Defend Your Ballot: Steven Hyden, Pazz and Jop 2012 Contributor

Categories: Pazz & Jop

Lotus Plaza. "Lockett Pundt is a genius at coming up with goth-flavored trance-rock ear candy."
So then, as a critic, how do you avoid that? Just listen to as much stuff as possible? Like, how did you go about voting in P&J and making your year end lists? It seems to me that it's nearly impossible, especially in the age of Twitter/social media, to go into listening to something without any critical pretense.

In the end, all you have is your own tastes and interests. You're basically just following your gut. It's also helpful to be curious about stuff slightly off the beaten path. The world doesn't necessarily need another critic to tell people how great Kendrick Lamar is.

He is pretty great, though... Another surprise on your ballot is Lockett Pundt's Lotus Plaza at number three. What grabbed you about that record?

I'm just a total Deerhunter homer. Like a lot of music writers, I made the mistake of assigning Bradford Cox too much credit for how good that band is. Because Lockett Pundt is a genius at coming up with goth-flavored trance-rock ear candy. I played the hell out of that Lotus Plaza. If I based my list purely on spins, it might've been my number one.

That's how Woods ended up number one for me. I think I listened to that record for about three months straight. When you make your year-end lists, how much of it is based on listening time versus what you think is "best," if that makes sense.

It's based mainly on spins, though I put Fiona at number one because that record is just perfectly conceived in every way, from the songwriting to the arrangements to the instrumentation to the vocals. It's a real tour de force, I think. So, while I didn't play it as much as Lotus Plaza, it probably blew me away more.

It was really something. Did you read the New York magazine profile of her? She's fascinating. Her desire to "feel everything" is so earnest, but she presents it in this weird way that's not too over the top. What blew you away the most about it?

Just the construction of it. When people talk about Fiona Apple, they get a little too wrapped up in "feelings" talk. Her music is obviously emotionally intense, but it's also very well put-together. I actually prefer this one to Extraordinary Machine, just because there's not a wasted moment on it. There's an economy of words and music that's really impressive. It sounds like a record that was molded over the course of seven years in the best possible way.

Absolutely. Looking at your ballot, there is a surprising lack of rap music (like the aforementioned Kendrick), especially considering how "big" of a year 2012 was for rap. Do you have any thoughts on that?

To be brutally honest, I'm not a huge rap fan. Or rather, there's lot of other genres I'm drawn to more. That's not a judgment on the music, just my own tastes. That said, I found myself appreciating the big critical consensus rap records -- Kendrick, Future, Killer Mike, etc. -- more than loving them. I get why other people love them, but for me, I guess I wanted something a little catchier. One of my favorite records of 2013 so far is A$AP Rocky, which is super addictive musically though I can't say much for the actual rapping on it.

We recently put A$AP Rocky on our cover, actually. I wrote the story (just trying to promote myself here). Do you think that record will have legs throughout 2013?

I don't know. But it has a magnetic emptiness to it that seems very 2013.

Absolutely. Any other predictions for Pazz & Jop 2013, or what we'll see in music this year?

I think 2012 was unique in that Channel Orange quickly emerged as the consensus front-runner for the album of the year. Moving forward, I think we're going have more years like 2011, when tUnE-yArDs took the top spot due to the passionate advocacy of a relatively small number of critics. P&J is charting our growing alienation from each other.

Baby's crying. Gotta run!

Thanks for defending your ballot, Steven. Good luck being a dad!

Interview by Eric Sundermann.

See Also:
- Pazz and Jop 2012: Top Albums
- Pazz and Jop 2012: Top Singles
- Pazz and Jop 2012: Critics' Ballots
- Pazz and Jop 2012 Table of Contents

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