Defend Your Ballot: Andrew Winistorfer, Pazz and Jop 2012 Contributor


You can’t really know where you’re headed unless you know where you’ve been. For that reason, we’re taking a look back at Pazz & Jop 2012 to drill down into the ballots of contributors and voters who participated. Maybe amongst the rubble we’ll find clues about what lies ahead for music lovers in 2013. Here, music writer Andrew Winistorfer defends his ballot.

Okay. Andrew Winistorfer. Who are you, how many times have you voted in Pazz & Jop, and why should we trust you?

I am probably the most small potatoes writer to “Defend My Ballot” on here. I am a freelance writer based out of Madison, Wisconsin, which means I have a more meaningful relationship with cheese than you do. I have written for Noisey, Potholes in My Blog, the AV Club, and I run a popular tumblr called Vinyl in Alphaetical. This is my first time voting in Pazz and Jop, because I was too embarrassed to beg to be included when I was a working music blogger. And no one should trust me because I voted for Riff Raff unironically.

Well, first things first: Since you are from Wisconsin, let’s talk cheese. One time when I was in Wisconsin I went to a cheese shop and got a sandwich with 13-year-aged-cheddar and it smelled so bad, I could barely get it to my mouth. But it was delicious. What’s your favorite kind of cheese?

I’m a simple man of simple tastes: I fuck with cheddar predominantly.

How sharp?

You know, I’m not sure it’s accurate to say I have a favorite cheese. Cheese is so readily available here (like, they have good cheese at gas stations here) it’s something I hardly think about. We wear it on our heads here, after all. I guess medium sharp is what I’m saying

That sounds right. Cheese seems like a good way to transition into Riff Raff. So, my question is pretty simple: Riff Raff?

That is the question, right? Like, is Riff Raff for real? Is he even any good? Is his beard on purpose? What does he dream about? What does he do right before bed? When did he graduate high school? As you can tell, I have thought more about Riff Raff in 2012 than any other media construct.

What have you learned? And on the real, how the hell did this guy end up in your Top 10?

When I started doing my ballot, I thought about all the stuff that I listened to in 2012, and what stuff engaged me the most. Riff Raff makes that list, because not only is he an insane thing to ponder, his music, to me, is more fun than about anything else. His songs don’t make any sense, but they are insane in an engaging way. His wordplay is so nonsensical, it swings around to being brilliant somehow (“I done shook dice with Larry Bird in Barcelona”). I guess the short answer is that I am easily susceptible to a dude with a stupid beard rapping “Rap Game (hilarious pop culture reference)” bars at me over cheap ass beats. I don’t think I can explain why I liked Birth of an Icon anymore than I could explain the idea of Riff Raff as a performing artist to my grandma. I am the worst at defending my ballot

You’re doing a great job so far. Let’s talk more about your grandma. If you were to show Riff Raff to her, how would you phrase it?

Well, I’d probably have to explain that there can be people who are only famous on the Internet first. My grandma doesn’t even have an e-mail anymore, I don’t think. We all got her a computer in like 2007, and she used it for a month and bailed. I’d probably play her “Bird on a Wire” and tell her it’s the number one song in the country.

Would she believe you?

She probably wouldn’t believe that YouTube exists. Or maybe I’m stereotyping my grandma, and she’s got the new Le1f mixtape on blast in her Chevy Malibu right now. Shouts out to Alvina.

Alvina sounds awesome, but let’s get back to the ballot.

Yes please.

Heems is number 1 for you. That mixtape released a little under the radar, but still got a good critical response. Were you surprised to not see more people vote for it?

Not really. A free mixtape released in January isn’t going to have much legs for polls like this, you know? I also think that there are two dividing camps on Das Racist in general — the side that will never see them as anything other than 2008’s Riff Raff and the side that thinks they were the best rap group these last three years (I am of this camp) — and Nehru Jackets sort of passed both camps.

For me, it was the album I most listened to in 2012 — which counts for something, I think, in these polls. It was political, had great singles (I still play “Swate” once a week), and proved that Heems isn’t fucking around. He’s probably never going to get the right amount of credit for being as good as he actually is.

Forever doomed by the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

Which is bullshit because that song is ACTUALLY REALLY GOOD. I’m 94% serious.

You mentioned a little bit about what went into voting for you. Talk about your process.

Well, I’m one of those nerds that keeps a word file of my favorite albums of any year. So I update it throughout the year. Shift stuff in, shift stuff out. Move things up and down the list. I actually really like lists. I am the enemy. So I based it on what I “liked” the most throughout the year, and what I listened to the most, and what albums were the most entertaining, etc. This is probably pretty boring. How did you make your list?

You can’t ask me questions. That’s not how this works. I like that method of listmaking though. Seems like you spent a lot of time with it. So, The Village Voice thanks you. How surprised are you at positive response to Future? Did you ever think he’d get this popular?

No I did not. Considering I thought Pluto stunk as recently as May (I couldn’t get past the post-Weezy Auto-Tune). I think he’s an example of a guy being defined by his pop hits initially — everyone framed early coverage of him through his success in Atlanta’s clubs — and then when people actually spent the time with Pluto, they realized that he’s legitimately the weirdest, coolest guy making pop rap right now. He makes Drake seem like Mr. Feeney. I don’t think there’s an album that has more ridiculously great singles on it from 2012. I long for a future where the entire top ten is just songs from Pluto.

So, wait, you thought it stunk in May? Talk about your appreciation process.

I half listened to it in April, or March, when it leaked, and thought, Oh, this is a dude doing what made Lil Wayne the worst popular rapper since Vanilla Ice — sing-rapping nonsense in Auto-Tune. But the thing that turned it around for me was hearing “Turn on the Lights” when I was out drinking in Milwaukee. I was like, “Holy shit, what is this?” And then I realized it was this album I “didn’t like.” I got it again, and it was like I was actually hearing it for the first time.

There’s a lot of prejudice, in a way, you have to work through to get into Future, and that’s been one of the funnest things about 2012; watching pretty much everyone I follow on Twitter come around to it just like me. Or give it a legitimate shot. I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t love it after really giving it a chance. Which is ridiculous, because Future doesn’t need me. He’s popular for real.

On a scale of 1-10, how sexy of a song is “Turn on the Lights”?

See, I’m not sure it’s “sexy.” It’s actually a sort of sad song. He’s just sure that there is this perfect woman, and he’s trying to find her. He’s not even clear on what she does or what job she has. Future is an eternal optimist. What does it say about me personally that I find that song melancholy though?

It says you’re from the Midwest. I’m listening to it right now, and I can hear the melancholy. That’s also probably because I too come from the Midwest.

Kanye West says that the Midwest is young and restless. But he hasn’t lived here for years. We’re mostly old, cold and melancholic.

All the young and restless people leave, I guess? At least that’s what I did. Can I still rep the Midwest, or does that bother you since I’m now a Coastie.

You can’t rep the Midwest for two reasons.

1. You can’t unless you chose to live here after college graduation.
2. Because you’re from Iowa. I’m not even 100% sure where that is in relation to Wisconsin and Illinois and Michigan. I feel like it’s probably closer to Colorado.

Midwest exceptionalism is a thing that exists, people of New York.

Let’s talk about Beach House. The best make out album of the year, right?

I wish. I made out more to the stupid fun. album. But yeah, that album was kind of slept on because it was “only” really, really good.

What do you mean that?

Because Teen Dream knocked people out. It was out of left-field for some people (though Devotion was really good and underrated), and so they want a repeat of that feeling with every new Beach House album. It’s more or less Teen Dream 2: Better Deep Cuts, which meant people didn’t geek out about it as much. Or as much as they should have, I guess. That album is so great.

I think I listened to that record for about a month straight, after it came out.

I listened to it a month straight in October after I saw them on tour.

But dude. It was Number 10 overall. I don’t think people ignored it!

It wasn’t ignored. I think the hype was tempered for that. Which is fine. And I guess I’m part of the problem since I didn’t give it a crap load of points. I guess I want Beach House to be the biggest rock band on earth, and when they are only considered very good, I see it as a slight. The problem is mine, Young Sundermann.

I don’t think you’re that much older than me, sir.

No, probably not.

Lots of rap on your list. I know you’re a rap guy, but “more rap” seems to be a bit of a trend in the past year. Do you have any opinions on that? The genre seems to be going through a bit of a transitional period, what with all the young cats comin’ up. Yep. Just said cats, by the way.

You are so wavy.

This is a tough one to answer. I would say that circa 2009, I was not a “rap guy” and I probably fall into the demographic shift you are mentioning. I think with the democratization of the internet, and rappers realizing the power of just touring and doing free mixtapes to build a “brand” has happened at the same time that most music listeners have realized that drawing lines in the sand re: genres is fucking stupid. Like, in 2007, people would have flipped if you had A$AP Rocky as Best New Music.

So we can blame the internet for all this RAP CRAP?

The proliferation, probably. The net has opened lanes for guys like Heems, for G-Side, for Riff Raff, for Action Bronson, for A$AP Rocky for Danny Brown. At the same time [ED NOTE: SAME DAMN TIME], people are less likely to genre discriminate. If there are still people out there who are like, “Bands from Brooklyn who really like New Order make the most vital music on Earth” they are probably pretty lonely, circa 2013. Pity the Rapture, is what I am saying.

Also, let’s be honest: Indie rock is pretty fucking stale right now. Frank Ocean made a more adventerous album than any indie rock band in 2012.

Woods made a good album! 

I have never listened to a Woods album. Do they sound like Toro y Moi? Or do they sound more like Washed Out? Or are they the NY Yuck?

Dawg. You’re missing out.

My thing is that I’m pretty close to having all I need, music-wise, from dudes playing guitars and singing songs about girls. Or whatever Woods songs are about.

Fair enough. Well, what do you see happening in 2013? Who’s gonna win Pazz & Jop 2013?

I’m hoping it’s someone we don’t see coming. Like, did you think that the R&B dude from Odd Future would make the year’s best album? But my gut tells me Kanye’s going to put out an album, and it’s going to top Pazz and Jop. Also, it’d be nice if that Earl Sweatshirt album really comes out and is really good. And maybe Danny Brown’s new one will be perfect.

Totally. What about Schoolboy Q? I told someone last night when I was drunk that he was going to be this year’s Kendrick but I think I was just drunk.

I think Ab-Soul is the next to blow from that posse. Q is too outta control to make his version of ‘Good Kid.’ Ab’s weird enough to pull it off.

That’s an astute observation, and we’ll see if it’s true. And if it’s not, consider your Pazz & Jop ballot revoked.

I was sort of surprised it made it on in the first place. It had a Riff Raff album on it. It was a joke I played on The Village Voice.

DAMN YOU, WINISTORFER! And congratulations, you have successful defended your ballot.

Thanks. I’m going to go eat some cheese.

Make it extra sharp for me.

Interview by Eric Sundermann.