Bon Iver

It is the second Friday of December, which I would call the last Friday of the year that the internet has any self-respect if the internet ever had any self-respect. The year is ending, we can be real about these things! And so it is on this day of finality that Pitchfork hands down its list of Pitchfork’s favorite albums, capping a robust Listmas during which we examined pretty much everyone’s list, in addition to the ones made by us, and by you. I predict that you will find things to agree about with this list, and things to disagree with, and things to be indifferent to. (I am good at this, I know.) The list is best characterized by the position of three records in particular, though: Destroyer’s Kaputt comes in at #2, and in combination with Bon Iver at #1, makes this the year Pitchfork validated artists that idolize your dad’s cheese-rock record collections. Conversely, Fucked Up is surprisingly low at #33; it seems they are ceding the hardcore-avatars to SPIN. By this measure, the position seems to be that this was a year for the smooth, not the bruised. Saxophone players (Colin Stetson included), rejoice:

50 Youth Lagoon – The Year Of Hibernation
49 Wild Flag – Wild Flag
48 Toro Y Moi – Underneath The Pine
47 Sepalcure – Sepalcure
46 Cults – Cults
45 Kendrick Lamar – Section.80
44 Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
43 Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
42 SBTRKT – SBTRKT
41 Liturgy – Aesethetica
40 AraabMuzik – Electronic Dream
39 The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient
38 Sandro Perri – Impossible Spaces
37 Iceage – New Brigade
36 Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow
35 Frank Ocean – Nostalgia, Ultra.
34 Katy B – On A Mission
33 Fucked Up – David Comes To Life
32 Panda Bear – Tomboy
31 Ty Segall – Goodbye Bread
30 Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972
29 DJ Quik – The Book Of David
28 Cut Copy – Zonoscope
27 Beyoncé – 4
26 The Field – Looping State Of Mind
25 Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
24 Julianna Barwick – The Magic Place
23 Bill Callahan – Apocalypse
22 The Caretaker – An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
21 Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne
20 Nicolas Jaar – Space Is Only Noise
19 Danny Brown – XXX
18 Atlas Sound – Parallax
17 Clams Casino – Instrumentals
16 Kur Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo
15 Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
14 Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
13 EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints
12 James Blake – James Blake
11 St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
10 The Weeknd – House Of Ballons
09 Real Estate – Days
08 Drake – Take Care
07 tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l
06 Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica
05 Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
04 PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
03 M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
02 Destroyer – Kaputt
01 Bon Iver – Bon Iver

You can read the rationale for the list at Pitchfork.com.

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Comments (200)
  1. I can’t have any respect for any of these lists because they ignore The Roots’ “Undun.”

  2. “I hate this list, not because of the musical choices, but because of a number of imaginary crimes Pitchfork have committed, including being too hipster, being too mainstream, being too biased towards lesser-known acts and being too biased towards more established acts. Disliking Pitchfork is cool and therefore I have to be seen to dislike Pitchfork’s music choices and loudly and quickly as possible”

    ~ Way too many people

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      • That’s exactly who I’m talking about, the unthinking sheep who base all their music purchases on whether or not Pitchfork like something, ie if Pitchfork like it, don’t buy it, if Pitchfork hate it, buy it. It’s an attempt to be cool through subversion, take something that’s considered to be “cool” (not that P4K has been for three years but you get the point), aggressively oppose it.

        • Sadly enough, in the Bay Area you have a number of people who only listen to music that Pitchfork recommends and scoff at everything else. A number of people I know refused to listen to The Caretaker’s An Empty Bliss Beyond This World until yesterday when Pitchfork posted it in their top 50.

          This may be confirmation bias, but the fans at “indie” concerts are a lot better during band’s off years (the ones between albums) than they are right after Pitchfork reviews their album. I saw Real Estate twice this year, once in August (before Days was released) and once in November. Everyone was singing along to their songs in August, even the ones that were only released as singles (Reservoir #3). When I saw them in November, the place was packed, however few people knew the songs (even the older ones), and most of the people there were having a dick waging contest over who can call the other person a hipster. This happens a lot, and even happened when I saw Bon Iver live recently: few people there knew their first album.

          There is no question that Real Estate exploded when their first album came out, so this is not an issue of “liking them before they were popular” but instead of people going to shows that Pitchfork and other indie music blogs recommend without knowing the music, they are just there for the “scene”.

          • Or maybe they were there to, uh, discover new music? It seems kind of ridiculous that in order to go to a show…especially one for a band as up-and-coming as Real Estate or Smith Westerns you have to be well-versed in their catalogue. Live music is great – and here are people actually paying the band money. I guess I just don’t see the problem.

          • This was the kind of problem I thought there was a few years ago, where your music “cred” was perfectly aligned with what Pitchfork was saying. As far as I was aware, the backlash against Pitchfork (ie the one calling music they promote “hipster” music) was far stronger than any residual coolness that Pitchfork might have left.

            Although I’m not entirely sure you can blame Pitchfork for people at a Bon Iver gig who didn’t know about For Emma. They were backing Justin Vernon long before Bon Iver’s self-titled record came out.

          • The problem is not intention, it’s action. If people go to shows because they think its cool that’s great and if people go to shows because they like the band that’s great too. Who cares why a body is in the same room as you, is my point.

            The real issue is what people do at shows. When people spend the whole show talking to their friends at unreasonable volumes, or just sort of stand around and refuse to participate and look at their phones or videotape the show…that is annoying for people who are there genuinely. It’s distracting for the audience and distracting for the band, and it spoils fun.

            Being a tourist is fine, but if you’re not enjoying yourself at a show, I think you should leave, and if you’re there to use music as wallpaper for your private conversation or texting, then you don’t deserve good music. Or at least, if you’re going to text the whole time, find a seat in the back of the room.

            But showing evidence they may not know the band’s first album because they weren’t singing along? Who cares. I feel you, scenesters can DO things that are genuinely bad for everyone. But definitely just being present isn’t one of those things.

          • @adddo

            I have no issue with people discovering new music, and therefore not singing along to every song at a concert. I do have an issue with the people at concerts who call each other hipsters (seriously, that word came up at least 10x from the “fans” at Youth Lagoon’s show), and I do have an issue with people who do not know the music shit talking the main act at a show. Discovering new music is great, and I love live music, but please be courteous to others and not ruin their experience just because you went on a blog’s recommendation.

          • I hate to admit it, but sometimes I know for a fact their reviews affect my opinion. An example was early in the year I got that Million Young album and I liked it, but after they totally ripped it I pretty much stopped listening to it. I guess you could say they kind of ruined it for me, which I understand is pretty lame(on my part not theirs). Seems like their negative reviews sway me much more than their positive ones, there is a ton of stuff that they love that I’m not that into.

            Everyone has to be influenced by the opinion of others in one way or another. I know I have friends who I don’t think have a good taste in music and I’ll immediately assume whatever they tell me is good is gonna suck and I can’t listen to it with an open mind.

          • This is a big contradiction most fans of art are guilty of (me included). You love something and want to share it with people, but it starts to bother you when *too many* people know about it. Regardless of how someone discovers a band like Real Estate, people are there supporting a good band. Is it more immature to first be interested in something after a popular website gives it a rave review, or hate the people that discovered it that way?

      • Easy access to lots of new/good music > Indie cred

        • @plb102 – I totally feel you on Pitchfork’s negative reviews spoiling albums I initially liked, but it’s not because I put that much weight behind their opinion. It’s usually that the reviewer points out things that I’d missed before, and then when I go back and listen to it, I totally hear it. I’ve gotten to where I don’t read their negative reviews anymore because it’s ruined too many albums for me. I’d rather have the visceral experience of discovering the merits and flaws on my own than to have someone sit there and pick it apart for me.

      • Pitchfork does a good job of bringing awareness to new music. There’s no doubt about it. They also have interesting media and do a decent job of covering current music news. What has killed me for years is the reasoning they put behind their reviews and the bias they have towards superficial things, as opposed to focusing on the music itself. Of course, the ones I agree with, I have no problem with ha…
        One has to admit – they are totally inconsistent when it comes ot the standards by which they judge. Sure, music is subjective and how good it is is hard to measure…but they do measure it and they do use a 10 point scale and they do write fucking novels when it comes to the review copy.
        You can tell the reviewers usually don’t know much about actual music creation and sometimes reveal they don’t know much about music history because they all too often elevate mediocre shit just because of a backstory, image, or novel trait like being obnoxiously loud…or they think stuff is original-sounding because they don’t know enough about the music or artist that the currently-being-reviewed artist has contrived their sound from…and conversely, they overlook or poo-poo really ambitious music because there isn’t an interesting backstory or because it’s too sincere or because the artist doesn’t look as cool as the last artist they overhyped.
        I check into Pitchfork almost everyday but I take their reviews with a grain of salt.

    • One of the best comments I’ve ever seen on here. All music sites have problems, but Pitchfork’s occasional bad review etc. is so quickly and vociferously jumped on it’s unbelievable. P4K probably has the best EOY lists (in my opinion, of course) and has probably introduced more people to great music than any other source.

    • I love you Capu Flapu.

    • I seriously don’t care what anyone else thinks, and no one on here knows who I am anyway. I genuinely hate Pitchfork and have for almost 8 years. Weirdly, all of the reasons people give for hating them (however contradictory) really are true. How can this be possible? Well, when people say that they praise too many things that are mainstream, what they mean is that they praise too many mainstream bands that are crap. When people say they praise too many obscure bands, what they mean is that they praise too many obscure bands that are crap. So what people should really be saying is that Pitchfork praises too many bands that are crap and not distinguish between whether or not they are popular. I think in the last 8 years I have agreed with maybe 10% of their reviews. They are useful for finding out what bands exist and as a music news source. That’s all. Pitchfork: Tastemakers Without Taste

  3. I agree with the seniments on Fucked Up. Myself and a few others started having this discussion in p4k’s top songs post, but man, did David Comes to Life get shafted big time.

    I’m not going to complain, though. I think there used to be a lot more overlap between my tastes and Pitchfork in the past, but it’s no longer looking like so. Titus Andronicus’ Patrick Stickles tweeted it best this morning: “Yawn… they love soft ass saxophones or something… I don’t know, I literally just woke up. Enough of this adult contemporary shit.”

  4. a bit surprised that they didn’t put Smith Westerns on the list.

    • seriously – smith westerns got shafted this year and not in a good way. i honestly think people forgot it came out.

      But, zan wit that lean was definitely better than anything on that album. <3 soulja

      • I almost wonder if their easy-to-hate AVClub Undercover performance did them in.

        • I would be surprised if a shit live performance would negatively impact an album review (see Salem)

          • It wasn’t that the live performance was shit, it’s that anyone who wasn’t already familiar with the band saw a group of annoying, sneering little shits.

          • I think the people selecting for these lists are quite familiar with the smith westerns. I believe they played an excellent set for pitchfork in a bunch of fog or a white room. But, hey, let’s just forget about it.

  5. Probably as close to my preferences as I’ve seen this year. I don’t really like calling this a “best of”. It’s more of a list of the albums I personally enjoyed the most, regardless of any artistic merit or critical praise:

    20) Army Navy – the Last Place
    19) Tennis – Cape Dory
    18) Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams
    17) Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
    16) Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
    15) Atlas Sound – Parallax
    14) Destroyer – Kaputt
    13) Generationals – Actor-Caster
    12) Viva Voce – The Future Will Destroy You
    11) the Joy Formidable – the Big Roar
    10) Smith Westerns – Dye it Blonde
    9) Peter Bjorn & John – Gimme Some
    8) Eleanor Friedberger – Last Summer
    7) Cults – Cults
    6) tUnE-yArDs – W H O K I L L
    5) Wild Flag – Wild Flag
    4) Gruff Rhys – Hotel Shampoo
    3) St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
    2) Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
    1) PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

  6. Dunno if I should be as surprised as I am to see Destroyer at #2, but it is awesome. I didn’t even expect to see it in the top ten really, even though it is totally deserving. I assumed Bon Iver, Girls, and M83 would go 1-2-3. And though I respect those albums, I’m really not crazy about any of them.

    • felt the same way about destroyer. probs my favorite album of the year, but i wasn’t expecting to see it that high on anyone’s list. very happy. that record is perfect, if you ask me.

  7. Pretty good list, considering. I thought St. Vincent would make top 5, if not #1. Not that #11 is bad by any means, but they LOVED that record.

  8. I think Thee Oh Sees should have made it into the top 50.

  9. Surprised I haven’t seen Battles on any lists this year. That album was just as good as Mirrored.

  10. Best album on this list I didn’t really see anywhere else- #38- Sandro Perri

    Most obvious attempt to include an album no one else had- #22 The Caretaker – An Empty Bliss Beyond This World(To be fair I only heard the track they posted with the album, but I never heard of this album and don’t think I know anyone else who has. If anyone has some thoughts on it I would love to hear them)

    Also, they should have replaced Danny Brown with Action Bronson IMO

    A few odd choices, but despite any complaints I have been on Pitchfork’s dick for a minute now and I don’t really see that changing. Probably 80-90% of the music I listen to I first heard on their site. I look forward to their best of lists every year.

    • “I have been on Pitchfork’s dick for a minute now and I don’t really see that changing. Probably 80-90% of the music I listen to I first heard on their site. I look forward to their best of lists every year.” – Everyone.

    • The Caretaker was also pretty high on tinymixtapes list. And more than that, it’s a fucking fantastic record. It’s basically an examination of early 20th century memory as it is experienced by people nearing death now who lived through that time and so it does a really powerful job of blending crisp reproductions of old ballroom dance tunes with loops that vaguely resonate but are largely overshadowed by static. I think it’s unfair to say P4K just put that on there to be unpredictable. It was sort of like Oneohtrix Point Never being at #20 last year where it was more of a matter of the cream of the experimental crop in music these days really shining through and putting out universally expressive and likable albums. What’s that Sandro Perri record like? I’ve only heard the song in their top 100 tracks which seemed pretty cool but never actually checked out the record itself.

      • Sounds interesting, but very difficult and probably not something I would ever really feel like listening to more than once or twice. I kind of feel the same way about the Nicholas Jaar album, although I gotta give that dude tons of credit for making something that at least to me, sounded very original. And the track “Space is only Noise” is actually something you can play loud and nod your head to.

        I had only heard that one Sandro Perri track that they posted until I scooped the entire album off itunes a few days ago. It would probably be in my personal top 10-15 for the year. I guess I would describe it as a singer/songwriter album, but there is a lot more going on than just some guy with a guitar. Also, I think I just really like his voice. I’d say just check it out, I’m not all that great at articulating my thoughts about why I like certain music so I doubt I could do it any justice in this post.

      • Matt Moskal  |   Posted on Dec 16th, 2011 +2

        I would recommend seeking out Impossible Spaces by Sandro Perri. It’s got a lot in common with many twenty-first century Toronto-based recordings. However, it’s ambitious enough that it keeps one foot out of the mold and the other familiar territory.

    • Caretaker is Leyland Kirby’s side project of found sound / field recording ambient music. He released a three part compilation album (Intrigue & Stuff Vol. 1-3) as well as an album proper “Eager to Tear Apart the Stars,” which is much better than Caretaker in my opinion. Kirby will likely top Boomkat’s Album of the Year poll as he did in 09. This is all to say, Kirby is a well known master to those who listen to experimental music.

      • I liked Eager to Tear Apart the Stars too, is it me or does the first track sound an awful lot like Final Fantasy Seven. Leyland Kirby on dat chocobo shit.

  11. Any list without Universal Pulse by critically-acclaimed rap/rock group 311 makes my Mindspin.

  12. Really surprised/a bit disappointed that they didn’t include Washed Out in this at all! Certainly a top 50 album of this year (def in my top 10-15) and they seemed to really like it earlier this summer. Question mark.

  13. This list is pretty decent, and I am really happy that they mentioned Colin Stetson’s New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges and The Caretaker’s An Empty Bliss Beyond This World. With that in mind, I feel that some of these choices reek of fashion over music. As someone who has seen Bon Iver in concert twice, listens to their side bands (Volcano Choir is seriously amazing), and would consider himself a pretty big fan, I can honestly say that Bon Iver, Bon Iver does not deserve the top position. Although I know there is an army of people of love Kaputt, I really cannot understand why people appreciate the album so much, it is way to reminiscent of Rubys for me to even consider it one of the top 50 of the year (sorry!). All in all, the list is pretty good.

  14. I’m surprised that Wu Lyf’s “Go Tell Fire to the Mountain” didn’t make the list, especially considering it received an 8.4 Best New Music Rating from them and other albums with a lower rating made the list..

    • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • That record is so good…top 10 material for me.

  15. you tastemakers really weren’t too high on that wilco album, huh? (i’m looking at you too, stereogum)

  16. Any year with saxophones is a good year.

  17. Hate to say it, but this is the best list so far. Someone should make a list of the best lists of 2011…

  18. Kinda surprised about not seeing any Raphael Saadiq on any of these lists. I really liked that album.

  19. Wow, No Radiohead on this list! Really thought they would get the year end redemption by p4k.

    Also, Thurston Moore’s Demolished Thoughts was a lovely album that everyone seemed to forget about. And Tom Waits was good too.

    Over all, though, I really like this list. Really solid. I’d swap PJ Harvey and Tune Yards though.

  20. Denis Schröder  |   Posted on Dec 16th, 2011 -3

    It’s really impressive how unspectacular this list is. Which is to say: It’s a good list, but there is not a single surprise there.

    • Sort of surprised Destroyer was as high as it was…I love the album, but I didn’t think anyone else would rank it 2. Also, (see above post) no Radiohead!

      • Denis Schröder  |   Posted on Dec 17th, 2011 0

        As somebody whose life has been changed by Radiohead, I think that the King of Limbs was just about a decent record. I wouldn’t have included it on my list either.

        It’s still quite strange to think that this has been a year where Radiohead, Björk and Kate Bush released an album and that of the three, Kate Bush’s Christmas Album was the most groundbreaking one.

  21. Not a fan of Pitchfork, but this is not a bad list. They Put Destroyer at number 2 for the year which I have to agree with, where a lot of other lists ignored it alltogether. Good for Pitchfork on that one. Also having Fleet Foxes, St. Vincent, James Blake & Tune-yards in the top 15 is great.

  22. Can anyone tell me if Bon Iver is on the list, and if not, could somebody tell me why it isn’t? I didn’t see it on the list. It should be on there! Come on P4k get it together you lazy hipsters. I mean otherwise it’s a good list. I would have liked to have seen more bands on it. And obviously Bon Iver. And 311.

  23. Clams Casino is the man I would have gone ape shit if he didn’t make the list. Take Care was also well deserved.

  24. I am truly surprised that Friendly Fires have gotten zero love. Pala was a terrific, top 50 album in my opinion.

  25. King of disappointed Gang Gang Dance didn’t make it higher and John Maus didn’t make it at all except for honorable mentions.

  26. I’m not TOTALLY against the 80s soft rock backlash as I’ve been a fan of Toto for a while and Steely Dan stole my heart in 2010. That being said, this is the year where indie rock officially got soft and weak. I like a little folk as much as the next sad white boy, but all the reverb and hazy sounds are heard this year were embarrassingly monochromatic. What’s left is a handful of outliers who still serve the rock and have to fight for space with a million neo-soft rock types. Liturgy stole P4K’s token metal spot and that Iceage album got praised essentially because of a lack of competition in punk circles (although, my God, Trash Talk and the Men? So good). David Comes To Life was a stone cold masterpiece, but it got totally and completely dicked. But it’s easy to understand why. In a democratic voting process, the cream rises to the middle. Even as a more rockist type, I enjoyed the new Bon Iver, but Fucked Up are more divisive. Bon Iver can be liked by everybody. Fucked Up (are any other hardcore/metal) has to be loved.

    • The thing is none of these soft-rock revivalists would ever have the audacity to actually make a cheesy, memorable song like ‘Africa’ or ‘Roseanna’, nor do they have the jazz chops to do anything even remotely as sophisticated as just about anything Steely Dan has ever done. It’s all pastiche crippled by irony and either a lack of musical ability or suppression of such ability in order not to appear too muso (or is now, in the parlance of our time, Muse-o).

      The only things that makes Liturgy stand out (not that they are bad) is the lead singer’s blogging and that they come from Bard College instead of somewhere more Arctic Circle-adjacent.

      • I think you nailed it on the soft rock thing.

        As for Liturgy, I appreciate that the approach their form of black metal from a musical standpoint instead of some kind of hokey “metal” aspect. It’s more Branca than Burzum and I like that approach. I just never want to see that lead singer talk ever again.

        • I really don’t think Liturgy is any more musical than most of the black metal out there at this point. Their sophistication is over-hyped, or, perhaps, more accurately, black metal’s musicality in general is underestimated. Krallice, Wolves in the Throne Room, Agalloch, etc. are all musical. Even, say, Xasthur seems to have a method to his madness. And going back towards the beginning of the genre, Emperor, a cornerstone of Norwegian black metal was highly musical, full of Wagnerian/Gesualdo-esque chord progressions and plenty of dynamics.

          • I don’t see Liturgy as being better than those other bands. My favorite metal albums of the last few years have been Agalloch, Nachtmystium, Alcest and Cobalt, all bands who put out vastly superior work to Aesthetica. I just think their aesthetic approach (no pun) is more academic than, um, kvelt. I’m a regular dude, so all the evil shit that goes on with these bands is more stupid than anything to me. I like that Liturgy approach their music with a sort of Reich-ian flair. That said, that HHH guy is still a ponce.

      • and this thing about them not having chops, or not being willing to “go for it,” like bands did in the 80s, is just patently false. i can’t think of a song that went for it more than beth/rest did in 2011.

        and if you don’t hear the chops, songwriting/arranging/playing-wise, that went into kaputt, you’re not listening.

        and sure, i’ll give you that bejar is an arch, ironic-as-fuck songwriter. but why is that such a bad thing? you like steely dan? so far as i can tell, they set a high water mark for ironic pop songwriting.

        • I meant that the cheesy yacht-rock-esque sounds are being used ironically, not that the songwriting or lyrics are necessarily ironic. I am not a big Steely Dan fan, but, yes, their lyrics are as ironic as it gets at times.

    • the idea that “rock” is objectively better than “soft rock,” or “pop,” or what have you, is absurd. destroyer and bon iver both made immaculately crafted records, who cares if they used a lot of reverb and saxes? quite frankly, the sounds they’re exploring have been so taboo for so long in rock/indie circles, that i think it’s quite a bit more transgressive of them to embrace them than it is for loud bands known for making loud music to go on making loud music.

      all that being said, liturgy also fucking rule.

      • I barely see loud music anywhere on this list or anywhere on a lot of the other lists. I don’t think soft sounds are transgressive at all. Maybe they were in 1995, but certainly not now. My problem with this bumper crop of soft rock is that the songs are boring, the chords are boring and much of it is done ironically (not Bon Iver but a lot of it). It sounds like film or TV score trying to evoke early-eighties music, rather than sounding like actual early-eighties music. Maybe because it is easier to ignore that that is the point of it. Well-written songs tend to be conspicuous and maybe background music is all anyone is after anymore.

        • Here’s what I mean about transgression. Take any black metal record and any soft, 80s inspired indie album, and hold them up against the world of pop music at large, and yes, the black metal album crosses more boundaries, puts more people off, and is generally more transgressive.

          But, take any black metal album, and place it in the context of black metal and black metal fans, vs. Kaputt in the context of what Destroyer fans want out of a Destroyer album, and it starts to look a little more daring. Here’s a guy that was previously known for making wordy, melodramatic guitar pop bucking expectations and making something entirely different. And, most importantly, doing it really fucking well.

          I just think the idea that high volume, dissonance, rhythmic complexity, et al are the only things that constitute risk and forward-thinkingness in music is a little tired, I guess.

          I’m with you that a lot of stuff that came out this year was unadventurous and/or boring. I just think, on this particular list, the top two albums were very well-deserved.

          • I don’t think it’s about risk – I understand there’s an inherit “risk” to embracing soft rock because of its lack of “coolness” although I think that risk is mitigated when it becomes the “thing to do.” The 80s are big right now. Between Destroyer’s album, Bon Iver, M83, etc. there’s a whole lot of reliving the 80s. The risk is gone because it now has a form of cultural cache. My issue is that loud music or “rock” music has lost its cache in favor of a lot of samey-sounding stuff coming from indie circles.
            For me, it comes down to an itch that needs to be scratched. I like thoughtful records and quiet records and nice records (Fleet Foxes’ Sun Giant EP was my No. 1 of 2008, The Shins’ Chutes Too Narrow was probably my No. 1 of 2003), but edge and aggression for a lack of two better words constitute the itch I require to be scratched on a yearly basis. A couple years ago, mainstream indie and a lot of the “cool” stuff P4K has given its approval to have simply not been scratching that itch. When it comes to loud music, I’ve had to look elsewhere for suggestions.

          • perfectly put, thanks. i am totally with you about having an itch for aggressive-sounding music that needs to be scratched every once in a while, and you’re right that pitchfork isn’t the best place to go for that kind of thing. I just don’t think that makes it bad, it just makes it a pub that doesn’t specialize in aggressive music.

            I don’t know if you’re a rap guy, but this year, for me, in terms of music that gives me the same kind of gut-level thrill that the best heavy music does, it didn’t get any better than danny brown’s record.

          • I just DL’d it right now. Of all the album’s on that list that I have yet to hear, that one seems the most intriguing.

    • “Bon Iver can be liked by everybody. Fucked Up (are any other hardcore/metal) has to be loved.”

      I actually compiled 13 of the “Top 50 Albums of the Year” lists, and ranked albums based on number of mentions, median ranking, and then best ranking. Although Bon Iver ended up being ranked #2 by those metrics, compare to Fucked Up’s ranking of 33, Fucked Up had a much lower median score (4). Basically, those who liked Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life basically loved the album.

  27. I think it is time we’ve faced facts: Pitchfork is in middle age and needs some serious testosterone replacement therapy.

  28. John Maus album should have been in that top-50. It was very unfair not to include it.

    • I was SHOCKED when I saw it end up on the Honorable Mentions list.

      Definitely expected it to chart.

      • Fully agreed. I was shocked as well. I have this feeling that Pitchfork was punishing him for speaking his mind about stuff on interviews (e.g. against the media juggernaut that includes Pitchfork, record stores, the fact that he made fun of them when they asked him about what his ringtone was, etc). They tried to punish him IMHO for not taking Pitchfork and media seriously. This pissed me off immensely.

        • How the hell did “Pitchfork” punish him? The list is compiled from each writer’s individual list, so unless it was some kind of co-ordinated action I don’t see how that will have worked.

          • Simon,

            Don’t you know the pitchfork conspiracy, man?

            Pitchfork secretly monitors everything everyone on the internet does, they gather information about us man, they’re out to get us all… with our musical taste.

            They’ve got spies in every computer, miniature people that report back to Pitchfork headquarters about everything everyone on the internet says, does, or even thinks, man.

            I see one of their spies right now, I think he knows I’m onto them. I have to go or else they might intentionally omit my favorite album of the year, which I can’t disclose because I can’t feed the enemy.

            [End Transmission]

          • If enough editors hated Maus for his comments this last August, then it’s easy to imagine that he didn’t make the top-50.

        • I’ve mentioned this before, and I’d again like to point out that I enjoy the record, I think it’s really neat.

          However, anyone who has paid to see him live might recognize that he’s kind of not an actual musician. He just puts on his record and sings along to it. He’s essentially a karaoke artist. Its terrifically lame, a complete insult to anyone who has worked their whole lives learning to perform music for other human beings (speaking from personal experience of course) and it’s very likely, I’d imagine, that a lot of blogs who received his record via his label’s publicist, checked it out and spoke highly of it, had no idea that he was not in fact a very good performer. Unless you like that sort of “performance.” I don’t happen to, and I imagine a lot of serious writers who are also musicians (especially in the case of Pitchfork where a lot of their staff are in fact, also players) would have seen his show, and assessed his record a little differently because of it.

          Again let me point out – the record is a nice record. It sounds great, and I always argue that recording can stand alone as a piece of art. You don’t need to back it up, it can be enjoyed as it’s own thing. All I’m saying is that this is probably what I think happened – peeps wrote good things about the record, saw him live, decided he sucks, forgot about the record.

          • I don’t see why a performance has to be only about live music. Why a performance couldn’t be a view into the inner demons of the artist, which could in fact help explain the record? What if playing live some instruments is simply entertainment, but having theatrics involved gives more meaning into it? I guess some fans would want to have 45 minutes of “musical fun”, and others would want to connect, and learn. I’m one of the latter ones.

  29. I’m super duper confused with the lack of Feist, Ryan Adams, Iron and Wine, My Morning Jacket, Wilco, Wu Lyf, Beirut, and Radiohead on almost every one of the lists I’ve seen this year (SPIN, P4K, Stereogum…) Paste Magazine seems to be the only website that I agree with.

  30. Has anyone here heard of Wye Oak? They are this amazing two piece from Baltimore. (just so we’re clear and no one bites my head off that was SARCASM)Top of my list this year. Hm guess no one else thinks so.

    • In Pitchfork’s world, Wye Oak doesn’t exist.

    • Their first album was great and they just keep improving. Its like they get left out of the discussion because they just write great songs but aren’t super confrontational or engaging in some genre experiment/nostalgia trip.

  31. No point in getting worked up over these lists. Best to just use them as a reference to discover albums you previously glossed over.

  32. I was really expecting WU LYF and Unknown Mortal Orchestra to make this list. I was not expecting PJ Harvey to be so high – I should have known otherwise though, as I remember she has taken the top spot on a list or two.

  33. Where are THE DRUMS and WU LYF?

  34. I cannot, for the life of me, fathom why that PJ Harvey album has gotten so much praise, especially when compared to her peers’ ‘The King of Limbs’ getting roundly dismissed. ‘Let England Shake’ is unlistenable dreck; the kind of turgid, self-important ’cause’ album that Sinead O’Connor might have made 21 or so years ago and Rolling Stone/Spin would have dutifully chronicled until things like, well, PJ Harvey came along and blew its doors off. (And I am not one of those ‘PJ Harvey hasn’t done anything worthwhile since Rid of Me’-types; in fact, ‘White Chalk’ might be my favorite album of hers). TKOL, understated as it may be, successfully melds the new sounds in the aether with good, old-fashioned musical know how and Radiohead stakes out new territory in a way it hasn’t since ‘Kid A.’

  35. I thought that Tomboy should have been in the 10 ten or at last 20. That record was freaking magic.

  36. Great list overall in my opinion. I want to evaluate what I think about it without flaming any choices I may not agree with because what the hell, it’s all good music. So…

    Records I wish were on here:

    Wu Lyf: Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
    Ryan Adams: Ashes & Fire
    John Maus: We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
    Holy Ghost!
    The Strokes: Angles
    The Roots: Undun
    Childish Gambino: Camp
    Peaking Lights: 936
    Delicate Steve: Wondervisions
    Fionn Regan: 100 Acres of Sycamore
    Washed Out: Within & Without
    The Antlers: Burst Apart
    Smith Westerns: Dye it Blonde

    I’m genuinely surprised at the omission of a few of these, and I wish Delicate Steve and Fionn Regan would get more attention (100 Acres of Sycamore didn’t even get on metacritic) but it’s also great to see the like of Sepalcure, Shabazz Palaces and Panda Bear on there, as they seem to have been left off of a few other lists, which was surprising.

  37. Be sure to listen to the vinyl version of Kaputt with “The Laziest River”

    Glad to see that record finally get the grand recognition it deserves.
    “Kaputt” has been a stone cold classic ALL YEAR.

  38. Wu Lyf wasn’t on dis list. shit is equal to or less than punching a grown man’s nyut sack

  39. Of my favourite albums of the year (Austra, Young Galaxy, Wild Beasts, The Antlers) the only one I’m surprised that’s not on there is The Antlers. No big deal—it’s not like I’m going to enjoy them any less because P4K passed them over.

  40. yeeeeeaaaaaah danny brown! so proud!

  41. “Kur Vile” is a spelling mistake.

    This list is useless as all of these “Best Of” lists are. Youth lagoon is too far down. Where are The Antlers, Feist, Beirutm neon indian etc etc etc. This is like a hey let’s appeal to everyone top 50. Split it up by genre at least.

    • I, personally, don’t have to be upset about the rankings or the omissions of several albums anymore. I found my inner piece. And when I read that my favourite record – in fact, it’s Wild Beasts’ Smother – was excluded from the list, I accepted it. I’m fine with it. When I, for myself, can appreciate what it meant to me this year, and it meant a lot to me, then it’s all that counts for now. What’s more interesting: this list actually helped me discover other albums that I had not had the chance to listen to, no matter if P4k included those or not: the Sandro Perri record, for instance, I listened to an hour ago is awesome. And I like the LISTmissed Wye Oak record as well, so far.

      • Agreed. Lists are useless if you’re looking for someone to create a new canon of rock music, but they’re great if you’re just looking for suggestions for great albums of the past year. December/January is when I catch up on great music I missed from the past year.

  42. Shocked and awed that Antlers didn’t make it anywhere on P4K’s list. Thought it was easily the best album of the year. Yet this list is still the best I’ve seen.

  43. Yeah, Antlers, Smith Westerns and even Radiohead got shafted. Still, great list.

    Also, the Ohnotrix Point Never record is amazing.. but did anyone even hear his pop album under Ford & Lopatin?! so wicked.

  44. Don’t get me wrong, Destroyer’s Kaputt is a tremendous album..but #2?

  45. 1 The Antlers - Burst Apart [Explicit]
    2 Other Lives - Tamer Animals
    3 Bon Iver - Bon Iver
    4 Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact
    5 Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
    6 Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
    7 Yuck - Yuck
    8 Destroyer - Kaputt
    9 Youth Lagoon - The Year Of Hibernation
    10 Shabazz Palaces - Black Up [Explicit]
    11 M83 - Hurry Up We’re Dreaming
    12 Panda Bear - Tomboy
    13 PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
    14 Kate Bush - 50 Words For Snow
    15 Beirut - The Rip Tide
    16 St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
    17 The Field - Looping State of Mind
    18 Explosions In The Sky - Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
    19 Wild Beasts - Smother
    20 The Horrors - Skying
    21 My Morning Jacket - Circuital
    22 Wilco - The Whole Love
    23 Stephen Malkmus - Mirror Traffic
    24 Austra - Feel It Break
    25 Atlas Sound - Parallax

  46. gui borrato is getting robbed left and right. III FOREVER!!!

  47. unrelated: is the sleigh bells link auto-redirecting anyone else to an earmilk.com and/or minneapolisfuckingrocks.com (or something like that) article? am i missing something?

  48. I honestly cannot fathom how Bon Iver continues to place so highly, I understand that he branched out as an artist and became more than log cabin boy, but lyrically it would have to be the worst album I heard all year. So many other albums were more deserving of praise this year, yet everyone copped out and fell in love with that meaningless bullshit.

    • ” lyrically it would have to be the worst album I heard all year”
      thank you. the music is definitely at least pretty and at moments transcendent, but the lyrics…they’re like, meaningless. And it’s one thing to do Cocteau Twins-esque vocal craziness where the voice is just another instrument, but that doesn’t seem to be the point here. And people ascribing all this “create your own significance” to it…I’m really not buying it.

    • I think it’s because he wrote and recorded a gigantic motherfucking fantastic album this year.

      This list isn’t the top 50 collections of lyrics of the year. There’s more to consider. And anyway, I’d take Bon Iver’s beautiful sounding nonsense over silliness like Best Coast or whatever.

  49. I don’t care what anybody says because Pitchfork got my vote for best list. They included The Caretaker & SBTRTKT. Then Danny Brown & Clams Casino are both in Top 20. And they totally ignored Radiohead in both album and songs (the latter was kinda surprising).

  50. would somebody please sell me on the atlas sound album? i’m a pretty devoted fan of all things bradford cox but for some reason i’ve been unwilling to pick it up.

    • I’m a big Deerhunter fan but I can’t quite get into Atlas Sound, don’t know why.

    • If you liked Halcyon Digest you’ll like Parallax, its got the same vibes. It’s also more unified than Logos (though I did love how scattershot Logos was too). I saw Atlas Sound on Thursday and the new songs translated beautifully to a live setting, it was one of the most gorgeous sounding shows I’ve ever been to.

      • I think I can sell someone on Atlas Sound: “Sheeeee-aaaaa-eeeee-aaaaa-eeeee-liiiiiiii-aaa” (“Shelia”) is a good start, but I would suggest “Quick Canal” also (Ft. Laetitia Sadier from Stereolab) as well as “Cold as Ice,” “Quarantined,” “Parallax” (song), “The Shakes,” “Te Amo” (sounds like “He Would Have Laughed”), and “Lightworks.”

        As drgonzo said, if you liked Halcyon Digest you’ll like Parallax.

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