Being filled with an infinite amount of love and beauty due to the arrival of Goobie has very much changed my outlook on the Pitchfork Top 100. I am brimming with optimism and collegiality. You might say that. Or you might say I’ve become more protective of Goobie’s environment with a growing desire to protect her from the bad things in this world.
And away we go!
80. YACHT “Psychic City (Voodoo City)”
PP says: Guaranteed to drive plumbers crazy with sound effect of dripping. Indie novelty tune that I’m sure works great if you are stoned or hallucinating. While I feel compelled to admit that I don’t hate it, perhaps my mood has been collateralized in a negative fashion due to the deeply disconcerting start to the list this year. I’d call this evolved Waitresses white girl nanofunk. A grower.
UC adds: Kind of kitschy, but that’s some good bass going on and I like the Nintendo-quality sound effects. I don’t like the female vocals – I don’t think Jona Bechtolt has much natural gifts, but it seems besides the point. Fun but forced.
79. Pictureplane “Goth Star”
PP says: Shades of Mono’s “Living in Mono” put through a glitchy blender. “911? This is Pictureplane. We were just ourselves chopping’ up a Fleetwood Mac track (10.0 Plunderphonics, holla!) and then we found ourselves completely covered by wank. Allow me to explain: someone on the internet wrote this about us:
Because of his gritty bedroom production and affinity for quirky electronic music strains (trashy house and early-1990s dance-pop in particular), Pictureplane’s Travis Edegy could be lumped in with the recent crop of chillwavers if his style weren’t quite so sinister-sounding. Actually, with regard to “Goth Star”, one of a few stellar cuts from his Dark Rift LP, the producer he reminds me most of is Gregg Gillis. But instead of splicing together multiple tracks, Edegy is able to achieve a Girl Talk-like recontextualization by chopping up just one– Fleetwood Mac’s “Seven Wonders”. Isolating small snippets of the song– the chiming keyboard bridge and snatches of Stevie Nicks’ vocal– he builds a mutilated, bass-heavy version darker and arguably more evocative than the original. Not unlike Gold Panda’s also-fragmented “Quitter’s Raga”, the song is at times battered beyond recognition, but somehow that enhances the overall effect.
We feel gross.”
So do I, Pictureplane, so do I. Also, your “song” is OK.
UC adds: I would not want to be affiliated with the chillwaver movement, if I had the chance, given that it has all the appeal of gastrointestinal peristalsis. The real tragedy of this track, is the microdissection by Joe Collie. The only part he seems to have gotten right is about the song being “battered beyond recognition”. He failed to mention that it was also battered beyond listen-ability.
78. Charlotte Gainsbourg “IRM”
PP says: Charlotte collabs with Beck on an industrial Stereolab-ish/Broadcast sounding track about an MRI. Pretty good. Writing not so much.
UC adds: Points to Charlotte Gainsbourg for the medical terminology and sneak insertion of “glass onion”. Negative points to Sean Fennessey for talking about the song’s title and not the song. No points to my ears for listening to this song.
77. Frida Hyvönen “Jesus Was a Cross Maker”
PP says:The theme continues of sensitive, emotional music on the list being segregated to the few female voices at the sausage fest, brah! (allusion (a-LOO-zhuhn): a reference in a literary work to a person, place, or thing in history or another work of literature. ) The song is emotional and resonant and very much in a solitary singer/songwriter, or at least relatively sparsely arranged. Regardless of its own charms, I find this list, not so much this particular song, is leaving me cold. So cold. I make your eyes!
UC adds:I love the voice and musical affectation. Frida should be doing Joanna Newsom covers! But honestly, do we also have to blame Sufjan Stevens for this spiritual pandering entry. I feel like this track is a great footnote in a list about good songs, but maybe only when written in Helvetica 8 point.
76. The Rural Alberta Advantage “Don’t Haunt This Place”
PP says: Matt Murphy highlights the phenomenal drumming on the piece as a standout, and I agree with that but not in the same way- it stands out as out of place as if a jungle/drum ‘n bass track is being recreated over a middling, unaffecting breakup track. To quote the La’s “Meh-lody always finds me.” Alternatively, these songs leave me so dead inside I feel like I’m in a co-meh.
UC adds: I hope this isn’t just thinly-veiled emo. Mates of State have covered this genre to death and oh so much better. The lyrics are not poetry here; they are banal. Oh, I want you so bad. Oh, we need this so bad. Puh-leeze.
75. Gold Panda “Quitter’s Raga”
PP says:Not content with one slice-and-dice novelty (see Picturplane above), Pitchfork doubles down on audience contempt and indie band alientation by elevating a two minute trifle of studio scribbling to a special place in our attention. I would almost be happier if Pitchfork were robbing my house right now so that I could at least be happy knowing there is an ulterior motive for this noodle.
UC adds: Hypothesis: [Animal Collective weirdness] + [obnoxious vocal manipulation] * [obscure sampling] = Guaranteed placement on Pitchfork list. Experimental procedure: Quitter’s Raga. Results: #75 on list. Conclusion: Cynical manipulation of poseurs is effective. All your base are belong to us.
74. Neon Indian “Should Have Taken Acid With You”
PP says:I still find the washed out sound here distracting and derivative, but this second best track (to 6669 (I don’t….)) from Neon Indian’s Psychic Chasms rises above the super bright kid painting by numbers feel of instant 80s downtempo new wave (what is referred to as chillwave and is all over the sad rec room here). If Wes Anderson weren’t so in love with his 60s aesthetic, Neon Indian could, with a little Windex, fit a certain quirky ennui in the right Anderson film.
UC adds: A non-cynical version of me would believe that 2009 represented a terrible year in music, as Neon Indian seem to be one of the best of the year. The real UC has bought at least a dozen records this year that he has actually listened to, and all of them are superior to anything like this. What’s sad, is that this is a top 3 of the top 70.
73. Woods “Rain On”
PP says: Another gimmick track. Low fi’d fuzzed out but with falsetto. Like a cross between Iron and Wine and Pavement. In the boring way.
UC adds: Paul Thomson would have you believe that this is a single off of Neil Young’s After the Goldrush. Instead it sounds like a rejected track from Neil Young’s Old Ways. More like Meh On.
72. Matt & Kim “Daylight”
PP says: For some reason that I can’t explain, I think Matt and Kim have some Fiery Furnaces and Modest Mouse albums. Not that this sounds like any of that. I kind of like it. But I would trade it for a chance to look behind another door.
UC adds: There is this vocal affectation that is permeating the Pitchfork list. It is smarmy and faux indie cool. The new voice of young I suppose. Well, I’m not young. I think I might like this song if it didn’t have that vocal characteristic. The kind that reeks of exploitation. Because all the other stuff going on is pretty good. I would really like this song by a different band. Man, even The Killers sound better than this.
71. A Sunny Day in Glasgow “Close Chorus”
PP says: I didn’t dislike the last A Sunny Day album, but I guess I felt it wasn’t quite substantial enough to hold my attention. This isn’t a step up. Not quite ethereal enough to be transcendent yet pieced together like a Frankenstein indie New Age neutered Cocteau Twins noodle. A missed opportunity I guess, or just another middling entry on this list. Visceral apathy pickling into something worse. Last year’s list had a lot of bad, bad stuff. This one seems designed to make you feel stupid.
UC adds: Not really a shake the bootie track, but I did kind of get into this early on. There are interesting vocal layers that sound just digitally manipulated enough to get my attention. But at the same time, this could almost be in Enigma territory and I would hate it. Therefore it walks a thin line. It also keeps getting worst as it goes on. Contempt growing ….
70. Discovery “Orange Shirt”
PP says: Cosmic indie R&B put on wank from some of the Ra Ra Riot and Vampire Weekend guys. Sad that they do the paint by numbers Nu techno cheese synths better than the real practitioners but not necessarily surprising as Ra Ra Riot is a practiced hand at mining the original 80s progenitor of the sound. Ultimately, too derivative to be more than a jape because you simply cannot take the sentiment seriously- it sounds too disingenuous. Facility does not breed greatness here.
UC adds: All this song needs is a little more autotune, and it will be the ultimate formulaic production. Also, what the hell was Mark Richardson talking about? Clear integration miscalculation at the end, though. Poor formula.
69. Taylor Swift “You Belong With Me”
PP says: Split summer domination of pop radio in this part of flyover country with La Gaga, this song was perhaps more omnipresent because it was competing with three from Gaga and just kept going. There is a certain class of Stereogum commenters, possibly those that also comment in Walmart’s favor at The Consumerist, and also denounce the Spider Money Standard, that think Taylor Swift on this list is the problem as is Gaga, also this degenerate. Given that we know that a) Pfork will make certain pop choices and since b) they are usually shitty Beyonce tracks and c) a gigantic unstoppable hit is worth more attention than absolutely aggressive obscuritan mediocrity, we’ll grade on a curve here. Listen, this song captures that high school feeling of unrequited angst in an unrelentingly perfect way, and even more, it both describes a girl narrator happy to be best friends with a guy, and has a crush on him- in a way that makes it sound like the only mistake in his otherwise perfect and unblemished personality is some girl he just needs to dump. So it’s got the ladies with their feelings of unrequitedness, gets the guys that feel the same way but also the guys that like to dream that the situation described could even exist. Don’t f*ck with Taylor Swift, she’ll send you back to high school and have you going through the yearbook and Facebook stalking. A+
UC adds: I tried really hard to hate this song. I wanted the disdain to flow, the hatred to mount, the cynicism to bubble over. It was futile. Taylor Swift is somehow indefatigable. Damn her. Probably should be way higher on this list. I guess that is cool that Pitchfork couldn’t take her down either. Super good.
68. Röyksopp [ft. Robyn] “The Girl and the Robot”
PP says: Starts off sounding like it might go into “Popcorn” and then just goes into a bouncy joke disco. Robyn sounds a tiny bit Kate Bushie at times. Gets points for actually trying to have a pulse. Minus points for harmlessly sucking.
UC adds: Instrumental score: B+. Vocal score C-. Net score D. I don’t know how that happened. Clear wannabe Ladytron. Robyn should stick to ruining the music of other artists.
67. Arctic Monkeys “Cornerstone”
PP says: Brit troubadours mining a playful sad-sack vein. Like a tranquilized Walkmen song inevitably reaching towards a em/pathetic hook-up. The narrative grows on you and is quite effective when you realize invisible strings are being pulled. Almost like a Morrissey song but you don’t feel the singer is narrating to make fun of you. Pretty good.
UC adds: Do you remember the NME-driven hype over the last Arctic Monkeys CD? Well, it wasn’t deserving then, and it doesn’t appear deserving now. Middling English pop. Joe Tangari thinks that we are destined to swoon along with the singer, Alex Turner. Nope, it turns out that only you are hard for him. Sorry.
66. Julian Casablancas “11th Dimension”
PP says: Yeah it starts off Bizarre Love Triangle/Fine Time, then pushes the preset Bowie Rebel Rebel in casio circus tent synth, then some Peter Hook New Order bass and you wonder whether this stolen sound collage can have some of that Julian magic (if you like the Strokes). Answer: emphatically yes, as soon as the chorus hits the song just blows into your consciousness, and then he drops the ball a little with an midstream interlude- “the no one really cares” segue into synth and laser pop gun and some other bit. Luckily it comes back in full bloom. Julian had maybe too many ideas for this album, packing many into each song, but certainly worth it. Really good.
UC adds: Stephen Deusner needs to learn how American football works. When he says that the Strokes “fumbled” First Impressions of Earth, I don’t think he realized that in football, a fumble is a bad thing. Perhaps he should have considered a baseball metaphor with the word “homered” or a boxing metaphor with the word “TKO’d”. Anyway, this song at its core is freaking awesome. There are perhaps too many disparate intros and outros, but they just make the juicy aged sirloin at the heart of this song all that much more tender and buttery by protecting the core with a crusty and maybe peppery blackened layer. Ironically, I think that this song ended up on this list for entirely different reasons for why it would soar in my list. Shall we say happy convergence?
65. The Tough Alliance “A New Chance (The Juan MacLean Remix)”
IPP says: want to say UC shouldn’t operate any heavy machinery or perform any important experiments because this is a Phil Sherb blessed track. I truly don’t think this sucks. but it is only special the way each and everyone of us has our own specialness, or more precisely the special that we think strangers have, not the special we think our babies or pets are. Or strangers’ babies or certainly not strangers’ pets. I leave it to you to silently quantify in your own dark hearts the level of special you attribute to such an item.
Bono: EXTREMELY SPECIAL!!!!!!
Barack Obama: Quite special.
Your High School Student Body President: Doggone special!
Last Lecture Guy: Super special.
Gandhi: Very Special.
Pope Rat: Special. Wait, are they gay? Special*, and have them see me.
K: Like me.
Chrissie Hynde: Special
14 Down (7 letters): Very, Episode.
UC adds: Phil Sherbourne has made my analysis of future P-fork songs easier by itemizing several musical features that I think all amount to ass: “New Order arpeggios, acid squelch, and rubber-knuckled piano-house chords, plus a lovely loop of Cocteau Twins-styled swooning”. Phil adds that the “vocals may scream 00’s indie”. I contend that his review screams 00’s Pitchfork ass.
64. Annie “Songs Remind Me of You”
PP says: I really did have a love affair with Annie’s “Chewing Gum”- the issue is that her voice is thin enough that she’s got to have the production. Richard X lets her down with a little bit of NRG into maybe something from the cutting floor of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. There should be more here. It just seems more anonymous than it should be.
UC adds: Works for me. Overall a 7.5, but normalized by genre and listing, it comes off like a 9.3. I feel like there are moments near the chorus that have the potential to explode in awesomeness, but it reins into the just solid range. I would listen to this on the radio, but probably not my iPod.
63. Real Estate “Fake Blues”
PP says: Mining a more diverse and less woozy distant reflection of the Beach House sound, Real Estate have gotten some love recently. This is a case where the sound is delicate and spacious and can certainly appeal- meaning it’s not “difficult” or “challenging” like much of the rest here. It isn’t something you can fall in love with immediately. I think you go out with Real Estate for three months and hope for the best- non awkward sex, some good times, not uncomfortable meeting of each other’s families and then if there still isn’t a spark, it’s not Real Estate, it’s you. Then maybe there will be some slight relief amidst the sadness and guilt that you had to end it. Then loneliness.
UC adds: Zach Kelly claims that this song is brimming with grand, adolescent possibility. Sounds more to like like grand, adolescent …. well, adolescence. Nothing to see here folks, move along.
62. Volcano Choir “Island, IS”
PP says: If you think the prose here is precious and neutered, wait until you see the Atlas Sound track next. I am now utterly, incandescently and inconfruously convindicated that the 3/5 of the Fork staff is running some internal contest inside the bounds of this year’s list to submit the most hyperbolic, airless and contrived hack job reviews of mostly middling tracks for the capture of a secret jackpot. Something so indescribably depraved, perverted and redundant that the bounds of decency would need osmitherating into oblitereens to reveal it here. Making up words and using actual words would not even get me into the top 10. This song is OK. And then they sang about a hard drive. I recognize that there is something unbelievably conservative in the idea that synthetic shit country songs might include a ref to a “record machine” and that would be OK, but someone talking about an everyday modern day piece of technology is considered off-putting or pretentious. Like someone singing about USB 2.0. Those are the breaks. Wah wah, Volcano dudes.
UC adds: I would like to add some more description of Justin Vernon’s falsetto beyond just “…painted with colors and textures and rhythms only hinted at in his solo work. Grooves open wide and close tight. Chords blink and twirl. No longer alone and somewhere deep inside the Bees’ hivemind….”. JV’s falsetto here is brimming with the chemiluminescent intensity of 250 kilograms of luciferin. It is shimmering with the thyroids of angels. It is pulsating like a million bees’ thorax. Whatever. There is nothing exceptional about this track. If Pitchfork weren’t totally dead-set on dry humping Bon Iver 24/7, this track would be rightfully overlooked.
61. Atlas Sound [ft. Lætitia Sadier] “Quick Canal”
PP says: Matthew Solarski squeezes out the following like Smokey Dog bearing down after getting into and eating a full bag of Trader Joe’s Thai Lime and Chili Cashews:
“It’s easy to marvel at “Quick Canal”, to get swept up in its dense whirlpools of sound, to admire Bradford Cox for achieving a successful sonic communion with idol Laetitia Sadier rather than succumbing to the various perils of hero worship, and to fall completely under the spell of the Stereolab singer’s angelic invocations and impossible high notes. It’s easy to want to tune in again and again– even at nine minutes it’s never quite long enough. And while you’re doing all that, it’s easy to forget how awesomely noisy this thing gets, and how, after listening to it over and over at the high volumes it somehow demands, you’re probably going to suffer some kind of permanent hearing damage. “Quick Canal”: Even when it’s loud, it still sneaks up on you.”
This is simply terrible. I’ll disagree that it’s easy to marvel the great match between an incredibly consistent Bradford Cox (Deerhunter, Atlas Sound) and the indie iconic lead voice of Stereolab, Laetitia Sadier – Stereolab being so in sync with tuneful repetition that they can’t but be a major influence on Cox. The rest of the review made me think of Cox as a pixelated jungle explorer running and jumping over scorpions and worse, ponds with Laetitia Sadier crocodiles. And then it becomes dangerous for me because my ears are going to be damaged. Why is it so hard to just talk about how much you love the song? This is a really good song. You have the minimalist warmth and wash of Atlas Sound paired with Sadier doing what she does best and it harks back to older Stereolab where the lounge influences aren’t as strong. Unmooring her voice from the exact Stereolab sound makes it an ethereal experience, and feels like more than the sum of two great parts. Yeah, a little cliche at the end there, but accurate, and not stupid.
UC adds: The amazingness of this song can be summarized in way less painful prose, but makes the track no more stellar. The fact that it is musically restrained where I want it to explode into rhythmic and tonal cataclysm just proves that they are better than I am. For bringing this song to me, I have already obtained enough value to negate all the Goobie pellets I’ve had to endure up to this point. Super mega awesome v2.1!!!