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Musings

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…

Increasing your band’s exposure can be a daunting task. Some are fortunate enough to have found spots on “The Big Four” American networks (or their equivalents); for example, House, Parenthood, and Scrubs all have (or had) prime-time TV spots, and expanding our parameters to include networks like CW (e.g. Gossip Girl), HBO (e.g. Treme), and Showtime (e.g. Weeds) illuminates how well-placed music can complement a show’s storyline. The same principle can be applied to video games, too, as well as marketing (e.g. Feist’s “1 2 3 4″ video for Apple). The premise is simple: write music that people enjoy (and that you enjoy playing) and, theoretically, you might not have to worry about finding work. On the other hand, bands should be strong enough to cultivate their own following first before hoping that a company or brand does it for them.

And then there are times where there’s the “other” category. ADAM are an all-female group based out of the Netherlands, and an unofficial video for their forthcoming single “Go to Go” has eclipsed 5 million views in less than a week. It reminds me of Clayton Cubitt’s Hysterical Literature series, which integrates culture and sexuality and pleasure into an alluring black-and-white package, but in the case of “Go to Go”, the women sing their way through their song under similar conditions:

The Dutch lasses pride themselves on “daring to be [themselves]“, and it’s empowering to see another example that the marriage of music and sex can…


“Chill out. What you yelling for?” Avril Lavigne seemed to implore critics after her “Hello Kitty” video incited a massive internet outcry. Detractors accused Avril of tasteless, tacky cultural appropriation at the very least and racism at worst, a claim she slammed on Twitter with “RACIST? HOW? I LOVE JAPAN!” Defenders were quick to point out that “It’s all been done before,” “it” being the type of pop Japanophilia Gwen Stefani rode hard a decade ago with her Love. Angel. Music. Baby. album. “If you could only let it be, then you would see,” they seemed to counter. If only we could just view the “Hello Kitty” video as the hyper affectionate, albeit naïve and bizarre love letter to Japanese culture Avril intended it to be, perhaps we’d see its real beauty. Unfortunately for everyone, Avril Lavigne included, things are a little more complicated than that.

Seeing Avril acting like somebody else gets me frustrated. Her early persona was one of an every-girl, a people’s pop star less interested in selling sex than she was talking one-on-one to a generation of disenfranchised Hot Topic shoppers. Now, a tanking career and a marriage to the man who is arguably Music’s Most Hated Canadian, she looks like she’s constantly watching her back, like she can’t relax. Though she looks fine in pictures with Kroeger, a gruesomely awkward set of fan photos that some poor souls spent an obscene amount of money for confirm that she becomes somebody else around everyone else.…

For the last two months I’ve been trying to enjoy the new Andrew Jackson Jihad record, and at 4:30 this morning while standing in a parking lot somewhere in the decaying outskirts of Long Beach, California it finally hit me why I don’t. It’s because I’m selfish. I don’t want to empathize with Sean Bonnette, I want him to empathize with me. I’ve spent years inflecting myself into his own insecurities. It’s not that I can relate to his exact sarcasm and nervousness, but I can find myself in between his prose and then take it for my own. It’s sort of like what Justin Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack sang almost a decade ago in “L.G. FUAD.” – “…the only way I have learned to express myself through other peoples’ descriptions of life…” It’s such a shitty thing to say, but I participate on emotional appropriation on a grand scale. I live vicariously through the grooves in my record collection, only I take what I need and move on. I completely discard its context and heart like trash pulled to the curb after a house party, feeding only off of the emotion behind the stories and taking them for my own. It’s cheap and absurd but that’s why music is such a personal thing. We build connections to lyrics and sounds based off of how they coincide with our own lives. We’re all guilty of musical colonialism and emotional conquest. Luckily art resonates differently in everyone, helping

“Shallow house. It’s not quite deep.”

It’s easy to write off something with a name as silly as “shallow house” as a stupid idea. And, in many respects, it is. The term was created “as a joke” a few days ago on the nigh-omnipotent hydra-like centralized collection of websites that is Reddit, intending to poke fun at the current comment war between people calling artists like Tchami and Oliver Heldens “deep house” and people for whom “deep house” means more than just groovy, bass-centric 4×4 music. Both sides have an understandable position, of course. Most of those in the former camp are dissidents from the big-room house movement which is currently exerting significant control over the global dance scene, disenchanted with the uncreative, poorly-produced slop they’ve heard for too long. They’re enchanted with the infective, funky bass and shocked at the relative sparsity of the compositions, and seeing Beatport and various ill-informed music blogs refer to the music as “deep house” (a phenomenon which I don’t entirely understand) they take it to be the correct term. In the latter group, of course, are the veteran house-heads. They’ve seen the primarily gay and black house sound of the Chicago and New York days appropriated and desecrated for profit by major-label execs eager to promote the easy-to-swallow house of everyone associated with labels like Spinnin’ and Revealed (including Heldens and Tchami), and having their soulful, colorful deep house reinterpreted by a bunch of young white guys (and yes, most of the new…

I recognize that there are exceptions to every rule, but parody songs tend to bastardize the original source material beyond the point of recognition.

This isn’t the case for Freddy Scott’s tribute to one of his purported musical heroes, Trent Reznor. Imagination and imitation may very well be the sincerest forms of flattery.

As angry as Reznor was on Pretty Hate Machine or as self-destructive as he sounded on The Downward Spiral, my hunch is that the guy could still find a sense of humor in this. Scott originally posted the lyric video to this song back in January, but recently shot a video for the track (which also features SNL guitarist Jared Blake Scharff), which perfectly encapsulates Reznor’s mannerisms and video production to a ‘T’. My favorite bit is in the opening verse, but when it comes to accurately depicting the Nine Inch Nails videography and Reznor’s blueprint in a less-than-3-minute spoof… well, to paraphrase Scott’s own lyrics: “Yeah, it sounds really awesome.”

“… what the hell was that?”

The song is available at iTunes and Amazon.

The first time I saw GWAR I was 18 years old. It was the summer of 2005 and the band were slotted for an hour long, 5 o’clock spot at the Sounds of the Underground festival. I had no idea what I was in for. All I knew was the lore that surrounded their live show. It was supposed to be an event. It was. It was the dead center of the Bush years, a new pope who spent part of his childhood in the Hitler Youth was now sitting atop Christendom, and all that and more would serve as kindling for GWAR’s 60 minute performance piece.

For as much as I remember that show, it is not what happened on stage that resounds the loudest of my memories of GWAR on that July afternoon. An hour before their set, I got the chance to meet Dave Brockie. He was in his full Oderus Urungus regalia, four foot sculpted rubber phallus and all, standing in the back of a makeshift tow cart that was hitched to a boxy looking ATV. As he was being carted though the crowd in his makeshift Kawasaki chariot, for some reason or other it stopped for a few minutes, and as the driver was trying to coordinate his new plans via walkie-talkie, I nervously made my way to say hello. I can vividly remember his bare ass hanging out of the back end of his get up. It was a humorous bright spot in…

Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of March 25, 2014. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

Animals As Leaders – The Joy Of Motion (Sumerian)Thompson D. Gerhart
Asia – Gravitas (Frontiers Records/Universal)
The Bad Plus – The Rite Of Spring (Sony Masterworks)
Barry Manilow – Night Songs (Stiletto Entertainment)
The Baseball Project – 3rd (Yep Roc Records)
Big Scary – Not Art (Barsuk)
Boy George – This Is What I Do (Very Me Records)
Chimurenga Renaissance – Rize Vadzimu Rize (Brick Lane Records)
Chuck Ragan – Till Midnight (Side One Dummy)
Circa Zero – Circus Hero (429 Records)
The Colourist – The Colourist (Republic)
Future Islands – Singles (4AD)
Glenn Kotche – Adventureland (Cantaloupe Music)
Grieves – Winter & The Wolves (Rhymesayers)
The Hold Steady – Teeth Dreams (Razor & Tie)
Howler – World Of Joy (Rough Trade US)
Jimi Goodwin – Odludek (Pias America)
Johnny Cash – Out Among The Stars (Legacy)
Karmin – Pulses (Epic)
Kylie Minogue – Kiss Me Once (Warner Bros)
Liars – Mess (Mute)
London Grammar – If You Wait (US Release) (Columbia)
Memphis May Fire – Unconditional (Rise Records)
Mr Little Jeans – Pocketknife (Harvest)
Of Sinking Ships – The Amaranthine Sea (Broken Circles)
Owls – Two (Polyvinyl Records)
Seahaven – Reverie Lagoon: Music For Escapism Only (Run For Cover Records)
Shakira – Shakira (RCA)
Thou – Heathen (Gilead Media)
THYX – Super Vision (Metropolis Records)
Tokyo…


Steve Von Till – “Black Crow Blues”

There are few better storytellers in music than the late Townes Van Zandt, and few more overlooked, which is why it’s exciting to see more contemporary artists celebrate his timeless music as on the 2012 tribute album, Songs of Townes Van Zandt, featuring Steve Von Vill and Scott Kelly of Neurosis and Scott “Wino” Weinrich of Saint Vitus. Though all the covers contained on the album are exceptional, Von Till’s “Black Crow Blues” might just be the hardest-hitting. The supremely smokey voice that many have come to love from the post-metal titans breathes new life into the simplistic, lament-filled hymn of one of country music’s greatest and most tragic figures.


Thou – “Something in the Way”

As influential as early sludge was on a young Kurt Cobain, it seems fitting that Nirvana’s somber acoustic number from the seminal Nevermind was given the down-tuned treatment from modern day sludge masters Thou. Their rendition begins pretty straightforward and true to the original before erupting into something seething and relentlessly heavy, conveying just as much emotion as the original—even if that emotion happens to be crushing hatred rather than depression. If their really was “something in the way,” that’s no longer a problem, because Thou’s cover smashed it into tiny bits.


Jeff Buckley – “Hallelujah”

Certainly one

Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of March 18, 2014. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

Black Lips – Underneath The Rainbow (Vice Music)
The Coathangers – Suck My Shirt (Suicide Squeeze)
Dead Rider – Chills On Glass (Drag City)
Earth Crisis – Salvation Of Innocents (Candlelight/Universal)
Eliza Gilkyson – The Nocturne Diaries (Red House Records)
Enrique Iglesias – Sex & Love (Universal Republic)
Foster The People – Supermodel (Columbia)
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Pinata (Madlib Invasion)
Gus G. – I Am The Fire (Century Media)
Hark – Crystalline (Season Of Mist)Greg Fisher
Hauschka – Abandoned City (Temporary Residence)
I Am The Avalanche – Wolverines (I Surrender Records)
JT Woodruff – Field Medicine (InVogue Records)
Kevin Drew – Darlings (Arts & Crafts)
La Dispute – Rooms Of The House (Workhorse Music Group)
Lyla Foy – Mirrors The Sky (Sub Pop Records)
Motorpsycho – Behind The Sun (Rune Grammofon)Raul Stanciu
Perfect Pussy – Say Yes To Love (Captured Tracks)
The Pretty Reckless – Going To Hell (Razor & Tie)
Riley Etheridge Jr – The Straight And Narrow Way (Rock Ridge Music)
Ringworm – Hammer Of The Witch (Relapse)
Sisyphus – Sisyphus (Secretly Canadian)
Skrillex – Recess (Atlantic)Will Robinson
Taking Back Sunday – Happiness Is (Hopeless Records)Adam Thomas
Therion – Theli (Deluxe Edition) (Nuclear Blast America)

Elitism is part of being human. There is literally no way to escape from the fact that people are constantly, perpetually looking down on others for reasons that have little practical merit while simultaneously holding themselves above others using reasons that are equally hollow. It’s the ever-pressing desire to distinguish oneself from those around them; a cry for individuality in a world where individuality is no longer possible. In a world where you have to stand well above the crowd to achieve even slight success (definitions of what success means aside), is it really that shocking that people look at art, music, food, video games, cars, clothing, possessions, obsessions, politics, philosophies, and lifestyles as ways to further their own sense of self-superiority? It’s all relative, too. Someone can think themselves as superior because they listen to Band X which is somehow artistically superior to Band Y, yet at the same time proponents of Band Y think the same about listeners of Band X. Let’s face it: it is elitist to even say that one is above elitism, as it is just another way to assert your superiority over others.

Perhaps nowhere is this superiority complex more prevalent than heavy metal. It is the embodiment of musical elitism, a place where you can be dismissed as a credible “true metal” fan for liking one band deemed so delicately as “complete shit” by the larger crowd. We’ve all seen it, and we’ve all done it. Anyone who has listened to metal has…

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