My Google Chrome browser has a few tabs already open: gmail, Facebook, Twitter, an article left open from yesterday to read today, and the Weather Channel home page.
Twitter tells me what people are talking about. I follow a lot of music writers and bloggers, they tend to talk amongst themselves, complain, and praise whatever’s happening on The Music Internet that day.
Then it’s time for my favorite daily Internet debut: the Pitchfork home page, and its top reviews.
Pitchfork – or, The Fork, as I call it – is known as a hip tastemaker. The bands they cover and review are usually independent and “rising.”
I open a new tab (command + T) and type “p”. “pitchfork.com” immediately appears in the web address space.
I hit enter.
The Fork’s homepage loads and my eyes trace to the right of the screen, waiting in anticipation to see what the top album review of the day is. Usually the thumbnail image of the album cover gives it away, because I’ve probably seen the image before. If not, the band’s name is right there in bold, the name of the record right under it.
If it’s a band I know, I immediately scan for the author’s byline, directly below the album’s name.
I read the short blurb below all three names, and hover the cursor over the four other images. Each record image, band name, album title, author, and blurb flashes in beta as the cursor moves. I scan to see if I know the band names and to see which writer reviewed which record.
If the Best New Music red stamp of approval is between the album title and byline, my eyes bug out a little bit. Sometimes I’ll think to myself, hmm, them? That band? Or good for them, I love this record.Or, damn, (insert author’s name here) got to write that! Everyone will read this today.
I know I’ll read it too, or at least the first paragraph.
The Best New Music stamp tells The Music Internet that The Fork has decided what’s Best for us.
What’s Best for The Fork means it’s what’s Best for everyone, including other music publications. The Best New Music stamp is the Internet equivalent of your hip music friend saying, what? You don’t know THEM? You must listen to this!
Sometimes the band, or record, that receives it will trickle up to bigger media outlets and their press cycle will, decidedly, blow up.
[Sometimes a band, let’s call them Best Coast, is lucky to have their full-length debut album stamped Best New Music. And sometimes a bigger, more widely read publication, let’s call them Rolling Stone, will start covering their recording and album cycles, the band’s live performances, and they will debut their new songs. Bands like Best Coast are safe forever. Their records will always be heard, regardless if The Fork continues to care about that band or record.]
The Pitchfork tab in my browser stays open, sometimes, all day. It’s a review I know I should read because the rest of The Music Internet has read it too (or so I think). Occasionally the writing in it is outstanding music writing. But I usually read it for the writing, and its “jumped-up pantry boyishness” and/or “melodramatic, Smiths-derived jangle, sophistipop, blue-eyed Motown.” I imagine that some of The Music Internet reads these reviews to see what was decided for them. Or maybe they read it for the same reasons I do. (It’s also important to note that The Fork has no comments section.)
Once I know if it’s a Best New Music day or not, I can move on. Sometimes I discuss it with my music friends, but usually once I see The Fork’s homepage reviews, I head over to Stereogum to see what albums they are prominently reviewing that day (or week) because, I need to know.