Jesse Sykes on Pitchfork

March 30, 2007

Funny interview in which Seattle downbeat alt-country chanteuse (how’s that for criticspeak?) Jesse Sykes disses Pitchfork. She’s right when she says people who buy music based on reviews are idiots–I’m left with a bunch of bad indie-rock LPs I’m trying to sell because of idiot reviews I’ve trusted. (I’ve added Soul Coughing’s 1996 record “Irresistible Bliss” to the list…not sure why I ever bought that.)

But her point about there being so many bands and so many critics was what really rang true. It’s like Lefsetz says–there’s no mainstream anymore. Everybody can play the guitar–or at least garage rock barre chord guitar. Everybody can sing–or at least indie-rock sing (slightly out of tune to show you don’t care) or amateur hip-hop sing (talk in rhythm over a beat). There are still the skilled workers in the background, the DJs and producers and drummers (especially drummers…thank God for good drummers), but everybody between the ages of 20 and 40 is in a band, was in a band, or has friends in a band. They all think they’re good. And with so many bands, and so few of them on the radio, and so few people with enough musical conviction to trust their ears, nobody knows what to listen to anymore. Hence the demand for all these new critical outlets. I mean, Rolling Stone and Spin haven’t been relevant for years to anybody but rural teenage mallrats. So instead we’ve got Pitchfork and college radio station bloggers and weekly paper bloggers and bloggers and more bloggers, with no particular credentials, but a lot of opinion.

So I can see why Jesse, who puts an enormous amount of effort into her music, is frustrated because some kid in Chicago didn’t like her album after a couple listens. But she’s also right–in the long run, if you really have something to say and you have the craft and patience and talent to say it well, then you’ll survive.