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 #2: March

This would have been up earlier, had I not erased the first version. Oh blog posts…easy come, easy go, not so easy coming back. And don’t get me started on WordPress’ new formatting limitations. So here’s a shorter, less funny and image-restricted version.

This month was an even more insane for music accumulation than both January and February combined. The mere prospect of documenting every album I now have gives me a stomach ache. So I’m limiting this post to albums I had a chance to think about. Even though it only represents about like 10%. I still have this glut problem. But I still appreciate all of it. Unless it stinks. 

Michael Showalter – Sandwiches and Cats This should have been funnier. I was just as disappointed with the Michael Ian Black CD. What happened to these guys? They are so stand-up-comedy-ish. The “clean penis” bit is great, but nothing of the genius of the State. It’s still old school observational comedy. But I may be overestimating the State from the 3 episodes I kind of watched.

Dengue Fever – Venus on Earth Chhom Nimol’s voice is the seller here. Their whole kitschy Cambodian pop shtick has been getting a lot of hype lately (Fresh Air?), and it’ll be too bad if her voice gets overlooked when the balloon bursts. She’s had to have been with better bands. If you can recommend a better album, I’m all ears.

Stephen Malkmus – Real Emotional Trash God bless Stephen Malkmus. He’s been a seminal influence, he always impresses live, but the fear is his solo output has diminishing returns. He’s like the George Lucas of indie pop, where Pavement are like the solid original trilogy and all the solo stuff are the treacly goofy prequel mess…okay, that’s unfair. But still, I think he needs a band, he needs someone to prevent him from indulging every eccentricity. Would it be so bad if he just joined the Jicks? It doesn’t matter, I guess. I’ll still buy it. “Wicked Wanda” is pretty good.

Thao – We Brave Bee Stings and All “Beat” is my new running song. And I feel good about running to it. It earns its driving force, without programmed beats or gimmicky loudness, but with a catchy and rhythmic hook. I feel like hitting myself at points. So it’s been weird. I’m happy, I’m running, I’m hitting myself.

Atlas Sound – Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See I need more soft noises to drown out the dumb sounds of a college town. And this one does the job nicely. Not a memorable tune in the bunch, though. But I put it on to forget it, so no surprise that I don’t remember anything.

The Gutter Twin – Saturnalia Much better than I thought. The terrible band name for the Greg Dulli-Mark Lanegan collaboration was bested (or “worsted”) by an even more awful album name. Who wants to think of these fogeys engaging in an orgy, ritual-based or not. But still they’re backed by a great band and they continue and build upon with cool shady guy reps. No real standouts, but this is an old fashioned album. Good for night listening. If you buy into either of their vibes, like I do, you’ll be happy with it. But it’s not canon-bound.

Betty Davis – They Say I’m Different Wow. This was made 34 years ago? It’s like a coked up Erikyah Badu got in a time machine and crashed into Sly and the Family Stone’s garage (Overblown Time Machine Simile #1). I’m not a funk fan. It’s faux cool bothers me. But she keeps it pretty weird. “He was a big freak/I whipped with him tourquoise chain”…What?

Destroyer – Trouble in Dreams Another Dan Behar album. I’m onboard with the schtick, but it’s not for everyone. And it’s not as great as This Night or Streethawk—which have moments where you might actually identify with Dan. Nope, you gotta set sail here. I haven’t listened to it that much. Too busy playing the Destroyer Drinking Game

She & Him – Volume One I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this good. It’s like M. Ward got in a time machine, picked up Carly Simon on a lonely day, and hung out at Phil Spector’s studio during its gaveyard shift (Overblown Time Machine Simile #2). Still, it may be offering up its pleasures too easily.

John Cale – Paris 1918 I still don’t know who he is, but this is of course excellent, elegant and well-crafted. It feels like I should already have this, like I’ve lost $15 while simultaneously finding an old cd.

Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster I like it, but I’m a little skeptical of the let’s-get-ecstatic-by-the-beauty-we-create thing. Or that means I’m bitter.

The Everybodyfields – Nothing Is Okay My family makes fun of me for loving unapologetically sad albums like this. Screw them. They ache and wrench beautifully. Canon bound

Tift Merritt – Another Country The song I love the best is the one my father taught to me. “The kindness of a stranger is dust from an unseen wing. But an old friend at my table is by far the finest thing this tired mile could give to me.” The colors of the man I love are deepest blue and green and it isn’t very often that I say just what I mean, ’cause the feeling seems to scatter and these words fall in between. For what I miss, I’ll just tell you this. It’s something to me.