Friday, September 4, 2009


as i recently warned, pitchfork has put up their top 500 songs of the last ten years (which comes out to roughly one song for every week). and yes, the "list" (such as it is) is pretty silly, with basement jaxx and robyn getting quite a bit of attention, with a top 20 cracked by such mainstream non-artists as rhianna and justin timberlake, and more animal collective on hand than freshman orientation.

but that's not really important. to put together an accurate list of 500 songs is about as easy as putting together an accurate list of the top 500 restaurants on the east coast. it's part fool's errand, but its true purpose mostly is to give a handful of arrogant people a platform to wax educated about media and culture and stuff.

each and every song gets a paragraph. the examples of purely god-awful writing are too numerous to be chronicled. from some guy's belief that Joanna Newsom meant to invoke "whores" when she said "horse", to ridiculous overuse of the gerund, to the fact that anyone who wrote a song about new york was really singing about 9/11; the writing is just hackery. i mean, how many times can you publish the phrase "it goes without saying" before it starts looking like a red flag?

but even that's not really important, at least not to me right now. what i wanted to write about (i got distracted; don't like it? continue not reading.) was the way in which almost all of these writers discuss "what happened in music". the passive voice is used a lot. some bands "were never heard from again". some songs "are indellibly associated" with certain years. aside from being poor writing, this betrays a deep lack of appreciation for the critic's role in the whole process. it's YOU that chooses to notice something or not, to like it or hate it, not some invisible modernizing, culturizing force. a band that pleases one person consistently shouldn't automatically be recast as a band who "has longevity". an artist hasn't "dropped off the face of the earth" just because you haven't written up his last three albums. it's the pools from which the list was drawn that are pre-selected. they have already manufactured taste, now it only must be prioritized, and explained as the result of a mystical, natural process. UGH.

one more thing: marc richardson says, "If the songs on this list were chosen solely by how they captured the zeitgeist in independent music, 'Losing My Edge' would be an easy #1." and i'm afraid i agree with him. a comfortable, computer-owning music appreciator throws together a garage band beat, each new layer being introduced at perfectly predictable intervals, with all the depth of a casio demo-beat; meanwhile the computer-owner talks about cool things he likes, and he's being ironic, but he really kind of isn't, but really he is, but honestly he's lost his edge because he's not cool anymore, but he's actually the sole arbiter of what's cool.... etc.

i don't blame the song for sucking heartily, nor do i blame those who disagree and think it doesn't suck. i blame the critic, the person who says it "captures the zeitgeist in independent music" thus defining the boundaries of said zeitgeist without actually making a creative contribution. i'm not sure about you, but in my zeitgeist, we're not sitting around, pawing at our bald spots, wondering how being middle class and having impeccable taste simply hasn't made us more attractive.

one one more thing: white people have just gotten through "revolutionizing" dance music in the same way that columbus "revolutionized" the americas. when columbus arrived, a whole mess of people were already there, yet still there's a lot of talk about his "discovery".


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