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Stop Reading Pitchfork

While my personal resolutions could fill a half dozen of these columns, for the benefit of your patience allow me to narrow down my year-ends to something that may actually affect you, dear reader. Without further ado, allow me to present my New Year's Resolution for 2005: Stop reading Pitchfork Media.

For the three people who might be reading this not already acquainted, Pitchfork Media (pitchforkmedia.com) is a website devoted to the "gratuitously in-depth record review"--a site that is arguably the most read music criticism source on the planet. At nearly a decade old, Pitchfork--whether you read it or not--directs in some way or another nearly everything you read about popular independent music.

Now before we begin, let me state for the record that, in spite of the site's endless detractors, I am a fan and open proponent of Pitchfork Media. While I may adamantly disagree with its individual or collective views (Scissor Sisters?) and its choice of coverage (Interpol buys a toothbrush?), I do find the vast majority of their coverage to be insightful, interesting, and compelling enough to make it the only site I read before breakfast. I can't even remember a time when I didn't read Pitchfork semi-religiously. Which is to say, I don't remember a time when my thought patterns weren't in some way nebulously affected by Pitchfork.

As the most read music website in the world, it can be assumed that Pitchfork is regularly consumed by the music obsessed masses--not the least of which are music editors just like myself all around the country. There once was I time--a time that I'm too young to remember--wherein information about independent music was scarce and scantly strewn throughout a multitude of publishing voices; in zines and mail order publications buried by mainstream media. Then, from out of the whozewhat'sits of the interwebulous comes a singular, monolithically united music force, updated daily to beat everybody else to the punch with thoughtful, long-form critique. One voice that everyone reads. That can sell, like, 1,000 records for an unknown band in the same week that they publish a glowing review. And while the opinions of any publication shouldn't have much sway over a discerning music press, it's simply fantasy to think that Pitchfork doesn't weigh on the psyche of your average listener/buyer/editor. Whether that relationship is supportive or reactive, once you've read their review, you're already partial.

As the sheer scope of Pitchfork 's effect on independent media is sort of difficult to fathom, I like to picture it as a sort of particular kind of journalistic collective consciousness--a variable, the same variable, thrown into the chemistry of nearly every music journalist writing today. Imagine the sort of middle of the road single-minded scope independent music criticism is liable to take on in its inadvertent wake.

Which leads me back to my feeble resolution: if I'm going to single handedly save music journalism, I've got to start by cutting off Pitchfork.

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