Oh yes, it’s that time of year again (a little early actually but I’m basically killing time at work at this stage) where I try and spread the good word on top music and film in 2013. To kick off, here are my favorite songs featured on good but not favorite albums!
Yo La Tengo - “Ohm”
What a triumphant return and start to 2013 was due to this song. Fade is an excellent album, proving YLT are still indie heavyweights with consistently brilliant records, but nothing comes close to it’s lead-off track. “Ohm” just sounds massive, both live and on record. YLT have always had an incredible ability to make a ton of noise for just three musicians, but here they just top themselves, with densely layered guitars, a simple, danceable beat, and uplifting vocals; simply put, it is the New Jersey indie-rockers at their best.
IceAge - Coalition
Yet another wave of unfounded Nazi-sympathizing accusations aside, IceAge released an excellent follow up to New Brigade in You’re Nothing with the clear standout being second single “Coalition”, a brilliant post-punk trip though nervous energy which is equal parts catchy and anxious.
Mount Kimbie - Made to Stray
Mount Kimbie’s follow up to Crooks & Lovers was just a tiny bit disappointing. The record starts strongly but ends up running out of ideas, especially when calling on King Krule for a second time when the first song of his was perfectly good. “Made to Stray” however, is a diamond in the rough, a total summer electronic jam.
The Haxan Cloak - The Drop
The Haxan Cloak - The Drop
Excavation is in fact one of my honorable mentions for AOTY, but “The Drop” deserves it’s own post. In a record of gloomy, terrifying atmospherics, here’s comes this half-light at the end of the tunnel. “The Drop”, despite its slightly tongue-in-cheek title, is no less terrifying than anything else on Excavation, but it does adadd some much needed relief and peace to a record gripped in the foggy moors of death as a classic Black Metal record perhaps would be. This near 13 minute sprawl swirls into dark dreamy worlds similar to OPN’s “Replica” or “Returnal”; but where there is color in OPN’s world, there is only monochrome here.
Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory - Photon
Pantha Du Prince’s project with The Bell Laboratory, released right at the beginning of the year (Jan 6th!), was a fairly underrated experiment in a sound Pantha had already delved into on his standout crossover record Black Noise. Live however it was one of the best experiences of the year to be found, and although this song is easily the shortest and thus less dense song on the record, it is a welcome easily digestible bite-size chunk of what make’s this record tick, clock and hit.
Balance & Composure - Reflection
The lead single off (yet another Penn State indie-punk band) Balance * Composure’s new album The Things We Think We Are Missing promised a lot, but couldn’t quite live up to the rest of the record. A shame, because Will Yip’s production makes this sound absolutely massive, but the long-player is in fact too long to justify it’s means.
Bonehouse - The Bonehouse Summer Jam
Already editing! Bonehouse are one of my favorite bands in the UK and one I’ve had the pleasure of playing with a few times now. Hailing from Dundee, they put an inventive spin on an already slightly worn out “Emo revival” and here, on the lead track of their debut full length, show they have melodic chops to fit into their layered songwriting. A moving song, with an instantly catchy refrain, truly a band to look out for going forward.
Ice, Sea Dead People - If It’s Broken, Break it More
I know, I know, it is very cheap of me to include a band I have since joined, but I didn’t have anything to do with this album and for the first half of 2013, this genuinely was one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite UK bands, and friends, so I feel quite privileged to get to play it live now.
Justin Timberlake - Mirrors
And here it is, the inescapably, irrepressibly brilliant pop song of 2013 (from a very strong record to boot) it’s JT’s MJ ode “Mirrors”. I just realized there’s no girls in my list, either making me a bit sexist in 2013 or that girls need to step up their game (which is tough when Robin Thicke is attempting to collect them all in his creepy music video cave).
Deafheaven - Punk Rock/CODY
Slight cheat here as this cover was actually released at the end of 2012, but as I didn’t hear it until this year, and Deafheaven are probably my band of the year, I’ve included it (my list, my rules). What a year Deafheaven have had, releasing an incredible record to crossover appeal, winning countless plaudits and fans in a largely previously inaccessible genre of music. Before the best album of 2013 though, the band gave us a taster of things to come on a split single with Bosse-de-Nage, by covering Mogwai’s euphoric “Punk Rock/CODY” from their magnum opus (to my mind) Come On Die Young. The cover was seen as a bit of a departure from the band’s first record which though hinted at the star turn they would produce this time around, was far more “straight up” as it were. This cover then elevated the band into a high point of interest, covering the revered Glasgow post-rock band (who’s ode to Black Metal is on the cover of the record) seemed unlikely, but they took the already stunning song into their own soon to be massively heralded sound, and turned it into a masterpiece of their own, while still respecting the original source.
I may add to this over the remaining weeks, but for now, these were my singles, albums to come!
wondering what happens behind the scenes at p4k (I knew you were a contributor, and im also curious about your departure or non-activity or whatever...) specifically, are album ratings absolutely decided by the individual writers or are some artists pushed forward by the top editing staff. BNM seems like a consensus, pre-determined thing. and thanks, and I'll admit I'm assuming you won't be able to answer this question because of bullshit non-disclosure agreements and their ilk.
Oh boy. So, I’m going to answer this and that’s probably enough upset people over at Pitchfork or whatever who are legendarily embattled, but I don’t think I’m being vindictive, here…
When it comes to Pitchfork and scoring, I would say that you would be shocked by just how democratic the rating process is. Without giving much away (because I don’t think that’s fair to Pitchfork), it goes something like this: In general, a record is discussed by the writers and generally, through that, the site arrives at a score consensus. Then reviews are assigned or fit to a writer (usually that writer has sent a pitch). So, in a sense yeah, the reviews are controlled by the editors because they assign someone whose opinion on the record (especially if it is a notable or relevant record) fits the view of the site. This really isn’t that different from how every publication assigns reviews. The one difference I would say is that Pitchfork is rarely going to give a review over to a critic with a cool point of view if that point of view doesn’t fit the editorial stance, especially if that stance is negative. Yeah yeah yeah, I work for SPIN, so this is probably a bad example, but SPIN let Rob Harvilla rip Watch The Throne to pieces (he gave it a 6). I don’t think Pitchfork would ever do that. At least not anymore.
One example (which again, I will keep vague because it just doesn’t seem necessary to provide the specifics) that did stick in my craw (and was one of a number of annoying actions that made me decide I ultimately didn’t want to write for Pitchfork anymore): A certain buzzing artist was not well-recieved by most of the writers whose opinions on the given genre that this artist operates in are usually valued. One of the people in charge of P4K was pushing hard for the artist and for the most part, the writers who care passionately about this type of music were just like, “I don’t know, man, the album’s all right, but that’s it.” Finally, the review of this record came out and the artist got a ‘Best New Music.’ And I noticed it was written by a writer new to the site. It felt a little weird for a number of reasons. 1. Why are you asking for the opinions of the writers if you’re ultimately going to blow them off? 2. This particular artist was very buzz worthy and SEO-friendly. 3. I don’t know anything about this, so this part is pure speculation, but it seemed creepy to assign it to a new writer who you know, is going to be easier to persuade because hey, they want to keep writing for the site they just started writing for, you know? Don’t waste your time guessing who the artist is, that’s not the point, and it’s not who you probably think it is.
So, that sequence of events put a bad taste in my mouth. It represented what, to me, was a bit of a shift in the site’s approach to reviewing, which suddenly seemed more SEO-oriented and buzz band-friendly around mid-2011. The act of editing seemed to take a backseat, though to be frank, the editing even when they did edit, tended to be kind of half-assed. I don’t know anything about Scott Plagenhoef’s exit AT ALL, but I feel like the site’s approach shifted once he left. Of course, everybody who works for anybody ever feels like at some point or another, “It all changed, mannnnn,” so take this all with a grain of salt. My frustration with Pitchfork was probably exasperated by my increased involvement with SPIN, who let me do whatever the fuck I want, and pay me more, and whose staff I just get along with on a personal level, much better. Which is all just me really saying, I started to dislike writing for Pitchfork when I could, professionally, start to dislike writing for Pitchfork. I stopped writing for them because I didn’t feel good about writing for them, but I only did that when I didn’t feel like I was squandering an opportunity. I’m a fucking phony like the rest of them.
I want to stress that when I was hired by Pitchfork in November of 2010 (Summer of 2010, Pitchfork put out a call for writers and I submitted a resume; that’s how I got hired), it was a total “Holy fuck!” moment for me. The teenaged me would’ve shit out of his dick with excitement. Within a few months though, I kinda already felt weird and a bit cynical about the site. One time, on the staff message board, someone whose name I didn’t recognize was kind of being aggressive about certain peoples’ reception to a certain record, and I looked the dude up and he was like, part of the advertising team? That gave me the creeps. Also, I just never felt like I fit in. I’m probably just not a good fit over there.
I also think Pitchfork kind of brews this embattled cult mentality that’s really toxic. You see this even now on say, Twitter, when one of the writers or editors is all, “Who me? What us?” any time anyone calls them out for anything. You guys are the big dogs! People are gonna criticize you! I mean this is the site that obnoxiously promoted the fact that they would now be premiering music like NPR and plenty of other sites, as if they had just invented some amazing new thing. You know, I admire the fuck out of Pitchfork for not succumbing to the slideshow disease, even with their year-end lists where it would be justified, but they tend to ramp up their integrity rhetoric in a way that’s off-putting and even, troll-ish. Sure, they don’t do slideshows, but the news is often super short, gossip-y garbage clearly aiming for firsties, and the track write-ups are like sub-FADER level, these days.
Um, I also think their pay is pretty shitty (though they do pay on time, which almost nobody does these days). And I know it’s a separate aspect of the site’s branding/entity/whatever, but finding how much they paid for Animal Collective the year I went to Pitchfork Festival when I was writing for them, and thinking about how much they pay their writers was a low-key “what the fuck” moment. This past summer, the PRI show Marketplace talked to Ryan Schreiber before Pitchfork Fest and presented Pitchfork as a site that is thriving when music publishing and even just music writing is on the decline. It infuriated me because the whole angle of the story, supported by Schreiber was that P4K thrived because of its integrity. That’s part of the story (it’s a brand that people trust), but well, you know, if a site pays their writers about a quarter of what sites of similar popularity pay, then it’s going to be a lot easier to stay afloat. And like I said in the previous paragraph, the angle that they’re just so much less craven than other music publications is some bullshit. Pitchfork won’t like this, but I kind of don’t care and also, this is definitely not me being vindictive. As anyone who follows me on Twitter can probably attest, if I wanted to send out cheap shots and air someone out, I would have no problem doing that. I fucking love cheap shots! I get a sick fuck charge out of taking the low road! But here, I feel like I am being fair but honest about my experience with the site.
After the June 2005 release of Turn It Up, Faggot, Bradford Cox asked his old high school friend Lockett Pundt to join the band, making Deerhunter a five-piece: Cox on vocals, Moses Archuleta on drums, Josh Fauver on bass, and Pundt and Colin Mee on guitar. I think of Cox,…
Tonight’s show is delayed by an hour; pretty straight forward explanation really. As soon as the clock strikes 8.30pm, the show is brought into fruition by Bakewell’s The Hipshakes. The garage punk four-piece have been going for just over a decade now, and this…
Glasgow, 5 years ago you welcomed me with open arms to your beautiful, strange city despite being wet behind the ears and being afflicted with this terrible accent. Today I leave you a different person. I could never possibly imagine the kind of experiences I had whilst apart of you, I have seen and done some things I didn’t think were possible coming from my humble Norwich and I’ve not regretted a moment of it. I’ve made more friends (and family) than I could possibly comprehend, so friendly have you been that i’ll remember each and every one of you forever. I’ve learnt so much from your streets, usually raining, whether in libraries or in beer-soaked pavements about who I am and why. You’ve taught me how to talk, chat, patter, drink, love, cry, sing, even die amongst your various bars, cinemas, jakeys and students. I’ve seen you from top to bottom, and it’s prepared me; I slogged through Celtic Park and The Bay Horse only to emerge partying with Joss Whedon or Conrad Keeley. You’ve provided me with opportunities and ideas that have inspired me to watch, learn, perform and almost always with a smile (you smile better). I’ve been through every emotion and feeling within you, you’ve given me pure elation to total loss, comedy (lots of comedy, yours is a wit unbeaten in this world) to absolute tragedy, but ultimately the ability to feel. Glasgow, you’re an unreal city, where the rich and the poor rub elbows amongst each other as if there’s not much difference, you remember where you came from, where you are, and where you’re going more than any other place I’ve ever known. Glasgow, I’m sorry I’m leaving you so soon, I never thought I’d get this attached, but your imperfections which are making me leave are in many ways what makes you perfect. Glasgow, you provided a home far, far, far away from home, one unlike anything I’d ever known, when I needed you most and you obliged, nay, jumped at the chance: “come back to mine we’ll get mad wi’ it”. Glasgow, you even gave me a football team (come on thistle). Glasgow, please know, that you and everyone I’ve ever encountered in you, will always have a place in my heart.