My mom reviews Pitchfork's top tracks of 2012
Photo by John Londono
We just wrapped another year of wall-to-wall critics' lists, and the Pitchfork staff provided a carefully curated subset of hip music of last year. How does this music sit with the rest of the population? To partly answer that question, we asked someone untainted by current musical trends -- my mom.
Born in 1947, my mom is now 65 years old. She saw the Beatles' premiere on the Ed Sullivan Show as a high school senior, and danced to the the Kinks and the Rascals at college frat parties. She dug the Isley Brothers. She was born into the Golden Era, but appreciates random contemporary music like Norah Jones, or Arcade Fire. In other words, she's with it enough to know good music when she hears it, but old enough to not know what the hell Pitchfork is, and to not care what anyone else thinks.
Per a technique popularized by Michelangelo Matos at Idolator a few years back, she was presented with Pitchfork's Top Ten tracks of 2012, and below are her immediate reactions, verbatim, minus a few f-bombs. ("I am a lady, after all. And it's your fault I use that word so much, Justin.")
Photo via Justin's mom
10. Jai Paul: "Jasmine"
Pitchfork says: "The combination of quick cuts of silence, gurgling synths, and wah-wah guitar doesn't sound like anything else in music at the moment"
My mom says: "It sounds like the same thing repeating over and over. And the opening sounds like a plane taking off. A freshman attempt at jazz."
9. Fiona Apple: "Werewolf"
Pitchfork says: "It's a cathartic lyrical heave that prods your demons and demands you confront them."
My mom says: "[hysterical laughter] Why would anybody write a song about that? She's talking about a werewolf and a shark biting off her head. Was this inspired the Twilight series? [more hysterical laughter] Oh-my-fucking-word!"
8. Beach House: "Myth"
Pitchfork says: "'If you built yourself a myth,' Victoria Legrand sings evenly, 'you'd know just what to give.' The one she built is stocked with texture-- fleeting bliss, sunlight, and flying ashes -- in an evocative language of unblemished blankness and malleability."
My mom says: "Has kind of a dreamy quality, which is pleasant. Yeah, I like this. Oh, I know what it reminds me of: the Moody Blues. Your father and I used to smoke pot and listen to them. If I were on Dick Clark's bandstand, I'd give it an 8 or a 9. This website's review is bullshit, though."
7. Tame Impala: "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards"
Pitchfork says: "'Backwards' is more than a collage of record-collector fetishes. Listen closer and you'll hear the piano loop that kicks the song into the stars, and beyond the woozy drums is an exploratory bassline that never abandons its deep, trance-like groove. Tame Impala's music might be informed by the past, but there's a reason why the group is rarely called 'retro'."
My mom says: "This is like when the Beatles started going to India -- the mystical thing. It's okay. I could get sick of it really quickly. Too much of the cymbals clanging."
6. Bat for Lashes: "Laura"
Pitchfork says: "...it subtly transforms languor into splendor, as slowly unfurling verses gradually yield to a spellbinding chorus."
My mom says: "Bat For Lashes? What kind of name is that? Is this a gay break up song? I guess it's a nice little lament tune. I'd give it a 6 or a 7"
5. Japandroids: "The House That Heaven Built"
Pitchfork says: "There will always be rock kids who go to a show wanting to be saved. In 2012, this was their anthem"
My mom says: "At the start, I think: 'Oh, I wanna get up and dance to that!' But then the beat never changes. It just keeps incessantly banging. It starts to annoy me. Quickly."
4. Kendrick Lamar: "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe"
Pitchfork says: "The track's hazily unfurling structure and spiritual devotion to the power of creativity make it feel like a long-lost Aquemini cut."
My mom says: "What a horrible voice! Oh, God, this horrible. And he looks like Mr. T without the muscles."
3. Usher: "Climax"
Pitchfork says: "Diplo's chilly, climbing electronic soundscape brings us to the brink without ever fully delivering blind dancefloor revelation, and Usher matches him letdown for letdown, detailing a relationship's crumble with acute poignancy."
My mom says: "Usher is kinda hot. There's a sound effect that sounds like a fart, though. And why is Usher's voice so high in places? [She has never heard Auto-tune] This doesn't appeal to me at all. Next."
2. Frank Ocean: "Pyramids"
Pitchfork says: "If you'd have told anyone at the beginning of 2012 that one of the year's most exhilarating singles would be a 10-minute-long R&B burner with three movements and a scorching John Mayer guitar solo so arena-courting that you can almost hear the hydraulic lift whirring under his feet, they'd probably be all: 'Oh, nice -- undiscovered Michael Jackson track?'"
My mom says: "This one doesn't do anything for me either. I'll bet there's some very cool dancing involved in the performance though. I'd watch that."
1. Grimes: "Oblivion"
Pitchfork says: "'Oblivion' is a shapeshifter, just like its creator, a song with open spaces and hairline cracks in which you can see parts of yourself. And being impossible to pin down kept it sounding fresh and new again and again, each listen feeling a little like the first one."
My mom says: "Sounds like Asian girls trying to sound like Madonna. (Turns it off) Yep. Enough of that."
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