If you take a moment to look beyond the reviews of the Beatles reissues—where we learn, by the way, that Please Please Me is a 9.2, while Help is exactly one tenth of a point better, at 9.3—you’ll find that, as part of their ongoing (and ridiculously named) “P2K: The Decade in Music” series, Pitchfork has asked a bunch of musicians to list their favorite records and songs of the past ten years. The results? Everyone likes Radiohead, especially that guy from Fleet Foxes, who is about 50 years younger than I thought he was.
A few people also mentioned the Shins, which I find surprising but not at all disappointing. Hutch Harris, singer and guitarist for the Thermals, included Oh, Inverted World on his list, for a reason I half agree with and half think is totally offbase.
Sure, lo-fi is all the rage right now, but for many of the current Pollard-come-latelys, the music tends to take a back seat to the (lack of) production and noise. The Shins’ debut was loved first for it’s beautiful songs, and was only incidentally appreciated (or forgiven) for it’s bargain basement production. James Mercer did more than introduce a new brand of tiny-yet-shiny lo-fi to indie rock, he wrote timeless songs. Watching the Shin’s career jump start was even more exciting, as it ushered in a whole new era of success for Sub Pop Records as well.
I agree with Harris that Oh Inverted World is an important record because it proved to a lot of people that you could make a record with nothing more than an affordable home-studio setup at your disposal. But this idea that it was an extension of the 90s lo-fi movement led by Guided By Voices and Sebadoh, or that it was a precursor to the current lo-fi movement being led by the Woods and the entire borough of Brooklyn, is problematic. For one, while it’s certainly not the most polished sounding record in the world, it’s a far cry from the blaring, fuzzed-out indie-rock that came before and after it.
For me, the beauty of Oh, Inverted World is that it proved you could make a record for very little money and without even leaving your home—and have it sound good enough that your method of production would no longer be viewed as a singularly defining aesthetic decision. This was progress, I thought.