Predicting Pitchfork Vol. 1/x



Hello, faithful readers. Nothing like an impending Pitchfork list to get me back to blogging. In case you missed it, at 1:00 AM EST (one hour from now), Pitchfork will publish its list of the 200 “greatest” albums of the 1960s. Famous for its coveted “Best New Music” distinction, the site has actually proven most valuable for its retrospective coverage. Album cycles have become annoyingly exhaustive; follow your favorite artists (or Father John Misty) with minimal effort and you’ll see three podcast spots, six interviews, ten reviews, and 8,000 tweets in the month surrounding the record release. Basically, there is plenty of information out there for the motivated music fan to make a decision about a new album before the Pitchfork review even drops. Sorry, I’m off-topic. But still.

The Sunday Review of a random, older album is the best piece published on the site each week, equal parts history lesson and qualitative assessment. Among the white noise of repetitive coverage elsewhere, a bit of randomness is more than welcome. The best-of-the-decade lists fall in the same category. I printed out the previously-released 70s, 80s, and 90s lists and have been slowly working my way through them this year, checking off albums and avoiding Slint as long as possible. I got my first CD in 1999, so these entry-level guides from writers I trust are an invaluable resource. The 60s list will be especially nice for buying used records that would otherwise fail to catch my eye. Gonna need a bigger shelf soon. Time for some observations and predictions with a very small target audience!

  • There’s a common suspicion that bounces around that Pitchfork aims to be controversial and make statements with certain rankings on these lists. But in their R*ddit AMA last year, editor Matthew Schnipper described their best-of-2016 list process as follows: “All of our staff members and regular contributors vote. There are two rounds of votes for tracks, one for albums, and there’s a points system. Ratings are not considered.” So throw out your conspiracy theories. The upcoming list was compiled by a group of humans, not a nefarious Thom Yorke-worshipping spaceship. The records that rise to the top will be the most popular ones, albeit it popular amongst a group of professional music nerds.
  • The 70s and 80s albums lists are old. Released in 2004 and 2002, respectively, those lists represent a ghost of Pitchfork past, in all its rockist, snobby, testosterone-fueled infamy. Today, anti-indie pop giants like Ed Sheeran and Katy Perry warrant the site’s attention. More importantly, the staff is larger and more diverse, with a substantial increase in people of color and female writers contributing. It’s gonna be more populist and less niche, as seen in the recent 70s and 80s songs lists.
  • Even with the increase in staff diversity, I still think it’s going to be a male-heavy list towards the top. I can’t see the massiveness of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Beach Boys, and Rolling Stones failing to crowd the top 20. Chances are more people grew up with these artists than, say,  Nina Simone. The mythos of the *album* as the pinnacle of musical artistry also benefits these big hitters, especially the Beatles, who are often credited with revolutionizing the medium.
  • Pitchfork‘s 70s albums list doesn’t feature a female-fronted act until #41 with Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Going further down on that list, we have Blondie’s Parallel Lines at #76, Joni Mitchell’s Blue at #86, and, uh, that’s it. Throbbing Gristle and Talking Heads had female members too, and maybe a few others. But you get the point.
  • Past lists (except for the 2000s) have had 100 albums and limited each artist to three entries. The 60s list is going to feature 200 albums, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they relax the limit a bit. I mean how do you exclude Rubber Soul AND Magical Mystery Tour AND the White Album??
  • The Beatles biggest downfall is that their votes are gonna be spread around their discography more than any other artist. Six of their records got perfect 10s. Everyone has a different favorite.
  • I think the Velvet Underground is the perfect band to be the Pitchfork pick. Not mainstream but extremely critically revered. Everyone knows the Velvets. Everyone feels good about picking them. The four-album run is immaculate, but my money’s on the debut.
  • I’ll just say it. Pet Sounds is overrated. But people seem to really like it!
  • Shoutout to NPR for its recent feature on albums made by women. I’m not very familiar with many of the older albums on the list, so I’m definitely underestimating them in my predictions.
  • From a rock history perspective, the back half of the decade is so much more important than the first half. The list will probably skew this way, which is a result of making the list so far after the fact, unlike the 2000s list, which was made in 2009 and barely features anything from 2008 or 2009. 1969, however, is big. Good year!
  • Bands used to be so prolific. Led Zeppelin released its debut AND follow-up in 1969. Black Sabbath did the same in 1970, just missing the cut.
  • I grew up with the Rolling Stone Greatest 500 Albums list, which was incredibly stuck in the past and essentially functioned as a 1960s list. Their top ten: Beatles, Beach Boys, Beatles, Dylan, Beatles, Gaye, Stones, Clash, Dylan, Beatles.
  • Pitchfork has a young staff, I’m not sure any of the writers were even ALIVE in the 60s. So does that mean the picks will be more conventional or more weird? They’re not bound by the “I was there, I know what mattered” mentality, but also, like, they weren’t there.
  • My biggest question: is Pitchfork down with classic rock? It’s the history I grew up with, so I’m subconsciously expecting the list to reflect that, but I could be way off-base. I hope I am. I hope it’s unpredictable. I hope there’s lots of experimental, psych, jazz, and soul. Like with all listicles, expect the fun stuff to be buried towards the end.
  • Before you say it, I know ranking art is probably silly and reductive. *Extreme Kanye Voice* I love it though.


NICK’S PICKS, 11:44 PM, AUGUST 21, 2017

  1. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
  2. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966)
  3. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
  4. The Beatles – Revolver (1966)
  5. Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (1966)
  6. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme (1965)
  7. The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat (1968)
  8. Otis Redding – Otis Blue (1965)
  9. Nina Simone – Sings the Blues (1967)
  10. Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (1968)
  11. The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed (1969)
  12. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)
  13. The Stooges – The Stooges (1969)
  14. Love – Forever Changes (1967)
  15. Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (1967)
  16. Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain (1960)
  17. Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
  18. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II (1969)
  19. Ornette Coleman – Free Jazz (1961)
  20. Sly and the Family Stone – Stand! (1969)
  21. Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)
  22. Leonard Cohen – Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967)
  23. The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go (1964)
  24. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground (1969)
  25. King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King (1969)



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