Oneohtrix Point Never has been flirting with popularity for quite some time. First it was his epic “Rifts”, three discs worth of insane komische noodling on the vaguely hip label “No Fun”. Then “Returnal” came and scaled back the sheer size but maintained many of his interests. “Returnal” was released on the considerably more hip “Editions Mego” label. Now he’s presenting us with “Replica” which may be his most concise work yet on what is considered a ‘hot’ label right now, Mexican Summer.
All this makes me wonder: will Daniel Lopatin’s project ever achieve ‘Best New Music’ status? Or is there something too foreign about what he does? Pitchfork has a well-known bias against experimental music, but there is evidence from OPN’s previous scores that they may be willing to give it to him based off of hype. Normally Pitchfork hypes up an artist when they want them to succeed, so they may ride their coat tails.
Below I list some of the likelihoods that OPN enters ‘Best New Music’ Nirvana
1. Daniel Lopatin has a beard – This is important. Pitchfork writers want musicians who look like them. How do you think Bon Iver got ‘BNM’? It wasn’t based off of his music weak sauce. Nope, Bon Iver is Pitchfork. Pitchfork is Bon Iver. For all purposes, the two might be related.
2. OPN has some vintage synthesizer – Reviewers seem to love vintage synthesizers. It doesn’t matter whether or not the artist uses it properly, just them merely using it is enough. The fact that OPN uses it properly is icing on the cake.
3. Each score OPN has gotten has increased – This is referred to by Pitchfork watchers as a ‘rising star’. Pitchfork wants to give it to OPN, he’s come so close, and they want him to have it. Already OPN has gotten an 8.2, which would be considered BNM in some slower months. So OPN is nearly there. However, keep in mind others have come close, even gotten BNM only to be thrown to the dogs (see Das Racist).
4. Mexican Summer is doing really well – Pitchfork Reviewers like sticking with one label. If that label has enough good stuff, the other artists get something of a curve.
5. ‘Replica’ is a pretty good album – I’m not certain if this is a pro. Pitchfork can be fickle about what is good/bad. Remember Neon Indian? Yeah, that was the 7.9 heard around the blog-o-sphere.
6. Nostalgia – Everyone loves to use the word ‘nostalgia’ in reviews. Pitchfork is not immune. Their fingers are itching to say some stuff about how nostalgic the album is. Daniel’s video for “Replica” only reinforces that image.
7. It doesn’t go on for too long – They get bored quick. Go ahead and release a three disc set. See how they react.
8. Daniel Lopatin lives in Brooklyn – Yeah, it is awkward when you trash a guy you’re going to see play at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday. Best to be on his good side. I imagine the two have probably bought beers for each other and have a lunch date this Wednesday to discuss the colorful adjectives they’ll use to describe ‘Replica’.
9. Leaked – Yup, this leaked. It leaked all over the damn place. An early leak bodes well for a better review. It shows enough of the right people cared. Early leaks are evidence that there is that magical thing known as ‘anticipation’.
10. Seasonal – Music is a fine wine. It needs to age. You need to have it with spring, summer, winter, or fall, all you’ve got to do is call. OPN is obviously autumn music. Good thing he saved the release for the appropriate time. This may sound foolish but Pitchfork has defended albums before off of this premise (see Cut Copy’s 2011 output).
Not everything works according to plan however. Below are some of the reasons OPN may not ‘make it’ into BNM territory.
1. He had his chance – OPN burst out of the gate in 2009. Lately Pitchfork has hated on those great bands from that great year. Much of chillwave suffered lately, despite the few unavoidable ‘BNM’s.
2. OPN comes from ambient music – Pitchfork is notorious for failing to understand experimental music. Usually they’re all like ‘Uh, I don’t get it but I think it is good. Let’s give it a non-committal 6 or 7 point something, perhaps a low 8 if we really like it but can’t describe why.’
3. Komische Music may be falling out of favor – the sweeping ambient music which is OPN’s stock and trade may be falling by the wayside. This is a particularly unfair case. Overcoming a genre backlash is hard; you have to be extremely good to avoid it. I’m not certain if ‘Replica’ is good enough to avoid this fate.
4. Previous project did poorly – ‘Ford and Lopatin’ got only a 7.6. That was Daniel’s last thing reviewed on Pitchfork. A 7.6 is not bad but after we compare it with OPN’s previous scores it is a steep decline. Not sure if Pitchfork would include it but it is worth mentioning.
5. Somebody else came out with something more amazing – this happens. You’ll spend forever perfecting your album and bummer, Flaming Lips released a mummified human body with a hard drive containing two weeks-worth of music. Sorry but you got shafted.
6. They’ve already made their ‘Best of the Year’ list and don’t want to edit the Word Document – Hey, it is November. Pitchfork is pretty lazy.
7. Backlash against a label – I’ll admit, this is rare. It does happen but it could strike ‘Mexican Summer’.
8. Less ambitious/fails in its ambition – Pitchfork likes telling artists they didn’t try hard enough/tried too hard. It makes them feel better after having written a review in 15 minutes or less.
9. Everything sucks that day – Often you’ll see Pitchfork was having a bad day. Nothing did well that day. Everything got dumped upon. Whoever wrote the review had a chip on their shoulder.
10. Your album doesn’t get reviewed per se, instead the reviewer goes off into some long-winded thing about your genre of music – Reviewers do this a lot. Normally it occurs when they can’t think of anything to write and their speakers aren’t working. So they have to improvise a review and focus on the genre instead. Toro Y Moi and Neon Indian both were victims of this in unequal doses.
I’m pulling for OPN. I want him to succeed. I’ve seen him play live and enjoyed this set. The time has come for ambient to become more forceful. And Daniel Lopatin is just the man for the job.