Hey Everybody, It’s Time To Argue Over Pitchfork’s Best Albums List

Dec 19th, 2008 // 59 Comments

This is what you’ve all been waiting for, right?

THE GOOD: Nos. 50-41 would have made an awesome alternate-universe top 10, what with Marnie Stern, Ponytail, High Places, and Beach House all being within. Alas.
THE BAD: I will not quibble with the No. 1 choice and the reasons for its placement being wholly attributed to its comforting throwback nature (“The threads of Brian Wilson’s intricate coastal pop, Appalachian folk, modern indie rock, Grateful Dead jams, and other influences are masterfully synthesized in the band’s harmonies and simply orchestrated but constantly shifting instrumental arrangements”… “pastoral tendencies”); instead, I will just chalk its absurdly high placement up to “yet another reason why this year needs to be put out to pasture ASAP.”
THE WHAAA? Those who “follow” Pitchfork as a hobby probably won’t be surprised by any of the picks for the top 10—the fake ‘Fork top 10 posted by the NME earlier this week, which was reportedly based off the site’s highest-numbered reviews of the year, had a remarkable overlap with the real one. It even got No Age’s No. 3 ranking right! (The only album from the proposed top 10 that didn’t make the real one: Fucked Up’s The Chemistry Of Common Life, which came in at No. 17.)



1. Fleet Foxes, Sun Giant EP / Fleet Foxes
2. Portishead, Third
3. No Age, Nouns
4. Cut Copy, In Ghost Colours
5. Deerhunter, Microcastle / Weird Era Cont.
6. TV On The Radio, Dear Science
7. Vampire Weekend
8. M83, Saturdays = Youth
9. Hercules & Love Affair
10. DJ/rupture, Uproot
11. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III
12. Lindstrøm, Where You Go I Go Too
13. Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Part I: Fourth World War
14. Air France, No Way Down
15. Crystal Castles
16. Vivian Girls
17. Fucked Up, The Chemistry Of Common Life
18. The Mae Shi, HLLYH
19. The Walkmen, You & Me
20. Fuck Buttons, Street Horrrsing
21. Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak
22. Santogold
23. Hot Chip, Made In The Dark
24. Gang Gang Dance, Saint Dymphna
25. Titus Andronicus, The Airing Of Grievances

(26-50 are at the link.)

The 50 Best Albums Of 2008 [Pitchfork]

  1. Freakytrigger

    @Nunya B: As the giver of that 7.1 to Santogold, I’m glad it made it onto the list. The stuff I disliked at the time of reviewing stopped annoying me so much, and the stuff I liked stayed good. Obviously other staffers liked it well enough too.

  2. AL

    i thought i didn’t like crystal castles, until i actually listened to it a few times. i think it’s a fun album, but then i know next to nothing about electronic music.

  3. Halfwit

    @Freakytrigger: animated .gif of jon stewart fanning himself with flashing “Oh my God” text.

    @Nunya B: I’m sorry. I love Made in the Dark so hard it’s a little scary.

    Without piggybacking on Stereogum’s post-mortem (heaven forbid), I really agree with p’fork’s analysis of Vampire Weekend. I settled on a different quote than the stereogum did, however:

    At the end of the day, all they’ve done is craft an album of crisp, endlessly replayable guitar pop songs with expressive, detail-heavy lyrics and charming music that serves as a welcome antidote to today’s more overly compressed sounds. How dare they.

  4. Maura Johnston

    @Freakytrigger: hi tom!

    yeah, you know, i think a lot of the people who are like ‘OMG PITCHFORK GAVE THIS A 7.1 IN APRIL HOW CAN IT BE GOOD NOW’ are forgetting (intentionally or not?) the whole idea of the ‘grower.’ shoot, the hercules & love affair album was one of those for me.

    of course this could get into a whole discussion of whether the internet allows for records to grow on you etc etc.

  5. Anonymous

    Fleet Foxes is a pretty safe but unexciting choice, for a online magazine that claims to be the flag bearer of underground music. Happy to so the ridiculous backlash against Vampire Weekend is ceasing and for the high placement of Portishead, No Age and the Erykah Badu albums.

    And thank god there is no Gaslight Anthem.

  6. Anonymous

    @AL: who says ‘knowing’ about XYZ genre is a prerequisite for liking something.

  7. AL

    @sofatruck: ehh, i meant more in the sense of having an informed critical opinion, as opposed to just liking/disliking something. i don’t understand all the negativity directed toward the album in the comments, but maybe it’s because they know something i don’t, like that what CC is doing has been done before, but better. or that it’s extremely easy to do so long as you have wealthy parents willing to buy you a mac book. etc.

    (and i don’t mean to imply that cultivated critical opinions necessarily exist on a higher plane than basic likes/dislikes. i personally enjoy the CC album, and if gaining knowledge about the genre means losing that pleasure i get from listening to it, i’m not sure that’s a positive outcome.)

  8. mhulot

    Maybe it’s not surprising, maybe there’s something vaguely annoying about Pitchfork’s general tone (in all things, not just the list), etc. – maybe, but, on the other hand, this is one of the better lists I’ve seen so far, and if not exactly adventurous it is relatively diverse (so happy to see Erykah Badu up there, even if I’m baffled how anyone could prefer the Fleet Foxes to Badu’s new one… I’m not exactly a FF hater, and they’re certainly preferable to other recent country-tinged bearded critical darlings from Seattle I could name, but don’t hear much to get excited about in the songs I’ve heard). And Pitchfork does stand by its convictions (they probably have more unique-ish picks on their list than most others, not counting lists made by individual critics, who are naturally more eclectically-inclined than grouped lists), which is kind of admirable even if you find those convictions to be occasionally head-scratching.

    Basically, what I’m implying without really making much of an effort to mount an actual argument is that Pitchfork is, among the aboveground publications devoted to writing about and reviewing new music, one of the better music pub’s out there. And I do think that the quality of the writing and the thoughtfulness of the opinions expressed has consistently improved over the past few years. Given the current state of music writing and the presence of much more virulent annoyances out there (Hey Stereogum! How’s it going?), Pitchfork is, on balance, a good thing. And, again, I like the list. But, seriously, Fleet Foxes over Portishead or Badu… really?!? And I know they’re reissues but will somebody please give Steinski and Franco some love. Please?

  9. Anonymous

    I just want to say, I love Cut Copy, and love love love that In Ghost Colours (my personal album of the year) scored so high, especially above the (somewhat overrated imo) Hercules and Love Affair. And although HaLA beat cut copy for the #1 single, I was happy with cut copy scoring two high spots on the top singles/tracks list.

    [mini-rant] About pfork’s “top tracks” methodology…there is a problem there. They say they are now looking at any TRACKS, not just singles. but then how can they chart songs that were released in 2007 and only became SINGLES this year? That doesn’t make any sense. “Flashing Lights,” I’m looking at you. Especially because my friends and I (and maybe pretty much everyone?) thought flashing lights was amazing back when Graduation came out last year. It was one of my favorite tracks of 2007 (but then so were Stronger and Can’t Tell Me Nothin). did pfork just miss it? [/rant]

    oh, and f*** fleet foxes. that shit is boring.

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