Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On Pitchfork rating culture, Bon Iver.

PF gives it the highest non-10 giving Animal Collective :: Merriweather Post Pavilion was awarded with a slightly-too-high 9.6 a few years ago.

The sorta self titled (sort of not) album received a tremendous 9.5 yesterday.

Whether or not you think a numerical score means anything, from pitchfork or from any outlet period, a huge site giving a huge score is a statement. A statement that could mean a lot of things, but always that attention should be given is due. And so, now, for all people that follow this sort of thing, it's time to listen to something you might not have bothered with otherwise.

Something isn't given a 10 (or five stars, if you prefer) because it's just better than 99% of all other records. It's not a perfect record--as if there has ever been one--but one that comes at a perfect time, as Kanye West's opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy did at the end of last year. Or something so certainly ahead of its time it's importance is immediately obvious and doesn't need to be reevaluated years down the line. Both OK COMPUTER and Kid A.

For the rest, the world eventually gets its shit together and comes around and realizes they've let something terribly special slip by without the undivided attention it deserves. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea fits here nicely.

And for the most part, we can all happily listen without wild dissent when any of these albums get played. Throw in the not-quite-perfect modern classics, too. Arcade Fire :: Funeral. Sufjan Stevens :: Illinois. Joanna Newsom :: Ys. Modest Mouse :: The Moon & Antarctica.

It's pretty good company.

And so we come back to Bon Iver, Bon Iver. Bon "9.5 from pitchfork!" Iver. A record that, now that I've listened to it a few times, and has managed to be unlike anyhting I've discussed above.

An album far from perfect, far from a social requirement or document of our time, synonymous with pretty, exactly the status quo, exactly expected. And barely anything else.

Creative/constant member Justin Vernon moves away from the rickety fragile warmth of debut For Emma, Forever Ago, but doesn't tread a step further than he ever has. 2009's Blood Bank EP's love/hate standout "Woods"--the track later adopted, adapted, and fully realized by Kanye West for the closer of MBDTF-- where where electronics either were introduced to/intruded upon the bleedy heart aesthetic For Emma, Forever Ago built.

Later that year, a band called Volcano Choir (consisting of Vernon and others) released a short album, Upnam, that expanded this sound into a realm of post-rock and ambient music. It enjoyed mild attention and critical acclaim.

2011, Bon Iver, Bon Iver backpedals on the Blood Bank EP and on Unmap. It sounds like the album anyone who listened to For Emma, Forever Ago expected.

Any real newness in Bon Iver's sound...isn't. Anything that seems new is just plucked wholesale from the orchestral touches Sufjan Stevens used years ago. Beyond that, the album's major credit, it is only becomes painfully terrible during the final track, "Beth/Rest", where ridiculous 80s-style synthesized saxophones and flaged guitar really shit up the place. Then it's over.

I'm sure surprised something that feels just routine and nothing more is what a major review outlet has chosen to rest its credibility on. A credibility that has been steadily, fairly rebuilt since the site's early days, where giving a 10.0 meant something else entirely.

12RODS :: Gay?
Amon Tobin :: Bricolage
Walt Mink :: El Producto

and now

Bon Iver :: Bon Iver, Bon Iver

And we all wish there was a better way to do this.

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