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Reviewing the Week in Pitchfork Reviews

Pitchfork continues to be one of the most popular and polarizing music review sites around, even 11 years after it first began. In fact, calling them a “music review site” is something of a misnomer: They’ve branched out considerably over the past decade, and this weekend’s second annual Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago is proof of that. Still, they started with reviews—which still appear to be their bread and butter—and so maybe it’s time to scrutinize their current output.

Snob disclaimer: I don’t really read Pitchfork anymore. Not since, like, 2000. [shrugs]

In the past, Pitchfork has said dreadfully wrong things about some of my favorite current artists (that Electric Six review continues, curiously, to be one of the Pfork’s most read reviews). And yet, Pitchfork wins me back—however tentatively—by saying nice things about bands I like. At least I’m not quite so far gone as the emo kid I knew in New Orleans who decided not to like the Unicorns just because Pitchfork hyped them. Stupid emo kid.

Last week Pitchfork handed the Bees’ new album Octopus an admirable 7.9 out of 10. Right off, this illustrates both the strengths and weaknesses of Pitchfork reviews: strength in that what I’ve heard off the album is in fact very good, but totally weak in that the reviewer felt he couldn’t go ahead and award them that final tenth of a point. Such a trifle! As written in the review, the golden era of R&B is strongly drawn upon by the Bees to create the up-tempo albeit relaxed sound that, in addition to the pre-digital recording approach, gives the record a warm, comfortable tone. If I could think of any other band doing half as good a job of reviving this much-loved period in pop music, I’d say this heralded a second golden era of blue-eyed soul paddling across the pond.

(I actually have great reason to love this record: A few weeks ago I happened to ask Rosecrans what the amazing song playing on his iPod was with the lush, lazily climbing horns that demanded my attention. Turns out it was “Listening Man.”)

» Listen to the Bees at Mixtape Maestro

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When I read Friday’s review (7.8) for the mysteriously released The Tuss EP, I got pretty jazzed. I have been an Aphex Twin fan for many years now, ever since I first saw Richard D. James’s lithe demon scream a sour armageddon into an old woman’s face in the “Come to Daddy” video. Whether or not James is indeed behind The Tuss, the first track off the EP owes its sonic lineage to his work, and takes the listener on a similarly unsure trek into areas where melody, rhythm, and mood are in constant flux.

» Listen to The Tuss EP at Audiversity

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A confession: This is the first time I’ve listened to M. Ward, whose new album (a reissue of his first) Pitchfork gave a 6.9 on Monday. Well… I like it. He has a soothingly scratchy voice, his melodies actually go somewhere, his compositions are comfortably spare, and the lyrics appropriately mix somber and clever. He’s down with Conor Oberst, for which he loses points (emo kids), but he’s also down with Neko Case, so he must be cool, right? I certainly can’t vouch for the whole of Duet for Guitars #2, but what I’ve heard is nice. I’d go ahead and ratchet that up to a 7.0, Pitchfork.

» Listen to M. Ward at Each Note Secure

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Speaking of Neko Case, even though her band the New Pornographers weren’t recently reviewed by Pitchfork, they’re headlining this weekend’s festival, and I absolutely adore them, so I’m going to mention them here. I had the good fortune to see them play in Battery Park on our great nation’s birthday a week ago. It was a drizzly day, but good spirits prevailed. As a result, those of us in attendance heard some new tracks off their forthcoming album, Challengers. Everybody wins.

» Listen to the New Pornographers at The Milk Lounge

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I’ve never liked Interpol (6.0 yesterday). Pitchfork, on the other hand, gave their debut album a mind-melting 9.5. Not only did I think the band was way too popular too soon, and mostly playing up the worst aspects of hype-sterism (fashion over form, legions of teenage fans, a glowing review in Pitchfork), but I found them boring and derivative in the worst kind of early-’00s, New Wave/New York kind of way. To top that off, I read an interview with their guitarist, where he said that they don’t even consider Joy Division that much of an influence! Honestly! I declare!

Well Pitchfork, I’m happy to say I told you so. Not just because you now agree, but because you finally came around to my way of thinking. As for the following song, you don’t really have to click on the link. It’s crap.

» Listen to Interpol at Surviving the Golden Age


TMN Editor Erik Bryan is living the dream. He grew up in Florida, but he’s from all over. He likes playing chess, making cocktails, smarting off, and not freezing to death in Brooklyn, where he currently resides. More by Erik Bryan

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