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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Jerry Grit’s Year in Albums #5: April-July (Part 3)

I swear to freaking god I will get this multi-part posting done before the end of July. But oh my tribulations continue! Brand new iPod #5 will not be recognized by my aged Mac. Planned obsolescence, my ass. It’s more like obligatory obsolescence. Anyone have a grand so I can get my $200 iPod to work? In 2 words, boowl sheett. This obviously complicates the ongoing project to document every album I buy this year. But continued however daunted I will.

  • The Hold Steady – Stay Positive  Like their live performance, this album gets me despite myself. Maybe it’s just that they’re filling the void left by the Afghan Whigs of making references to Roman Catholic ritual in inappropriate situations. But I don’t embrace it completely. The subject material seems to be pandering to brats, as usual. And then there’s that creepy-ass gravely back-up vocal that pops up unexpected and unwelcomed throughout the album. Who the hell is that and who thought that was a good idea? But these are nitpicks. I bought it, I’ll love it.  BTW…is it just me or is Craig Finn sounding more and more like Will Farrell’s Harry Carey impersonation?
  • My Brightest Diamond – A Thousand Shark’s Teeth  It’s been harder to get into this one, unlike the now canonical Bring Me the Workhorse. I’ll blame myself. It doesn’t assert it self like last one. The songs have their own logic it seems and maybe I need to “learn how to listen” or something. I’ll keep listening, and maybe learning. Shana Worden (my dream aunt) and operatic flourishes are worthy teachers.
  • Spiritualized – Songs In A&E  I was not to jazzed by his live show at Pitchfork, but I do love this album. It’s like a blissed-out Blur or a sad-but-willing-to-please Pink Floyd.
  • King Khan And The Shrines – The Supreme Genius of King Khan and The Shrines  Definitely canon-bound. To be sure, this band need to be experienced live. But this album captures the vibe pretty sufficiently. It has the proper grubby sound that makes the soul-punk-funk thing work. Too often, the tendency is to clean up the sound when you have so many great musicians and instruments. Not here. The thrill is preseved as it comes across as some washed up gem from a raucous 50’s Memphis garage band (Think Reigning Sound with a horn section).
  • Extra Golden – Hera Ma NonoIt sounds nice enough. The songs run a little long with little more purpose than to groove. But it’s nice to have some Kenyan grooves break up the whiney whiteys I am habitually drawn to…Crap, I already wrote about this one. Ah, I’m losing track.
  • Joan As Police Woman – To Survive  I like this a lot. I like it even more than the last one if only because Antony is not moaning all over it. There are also better collaborations, including a great one with Rufus. Even though these are some complex-sounding compositions, it kind of sounds like a throwback to Sade at times, and I never got into Sade. That antiseptic sexy is a lie (sexy is germy). So sometimes listening to this I get that awful feeling I get when I’m trapped listening to “cool rock” radio stations. But it’s only momentary. I forgive her these moments because “To Be Lonely” is about the best ever.
  • The War On Drugs – Wagonwheel Blues I love this one so far and it’s definitely canon-bound. It’s overflowing with great lyrics and catchy times. I hate to think of who they remind me of, because that list will have some real monsters on it (like James or Ryan Adams).
  • Puerto Muerto – I Was A Swallow I want to like this more than I do simply because I like the idea of Puerto Muerto so much. The husband-wife doing gothic themed tunes. But I hate the say it, because I’m sure they heard it a 1,000 times, but the Handsome Family does it better. But where as the Family are more like backwoods gothic, the Muertos sound a little more worldly. Like pirate gothic to the Family’s American gothic. And her vocals are much more powerful. So it’s a mixed bag. And that is a lot like life. You’re welcome!
  • Mahjongg – KontpabI have no idea what I should be listening for here. Fragmented electronica with distorted vocals. It’s got great grooves but not the dancing kind. It’s great background as I make my soups. Maybe if I threw a party I might put this on. Perfect to drink wine and talk about art or whatever you do with wine at parties. I need to get out. Someone invite me to a party, okay? 

I’m not done yet. But the end is near. Like 12 more to go and I will have accounted for every album I bought in the last 3 months. But need to practice the banjo now. The band has a show coming at the Gallery Cabaret in Chicago next Saturday. Very exciting. If you come, I’ll put you in the canon.