Seventeen years after Ryan Schreiber first started banging out reviews in his Minneapolis bedroom, Pitchfork’s end-of-year lists are probably the most anticipated in the music industry — both because for all its failings the site remains the Internet’s most popular and thus most influential hive of music criticism, and because it holds its lists until pretty much everyone else has published theirs. Over the last couple of years, we’ve amused ourselves by pondering what the songs in the ’Fork’s Top 10 say about its readership (which, of course, includes us) — and so, with the publication yesterday of this year’s winners, we’re giving the exercise another go-around.
10. Jai Paul — “Jasmine”
Hello, we’re Pitchfork readers! Our collective tastes are now shaped by a generation that grew up listening to R&B and aren’t in any way shy about admitting this (unlike, um, some critics who will remain nameless.) We know people who speak fondly about the Summer of Chillwave, and we do rather appreciate the sort of woozy beat that can evoke the feeling of clutching a lukewarm PBR and watching the sun go down over the East River. And we like producers who’ve clearly digested all of J Dilla’s oeuvre.
9. Fiona Apple — “Werewolf”
We still love Fiona Apple, and we’re very excited that The Idler Wheel… was so great, because we were prepared to defend it to the death whether it was good or not. We’ve grown up with Apple’s music, and in 2012 we’re old enough and wise enough to understand that the burden of the success and/or failure of a relationship falls to some degree on the shoulders of both parties involved. We smile ruefully at the chorus of “Werewolf,” and agree completely that there’s nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key.
8. Beach House — “Myth”
We really liked Teen Dream and, although we’re probably willing to concede that Bloom wasn’t as good, we’ve nevertheless clutched its standout track “Myth” to our hearts. We still love Victoria Legrand’s singular voice, and we still love big, swooning, epic ballads. They take us away to some sort of special place where everyone is in a band and the rent is cheap and even people who’ve never been there still think it’s somehow invested with indie cool. A place called Baltimore.
7. Tame Impala — “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”
We’ve always rather enjoyed the tripped-out corners of our parents’ record collections, perhaps because we rather enjoy taking psychedelic drugs ourselves. And also, on a less flippant point, we’re all too aware of the fact that we’re really only feeling our way through this world, just like everyone else. We appreciate music that reflects this feeling of vague existential disquiet.
6. Bat for Lashes — “Laura”
We don’t always feel feelings, but when we do, we prefer to accompany them with a soundtrack of earnest piano balladry.
5. Japandroids — “The House that Heaven Built”
We can bang on about synth music and post-Internet and #seapunk and experimentalism and all such things until the cows come home, but ultimately we still have a soft spot for a loud, anthemic, fist-waving rock song. We identify with the “kids,” even if we’ve been reading Pitchfork since the beginning and are closer to having kids than being them. We are also more prepared than ever to admit to liking “Born to Run,” and perhaps even to waving the occasional cigarette lighter to it.
4. Kendrick Lamar — “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe”
After a decade of hyper-produced, robotic, Auto-Tuned hip hop, it turns out we’re still rather partial to an old-school beat and a rapper with a flow that surpasses the arrhythmic drawl that’s dominated mainstream tracks over the last few years. We still buy into the idea of California as some sort of promised land of loping beats and g-funk samples. And we’re still jealous of Arron Afflalo.
3. Usher — “Climax”
We apparently count amongst our number people who still like Usher. Who knew?
2. Frank Ocean — “Pyramids”
We’ve liked Prince all these years. We have a softness for big, filmic pop songs, and we got a little pissy when some smartass at Flavorwire implied yesterday that it was only music journalists who liked Channel Orange. (We are secretly glad that its success has stopped all those nasty discussions about OFWGKTA’s homophobia, too. They made us uncomfortable. Thank god we know 100% for certain that you can’t be homophobic if you’re friends with a gay or bisexual person! Right, guys? Right?!)
1. Grimes — “Oblivion”
We live in a world where culture is more fragmented and transient and granular than ever — and that’s not something that bothers us in the slightest. We kinda understood what Claire Boucher meant when she used the phrase “post-Internet,” even if she copped various flak for it. We’re excited by the volume of culture that’s available to us, and the new forms that emerge and re-emerge from it. And ultimately, no matter where we stand on such weighty cultural questions, we appreciate the value of a killer pop song. (Also, we apparently agree that 2012 actually started in late 2011.)