Monday, October 13, 2008

Why I Still Read Pitchfork

I remember a time when I used to read Pitchforkmedia every day. I looked through all the news, and enjoyed reading the album reviews. That year was 2003.

I had just started working for the Hofstra Chronicle, writing album reviews for their entertainment section. My first reviews were very bland, and if they were by anyone else, I probably would never have even read them. I needed a better writing style, something that would attract attention. Enter Brent DiCrescenzo.

Brent DiCrescenzo broke every rule when it came to writing album reviews. He referred to himself throughout his reviews; he went on huge tangents that only paid off at the end; he told stories and made up characters in hopes of getting his audience to relate to his point-of-view better. He worshiped at the altar of Hunter S. Thompson just as often as he did Robert Christgau. He was very interesting to read, even if you didn't agree with what he was saying. Dare I claim that what he was writing for Pitchfork was in fact beyond criticism, but rather, art.

It wasn't just DiCrescenzo. Many of Pitchfork's stable of writers at the time were tryng new things with their reviews. I was a fan of Dominique Leone, Amanda Petrusich, Nick Sylvester, Mark Richardson, Douglas Wolk and of course Ryan Schreiber.

So, of course, I completely aped their styles, and as my former editor Taylor Long can tell you: people started reading my reviews. I know this, because I have the hate mail.

So, back to the point. That was 2003. Since then, Pitchfork has gone down in quality a great deal. DiCrescenzo left to pursue to another writing gig, Leone just released his first (excellent) full length LP, Petrusich just wrote a book I'm dying to read, and for the most part, the current crop of writers aren't nearly as experimental as the old ones (Scott Plagenhoef's continuous attempts aside). The biggest criticism Pitchfork gets these days (actually, I guess they've always gotten this criticism) is that they are pretentious and elitists. Their reviews reek of the arrogance that mars the line between being a taste-maker and just being Holier-than-thou.

And honestly, it's completely true. It's sad to see one of my influences that was so strong once, completely make themselves irrelevant.

So why do I still read it then? Well, I'm always on the look out for new music that I have yet to hear. I'm always trying to find stuff that I don't know yet. If the website provides me with these criteria, then I see no reason to abandon them. If I get something out of my reading, why is that bad? Today was a perfect example of why I still read Pitchfork.

Before today, I had never heard of Alton Ellis. Sadly, Ellis died recently, and Pitchfork ran their obituary and also a few song suggestions.

And my God, he is fantastic.

I've never really explored the genre of rocksteady that deep, but now, now I think I must because this song is terrific:

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That's all I ask from Pitchfork, recommend something to me that I might like, and I'll still glance over your site every day. Is that such a bad reason to still read the site? Am I wrong? Tell me.

And R.I.P Alton Ellis.


  1. even in 2003 pitchfork was intolerable. there are literally millions of blogs and message boards you can look at that'll help you with your music search and give you opinions that isn't cringeworthy. the only good thing pitchfork has done recently is give chicago their self titled festival.

    also, as a favour to me and other fee readers, please to go to your blogger dashboard, then to settings > site feed, and change to full rather than short. it allows people to read the full entry rather than the first 50 words. okay i luv u.

  2. other than the stuff I have in my 2nd blog role, do you have any suggestions for music blogs?

    I didn't even know I had that site feed thing set to that. I'll fix that.

    Thanks for the comment Gena!