You can read part one here.
The idea to listen to Pitchfork’s top 100 tracks of 2011 and comment on each as I went along was born out of curiosity, rather than a desire to sound like pompous dick. But I have to admit; this exercise has done more to damage my faith in human intelligence than my time working the customer service desk at Borders. I still respect Pitchfork’s staff (a few are friends), and shoot, I’d be proud to write for them, this is worse than I possibly could have imagined. These are supposed to be tastemakers? It wasn’t always like this—and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I miss the days you could accuse Pitchfork of being snobby.
It’s hard to put together a list like this. I’m not submitting my own list for anyone else to criticize, so maybe that makes me a hypocrite. But, why would I? Who cares about my individual tastes? Pitchfork remains relevant, even if they’re standards have slipped considerably. Again, I’ll reemphasize all views expressed here are subjective; so don’t hate me if I think your favorite band sucks.
65. Fleet Foxes—“Grown Ocean”: Never cared for these guys, but what do I know? I think they sold a quarter million copies of their last record, which is indie platinum. Good music for Moms, people who buy three albums a year and those who wear exclusively flannel.
64. Toro Y Moi—“New Beat”: I saw these guys live this year, and they were a pleasant surprise. I don’t really like this song, but it’s not the worst thing on this list by a mile. I’m struggling to say nice things.
63. Bon Iver—“Perth”: This guy! Man, I thought that one record, For Emma, was pretty decent until that whole Wisconsin cabin, chopping wood, being lonely after a break-up story got beaten into the ground. Then I saw some DVD of him playing with David Byrne and a bunch of people and his falsetto thing sounded so shitty that it makes it hard to see it as anything other than shtick. He seemed really enthusiastic though and by all accounts seems like a righteous dude and hey, if it works it works. No one is going to be calling me for management advice any time soon.
62. Liturgy—“Generation”: It’s hard to understate how crucial it is to have a good drummer. Whoever is playing on this absolutely nails it. This is totally righteous—and after 37 songs, the first one that feels like a new discovery.
61. Eleanor Friedberger—“My Mistakes”: I stopped checking on anything Fiery Furnaces related a long time ago, so this song caught me pretty off guard. I expected to dislike it for being too pretentious and quirky but instead I dislike it for the complete opposite reasons. It’s way too poppy, overproduced—though I guess it’s equally contrived. My god, more smooth jazz saxophone on the coda!
60. Adele—“Someone Like You”: All of my gay friends love Adele, and I can see why. I got tired of it quickly, but her diva appeal is undeniable. This song is the epitome of an anthem, and she’s got the voice to carry it off. I’d put this higher just because it’s nice to hear people really belting, it used to seem like great vocalists were a dime a dozen, but these days a voice like Adele’s really stands out.
59. Mr. Muthafuckin’ Exquire—“Huzzah (Remix)”: I like this guy a lot, and I think the video for this song might be the best I saw this year (admittedly, I didn’t see many), but on musical merit alone, this might be the worst track on the otherwise stellar Lost in Translation mixtape. I guess points for being close though. Based on the selections so far it seems clear that Pitchfork is like one of those people who wants to like hip-hop, but doesn’t ever really get around to listening to it that much.
58. PJ Harvey—“The Words That Maketh Murder”: This is good. And good for you PJ Harvey, for, at the very least, not turning your career into to a sad joke like Liz Phair.
57. The Weeknd—“House of Balloons—Glass Table Girls”: I like The Weeknd, but off the top of my head there are five songs of his I like more than this one from this year: “Initiation,” “Loft Music,” “Wicked Games,” “Rolling Stone,” and “The Morning,” which better be up higher on this list. Maybe they picked this one ‘cause it’s the title track?
56. M83 feat. Zola Jesus—“Intro”: Woof. I’m trying to think of things I’d like to listen to less than this, and M83 are giving hippie drum circles and little dogs yapping a run for their money.
55. Destroyer—“Chinatown”: I know a guy who is pretty much exclusively into really rare killer soul 45’s, Paul McCartney and… Destroyer, which never ceases to amaze me. The adoration heaped on this guy is a real head scratcher.
54. Jamie XX & Gil Scott-Heron—“Take Care of You”: Pairing these two up was a brilliant, inspired idea and as tragic as Gil’s passing was, there is some solace in having one last token of his genius. Clearly he’s a hero of mine, but I also think pretty highly of Jamie XX.
53. Real Estate—“Green Aisles”: I can’t help but feel like, if this was 1965, these guys would have been the third best band at their high school’s prom. That’s unfair, but there is not one single aspect of this that stands out as exceptional to me.
52. Action Bronson – “Larry Csonka”: I tried to deny it for a while, but even I’m starting to come around to the idea of white rappers. I know, how racist—but exercising prejudice against white people is like candy to me, and I’ve realized I really only do it to ease the guilt I feel for my own privilege. On top of that, I’m not really trying to think about all that when I’m trying to listen to rap. This guy is pretty good, but he’s no Paul Wall.
51. Todd Terje—“Snooze 4 Love”: Bleep Bloop. Bloop. Bleep. I guess the name is accurate, though I would’ve proposed “Underwater Basket Weaving” which coincidentally is the most useless sounding thing I can think of off the top of my head.
50. Atlas Sound—“Mona Lisa”: I’ve heard stuff from these guys that I’ve liked, but never enough to try and seek out more. This won’t end that trend, but I will say another new song of theirs, “Te Amo,” has made it onto a playlist or two of mine.
49. Katy B.—“Broken Record”: On one hand, it’s kind of nice that I now know a little bit more about who and what exactly to avoid in the future; on the other, if not for this list I probably would have never heard this anyway. There is so much good music out there, it’d be impossible to cover it all, and yet… this. The way she says “record” makes me want to die. I honestly don’t think she knows what a (vinyl) record is.
48. Kreayshawn—“Gucci Gucci”: From the moment I caught wind of Kreayshawn, and got the gist of her act, I decided to try and avoid it all costs. I knew it would push my buttons and send me into a spiral of self-loathing, but lo and behold it turns out she’s not quite as blatantly offensive as I feared. I mean, you’ll never catch me listening to it, but I think it’s so obviously terrible that it’s not worth getting upset about—like Twilight or smoking cigarettes.
47. Battles feat. Matias Aguayo—“Ice Cream”: Hey Katy B, the phrase “broken record” generally refers to the way the needle can get stuck in one groove of a vinyl record, thus repeating the same snippet until you give it a tap. It’s also a euphemism for repeating yourself. For example, right now I feel like a broken record for the following statement: I love Battles. This is quite literally the only song of theirs I think sucks. I know I’m not alone in this opinion.
46. Ty Segall—“Goodbye Bread”: This guy is yet another talented Bay Area dude, and a pleasant reminder that at least there are some things we can agree on. He put out a lot of stuff this year, and, I’m not even gonna say it…
45. Drake—“Headlines”: This is more hip-hop for people that don’t really like hip-hop, but even I have to admit the guy can write a hook. I can’t see how anyone takes him seriously, but then again all the whining is probably a really easy thing for critics to identify with.
44. Nicolas Jaar—“Space is Only Noise if You Can See”: This reminds me of Spiritualized, in a good way. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s great, but my standards have been lowered further than my balls on a July day in Baltimore (like two golf balls in a tube sock).
43. Panda Bear—“Last Night at the Jetty”: Another reason I refuse to make a list: I still haven’t heard this record, Wilco’s new one or Feist’s latest. I’m sure I’ll enjoy all three, so any list without them would be disingenuous, but I’m in no rush. I’ll get around to it and if they’re truly good they’ll still be good in 2012.
42. Jay-Z & Kanye West—“Otis”: I respect both these rappers, but this has to rank amongst their dumbest ideas. I love Otis Redding, so any homage to him really has to work hard to rankle, but this manages to. The beat is lazy, and even shoddily looped; Otis’ dynamism only serves to highlight how old and bored Jay and Yeezy sound.
41. Frank Ocean—“Novacane”: Hey, it’s a song that tells a story! Not a whole lot of those on this list, and Ocean excels at doing the introspective thing in a way that doesn’t come off as overly aggrandizing. Drake could take a lesson.
40. Burial—“Street Halo”: The first 10 seconds were so boring I skipped ahead and it turns out the whole song sounds like the first 10 seconds. This song, max, needed to be five seconds long.
39. Shabazz Palaces—“Swerve… and a really long title I’m not typing”: I lived in Seattle this past year, and this album got a ridiculous amount of hype locally, mainly because it was on SubPop and one of the music writers for The Stranger is friends with the main dude. I wanted to like this. I went to the album release party, bought the record, tried to listen to it more times than usual, hoping it would be a grower. Nope, it got worse every time, and I’ve already sold it. There’s just nothing here beyond a production style that’s more of a novelty than anything. Also, I hate the ridiculously long song titles. This is more hip-hop for people that don’t really like rap.
38. Purity Ring—“Ungirthed”: This was a song that grabbed me the first time I heard it, though I can’t quite put my finger on what makes this exceptional. It’s a good melody I guess, though the lyrics are unintelligible. Trying to figure out why I like this is making me like it less.
37. ASAP Rocky—“Peso”: That happens a lot to me with rap as well—over thinking leads to less enjoyment, so there are some questions I try not to ask myself. I suppose that qualifies as some sort of musical anxiety, but its also led to me liking music for non-musical reasons. None of this has anything to do with ASAP Rocky, whom I endorse.
36. Jamie XX—“Far Nearer”: I already sang Jamie’s praises once, but it bears repeating: This is an innovative talent whose artistic progression suggests we’re looking at someone driving the future of music. Also, correctly utilized, the steel drum is irresistible.
35. Charli XCX—“Stay Away”: I feel bad ragging on stuff like this. It’s just not for me.
34. Cut Copy—“Need You Now”: This sounds like a cover of a Chris Isaak tune or something (compliment) and it’s definitely catchy. This is probably on so many high school mixtapes (the kids don’t make tapes these days, do they?). While I’ll never electively listen to it, I wouldn’t elect to go back to high school if I could either, and that was fun while it was happening.
33. Araabmuzik—“Streets Tonight”: This guy is most known for his amazing ability to make playing a sampler look cool, but that really only works when you’re watching him bang on the pads. He’s a great producer too, but I prefer a lot of his production for other people to this kind of stuff. This is nice, and maybe symbolic of a talent that deserves to be recognized. But on its own? Blah.