October 18, 2021

The Great Pitchfork Apology

Pitchfork recently revised ratings on 20 albums from the past, mostly raising scores, but also lowering some, as well. It was a kind of a strange move, but to be fair, some albums are sleepers and you can’t always tell which ones will stick with you. I’ve long wanted to do a classics review blog post series where I only write about albums that have stood the test of time. There’s a different kind of love that you have for music with longevity that carries you through different seasons of your life.

Wilco - Sky Blue SkyWilco - Sky Blue Sky

(Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky is one album that had its original rating revised upward).

It’s easy to be cynical about what Pitchfork is doing here, though. They’ve long held themselves as arbiters of taste, deriding work that falls outside the bounds of what they’ve identified as cool-in-the-moment. This sort of temporal attribution lends itself to revising history to fit whatever new parameters of cool have been introduced. Certainly, when the emperor had no clothes, which has been the case in many a Pitchfork fascination, he is easier to expose later on, once the mass hypnosis has worn off. When cooler heads prevail and senses lost in the rush of trendiness are back working, a more judicious appraisal of the work of art can be made.

Freddie Deboer is having none of it.

Which they are very close to explicitly admitting is the point: not that there was some deficiency in how the original scores were awarded, but rather that the scores look less like what a cool person thinks now. One little snippet helpfully points out that liking an artist was not cool when the review was written but is cool now; honest, but perhaps this should have been removed in the editing process!

Deboer’s thoughts on the revisions are cutting, but insightful, as usual. He gets deep when he writes about Pitchfork’s performative aspect. In his mind, the writers at the publication would rather signal that they like cool music than listen to music they actually like. I guess you have to give something up in exchange for cultural capital (and ad dollars).

Which, of course, is what Pitchfork has always been about, projecting a certain kind of image of yourself to your peers. Pitchfork is the apotheosis of music purely as signifier, signifier of being the right kind of person, the cool kind, the knowing kind.

Except for the occasional feature that gets linked to from somewhere else, I stopped reading Pitchfork years ago. I think it was when they were intellectualizing low-brow, mainstream hip-hop. Things like When Chingy says, I like the way you do that right thurr,’ he’s really launching a scathing critique of contemporary sexual mores.” They probably still do that kind of music criticism. I’m just not tuning in to find out.


← Previous Jenn Champion “Love Nobody” Jenn Champion first came to my attention when she covered Weezer’s blue album in full for the now seemingly abandoned Turntable Kitchen project Next → It’s Hard To Beat Amazon As regular readers will know, I’ve been trying to rely less on Amazon and branch out into other retail spaces. I have written about the reasons
Canned Dragons is a blog about faith, noise and technology. This blog is written by Robert Rackley, an Orthodox Christian, aspiring minimalist, inveterate notetaker, software dev manager and paper airplane mechanic. If you have any comments about these posts, please feel free to send an email to Robert at (this domain).
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