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Musings

There is something about the Beastie Boys that goes beyond the records and CDs, songs and music videos. That something is that after all these years they’ve managed to keep the fire that burned beneath them as snot nosed kids from Brooklyn burning as bright as it ever did. From their rise to prominence, to being deemed cultural icons, to their being crowned the elder statesmen of an ever evolving form of art, it was never about the money and status that came with their platinum records. It was always about an enduring friendship put to tape. It is that energy that the Beastie Boys will be remembered for long after the shock of Adam Yauch’s death cedes from memory. But furthermore for the people like me who grew up with the Beastie Boys as an ever present force in the constant media barrage that accompanied the childhood of anyone who is currently under the age of 35 or so, their music progressed in a way that gave us a blueprint for growing up into functional human beings. In youth it was easy to latch on to the sarcastic rebellion of Licensed to Ill. Even though I was born in the later half of Reaganomics, that album remained everywhere well into when I was first becoming aware to music as expression. While I was too young to fully grasp the drunken machismo that surrounded it, Licensed to Ill was the b-side to my grade school discovery of bands like…

A few months ago, my best friend and I had the good sense to sign ourselves up for a competitive triathlon. 1.5km swim in the sea, 40km cycle, 10km run. We’re decent runners, decent cyclists, and terrible swimmers, so we figured why not. We like a challenge. I hadn’t swum aerobically for about six years before my first foray back in the murky blue a couple months ago. What an idiot. This shit is hard. And still is. We’re already much better than we were, but I’ll be honest, I’m fucking terrified of losing my cool in the ocean and pulling a Jack Dawson (sans the freezing cold and quiet, dignified death).

Anyway, I’m stuck in a little apartment in Vienna today listening to the rain rap its knuckles against the windows (fair enough after the beautiful week we’ve had here), trying to muster the energy to cycle out to the pool for another indecorous dip. But hey, procrastination seems so much more appealing, so instead I’m going to share a few tracks of my triathlon playlist with you all. Unfortunately, there can be no use of music during the actual event, so eventually I’ll start phasing out the usage so as not to become reliant. But, even if only in my head, I’ll still be keeping step to songs about the Holocaust as we round the last corner.

SHUFFLE

P.O.S – Let it Rattle

Well that’s a perfect starter. Worked perfectly on Never Better, works perfectly for setting…

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Paradise Lost are just a few weeks away from releasing their thirteenth album, Tragic Idol, through Century Media Records. So far, the hype around the album seems to suggest that this is finally the release that fans have been wanting since Draconian Times. In a Q&A done a month or so back, Guitarist Greg Mackintosh tried to help adjust expectations when he stated that, “The core of the sound on Tragic Idol has an essence of Draconian Times and Icon, and I think that’s what people are picking up on. For the past five or six years we’ve been hearing people say that Paradise Lost has gone back to the roots, which is an absolutely horrible term in my opinion. I do think that you can draw lines between a few of the tracks on the new record and Draconian Times or Icon, but when we were writing the music for Tragic Idol, I deliberately made a choice to strip everything back down to the bare bones. It’s a very simplistic record in a lot of ways, really.” I’m not sure if he was directly referencing ‘Honesty in Death’ when referring to a few songs that have that Icon vibe, but to me, it definitely does. Check out the song and hopefully it keeps you content until the final album release on April 24th.

Paradise Lost – Tragic Idol
Release Date: April 24th
Record Label: Century Media

Horse Feathers – “Thistled Spring”


I’ve always felt like this is the perfect song to start off spring. Not only does the title conjure up images of blossoming life, but the music nestles itself between icy winter-like pianos and the warm swelling of strings. The whole thing makes me picture a thawing landscape…ice melting and trickling down a hillside, tiny patches of green sprouting up through the cracks…this is the sound of life overcoming death.

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Annuals – “Brother”


This is one that packs a surprising punch, considering its all-natural and effortlessly fluid beginning. The sound of crickets and the bubbling water of a stream nuzzle your senses into a state of complete calm before the song erupts into all of its splendor with a magnificent riff and and epic string section…even the quiet, subdued vocals transform into a fit of passionate shouting akin to a triumphant arrival – not all that dissimilar to spring time coming into full force.

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Mae – “The Fisherman Song”


“The Fisherman Song” reminds me of morning. A lake who’s waves have just begun to curl and ripple, erasing the evening’s glass surface and setting the day in motion. The way the guitars are gently picked does an excellent job of depicting something soothing, such as water. Hell, even the squeaking fingers sliding up and down the strings remind me of a creaky old row boat. As the song gradually increases in tempo, it feels…

With Thrice about to embark on their final tour and Thursday just having finished up their last shows, post-hardcore, in the terms of what originally attracted me to the genre, is dead. That’s not to say that a vibrant new community hasn’t sprung up out of the underground to replace it in the burgeoning screamo scene, or that this is the first time it has died as a similar comparison can be made of Fugazi’ and At the Drive-In’s demise after their reign as genre kings throughout the 1990’s, but certainly the aged scene which many of us were once attracted to in some way or another has reached it’s end. These two bands, besides having seemingly parallel careers and similar starting names, were in many ways the pulse of a generation of kids in the early and mid-2000’s. One doesn’t have to go far to see the influence, good and bad, that these bands have had. Sure, they are in part responsible for what Warped Tour has become over the last few years, which is dubious at best, but they never sunk into that mess themselves. After both redefining the style with Illusion of Safety and Full Collapse respectively, and then finding commercial success with releases on Island records, they continued to push themselves forward and both got themselves dropped from their labels for not sacrificing their own vision. There was no cash in. Thrice spent their advances on building and maintaining their home studio and Thursday got dealt…

First it was Willow Smith and then it was Miley Cyrus. Now, Neil Young (or is that late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon with his hat, guitar and harmonica?) ever so slightly matures to cover LMFAO and their ever so articulate hit ‘Sexy and I Know It’.

In order for the Canadian singer-songwriter to nail such a deep song, he clearly needs the help of someone just a little younger… Cue Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen to join the party and “wiggle, wiggle, wiggle”.

“That’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life” stated LMFAO’s Redfoo. Clearly he hasn’t seen The Boss in a speedo trying to tan his cheeks!

Welcome!

If you have navigated through the vast interweb desert in search of great, up-to-date music, then I present to you the oasis. As part of a new feature here at Sputnik, we are composing a quarterly mixtape of sorts – one where black metal can be found alongside indie, and where staff and user tastes coalesce into one reliable knowledge bank. Here, any registered user can submit one song from this year that they feel stands above the pack. Below is a list of some of our favorite songs from the first three months of 2012. Feel free to listen to our selections, browse the descriptions, or even register and submit your own song for next time!
Special Thanks To The Contributing Writers For This Issue:

Klap4Music / OnlyAnchors / Tyraelxy / Clercqie / FelixCulpa / OmahaStylee94 / Crysis / Emim / InnocentShadow / Blackbelt54 / ChuckTheMan / Greg84 / AliW1993 / Sanders / SowingSeason / Patrickfannon / Dimsim3478 / Monsterpoptart / Theacademy / Dimor

So without further ado, I present to you (in no particular order) the first installment of Sputnik’s Infinite Playlist!

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Orbital – “Straight Sun”

Yeah, we all know how reunion tours/albums/productions are mostly cash grabs for the artists involved. Why should we waste our time (and money) on those poor, rehashed ideas when we can instead relive the better times? In…

Radiohead pulled through Dallas last night on their tour supporting last year’s The King of Limbs, and while the main set contained most of the tracks off that album (including “Little by Little,” “Feral,” and “Morning Mr. Magpie”), they did manage in a few lovely standouts from their OK Computer and Kid A (“Karma Police,” “Everything In Its Right Place,” “Idioteque”). Most notable though, even among the few new tracks currently in the tour’s circulation, was the live debut of a b-side that the band wrote over ten years ago. The track is called “The Amazing Sounds of Orgy,” which sounds almost exactly how one might expect.  You can view that below.

I don’t really know what I’m doing at the moment. This is a spur of the moment idea stemming from a conversation that is currently ongoing, which I’ve decided that I’m going to be an ass and go and take it off into this tangent instead of actually finishing the conversation like a normal person. So hey! What the hell, right? Fuck it, here it goes:

Because I’m an over opinionated, egotistical jackass on the internet with a music library full of shit that I never listen to but have just because other over opinionated, egotistical jackasses have told me that they are, in some way or another, worth my time, I’ve found an outlet in writing about the thing that I love the most (a good IPA is second) on this here website. I enjoy it, but at the same time I think that this very site and those like it, pick your poison — CMG, Pitchfork, Metal Reviews, Punknews etc etc — are inherently fucked because it all stems from taking the individual experience that is listening to a record and pulling it out of context; warping it into a collection of phrases and similes meant on describing something that is, at its core, indescribable. To me the power of music lies completely within the moment. Sure it can be dissected and studied, and there is a time and a place for such scholarly exercises, but that kind of approach completely misses the psychological effect that music has…

A brief look back at a band that left its mark on a generation

Many would tell you that Fall Out Boy was finished long before the release of their full-length finale, Folie A Deux, but the record certainly had something of a goodbye feel to it. There is no way of discerning whether or not it was intended to be a farewell album, but the cumulative resume-to-date of singles tidily collaged together in the background of “What A Catch, Donnie” certainly seems to imply that they knew the end was coming. And for someone who grew up with the awkward looking, off-key underdogs, that probably had more of an impact than it did on most. It’s true that the band had begun to overstay their (very brief) welcome, saturating radio stations to the point of nausea while their albums were infiltrated by guest musicians like Jay-Z – whose presence on “Thriller” was arbitrary and purely promotional. But even in the “selling out” of their sound, FOB never lost their down-to-earth touch; in fact, they could often be heard mocking their own commercialization. Popular single “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race” is a prime illustration, with lyrics comparing the music scene to an arms race and proclaiming, “as long as the room keeps singin’ / that’s just the business I’m in.” It was moments like this that, even in the midst of an enormous popularity explosion, offered a glimpse into the heart of a band that maybe…

Even though the Internet is, in theory, a technology which opens the floodgates and makes the acquisition of information more fluid, more chaotic, and more free, the simple truth is that as a result of that (over-)abundance, we feel the need to divide lest we forget how to conquer. What hypothetically should enable us to digest music without its labels ultimately leads us to label it even more ridiculously than we did before, to compartmentalise in new, almost innovative ways just in order to construct a road-map through the hell of cyberspace and the ideas with which we’re presented.

This isn’t exactly a revelation, but what interests me is the way we handle it when an unexpected event screws with our neat ideas of what constitutes good, bad, pop, metal: how do we adjust when someone moves the goalposts artistically? This has to be a test, because no person is capable of removing the art they’re experiencing entirely from its context or from the discourses surrounding it. Would that it were possible, but it isn’t.

So when Bon Iver punched through the speakers to deliver the curveball that was “Woods” way back on his Blood Bank EP, everyone went insane. You’ll recall that this was a point, distant though it now may seem, when Justin Vernon was still in most regards a cult superstar and perceived as a lonely, bearded guy with a guitar. Nobody expected anything else from him; if they claim they did, they’re having you on.…

Let me preface this by stating outright that there are better ways to go about wooing the female object of your desire. In most cases, being yourself will do the trick. There is no substitute for self-confidence, and slyly passing along a once blank CD upon which you poured your heart and soul to a near stranger will only win you an awkward look – or a restraining order. However, a well thought out mixtape, delivered at the right time, can be a very romantic gesture. Whether you are courting a girl or have been dating her for quite some time, there are a few simple preliminary rules we should go over before I delve into our first lesson in the art of mixtaping.

First, you should never, never, ever create a mixtape for someone you LITERALLY JUST MET. A mixtape is supposed to say something, either about her or yourself, and there is nothing of romantic value that you can possibly need to divulge after spending twenty-five minutes chatting at the food court and sharing a Wendy’s frosty. If you come on too strong, you, like that frosty, will soon be nonexistent in her eyes, capisce? Okay, now that we have established what was hopefully obvious, let’s take a look at rule number two. PERSONALIZE IT. The trick is that you want her to think of you when she hears the songs, so try to steer clear of more popular items that she may have already associated a…

Here’s another glare from Stephin Merritt, and this time it’s a reminder: before this non-synth triology of nonsense was a late ’80s, early Indie band falling into the new decade with nothing but the tricks they’d been taught to survive. Tricks which they had failed at, anyway, because of Merritt himself, hands in his face and eyes rolling. It’s funny, because The Magnetic Fields would have been a big contradiction of terms– a breezy synth-pop band with a droning, insulting genius propelling them– if it wasn’t for Merritt’s attention to detail (or: attention to himself). The synthesizers of Holiday didn’t exactly sparkle for the sun shining on them, and why would they? Merritt’s never really gone for the sugary-sweet fare of twee’s higher-ups, writing a lyric like “under more stars than there are prostitues in Thailand” when he might have learned a more romantic sentiment from silliness like “la la love you.”

But Merritt is not silly. He’s like the version of himself Scott Walker sees before ghosts teach him to love Christmas, using the synthesizer as a tool to turn the theatrical into a pantomine, from the aliens-do-country road trips of Highway Strip to his definitely-ironic retelling of how people love on 69 Love Songs. He’s spoiling movies and ruining stories, and “Andrew In Drag” is a track, weirdly, in the spirit of those two records, downbeat and hysterical but told deadly serious, like the man rolling his eyes now and forever. And it’ll make sense in context,…

I don’t know why I’m writing this.

I mean, I kind of do. This should be my year-end feature, where I put the albums I liked in an arbitrary list so you can understand how I experienced the past twelve months. But how could I write that when I have no fucking idea what happened the past twelve months? So instead I’m writing this: an attempt to make sense of the most bizarre year– of music, of life, of culture– that I’ve ever experienced. I don’t think I’m going to succeed. What’s to follow is a self-indulgent rant on phenomenal music I didn’t really get, my bewilderment over the critical reception to Bon Iver, and a Channing-esque query as to what music even means to me anymore. But I have to do this. Even if I don’t know why.

I don’t think I’m alone. The entire year, I got the sense that nobody really knew what was happening in 2011 but just sort of ran with it. Reading the various year end write-ups across the internet, I’m comforted to see at least a couple other publications acknowledge of how weird this year was. SPIN, for example, is all about it. They seem excited about where this directionless quagmire is going to take us in the future. I’m fucking terrified of it.

It’s an old argument, but even as an internet writer, I have to admit the internet is over-saturating culture. To paraphrase Milan Kundera, we no longer live in a…

Lana del Rey's got nothing on those chinky lips
An interesting year that was: notably lacking any clear frontrunner for that coveted “album of the year” title recently occupied by Kanye West (not here, but that’s besides the point) and Animal Collective, it was nevertheless filled to the brim with brilliant music that often dealt with “pop” in some capacity, be it eschewal of its conventions or brazen embracement of its occasionally unsavory tendencies. Merrill Garbus did the former and, in the process, acted on the limitless potential of pop’s universality – a useful technique, considering that w h o k i l l was, more than anything, a record that, in the words of a certain Maya Arulpragasam, “put people on the map that never seen a map”. Gang Gang Dance and Dan Bejar released two of the year’s most critically acclaimed albums by adopting the latter method; both Eye Contact and Kaputt found effortlessly distinctive vocals surrounded by garish sonic touches, presented mostly without irony.

Meanwhile, two twenty-somethings in Minneapolis talked about the Internet as a nigh palpable place, released hyperactive music obviously emerging from what a breathless Tiny Mix Tapes feature called a “chaotic slipstream that has become its own gloriously bizarre anti-aesthetic”, and introduced thousands of white kids who just can’t let their precious indie rock go to the maximalist wonders of K-pop. (“Bubble Pop!” is a reliable favorite.) Montreal’s Claire Boucher, when not crafting the most engrossing pop music since “Heartbeats” first blew up, went out…

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