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December 3, 2008


Pitchfork 500

Pitchfork 500

I should have written about this earlier, but Pitchfork has a new book out, Pitchfork 500. It's a collection of the 500 best songs ever according to them.

Last week I went to an event at a bowling alley in Greenpoint where a DJ played tracks from the book, and it seemed like a great selection. With 500 tracks to pick, they covered everything--some huge hits that probably appear in the majority of our planet's CD collections ("Holiday" and "Push It") as well as a Stereolab B-side ("French Disko") and a Magnetic Fields song released on a tiny label from Chicago that I mailed a check to in 1995 to order the album and they never sent me the damn thing ("Take Ecstasy With Me"). Justin Timberlake appears right next to Luomo. So it's a really eclectic list and a lot of fun to peruse.

They organized the book chronologically, starting in 1977 with "Heroes" by David Bowie, a song that on some days I think is the best song ever. It would probably be in my Pitchfork 1. Anyway, it's the perfect year to start with for anyone who is in my generation and doesn't want another rehash of how great our parents' music was. Pitchfork says they picked that year because it was "the birth of punk and independent music".

The book then travels through chunks of years that represent sort-of distinct periods of popular music with little blurbs about each song selected. There are also lots of pull-out mini-lists about notable (or made-up) sub-genres that might be the most compelling part of the book. They've got a section on Yacht Rock (which of course includes "Sailing" by Christopher Cross), Career Killers, and something like Bleep Rock which includes a personal favorite, I-F's "Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass".

Listening to selections from the book as they were played leads me to guess that a significant number of the editors that chose the songs were mid-90's college radio DJs who happen like all the same stuff I liked when I was 20. Including some I've hardly thought about since I was 20 (Felt, Unrest). But there are many moments of recognition. My favorite Pavement song ("Summer Babe (Winter Version)") my favorite Kate Bush song ("Running Up That Hill", of course), AND my favorite Orange Juice song ("Blue Boy")! Whoa.

As with any "best of" list, there are going to be a lot of selections in there that you'll strongly disagree with (for example there is NO WAY that "Setting Sun" is the Chemical Brothers' best song) but the book is a pretty fascinating flip-through. And it would make a great gift for music fans, provided you are prepared to accept their refusal to leave the house, talk to you, or do any activity apart from read that book for several days after they get it. If you choose to give it as a gift, expect total engrossed silence, punctuated by outbursts of impassioned ranting about "Highway to Hell" vs. "Back in Black" and how just because Bon Scott was dead doesn't mean that they didn't record some of their best stuff post-1980.

Here's the full list.

categories: Books, Music
posted by amy at 3:26 PM | #

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Some of the songs on there I think are in the exact same order as on mixtapes I made in high school.

Posted by: cushie at December 3, 2008 7:48 PM

Hee, these lists are fun, even if I'm ready to start a fight over some of the picks. Pulp's 'This is Hardcore'? Really? (full discolure - I did internet test as a His'n'Hers guy)

I played Pet Shop Boys on college radio every week during the mid 90's but I never played 'Being Boring'. I'd love to hear why the editors think this is the best PSB song... ever. I kinda disagree.

I thought some of the picks were kind of lazy, like Morrissey's 'Every Day is Like Sunday' and Echo & the Bunnymen's 'The Killing Moon', which are probably their most popluar songs, but everyone knows 'Suedehead' and 'Rescue' are better. It's cool though, they're all good songs. But if it was up to me, half this list would be all Siouxsie/Duran Duran...

Still, there's a lot of stuff on here I've never heard, and a lot on here that I forgot all about. This list will really help me get re/acquainted. I remembered really liking Les Savy Fav, but then got distracted and left them on the shelf...

And a lot on here where there's no question at all. I certainly won't argue over Amy's placing of 'Heroes'. I think i would put AF's Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) right behind it. Or 'One More Time'.

Thanks for posting the list!

Posted by: ORStylee at December 4, 2008 7:05 AM

Any list with both Einsturzende Neubauten and Kelly Clarkson on it is pretty tight. I think they deliberately avoided obscure bands, though. How else can you explain the lack of Bangles songs?

Posted by: generalboomboom at December 4, 2008 9:16 AM

Yeah, this list is clearly begging for arguments. Some of the choices I do admire, though, even if I don't completely agree with them. For Duran Duran, my choice would probably be "Hold Back the Rain", but picking "The Chauffeur" is a surprising move that I dig. It's a little self-consciously contrarian, but I sort of like it. This is Pitchfork, after all.

I totally agree with you, ORStylee, about "This is Hardcore", but there's more than one Pulp song represented, so I'm not quibbling. Many of the bands on there I'm just so impressed to see counted at all that I'm not going to take issue with the specific selection (e.g. The Field Mice--"Sensitive" is obviously the right choice.)

Posted by: Amy at December 4, 2008 8:55 PM

Pitchfork? Meh. I think that a magazine/music news outlet that is truly savvy would avoid top lists of anything. It introduces snobbery to the art of arbitrarily picking one song over another. All that aside, as far as lists go, it's not awful.

Posted by: cash for cars at June 8, 2009 12:47 PM

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