Pitchfork’s Importance Shouldn’t Be Underrated - The Atlantic
archived 19 Jan 2024 01:45:41 UTC
Saying you’re a Pitchfork person can be mistaken for saying you take its opinions as your own, when ideally it just means that you want a discerning companion for making your own discoveries and judgments.
Pitchfork’s absorption into GQ is a travesty for music media – and musicians | Laura Snapes
It is bleak on so many levels, first and foremost the job losses during a straitened time for media. Pitchfork was one of the last stable music outlets going – where else are the former staff, and the site’s hundreds of freelancers, meant to work now?
Incorporating Pitchfork into a men’s magazine also cements perceptions that music is a male leisure pursuit, and undermines the fact that it was women and non-binary writers – Lindsay Zoladz, Jenn Pelly, Carrie Battan, Amanda Petrusich, Sasha Geffen, Jill Mapes, Doreen St Félix, Hazel Cills; the fearless editing of Jessica Hopper and then the most recent editor-in-chief Puja Patel, to name but a handful – who transformed the website in the 2010s. It also suggests that music is just another facet of a consumer lifestyle, not a distinct art form that connects niche communities worthy of close reading, documentation and, when warranted, investigation.
Larry Fitzmaurice: 37 Thoughts on Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Music Writing, Animal Collective, Indie, Grizzly Bear, the XX, and How Things Change
A great summary of the shift in music writing and coverage around 2013 as music publications shifted to covering more pop music (and did it in a more take-based fashion) and pop music itself made a comeback critically.
Jenn Pelly: Fiona Apple — Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Pitchfork)
She will not be silenced. That’s patently clear from the start of Fetch the Bolt Cutters. In gnarled breaths on its opening song—feet on the ground and mind as her might—Apple articulates exactly what she wants: “Blast the music! Bang it! Bite it! Bruise it!” It’s not pretty. It’s free
Jeremy Larson: Why Do We Even Listen to New Music? (Pitchfork)
Our brains reward us for seeking out what we already know. So why should we reach to listen to something we don’t?
The act of listening to new music in the midst of a global pandemic is hard, but it’s necessary. The world will keep spinning and culture must move with it, even if we are staid and static in our homes, even if the economy grinds to a halt, even if there are no shows, no release parties, and even artists sink even further into the precarity that defines a career as a musician. The choice to listen to new music prioritizes, if for one listen only, the artist over you. It is an emotional risk to live for a moment in the abyss of someone else’s world, but this invisible exchange powers the vanguard of art, even in times of historic inertia.
Jeremy Larson: Herbie Hancock — Headhunters (Pitchfork)
Head Hunters states its intent in its name: The music will blow open your skull the second you press play, the instant the bassline from “Chameleon” comes out of the speakers in full stereo sound. And if that doesn’t move you, how about when Harvey Mason comes in with the funkiest drum part in the history of drumming, a groove even Hancock said he had never heard before in his life, that snare hit coming just before the two, the kick drum so dead and relaxed, are you kidding me? Head Hunters rightfully belongs to the Library of Congress as one of our nation's most treasured recordings, sitting there, smoking, untouchable, a factory of winces and hoooos.
“Everything’s geared toward self-sufficiency. Fuck that,” Björk told punk historian Jon Savage in Interview. “For me, the target is to learn how to communicate with other people, which is the hardest thing, after all. What you should be doing is learning how to live with other human beings.” Car parts, bottles, cutlery, technology, and political superpowers are no match against this outreaching feeling, this ethos of interconnectedness that lives inside “Hyperballad,” inside of Björk in general, and it is an instinct inherent, ever crucially, in the survival of humanity.
Music Journalism Insider #029: An Interview with Pitchfork's Reviews Editor
Todd L. Burns interviews Pitchfork Reviews Editor Jeremy D. Larson. A lot of really excellent advice in here.
Q: What's the best way to pitch an album review to Pitchfork?
Just email me; I will get back to you soonish. I like getting pitches from people who have an extensive background in writing music criticism, whether that’s at other outlets or on your own personal blog. It’s a bit of a different skill set than reporting or culture writing, and there are a few basics I like to see with new writers. I like reading people with a voice and would much rather read some fun thing you wrote on your Tumblr than a capsule review you wrote for a magazine or newspaper.
As a general note on pitching: Try to find a way to pitch with the voice that you write in. Show me who you are as a writer. I get a lot of pitches that are in this stiff, stilted, overly formal tone, which, I understand, writers want to be respectful to editors they don’t know. Don’t email me and be like “fam bam lemme do that Dungen live album cool?” but do find a middle ground. If you can come to me with an elevator pitch or some sort of key or flourish to unlock an album that is written in a way where I can see that I don’t have to spend a ton of time editing it, that is the best. Think of pitching as an audition—the director is very busy, they are watching a hundred people today alone, everybody can generally do the job just fine, things start to sound the same after a while, but they are looking for the person who can do the job like no one else and make their life the easiest. You have one minute to grab someone’s attention.
Q: Describe your basic approach to editing a typical piece.
In general, I like making sure there is a beginning, a middle, and an end—they should all be braided together. The lede should be the best thing you’ve ever written. There should be value judgments; you’d be surprised how many drafts I’ve read that do not tell me whether a record is quite simply good or bad.
The best stuff should be at the top. Cut cliches, idioms, cut most adjectives and adverbs. I’m not a huge fan of reading how instruments sound, especially because it is very easy to simply listen to the album and hear it yourself, and describing a synth or guitar often leads to bad or boring writing.
I cut a lot of quoted lyrics—most lyrics pulled out of context don’t really offer much insight into the songwriter, or they fuel an argument that is straining for meaning, or sometimes the context is just plain wrong. Lots of drafts hem and haw or are very equivocal, so I try to eliminate crutch phrases and draft language such as “almost feels like” or “some fans will find” or “so it makes sense that,” things like that.
Also, the phrases “proves to be” or “finds himself” are vestiges of college newspaper writing and sound wretched, just use “is” or activate the sentence. What’s left I send it back to the writer, to address the edits and make sure they are happy with the final copy.
It’s easy to glom onto an artist’s massive audience and cruise in their wake, but there is a better audience, a smarter and more attractive audience, who cares deeply about what a critic and a journalist think. Write for them.
Mark Richardson: Remembering The Bottled Lightning Of 'Music Tumblr' (NPR)
For a brief moment, Tumblr played host to a tight-knit, but open-minded, community of music lovers who were thinking and writing deeply about music and its place in the world.
In some ways, we were naïve. When Music Tumblr was humming, few people stopped to think that what we were really doing was providing free content to a large company that was trying to figure out how to turn that content into money. Just about everyone I can think of from the Music Tumblr days is now on Twitter, and just about all of them seem miserable there. You go to Twitter expecting the worst, and it rarely disappoints. As crazy as it sounds now, for a short while, in this time and place, social media seemed like a good idea. But there's always hope.
Philip Sherburne: Oneohtrix Point Never — Garden of Delete (Pitchfork)
Garden of Delete is unlike anything that Daniel Lopatin has done, in terms of technique, mood, or scope. It is denser than his previous albums, by several orders of magnitude. It is more varied, and it is funnier—scarier, too. The album carries with it a risk of whiplash that's as potent on the 15th listen as on the first.
One of the most notable and striking differences between Art Angels and its Top 40 kin is that these are not love songs. The album is an epic holiday buffet of tendentious feminist fuck-off, with second helpings for anonymous commenters and music industry blood-suckers. Her conflicted, vertiginous relationship with the fast fame that followed Visions seems to have led her to a place of DGAF liberation.
Philip Cosores: The Problem with Artist-Curated Content (Consequence of Sound)
The rise of artist content intended to replace criticism must be a direct failure on the part of critics and editors, and instead of rising to the challenge, the reaction has been to push it instead of our own work. It cheapens the work of critics and writers to just post directly what the artist is putting out there, especially if they are doing the job we are supposed to be doing. The reaction should be to make better work so that people won’t want the artist-curated content; the reaction should be for better stories, more original ideas, and concepts never before attempted. The reaction should be for better access, because access to the direct thoughts of a musician is pretty hard to beat. The Talkhouse, and similar content, provides the ideal access, except without the filter of journalism. It’s a facade, and we have to see through it as substandard.
Ira Robbins: Record Reviews: Who Needs ‘Em? (Rock's Backpages Writers' Blogs)
Record reviews are now brief, upbeat and simple: download these songs, they’re good. Beyond that service, writers don’t provide much real value. They are unlikely to establish a strong connection with their readers, as no sense of prejudices and predilections can emerge from four sentences (at least one of which is going to be strictly informational).
And you can’t even blame space. They are simply kowtowing to the preferences of those readers who care the least.
Village Voice: Music: Tyler, the Creator’s Boy’s Club
“The highest points and most infuriating moments on ‘Goblin’ come from the fact that it’s a vérité depiction of the worst aspects of American boy culture. You know, hating girls because they don’t like you because you’re a weirdo, hating any and all authority figures because they try to tell you how not to be such a weirdo. But most importantly (and scarily), there’s the part that involves lashing out about being viewed as a weirdo, and being summarily rewarded—i.e. seen as normal—for doing so. (It probably goes without saying that girls don’t have the same luxury.) Nobody cares about Tyler the Creator being someone’s role model in 2011. Which in a way, is the scariest thing about ‘Goblin’—too much of his scary fantasizing, for too many boys, is all too normal.”
This Tumblr posts PDFs of poetry anthologies and books of cultural writing and other classic texts, bits of important historical music-related interviews, old, rare, or otherwise important or interesting records, etc. Would that I had the time to take in everything listed here.