Best of the Best of 2012: Pitchfork

By Ben Johnson

Reading Pitchfork is like watching your Granddad try to open a CD and it’s taking forever because his old hands don’t work, and he doesn’t know the trick where you take it off the hinges, and anyway it’s a CD with stuff on it you could get online using your phone in less time than it’s taking him to open just the first layer of shrink wrap, and you want to tell him this, but by God he can do it himself because despite your bloodsucking wishes he’s not dead yet.

To further belabor the analogy, your Mom got him the CD and she really really hopes he likes it this time because she put a lot of thought into it, and your Mom is Trouble in Mind or some other label that always always gets its heart broken every Christmas by this son of a bitch Granddad, and you see how upset this makes her and you’re like, “Why the hell do you even get him anything? Just give him a gift card to Kohl’s and let him figure it out. He doesn’t want or need anything but socks and underwear anyway.”

Then he gets some bullshit auto-return putting machine from one of his work buddies and he can’t stop talking about how much he loves it, and you can tell your mom is going to cry a little as she excuses herself to go check on things in the kitchen while this fucking idiot sets up his putting machine and starts acting like a real hot shot for sinking one. Granddad even starts trying to teach your five year old nephew Petey how to putt, and as the little guy smiles and high fives the old bastard you make a mental note to be a better uncle so little Petey doesn’t end up acting like his prick of a great granddad. Maybe make Petey a mix with The Clean on it that he will surely ignore, but at least you tried.

Later when Granddad falls asleep you try dicking around with the putting machine and it’s so immediately and transparently stupid and pointless you’re like “I will never understand how a person could enjoy this.” Then you go check on your Mom and offer to help her with whatever she’s doing and try to make her laugh.

And that’s what I’m doing, people. That’s all I’m trying to do here. This family is killing me.

Here’s the Pitchfork Top 50 Auto-Return Putting Machines of the Year:

50. Lambchop, Mr. M

Do people actually like this horseshit, or is it an emperor’s new clothes thing? Give me one reason to listen to this that doesn’t involve the words “appreciate,” “composition,” “dynamics,” or “tonality.” Those words are all code for “overeducated yawn factory humans with a pathological need to pretend they’re smart which transcends their desire to have fun lives.”

49. Crystal Castles, (III)

Bands called Crystal Something are still out there, and none of them changed to the more acceptable “Ha Ha Ha Whoops My Bad” moniker. Castles are the synth-pop ones, as opposed to Antlers and Stilts, who are also probably the synth-pop ones, but different. I don’t know, they all suck and I’m not investigating.

48. Peaking Lights, Lucifer

I like to imagine somebody putting this on and saying “Man! This has gotta be the 48th best thing I’ve heard ALL YEAR!” Like just nailing their extremely specific and unnecessarily arbitrary opinion of it right away. Or even better, this person has a tape recorder they take notes on like one of those investigative reporters in the movies, and they say “Peaking Lights Lucifer (pause) 48th” before noticing something in the background of a Frank Ocean press photo that breaks the case wiiide open.

47. Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction

I feel like it’d be more efficient for Pitchfork to just put out a “things we want to remind you that we like around here” list every year, where every list item has a “For Example: _____” slot and then they can slide whatever appropriate thing they want in there. This one is “We like the idea of boring prog metal, For Example: Pallbearer Sorrow and Extinction.” That way nobody has to listen to it.

46. Rustie, Essential Mix

This is a DJ set somebody did on the radio that Pitchfork is treating like it’s a real thing because reason.

45. El-P, Cancer for Cure

The write-up refers to this album as “dense and internal,” and the lead single is called “The Full Retard,” so yeah, maybe they’re overthinking things a little over there.

44. METZ, METZ

How is it possible for one place on the internet to say this is good and also say that a DJ set from the radio is good? One person can’t like both of those things. I don’t see how Pitchfork can pretend to and still have anybody believe them.

43. Mac DeMarco, 2

Oh hey. I like this. It’s got a shambolic R. Stevie Moore thing going. So, uh… good work… Pitchfork. Christ, it burns my larynx to say that.

42. Rick Ross, Rich Forever

If Pitchfork did a separate best of the year hip-hop list I’d be all about like 90 percent of it because I don’t pay attention or care really, and it would be handy to get that information all in one place, because… wait a minute. No. No no no no no. This can’t be happening.

41. Dum Dum Girls, End of Daze EP

I feel about her the way ska enthusiasts must feel about Gwen Stefani. You could have helped us. You could have done something. You were so close. For the record I’m comparing myself to a ska enthusiast because I have a sense of humor.

40. DIIV, Oshin

You know when you go to see a band and while they’re playing you kind of move your head from side to side as if to say, “Okay, this is a pleasant little ditty, this is cute” and you feel like you’re your dad doing the dishes with some Doors song stuck in his head?  It’s like dancing and dismissing at the same time, and it’s the exact appropriate response to this.

39. Hot Chip, In Our Heads

Hot Chip gets one last go around on the hype machine as a Pitchfork legacy act because they won the coin toss against Animal Collective.

38.Lotus Plaza, Spooky Action at a Distance

Fans of this should look back to the originators of mediocre car commercial rock. I recommend forcing yourself to listen to the entire French Kicks discography. They were shitty before shitty was even cool.

37. Future, Pluto

Have you ever been to a nightclub in the suburbs where people are acting all “baller” and serious while rolling up in an Escalade with spinners on it to a place that shares a parking lot with Fuddruckers? That’s my favorite. Look out world, here comes the new manager from the U.S. Cellular off Route 28 in the Oak Corner Shopping Plaza, dropping cheddar with a 30 percent APR.

36. Sharon Van Etten, Tramp

Sharon Van Etten is the Beyoncé of Boring.

35. TNGHT, TNGHT

People who are into electronic music know so much about where beats come from. They’re like the people who can actually tell you why the sky is blue, and every single time while they’re explaining it you notice in mid-explanation the astoundingly large degree to which you don’t care. It’s like getting hit in the head with a sledgehammer made of pure Don’t Care, and for the rest of the conversation you just sit there feeling the soft warmth of your own brains trickling down into your lap.

34. Chairlift, Something

“We can do anything we want with our lives, you guys. What do you want to do?”

“Belinda Carlisle solo, 1987.”

33. Actress, R.I.P.

“Quick, think of a joke so you can stop listening to this” –Every Fiber Of My Being

32. Action Bronson/Party Supplies, Blue Chips

BEST RAPPER ALIVE.

31. Spiritualized, Sweet Heart Sweet Light

There’s a creative quandary that happens to every aging artist. How do you continue as a going concern when as an artist you’ve evolved beyond what you’re best known for? You roll up your sleeves and you shit something out with minimal effort and you laugh all the way to the bank. Or: you do something new to you that sucks because it’s not what you’re good at, and the fact that you’re not good at it is what makes it interesting to you because the stuff you’re good at you can do in your sleep at this point, and so you’re fine with trying something new and having it suck, especially since you’ve got enough fans that you can suck as much as you want and still end up laughing all the way to the bank. Those are the two ways you can go about your business. Oh and also you can grow the fuck up and go on a fucking Spacemen 3 reunion tour and rake in the dough without ever having to write another plodding midtempo song about Jesus and drugs ever again. So really your options are wide open.

30. The Men, Open Your Heart

“When we included the Men's Leave Home on last year’s Top Albums list, there was hope that the band's pulverizing Sacred Bones debut could trigger a revival of truly nasty, abrasive indie rock in the increasingly friendly confines of Brooklyn. In the next six months, they toned down the sonic S&M on the relatively accessible and triumphant Open Your Heart only to shelve the vast majority of it in a live setting. Instead, they test drove material from their next album-- and from the sounds of things, it will possibly head into full-blown Allmans and Creedence territory.” –Ian Cohen, on this band’s plan to suck harder and harder as the years go by and Pitchfork’s plan to be totally cool with that.

29. Cat Power, Sun

As much as I’d like to stand around in my mortar board and doctoral hood and praise the maturity of her songwriting, I can’t actually bring myself to listen to a whole song all the way through instead of doing anything else.

28. How to Dress Well, Total Loss

Avant garde minimalism and R&B go together like tissue paper underwear and jizzy dicks.

27. John Talabot, ƒIN

Avant garde minimalism and R&B go together like dry vaginas and anything.

26. Julia Holter, Ekstasis

If she was my friend I would be sincerely happy for her that Pitchfork likes her album, and I would have a very hard time pretending to enjoy her music, and after not too long we would “lose touch” because listening to electronic madrigals for the rest of your life should not be part of the bargain when you go to college with somebody. It’s too steep a price to pay.

25. Schoolboy, Q Habits & Contradictions

What? Sorry, I totally zoned out there for a second.

24. Purity Ring, Shrines

It’s a shame they never made Trainspotting 2, where everybody’s all grown up and all they want to do is sit around and watch trains, like for real this time. This would be the soundtrack.

23. Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream

Millions and millions of people still listen to the radio. Isn’t that depressing?

22. Flying Lotus, Until The Quiet Comes

Thousands and thousands of people who don’t listen to the radio choose to listen to this. Isn’t that even worse? It’s like escaping from jail and then volunteering for jury duty.

21. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Mature Themes

The back and forth between this guy and the media is like two antisocial nerds tucked away in some quiet corner of a party playing their own secret language version of Uno that they just invented, and when you stumble upon them and ask what they’re up to and they start explaining it you’re like “cool man, I gotta go to the bathroom” and you never talk to them again.

20. Jessie Ware, Devotion

I was watching TV with my mom and an ad for American Idol came on. She said, “I’ve never watched that show. I don’t even want to watch good singing.” Me neither.

19. Cloud Nothings, Attack on Memory

You know what was missing from rock music in the 90s? Fun. Why would we want to go back to that?

18. Ty Segall Band/Ty Segall & White Fence, Slaughterhouse/Hair

You guys, we’re perilously close to being right about something here. What are we gonna do about this Ty Segall kid? He’s actually good in a way even we can’t deny. It’s getting impossible to be as wrong as we’re supposed to be. Let’s lump Slaughterhouse and Hair together in one entry, call it something innocuous like 18th best, and then bury Twins in the honorable mentions.

17. Bat For Lashes, The Haunted Man

It’s official: Pitchfork are the last people in the world who aren’t tired of that Gotye song.

16. Burial, Kindred EP

Do people in Britain dance to this? Quick, somebody send their internet a YouTube link to Wooly Bully.

15. Dirty Projectors, Swing Lo Magellan

I love how Dirty Projectors is the one college a cappella group that made it. It gives the rest of them hope. (shudder)

14. Andy Stott, Luxury Problems

This is the perfect soundtrack to zoning out in the middle of writing your blog post where you make fun of Pitchfork’s best of the year list and deciding that life is pointless and you need to take a shit.

13. Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music

There was an episode of the Raven Simone-era Cosby Show where Denise decided to be a teacher and she was all excited about singing to children to teach them things. She rapped a song about Christopher Columbus and the joke was she says he landed on Plymouth Rock instead of San Salvador because Denise is an idiot ha ha ha. Killer Mike’s “Reagan” is the exact opposite of Denise’s rap: historically accurate, done by a talented person, indicative of hip hop culture, addressing real issues, not a thinly veiled attempt to launch Lisa Bonet’s music career, not at all catchy, no way I’ll remember it 20 years from now.

12. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

This band is for people who wear frameless glasses for political reasons.

11. Japandroids, Celebration Rock

Green Day is getting pretty old, you guys. It’s sad.

10. Grizzly Bear, Shields

Every year I feel better and better about my decision never to know which one is Grizzly Bear.

09. Death Grips, The Money Store

You might be concerned that Death Grips aren’t boring enough, but according to Pitchfork the science of people doing crazy shit for fun can explain all of this.

08. Chromatics, Kill For Love

This is okay, I guess. It’s those people from the Drive soundtrack so… I’m not sure I even like music.

07. Beach House, Bloom

Does Beach House have superfans? Like you ask somebody what their favorite band of all time is and they’re like “Beach House, definitely.” What’s that person’s second favorite band? Have they heard one?

06. Grimes, Visions

According to Pitchfork’s Carrie Battan, “No one else is making music that sounds like this.”  According to my eardrums, at least half of everybody else on this entire list is making music that sounds like this.

05. Swans, The Seer

You should definitely have this on vinyl. It sounds way better when you never listen to it on vinyl.

04. Tame Impala, Lonerism

Pretty decent band out of Perth, Australia. I mean, they’re no Taco Leg, but they’re alright.

03. Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel ...

Some of my favorite music is basically overage teen dudes who don’t want to grow up, so I guess it’s okay that there’s such a thing as Fiona Apple. It’s just that the dudes are, like, mean and fun and funny, and Fiona’s locked in the bathroom pretending to eat a whole bottle of Aspirin because of something a boy did or something she did to a boy or… I can’t understand what she’s saying, can you go talk to her?

02. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange

He’s good, I’ve just seen way too many movies to fall for it. He’s Talented Mr. Ripleying us.

01. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city

Ever listen to old school hip hop and go “damn, they’re still doing this”? It’s still just talking!

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