Every season, a handful of bands dominate Pitchfork's news posts, features and attention. The blog is frequently viewed as the “tastemaker” of the independent music microcosm — and with tantalizing headlines and by-the-minute updates via Twitter, we feel a strange amount of pressure to love Pitchfork's latest buzz bands. This is the best new music, after all!
But we can't bow to that peer pressure. Below, we've compiled a list of five Pitchfork darlings who, after many listens, still don't cause us to see beams of light shining down from the heavens.
5. Cloud Nothings
Admittedly, Cloud Nothings are more sonically well-rounded than what we remember of their self-titled second album, which was laden with saccharine power-pop anthems. Still, the graduation from lo-fi solo project to full band can't shake our gut response of discontent. Third album Attack on Memory is angst-y (seriously dudes, you're on the bill for S.S. Coachella's maiden voyage), but not in the dizzying fashion of true emo troubadours Sunny Day Real Estate. Nor do Cloud Nothings channel the raw aggression of sweat-and-gore mosh pits. Simply put, Cloud Nothings remind us of trying on identities at Hot Topic, and that one and only Warped Tour we went to in 6th grade. We don't particularly strive to relive those two moments.
4. Twin Shadow
Much like his persona, Twin Shadow's music has been described as “slick, sultry and sneering.” All that registers are synths that mesh awkwardly against sharp snares, all hooks and vocals that oscillate wildly to the point of confusion. At times frontman George Lewis Jr. yelps like Kele Okereke; at others, he yearns Win Butler-esque without the sincerity. Mostly, Lewis channels more cheese than charm, partially due to weak, vapid lyrics. Latest release Confess's album art — which features Lewis posing as a misunderstood bad boy in a studded leather jacket, sporting a slick rockabilly haircut and smirking-yet-soulful stare at the camera — doesn't help the cheesiness factor.
We're in the generation of rehashing and remixing, stretching from hip-hop, electronica, house and beyond. When producers take the time to dig deep, sampling and remixing can result in a product that sounds astoundingly fresh. For artists like AraabMuzik, it's difficult to say whether there lies a separation at all from the house and pop anthems from which the samples are spliced. Heralded as an aficionado within the sampling generation, AraabMuzik, aka Abraham Orellana, apparently began with hardcore rap roots — usually a great sign for a producer. Yet Pitchfork's glowingly reviewed Electronic Dream sounds less like a revolutionary revamp of varying hip-hop, pop and electronica, and eerily similar to the “unce unce” bass pulsating on the dance floor of The Roxbury on a Saturday night.
The term “experimental” often gets thrown around as a filler term in music journalism, usually to classify a sound that's difficult to verbalize. Grimes goes beyond the confines of experimental; she's simply weird. Looped falsetto vocals resound with creepiness, as opposed to their intended ethereality. Despite a keen ability to layer witchy ambience over synth-heavy beats, her sound still leaves a bland taste. According to Pitchfork, Grimes' much-touted Visions showcases a “streamlined aesthetic, resulting in a statement that feels focused, cohesive, and assured.” Nope. Listening to Grimes is a disorienting experience, like attempting to function normally at a business lunch after you've pulled an all-nighter.
1. Kanye West
Although his inflated ego is no secret, Kanye West recently declared his music “perfect” in an interview. How is Kanye West the messiah of hip-hop he and many others claim him to be? Our discontent with Kanye West stretches long before his self-indulgent My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasty, upon which Pitchfork bestowed a perfect 10 rating. Distasteful personality aside, West's pretentious vocals are grating in a way that make him unlistenable. His rhymes feel forced, resulting in tracks that sound like the product of a contrived marketing scheme spurred by an immensely self-righteous rapper. Jay-Z's got you beat by a long shot, dude.