This year has already seen a great deal of new releases from artists across genres, but the year has been especially fruitful for indie rock so far. 2017 has already seen albums from veteran acts like Spoon, The Shins, Real Estate and Future Islands. All of these albums are good, each in their own way—both in difference for the band and the listener. Pitchfork, however, has decided to further assert their pretentious musical dominance—that is, after giving the Ed Sheeran album a 2.8, a record I promise you nobody on the staff wanted to listen to— and boast exhaustingly average scores. These aren’t just any bands either, these are some of modern rock ‘n roll’s signature acts.
Spoon, for example, has been one of the most proficient and consistently good bands of the last decade. Pitchfork gave their new album, a refreshingly new, elctro-infused indie pop record, a 7.4. It’s not to say this is some bizarrely low score for Hot Thoughts, but as a Pitchfork reader I was expecting a little more insight from them in terms of the scoring of their review. The reviews themselves aren’t bad; their analysis is usually somewhat accurate despite the snooty language, but the scoring as of late has really allowed the staff to show their true colors with respect to indie rock. Here are the scores for four recent Pitchfork reviews:
The Shins// Heartworms—7.6
Real Estate // In Mind—7.2
Spoon // Hot Thoughts—7.4
Future Islands // The Far Field—7.6
Father John Misty // Pure Comedy—7.6
Now, I’m sure you could take any one of these records and make an argument for why it received the grade it did, but that doesn’t make the scores accurate—Pitchfork’s inability to acknowledge good, new indie rock is alienating their once-loyal fan base. In today’s society, things have obviously become more polarized across the board (especially in politics). The rise of unreliable and, okay, “fake” news has largely contributed to the massive ideological split in America. But that shouldn’t matter in terms of music, right? Well, kind of. I mean, in one sense, it makes sense why politically charged, different albums would receive higher scores—people have been feeling very inspired by injustice as of late (Kendrick’s massive DAMN. just received a 9.2). On the other hand, though, music is still music, and more importantly, good music is still good music. I mean, the only reason this is even a problem in the first place is because it’s such a recent problem (Pitchfork gave Spoon’s They Want My Soul (2012) an 8.6—an album that was good, but not 1.2 “P4k Points” better than Hot Thoughts). It’s almost like Pitchfork has abandoned their love affair with rock music in order to pursue new, young, “revolutionary” acts like Carly Rae Jepsen (who Pitchfork somehow has a massive hard-on for despite her droning performances and shallow discography).
What we have at the core of the issue with Pitchfork is a lazy abandonment of the genre of indie rock, a sound that used to define the taste of the publication. While things are definitely changing in the music world, retaining the roots from which new subgenres spring is a crucial part of understanding the evolution of music over time. Now, we’ll see how Pitchfork rates the new Sylvan Esso and Mac Demarco records—both of which I’ve heard and deserve at least an 8.0—but I have a feeling we won’t see more than a 7.8 at best, and that’s because Pitchfork loves Mac Demarco (how could you not?). Music is changing across the board, but that doesn’t mean only new acts “get it.” Father John Misty’s new album Pure Comedy is a strikingly substantial album from an artist the publication does many segments with, but that didn’t stop them from rating his latest endeavor—which he’s made clear he worked his ass off on—a blasé 7.6. If Pitchfork is too cool for Father John Misty, who the hell are they listening to? Well, apparently, a lot of stuff you’ve never heard of—but you wouldn’t have heard of it, would you?
by David Colton