Paperhouse: On Pitchfork

Pitchfork is incredibly pretentious.” “After I saw the review that Pitchforkgave my favorite album, I’ll never read them again.” “ Pitchfork doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”

It’s not uncommon to hear rhetoric like this when you talk to hardcore music enthusiasts. While I have issues with the way music journalism sitePitchfork operates, it’s disconcerting that there are people who unequivocally discredit everything Pitchfork does.

Pitchfork, established in Chicago in 1996, is one of the most widely known music journalism sources in the nation, coming into existence around the time when college rock burst into the mainstream. In the almost two decades since its creation, Pitchfork has become an indie taste maker and unrelenting hype machine. Predictably, people tend to either love or hate Pitchfork.

It’s not that hard to justify disliking Pitchfork. Its rating scale is unbalanced; its review process is seemingly skewed toward music that fits its projected image as opposed to the quality of the music, and their reviews tend to be pretentious ramblings that sometimes act as soapboxes instead of legitimate, in-depth critiques (see its review of The Airbone Toxic Event’s self-titled debut). However, the staff at Pitchfork undeniably has an expansive knowledge of popular music and a fine-tuned understanding of the type of music that its audience seeks out.

I don’t hold a lot of faith in Pitchfork’s reviews anymore, but the sheer amount of cultural knowledge that it brings to its reviews — information on contemporaries, influences, film culture, current events, and analyses of local music scenes— is impressive, to say the least. It’s completely legitimate to criticize Pitchfork, but to discredit it entirely is a gross oversight.

(Originally published in The Tartan)