Jerry Grit’s Year in Albums #12: November

I only bought 15 albums this month. It is the calm before the storm that will rain down recorded music on me. In December, I know will succumb to the suggestive powers of numerous Best of the Year lists. I will ask for and receive a lot of music. I will have to account for every CD I bought this year that I haven’t yet mentioned yet for various good reasons.

But before I face that monster, here’s what happened this month. I seemed to go for the freewheeling ladies this time, with some degree of success.

  • Amanda Palmer – Who Killed Amanda Palmer? Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls appeals to the 15-year-old goth girl in all of us. Or maybe just the one in me. You don’t have Yes, Virginia… by now, whatever. That said, Amanda’s solo album is not the place to start. There’s something definitely worthwhile in “Astronaut” and “Guitar Hero,” but only because they should be Dresden Doll songs. The weaknesses seem to be when she goes beyond what I’m expecting…which could just be me and my 15-year-old’s problem.
  • Ane Brun – Changing Of The Seasons “Treehouse Song” is probably my song of the month. Ane Brun is a Nordic Dolly Parton, which is actually pretty awesome. It can be a touch adult contemporary though and I did not havethe fortitude to listen to her (or anyone’s) cover of “True Colors.” Still, “Treehouse Song” is an awesome song. Did I say that you should probably hear “Treehouse Song”? Please listen to the “Treehouse Song.” (I don’t really stand behind the video)
  • Deerhunter – Microcastle I was not a huge fan of their last effort, Cryptograms. I definitely liked parts. I liked fewer parts of the solo Bradford Cox effort Atlas Sounds. But now, it’s liked they took whatever made those best parts and madean entire album. And after seeing their excellent live show, I now stand fully within the Deerhunter camp. I am ready for a T-shirt.
  • TV on the Radio – Dear Science, For my money, they don’t hit it out of the park this time. But it’s no whiff either. No “Wolf Like Me” on here. Nonetheless, the Vores like it enough to collectively hop into the proverbial bed with TVOTR. I think they’re moving a little fast and that they should be thinking about their reputation, but they could do—and have done—much, much worse.
  • Parts & Labor – Receivers P&L got a lot better. Kinda felt ripped off by the last album, even with all the critical praise. This new almost makes up for it. I half recall reading/hearing the duo expanded by two. And I can say they became twice as good. Actual melodies this time. They went from No Age-type noise to Secret Machines-esque anthems. I would recommend it to all my dudefriends. Probably not for the ladies. Even freewheelers.
  • Lou Reed – Berlin: Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse Lou Reed is like a freewheeling lady. And I don’t really know what to make of this thing. It’s a live performance of a concept album that I never heard. There’s an awful sax (hah hah! as if there’s any other kind!) and gratuitous gospel backup. And Antony is mooning on it, which is never a good sign. Still, where these elements would doom a download to digital oblivion, I’m still listening, and I kinda like it. That has more to do with Lou than with any change of heart regarding Antony, the saxophone, or rock songs with gospel backup singers. Those are treacherous rocks and Lou steers the ship clear. But I should probably know more about it.
  • Frida Hyvonen – Silence is Wild I kind of wish I was one of Frida’s ex-boyfriends. That’s probably why my ladyfriend hates her (but she says it’s the grating off-tune voice and mundane literal lyrics). Nonetheless, Frida’s expressions of nostalgia are excruciating in the frustrating funny-sad-important way that makes you want to be implicated in them. I loved her last album, Until Death Comes, as a perfect small singer-songwriter album. This one has greater ambitions, and it may not be perfect, it’s better for those ambitions. I hate songs about cities (or maybe just about New York City…and Memphis), but “London!” is an ass kicker.
  • Cut Copy – Bright Like Neon Love Cut Copy’s release earlier this year, In Ghost Colorshas been fungally growing on me and my freewheeling ladyfriend (gets no mention in Paste’s top 25, of course). But of course all the supercoolindiekids say it’s not as good as this album (oh, supercoolindiekids…your nostalgic attachments belie your avant garde pose). And this album is good. But I—the true avant garde—like the new one better. I may be burned out on eighties retro this month from repeated listens to Ladyhawke.
  • Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke Ladyhawke is freewheeling it back to the eighties. And yeah it’s a little gimmichy , but we’ve been hearing the eighties retro for years now (probably since we left the eighties), so it shouldn’t surprise or yield novel enthusiasm. Even though some of us may have lived through it, we need to dispassionately accept it as a valid idiom for expression. Once you get past the gimmicky synths, there are some pretty great songs here. Again, I hate songs about cities, but “Paris is Burning” is a new running song.
  • Joyce – Hard Bossa Brazilian lady recommended by Mac McCaughan on his superb dozen. Mac doesn’t let me down (Get Back Snowball, aside…which was probably more Bob Pollard’s fault, anyways). Lady’s singing gibberish (or Portuguese). I’m pretty sure there’s some pan flute on here. Nonetheless, it keeps pretty close to the bossa nova thing. So it’s “hard” insofar as it’s real bossa, not that it’s like metal bossa (which doesn’t make sense, but I was still a little disappointed). I like “Garota de Ipanema” like anyone else and this will keep me warm as the Wisconsin freeze begins. Plus, she sounds a little like a Brazilian Joni Mitchell, which is alright.

 

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  • Desolation Wilderness – White Light Strobing Straight up. I bought it on the strength of the album artwork alone and that they may sound a little like Deerhunter. A little, but it’s Deerhunter-lite. Deerhunter is expanding their sound while these guys are comfortably ensconced within hazy reverb and indecipherable lyrics. Palatable enough, but it won’t make any lists. Not that it should. They’re a new band and they’re on the right path.
  • Deerhunter – Weird Era Cont. This one seemed to be made with more of the parts I didn’t like from Cryptograms. That said, it’s still pretty great and better than Cryptograms. And, from the story I heard, it was released in anger because Microcastle was leaked early. An amazing feat that Bradford Cox can pull off two pretty great albums. He’s like Axl Rose, but completely opposite. Get him a Dr. Pepper.
  • Mates Of State – Re-arrange Us I am a little embarrassed I own this. And I wouldn’t otherwise admit it if it was not the case that full disclosure is essential to the integrity of this project to document every album I buy this year. I was moved to buy it for its mention on the Paste best of list for 2008. Oh “Best of the Year” lists, I am weak to your suggestive powers, even when I know you’re terrible (to my credit, Re-Arrange ranks pretty low on that terrible list, which to my mind, meant that it should rank pretty high on mine. I’m not sure it will.) BTW, this album’s alright!
  • The Whispertown 2000 – Swim The lead vocal is a little precious, in that lazy-cute-drunk way. I’ll still listen, but I need to follow them up with a chaser of Marnie Stern, or drill sounds. And they may be under the guidance of Gillian Welch, which can only mean good things. Good for Sunday mornings.
  • Marnie Stern – This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He When Angus Young finally quits AC/DC to join Deerhoof, they’ll be surprised to find their intended terrain well trod by Marnie Stern. She’s got the wicked licks (especially on “Transformer”…which I keep thinking is “Thunderstruck” creeping out from the darker less-visited corners of my digital music library) and she can appealingly grate like Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzakie. Definitely not for Sunday mornings. But there’s a whole week to get through.

Bring it, December.

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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