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albums Pitchfork liked less over time, according to their decade list

James Blake

One of the many interesting things about these end-of-the-decade lists is to see how taste changes over time, and how the impact of an album either grows or wanes over time. Almost no one’s top 100 albums of a decade is identical to the top 10s they made each year. Sometimes things grow on you or grow to impact you differently, sometimes albums that initially felt exciting start to interest you less over time, and sometimes you discover something that you missed the year it came out.

Today, Pitchfork published its anticipated list of the top 200 albums of the 2010s, and — especially if you’ve been following the site throughout the decade — it’s fascinating to see which albums/artists have risen or fallen in stature, and which stayed the same. Some things only slightly change, like Kanye West‘s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (the only album to have received a perfect 10 this decade) still coming in very strong at #2, only behind Frank Ocean‘s Blonde. Some things change a lot — there are some albums ranked very highly that weren’t even reviewed upon release (like Taylor Swift‘s Red at #59), and there are a handful of albums (or artists overall) that received very high acclaim earlier in the decade but were omitted from this list for one reason another. Lots of factors contributed to which albums made this list and which didn’t, and Pitchfork’s staff has changed over the years and the people who voted on this list aren’t necessarily the same people who voted on each year’s year-end list since 2010. So it’s no surprise that the list doesn’t exactly mirror Pitchfork’s coverage over the past ten years. Still, it’s fun to think about this kind of stuff, so we figured out which very acclaimed-by-Pitchfork albums didn’t make the cut for their decade-end list.

What counts as very acclaimed? That’s probably debatable but we went with anything that received a score of 9.0 or higher (which, relatively speaking, is rare) and/or cracked the top 10 of a Pitchfork year-end list this decade. Some very acclaimed albums did land on the decade list but landed at considerably lower slots than you might have expected, like Run The JewelsRun The Jewels 2, which received a 9.0 upon release and was ranked as Pitchfork’s #1 album of 2014, but came in at #131 on the decade-end list. (Their two other albums also received Best New Music and cracked year-end lists but aren’t represented on the decade list.) There’s also Deafheaven‘s Sunbather, which got a very high score of 8.9 upon release, landed at #6 on their top albums of 2013 list, and landed at #26 on their top albums of 2010-2014, but only came in at #123 on the decade-end list. (Both of Sunbather‘s followups also received Best New Music and cracked year-end lists, and 2015’s New Bermuda actually got the higher score of 9.0, though only Sunbather landed on the decade list. But at least they made it at all. The only two other metal bands on their whole decade list are Pallbearer and — somewhat randomly — Portal.)

As for the albums/artists that Pitchfork once showed immense love for but omitted from this list, James Blake cracked their top 10 in 2010 with three of his early EPs, he got a 9.0 for his 2011 debut album (which landed at #12 on their 2011 list, ahead of a few albums that did make the decade-end list), and he received Best New Music again in 2016, but the only mention of him on Pitchfork’s best albums of the 2010s list is to point out he appeared on Beyonce’s Lemonade. He did, however, have one song on Pitchfork’s top songs of the decade list, “CMYK” at #127. (This may veer into subjectivity, but it is also generally accepted that he helped pioneer the form of atmospheric R&B that Beyonce and other highly-ranked artists on Pitchfork’s list later embraced, which makes his exclusion even more glaring.)

Pitchfork’s top albums and songs of the 2010s lists also entirely omit Sun Kil Moon, whose Benji received a 9.2 upon release, landed at #7 on their top albums of 2014 list, and landed at #9 on their top albums of 2010-2014 list. The album list omits Ariel Pink, who received Best New Music a handful of times throughout the decade, including a 9.0 for 2010’s Before Today, which was #9 on Pitchfork’s 2010 year-end list and #20 on Pitchfork’s 2010-2014 list; and an 8.8 for 2014’s Pom Pom, which was #9 on Pitchfork’s 2014 year-end list. (Before Today‘s “Round and Round,” Pitchfork’s #1 song of 2010, did make the decade-end song list at #31.) The album and song lists entirely omit My Bloody Valentine, whose 2013 comeback album m b v received a 9.1 upon release and landed very high on their 2013 year-end list at #4 (and came in at #28 on their 2010-2014 list). There’s also no Nick Cave (who released three amazing and highly regarded albums this decade including 2016’s Skeleton Tree which received a 9.0), no Tune-Yards (who cracked P4k’s top 10 in 2011), no Big Boi (whose 2010 album Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty got a 9.2 and came in at #4 on their year-end list that year), no Miguel (whose 8.9-scored Wildheart cracked Pitchfork’s top 10 in 2015), no Grizzly Bear (whose Shields got a 9.1 and cracked Pitchfork’s top 10 in 2012), no Swans (who got two 9.0+ reviews and cracked Pitchfork’s top 10s twice during the 2010s), and no Majical Cloudz (who cracked Pitchfork’s top 10 in 2013).

There also some artists that were included on the decade list with one album, but had other acclaimed-by-Pitchfork albums omitted from the list. Perhaps the most intriguing are Arcade Fire and Kanye West. Arcade Fire’s 2013 album Reflektor was divisive upon release, but Pitchfork stood by it with a 9.2 score and inclusion in their top 10 of 2013, only to leave it off of the decade-end list. (Arcade Fire did make the decade-end list with The Suburbs at #76.) Kanye’s The Life of Pablo was also divisive upon release, but Pitchfork granted it a 9.0 and the #5 slot on their 2016 year-end list. (Kanye made the decade list with MBDTF at #2, Yeezus at #15, and his Jay-Z collaboration Watch the Throne at #92.)

Other artists who made the list with one album but had other Top 10 Of A Year albums excluded include Beach House (whose Teen Dream landed at the very high slot of #21 on the decade list, but whose 2012 followup Bloom — which got the higher score of 9.1 and landed at #7 on their year-end list that year — did not), Angel Olsen (whose 8.3-scored Burn Your Fire for No Witness came in at #26, but whose two higher-scored followups [one of which made the top 10 of 2016] didn’t make it), Kelela (who made the list with 2013’s Cut 4 Me, but not with Pitchfork’s 4th favorite album of 2017, Take Me Apart), Chance the Rapper (who made the list with his 8.4-scored Acid Rap, but not with his 9.1-scored Coloring Book, Pitchfork’s 6th favorite album of 2016), Danny Brown (who made the list with his 8.1-scored 2011 album XXX, but not its two followups that got higher scores and Best New Music, including Old which was Pitchfork’s #5 of 2013), and Vince Staples (who made the list with Summertime ’06 but not Big Fish Theory, Pitchfork’s 7th favorite album of 2017).

We could of course talk all day about what we think they missed — regardless of its past Pitchfork performance, but that’s for another day…

P.S. if you’d like to see a full list of their top 10 of each year and see how each of those albums did on the decade list, Twitter user @coopercooperco made a handy chart that shows that very thing:

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