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Friday, November 19, 2010

How Long Will Pitchfork's S.F. Romance Last?

Posted By on Fri, Nov 19, 2010 at 3:42 PM

click to enlarge SF's Young Prisms cheer on their pals/rehearsal space-sharers Weekend, whose debut got a double-thumbs-up from the music site everybody reads.
  • SF's Young Prisms cheer on their pals/rehearsal space-sharers Weekend, whose debut got a double-thumbs-up from the music site everybody reads.

Whether you agree with it or not, what Pitchfork says about records -- or perhaps more so how it quantifies them -- matters. In a world of ten thousand different music blogs, the Pitchfork review score (X.X/10) is a common metric used for comparison and argument. Rarely do critics agree on the merits of any record or review, but one way or another, most at least take into account what this particular site has to say. And when Pitchfork points to a particular scene by awarding one of its members a Best New Music tag, or praises a group of bands repeatedly -- as it's been doing lately with San Francisco outfits -- readers all over the world pay attention.


click to enlarge SF's Young Prisms cheer on their pals/rehearsal space-sharers Weekend, whose debut got a double-thumbs-up from the music site everybody reads.
  • SF's Young Prisms cheer on their pals/rehearsal space-sharers Weekend, whose debut got a double-thumbs-up from the music site everybody reads.
So it's been pretty interesting over the last few months to watch the site drizzle kind words on records from the current class of S.F. indie rock bands. And not just interesting for we verbose, navel-gazing, blog-writing types, but for fans -- who take a positive P4k review as  confirmation that the locals are that good -- and the bands themselves, some of which get their first national exposure on the site. Rounding up recent Pitchfork reviews of S.F. albums almost makes you wonder whether the Brooklyn and Chicago-based website harbors dreams of moving out here.

Here's a sampling of how the biggest review site in indie music has covered some recent local releases:


- Tamaryn, The Waves, 7.4: "The Waves is perfectly comfortable within its set of sonic parameters, and while that might be a concern in the future, the album shows a band mastering a very specified sound on its first try."

- Weekend, Sports, 8.2: "Weekend, then, are arriving at just the right time. Although no one's going to mistake the San Francisco noise-pop trio's Slumberland debut, Sports, for an album produced at Abbey Road, the record is everything that a lot of modern indie rock is frequently failing to be in 2010: loud, immediate, and engaging, with a strong melodic sense of songwriting to tie it all together."

- Royal Baths, Litanies, 7.5: "Their debut full-length, Litanies, draws from the noisier, more freaked-out side of early garage rock. It also takes cues from Neil Young's lightning-struck guitar sermons and the Velvet Underground's creeping paranoia."

- The Fresh & Onlys, Play it Strange, 8.0: "May this band continue to crank out inventive little nuggets like this long into the future."

- Kelley Stoltz, To Dreamers, 6.8: "The Bay Area's been hemorrhaging great psych-pop revival acts of late, many of whom Stoltz can count as friends and collaborators. Bands like Sonny & the Sunsets (for whom Stoltz has been drumming) and the Fresh & Onlys may, like Stoltz, have the dust settings in their tube amps dialed in just so, and To Dreamers' uptick in rockers slots it in nicely with this scene."

- Sonny & the Sunsets, Tomorrow is Alright, 8.0: "You've got your throwback acts-- content to fix a backwards gaze, work on their period-appropriate outfits, and match new words to old riffs-- and then there's San Francisco's Sonny & the Sunsets. They cull their sound from time-honored sources on their debut, Tomorrow is Alright, yet they're a wonderful anomaly-- never feeling tied to any particular era, overly beholden to their source material, or like they chose reverence for lack of better ideas. You can throw out influences all day-- Everly Brothers, glammy garage, doo-wop-- but you'll never quite cover it, and this slipperiness is key to their success. Tomorrow Is Alright matches 10 of Sonny Smith's wry, easygoing tunes with a far-reaching pastiche of vintage trappings, never feeling dutifully retro but rather, like their tough-to-pin-down citymates Girls, intangibly classic."

- Girls, Broken Dreams Club EP, 8.7 (Best New Music): "If Broken Dreams Club is indeed an honest glimpse of what's ahead, it sounds as though Girls have much more to give."

Look at those scores. It's worth remembering that this site covers a huge amount of music -- not just rock, but electronic music, hip-hop, and other genres from around the world. Despite that wide gaze, Pitchfork really seems to have a thing for what's going on right now in San Francisco. We wonder where things will go from here -- could Girls or Sonny Smith get huge? Will The Fresh & Onlys take over the world? Will the whole scene fizzle out and decay into mediocrity? 

One thing is for sure: in the eyes of the biggest tastemaker in indie music, this is a good time for S.F. bands and their fans.

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown and @iPORT

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Ian S. Port

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