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Musings

It’s a funny subplot in popular music’s history that a friend of mine pointed out in a conversation a couple of years ago; the most timeless, interesting music always tends to happen at the tail-end of a decade. He was pointing out how crazy the music industry went in the late ’90s, and how bands like Superchunk had unbelievable and hilarious amounts of money thrown at them, and bands as obviously offputting and angular as Placebo could become superstars, but it extrapolates across the decades; in lists like Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums of all time, Sputnik’s own user-voted all-time chart, and the Top 3000 albums on Acclaimed Music, there’s a real swing toward records that arrived in the latter half of their decades. On Acclaimed Music, it’s only 5 of the top 20 and and just 17 of the top 50 that represent the first half. Look at the best-selling albums of all time on a worldwide level, and you’ll see that of the 20 studio albums to have solid more than 30 million copies, only 6 have a year ending in a number lower than 4. Where it should be half, it’s nearer to a quarter.

The one obvious explanation is that both musicians and labels – not to mention the media – are always eager to fashion out an identity that will define the decade, leading to a mad scramble of anything-goes creativity as people spend two or three years looking for the next big…

Another season of American Idol is coming to an end kiddies, so get ready to start dialing and sending your parents phone bill into the stratosphere. Now we all know what happened last season; the most interesting, talented, entertaining and hardest working contestant (Adam Lambert) fell at the last hurdle… To a rival (Kris Allen) who was lucky to even make the top 5 in most people’s opinion. Well folks, it could happen again if you don’t get dialing and sms’ing. Of course, that’s easy for me to say when I live thousands of miles away and am ineligible to vote. 

The last couple of weeks of action have seen series favorite Crystal Bowersox come back to the pack a little. Yet, I actually think that her performances – while not being as memorable as on earlier weeks – have better shown her versatility as an artist. She has taken some risks and, while she has yet to hit the home run that would have sewn the series up, Crystal has proven that she could actually make an album where she didn’t just play the same song over and over again.

Since Siobhan’s ridiculous elimination (allegedly not helped by facebook not having the correct number next to her name), the last fortnight has seen both little Aaron & big Mike eliminated. Neither were real chances to win, but Aaron can definitely count himself unlucky since he was shown the door on the night where each contestant had…

The music video is probably the least relevant thing in the music industry right now.  I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think MTV actually plays them anymore at all, leaving that to sister channels like MTV2 and MTVU.  However, I owe a lot to the format, as it was my main source for music back when I was 12 or 13.  This was when bands like Good Charlotte, Simple Plan, Sum 41, etc. were all getting huge airplay and attention (they were actually bigger than a lot of hip-hop artists, which is hard to believe now).  Once I discovered how much more effectively I could waste my time on the Internet as opposed to watching television, I stopped watching music videos for a few years.

Over time, MTV reintroduced things like Headbanger’s Ball and created MTVU (MTV University), the channel that plays everything from MGMT to Underoath to KiD CuDi, which lead to a resurgence in my interest in music videos.  Steven’s Untitled Rock Show on FUSE helped as well because Steven was what I like to call “not an idiot” and played some great bands.  FUSE also had that hot metal VJ who played bands that were actually quite shit, like Trivium.

I remember her being hotter than this.

Anyway, these days Youtube has taken MTV’s place as the major source for music videos.  Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video has over 200 million (!!) views.  However, I would wager that the…

In our first showcase, some of our users recommended various Youtube covers that weren’t posted (and please, feel free). This cover, in particular, of Beirut – Postcards From Italy was done exceptionally well. Two French musicians, Agathe (on the uke) and Fine (pronounced in the French manner, as “feene”, per their Myspace page, on guitar and ‘hand’ trumpet) retell the reasons why Beirut’s enchanting music is  so lovable.

Staff member Lewis first linked this video of Greyson Chance covering Lady Gaga – Paparazzi yesterday when it had somewhere around 20,000 views, and has gone viral beyond belief with nearly 2.1 million views as of this moment.  Greyson, a sixth grader, performed at his school’s “Chorus Performance Night.”  Many are telling Justin Bieber to ‘move aside’ for Greyson, however Greyson is genuinely talented in his own light.

Lastly, Channing Freeman recommended Boyce Avenue covering Wyclef/Akon – Sweetest Girl, and it speaks for itself.

Last week we enjoyed the worldly wisdom of Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell, so this week I thought we could move on to the underworld by balling out with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s “Tha Crossroads,” one of my favorite songs of all time.

“Tha Crossroads” is about losing a homie (in this case Eazy-E) and how sometimes the only way to honor your fallen brother is turn gangster rap into a barbershop quartet performed four times as fast. The Thugs – Bizzy Bone, Krayzie Bone, Wish Bone, Layzie Bone, and Flesh-n-Bone – deserve exceptional respect for their work on “Tha Crossroads.” Not only is it an epic meditation on youth, death, and the violent realities of thug life set to stellar production, but they go the entire song without using the phrase “gotta smoke that hydro whoa,” something they were unable to do to date in their career.

The video itself is an audiovisual experience like none other. Bone Thugs start the video at a funeral where a diegetic gospel choir sings a hymn, introducing the main character of the music video, the grim reaper. In case you didn’t know the grim reaper wears a trenchcoat, leather hat, shades, and has a pair of white, feathery angel wings hidden beneath all of this. As the song proceeds we get various shots of the reaper haunting the Thugs. He takes out a homie early on, then Uncle Charles (“oh ya I miss my Uncle Charles, y’all” at 2:31),…

From his upcoming mixtape “Str8 Killa, No Filla” comes the video for “The Ghetto”. Gibbs reminisces over his hometown Gary, Indiana as various clips from the area are shown. The beat is an update on Milkbone’s ‘Keep it Real’ off of ‘Da’ Miilkrate’. I frequently visit a record store in Palm Desert, California called Record Alley that has a whole wall of CDs for $2.99. That’s where I found ‘Da’ Miilkrate’ which is a good impression of the hip-hop that was coming out around the release of ‘Illmatic’. Lots of similar vibes between both of those records and the introspective style of rap covered by both of those rappers is present in Gibbs’ take on Milkbone’s classic. I love how he has managed to mix such classic forgotten beats into a couple of releases (i.e. the freestyles present on “The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs”.) Is Gibbs the next big lyricist in hip-hop? His latest efforts make it seem as such and time can only tell what an album may be like if his mixtapes are this concise and developed.

Freddie Gibbs – “The Ghetto”

My first individual explorations into the world of music took the form of surreptitious MTV viewings in the attic of my house in third grade. Aside from the pretty amazing collection of animated shows (Beavis and Butthead, Aeon Flux, The Oddities, etc.), MTV was most memorable for offering me the titillating medium of the music video, a form of experiencing music I only used from the years 1993-1999. In retrospect, music videos of the era (and any era really) were half-baked visualizations of the already half-baked lyrics or tone of the song. The results of these concoctions can be amazing, so I’ve decided to create a weekly dedication to my favorite hamhanded creations of the mid-nineties.

Beavis and Butthead

It’s hard to go on a hunger strike when you have the munchies.

Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike” is the quintessential 90s music video. Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder moan about sociopolitical concerns on a beach (presumably on the Pacific Northwest coast). This performance is interspersed with stock footage of a lighthouse flashing its cautionary light and a foreboding (yet hopeful!) cloudy sky. Is this song protesting American excess? Is it a confessional about conceding to said excess? Do Cornell and Vedder know if “farming babies” is metaphor or literal? Such are the mysteries of a classic third grade throwback.

I don’t mind stealing bread
From the mouths of decadence
But I can’t feed on the powerless
When my cup’s already overfilled,
But it’s on the

After the fallout of the inaugural edition of Reviewing Reviews, someone suggested that I review one of my own reviews, which is sort of like putting a math student in a room by himself with the curriculum and asking him to grade his own test.  Despite how awesome that would be, it is a very, very stupid idea.

However, it was suggested by several people that I review a contributor or staff writer because for some reason everyone decided to ignore the fact that I said I would most likely be doing more and common sense would dictate that since I do not care about anyone’s feelings and I’m a bully, I would be taking on some contributor and staff reviews as well.  You think I don’t know that thebhoy needs some criticism too?

Anyway, Sobhi Abdul-Rakhman (kingsoby1) made waves back in 2000-whenever when he became the first colored person to make it onto Sputnikmusic’s team of staffers (except for pixiesfanyo, an honorary black man).  Earlier this year Sobhi was joined by fellow brownie Kiran Soderqvist but by that point he had already one-upped the competition by having a baby, something that not even John Hanson has been able to do despite what MTV says about 16 year olds keeping their babies.  Sobhi’s claims to fame are hype, anti-hype, and how those two things relate to hip-hop.  Here are some recent soundoffs written by Sobhi (paraphrased to point out the salient parts):

People are sucking this off way too much

This might become a regular thing that I do but for now I want to take it slow and see how it goes.  I feel like most of the other staff members rarely read reviews on the site, but I read a lot of them and sometimes I’m shocked at the lack of basic grammar and punctuation skills displayed.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, a lot of reviews lack concrete ideas and are generally just poorly worded and expressed.  So I’ve picked a review that exemplifies those issues and I’m going to dissect it.  On the chopping block is Bulldog’s review of B.o.B.’s The Adventures of Bobby Ray.

Section #1: The Summary

The review hits its first snag in a very fundamental way:  the summary is horrible.  Ideally, this is the first (and sometimes only) thing that people will read when they look at your review.  It sums up your thoughts succinctly and gives the reader a good gauge of your opinion prior to diving into the meat of your writing.  Bulldog chose this to do that:

“Alternative hip-hop for the masses.  But above all, this is really a concrete testament to the diversity in, and morphability of, hip-hop…or is it?”

First of all, “morphability” is not a word.  No discussion.  It does not exist.  Google it and you will find a bunch of websites talking about the “morph ability” in Dungeons and Dragons.  This is actually a fairly common mistake.  People will invent a word and dismiss…

The Smiling Assassins aka F**k-Nuggets

 “F**k-Nuggets”. That is the first word that entered my head upon the elimination of Siobhan Magnus last night on Season-9 of American Idol. Why? Well, you know when you just have a feeling that something is going to happen at a certain time? Well, I superstitiously predicted this exact occurrence for this exact date. Call it pessimism, a lucky guess or a dreaded sense of fortune telling, but it sometimes is just the way things work. For you see, it is not the American public that I am calling “f**k-Nuggets” (although they have clearly played their part), it is 4 of those 5 d!ckheads currently smiling at you from your computer screens. 

 “But Davey, the judges liked Siobhan’s performance on Tuesday night and weren’t the ones who voted her off” I hear you exclaim. That is not my issue. My issue dates back 3 weeks ago to April-7, when Cowell & Co. inexplicably decided to use their ‘Save’ vote on Offensive Lineman Michael Lynche. For the uninitiated, the 4 judges have the ability to save a contestant who has just been eliminated. However, there are two huge catches: (1) They can only do this once, and (2) they could only do it up until the Top 5. So why in the hell they would choose to do this when a contestant was eliminated in 9th position is beyond me… A fact

Five points from an outsider:

1) Logic would surely dictate that the standard of American Idol would be much better than that of its UK equivalents, The X Factor and Pop Idol. Roughly speaking, there are 309 million people in the US and just 60 million in the UK – surely a country with five times as many people will have five times as many brilliant singers, and ergo, would be five times as likely to have a seriously world-class talent? Apparently not; we shouldn’t forget that Leona Lewis was a complete fluke, but the fact remains that AI hasn’t even come close to producing anything on her level. Not even Kelly Clarkson is comparable; she survives by having great songwriters and producers, not a great voice. Even taking the average ability of the contestants into account, the only reason the US have the upper hand on the UK is because we, as a nation of cynical, hate-filled piss-takers, are obliged to field one complete joke every year. Take them out of the equation and we stack up. We probably shouldn’t.

2) I sure am thankful to be watching a singing competition that doesn’t have Jedward in it, mind.

3) What the hell is with all the guitars? Is there some sudden obsession with a pre-conceived notion ‘authenticity’ on this show, or has it always been this way? In the UK at least, the show has always been happy to embrace its gleefully vapid nature, but the US…

Super limited deluxe special editions of albums (I think I got all of the adjectives) are getting a bit ridiculous.  On one hand, I think it’s really awesome that there are bands out there who want to give the fans a little something extra, but then I realize that most “special editions” contain some shitty, half-assed DVD that has thirty minutes of footage (if you’re lucky) about what five of the songs are about.

The horrible thing is, I will almost always buy the special edition even though logic has proven time and time again that it is a total waste of money.  And do I legitimize my purchase by watching the DVD/listening to the bonus tracks/utilizing surround sound technology to hear Opeth’s Still Life in a whole new light?  Nope.  I very rarely take advantage of the band’s decision to bestow insight into their writing process and/or the things they do while they’re on their tour bus or inside their tour van.  Here is a list of some of the bonus content that I have done absolutely nothing with:

- The DVD included with Underoath’s Lost In The Sound Of Separation.  It’s worth mentioning here that I bought both the special edition of the CD that came with the DVD, and the special vinyl box set that also includes the CD and DVD.  So I have two Underoath DVDs that I will most likely never, ever watch.  But hey, 10″ vinyl in the shape of a sawblade!

- The…

Sweden has always had a strong DIY culture. Look no further than the brand name most famously exported from the Scandinavians, IKEA, for an indication of the trait. Easy, self-assembled and stylish furniture, much like the music that the nations independent scene has made its name with. Where the status quo of mainstream pop music in most other countries is that of record executives with dollar signs for pupils and the incendiary scorn of independent/niche fans, Sweden owes a huge part of its musical history to the genre; ask anyone to name a Swedish artist and seminal pop act ABBA will undoubtedly fall from their lips, and for good reason. ABBA may in fact have been the most important group ever to emerge out of the country. As well as lighting the world up with hustle inducing hits like “Waterloo” and “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)”, they encouraged a nation to let loose their inhibitions and muster up the confidence to write music in English; simple, excellent pop songs, kooky accent and all. Bands like Roxette (of “Listen to your Heart” fame) and The Cardigans followed suit, creating intelligent, accessible pop that lit up the charts throughout the 90’s, with the former registering four #1 singles in the US and dozens more UK Top 40 hits.

ABBA, in all their glory.

Looking specifically at the contemporary state of the independent scene, you wouldn’t have to go further than the…

After a long hiatus from the blog, I am determined to return in magnificent splendor. In this simple and unassuming post, you’ll find no less than 3 stellar tracks for your listening pleasure. Enjoy.

Gold Panda – You

Genre: Electronic
Buy it here

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The Mary Onettes – The Night Before the Funeral

Genre: Indie Pop

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DOM – Burn Bridges

Genre: Indie

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As any Sputnik regular will know, a couple of the staffers here have got a thing going on for UK hip-hop; Orphans of Cush did gatecrash our 2009 top 50 at an impressive #27, after all. You might have realized, too, that the latest record from the scene to makes among us is Devil May Cry by Iron Braydz.

Now, I couldn’t tell you why, but something about Braydz made me cast my mind back to the early part of last decade, when UK garage was just beginning to turn into grime, and British urban music has a stranglehold on UK radio and people still gave a crap about the MOBOs. So Solid Crew were absolutely massive then. Hell, they were probably the biggest band in the country, regardless of country; they genuinely revolutionized UK rap. Angus Batey pointed out as much in a recent Guardian interview with the group’s lynchpin Megaman, while the band still gets respect in the scene; Durrty Goodz, on the state-of-the-nation address “Switching Songs”, acknowledged the change they brought to the UK garage scene.

‘Deep basslines and a load of energy
And I loved the beats because they came with melodies
I could go raving and sip on the Hennessey
And wouldn’t even think about looking for enemies
Then shit changed, everyone just bugged out
So Solid came and it all got thugged out’

That lyric encapsulates why the band were never really embraced…

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