Posted by: will | November 26, 2007


You know, I started to discount Pitchfork’s relevance a long time ago. Now though, they just make me angry. Chase over at Standard Lipsum recently railed the hipster paradise for giving a terribly negative review (4.4 to be exact) to an exclusive iTunes benefit compilation. 100% of the proceeds of these songs would go towards FINCA. So, please tell me, what’s the point in critiquing songs that go towards a good cause? Would it not have been appropriate to just “pass” on this one? Do the people at Pitchfork feel good about discouraging people to buy songs that go towards a good cause?

The need of Pitchfork and its writers to consistently put down music/artists with their high brow “essays” is troubling to say the least. Even records that do score well are usually chock full of back-handed compliments (recent reviews of Georgie James and The Avett Brothers come to mind). Instead of spreading the word about great records and artists, Pitchfork have belittled music into a simple and degrading numbers game. And with that, they continue their injustice on music.

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  1. preach on brother, SAL.

  2. you got it Will, Pitchfork is doing an injustice to the music community.

    I’d implore everyone to read The Onion parody of Pitchfork to relieve a little frustration.

  3. Yup, a good one…

  4. I have never been a Pitchfork supporter, but I don’t consider this review particularly offensive at all. In fact, I’m amazed at how un-Pitchforkian and straightforward it is. The verbal masturbation is at a minimum and I barely cringed once while reading.

    In truth, the point in critiquing songs that go toward a worthy cause is, well…to critique songs…because Pitchfork is a music-critiquing site, duh. That’s what it does. It’s certainly not a mouthpiece – or a cheerleading hype machine – for FINCA or any other charitable organization. Furthermore, I’m quite positive that whichever PR firm is working the record is well aware of that and decided to service the record regardless. Love em or hate em, Pitchfork is a big part of our generation’s pop culture spectrum and when you send a disc to their Chicago offices, you know what you’re getting: the opportunity for hundreds of thousands of people to instantly become aware of who you are…not to mention a coveted shot at the site’s proverbial thumbs up.

    And really, that’s why we loath Pitchfork: because they have so much say in what’s “cool.” That, and the fact that it’s nearly impossible to make it through an entire review without developing a distinct stabbing pain in the back of your left eye.

    I guess there’s an argument that the music on compilations geared toward worthy causes should be exempt from harsh words. Still, if I ran a review-based website, you’d have a difficult time justifying that particular assertion; especially if said compilation boasted songs from Nora Jones, Devandra Banhart, Rouge Wave and The Shins. My god…I practically grew a vagina by simply typing that last sentence. Even now, after reading a bit more about FINCA and their lofty mission statement, I have no problem saying that (more than likely), I would classify 75 percent of the songs on this comp totally sucky.

    In any case, I didn’t find the reviewers words particularly harsh. Here are a few “scathing” examples:

    “overly earnest and polite”
    “a compilation with more lulls that excitement”
    “his sort of musical tinkering is largely absent on the well-meaning compilation, whose earnestness is reflected in its musical conservatism.”

    Ouch…Pitchfork totally burned FINCA. Except they didn’t. In fact, despite the reviewers less-than-stellar review of the music, he spends most the first paragraph highlighting the foundation’s noble intentions and is quick to point out that the comp “is still worth your money, if not your full attention.”

    So if you’re wondering if the P-forkers should have taken a pass on this one, I say no way, and I’m pretty sure that the publicist for Big Change feels the same. While some websites only review music that they’re into (and that’s totally fine) there are others that cover what’s relevant. Pitchfork is one of the latter, and that’s why this compilation was covered; the songs – while uninspiring to the reviewer – are nevertheless part of an extremely worthy and relevant anti-poverty organization.

    In conclusion, I just spent an hour typing an essay in defense of Pitchfork. What the fuck?

  5. Dude, I can’t believe you just wrote that.

    The question here was never if these bands/songs suck. The compilation probably is less than stellar. I never said otherwise.

    However, when you wield as much influence as Pitchfork and your opinion (positive or negative) matters a great deal, what becomes more important? A great cause or the notion that all music should be critiqued no matter the circumstance?

    Obviously, SAL is a site that covers music more positively. I refuse to waste my time writing terribly negative reviews on music I do not like whether it is “relevant” to pop culture or not. Pitchfork does though and they are certainly entitled to do just that. However, in my opinion they continue to do a disservice to music. And that is my main point here.

    God, fuck all this talk about Pitchfork.

  6. “Dude, I can’t believe you just wrote that.”

    I know…what the fuck?

    When I first came across this post – as well as Standard Lipsum’s commentary – I was ready to get all riled up against the evil empire that is Pitchfork. After reading though, I felt nothing of the sort.

    Anyway, I’m not going to spend another hour on this because that was just ridiculous. I will say that there is some real validity to covering what’s relevant in the music world and not just the music you love, especially if you have a million people reading your site every week. Beside, I’d argue that the folks at Pitchfork truly believe they’re doing both. Regardless, when you have a staff of 50 writers and you’re cranking out four reviews a day, plus additional features, you’re never going to make everyone happy all the time. While they certainly haven’t made diehard fans out of you and I, there’s a ton of people who consider Pitchfork the indie Bible. That in itself is yet another point of contention on which we could probably riff back and forth for hours…and we’d probably be on the same side.

    I think my problem with Pitchfork is that they don’t cover anything relevant to ME…which honestly is a “me problem,” not the site’s. Still, when they do review an interesting record, there’s usually more emphasis placed on verbose, tangled quasi-narratives than the actual music. In other words, I read reviews because I want to be turned on to new bands. Sure, it’s great if the review is entertaining, but Pitchfork reviews are practically the opposite of that; they’re tiring and nearly impossible to get through. I learn nothing.

    I guess that my biggest beef with the condemnation of Pitchfork on the issue of the FINCA comp is that while they were critical of the music contained within, they were very complimentary regarding the organization and their mission. In fact, they go as far as saying that despite the lackluster music, you should still buy the cd. If you go back to Standard Lipsum’s original post, the headline reads

    “Pitchfork Critiques Worthy Cause”

    And that’s just not correct. They critique the music. They promote the worthy cause. You’re focusing too much on the number rating which has nothing to do with FINCA. In truth, if we were to go back in time and were somehow able to slap a shiny new “7” rating on that review, I don’t think we’d be having this conversation. After all, no one bothered to mention this review that ran two days ago:

    Very similar in tone and style, highlighting both the music and the cause. Aside from the positive comments and rating of the bands, it’s practically the same review.

    If you say there are some big problems with Pitchfork, you’ll get absolutely no argument from me. However, I don’t think this review supports that assertion in the least. Let’s talk about the over-hyping of this boring turd of a record: Seriously…a 9.7?

  7. Perhaps Chase’s title was misleading…the review obviously never says anything negative about FINCA…just the music that supports the organization. I understand that. But, seriously, after reading that review who is going to go and purchase those songs? Not many…especially the people who take Pitchfork’s word as the “indie bible.” That is what I have a problem with. I guess on that, we will continue to disagree.

    Obviously, there is validity in covering all relevant music good or bad. If I did SAL full-time or had a bunch of other writers I would cover more music too. However, that is not where Pitchfork does their disservice to music.

  8. You may be right; hipsters who follow the Pitchfork guide to buying music may not purchase the album based on the negative rating. That truly would suck.

    Of course, there’s always the option of simply donating directly to FINCA…and perhaps because Pitchfork has highlighted the organization in a positive way within the review, people will do exactly that. And for that reason I feel like the site needs defending (on this particular issue).

    In other news, I love George Bush.

  9. I think you overestimate people that religiously follow Pitchfork.

    In other news, illegal downloading kills little babies!

  10. Where is your “stop illegal downloading” banner?

  11. dude, what are you talking about…it’s up top right now!

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