As I sit down to write this week’s Paperhouse, I am a little saddened. While looking through my past rants in this column, it became shockingly clear to me that I have a very decisive opinion regarding music. In columns past, I’ve endorsed this album or that subgenre, or belittled some artist or criticized a musical trend. While I typically encourage you to believe every word I write, today I want to make it perfectly clear that your music taste is your own. Do not let a magazine, blog, or other individual dictate it.
The music you listen to should be entirely up to you and is truly one of the few choices you have in life. With the wide variety of ways to be exposed to new artists and genres, it makes little sense to rely on the opinions of others. Granted, there are probably too many musicians releasing music today, but that is not a sufficient reason to take someone else’s advice instead of sorting through what is available on your own. As consumers we have become inundated with musical output, with blogs advocating one album this hour and then posting on Twitter about an entirely different one minutes later. It’s important to remember to breathe.
Over the upcoming winter break, after you listen to your finals study playlist several hundred times — I recommend filling it with as much deep house as possible — spend some time figuring out what type of music you actually like and, more importantly, why you like it. What is it about a song that strikes resonance with you? Is it that catchy lyric, that garbled bass line, or that wonderful dissonance? Whatever it is, take note and then go out and find more music that fills that need. In the end, it doesn’t matter what music you like, as long you know why you like it independently of anyone else’s opinion.
There comes a time in every boy’s life when he becomes a man. For some, it is when they lose their virginity. For others, it is their first drink or their first fight. For others still (hint: Carnegie Mellon students), it is running their first program. For me, however, it was when I first heard Foals.
Foals is an indie rock band from England. The core members of the band started their musical careers in a small math rock group based in Oxford, but they disbanded and created the band Foals in 2005. Moving away from hard math rock, a very rhythmically complex genre, and into a more math-inspired indie rock feel, the band released its first album in 2008, titled Antidotes. It was this album that turned me into a man.
I don’t remember exactly how I came upon the album, but it was good enough that I actually went out and bought a physical copy. Never before had I found something that challenged me musically and intrigued me as much as Foals did. So when its second album, Total Life Forever, was announced in 2010, I had to preorder it. Total Life Forevercontinued with the band’s departure from math rock into a much more indie (some would say accessible) sound, but it remained uniquely identifiable as Foals.
The band’s new single, “Inhaler,” dropped last Monday. Once again, Foals moves even further away from math rock and Antidotes. Put simply, “Inhaler” is less math, more muscle. The album, called Holy Fire, comes out in February, and you can bet your plaid pantaloons that I’ll be preordering it as well. Foals isn’t just the funkiest, most fun-loving band out there. Foals has the musical genius that bands strive for years to emulate, and it does something that very few other bands can do: hange its sound, and remain just as good as it was in the first place — if not better.
“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.