Many of you are glued to Pitchfork Media daily, for the comprehensive news coverage, sure, but also to learn what the indie music site deems “the best new music.” I’m guessing half the time you mutter to yourself: “What the fuck? Only a 6.0?” But there is a science to this!
In this experiment, we compare PFork’s critics’ recent rants and raves to those of Sarah The Schoolteacher‘s fourth grade students. Sarah regularly screens new indie CDs in her Park Slope classroom and delivers a report to New York mag’s “Jukebox” column. The blurbs below are from her latest column; the PFork blurbs are admittedly selected out of context to suit our comparisons.
And we preface by professing Stereogum has nothing but love for Pitchfork; this is just for fun. We just couldn’t help but notice the scoring simliarities.
The Vines – Vision Valley
SARAH: I have to edit what the kids can hear from this album thanks to lame outbursts like “people are full of hurl.” They notice the same thing I do-it’s divided pretty evenly into melodic songs and blaring, jarring rock. “It’s like they’re two different bands,” one girl notes. We both like the melodic band much better. The rock songs are just background noise. “This is giving me a huge headache,” one kid says of “Anysound.” Yeah.
PITCHFORK: And that’s the short of it. This album’s greatest failing is that there’s nothing here. There’s nothing remotely offensive about Vision Valley that can inspire any sort of righteous fury about the musical hegemony. Unless you’re offended by the f-bomb– there are bits of f-shrapnel sprinkled throughout, to provisionally lend proceedings a certain edge that no amount of power chording can truly hone. And there’s nothing musically offputting about this record, unless relentless mediocrity in the three-chord arts is a capital crime.
Ghostface Killah – Fishscale
SARAH: Regular readers of this column may remember that the only hip-hop I own is a mix my dry cleaner made me (heavy on Kurtis Blow), but I loved this album. The stories he tells are vivid, astonishing, and sometimes heartbreaking. More than once this week, I’ve gotten so caught up trying to catch every word that I missed a subway stop. Best track: “Underwater.”
PITCHFORK: As the album’s other specific tragedies– shitty haircuts, bus stop infatuation gone awry– fly by with deft everyman flourishes, it’s the surreal “Underwater”, with its strange spirituality, that proves most trenchant. The dreamy account finds our hero playing out a possible afterlife allegory while swimming at the bottom of the ocean. “I’m not on my turf,” he confesses as mermaids “with Halle Berry haircuts” offer guidance along the way. In the tourist role, Ghost is as compelling as when he’s recounting pavement-bred stories of his familiar youth.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Show Your Bones
SARAH: Karen O, new hero to Brooklyn’s fourth-grade girls. “She makes it so obvious that girls are cool,” one of them says (they also feel sorry for her that “someone gave her such a bad haircut”). The songs themselves don’t do much for me, though: Maybe I’m getting old, but when a girl starts screaming as a guitar blares in the background, I start rolling my eyes.
PITCHFORK: For Bones, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs recruited producer Squeak E. Clean, who fits these songs with an array of bells and whistles– not to mention sirens, organs, programmed beats, acoustic guitars, rattling percussion, keyboards, and various studio effects. Most of it, unfortunately, simply seems unnecessary or excessive. In fact, more often than not, these sonic geegaws detract from the band’s intensity, compartmentalizing the record’s explosive moments from the songs themselves.
See? Accurate album assessment is as easy as algebra. But answer me this: why no Pitchfork’s RSS feed?