The Pitchfork review by Mark Richardson that went up at 1 a.m. CST the day before the record’s January 6, 2009 release confirmed MPP delivered everything those who followed the drama could have hoped for, with brilliant and ultra-catchy songs that kept Animal Collective’s warm psychedelic glow. The album served as a culmination of the decade and of an era, a time when you never knew what strange sounds might bubble up from the independent underground.
THE YEAR OF CHILLWAVE
Something was happening in 2009, and everybody had a silly name for it. From artists scattered across America, songs started popping up on music blogs and nascent social media that were simple, catchy, coated in lo-fi haze, and often lyrically themed around summer. This music wasn’t always drenched in synths—as evidenced by records from early practitioners Best Coast and Pure X—but when it was, the effect could be like ’80s kitsch through the smeared lens of an early-morning dream. Blurry or not, many of these recordings had an inescapable emotional pull, and in September, Pitchfork confirmed as much with an 8.0 review of Washed Out’s Life of Leisure EP (which included the future Portlandia theme song, the also BNM-stamped “Feel It All Around”). By then, the term “chillwave” was in circulation for this kind of music, but so were plenty of other neologisms, and it all felt like a bit of a lark.
When Texas-based, Mexican-born artist Alan Palomo, formerly of the projects Ghosthustler and VEGA, unleashed Neon Indian’s debut album, Psychic Chasms, in September, the summer of chillwave got its full-fledged album-length statement. Surreal singalongs like “Deadbeat Summer” and “Should’ve Taken Acid With You” encapsulated the slacker spiritual longing (this guy even underachieved at doing drugs!) that seemed to be in the air that year. Toro y Moi’s Causers of This in early 2010 rounded out this very-online genre with nods toward the expressive hip-hop beats of late producer J Dilla. In hindsight, chillwave may have been the sound of early, idealistic internet culture staving off a panic attack just long enough to enjoy one last season in the sun.
THE SWEDISH INVASION
Pitchfork had long made some effort to cover music from beyond North America and the UK, but by the mid-’00s, acts such as Love Is All, Jens Lekman, and “Young Folks”-whistling Peter Bjorn & John had brought Sweden as close to the American indie zeitgeist as Britpop might have seemed a decade earlier. Pitchfork’s disdain for Eurodance was long gone, too: Norway’s Annie topped our Top 50 Singles of 2004 list with her club-thumping “Heartbeat.”
Robyn’s return in 2010, over three EPs culminating in her fifth album, Body Talk, was a long-awaited victory celebration from an underappreciated pop innovator. Marc Hogan’s review of Body Talk acknowledged Robyn’s mastery of a type of pop that borrowed from the indie world and sounded big and mainstream but was, for a time at least, more of a cult phenomenon.
KANYE GOES SUPERNOVA
In 2010, no one else was as ambitious, as ridiculous, as mind-blowingly extra (in a good way!) as Kanye West. After being shunned by much of polite society following his infamous Taylor Swift stage crash at the 2009 VMAs, the backpack rapper turned arena star turned Auto-Tune futurist had a lot of love to win back with his fifth album. So he bundled the best aspects of his previous work, wrapped it all up in a sumptuous, star-studded package, and called it My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.