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Tracks

Following on from last week’s ‘Sputnik Discusses’ column, another of my most anticipated 2015 albums has seen two tracks released from it. Of course, I am talking about Massachusetts indie-pop outfit Passion Pit, who are gearing up for the release of their third LP ‘Kindred’ on April-21. First up comes the bouncy and energetic lead single ‘Lifted Up (1985)’, which also fills the role of album opener. As one can probably already deduce from its title, this tune is both enthusiastic and nostalgic, with an infectious earworm of a chorus where lead vocalist Michael Angelakos sings “1985 was a good year”.

Next to see the light of day is track 3 ‘Where the Sky Hangs’. Much more methodically-paced than ‘Lifted Up (1985)’, this song is still no less contagious. Whether through music or vocals, Angelakos simply has that gifted knack to make listeners move their body in some way, shape or form. In truth, neither of these two tracks stray a great deal from the sound exhibited on Passion Pit’s two excellent LPs thus far; ‘Manners’ and ‘Gossamer’. But is that a good or bad thing? I guess that we will have to wait a couple of more months for ‘Kindred’ to be released to find out.

Queens rockers Bayside released their excellent 6th LP ‘Cult’ last February. A year later on March-3, the quartet add to the original 11 tunes with the 15 track ‘White Edition’ of the album. While the first of the four new songs to be heard – ‘Dancing Like An Idiot’ – is nothing more than a decent B-Side that was rightfully kept off the album proper, it hasn’t wasted any time in drumming up some publicity for this under-rated band.

Coming complete with a lyric video (spelling mistake and all), lead vocalist Anthony Raneri lets loose on some of the young bands who proliferate the Warped Tour scene. “That’s where I get to see what the kids are doing”, Raneri tells Billboard. “At Bayside shows, I wouldn’t know what the trends are with young kids, same in my home life. Warped Tour is where you see all kinds of different people. These bands are just writing giant curses on t-shirts and selling it to a kid because they know the kid is stupid enough to buy it”, Raneri goes on to state. “You’re telling them it’s cool to buy a t-shirt to piss their parents off. There’s nothing cool about that… That’s mall rebellion… That’s not real rebellion. I grew up liking The Smiths & Nirvana… I fucking hated Guns N’ Roses. It was bullshit, misogynistic and fake rebellion – nothing is more corporate and commercialized’.

Headlined by the lyric “You’re basically One Direction if they all had…

As an indirect prelude to the ‘Sputnik Discusses’ column that is set to break the internet mid-week, here are the first 2 tracks to be heard from Florence and The Machine’s third LP ‘How Big How Blue How Beautiful’. To be released on June-1, it follows the critically acclaimed releases ‘Lungs’ and ‘Ceremonials’. First up is the title track, which is predominantly instrumental and very orchestral. It sounds like the perfect album opener to me:

However, a closer look at the track-listing for this much-anticipated 11 track release suggests that it actually slots in as the 3rd tune of the album. That feels a little strange to me, but until we hear the (pardon the pun) flow of the LP, then I’m happy to take a “wait-and-see” approach. What we do know is that it will immediately follow the lead single ‘What Kind of Man’. This one’s got everything; an alluring build-up, hooky guitar riff, blaring horns and those oh so passionately soaring vocals that have become a staple of Ms. Welch… and the video even has boobs:

Timisoara-based Methadone Skies are definitely onto something special with “Mirra,” the song that kicks off their upcoming album, Eclectic Electric. From the ground up the track shows how much the outfit have evolved musically from their debut full-length: the main motif is acutely filtered through various modes, being augmented with Turkish saz and mandola. This expanded instrumentation lends the composition an oriental flair that channels the free-flowing spiritualism of Om. The mood constantly switches from idyllic to sinister in a kaleidoscopic fashion, yet the song never loses its sharp focus, exemplifying instrumental psychedelic rock at its best.

Methadone Skies on facebook

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…

On the heels of debuting some, uh, minimalistic album art and the raucous “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” off their forthcoming LP Get Hurt, The Gaslight Anthem have shared the title track as well.

Get Hurt is slated for an August 19th release date and is available for pre-order.

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The Gaslight Anthem – “Get Hurt” (3:43)
Get Hurt

In an earlier exclusive with Rolling Stone (which is a noteworthy read for fans if you haven’t seen it yet), frontman Brian Fallon noted: “I’ll probably continue to write about heartbreak forever. That stuff doesn’t go away as you get older. You’re always trying to make each record more autobiographical than the last one. Before, it was a lot of storytelling with lots of specific places and names. This time I wrote a lot of direct first-person narratives. You’re talking about yourself – so you have to find new way to do that each time – so for this record, it was a lot of poetry books and a lot of Bob Dylan…

… I can only do what I know and make it as real as possible.”

Photo credit: Joey Maloney

In a world where we can cure cancer with Facebook likes… wait, never mind.

In a world where the relationship between musicians and their fans is bolstered through social media, pay-what-you-like downloads, and [hopefully] a continued focus on developing legal services that actually adequately compensate the artists, it’s always a neat thing whenever musicians tease that they’ll share a forthcoming tune to drum up some interest (or send their fanbase into a frenzy).

About 8 hours ago, Adelaide’s Hilltop Hoods teased that they would share a track from their upcoming album Walking Under Stars, the group’s 7th studio album set for release later this year. Originally disclosing that “Won’t Let You Down”, featuring London-based rapper Maverick Sabre, would be the album’s first single, the trio pulled off a swerve and released “The Art of the Handshake”.

Stream “The Art of the Handshake” below, and based on their tongue-in-cheek tweet, decide where you fall on the continuum:

The other day, I stumbled upon a most brilliant piece of satire: The Chainsmokers’ new single “#SELFIE (out now on typically straight-faced Dim Mak Records). Every single element of the track scoffs at what we’ve taken to be the norm nowadays in the #PLUR region of the musical map, and it does so exquisitely. The satire is so prevalent, in fact, that you’d be hard-pressed to find a single part of “#SELFIE” which doesn’t poke fun at something. The vocal sample is clearly the focal point of this satire – an extended cut from the voice of a woman, most likely drunk and wearing a shirt that says “EAT SLEEP EDM” or “KEEP CALM AND RAVE ON,” as she lauds the hedonistic life of sleazy guys, Instagram filters, Internet stars/models, and clubbin’ in America in the year 2014 (sample anti-poetic gem: “Did you see her? She’s so short, and her dress is so tacky. Who wears cheetah?). And, of course, at the song’s climax, she delivers the clincher, everything The Chainsmokers take to be wrong with today’s scene distilled into five beautiful words: “Let me take a selfie.”

Beyond that wonderful verbal commentary, though, lies an ocean of mouthwatering deceit. Take the song itself, for example: it’s as generic as they come, with two low-register notes repeated over and over again pre-drop and the exact same synth texture post-drop, the standard snare/clap doubling over and over again until a drop that can only be described as “#EPIC,” and repetitive, grating…

I could go on and on about the vitality of Death Grips’ music — even if I myself don’t happen to be one of their bigger fans — so I won’t. Instead I would like to talk a minute about the forgotten legacy of Huey Lewis and his band, The News. If memory serves me right, Huey Lewis and the News came into existence around the same time the J Geils Band wrote that shit stain of a song “Centerfold”, and basically they rode that sound until it died a couple years later. It’s quintessentially mid-1980’s — which means it both sucks and rules at the same time. Think the same sort of stupid kitsch nostalgia that makes you order a Canadian Whiskey even though you know Crown Royal is nothing more than water and brown. Anyways, in that time frame Huey Lewis and the News released what is known in most circles as “The Whitest Album Ever Made” with 1983’s Sports. The song “It’s Hip to Be Square” isn’t on that album, but for all I care about it should be because then it would have been even more of a classic album in the same way Snow’s breakthrough single “Informer” is.

If you're thinking, "Hey, isn't this picture a little creepy?" please let me assure you that every picture of Ariana Grande is creepy. She's definitely like 8 years old.

Alright, folks, listen up, because I’ve got a cutting-edge pop music opinion for you all to devour and regurgitate elsewhere: Ariana Grande is awesome. She only has real two singles to her name: “The Way,” catchy and vibrant but with a bearable-if-you-sorta-just-ignore-him set of verses from Mac Miller, and “Baby I,” not completely new but still unreservedly awesome, the type of song so good it gets you pumped for an album by the girl from…Nickelodeon’s Victorious? Whatever: this thing sounds like Mariah Carey cosplaying as Sonic the Hedgehog, with mile-a-minute percussion, luxurious synths, and an astounding display of vocal agility from Ms. Grande herself, who may yet turn out to be the first new pop star worth the hype in quite a while.

Antlered Man won me over last year with their debut full-length Giftes Parts 1 & 2. The London four-piece has an uncanny knack for combining dexterous heavy rock with decidedly Eastern melodicism. Their music has been likened to System Of A Down, Mr. Bungle and Future Of The Left, capitalizing on creativity rather than stale song structures. The band’s genre-bending tendencies find their presence felt on “GDZ.” The track integrates the massive walls of distortion with sudden moments of relief and an infectious bridge midway through, proving that Antlered Man can be irresistibly catchy in their wildly experimental output. Both gargantuan in scope and highly infectious, “GDZ” is a fantastic indicator of what’s going to follow on the outfit’s upcoming album The Devil Is Them set to be released on October 14th through New Heavy Sounds. Stream and download the song for free via bandcamp.

For a song about the consequences of car use, “Go Green” sure doesn’t make it any easier for you to hop on your bike instead. With a slick guitar slide providing the perfect in, Buddy Peace’s wonderful summer-cool drum loop gives Prolyphic a great platform to make you feel guilty for wanting to play his song through rolled-down windows. First, he attacks himself for damaging the world with his car and electronics. Second, he attacks the corporations that try, under the guise of a supposed moral backbone, to make a tidy profit from cleaning up the messes they’d previously made. But though the usual chip on Prolyphic’s shoulder should be the draw, it’s Buddy’s breezy and revitalizing beat that gives the track its pull.

Check out Prolyphic and Buddy Peace’s collaborative album ‘The Working Man’, released earlier this year through Strange Famous Records. (Better yet, check out Buddy Peace’s 2008 mixtape masterpiece ‘Wolf Diesel Mountain’, released through 2600 recordings.)

Swedish outfit Goatess may have just released their debut album on Svart Records, but they’re all experienced musicians. Most notably, vocalist Chritus Linderson has made a name for himself, performing with such renowned doom metal acts as Saint Vitus and Lord Vicar. The eponymous full-length release from Goatess fuses the meandering tempo of doom metal with stoner rock-channeling grooves and psychedelic vibes to great effect. Granted, this Sleep and  Electric Wizard inspired style is hardly anything new, yet the album makes a profound impact mainly due to the strong vocal performance of Linderson. His traditionally melodic croons often lend the music its memorable quality. “Alpha Omega” is one of the record’s undoubted highlights, perefectly encapsulating the quartet’s desire to capture the all-consuming power of elephantine riffs.

I’ll say the same thing about ‘Pink Rabbits’ that I said about ‘Conversation 16’ back in 2010: if you still haven’t heard The National’s best song to date, then you are depriving yourself of the year’s best moment. It seems like every time this band puts out an album, there is one track on it that is arguably better than anything else released within the same 365 days: ‘Mr. November’, ‘Apartment Story’, ‘Conversation 16’…and now, ‘Pink Rabbits.’ What all these songs have in common is accessibility, propelled by underlying emotional turmoil that prevents them from sounding watered down. I would say that’s their formula, or something else intelligent-sounding, but honestly The National just do whatever the fuck they want and excel at it with relative ease.

Here, they go the route of the sedated pop ballad. The song is so perfectly constructed that it doesn’t matter what Matt Berninger is singing about, but as usual, he has paired top-of-the-line musicianship with phenomenal lyrics. The meaning of the song is somewhat ambiguous, especially when it comes to determining whether it was written from the perspective of a guy – “I’m so surprised you want to dance with me now, you always said I held you way too high off the ground” – or from a girl – “You didn’t see me I was falling apart, I was a white girl in a crowd of white girls in the park”, but either way it’s ridiculously poignant. From the guy’s perspective, I can’t…

Bonjour. Oui oui monsieur et madames. Je M’appelle Davey. Comment se fait tout le monde aujourd’hui?

July 14 is Bastille Day, the national day of France. I could have written a one thousand word blog detailing French music over the decades. From Edith Piaf to Phoenix, and David Guetta to Gojira, I’m certain it could have been a winner. But I’m far too lazy for that, so a tenuous link will have to do.

Enter English indie/synth-pop act Bastille and their latest single ‘Laura Palmer’. Along with the equally mainland European sounding track ‘Pompeii’, this deceptively infectious tune is one of the twin peaks of the quartet’s excellent debut LP ‘Bad Blood’. Some guy named David Lynch told me that the french translation for fifth single is “La ura palmes er”. I think he might be pulling my leg, but I do have a feeling that he directed the video for the song, since it makes no fucking sense! When is Mullholland Drive Day anyway?

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