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Musings

I struggled for awhile with the second part to this little discourse. The struggle was that, to be in full disclosure, I had no idea really where I was going with the argument. I simply knew that my first part was not enough and as a failsafe I put that “Part 1” at the end of the title. I had a rough idea at what I was trying to get at, but in terms of putting something together—well I was at a loss. So I’ve decided to structure this second part in a very Hegelian manner. Hegel’s method of discourse, for those of you who do not know it, is essentially to have a thesis, then an antithesis, and finally a synthesis. For, the first part of this blog post laid out my essential problem: where have all the big ideas gone? My suggestion, if it may not have been clear, was that the increasingly factional categorization—I believe nitpicking was the word I used—of genre labels by communities of music lovers such as ourselves here at Sputnik, is symptomatic of the endangerment of these big ideas. A ‘big idea’, as I see it, is an attempt to illustrate something specific in a way that transcends experience and connects to the mind of the audience. This is not to say platitudes or other generalizations, in fact that’s the opposite of what I mean. No, a big idea is one that makes you think beyond the way you normally do.

I believe…

Meet Alexandra Wallace. Anybody who’s attended a reasonably high-profile university (or maybe even a crappy one) knows Alexandra’s type: pretty, rich and pig ignorant of the world beyond her gated lifestyle.

Earlier this month, the UCLA student and part-time swimsuit model posted a video on Youtube complaining about Asians at college. About how they have their families come over at the weekend to cook their meals for the week (not everyone can afford to eat out all the time) and disturb all her epiphanies at the library with their “ching chong ling long” phone conversations.

Oh and, seriously, you should go outside if you’re scared your relatives might have died in the tsunami because, honestly, some of us are trying to have an epiphany here.

Alexandra’s probably not a racist. As outlined above, she’s of a fairly common variety of over-privileged, entitled moron that congregates at almost every institution of higher learning because money > intelligence. Unfortunately for her, her stupidity earned her death threats from the usual throngs of anti-social idiots on the internet and she’s had to leave the school. Nobody should celebrate that.

What we should celebrate, however, is this rather delightful bitch-slap delivered courtesy of LA musician Jimmy Wong. The set-up is perfect, and the music is an oddly satisfying mix of Lonely Island-style perv-R&B parody and, er, Jason Mraz. The chorus is infectious and, barring some vocal blips, it’s really nicely recorded. Boyce Avenue got a record deal for a…

In the hours following my blog post on Black Robot vs. Bl_ck R_b_ts, I received an email from the former’s PR person, Jenn. She’s given me permission to publish our correspondence verbatim.

Hi Dave,

As someone who works for the band in the US, I just wanted to clarify a few things that your story missed:

First, the Irish band came to our attention after someone posted about them on Black Robot’s Facebook page.  They appeared to be getting ready to release a new CD and it’s pretty impossible for two bands to share a name (as you can imagine).  We initially tried to deal with the Irish band privately.  From the start,  they were mocking the US band and making a joke of it.  They also published all private messages.  We realized we would get no cooperation and had no other choice but to let FB and Myspace review and handle it.  This was a decision of management, first and foremost.

Second, you refer to “cyber bullying” in your article, when in fact, it was NOT on our part.  We have had to ban no less than 25 people including band members (all from Waterford or nearby) for coming to Black Robot’s page and posting negative comments including insults to their music, age, appearance, etc.  No band member, friend or fan of Black Robot (US band) went to the Irish band’s pages and retaliated that we were ever aware of,

I miss big ideas. I lament their loss, in fact. I miss the sweeping gestures once made that attempted to understand oneself, a body of people, humanity as a whole, the very world entire. I was not around for these grand ideas (or, at least not in the intellectual capacity I possess now), yet I feel moved to write in elegiac prose as if I mourn the loss of something very dear. Before falling into a vast pit of hyperbole, I will make clear exactly what I mean by a ‘big idea’ through examples. Hegel’s dialectic is a big idea; Marx’s proletariat is a big idea; Freud’s archive is a big idea; Spivak’s postcolonial readings of Victorian texts are a big idea; these are attempts to explain the metanarrative of the human condition, the human struggle, the way in which the human acts and thinks and why. I do not necessarily lament the passing of the ideas themselves—any good close reading of these ideas reveals there many contradictions and faults—but rather I miss the attempt implied by these ideas. It seems to me that in our great postmodern idiom we have narrowed ourselves into a tautological spiral of refining and redefining and infinitely categorizing these ideas into sub-ideas and sub-sub-ideas. It is a phenomenon that is plaguing the music community as well, and this is what I lament the most.

I am not, nor am I attempting to, bringing anything new to the discussion at this point. Anyone who…

“Knock knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Jonathan Brightman from Buckcherry.”
“Jonathan Brightman from Buckcherry who?”
“Jonathan Brightman from Buckcherry and I’m suing you.”
“No, seriously, who the fuck are you?”

I wasn’t there for the first email exchange between Jonathan Brightman – ex- of sentimental LA hard rockers Buckcherry and, since 2008, of sentimental LA hard rockers Black Robot – and Waterford’s finest punk rock duo, since 2006, Black Robots. But if I had been there, I imagine that’s someway along the lines of how it would have gone.

As a matter of fact, I jest. I wasn’t there, but thanks the wonders of leaked email correspondence, I do have an exact transcript of how it went down – and it wasn’t all that different to the hilarious children’s joke outlined above.

A few short weeks ago, Irish two-piece Black Robots were contacted by Brightman’s Black Robot – their web manager, to be precise – to inform them that their names were too similar and that his trademark was being infringed. They were told in no uncertain terms that they had been reported to Facebook, MySpace, etc. and that they would be well-advised to begin the process of changing their name before their pages were deleted.

A subsequent email by Brightman referred to this as “courteous gesture.” This seemed odd to me because I, too, in my time as Sputnik editor, have received similarly courteous gestures that have left with…

John Legend posted a cover of Adele’s hit song “Rolling in the Deep” for instant download to his Soundcloud page on Wednesday evening. The cover is entirely a capella, and continues to rise Legend’s stock in my book. The harmonies are smoky and perfectly minimal, setting the perfect tone for Legend’s famously soulful pipes to belt the song’s memorable melody.

Mike Posner also has a cover floating around, but no one cares.

John Legend – Rolling in the Deep (Adele Cover) by johnlegend

EPs | 50-31 | 30-11 | 10-1

10. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

[Myspace] // [Review]

The Suburbs suffers the same fate as its predecessor Neon Bible, and that is basically that it isn’t Funeral. But outside of its failure to live up to the unreasonably lofty expectations of the band’s debut, this is yet another triumph for Arcade Fire, a band that has basically stamped its name as one of the most important musical acts of our generation. The Suburbs fuse the band’s trademark grandiose nature with a sound that is geared more towards straight-up rock than it is indie, but the results of this album rest more within minor details than they do in Arcade Fire’s overall sound (which most of us have already become aware of and accustomed to). The subtle backing vocals of Régine Chassagne, the alternation in phrasing structures, the increased presence of synthesizers, and the surprisingly large role that the basslines play in establishing a groove all make The Suburbs an album worthy of high acclaim in its own right. 

The Suburbs serves as something of a bridge between Neon Bible and Funeral. It shows momentary flashes of what made Funeral such a landmark album, but also maintains a great deal of the sleek, sometimes even Bruce Springsteen-like moments on Neon Bible. But if there is one…

EPs | 50-31 | 30-11 | 10-1

30. The Flashbulb – Arboreal

[Myspace] // [Review]

On Soundtrack to A Vacant Life, Benn Jordan seemed like he was on the verge of death. All but consumed by emotion, bleak and foreboding, his 2008 LP was intriguing in its dark soundscapes and irking ambience. Flash forward to 2010, and is The Flashbulb coming back to life. Infused with energy and spunk, Arboreal is an active listen. The artist mixes up a cascading string movement, a little melancholy piano piece, and a choppy electronic sample simultaneously, and the outcome is more organic, perhaps, than the clear-cut emotional platitudes of Vacant Life. The transitions, like always, are holy. Jordan’s ability to create beauty from a chaotic mess of disparate elements has never been this forthright, as he weaves and bends together the many aspects of the music like an artisan. Long-hailed as sit-down, concentrate, absorb-with-tender-ears kind of music, The Flashbulb manipulates this axiom of the genre into an album teeming with life. Some longtime fans expressed surprise, disgust even, at Benn Jordan’s new artistic aims; but I couldn’t be happier that The Flashbulb has found a new spring in its step, and is crafting more impressive music to complement this newfound atmosphere. - SeaAnemone

29. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me

[Myspace] //…

EPs | 50-31 | 30-11 | 10-1


50. Kylesa – Spiral Shadow

[Myspace] // [Review]

In the decade that they have been together, Kylesa’s story has been one of constant improvement, and in this sense, Spiral Shadow doesn’t disappoint. Although they retain the sludgy hardcore energy that made them good in the first place, the band has added new psychedelic dimensions to its sound which are fully utilised here. This is also without a doubt their most accessible offering yet, and some of the material – particularly ‘Don’t Look Back’ – hints that they may continue down this path in the future. The records highlights, however, come when the band does what it does best, such as the hard-hitting and direct ‘Tired Climb’ and the psychadelic tangle of the title track. If they continue on their ascent, Kylesa’s next moves will certainly be worth monitoring. – AliW1993

49. The Roots – How I Got Over

[Myspace] // [Review]

How I Got Over is a hip-hop album that carries a strong sense of purpose.  Too many artists focus on the negative aspects of growing up “on the streets”, such as drugs, domestic abuse, murders, theft, etc.  However, The Roots use their status within the genre (as well as their own history rising above the challenges…

EPs | 50-31 | 30-11 | 10-1


10. Pariah – Safehouses

[Myspace] // [Review]

For all the comparisons Pariah’s music has bought him, Safehouses manages to stand on its own two feet as something refreshingly joyous; its a romanticized nostalgic look back at a more colorful period that ever so slowly gave rise to a genre so now drenched in filth and grime. Almost too simple to be so ingenious, Pariah has crafted six impeccably explosive tracks to be explored and analyzed to the point of exhaustion, which at the conclusion will only reveal one more gifted musical engineer whose only want was to craft beats to express his admiration for music as a whole. The flawless switch between different feels and styles reveals an expert touch sorely lacking in many of his contemporaries and reveals just how far Pariah has come since last year’s single ‘Detroit Falls’ – the fact that the same man who, with just that one track typed on his resume has released this, one of the most unassuming yet addictive EPs of the year, is no less than astounding. Obliterating the dense subsonic pandemonium of dubstep and replacing it with an idm fairytale like lushness, Pariah has shown that he is an artist to keep an eye on. – Deviant

09. James Blake – Klavierwerke

I write this blog with one arm pinned behind my back.

That’s not the premise of some crazy St. Patrick’s Day drinking game. I’ve a trapped nerve in my neck and it really fucking hurts, and this is the only way I can relieve the pain and function with some level of normality. This is inconvenient in multi-fold ways: it’s the festive season, I have lots of writing do and (as previously discussed) it really fucking hurts. Yet I couldn’t let my ancestor’s (I know priests are nominally celibate, but then as now they were randy fuckers, one and all) feast day pass by without comment.

With the possible exception of the Jewish people, there is no nation that has relied as much on emigration and the diaspora to shape its traditions, and what we now know as St. Patrick’s Day is inextricably linked to the experiences of Irish emigrants across the world, particularly in the United States. More than that, Irish culture in general – and music in particular – has fed back and forth into American folk tradition for almost as long as the free world has been populated by we vulgar Europeans.

While the standard picture of Irish emigration has always been of the poor, tattered masses making their way across the ocean on “coffin ships,” the reality has always been more complicated. During the US Civil War, Ireland was an active recruiting ground for both the Union and Confederate armies, with almost 200,000 Irish taking…

Rody back in 2004 with his short-lived Danzig-inspired haircut. Photo © Kieran Meyn

It’s odd, as a journalist, to interview someone you’ve known for nearly a decade.

I’ve known Rody Walker in some capacity since I was 14. Two years older than me, Rody was the long-haired, shredded jean-wearing frontman of Ontario’s fastest growing punk band. It was 2003 and Protest the Hero, formerly Happy Go Lucky, were riding the momentum of their first real release A Calculated Use of Sound. Sure,  Search for the Truth existed, and yes, “Silent Genocide” defined my teen years, but it’s a release everyone, the band included, discarded pretty quickly once ACUoS came out.

For a lot of angst-ridden Southern Ontario teens their EP was the shit. It had it all—verbosity, technicality and political eccentricity. Drummer Moe Carlson free-flowed in a way he hasn’t since, and Rody’s passionate if shrill delivery caused many of us to lose our voices at their frequent gigs.

I was 14 when all this happened. Rody was 16. I’m closing on 23, Rody on 25, and Scurrilous, the band’s third full length, is the first time his name’s been on a lyric sheet since. Understanding Rody’s lyrics means understanding Rody, and for some that’s not easy. The reason for this intro, as long-winded as it seems, is to preface such an understanding.

Ever since Kezia came out, Rody’s been known as the loud-mouth of the band, with good reason–he is, after all,…

To coincide with the group’s debut release in North America – and their second overall – we’ve teamed up with the lovely Sargent House and the Richter Collective to offer you a stream of the Wexford trio’s eponymously-named second album.

Touted by none other than me as “a bold step and one that marks them out as one of the few breakout bands in recent years to genuinely justify their own hype,” The Second Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank builds on the frenetic math rock template of their debut and adds more deeply-textured melodies and Japanese video game music influences to the mix without sacrificing the triumphant sense of chaos that made the first record such a refreshing listen.

Read my full review of the record here (open in a new window) and stream the album via the player below.

(Photo: Loreana Rushe)

Times have been tough lately.

I’m 64 years old now, and there just isn’t the same demand for wildlife paintings and woodcuts as there was when I was 25.  Income has been scarce and I’ve had some close calls with paying the bills.  Many times these past few months have I considered hanging myself in the garage, but I can’t work up the courage, so I sit and paint pathetic, morbid little pictures depicting death and suffering.  My daughter thinks I might actually be able to make more money selling those than my wildlife pictures but they are too private for anything like that.  They strike me as being a bit too modern, which goes against the principles I’ve always stood for with my paintings.  I started painting wildlife scenes because they are essentially timeless; a picture of two ducks swimming in a pond could be set in 1915 or 2013 without being explicitly modern or old.  I pledge allegiance to no period in time.  The only concession I’ve made to the modern age was hiring someone to make a website advertising my work.  My daughter posted the link all over the Internet, and there was a small spike in business for a little while, but eventually things settled back into a rut.

So imagine my surprise when a young man by the name of Chris Brown sent me an email asking me to paint the cover to his new album.  I had never heard of him before and immediately…

It has recently come to my attention that not only do some of you people have lives outside of Sputnik but that there is an entire new phenomenon in this earth known as “blogging.”

Apparently there are individuals who see fit to condense their thoughts on music into chunks of less than a thousand words (daft, I know) – perhaps with the aid of media devices such as video – and see fit to do so on this strange new “blogging” format. In the spirit of  togetherness, I have decided to recognise this trend and compile a list of staff and user blogs. We may even add a blogroll at some point.

Please feel free to link to your blog down below and I’ll do my best to add you to the list. Unless I don’t like you. In which case, futch ya.

Staff Blogs:

Tyler Munro - Tyler Munro // Twitter
Tyler Fisher - The Unpopulist // Twitter
Dave De Sylvia –  Too Famous To Get Fully Dressed // Twitter
Keelan H., Kiran S. et al. – Trust Me, I’m a Doctor
Rudy Klapper – Klap4Music // Twitter

User Blogs:

Marksellsuswallets - Turkey Leg
Qwe, chambered89 & Co. - Looser Than Loose
Rasputin: Slays For Days
Crysis - Ghosts of Saturn
Liledman – Musings of Eddie
Atavanhalen – Yes, We’ve Got a Video
Conradtao –…

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