Sputnik’s Q1 Mixtape
Welcome to Sputnik’s first Infinite Playlist of 2013! For those of you who don’t know, this is one of the site’s best resources for discovering the best recent music from a selection of genres, as chosen by both users and staff alike. Every quarter, a new issue is published bringing you some of the best individual songs from the past three months. Thank you to everyone who contributed!
This issue’s contributors are as follows:
David Bowie – “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”
Even if The Next Day’s first single “Where Are We Now?” is a beautiful, mellow and reflective tune, it was somewhat harmless and predictable coming after a 50-year, chameleonic career. However, the moment David Bowie debuted “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”, expectations rose up, as well as several question marks regarding the new record, released after a decade long break from the music industry. “The Stars” is an uptempo, straightforward rocker with a groovy bass line and simple, effective guitar leads. What makes it special is that Bowie adds his ageless and dramatic yet powerful vocals much like he used to all the way back in the ’70s. Also, the lyrics meld David’s passion towards aliens with ironic stabs at superstars, who are beautiful and flawless on the outside, but dead on the inside. Bowie reveals some of the names he’s singing about (“Brigitte, Jack and Kate and Brad”), how “Their jealousy’s spilling down” and they “must stick together” with their own kind. In his usual twisted style, he portrays them as otherworldly androgyne, “waiting for the last move, soaking up our primitive world”. This strong tune (along with its surreal video) is a must listen and an unexpected highlight in Bowie’s career.
from the album The Next Day
Trixie Whitley – “Breathe You In My Dreams”
So there’s this girl, and she talks about love and a broken heart. Yes, she’s even singing about it, we’ve heard this all before, right? Maybe, but if there is one thing that can be said about Breathe You In My Dreams, it is that there aren’t many ways to do it better. Trixie Withley has one of the most intriguing and powerful voices of the current “new” generation of singer-songwriters and this song is a perfect illustration of this. With a voice that just begs to be described as “soulful” or “bluesy”, Whitley uses the massive chorus to explore her lower registers, to a devastating effect. And here we end up with the essential aspect of the song itself: it’s so damn catchy and with the instrumentation perfectly accentuating Whitley’s vocal delivery we almost end up feeling every crack in her broken heart. So yes, Whitley has the voice, but also the musical talent to create a completely breathtaking song for it to shine in.
from the album Fourth Corner
Stray & Frederic Robinson – “Thumbprint”
I’ll admit, “Thumbprint” has grown on me quite a bit since its release in late January. I originally praised the song for its fusion of laid-back, choppy half-time beats and expertly placed techy bleeps and vocal samples, and it’s gotten even better since then. It takes a while to appreciate the brilliance of the tune, but once it happens the song becomes that much better. The lifeless bleeps and cymbal taps become animated and full of life, the contrast between the the melody and backing chords comes into much sharper clarity, and the vocal samples mesh with the rest of the piece beautifully rather than sticking out as an oddity. “Thumbprint” should cause many listeners’ mouths to water for Frederic Robinson’s debut album, announced but not yet finished, and it deserves more than the initial playthrough.
Omar S – “Thank U 4 Letting Me Be Myself”
Part of the appeal of Omar S’ music has always been the slight arrogant undertone present in his tracks – for proof, just look at the title of his last album. And although his new release, Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself, suggests he has become a bit older, wiser and humbler, it’s still hard to take the statement non-ironically. Yet for all the narcissistic mannerisms he continues to display in his music, the tracks themselves keep on being masterfully programmed journeys throughout dance history. Needless to say, he did it again with his latest. The title track and indisputable highpoint of the record is an eight minute long, hazy rave daydream that blatantly rips off every good song that acted as the soundtrack for Detroit’s many warehouse parties, but sounds like it’s the bright future for four-to-the-floor stompers, due to the utter self-confidence it is played out with The backing beat is deceivably simple, yet criminally effective; it takes meagre seconds to get its main hook ingrained in your head, but days to get it out. And the groove it rides along can only be described as pure sex – make sure you have protection.
from the album Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself
Soilwork – “Parasite Blues”
A Beautiful Combination of melody and brutality
from the album The Living Infinite
Clutch – “Cyborg Bette”
On Clutch’s latest full-length album, there’s no shortage of fiery choruses and groovy riffs. The whole album really is a nostalgic piece of rock heaven. But the song “Cyborg Bette” might just have that extra bit of adrenaline to stand above all the other gems that can be found on “Earth Rocker”. It’s chaotic and ferocious, yet never loses that sense of style and groove that Clutch has become known for through the years. Neil Fallon’s bellowing voice roars with such frustration about the trials and suffering women can put men through; and then jokes about how men can never quite seem to learn to look for anything beyond the “hardware” and “firepower” in a hot young female. This is truly what Clutch was meant to play, a hard-hitting rocker with hints of humour and sarcasm…and they pull it off better than almost any rock band around. With “Cyborg Bette”, Clutch proves you don’t need to re-invent the wheel to make a masterpiece, just keep holding down that gas pedal and make the engine roar. “Why you gotta run so hot?”
from the album Earth Rocker
The Darien Venture – “Ho! Criminal Face”
“Ho! Criminal Face” is everything I think pop music ought to be, but isn’t. It’s a track that becomes infectiously memorable, without having to sacrifice technicality. It’s a track that manages to establish an emotional connection with the listener while maintaining wit. It’s a track that throws emotional vocals and harmonies galore into a minefield with all aspects coming out on the other end in pristine shape with a shit-eating grin on their faces. And God bless The Darien Venture, it’s just a song that rocks hard with a technical pop sensibility. How can you resist a technical rock song that’s equal parts light and heavy and always served up with a smile?
from the album A Kite, A Key and A Storm
Old Gray – “Coventry”
Hailing from New Hampshire, Old Gray is a 3-piece emo band. After a couple EP’s and several splits they have finally released their first full-length “An Autobiography”. This album is a step up from the solid, but by comparison, less developed sound of their earlier work. The lyrics are very personal, but feel less forced than those of many of Old Gray’s contemporaries and the music complements them excellently. “Emily’s First Communion” and “I Stil Think About Who I Was Last Summer” are the biggest highlights for me, but I feel that this song is a better representation of their overall sound.
from the album An Autobiography
Cult of Luna – “Passing Through (Acoustic Version)”
Vertikal was by no means a small release. The post metal giants released a solid album, though because of my recent slacking when it comes to listening to new releases only one track really stood out to me. That track being “Passing Through”. Since my first listen “Passing Through” has been my favorite track from the record and when I heard news that an acoustic version of the song was being released I was excited. Immediately the acoustic rendition caught my attention more so than the original. It seems to convey the solemn, and cold atmosphere of the original in a much better way. The droning main riff of the song works to a great degree with an acoustic guitar and the vocals have more of a personal touch that I personally adore.
from the album Vertikal
Disclosure – “White Noise”
Once the baby of the UK’s proud music scene, garage has largely been relegated to the grime of clubs and the underground. Occasionally a star or a hit bobs itself above the water (anyone remember 3 of a Kind?) and out have spilt multiple sub & fusion genres, but it’s been a while since it has held a consistent presence in the national psyche. Disclosure practise a kaleidoscope of genres and musical ideas, mixing in just as much house as UK garage, but their refreshing approach to music – by maintaining a focus on production yet keeping the music accessible with a selection of guest singers and experimenting outside the confines of a single genre – has led them to be the first of a recent resurgence to make that step back into the charts. Whether they truly signal the rebirth of pride in the UK’s electronic music scene is yet to be determined, but “White Noise” follows the intense sexiness that was last year’s “Latch” and proves at least that Disclosure are more than a one hit wonder. An addictive beat matches Aluna Francis’s vocals before eerie synths create a dusk-like vibe leading into a hugely catchy chorus. With an album coming in June, it’s just possible that Disclosure could blow up once and for all.
from the album Settle
Steve Mason – “Lonely”
“Lonely” is not a microcosm of Steve Mason’s latest release, but rather the embodiment of his evolution from depressed-and-in-debt to blazing bold new paths. After leaving The Beta Band, Mason found himself taking a second job on a building site in order to avoid going broke, writing solo material under the moniker King Biscuit Time (which remained relatively under-the-radar), and fighting what appeared to be a never-ending battle with crippling depression. It definitely seemed like the glory days were over for Mason…barring a massive and unexpected breakthrough. Enter Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time, an effortlessly creative piece that is every bit as accessible as it is unique. “Lonely” – with its throwback classic rock undertones, bleak lyrics, and contrastingly uplifting chorus – is the engine that drives Steve Mason’s artistic renaissance. You’ll find yourself swaying in unison with the song’s haunting melody while simultaneously aching with its downtrodden accounts of isolation. “Lonely” gives you a little bit of everything from Steve Mason’s past, and honestly it couldn’t couldn’t have come at a better time for this once left-for-dead musical marvel.