Saturday, 25 August 2012

Not a “people’s” list, really!

Today, “hip” music webzine Pitchfork is releasing a list of the “best albums of the past 15 years”, as voted by “the people”. To be consistent with other lists I will only list their Top 100:
  1. Radiohead: OK Computer
  2. Radiohead: Kid A
  3. Arcade Fire: Funeral
  4. Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane over the Sea
  5. The Strokes: Is This It
  6. Radiohead: In Rainbows
  7. Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
  8. Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion
  9. Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
  10. Sufjan Stevens: Illinois
  11. LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver
  12. Interpol: Turn On the Bright Lights
  13. Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago
  14. The Flaming Lips: The Soft Bulletin
  15. The xx: The xx
  16. Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
  17. Modest Mouse: The Moon and Antarctica
  18. Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes
  19. The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
  20. Radiohead: Amnesiac
  21. The White Stripes: Elephant
  22. The White Stripes: White Blood Cells
  23. Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest
  24. The National: Boxer
  25. Broken Social Scene: You Forgot It in People
  26. Daft Punk: Discovery
  27. Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend
  28. Bon Iver: Bon Iver
  29. DJ Shadow: …Endtroducing
  30. Beck: Odelay
  31. Belle and Sebastian: If You’re Feeling Sinister
  32. Beach House: Teen Dream
  33. Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded West
  34. LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening
  35. OutKast: Stankonia
  36. Phoenix Wolfgang: Amadeus Phoenix
  37. Elliott Smith: Either/Or
  38. Arcade Fire: The Neon Bible
  39. Kanye West: The College Dropout
  40. Radiohead: Hail to the Thief
  41. Panda Bear: Person Pitch
  42. Madvillain: Madvillainy
  43. The Postal Service: Give Up
  44. Animal Collective: Strawberry Jam
  45. Sigur Rós Ágætis Byrjun
  46. The Avalanches: Since I Left You
  47. The Shins: Chutes Too Narrow
  48. Dirty Projectors: Bitte Orca
  49. Spiritualized: Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space
  50. Beck: Sea Change
  51. Björk: Homogenic
  52. The Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs
  53. Modest Mouse: Good News for People Who Love Bad News
  54. The National: High Violet
  55. The Shins Oh, Inverted World
  56. Arctic Monkeys: Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I’m Not
  57. Yo La Tengo: I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
  58. Kanye West: Late Registration
  59. Massive Attack: Mezzanine 
  60. Burial: Untrue
  61. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Fever to Tell
  62. Boards of Canada: Music Has the Right to Children
  63. Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest
  64. Bloc Party: Silent Alarm
  65. M83: Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
  66. Jay-Z: The Blueprint
  67. Animal Collective: Feels
  68. Queens of the Stone Age: Songs for the Deaf
  69. Sigur Rós: ( ) 
  70. Franz Ferdinand: Franz Ferdinand 
  71. James Blake: James Blake 
  72. Daft Punk: Homework 
  73. Portishead: Third 
  74. The National: Alligator 
  75. Animal Collective: Sung Tongs 
  76. The Strokes: Room on Fire 
  77. Wilco: Summerteeth 
  78. Elliott Smith: XO 
  79. Justice:  
  80. Deerhunter: Microcastle/Weird Era Continued 
  81. TV on the Radio: Dear Science 
  82. Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues
  83. The Knife: Silent Shout
  84. Outkast: Aquemini
  85. TV on the Radio: Return to Cookie Mountain
  86. Built to Spill: Keep it Like a Secret
  87. Air: Moon Safari
  88. Vampire Weekend: Contra
  89. OutKast: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
  90. Kanye West: Graduation
  91. Wolf Parade: Apologies to the Queen Mary
  92. LCD Soundsystem: LCD Soundsystem
  93. The Antlers: Hospice
  94. Jay-Z: The Black Album
  95. Of Montreal: Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
  96. Spoon: Kill the Moonlight
  97. Spoon: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
  98. M.I.A.: Kala
  99. Girls: Album
  100. The Microphones: The Glow, Part 2
The thing about this list is that so little of it represents the music ordinary people have been listening to in the past fifteen years. Although I have followed less and less commercial music since the late 1990s when albums qualifying for this list begin, what most people have been listening to during this period is quite different.

Radiohead have been described by “janitor-x” as “a one-hit wonder for mainstream rock radio and a corporate rock band for the underground”. This does give you some idea of what line Radiohead have walked (with a lot of success, of course) over the period under review. The same is true of the Strokes, whose music is nothing more than bland “alternative” rock. Arcade Fire and the fleet Foxes, whose music I once lsitened to in a store, are the same: they hark back to the past without offering anything new.

The “freak folk” movement that made the most interesting music of the period since the grunge revolution of the Bush Senior Era is modestly covered, whilst such movements as metalcore (e.g. Converge) that people like “janitor-x” said represented the genuine underground are quite naturally completely overlooked. Although I have had little look in my extensive study of music at the instrumental-type underground that arose from the fertile “post-rock” movement of the late 1990s, that still does not prevent me from overlooking it, even though unlike metal and ahrdcore it has little popularity among the working masses in America.

Then, of course, it is possible to argue that there could be a failure in the list to represent movements that were genuinely popular, from teen pop to “nu”-metal. Whilst it is unlikely anything would be of value among such movements, there could still be more efforts to reach a different audience.

All in all, Pitchfork cannot be said to have created a “people’s” list, rather they have created an “academic’s” list that may not even reflect where music is going today.

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