Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Pitchfork 500

About three years ago, Pitchfork Media published a book called The Pitchfork 500: Our Guide To The Greatest Songs From Punk To The Present. In it, Pitchfork claimed to "condense thirty years of essential music into the ultimate chronological playlist, each song advancing the narrative and, by extension, the music itself." They also claimed to do a lot of other fantastic things, like "reflect the way listeners are increasingly processing music—by song rather than by album," and prove that Baby Boomers have been mistaken, and annoying, in claiming that their era was a better era for music than the post-Baby Boomer era.

Shortly after the book came out, I walked into Borders and took a good look. Here, courtesy of Wikipedia, is what I saw:

The Pitchfork 500

Take your time. Soak it in. It's hard to know where to start. I understand.

I will admit that I had some expectations. There would be a lot of alternative and indie rock. Many famous hit songs would be left off. Other than that, I wasn't quite sure what would be included.

The first thing that hit me was the writing. More on that later. The second thing that hit me was that, while I was familiar with a majority of the songs on their list, I was somewhat dismayed to realize that I was unfamiliar with roughly 200 of them. Maybe they were 200 songs that weren't any good. I probably wasn't missing anything. But still, my ego took a hit. I was supposed to know everything. Even though I was almost positive that all the songs in the Pitchfork 500 that I hadn't heard of weren't any good, I still felt like I needed to hear them. Maybe they sucked, but I had to know that they sucked.

Thus taking the phrase "Know your enemy" to heart, I decided that I needed to download every song on the Pitchfork 500 that I hadn't heard, realize that they stank, and then complain about it on my blog. So after work for a couple of evenings, I sat down with a pen and a piece of paper and painstakingly wrote down the names of all the songs in the Pitchfork 500 I'd either never heard, or at least couldn't recall off the top of my head. Sure, the easy thing to do would have been to just buy the book, but I couldn't stand the thought of bringing that ... thing into my home.

I went home and got about five songs in before I moved on to better things. About a year or so later, while trying to download something entirely unrelated, I noticed that some enterprising young individual had already compiled and uploaded the entire Pitchfork 500 onto the internet. Well, this was much easier. So I downloaded the entire, pre-compiled Pitchfork 500. And now I am going to tell you what I think of it.

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