Pitchfork et al

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Otis Westinghouse
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Pitchfork et al

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Sat Aug 04, 2007 4:02 am

I still read reviews in print more than anywhere else (The Word, Guardian, Observer, OMM and occasionally other music mags). Where do you go for regular online reviews that you like and more or less feel you might trust (other than Being There!).

I've never really looked much at Pitchfork (I seem to recall them being slagged here and it tainted my view), but after a quick trawl through, I'm rather impressed by the approach of the reviews, reasonably detailed, well written, intelligent for the most part, even if I don't agree with all the ratings. And I love the '8.4' approach to rating - '8' is so unsubtle, let alone '4' when it's out of 5!

I'd be keen to hear of online sources you regularly visit and like.
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Postby Who Shot Sam? » Sat Aug 04, 2007 9:09 am

I'm not a big fan of Pitchfork because I feel that too often the reviewers are trying to show off and let everyone know how smart and "with it" they are. There's a great site called Metacritic (http://www.metacritic.com) that consolidates reviews of new releases from a number of US, Canadian and UK sources, including Pitchfork. There are also hyperlinks available to many of the reviews.

If I want to find out what people are saying about a particular album, that's usually where I go. Because it aggregates so many different opinions, it's a fairly reliable barometer. Of course, if there are only 8-10 reviews and one of them is unusually negative, it can skew the "score" they assign to the album. But I'm not interested so much in the score as I am the various opinions.

Here is what they have for the new Prince album, for example...

http://www.metacritic.com/music/artists/prince/planetearth
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Postby cosmos » Sat Aug 04, 2007 3:25 pm

I don't really trust many critics anymore. The All Music Guide sends out a weekly new release e-mail. I peruse that, and if anything looks interesting, I listen to the snippets and decide for myself if it sounds good.

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Postby bambooneedle » Sat Aug 04, 2007 4:10 pm

I sometimes check out http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/default.htm

Not always the best written reviews but many good engaging interviews with local and visiting musicians. It's a good place from where to start and branch out to other sources, they try to cover a lot.

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Postby Mechanical Grace » Sat Aug 04, 2007 5:19 pm

Who Shot Sam? wrote:I'm not a big fan of Pitchfork because I feel that too often the reviewers are trying to show off and let everyone know how smart and "with it" they are.


I felt the same way about Magnet, for which I had high hopes as it comes from mellow Philadelphia. Annoying as hell, isn't it? It's like the talk radio of music reviewing: there's an assumption that the stronger the opinions, the better, and the more interesting. It results in everyone trying to out-cool one another. Opinions are like assholes... and I should know! 8)

I have to say, also, that I think that's what makes The Word so special. The writers have been around the block; they're self-confident enough to be informative first, clever second. And they're pretty clever.

I'll check that site later, Sam-- sounds cool.

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Postby Mike Boom » Sat Aug 04, 2007 6:12 pm

I dont believe anything "critics" say anymore, its just got ridiculous. Word of mouth from boards such as these and BCB are far more reliable. The best thing about the net is you can usually get a listen to anything from either an ITUNES snippet or download one song, or from the Hype Machine and make up your own mind.
Ive read so many derogartory reviews of the new (or at least just released in the US, whats with that?) Magic Numbers record its insane. I read one review accusing it of being too happy in these troubled times of war and terrorist threats etc ,and an other saying that it was too miserable and not as happy sounding as their debut album. Its all bullshit basically.

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By the way Those The Brokes is of course great.
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Postby Boy With A Problem » Sat Aug 04, 2007 7:24 pm

Mechanical Grace wrote:I have to say, also, that I think that's what makes The Word so special. The writers have been around the block; they're self-confident enough to be informative first, clever second. And they're pretty clever.


Are you serious? They have as bad a hipper than thou attitude as I've ever seen. Plus they're horribly inaccurate - in a recent issue they referred to James Salant's Leaving Dirty Jersey as Leaving Dirty Vegas - in the next issue they reviewed the book and described Riverside as one of the worst neighborhoods in LA. (In that same issue they said that Fountains of Wayne hailed from Illinois). They need to get an atlas.

I still buy it though.
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Postby Mechanical Grace » Sun Aug 05, 2007 12:19 am

Boy With A Problem wrote:Are you serious? They have as bad a hipper than thou attitude as I've ever seen.


Ha! Interesting... maybe their opinions align with my own so well, I don't hear the attitude. But I don't think so. What drives me nuts about a lot of mags, and which I don't find in Word, is the flavor-of-the-month school of reviewing of bands. Some act you've never heard of is the Next Big Thing in one issue, and like clockwork the next issue portrays them, in passing, as so five minutes ago, and such a hype-fest. And I like the longer view that The Word takes.

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Postby Otis Westinghouse » Sun Aug 05, 2007 6:03 pm

I agree, I think they're very genuine and straightforward enthusiasts, like us lot. I can't think of a single journalist there who is striving to be hip, it just isn't that sort of mag.

Mike Boom wrote:I dont believe anything "critics" say anymore, its just got ridiculous. Word of mouth from boards such as these and BCB are far more reliable. The best thing about the net is you can usually get a listen to anything from either an ITUNES snippet or download one song, or from the Hype Machine and make up your own mind.
Ive read so many derogartory reviews of the new (or at least just released in the US, whats with that?) Magic Numbers record its insane. I read one review accusing it of being too happy in these troubled times of war and terrorist threats etc ,and an other saying that it was too miserable and not as happy sounding as their debut album. Its all bullshit basically.

P.S
By the way Those The Brokes is of course great.


Good point re iTunes - I must say I've never actually realised you could click and here a sample, I thought it was buy or nothing! (They don't indicate this sampling aspect, it seems.) This LP is a good case in point. I loved their first LP, mainly as it had 4 or so outstanding songs and an original vibe to it. I ran a mile from the second one a) as it has probably the worst title in music history (or is it a clever ref to something I'm missing) and b) as it had such awful reviews. All the ones I saw (sources as cited above) said it was a total loss of form in terms of a lack of strong hooks and loads of too long songs (which seems to be reflected in the lack of hits and that all the summer festival coverage of them this year on the TV only featured the first LP's hits!). That said, maybe I'm missing a gem or two from the second LP that would make life more complete, the way Morning's Eleven, probably my favourite now of first one, did.

I think it's good to use a range of critical sources to help guide judgement. Maybe Pitchfork are a bit up their arse and trying to be clever, but they generally seem to be intelligent and well worded. I don't think critics have got better or worse in general, although I grew up loving the school of verbose pretension that was represented by Morley, Penman et al in the NME c. 1980 and miss some of that originality. It's also a nice thing to have regular sources you know as you can often expect to agree/disagree. I will always take note of an Alexis Petridis recommendation in the Guardian because he's tremendously witty but also has very sound judgement. I also enjoy the fact that he's 10 or more years younger than me and so has many different reference points.

Snippets or whole songs via the splendid (if often quite selective) Hype Machine are a fantastic boon, but the world is full of LPs that are more than the sum of their parts and/or that don't really gel in your head until play 4 or 5. There's so much out there that having people to help sift and point is a great aid. I also like to read what they write about music I know well.

I do belive I asked the self-same question a few years back, maybe that's where I last saw Pitchfork being dissed, and you or someone reffed metacritic, WSS. Thanks for the reminder. I'd forgotten all about it. It's great - I love the breadth of the overview, and from both sides of this 'ere pond (and maybe 'Boo's pond too!).

What's BCB? Searched and didn't find:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BCB

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Postby Boy With A Problem » Sun Aug 05, 2007 6:28 pm

Otis Westinghouse wrote:I agree, I think they're very genuine and straightforward enthusiasts, like us lot. I can't think of a single journalist there who is striving to be hip, it just isn't that sort of mag.


Mark Ellen, the editor, is a pompous wanker - and it is that sort of mag.

I do like the fact that their record reviews don't carry any star ratings.
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Postby Otis Westinghouse » Sun Aug 05, 2007 7:35 pm

Pompous, sure, but hip? A bit self-consciously eclectic and clever, maybe. Ellen has always been a bit of a tosser, but it doesn't get in the way. Mojo and Uncut seem to correspond to a concept of '50 quid dad', as he's come to be known - Paul Weller is god, etc. The past was always better... Obviously good in many ways, but a little too serious and reverential in general. The Word was founded on the premise of a couple of very experienced music mag supremos wanting to do the sort of mag they'd always wanted to do, and to me it fills a niche very well that the others don't. I love star ratings, especially 8.4 etc., but I agree, it's great that they don't here. It harks back to the NME et al as was. That's too black and white, let's be a little subtler. And let's only review a modest selection of what's out there.
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Postby Mike Boom » Sun Aug 05, 2007 8:14 pm

Im not sure what the story is with the American release of Those The Brokes, but it seems to be missing a track or two from the European release - no Carls Song - perhaps a reaction to the "too long" criticisms.
But I really dont see what the critics are griping about on this record. Im only on my third or so listen, but damn, it sounds just great to me - gorgeous Robert Kirby orchestrations (of Nick Drake fame) on several tracks, and in general seems to be a record made by a band who have matured a bit, and are stretching out a little. There are a couple of 6 min 30 tracks - ooooo big deal. I love it to bits so far. But then they are just one of those bands that seem to click for me, every note they play seems to command my attention, not sure why, I just think they have a great great sound and write great great pop songs. Running Out, Boy and Take Me or Leave Me are all favourites already.

I love reading about music, but can't be arsed with reviews these days, they always seem to have an agenda or an angle are overly cynical, or trying to look cool, young kids slagging stuff off to try and ape Lester Bangs or whoever. Everyones a critic nowadays. Id rather read an article about the recording process or making of a record, or a band history.


BCB is Black Cat Bone is an offshoot from the old Mojo Music message board http://www.blackcatbone.34sp.com/phpBB2/index.php
echos myron like a siren

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Postby Otis Westinghouse » Mon Aug 06, 2007 1:49 am

Looks like fun, and entertainingly diverse.

http://www.blackcatbone.34sp.com/phpBB2 ... hp?t=17567

Where would I begin with that topic?

OK, despite its title (which I note you don't try and defend), I will check out TTB!
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Postby BlueChair » Mon Aug 06, 2007 8:46 am

Metacritic is also my favourite in that it averages out all of the reviews it can find. Unfortunately, whenever Pitchfork slags off an album that doesn't deserve it, the score falls way down. But it's still pretty accurate I've found.
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Postby Mike Boom » Mon Aug 06, 2007 8:53 am

Otis - Well yeah, I dont know whats with that title.

BCB is indeed a pretty diverse crowd, and as such , can be rather frustrating , but if you can ignore the odd contrary, crazy or ill mannered thread - like the one you linked to - then you will find a wealth of knowledge in a lot of the posters there - and there is definitely no shortage of Bowie fans.
echos myron like a siren

with endurance like the liberty bell

and he tells you of the dreamers

but he's cracked up like the road

and he'd like to lift us up, but we're a very heavy load

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Postby Mike Boom » Mon Aug 06, 2007 8:56 am

Blue - shouldnt you be on a honeymoon or something?

Welcome to the "married mans" hell, I mean, club!
echos myron like a siren

with endurance like the liberty bell

and he tells you of the dreamers

but he's cracked up like the road

and he'd like to lift us up, but we're a very heavy load

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BlueChair
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Postby BlueChair » Mon Aug 06, 2007 8:58 am

lol - we leave tomorrow night!
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Postby Bad Ambassador » Mon Aug 06, 2007 11:12 am

Mike Boom wrote:BCB is indeed a pretty diverse crowd, and as such , can be rather frustrating , but if you can ignore the odd contrary, crazy or ill mannered thread - like the one you linked to - then you will find a wealth of knowledge in a lot of the posters there - and there is definitely no shortage of Bowie fans.


You can say that again. I enjoy it though, and it has pushed me in the direction of any number of records I wouldn't otherwise have touched.

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Postby Boy With A Problem » Mon Aug 06, 2007 12:16 pm

Otis Westinghouse wrote:Pompous, sure, but hip? A bit self-consciously eclectic and clever, maybe. Ellen has always been a bit of a tosser, but it doesn't get in the way. Mojo and Uncut seem to correspond to a concept of '50 quid dad', as he's come to be known - Paul Weller is god, etc. The past was always better... Obviously good in many ways, but a little too serious and reverential in general. The Word was founded on the premise of a couple of very experienced music mag supremos wanting to do the sort of mag they'd always wanted to do, and to me it fills a niche very well that the others don't. I love star ratings, especially 8.4 etc., but I agree, it's great that they don't here. It harks back to the NME et al as was. That's too black and white, let's be a little subtler. And let's only review a modest selection of what's out there.


I pick up all 3 mags on a monthly basis and each have their good and bad points. But I think Word (or The Word) comes off having a superiority complex over the other two, because of the reasons you list - "music mag supremos" as you say. And as much of a "50 quid dad" weller is - the last couple of Word covers have featured 100 quid grandads in Leonard Cohen and Van Morisson. (I'm not sure what I mean by that - other than we aren't exactly breaking new ground with Leonard and Van). But my main thing - when trying to be hipper - you've got to be accurate and I don't think the Word employs fact checkers. And as slick as Word looks - there are way more similarities with the other two mags than there are differences.
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Postby Otis Westinghouse » Mon Aug 06, 2007 2:00 pm

Weller isn't a 50 quid dad, his supporters are. Perhaps you haven't heard that expression - it's been used quite a bit recently for the demogrpahic figure who doesn't blanch at spending £50 on CDs/DVDs on his trip to town. Dopesn't apply to me - I'm not even a £10 dad! Agree there's a whiff of superiority about The Word, I still maintain it's the best thing to get due to its diversity, quality of writing and wit, but as an editor, a lack of fact checking disturbs me. You've got to admit the Word CDs are the best going - much better to have a bunch of new stuff, from which I've picked up some interesting tips, rather than tracks chosen by Weller (as one of the others does this month!) or covers of an artist's songs. I think The Word ones aren't as good as before, though. A little too obscure often, with some quite middling stuff. Still, this month they have Johnny Marr on the over and lead off with Rilo Kiley and have a New Pornographers track, so good news to me.
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