It’s ironic that we at Utne Reader have decided to give indie champ Paste magazine a shout-out this week. Because Paste Editor-in-Chief Josh Jackson had the same idea in the magazine’s May issue, offering his hip music mag a well-deserved pat on the back in recognition of 10 years spent bringing great music to its readers. Who cares that the hand doing the patting is Jackson’s own? The issue is exemplary of what Paste does best, offering a good balance of album reviews of new artists and old favorites, a roundup of musicians’ tributes to (and diatribes against) their mothers in honor of Mothers Day, and a hilarious two-page spread celebrating the 100th birthday of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” There’s even the much-loved accordion appreciation article.
The feature articles are excellent as well. The best is an essay by Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard. Paste sent Gibbard to a cabin in Big Sur—the same cabin to which he’d retreated to write the songs on the band’s latest album, Narrow Stairs, and also where Jack Kerouac wrote Big Sur—to “meditate on life, art and solitude.” Sometimes first-person thought experiments work, and sometimes they flop. In this case, Gibbard offers a very personal, not-quite-sentimental vision of Big Sur, Kerouac, and his own life in a truly enjoyable essay.
Paste brings together the best elements of the mainstream and indie music press, offering sharply written reviews (not exactly a mainstay in the underground music scene) of bands that go unwritten about in most big music glossies.