With 2017 coming to a close, I felt like it was the perfect time to do a bit of reflection on the past year's music. This year has been a great year for music, with amazing albums releasing at what feels like a nonstop pace. However, it’s just about impossible to stay up to date with all of this new music, so a few days ago I found myself looking through Pitchfork’s reviews to see which albums and artists had gone under my radar this year. Even limiting myself to just Pitchfork-reviewed albums, there was still way too much music to comb through by hand.

Instead, I wrote a scraper to look through every Pitchfork review of albums released in 2017 and record their scores. At the end of this, I was left with a list of 1,063 albums from 2017 that Pitchfork had reviewed - nearly three albums a day! For these albums the average rating was 7.17, significantly higher than I expected. The breakdown of the rating frequencies is as follows:

Next, I looked at a breakdown of these reviews by genre. Pitchfork splits albums into 9 genres: Rap, Pop/R&B, Rock, Metal, Electronic, Folk/Country, Experimental, Global, and Jazz. I was sad to see that Rap had the lowest average ratings among all the genres with a 6.95.

It’s also interesting that the three genres with the fewest reviews (Global, Jazz, and no genre) ended up with the highest average rating - maybe there’s some weird hipster complex going on there.

With all of this data, I also ended up investigating some other hypotheses I had about Pitchfork reviews. First, I had always wondered if there was a relationship between review length and rating, since a good album might have more to analyze than a bad one. Turns out, there’s no relationship:

If you’re curious, the longest review from 2017 is for Squeeze Box: The Complete Works of Weird Al Yankovic with 1,717 words (8.2 rating), and the shortest review is for the eponymous Endlings album with only 310 words (6.8 rating).

I also found that there’s no relationship between month and rating, or between album title length and rating. Too bad.

Finally, I looked into the best and worst rated albums of the year. It’s a pretty diverse spread of genres and styles, and I’ll definitely be checking out some of them:

For a more comprehensive list, the ten best albums are the following:

  1. Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory (8.7) (Rap)
  2. Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up (8.7) (Folk/Country)
  3. Visible Cloaks - Reassemblage (8.7) (Electronic)
  4. Lorde - Melodrama (8.8) (Pop/R&B)
  5. Jlin - Black Origami (8.8) (Electronic)
  6. Perfume Genius - No Shape (8.8) (Pop/R&B)
  7. GAS - Narkopop (8.8) (Electronic)
  8. King Krule - The OOZ (9.0) (Rock)
  9. Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked At Me (9.0) (Rock)
  10. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN. (9.2) (Rap)

The ten worst albums are the following:

  1. Faith Evans, The Notorious B.I.G. - The King & I (4.5) (Pop/R&B, Rap)
  2. alt-J - RELAXER (4.5) (Rock)
  3. Wu-Tang - The Saga Continues (4.5) ()
  4. Weezer - Pacific Daydream (4.3) (Rock)
  5. The Chainsmokers - Memories...Do Not Open (4.2) (Electronic)
  6. Formation - Look at the Powerful People (4.2) (Rock)
  7. blackbear - cybersex (4.1) (Rap)
  8. Joan of Arc - He's Got the Whole This Land Is Your Land in His Hands (3.8) (Metal, Rock)
  9. Hopsin - No Shame (3.5) (Rap)
  10. Ed Sheeran - ÷ (2.8) (Rock)

I wasn’t all that surprised with Kendrick being at the top of the list with DAMN. However, even though I’m not a huge fan of Ed Sheeran, I wasn’t expecting that his album would end up being the worst-rated album of 2017. It’s interesting that, at least in Ed’s case, popular opinion and critical opinion are in such disagreement. (As a side note, if you ever feel like you’re missing your daily dose of schadenfreude, read some of the critical reviews on Pitchfork. They really write with no holds barred.)

And with that, my exploration into Pitchfork’s 2017 reviews comes to an end. Hopefully you found some of these insights as interesting as I did, and maybe even walked away from this post with a couple new albums to listen to. I’m looking forward to all of the new music that’s coming in 2018 (Rocky? King Push?), and hopefully I’ll be able to be better about staying on top of it all. If not, maybe you’ll see a sequel to this post in another year.

P.S. If you're interested, here's the breakdown of the best and worst rated albums for each genre:

Genre Best Worst
Rap Kendrick Lamar - DAMN. (9.2) Hopsin - No Shame (3.5)
Pop/R&B Perfume Genius - No Shape (8.8) Faith Evans, The Notorious B.I.G. - The King & I (4.5)
Rock Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked At Me (9.0) Ed Sheeran - ÷ (2.8)
Metal Power Trip - Nightmare Logic (8.4) Joan of Arc - He's Got the Whole This Land Is Your Land in His Hands (3.8)
Electronic GAS - Narkopop (8.8) The Chainsmokers - Memories...Do Not Open (4.2)
Folk/Country Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up (8.7) Glen Campbell - Adis (5.7)
Experimental Arca - Arca (8.5) College - Shanghai (5.9)
None Various Artists - Mono No Aware (8.6) Various Artists - HOWSLA (5.8)
Global Ibeyi - Ash (8.3) Major Lazer - Know No Better EP (6.4)
Jazz Thundercat - Drunk (8.5) Kid Koala, Emiliana Torrini - Music to Draw to: Satellite (6.3)