Paste has become a terrible magazine

Over my 3 year subscription to Paste Magazine, this year I’ve watched it fall from its status of an enlightened Entertainment Weekly  to becoming as vapid as Entertainment Weekly, but without the topicality or access. They also now take about 8 minutes to read cover-to-cover.

First, there was the layout change. If used to be staid, at least it made sense. Now it looks like the half-assed product of a coked-up student-run high school newspaper that hasn’t yet learned exactly to use its new layout program.

Second, there’s what they said about Cormac McCarthy.

Nihilism is now so universally confused with profundity that even the serious literary establishment can’t see that Cormac McCarthy is really just Stephen King without the entertainment value.

What!?! This is more wrongheaded than calling Marcel Proust just a scribomanic shut-in or Moby Dick just an unfocused travelogue.

And now, its annual top 25 list. Strike 3, I’m done.

My Mourning Jacket’s Evil Urges at 16? Of Montreal’s Skeletal Lamping at 12! Hold Steady’s Stay Positive at 11!?! Okkervil River’s The Stand Ins at 5???

These are all great bands and decent albums, but these are not their best efforts. And compared to best efforts that don’t even rank (Frightened Rabbit! The Kills! Thao! King Kahn! Wolf Parade! The Ruby Suns! Vivian Girls! Lambchop! Black Mountain! The Dodos! Mount Eerie!) makes it all the more apparent the Paste staff got lazy and gave out some easy passes to these typical end-of-the-year listmakers.

And Girl Talk at 7!!! Is some kind of statement? Do these people even like music?

Even though I hate it, I’m expecting high rankings for the Jar Jar Binks of Indie Rock. So no surprise they show up at 3. Whatever.

Then, She and Him…the album of the year?!!? Sure, it’s easily likeable, so maybe it was easy to build consensus. But they’re the Alan Thicke of Indie Rock: blandly handsome. Try not getting bored after 4 spins. Compare with Bon Iver (#4) or Deerhunter (#10) and it’s not even in the same league. And shouldn’t Zooey Deschanel pay for the The Happening?

Plus, the Reigning Sound may still put out an album this year. No accounting for that possibility whatsoever.

I throw up my hands, Paste. If I can still name my price for a subscription, I want all my exclamation points back.

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Yay, Nay, Egh: My Hideout Block Party Concert Review

My ladyfriend and I traveled to Chicago for my 5th consecutive attendance to the Hideout Block Party in Chicago. The Hideout is the coolest bar/musical community behind a Home Depot. I didn’t get to see everything and had to leave early. I am only a man.

SATURDAY

  • Giant Sand (Yay)He’s much jazzier and Billy Bob Thortonlike than expected. Unfortunately, the set was a little ramshackle and there were none of the great female vocalists he recorded with on the recent and great Provisions. (C’mon, Neko Case.) Still, it was my first time seeing a guy I’ve been listening to for a decade. Novelty prevails.
  • Little Cow (Egh) I guess they did what they could for shirtless Hungarians.
  • Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip (Yay) Pretty decent British rapping, I shrug. But here’s what puts it over the top as a live experience. Pip devotes intersong banter to reaming their Pitchfork reviewer for giving their last album a 0.2 (which is like a really low pitched “Nay,” given my primitive rating schema). He reams by reading that same reviewer’s celebratory assessments of Coldplay and Sean Combs.  Get that guy, Scroobius.
  • Plastic People of the Universe (Egh) I half-read an article about this group being legendary and everyone should be really excited.  I half-listened and wasn’t convinced of the former, so didn’t become the later.
  • Monotonix (Yay) I’m not too sure what they were playing or that I would ever listen to it again. But they won me and many over for keeping it sort-of together while the singer crowd surfed in a garbage can, the drummer crowd surfed on his drums, and the guitarist sat on an elephant. Again, novelty prevails.
  • Neil Hamburger’s Drunken Spelling Bee (n/a) I was definitely interested in doing this. But you had to sign a release and apparently there were to be shots after every spelling bee round. And it was inside, during Black Mountain’s set. If anyone can share, please do. 
  • Black Mountain (Yay)Long freaking setup time. But in retrospect, I think it had something to do with Monotomixabbreviated set (abbreviated by some kind of destruction, I think). Still, it was nice to see Vancouver psyche-rockin the sunshine, however cloaked in a manufactured fog.
  • Vieux Farka Toure (Egh) A little too jammy. Not on my wavelength. They should play by an egg-timer. One of the guys sat on a gourd.
  • Neko Case (Yay) I thought Neko was on her way out as far as my positive assessment goes. I thought OD’d on her and the rest would be diminishing returns. But the lady’s still got it. Looked like she could use a nap, though. Maybe a few z’s were more important than showing up for Giant Sand.   

SUNDAY

  • The Jon Rauhouse Sestet (Yay) Pedal steel driven instrumentals. Listened from afar, as I drank my beer and read through old New Yorkers.
  • Honey Boy Edwards & Devil in a Woodpile (Obligatory Yay)It’s blues in the Sunday sun, so it’s kind of boring. Both Honey Boy Edwards and Devil in a Woodpile are best heard on weekday nights. But Honey Boy Edwards is billed as the “oldest living bluesman,” a description that renders any critique mean. And Devil in a Woodpile are essential to the Hideout, so it seems wrong to say anything remotely critical. 
  • The Uglysuit (Egh) Oklahoma group with each band member managing to have their own personal and equally dire hair issue. The new album is alright, but they need to grow up. And get some buzz cuts.
  • Tim Fite (Egh) Kind of bummed that Tim rhymes/sings to backing tracks. But he ends Gallagher-like by throwing watermelons into the crowd.
  • Mucca Pazza (Yay) The marching band shtick is still pretty fun.
  • Dark Meat (Nay) Wow. These guys were terrible. No idea how they ended up with such a prime time slot. C’mon, Hideout staff. You can do better.
  • Robbie Fulks (Yay) Robbie finds a way to finally get the masses excited about him, by doing a Michael Jackson-only set with the great Nora O’Conner. Their are costume changes, lamely funny to impenetrably bizarre pantomimes, the obvious jokes, but it’s pretty fun. Novelty prevails and conquers.
  • Rhymefest (An Averaged “Egh”)Rhymefest starts out a strong “Yay,” but unravels to a “Nay”. Perhaps overshadowed (or tripped up?) by the Robbie Fulks-Michael Jackson extravaganza that just preceeded him (and ended with a stage full of hipster zombies doing the “Thriller” thing), he seems at first charged by the build-up, starting with a few tracks off his free Michael Jackson tribute album.  After a few flubbed raps, he wrongheadedly goes off-script with his spoken word peice about being close to life, death, hope, etc. After a minor flub of this, he gets heckled. He then goes in a defensive crouch behind the DJ and tries again with the solid “Brand New” from his great album, Blue Collar. But he’s obviously rattled. He flubs this and just walks off, completing only like 20 minutes of an hour set. The DJ tries to cover for him by leading the crowd into a chant. DJ understands that there’s little he can do sans MC and flees after El Che.  You don’t often get to see a set implode like that. And it’s surprising to see it happening to Rhymefest, who fronts a hardworking, professional entertainer ethic. Perhaps he was angling for his own Kanye West-like Bonnaroo meltdown
  • The New Pornographers, Ratatat, Hercules and Love Affair DJ set (n/a) Have to work. Can’t flee the stage of my life. Damn, dude.

Jerry Grit’s Year in Albums #1: January-February

I buy a godawful way-beyond-my-budget amount of music. It’s becoming a problem. I’m on a 90-track monthly subscription to eMusic*, but even that does little to satiate this hunger for sound. I’ve already bought over 200 songs this year, and they were like so many cocktail weenies down a well**. I need to  appreciate more, unless my hyper-consumption strip my capacity to appreciate. So this year, I will take account of every album I acquire.

Little Amber Bottles by BlancheBlanche, Little Amber Bottles

I got duped by an NPR show. It lead me right for A Sunny Day in Glasgow, but they dropped the ball on this one. They’re like a polished version of the Handsome Family, who aren’t in need of any polishing. So you get this mundane glossy americana gothic sound. Glossy goth is not good market-wise (too gothic sounding for contemporary country scene, too glossy for the americana goths…they wear chaps AND fishnets). 

Basia Bulat, Oh My Darling

I like that she’s bringing back the autoharp. And she can sound like Tonya Donnelly, which appeals to this dark place in me. The album doesn’t hang together, but there are some real nice moments.

Ra Ra Riot,  Ra Ra Riot

Some tunes can sound like tossed off Police B-sides, like right when Sting started discovering his world music lameness. But still most of the tunes got an optimistic hop to them. I’m digging it.

A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Scribble Mural Comic Journal

I read a lot, so I need noise to drown out the everlasting bong convention in the apartment next door. This one does the job nicely so far.

Mark Lanegan, Bubblegum

I downloaded this one by accident. (It was only a matter of time…I’ve been visiting the page for a daily for updates since I heard about the upcoming Mark Lanegan-Greg Dulli collaboration “the Gutter Twins“…which I have a sneaking feeling will be terrible…these guys have like the combined age of 158 and they want to be called “twins”?) I was surprised to discover PJ Harvey on 2 tracks,  but I think this gets cancelled out by 2 choads from Velvet Revolver on 1 track. That leaves Lanegan’s gruff coolness that can sound a little manufactured to these authentically cool gruff ears. But still, I don’t mind that I have these.

Bon Iver,  For Emma, Forever Ago

I’ve been looking forward to this one. With the anticipation that usually leaves me feeling tricked. But not here. It sounds like TVOTR’sTunde Adebimpe, but like stuck with Iron & Wine’s touring band. I am very excited. Canon-bound.

Some Racing, Some Stopping, Headlights

It’s not going to blow any minds, but it may tap some feet. I like it better than their last album, which I liked alright. Maybe they’re a Death Cab for Cutie-type that I’m not embarrassed to listen to.

High Places, 03/07 – 09/07

More fractured soundscapes for reading. But a little more upbeat.

Beach House, Devotion

I could only get 8 of these tracks, and it’s driving me nuts. I loved their last album, and I’m thinking this one is a step up. The composition is a little more complex, without sacrificing the sparse ambiance of their first tracks. There’s even a cool Daniel Johnson cover. Instant canonization.

Puerto Muerto, Songs Of Muerto County

Their performance 2 years ago left an indelible impression on me. The wife stentorian, banging on a tom while the husband is all snakey on guitar. It’s taken me that long to finally buy something, but it was worthwhile. This one also appeals to my weakness for concept albums. It has something to do with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I have now idea how, and what a terrible movie, but I’m glad I was suckered. “Josephine” alone has made this one Canon-bound.

Black Mountain, In The Future

PASTE Magazine kind of panned this album, which is making me reconsider my subscription. No wonder they give them out free. This album is excellent. Amber Webber is more prevalent, which is a great thing (check out her excellent project, Lightning Dust). The songs can get a little jammy and he can sound too much like Mudhoney, but it’s still pretty great. Canon-bound

Breathe Owl Breathe, Ghost Glacier EP

Of course I love this. It’s like it’s been custom designed for me. But now I need to buy this guy’s entire oeuvre. Oh the obligation of discovery.

Evangelicals, The Evening Descends

I really like this. It’s a like spooky Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. There’s a moment in “Skeleton Man” (you’ll know it when you hear it) that has failed to not give me chills.

Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon by Devendra BanhartDevendra Banhart,  Smokey Rolls Do…

I’m not a really big fan of this guy, but I still manage to have every album. How did this happen. I’ve never listened to Television, I’m not too sure who John Cale is, and yet I have over a hundred songs by this unwashed Lindsey Lohan ex. Still, this one’s better than the rest.

He Poos CloudsFinal Fantasy, He Poos Clouds

To be honest, it was the title. And I got what I paid for. I’m sure what to make of it. It sounds pretty complex and strange, but I’m not sure it’s good. I might have to be patient with this one.

 Glass Candy, Beat Box

This could be a little too trendy, or I could be going through some sort of phase (a breathy-vocals-over-chintzy-beats phase), but I’m loving it now.

Disco RomanceSally Shapiro, Disco Romance

Another by-product of my breathy-vocals-over-chintzy-beats phase, but not as satisfying as Glass Candy. I think I just want more Glass Candy. Still, it’s cute.

JukeboxCat Power, Jukebox

Not as good as her last cover album. Holy mole this is becoming a long post.

Every Joke Is Half the TruthScary Mansion, Every Joke Is Half the Truth

I think I got this one only because I was disappointed by “Jukebox” so much. Scary’s being marketed as (or described like) early Cat Power. So that may be influencing my expectations overmuch. I need to just buy more old Cat Power and come back to this when I can listen to it one its own terms.

Little HappynessThe Aluminum Group, Little Happyness

Eyah. Even though it comes from Chicago, it’s still lame euro disco pop. But I’m still listening to it. And it nauseates me a little. The electronica binge stops now.

Times New Viking, Rip It Off

I’m very excited to see these guys and gal live, but the rough recording makes it kind of hard to find the song through the mess. I know it’s intentional, but I can’t help but feel a little, yes, ripped off. But what I’ve found, I’ve liked so much.
 Tiny VipersTiny Vipers, Tiny Vipers

I blew it here. This is some kind of live album, and it’s not playing to her strengths. She has some fine buzz, but this recording is not a very good introduction. But I think I just want the Bats for Lashes album. But it’s not on eMusic. I’ll have to buy the CD. Must…resist…the…compulsion.

*I am not a shill for eMusic. I am a fan, however. There is a diff.

**Pardon the mixed metaphor.