The brickwall master of the Paramore track is just hard for me to listen to at length.
I really think Mark is too smart and reasonable to post this as a kind of cop-out for why Pitchfork isn’t reviewing the universally well-reviewed Paramore album, but can we acknowledge that this has been an industry-wide problem for decades that many, if not most, modern albums indie or otherwise suffer from? Engineers were already pushing the limits at the end of the original vinyl era. I don’t listen to the Hold Steady’s Boys and Girls in America because the mastering is so ugly. Stay Positive is barely better. The reviews didn’t complain. And you don’t want to look at the waveforms for the new My Bloody Valentine album’s official MP3s, which were transcoded and have chopped substantial data from the album masters.
You get a similar compressing effect with MP3 conversion, of course, which compounds the problem (and presumably has in the above image). Again, I don’t think Mark is being purposefully defensive here, but worthwhile albums that look like this come out every week and there’s a generation of listeners that prefers ‘em that way. I don’t, and it’s pretty obvious it’s an inferior product, but it’s pretty inescapable.
Here is what a Paramore song that isn’t the crunchiest track on the album looks like.
Also: Pitchfork threw a ten-point-oh on Kanye’s brickwall-mastered My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Mark Richardson wrote a great, 8.7, Best New Music review of Sleigh Bells’ terrific debut Treats, which made clipping an aesthetic choice as much as any record in recent memory.