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Musings

Sowing’s Mixtape For The Sputnik Community


Every year dating back to 2010, I have celebrated the closing out of another 365 day musical expedition with a private iTunes playlist encompassing my favorite tracks of the year. Usually, it’s just what I can fit on the runtime of your average blank CD-R. I make the CD, file it, and bring it out of retirement whenever I’m ready to re-live a specific moment in time. For example, just last week I basked in The National’s Conversation 16 as part of my 2010 collection. Thanks to me finally getting with the times and downloading Spotify, I can now share the joy (or pain, to some of you) of the songs that have defined 2014 for me. To those of you that know me well, there might not be very many surprises besides the influx of end-of-year finds (D’Angelo…holy shit). For those of you who don’t converse with me all that frequently, I am throwing the disclaimer out there right now: this playlist is heavily rooted in pop and indie. I played it for my friend the other day and he told me it sounded like the most pretentious, hipster-esque shit ever which I took as sort of a compliment because normally I just associate with being a mainstream whore. Either way, here’s your opportunity to kill an hour of work on a Friday while rocking out to Trophy Scars and healing to S. Carey, and probably alienating your surrounding co-workers. Cheers!

As the curtain closes on 2014, it’s difficult to fathom just how amazing of a year it was musically. This is a statement that seems to ring true for a lot of people almost every year, as we look back at the music we’ve acquiesced since January and marvel at the strength and diversity of the collective whole. Maybe we’re all too simple to please. Perhaps we just know what we like and pursue it with reckless abandon. Either way, I personally think that 2014 is one of the best years for music in a long time. So instead of drawing up a plain looking top 25 list (which I almost did), I’ve decided to do something unnecessarily over-the-top and showy to commemorate how I feel about 2014. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first annual Sowing’s Music Awards (SMA). Only the worthy have been nominated, and only the best out of those will receive the somewhat coveted (but not really) SMA trophy, which I can only imagine would look something like this:

Only the most brilliant artists will get to line their trophy cases with these! But without further ado, I present to you the first category. Thank you for reading on – if you choose to do so – and I hope you enjoy the 2014 SMA’s.

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CATEGORY 1: BEST NEW ARTIST


The Nominees:

Bleachers: Mainstream pop, perfected. The effects are slick and stylish, the choruses are out-of-this-world, and the hooks are…

Critics everywhere have been bemoaning the downward spiral of trap for a while now, ever since that horrible realization that (gasp!) ninety-plus percent of songs in the genre consisted of nothing more than an annoying upper-register siren-esque synth and some tonic-based 808s. Sure, you have the standard claim that Hudson Mohawke, Rustie, and Lunice are all doing really interesting things with trap’s quintessential bounce, adding wonky melodies and twisting hi-hat attacks to the point of unrecognizability, but none of them has really been all that exciting recently — the nail in the coffin of the holy trinity being Rustie’s decent but wholly uninspiring Green Language. The unfortunate part of all this, of course, is that the generally derided Baauer is actually making some of the best music in the genre nowadays, yet he’s unfortunately ignored thanks to the overexposure of “Harlem Shake.” The stellar pump-up of “Infinite Daps” and the this-is-what-Green-Language-should-have-been “Clang” are testaments to his creative and technical skill, but unfortunately his music has been tossed to the wayside in favor of the newly-sprung Jersey Club fascination.

His latest EP β doesn’t unfortunately reflect his skill with singles, save for the stellar lead track “One Touch,” featuring the vocal talents of Aluna Francis and the brothers in Rae Sremmurd. What really makes the song click is the perfect interaction between each of its elements — the wonderfully spare offbeat shaker and the the watery bass play off each other gorgeously under Francis’ mouse-like croon. Despite the problematic nature…

September 6, 2014: “Never” is my favorite track of the year. If anything comes along and dethrones it, I will be more than positively surprised. In a paradoxical manner, I often can’t pinpoint why a certain song or an album resonates with me the way it does. That’s because as a person, I’m more adept at feeling and experiencing than sharing my exact thoughts in a coherent piece of writing. I know what I like, but can’t necessarily explain why every time. In conversing, I’m more often than not a stream of consciousness type of talker – something that I find hard to translate over into writing. I know exactly why I like “Never” though: it speaks to me about as much as it speaks of me, and that is a lot.

“Never” is barefaced as much as it is multifaceted. Structurally, both instrumentally and rapping-wise, it is a relatively straightforward track. Inversely, its message can be interpreted in many ways. To take it in the context of the full album it originates from, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, it’s part of a narrative, part of a story. I like to be self-centered with the track though – I like taking it out of context, pulling it apart from the rest of the record, because while I enjoy &TYSYC very much as a full-length offering, no other song on the album digs as deep as “Never” does when I forget what The Roots might have wanted…

Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of September 9th, 2014. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

American Hi-Fi – Blood & Lemonade (Rude Records)
Avi Buffalo – At Best Cuckold (Sub Pop)
Ballet School – The Dew Lasts An Hour (Bella Union)
Banks – Goddess (Harvest) – Deviant
Better Than Ezra – All Together Now (The End Records)
Billy Childs – Map To The Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro (Sony Masterworks)
Cries Of The Captive – Imperialist (Imminence Records)
David Bazan & The Passenger String Quartet – David Bazan & The Passenger String Quartet (self-released)
Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World (Warner Bros.)
Delta Spirit – Into The Wide (Dualtone Music Group)
Digitalife – Nemesis (Imminence Records)
Duologue – Never Get Lost (Wild Game Records)
Esben And The Witch – A New Nature (Nostromo Records)
Flowers – Do What You Want To, It’s What You Should Do (Kanine Records)
Greensky Bluegrass – If Sorrows Swim (Big Blue Zoo)
Gob – Apt. 13 (New Damage Records)
Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness Of Dancers (Merge Records)
In Flames – Siren Charms (Sin UK) – Kyle Ward
Interpol – El Pintor (Matador Records)
Jhene Aiko – Souled Out (Def Jam)
Justin Townes Earle – Single Mothers (Vagrant Records)
Karen O – Crush Songs (Kobalt)
KMFDM – We Are KMFDM: Live 30th Anniversary (Metropolis Records)
The Kooks – Listen (Astralwerks)
Lecrae –…

In case you’ve been sleeping (or ignoring those trending Facebook items like a good, red-blooded whatever nationality you are), rock god, virtuoso, musical authority, and in no way, shape or form, a mere cunning businessman who played rock ‘n’ roll to the tune of inflating his bank account, Gene Simmons (not to be confused with fitness guru Richard Simmons) declared rock music dead in an interview with Esquire magazine. While Ace Frehly (official doctor of rock medicine) declined to provide a time of death, he did pander a bit about his recent solo album. Which is more than Mr. Simmons can do. Meanwhile, Simmons, in his coroner’s report, officially declared that lack of funding was the ultimate cause of death.

KISS Coffin

We'd bury it in a KISS casket, but it can't afford it

According to Simmons’ reports, it would seem that none of the many rock and metal bands rising up through the modern day miracle of free, online publicity and simplicity of self-recording/releasing made an impact in attempting to revive the presently deceased genre. In fact, said modern realities were glossed over in acknowledging that rock died because “no one will pay you to do it.” The deceased bands counted in Simmons’ toll number in the tens of thousands, many of which will have to be told to cease touring and producing music due to the recent death of their genre. Many do not expect this news to be easily received and believe…

The notion that “human beings don’t change” has gained prevalence in modern society. We’ve all heard variations of it before – he’s stuck in his ways, or the famous once a cheater, always a cheater – and while some people show it more than others, I can guarantee you that we all do evolve. It’s not something you can necessarily witness all at once. Every day, we absorb different stimuli, we’re faced with new decisions, and our character is ever so slightly altered until they all resonate as something noticeable. It’s why your best friend is less likely to notice small changes occurring in you than someone who sees you once per year, such as a distant relative. People like that are subject to brief windows of observation, because they have no frame of reference other than your previous, dated encounter.

If music was life and Brand New were a person, we’d all be distant cousins. We saw them at Your Favorite Weapon in 2001, and they were very much a product of their peer groups, albeit outshining the likes of Taking Back Sunday and other pop-punk groups of that era. Then came Deja Entendu in 2003, and we all marveled at how much the band had matured. The same reaction followed suit, perhaps double fold, upon the release of 2006’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, an epic transformation with overarching spiritual and existential themes. Once again, we transport ourselves years forward to 2009. Daisy was…

Taylor Swift has debuted a new single and set a new record, 1989, to be released on October 27th of this year. Normally in a blog I’d like to include more details, but I really have no words for whatever is going on here.

In other news, fuck everything.

The following is something I wrote up a few months ago while trying to consolidate my thoughts on what to tell more-novice writers when they ask “But why can’t I write about every track?” Keep in mind this shows me trying to speak for Sputnik as a whole, but is also my personal opinion, so feel free to chime in as well as discussing my own reasons. Enjoy.

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Track-by-track reviews are frowned upon on Sputnikmusic. Why? Because, at best, the site tries to be “professional.” And, obviously, there are different definitions on what makes a review that way, but the one generally agreed-upon rule is that explicitly track-by-track reviews don’t look good, especially beside full paragraph-by-paragraph album analyses. There are a number of explanations for this, and I’ll include a few here. First, track-by-track reviews typically have really, really short paragraphs. Which can be fine, but in almost all types of critical writing paragraphs should have at least a few sentences. We all probably learned this in elementary school: intro sentence, three body sentences, concluding sentence. And that’s probably the bare minimum, and usually even that’s not enough – typically, my paragraphs are about 8-12 sentences, which I think is a pretty good length as it’s beefy but not threateningly long. To reiterate: track-by-track reviews lead to too-short paragraphs, which really doesn’t look well-written and complete.

Second, track-by-track reviews are almost always incredibly disjointed. A review should have some sort of coherent structure (and no, brief intro…

This probably won’t be something that I always have time to do, but some weeks just overflow with quality releases. Today I’d like to share with you two of my favorite tracks, written by The Rosebuds and Owl John, respectively. These two tracks only combine to take a little bit over 8 minutes of your time, so I suggest you give them both a try!

The Rosebuds: “In My Teeth”



from the album Sand + Silence


Listen if you like: dEUS, Spoon, Wye Oak

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“In My Teeth” is the opening track on an album brimming with confident melodies. Wrapped tightly around mature instrumental framework, this track manages to sound relaxed in its urgency, potent in its lyrical content, and entirely fresh from a novelty standpoint. Oh, and it was produced by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Check the band’s official website out out here, and if you would like to purchase this song or the entire album, it is available on iTunes or Amazon.

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Owl John: “A Good Reason to Grow Old”



from the album Owl John


Listen if you like: Frightened Rabbit, Bright Eyes, Biffy Clyro

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Turn your back to the afterlife!” Scott Hutchison proclaims, in an emotional bout of suicidal triumph…”with my head in my hands I resolved to die alone…I was ready to drown in the afterlife, but not anymore…

Hey guys, Brendan here. Since I’m taking a break from my reviewing, I thought I’d finally start using the staff blog! Even though I’m five months late, I say: “better late than never.” So, as an extension from my Video Game Nostalgia series, I’m going to take a retrospective look at some of my favorite childhood musical artists and talk about how well they hold up today. Enjoy!

It all started with one album and one trip. When I was just a kid, around 10 years old or so, I was riding from California with my family to see my grandparents out in Arizona. Going out there for Christmas was a yearly thing we’d do, gathering the entire family for our traditional holiday-related festivities. A nice dinner, great movies, the joy of opening presents on Christmas morning while eating some large cinnamon rolls… great times all around. But, for this one particular trip, I brought my old portable CD player and a copy I had of Queen’s greatest hits – unfortunately the Hollywood edition and not the original version that contained the classic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Even with the exclusion of their most famous song, I was still putting this album on repeat during the entirety of the trip.

Why? Because Queen’s music was unlike anything I’d heard up to that point.

I was listening to bands like Journey and Foreigner at the time, so while I was already taking piano lessons during this time, my knowledge of more eclectic…

I remember a time long, long, long ago, when James Murphy proclaimed “New York, I love you but you’re bringing me down.” Oh, if only he knew what was truly coming when he uttered those words. The same ironic desire for downtrodden credibility and celebrity chic that defined Murphy’s aesthetic several years ago, has manifested into an even more cliched centralization of east coast cool that has quickly swallowed what your parents vaguely remember as the achingly blue collar borough of Brooklyn. Thanks to Catey Shaw and her poisonously saccharine “song of the summer” attempt, “Brooklyn Girls”, those of you who have never had the opportunity to experience New York City’s new school C.H.U.D.s can now see the siege that has befallen this once great city.

Catey Shaw – Brooklyn Girls

Yesterday (06.07.2014) was the day of the 26th Estonian Song Festival – the biggest national party that’s held here every five years. A little backstory: the tradition of countrywide song festivals in Estonia began in 1869, when 46 male choirs and five orchestras gathered together in the city of Tartu (the first song festival featured only men, mixed choirs featured first in 1891, and all-female choirs in 1896, regularly from 1933). 878 people performed. It laid the foundation for a national awakening and National Song Festivals have been an inseparable part of Estonian culture ever since. They are our main tool for defining ourselves and have always been events entwined with our yearning for independence, while simultaneously emphasizeing our oneness. During Soviet occupation, these song festivals were the most prolific regular patriotic events inside the Soviet Union – happenings that even the governing force majeure couldn’t impale nor stifle by forcing propagandistic themes into the programme. Thus, Estonia’s struggle for freedom under Soviet rule is known under the name “The Singing Revolution”.

Nowadays about 30 000 singers perform to a crowd over three times that size (which is a lot considering Estonia’s whole population is 1.3 million), all united in a positive, patriotic, uplifting circle of celebration. I didn’t go this year (as a spectator of course, thy higher powers have not blessed me with a particularly impressive set of pipes), which I’m more than a little ashamed over. It’s not that I couldn’t go, but…

Sputnik’s Infinite Playlist: Q2 Edition

No KISS featured on this list, unfortunately

Welcome to Sputnikmusic’s first Infinite Playlist of 2014. Confusingly, this is also based in Q2 – there was no Q1 playlist due to the author’s laziness. This also marks our first Infinite Playlist since SowingSeason (the originator of the list’s idea) went Emeritus, making it especially fitting since he has returned to the fold. Welcome back, Sowing. On this list are some of the finest tracks of the past three months from all over the world, as chosen and written about by the Sputnik userbase. We’ve got some great music to promote, from black metal to fuzzy, scuzzy stoner rock to sublime electronic. Enjoy.

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IMPORTANT NOTE: Click on the track titles while holding down the CTRL key, and the song will open in a new tab. Clicking without the CTRL key will cause your browser to leave this page and make reading the blurbs mighty difficult.

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This issue’s contributors are as follows:

Artuma / Arcade / Passive Madman / TheSupernatural / silentstar / dimsim3478 / Brostep / RogueNine / RivalSkoomaDealer / ExplosiveOranges / PitchforkArms / cmaitland421 / ScuroFantasma / Judio! / laughingman22 / Azn. / Rhyme

Over the past few days, there’s been a bit of a hullabaloo on Sputnik regarding what, exactly, constitutes evidence in a review. In the comment thread for contributor Josh Fountain’s review for the new Powerman 5000 album, there have been a few people attacking the review itself for, among other things, its “lack [of] basic argumentation.” At the risk of pulling some comments out of context, users have described it as a review “chock-filled with “cheap insults,” one that is “extremely annoying” and “filled with animosity.” While for every user who complained, there were about five or six supporting the reviewer (which, to an extent, I approve of), the thread still devolved into a trainwreck of “this review sucks/you suck/Powerman 5000 sucks/this thread sucks.”

I’ve already voiced most of my thoughts about the review itself in the first few pages of comments, but for those of you unwilling to read a few extra paragraphs of me blathering on about writing about writing about music I basically argued that evidence in the traditional sense is moot in terms of writing reviews. Of course it’s possible to describe a song down to the timbre of an instrument and utilize that as evidence as to why it’s an objectively brilliant and/or stupid piece of art, but for the near-total majority of the general Sputnik-reading-and-writing populace such criticism is undesirable and usually too dense and pedantic to read. If an author wants to argue that the reason such-and-such a song is…

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