“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…
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.”
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)
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.
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…
Living in the sub-tropics means that spring comes both early and ends quickly. Not two weeks ago we missed 5 days of university because of snow (admittedly it was kind of a fluke) and now for the past few days the weather has been dominated by mid-70’s temperatures and a lot of sun. Pretty soon those mid-70’s will be phased out by mid-90’s and a whole lot of humidity, but the cool thing about such a short spring is that you become all the more aware of how you’re environment changes and grows with the coming of the heat. You can physically see wildlife burst into periods of growth and begin to spread through the dormant landscapes of winter and watch the progression from the infancy of seedlings into the lush greens and browns that were painfully absent in the frigid temperatures.
A change in seasons also brings with it an entirely new environment in which to listen to music. I’ve always listened to music for its impressionistic and expressionistic qualities, so the environment I choose to listen to music in has to be evocative in some way of the world the music is trying to build. Winter has its strengths no doubt, but humans were designed by nature to exist in nature, and winter all too often forces man to break that connection with walls of comfort. Spring is the natural relief from this state, an invitation for us to come out of our warm houses…
I was playing pub trivia earlier this week with some friends, and one of the rounds was “Disney by Decade”. I knew this was coming because the ultra-shitty hostess was playing “A Whole New World” and “Part of Your World” and probably some other songs with “World” in them (perhaps “Two Worlds” was played, but Phil Collins gets a pass from me because it’s better than listening to 3 hours of Lilith Fair music, as is tradition in the hostess’ usual playlist).
Como si dijiera una palabraaaaaaaaaaa!
Anyway, we aced the round (Can you name 3 out of the 5 animated films Disney released in the 1980s? How about the 2 animated films from the 1970s where a lion is depicted as royalty? I can’t remember the other questions because, you know, it’s a bar), simply because the girls on our team know their shit (my contributions rely solely on sports, music, and maybe books; in other words, I would get my ass kicked on Jeopardy! in every direction imaginable).
Speaking of which, fuck this guy:
What the hell is a 'compliance analyst', anyway?
If you don’t recognize him, take a listen to this smarmy asshole. Hunting for the Daily Doubles is brilliant, but only wagering just enough to advance to the next day is a bitch move (in my opinion, you play to win the game).
One of the most difficult things about becoming an emeritus of sputnik is discovering amazing new artists and lacking any time whatsoever to communicate that interest to others who care about music. Since “graduating” from sputnik, or “becoming part of the force” (or whatever silly analogy makes sense to you), music has become an increasingly intimate thing to me. I don’t spend as much time searching for new artists, analyzing them, and especially writing about them. But when I encounter something I have a true admiration for, I typically find myself desperately striving to achieve five hours of sleep while finishing up lesson plans, grading papers, planning a wedding, and performing household duties. And all so I can wake up and go to work exhausted again. Needless to say, it’s a busy time for me and I regret that I don’t have ample time to review everything that I feel passionate about (i.e. Snowmine’s new record Dialects, which I heartily recommend to all fans of atmospheric alt/indie). So, in lieu of two reviews that I really want to write but have absolutely no time to, I present you with the first of what may be a continuing string of brief passages concerning artists and new albums that I have found to be exceptional.
Run River North – Run River North
At first I wasn’t sure what to make of this band – they clearly have a knack for accessible songwriting akin to Of Monsters and Men,…
When young dubstep prodigy James Blake stows the electronics and takes a seat at the piano, the results always seem to be astounding—like the soulful “DLM” from his most recent album, Overgrown. But his cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” on 2011 EP Enough Thunder takes the cake for Blake’s balladeering. Simple as it is, his hurried vocals exude such sincerity and vulnerability that it perfectly illustrates how powerful music can be when it’s just a man and his piano. Or a woman and her guitar.
Van Halen – “Ice Cream Man”
Electing to cover a somewhat obscure blues tune would seem extremely odd for a band like Van Halen, were brothers Eddie and Alex not raised by an accomplished jazz saxophonist and clarinet player. And the suggestive lyrical content that kept the song from being released until 1969 made it a perfect fit for David Lee Roth, who opens the number dedicating it to the ladies. Diamond Dave gets things started off slow and sultry over some acoustic guitar before everything erupts into a typical Van Halen rock epic. Eddie absolutely dazzles with his acrobatic shredding and whammy bar assaults. The tribute to the Chicago bluesman is often overshadowed by the also excellent cover of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” on the same record, but “Ice Cream
There’s something enchanting about what electronic producer Four Tet does in the below video – rather, what dontwatchthat.tv forces him to do. You can tell the guy’s got mixed feelings about having to compose an entire track in only ten minutes, and furthermore, only with samples from Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It’s the kind of process that forces one to rely on creative intuition, nothing else- and you can see that side of the producer shine through as he places Thriller on the record player. He spins it, and lands on arbitrary moments, and then assesses- he considers each instant as a possible instrument for the tune he’s about to make, and then he proceeds based on how he feels about it.
It makes me think about music in a different way. We get so used to hearing entire tracks, and we music lovers sometimes convince ourselves that hearing a song in any other way besides start to finish is sacrilege. But you see Four Tet cobbling together random moments from the record, and you see how much fun it can be to hear snippets from really engaging records. Each time he lifts the needle and picks a new spot it sounds like a new artist, and so when he fuses all these ingredients to make his own song it feels so unlike Thriller, and yet so familiar to that record my parents used to play around the house.
Watch this video if you want to see how Four Tet works…