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)


Paperhouse: On Halloween

It’s that time of year again. Your Facebook is flooded with invitations to Halloween parties, slasher fests, pumpkin patch frolicking, nights of horror — the list goes on. Yet upon attending these events, you are overwhelmed with downright bad costumes and a lack of Halloween spirit.

Invitations to these events include descriptions that tell girls to be whatever they want, as long as they add the word “slutty” to the costume description. Now, I’m all for expressing yourself, but what happened to good, clean Halloween fun that focused on ghouls, goblins, and witches instead of sexy nurses, teachers, and police officers?

This past week, I went to an event that embodied my idealized image of Halloween. Tucked away in Lawrenceville, Arsenal Bowling Lanes hosts a weekly college night on Tuesdays, complete with cheap bowling, booze, and a live band. This week, the bowling alley was decked out with skeletons, cobwebs, and the usual Halloween fare. The red velvet walls, the skeletons atop the alleyways, and the live band made for a great evening.

The band, aptly called The Graveyard Rockers, played psychobilly and surf rock tunes focused on zombies, Frankenstein, and all your favorite monsters. The tongue-in-cheek references to science fiction, horror, violence, and sex were quite a relief from the bevy of electronic dance music I’d grown accustomed to hearing during “Halloween” parties.

As soon as Thanksgiving comes, our ears will be assaulted with Christmas music; why isn’t this the case with Halloween music? If you dig around, you’ll find that there are some great Halloween anthems out there that bring together the dark, fun, and ultimately over-sexualized aspects of Halloween. Take a break from your usual playlists and crank up some psychobilly. I would recommend you start with the compilations Halloween Hootenanny and Halloween A Go-Go.

(Originally published in The Tartan)


Paperhouse: On VIA

If you haven’t left campus recently and aren’t Facebook friends with any of the coolest people in Pittsburgh, you might not be aware that VIA is happening this week.

“VIA? What the hell is that?” you may ask. Allow me to explain. Back in 2010, a couple of Pittsburgh friends decided that it was time for the city to have its own cutting-edge music and new media arts festival. Since then, VIA has presented collaborative performances, installations, mobile projects, lectures, and workshops through a yearly festival, as well as sporadic events throughout the year.

While you may be familiar with Electric Zoo, Movement, Mutek, Coachella, or some other big-name music festival, VIA is a little more unique. According to the VIA website, this event focuses on enabling Pittsburgh as a “nexus for young artists working at the borders of music, art, and technology.” This year’s festival brings a variety of artists you may not have heard of, such as Moodymann, Tiger & Woods, Nadastrom, Girl Unit, Julia Holter, and Andy Stott, to name a few. Even your esteemed author isn’t familiar with every band in attendance.

What I can tell you is this: If you’re truly interested in the intersection of sight and sound and like to get your groove on, VIA is the place to be. VIA has already gained all sorts of international acclaim and press for its festivals in the past, and has secured the top spot for a U.S. festival on Resident Advisor’s Top October Festivals list.

This is not an advertisement for VIA; rather, it is an unsolicited endorsement from your campus radio station. Like any festival, there are mistakes as a result of too much experimentation or poor foresight, but it looks like VIA has learned a lot from its two first years and has planned a wide variety of music. Get ready for some deep house, bedroom pop, cold wave, Moombahton, dub techno, UK Bass, nu disco, and so much more.

(Originally published in The Tartan)


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