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 #6: April-July (Part 4)

I’m so near the halfway point in my documentation of every album I buy this year. Appropriate time as any to rechristen this project the “Year in Albums”, since I’m finding a hard time limiting myself to download purchases. I’m still buying CDs, can you believe?

  • Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea Somewhere along the way, I get it in my head that Cassie Berman was destined to be the Linda McCartney of this band that I like. It may have been an off night or bad sound, but at one show I saw she came across as pretty but also as the band’s tuneless weak link. After one listen of the new album, I know either I was way wrong or she got way better. She is now the absolute highlight. There’s the usual tossed-off witty Berman wordplay (“Romance is the douche of the bourgeoisie/Was the very first thing she imparted to me”; “Things get kind of squirrely when you’re sleeping in the park”; “We could be looking for the same thing, if you’re looking for someone,” etc). But her vocals bring the emotive that nicely contrasts with Dave’s deadpan on “Suffering Jukebox” and others, which actually saves the album from cleverness (a fatal opponent in Silver Jews discography).
  • Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Underground Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti “Underground” is like an A-Team episode, but instead of the A-Team stuck in the garage, it’s Stephen Merritt stuck in a half-functioning 70’s-era studio. And the plan that comes together isn’t a souped-up beater with a bunch crap welded to it, but an album of catchy oddball pop songs but made from the beat-up crap you’d find in said studio. It borders unlistenable, but it’s still fun.
  • The Dodos – Visitor I like it, but I have a heard time coming up with anything to say about it. I think because I’m trying the same thing they’re doing, so as their choices are awesome, they’re also self-evident to me. There are great vocals, stripped down instrument-wise to guitar and assorted rhythm toys. A great summer album.
  • Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes What a bunch of softies. I kind of want to get these boys into a gym or arm-wrestle them or something. The interplay of voices is awesome and pretty, but I haven’t ever wanted to listen to old Rollins Band albums until I sat through these guys. It’s great for Grandmas and people actually living in Cincinnatti.
  • Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer My socks are still securely on after listening to this, and I can’t say they were after listening to their first one. But still, I like it. But that “California Dreamer” song is terrible. What the hell are California dreams?
  • Cursive – The Ugly Organ This is an older album and I bought after seeing Cursive live. I don’t know why I stayed away from Cursive for so long. I really liked “Happy Hollow” and I think Tim Kasher’s sadder side-project The Good Life has put out two top notch albums. I kept them from the full embrace they deserved after they got coded “emo” in my head. I have been so brave this month overcoming my wrong impressions. This album is a freaking indictment of the “emo” bs (“I want to entertain/but they want pain” or something like that). Get ready for the full Grity embrace, buddies.
  • Sarabeth Tucek – Sarabeth Tucek I’m a sucker for this longing pretty lady shtick. The Heather Novas and the Cat Powers will get me. Sarabeth is in their league. May have too much of a resemblance to be remembered though. It may take some time to hear some nuances.
  • The Ruby Suns – Sea Lion I love albums like these. Listenable, but strange. Like a Caribbean Yo La Tengo, but way more emphasis on rhythm. Not that this would mean anything to you, but I had a perfect moment with this album driving out of Chicago at dusk into a pink urban sky

Holy mole. I might be done for these past 3 months. I think. Oh wait. Got the new Pinback album. Crap…and The Kills and The Eternals (that’s a funny pair). And Portishead. And for some reason, Jay-Z. And I’m sure some other less noteworthies.

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