Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Playing along at home with Pitchfork's top 50 albums of 2014 : pt 3/3


This year, I'm going to expand my work with the puzzle of anticipating Pitchfork's albums list. I've put together, having seen the 'Honorable Mentions' only, my top 50 anticipated albums for inclusion on the list. They are ranked in order, though it's worth noting that it's fairly ridiculous for me to do this and expect any amount of accuracy. Anyhow. Based on BNM status, album score, Pitchfork's coverage of the artist in 2014, and my general inklings, here are my anticipated picks for Pitchfork's Top 50 Albums of the Year:

The "maybe 50":

50. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Pinata 8.0
49. United Nations - The Next Four Years 8.1
48. Owen Pallett - In Conflict 8.0
47. Ariana Grande - My Everything 7.7
46. Agalloch - The Serpent and the Sphere 8.3
45. Clark - Clark 8.3
44. Mr Twin Sister 8.1
43. Ought - More Than Any Other Day 8.4
42. Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers 8.4
41. Schoolboy Q - Oxymoron 7.8
40. Brian Eno / Karl Hyde - High Life 8.5
39. VA - Hyperdub 10.1 8.5
38. Thou - Heathen - 8.4
37. Azealia Banks - Broke With Expensive Taste 8.0
36. Taylor Swift - 1989 --
35. Hundred Waters - The Moon Rang Like A Bell 8.3
34. Perfect Pussy - Say Yes to Love 8.6
33. A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Sea When Absent 8.5
32. YG - My Krazy Life 8.1
31. Lykke Li - I Never Learn 8.4
30. Shabazz Palaces - Lese Majesty 8.2
29. Ex Hex - Rips 8.4
28. Ben Frost - A U R O R A 8.5
27. Pharmakon - Bestial Burden 8.4
26. Flying Lotus - You're Dead 8.3
25. Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else 8.7
24. Iceage - Plowing Into the Field of Love 8.5
23. White Lung - Deep Fantasy 8.6
22. Arca - Xen 8.4
21. Spoon - They Want My Soul 8.6
20. Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness 8.3
19. Real Estate - Atlas 8.8
18. Vince Staples - Hell Can Wait EP 8.5
17. Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animal 8.6
16. Caribou - Our Love 8.6
15. Perfume Genius - Too Bright 8.5
14. Mac DeMarco - Salad Days 8.5
13. Future Islands - Singles 8.0
12. Aphex Twin - Syro 8.7
11. St. Vincent - St. Vincent 8.6
10. Grouper - Ruins 8.8
9. Swans - To Be Kind 9.2
8. Todd Terje - It's Album Time 8.7
7. How to Dress Well - What Is This Heart? 8.8
6. Ariel Pink - pom pom 8.8
5. Beyoncé - Beyoncé 8.8
4. The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream 8.8
3. Sun Kil Moon - Benji 9.2
2. FKA Twigs - LP1 8.8
1. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2 9.0


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~see a prettier version of this list @ jonk!

50. Ben Frost - A U R O R A
This feels like a very low ranking for Ben Frost, but Pitchfork has a way of ranking more obtuse and experimental albums fairly willy-nilly in the 30-50 range, unless it's a rockstar ambient guy like 0PN or Andy Stott. Maybe I should be expecting Andy in the 20-25 range. (-22)
49. Mr Twin Sister - Mr Twin Sister
I thought I'd see MTS in this chunk. Pitchfork's continually snubbed them throughout their career, which make it more frustrating that they keep this band in their pocket. (-5)
48. Clark - Clark
Welp, see my reaction for #50 here once more. (-3)
47. Shellac - Dude Incredible
Aha! I thought this might be ranked on this list, if not only on the merit of its truly incredible album cover alone. I still haven't heard it, so I didn't know whether or not it was top 50 material. (not ranked)
46. Ariana Grande - My Everything
Before everything goes to trash, can I just point out for a second that I am absolutely killing it right now? Thanks guys! Now that I've brought attention to myself, it's time for my rankings to be thrown off for the rest of the list. (+1)
45. Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers
If Andy can't get a high ranking in this list, who of his ilk will? Certainly Pharmakon, who I can't see being ranked outside of the 0s-20s. (-3)
44. A Sunny Day in Glasgow - Sea When Absent
Interesting. Not too surprising, I suppose, since this lists can often be roughly ranked in part on P4k's coverage of the band, and ASDiG didn't spend much time generating off-course headlines this year. (-11)
43. Madlib / Freddie Gibbs - Piñata
Nice! I'm glad to see this is in here. I wasn't sure it'd make the cut. (+7)
42. Owen Pallett - In Conflict
Owen! This is an exceptionally beautiful record. I have only heard it a few times, which I should remedy soon. It'd also be nice to see him play live again, now that he's got the fleshed out ensemble he toured with to promote this record. I wouldn't be too surprised to see him at P4k fest this year--this ranking doesn't hurt his chances. (+6)
41. Leon Vynehall - Music for the Unwind
Here's another record I haven't heard yet. I have read good things about it, so I don't feel too blindsided by its appearance here, though P4k's coverage has been pretty minimal. (not ranked)

I'm feeling pretty good about my rankings so far. 8 of the 41-50 slots were anticipated in my top 50, and 6 of those were anticipated my 41-50 slots. I had planned to re-rank every ten spots, but I'm going to continue moving ahead without doing any re-ranking.

40. Ty Segall - Manipulator
Finally! It's been a few years since Ty Segall has been championed in this list. I didn't anticipate this one's inclusion, but I'm glad it's on here. (not ranked)
39. Ought - More Than Any Other Day
Great album by a great new band, and a blurb featuring a Harvey Pekar quote? Yeah bebe! This would have been a ridiculous omission, but I did picture it up in the 'barely made it' portion of the list. (+4)
38. Hundred Waters - The Moon Rang Like a Bell
This album is so dreamy and wonderful! I can't wait for their audience to grow, but until it does, please do yourself a favor and seek them out now in the smallest venues they'll be playing for a while. (-3)
37. Perfect Pussy - Say Yes to Love
Another solid mid-thirties pick: this is as tight as you'll ever see this group--until they participate in the too-familiar career progression of releasing more and more accessible albums. (-3)
36. Tinashe - Aquarius
Flash back to seeing her with DJ Mustard this spring with a crowd as apathetic as any I've seen this side of Grouper opening for AnCo in 2009. Is Tinashe going to be a star in 2015? Is she already? (not ranked)
35. Shabazz Palaces - Lese Majesty
Shabazz Palaces is such a terrific ensemble. It hurts to see this here, but at least it's here, you know. Amazing production, terrific lyrics, gorgeous album art. (-5)
34. Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else
Aah! Here's an upset. I was overcompensating in my ranking of this at #25, though. I am not really on board the CN train (which is weird, because they are easily comparable to many of my favorite rock acts), so I wasn't sure where to put this one. (-10)
33. Rich Gang - Tha Tour Part 1
Aaah. Here's an actual upset. This is the point in this list where every unanticipated album is a loaded surprise--that something I thought might be in the site's top 30 albums didn't rank in their top 70 (including the Honorable Mentions). What else could appear here? (not ranked)
32. White Lung - Deep Fantasy
I still haven't heard this White Lung record. I expect to soon be disappointed I didn't listen to it earlier, though! (-10)
31. Taylor Swift - 1989
I knew it I knew it I knew it!! Only five points off, too. Hey, I should be publishing this list. Still, I really didn't know it. It felt weird to have ranked 1989 on this list in anticipation, just as it feels weird to see Pithfork rank an album they refused to review as the 31st best album of the year. How does this make sense? Pitchfork, I know you aren't listening, but please--get over yourself, and if you're going to cover pop artists, review their albums! (+5)
30. Iceage - Plowing Into the Field of Love
I still have no idea what Iceage is doing, which is great for me as a fan since only a year ago I might've told you I had them figured out. (-6)
29. How to Dress Well - What Is This Heart?
I've got my foot in my mouth now, because yesterday when discussing my picks with my roommate he told me there'd be no way HtDW would see the top ten here. The #29 slot matches with his anticipated placement of the album. This is another instance of my unfamiliarity with the album clouding my judgement. Next year, more research! This ties with A U R O R A as my biggest mistake so far. (-22)
28. Pharmakon - Bestial Burden
I'll take it! This is a really amazing album. I was disappointed with the snub of "Body Betrays Itself" in their songs list as it's one of my favorite tracks of 2014. Please, 2015, bring me to a Pharmakon show! (-1)
27. YG - My Krazy Life
Good placement, here in the upper 20s, for a terrific collaboration of a solo album. Though TG's the star here, I figured Mustard's involvement guaranteed this album a spot in the middle of this list. (+5)
26. Ex Hex - Rips
I felt like I did such a poor job anticipating the order of the top of the tracks list, but I'm realizing now that the key here (granted, this is a self-serving rationalization) could simply be picking the right range for tracks. This would be a fun thing to compile heavy stats on. A pile of bonus points to Ex Hex for using one of my most-used words in describing rock and roll for a title. (+3)
25. Azealia Banks - Broke With Expensive Taste
Nice! And what an impressive move, to land here within weeks of releasing her debut album. It's also a bit of an encouragement for Benji's rating that Pitchfork will highly rate the work of someone who spends an exceeding amount of their words talking weird garbage on people (not that that hasn't been proved many times before). (+12)
24. Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animal
At the end of the day yesterday I was wondering if Pitchfork might not group the Parquet Courts/Parkay Quarts lps in one slot, as they did with Ty Segall's terrific 2012 albums on their albums list that year. Nope! No thanks Parkay Quarts!! (-7)
23. Lykke Li - I Never Learn
Note the increasing tubulence in my predicitions. (+8)
22. Future Islands - Singles
Hey! Not bad. At least I didn't forget these guys like I did in the songs list. The blurb here modestly calls Future Island's explosive 2014 "kind of heartwarming" but if you asked me, I'd tell you it was glorious and fist-poundingly redeeming.(-9)
21. Brian Eno / Karl Hyde - High Life
Wow! I'd completely lost hope on this. Great success. Eno hasn't made it on these lists, even with his recent quality albums, in a bit, so this is an especially exciting move. (+20)
20. Vince Staples - Hell Can Wait EP
A fiting ranking of this. Glad it's in the top 20, and I look forward to this EP propelling Vince Staples's career in 2015. (-2)
19. Sharon Van Etten - Are We There
Until a track from this album came up on Monday's list, I had entirely forgotten about Sharon Van Etten. I'll take this ranking, though, and give it the benefit of the doubt. That said, it means one of the albums I anticipated for the top 20 isn't even in the top 70, which is always a weird thing. Who will it be? Mac DeMarco? Perfume Genius? Angel Olsen? Flying Lotus? I really can't see anything else not ranking. If it's Real Estate, I'll be upset, but I guess there's a chance of that as well. (not ranked)
18. Arca - Xen
This album really couldn't go anywhere else on this list. Pitchfork's latched on with Arca and his work with Kanye and FKA twigs since they breifly covered a track from Stretch 2 and the release of his &&&&& mix, which gets points for having a title like one of my mixes. (+4)
17. Flying Lotus - You're Dead!
This one was also sort of stuck in the upper 20. This is a really fun album, and a great addition to the Flying Lotus oeuvre. I appreciate the blurb's connecting of dots from this lp to 'Enter the Void', which seems obvious now but is something I hadn't yet thought of. (+6)
16. St. Vincent - St. Vincent
This feels like a big upset! St. Vincent's great album felt like a top-tenner to me, but I will concede that there were a lot of top-tenners released this year. (-5)
15. Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire for No Witness
Music as solitary and affecting as this (who's going to be bumping Angel Olsen with friends, and who'll be listening to BYFfNW on their bus rides home?) tends not to be discussed as often in the sometimes-tabloidy indie site headlines, and much more power to this for that. (+5)
14. Real Estae - Atlas
Real Estate feels like the band that could crank out 20 years of a career in as solid and gratifying a way as Spoon has, and I'm glad to be around for it. Keep on truckin', you Deadheads! (+5)
13. Spoon - They Want My Soul
Hey! Speaking of Spoon, right? It feels like it's been a minute since Spoon dropped as solid and exciting an album as They Want My Soul, and it came at a great time. Pitchfork rated this higher than I thought they would, but I guess that's been a trend of the 11-20 slots. (+8)
12. Mac DeMarco - Salad Days
Oh Macintosh, such a joy to see you here. Even though the title of this album always makes me think of an old Vines song (or a playfully pedantic facebook thread that commented on its meaning upon the record's announcement), it's an album that feels open to interpretation more than his goofy fist releases. There are comparisons I could make to the Smith Westerns' career trajectory, but enough differences that things still feel comfortable for his future. (+2)
11. Perfume Genius - Too Bright
Yes!! Good good good. I was nervous he'd be the one nixed. Really, though, who from the 20 isn't going to make this list? The five possible omissions I posited when Sharon came in at 19 were all included in the last seven slots. I guess it is possible they'd DQ Bey for releasing her album last year, but that seems a little ridiculous. They could also nix Grouper, but that feels unlikely given how terrific that album is and that they put two songs from it on the songs list. ugh! (+4)

OK, pressing on:

10. Caribou - Our Love
Sleek and lovely Caribou! I like the blurb's discussion of this album's place in the Dan Snaith catalog. I actually haven't listened to this album much, or perhaps even three times. Its time will come. (+6)
9. Ariel Pink - pom pom
I'll take this placement. This album is so weird and I love it. Doesn't bode well for SKM on the internet troll precedent, though. (-3)
8. Todd Terje - It's Album Time
Such a beautiful record! It plays a lot like a greatest hits collection. To be clear, it is a bit of a hits colelction, having gathered big Todd Terje hits from the last few years in a compelling and glorious way. Rather than other albums-as-greatest hits (see the unlikely(?) BC favorite David Guetta, who, like DJ Mustard, could pass off an album as a "NOW That's What I Call Music" compilation), It's Album Time has all of the crucial pacing aspects of a 10/10 studio album. (0, hurray!)
7. Sun Kil Moon - Benji
6. Swans - To Be Kind
In a year in which many of my cultural favorites were towering works by or featuring old white men (To Be Kind, Benji, 'The Great Beauty'), it was a fruitful practice to try and examine what I could or couldn't relate to in the way these works portrayed the psyche/experience of the stern or forelorn white male in advancing age. Even when setting [the more loaded] matters of race and gender aside, what was it about these works that resonate so strongly with such a significant block of the mid-twenties blog-consuming demographic? Do these works transcend the age divide? Celebrate it? All three were preoccupied with sexuality: Benji's starkness, To Be Kind's unsettling warmth, 'The Great Beauty''s reliance on nostalgia. Of these, Swans felt to me the most 'now'. It might be easy to suggest that in a way all adults are old children, but To Be Kind reminds those listening that adults can also be old punks, old freaks, old us. (+3)
5. Grouper - Ruins
Astonishing! More or less, I mean. It feels terrific seeing Grouper here, getting the sort of attention few in her Kranky class have gotten. It makes sense, though, that were any of her contemporaries to produce an album that'd rank at Pithcfork's #5 slot it would be Liz Harris, who has spent years making wonderfully affecting quiet records. I would be thrilled to compare Grouper's role in ambient music in 2014-5 with Deafheaven's role in black metal in 2013-4. (+5)

At this point, Beyonce is out, right? There's no way WoD,FKA, and RtJ won't be here. I could see Aphex Twin snubbing Syro, and it's probably what I'd do given the options here, but I can't imagine anything other than a technicality would knock one of these records out of these last four slots. Onward, Christian soldiers!!

4. Aphex Twin - Syro
And here I was, thinking we were done with old white men on this list! This album's a lot of fun to listen to, but don't leave it on around MY old white man, because he will turn it off and tell you he thinks your CD was skipping (thanks Dad!). I was a little disappointed by Syro, and this of course is not because I don't respect Richard D James's artistry, but because I respect it so much. I'll let this slide, but I can't pass by to #3 without comparing this ranking to Rolling Stone's #1 AotY slot going to U2. That's all. (+8)
3. The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream
A modern classic. I have listened to this so many times that the first seconds now feel to me as powerful as hearing the first burbles from 'In the Flowers' or the buzzing from "2+2=5". So go on and indulge yourself. That's right! Kick off your shoes, put your feet up, lean back, and just enjoy the melodies. After all, music soothes even the savage beast. (+1)
2. FKA twigs - LP1
A wonderful performance by FKA twigs, who is a really remarkable performer and songwriter. That said, I feel the sound of the music is what makes LP1 truly compelling. If I have one criticism of FKA twigs, it's that she seems to overvalue her role in this music. As long as things stay as they are in the instrumentation of her albums and her live show, I feel FKA twigs is best addressed as an ensemble. Just as Joanna Newsom's immense talent and accomplishment is elevated to significant ends when performed in conjunction with the members of her band (who I love despite knowing the names of--see?), the role of Arca here is vital. The imminent discovery, once I scroll one inch further down my screen, of Run the Jewels in the #1 spot is a testement to the things they can accomplish when working as an ensemble. "Boy, we can do much more together." This is a tricky spot for solo artists--putting others' work under your name, I mean. I'm not saying that FKA twigs will only be able to make things right when she adds Arca's name to hers, a la ya Thrift Shop bois, but I will say that I think it's at least a bit appalling that Pitchfork's 3-paragraph blurb for this album here doesn't mention Arca once. Remember, 100 people made My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. (0)
1. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2
This had to be the record of the year. Why? Not because it was easy, but because it was hard as nails, and that's what really gets the people going. In a year where Pitchfork's punk coverage felt lacking (come on, guys!), this seemed a defacto pick for both the best hip hop and best punk albums of the year. This is a record for driving to, for playing at parties, for working out, for quoting, for feeding your brain on the way to a protest. The Zack De La Rocha feature here was especially awesome here, because who better embodies angry punk rap catharsis? Well, for starters, Killer Mike and El-P. They didn't get here because this was punishing to listen to, though. They got here because they made this energy a blast to absorb and reflect. RUN THE JEWELS FOR PRESIDENT.

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