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.
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
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.
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.
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…
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?”
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
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.
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)
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…