - Broke With Expensive Taste
One fun thing that happens while I’m writing
these is my friends will g-chat me like “you gonna do Pitchfork?” and I go
“listening to Azealia Banks now” and they’re like “hahahahahahahahaha oh man
|Pavement Comparison: The Movie|
24. Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animal
The blurb by Douglas Wolk lists Pavement and
The Velvet Underground as “inescapable comparison points” for Parquet Courts. I
like to imagine Pitchfork as a spaceship trying to break free from the event
horizon of a black hole like “Noooo! We’ve got to break free! Parquet Courts
sound nothing like Pavement!” “Release the Tyvek comparison!” “OUR READERSHIP
CAN’T TAKE IT, NOT TO MENTION THE STRUTCTURAL INTEGRITY OF OUR AD REVENUES!”
“Just do it, it’s our only chance!!!!” “Wait. Captain, I have an idea of how we
can do this without mentioning Tyvek. But you’re not going to like it.” “I’m
open to anything at this point, even mentioning a great band like Tyvek whose
label doesn’t advertise with us.” “Well, what if we flew right for it?” “You
want to fly TOWARDS a Pavement comparison?!” “According to my calculations the
comparison is only germane to the early Drag City material and select portions
of a couple of tracks on the Watery, Domestic EP, so if we fly towards it, we
should be able to escape out the other side with only minimal damage.” “Do it.
Alright everybody, hold onto your butts, we’re comparing Parquet Courts to
Pavement. Repeat, we are comparing Parquet Courts to Pavement!” (action
sequence) “I’ve got good news and bad news, Captain. Good news is we’re still
here, bad news is Parquet Courts kind of sounds like The Velvet Underground to
me.” (dramatic sound) “YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!”
23. Lykke Li - I Never Learn
It’s kind of bullshit that the review of this
doesn’t just say “Mmmmm Daddy Lykkes.”
22. Future Islands – Singles
I think it says just about everything that
needs to be said about the state of music for this band and this guy to be our
current Tom Jones.
21. Brian Eno / Karl Hyde - High Life
Brian Eno once said “the problem with computers is that there is not enough
Africa in them,” because, among other things, Brian Eno is one of the most
insufferable interview subjects alive. I like the idea that Brian Eno thinks
somebody put Brian Eno in charge of figuring out how much Africa there is in
things. I would love to walk through a Target with Brian Eno and have him do a
thing-by-thing breakdown of Africa content. “Computers: not enough Africa.”
“K-Cup machine: adequate amount of Africa.” “Tennis racket: zero Africa.”
20. Vince Staples - Hell
Can Wait EP
This is not a legitimate form of expression
because it does not cater to my sensibilities enough.
|Reminder: you're a terrible bullshit person.|
19. Sharon Van Etten - Are We There
Do you have any idea how simultaneously
difficult and patently unnecessary it is to come up with even a reasonably
funny joke about Sharon Van Etten? It’s like a stand-up doing crowd work and
asking somebody what they do for a living and the answer is they design
prosthetic legs for children. The only thing you can do is go “Oh well fuck
you, now everybody’s in here imagining legless children. I might as well just
If I ever learn how to make sushi, I can get an
obnoxious haircut and charge myself $200 to listen to this.
17. Flying Lotus - You're
I’m sorry, I just Googled DJ Shadow for like 20
minutes. What was the question?
16. St. Vincent - St.
Sometimes I wonder how I’d score if there was
some kind of a machine which could measure exactly how sexist I am. It would
probably spit out a piece of receipt paper that just said “Every ounce of your
self-loathing is fully justified.” That machine would make me so sad and angry,
but I would not be able to argue with it because it’s a perfectly calibrated
machine. I would just have to sit in my wrongness and soak it up and just be
fully saturated with wrong all day every day for the rest of my life. This is
that machine’s favorite album.
15. Angel Olsen - Burn
Your Fire for No Witness
Can I profess to be really into this instead of
St. Vincent, or do I have to actually, like, listen to it?
14. Real Estate - Atlas
I know it’s hard to accurately adjust to the
way things are at any given point in history, but let’s just say this is the
fucking Goo Goo Dolls of right now. Does that help you make sense of anything?
Because it’s the only thing that makes any sense to me.
|I'm going as Sexy Alcoholic Skateboard Company Owner Dad for Halloween.|
13. Spoon - They Want
Britt Daniel is 44 years old. It’s getting to
the point where you can’t even launch your career by fucking him.
12. Mac DeMarco - Salad
This is the part of the hero’s journey where he
is distracted by a utopia. Sure, I could stop here and just listen to Mac
DeMarco for the rest of my life instead of finishing this dumb list, but there
is no such thing as perfection, and I have to accept that. Mac DeMarco is a
trap. These people never leave, never learn, never grow, and yes, never die,
because these people are dead already, can’t you see? Can’t anybody see? Why is
everybody sleeping? Wake up! Wake up! There’s somebody at the door. Wake up! (I’m
in bed and my girlfriend is telling me to wake up, somebody is at the door. It’s
Mac DeMarco. He hands me this LP and winks, I look down at it and look up and
he is gone)
11. Perfume Genius - Too
It’s strange that there’s no discernible drug
of choice behind the little muted electronic psychedelic flourishes you hear in
a lot of pop/vocal music these days. It’s like the singer songwriter death echo
of Flaming Lips or something. The oddball sound insertions seem more about
manufacturing an off-kilter arrangement hook for an unending procession of self-serious
would-be anthems with obvious limitations in the catchiness department than
trying to explore any sonic possibilities or replicate an actual psychedelic
experience. Maybe the current drug of choice is money.
10. Caribou - Our Love
It takes all kinds of people to make this crazy
blue marble spin. It takes short people, tall people, skinny people, fat
people, kind people, mean people, and it takes people who make music that has
no purpose other than to be ignored in an expensive shoe store.
9. Ariel Pink - Pom Pom
This guy seems like a hoot. Like a Grade-A
Hoot. Like a guy in a brimmed hat standing in the kitchen at a party wearing a
t-shirt that says “Grade-A Hoot,” whose normal speaking voice is the same
volume as a jet engine.
8. Todd Terje - It's
If this list is a series of snapshots of what’s
going on in the world of electronic music, this is “the fun one.”
7. Sun Kil Moon - Benji
Just FYI, if you’ve ever referred to somebody as
“Benji” who was introduced to you as “Ben,” they definitely told you to go fuck
yourself in their brain, and you definitely deserve it, and you definitely don’t
care because you’re definitely a sociopath.
6. Swans - To Be Kind
Of all the brutalist no wave art bands, these
guys are the ones who stuck around long enough to get the top ten critical
praise venerable noise merchant treatment. Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s
great. I just love the idea that it could just as easily have been Mars (except for the
whole having died thing) or DNA.
5. Grouper - Ruins
“Recorded in 2011 on a four-track, during an
artist residency in the small coastal Portuguese town of Aljezur…” No no no no
no no no. No. Fuck you. I work for a living.
|The assignment was 12-14 pages on why this album is great.|
4. Aphex Twin - Syro
Apparently some dude did his own remix of one
of the tracks off of this, and put it on YouTube, and nobody knew
the difference, and ultimately it does not matter because nobody needs to know
the difference. There’s a specific class of single-minded academic types who
get all excited when they sense a convoluted theoretical argument to be made on
behalf of any “artist” who does something that’s especially easy to convincingly
replicate, simply because there’s a convoluted theoretical argument to be made
and their sense of self-worth is hopelessly inextricable from their ability to
make it. You can’t just not care without also getting a twenty minute lecture in
art theory about why you should care by a status-addled person who could very
obviously reap large and immediate benefits from caring less. I’d actually be
into stuff like this if that was the intention, to release insufferable irony-laden
amateur art lectures into the world like a floating egg sac full of ravenous spider
babies. That would be “Great Art” in
the way that all “Great Art” is basically a prank.
3. The War on Drugs - Lost
in the Dream
Whenever these lists make me want to breathe
into a paper bag about the rank unfairness of life, a thing I do to cheer
myself up is look at old Pazz
& Jop Poll results on the Robert Christgau site. It makes me feel
better to know that music critics have always had their heads up their asses. This one is my
favorite. Rod Stewart’s third solo album in the three spot, two ahead of John
Lennon’s Imagine, nine ahead of The
Beach Boys Surf’s Up, 14 ahead of Sly
and the Family Stone There’s a Riot Goin’
On, 15 ahead of David Bowie Hunky
Dory, 17 ahead of Led Zeppelin IV.
To be fair, it does have “Maggie May” on it. Guess why I paid special attention
to what was number three on the list.
2. FKA twigs - LP1
This is probably about some hugely personal
trauma or complicated and important social issue to be ranked this high, and me
saying it’s just an undercooked sonic stew of leftover who gives a fuck that
sounds like the sixth Dentiny’s Child is dating an unwanted Chemical Brother
ends up earning me a “dude, you just said it’s okay to rape children” Twitter
reply. In which case, get ready to see this change because it is not okay to
rape children. Like not even a little bit.
1. Run the Jewels - Run
the Jewels 2
murder of Mike Brown was tragic and awful and preventable and inevitable, and
the anger comes not just that a white cop freaked out and killed an unarmed
black kid, which is distressingly common. The bulk of the anger from the police
department’s institutional decision to leave his body face down draining deathblood
into the street while simultaneously mobilizing riot gear and tear gas cannons,
fudging evidence, and getting the story straight for a cover-up. The demand
that Darren Wilson be indicted is not primarily motivated by anti-cop or
anti-Darren Wilson sentiment (although that’s a large portion of it) so much as
a deep-seated desire by a segment of the American population to finally be
accounted for in some visible way by a civic infrastructure which has always
profited from racialized violence. The least St. Louis, America, and the World
could do is offer up a symbolic sacrificial lamb, once the fuck in a while or
ever, or even just an apology of some kind from some kind of a trustable person
who is empowered to and intends to do anything useful. Nobody’s asking for
actual justice, just a cursory nod in the direction of justice. Just at least
that. Just let’s start there. Please. And the answer apparently is “no, again,
not this time” and it’s a blatant continuation of the harshest systematic insult
added to the harshest systematic injury.
I’m not really into this album. There’s not a single Ghostface album, including
the one that just came out, which this is better than.