Optional introductory content here.
- WHY I READ PITCHFORK [WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY HATING IT]
- A PLACE IN MY HOME…AND MY HEART: A REVIEW
- WHY YOU SHOULD VOTE
I’ve never heard anyone discuss music review site pitchfork.com without using the word “pretentious.” There’s a clear consensus that Pitchfork’s writers have their heads deep into the recesses of their rears. I doubt even they themselves would disagree. How could they with prose like:
“[It] may import its dystopian “21st-century slave” mindset and Kevin Shields-supplied screech from the XTRMNTR playbook, but it forsakes camouflage gear for kaftans and keffiyehs, with a snake-charmer horn refrain and a sand-swept, acoustic-guitar groove that alternately surges and dissolves over the course of its nine mesmerizing minutes.”
“It might be a knowing sneer at critics who think Savages are just recycling post-punk’s signature sound, but ostensibly it’s also a salute to an artistic kindred spirit.”
But if you ask these Pitchfork haters what score their favorite album got, they’ll answer down to the decimal. While many people rip on Pitchfork, it also seems many of these same people read Pitchfork.
I think the site’s main draw is it provides a way to discover new music. While its hype-skewed scoring and verbose voice make it difficult to decipher a hit from the shit, (“the” with a lower-case “t”) it still functions as way to learn about new musicians you otherwise wouldn’t read about.
However, this only explains why people go to Pitchfork—not why people read it. To find out about the music, one only needs to browse the recent releases. Actually reading the reviews is unnecessary, yet people do read them—enough to let “Best New Music” labels turn unknowns into festival headliners.
So, why is it so many music fans read Pitchfork while simultaneously snubbing its snobbery? I don’t think it’s for the criticism. So many great albums are disgraced with 4s and 5s while awful ones get listed as the “Best New Music.” I know for me—and possibly most Pitchfork readers—whether they know it or not, the act of reading Pitchfork serves to provide a context and perspective on today’s music. From the reviews, to the articles, every piece of text on the site helps readers construct stories around the music and musicians they listen to.
If you look back on the 20th century, you can kind of see music as map or an analogy for what cultural shifts took place. From Jazz to Rock n’ Roll to Punk to Rap, the formation of each new genre reflects major changes in society. I think music is better able to reflect the times we live in than any other art form. So, in a sense, you can use changes in music to understand changes in society.
But now we’re in a time when music changes every day. Largely because of the Internet, there are now more songs, more albums, and more bands available to us all the time. And they’re all pushing music in different directions. Rather than progressing onward, music is progressing outward.There’s no clear overarching progression or easily defined category. The Internet has done to music what it’s done to every other form of media: sent it into an exponentially expanding and dividing sea of information in which every article, song, or video is hyperlinked with equal prominence. But that’s exactly my point. Music may becoming increasingly expansive and fragmented, but so is society. That’s why I think music still shows us how society is changing. And it’s sites like Pitchfork that show us how music is changing. They may overuse terms like, “dream-pop/shoegaze nebula” and “chillwave engulfed indie pop” (overuse counting as any use), but despite the bullshit, their articles and reviews offer an excellent vantage point on which to understand the changing state of music, and to some extension, the changing state of society. And that’s why read Pitchfork.
But I still think they’re a bunch of pretentious d-bags.
It takes awhile to get your bearings in the strange world of Fireplace For Your Home. With it’s unorthodox storytelling and absent laugh track, it’s not your mother’s sitcom. Moreover, it crams its entire first season into two hour-long episodes–just one of the many daring choices made by the show’s creators.
But what is it about? Better yet, what isn’t it about? At its core, Fireplace For Your Home is passion. From the moment the “FIREPLACE FOR YOUR HOME” title card cross-fades into the establishing shot of the fireplace, the viewer is hooked–and he or she better not look back, because there is no end to the crazy twists and bizarre turns taken by the show’s fireplace. For instance, (SPOILER ALERT) When I watched the poker come from screen right and readjust one of the logs in the fireplace, I had to pause the show and just think to myself about how that singular action would inevitably reverberate through all the show’s subplots. And just as you start to think you know what’s going to happen in the fireplace, the second episode’s introduction of Christmas Carols shakes your worldview to its very core.
But the boldest choice made? The sensationally long-takes. I’ve seen Hitchcock’s Rope, but with no camera movement, Fireplace For Your Home’s singular take brings the entire concept of a long-take to a level previously untouched, with the effect of leaving viewers nothing short of awe-struck by the show’s cinematography. This would be distracting if not for the undeniably riveting plot. I would recommend it to anyone who likes fireplaces, fires, logs, videos of fireplaces, or screen savers. Fireplace For Your Home is breathtaking and heartwarming, but most of all, it makes your tv look like a fireplace.
It’s election day, and as expected, my Facebook newsfeed is loaded with statuses about why each person is voting for Obama or Romney…and about how much someone just enjoyed eating an entire spoonful of Nutella…but unexpectedly, I’ve seen even more updates about folks not voting, with explanations like, “American politicians are puppets of the special interest groups,” “Why should we even vote only to be disappointed again? Why encourage this mediocrity?” or “Voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil.”
Why are they so cynical? Why were they disappointed? Why is it that they believe any vote is a vote for evil? It’s because they know that America’s problems aren’t the results of the Democrats or the Republicans, but of the twisted and corrupted system itself. While the United States political landscape is as dark, desolate, and depressing as the bathroom of a T.J. Maxx, refusing to vote isn’t the answer.
It’s true that Democrats and Republicans both cater to the needs of special interest groups. It’s nearly impossible to get elected without bending to their wills. However, the degree in which the parties bend differs dramatically. Take Super PACs for instance, Political Action Committees that can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, organizations, and corporations. Both major candidates use them, but in the current campaign, Republican Super PAC money has outnumbered Democratic Super PAC money about 5 to 1. Where Obama has raked in about 75 million, Romney’s side has pulled in closer to 400 million. This huge divergence means that Romney, if elected, would have to do a lot more bending.
Additionally, it’s also true that most of this money comes from special interest groups. But special interests’ interests can differ drastically from one another. While big banks and Wall Street donate heavily to both campaigns, they give far more to Republicans. Goldman Sachs, for example, one of Obama’s largest donors in 2008, has given about eight times more money to Romney this campaign, and cut Obama’s “financial aid” by a factor of ten. Moreover, look who the other major contributors are on the Republican side: big oil companies, the tobacco industry, defense contractors, and coal companies. On the Democratic side: labor unions, environmentalists, universities, Hollywood, and human rights activists. So, if indeed they are puppets, one is controlled by groups that pollute, give people cancer, and make bombs, and the other controlled by people who work, protect the environment, teach, make movies, and support human rights. Are both puppets really equal?
Imagine if the U.S. political system was a room. There are ten people in it (the population), and the walls move in closer to the center everyday, threatening to squash the inhabitants into a corpse cube. The walls are being pushed by robots on the other side (corporations and special interests). But there are two buttons (the two parties). One slows down the speed of the encroaching walls; the other speeds them up, but the ten people disagree on which button has which affect. Every four days, five of the ten people press (vote for) their favorite button, and whichever button gets pressed the most, speeds up or slows down the speed of the compressing walls. However, half of the people in the room don’t press the button. Most of them don’t because they figure, “Both buttons cause the walls to move towards us, so why press either?”
This is the same mistake non-voters are making. Although neither button stops the walls from moving in, it’s not the buttons that are moving the walls in the first place–it’s the robots. Likewise, voting isn’t going to fix our broken system, but it isn’t making it worse–it’s the unlimited amounts of campaign contributions from special interests. But in order to get to a point where we can overcome this corruption—a procedure that will probably involve at least several all-nighters and copious amounts of caffeine—we need to vote for the candidates who will do the best in the system we have, to let us to create the system we want.