The Pitchfork 500
Edited by Scott Plagenhoef and Ryan Schreiber
Pitchfork is a long-running website and important part of the internet’s coverage of pop music – especially that of the indie persuasion. While its output has included plenty of off-the-wall writing experiments and a fair amount of glib sniping, record store owners (those that remain) and music fans alike take Pitchfork’s cast of tastemakers very seriously. Indeed, for a certain segment of the industry, a high rating on the website’s 1-10 scale (anything above an 8 is doled out abstemiously) is cause for rejoicing. In particular, several artists of an adventurous bent – Deerhunter, Animal Collective, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-era Wilco among them – have benefited from the Pitchfork’s attention.
Plagenhoef, Schreiber, and a host of contributors (most regulars for the website) share their enthusiasms with wit and frequent musical insights. The collection helps to put a number of pop styles, cultural movements, and signature artists into historical perspective while never getting weighted down in “us vs. them” hipster bluster. Indeed, the tone often hews closely to the breezy, smart, and funny prose of the website’s best reviews.
Despite ostensibly being a “best of” collection, The Pitchfork 500 features both sides of Pitchfork’s personality. Although the focus is on the songs one should seek out, there’s also a bit of trashing here and there; pp. 155′s list of career-killing songs being a signature example. Slaughtered sacred cows include latter day Liz Phair, the Beastie Boys, and Billy Corgan.
As Nick Hornby astutely pointed out in High Fidelity, one record fan’s “top 5″ list will inevitably be quickly countered by another’s rebuttal of said list. However, the chief virtue of Pitchfork 500 is not that it will settle any arguments about which songs deserve special merit – it will likely cause more disagreements than it quells – but that it is one of the best conversation starters for music geeks since Hornby’s novel. Along the way, it’s likely to give many music lovers ideas as to how they might best fill their music collection to the brim; in my estimation, a cause for celebration.