Cursive, Nance get the Pitchfork treatment, and an unscientific look at Spotify counts…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:45 pm October 16, 2018

by Tim McMahan,

Cursive albums always get the full critical once-over, but this new one, Vitriola, is really getting the treatment. In addition to being such a great album, critics remember the band and have the back-knowledge to make comparisons. And they are.

Cursive, Vitriola (2018, 15 Passenger)

Pop Matters called Vitriolaamong Cursive’s most ambitious work.” But of the 10 or so reviews for the record currently out there, this was the most negative. Check it: “When Kasher and his bandmates really have something to say, this scream can be a revelation; when they don’t, it sounds stilted, silly, like it’s issuing from a mouth that has nothing to scream for but still screams anyway.” Ouch. They gave the record the lowest rating of the 10 reviews so far, scoring a 5 out of 10.

On the other hand, there’s DIY, which called Vitriolaa fiercely political record, but one that seldom feels trite; married to the aggressive tone of a band back to make a point, it’s a razor-sharp lament of America in 2018.” Whoa! Their rating: Four out of five stars. Solid.

But maybe the only review that matters these days is Pitchfork. Just getting a Pitchfork review has become something of a triumph for bands (though Stereogum is quickly unseating Pitchfork as the internet indie-music taste-maker of choice). Pitchfork reviews can be somewhat obtuse, unless you luck into a review by long-time Pitchfork critic Ian Cohen. which Cursive did.

Cohen drones on and on but concludes with, “On Vitriola, Cursive songs again supply the satisfaction of blaring your horn at a shitty driver or hanging up on a robocall—fighting against an encroaching sense of cosmic impotence with contained acts of victimless aggression.” He gave the record a 6.8 — somewhat middle-of-the-road in Pitchfork terms. Anything less than a 7 can get ignored (at least by me).

One way to check how well a record is doing is by looking at the number of plays tracks are getting in Spotify. Hardly scientific, I know, but I don’t have access to sales numbers, so…

As of 6 a.m. this morning, Vitriola track “It’s Gonna Hurt” had 55,107 plays in Spotify, while “Under the Rainbow” had 85,247 spins. Contrast that with “The Recluse” off Domestica, which had 3.7 million spins. This tells me Vitriola has gained some traction.

BTW, says 85,247 spins equates to $340.99 in royalties. Wonder if that’s true?

David Nance Band, Peaced and Slightly Pulverized (2018, Trouble in Mind)

I only found three reviews for the new David Nance Group record Peaced and Slightly Pulverized, but one of them was from Pitchfork, and was particularly meandering. The pull quote: “The album was recorded by guitarist/keyboardist Jim Schroeder in his basement, but Nance’s newly anointed four-piece rips and wails through these seven tracks like they’re headlining the Fillmore.” Nice. Even nicer was the rating: 7.7.

Spotify spins for Peaced are, not surprisingly, much less than Vitriola. Opening track “Poison” had 5,774 spins this morning; “In her Kingdom” had 2,329.

I’ve been told spins aren’t what the labels look at as much as the number of people who have added an album to their Spotify Library. Though not equivalent to a sale, it indicates that listeners are playing the album more than once (and as such, is more important than, say, getting a track added to some tastemaker’s Spotify playlist, though that doesn’t hurt, either).

Adrianne Lenker, abysskiss (2018, Saddle Creek)

One more example: Saddle Creek Record’s latest release, the solo outing by Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker called abysskiss, got the highest Pitchfork rating of all three, with a mighty 8.0. It still wasn’t high enough to earn the record the coveted “Best New Music” status.

Abysskiss‘ Spotify numbers also are the highest of all three, with tracks “symbol” pulling in 260,000 plays and “cradle” with 266,000.

In the end it’s all just navel-gazing in an era where record sales are becoming secondary to streaming numbers and the only real income left is from touring.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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