0 thoughts on “preaching to the choir”

  1. Rock ‘n roll critics are notoriously lemming-like. They love to do what every other rock ‘n roll critic has already done. It’s hard to find a single one who has real opinions about the music he or she hears.

  2. I’m just messing witcha. Out of curiosity, is this sort of thing unprecedented? I can’t remember a time when any group of critics spoke with such unanimity about anything. I don’t even think we’ve had an undisputed Division 1 football champion in the last decade or so. But for some reason, out of the 1.25 billion albums released in 2005, this one has the ability to unite them all. Maybe it really is that good, and I’m just a Philistine. Seriously. Or maybe I’m just a cynic. I always hated the kids in high school who won all of the awards. Maybe I haven’t grown up as much as I thought I had.

  3. It *is* unprecedented. And that’s why it’s so astounding. Not even U2 has received this unanimity of critical acclaim. Not that Sufjan has the commercial appeal that U2 does, of course. Not yet, at least, and I suspect that he never will. But I think there’s something quite amazing at work when critic after critic essentially states the same thing: “You know, I think Christians are idiots, and this guy’s a Christian, but wow, he’s made a really great album anyway.” I’ve seen those words, or at least those sentiments, time after time. The NPR critic not only named “Illinois” the album of the year, but claimed that it was the best album released in many years. It will be #1 on Paste’s list as well. We actually had a discussion about the “lemming” factor, and talked about whether we wanted to follow along with everybody else. And the conclusion was that our job is to pick out the albums that a) offer evidence of signs of life, and b) are creative and push music in new directions. There was no question in my mind, or in anyone else’s mind, that Sufjan’s album did those things as well or better than any album released this year. So we’ll be lemmings, and proud of it. And for what it’s worth, Sufjan may be the popular kid who wins all the awards, but from what I’ve seen of him and know of him he’s a thoughtful, humble, and even shy guy. I don’t think he’ll let it go to his head. The only non-lemmings: the good folks at Christianity Today Magazine, who didn’t even include Sufjan on their fairly lengthy list of Best Christian Albums of 2005. What was that about a prophet being without honor again?

  4. Hey Josh, Is S. Stevens the album I listened to last summer? The one you suggested and I took out of the library? Anyway I’m out of this music circle. Still stuck on S.Vaughan, Lady Day, A, Tatum, Mulligan, Baker et al. However the album art work at the NPR link was enjoyable viewing. Thanks Andy.

  5. Andy, The Christianity Today thing is no surprise. No one seems to know what a Christian album is any more. Maybe that’s a good thing. I define CCM as: music marketed to an exclusively ‘Christian’ audience. Aside from worship music, I can’t imagine why I would want to listen to music specifically created for Christians.

  6. andy is paste going to retract their 5-star review of ‘x&y’ or are they sticking to it? if so, will it make the top 10?

  7. Michael, I doubt very much that Paste would ever retract that review. As far as I know, they view it as the honest opinion of the person who wrote the review. As do I. Just for the record, I don’t speak for Paste. I have a voice, but I’m one of maybe a dozen people who decide the content, write the reviews, etc. I don’t always agree with everything in the magazine, and I’m sure there are folks who don’t always agree with me. And that’s fine. There’s really no pressure to adopt a groupthink mindset. “X&Y” isn’t in the Top 10. But it is in the Top 50 for 2005; somewhere in the 40s, as I recall.

  8. how can that be when it got a 5 star review? i’m betting most of the other 30+ albums didn’t rate that high when they first came out. how about ‘the darkness’? did they rate?

  9. Mike, you’re right, Coldplay’s album received one of only a handful of 5-star reviews in Paste this year. But it can happen because the reviews are written by one person, while the “Top 50 Albums of 2005” ratings are based on a composite view of 10 – 12 folks who write for Paste. Don’t think of each review as somehow expressing the “official Paste position” on an album. There is no official Paste position. Each review is simply one reviewer expressing his or her opinion about an album. So, in the case of Coldplay’s “X&Y,” Bud Scoppa (one of the 10 – 12 folks who got to participate in the Top 50 story, and who wrote the original 5-star review) rated “X&Y” as his #1 album of the year. Other people rated it lower. Some people didn’t rate it at all. And the composite rating, taking all of the individual ratings into account, had the album somewhere in the 40s in the Top 50 list. Make sense?

  10. andy makes sense i would think that since paste rarely gives 5-star reviews that any review getting 5-stars should get secondary approval…since 5-stars is pretty weighty. ah well, glad bud agrees with me. bud, you rock. too bad about the darkness. do you know if their album was reviewed at all?

  11. what’s up with pitchfork putting Art Brut in their top 5?!?! that album sucks! What was it that Frank Zappa said about rock critics again?

  12. Definition of rock journalism: People who can’t write, doing interviews with people who can’t think, in order to prepare articles for people who can’t read. –Frank Zappa Present company excepted, of course.

  13. Um, Erik? Andy’s still in the room… Thankfully, Andy and Paste don’t fit Zappa’s broad categorization. Sounds like Frank got a couple a reviews he couldn’t handle. A much better quote is: “If it’s not illegal to masturbate, why should it be illegal to sing about it?” Or something like that.

  14. oh, great, john, now i’m going to have to stop reading these comments to my kids. how do you think they’re going to feel, knowing they’ll never hear the rest of this conversation? huh? merry christmas, though.

  15. Pitchfork is hit and miss, and mostly miss, as far as I’m concerned. They’re terminally hip, and that’s not a good thing. They also seem to dislike things I value fairly highly — melody, hooks, and anything vaguely reminiscent of good, old-fashioned power pop. On the other hand, if it’s atonal, sung by someone indifferent to pitch, barely musically competent, and contains at least five uses of the word “fuck,” then it’s probably Top 10 material. I figure eventually the Pitchfork folks will grow up. In the meantime, I don’t pay that much attention.

  16. I think it’s a whole matter of knowing your source. I don’t sweat anyone making their list. I make a list of favorite records that way I don’t have to worry about best or trying to influence people. Pitchfork named Kanye number 2. I respect that, I even liked the record, but it’s not on my top ten (“We want pre-nupt! We want pre-nupt!). Call me a lemming, but I listened to that Sufjan record almost everyday for a month, I couldn’t deny it’s appeal to spare some indie cred. I picked Devendra Banhart second because I truly loved that album and listen to it every day. However in some camps he’s a sell out for abandoning his experiemental folk roots or for ripping off Marc Bolan’s early work. And IMHO opinion, Coldplay’s latest was boring. I rather listen to Elbow who does Coldplay better than Coldplay.

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