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?
Ryan Clark (bass), Paul Astick (vocals / guitar), Rob Stephens (guitar), Steve Wilson (drums)
Leeds-based heavy rockers Hawk Eyes are about to release their brand new four-track EP on August 19th. The quartet’s potent mesh-up of post-hardcore, sludge metal and alt rock landed their latest full-length Ideas the top spot on my 2012 year-end list. With the new fan-funded release, they do not disappoint either. Produced by Andy Hawkins, That’s What ThisIs further develops the quartet’s winning formula. The numbers are still disarmingly clever and noisy, except the hooks are even grander, the melodies even more powerful, and Paul Astic’s vocals vastly improved. Hawk Eyes are most definitely going in a more accessible direction, yet there’s enough songwriting dexterity on display to make their integrity intact. This short EP whets the appetite nicely before the outfit’s next full-length.
Cheap is a great indicator of what is going to follow. While the track is not nearly as melodic as the remaining cuts, it juxtaposes mathy verses with an abrasive noise-rock chorus and spaced-out bridge to thrilling effect.
Maybe there is something in this ‘climate change’ brouhaha after all.
The “British Summer” ceased to be a thing a long time ago. We pretty much make-do with “mild” and be done with it…
…but now over here we are experiencing the briefest of heat waves. A week is a luxury. Some of you who live in perpetually sun-kissed climes may scoff, but that’s how it goes.
The heat does funny things to me anyway. A man with long, thick hair and a penchant for black jumpers finds little solace in the sun’s non-prejudicial UV beatdown. Nights are spent squirming on bedsheets like a drugged-up seal, days spent sighing loudly and cursing whatever malevolent god (Ra?) sent this yellow ball of hatred.
And so not for the first time, I find myself turning to Captain Beefheart, whose simple exclamation of “It’s so hot!” at the beginning of this song captures just how I feel. This is my brain in heat.
Following the electro abomination that was 2009’s ‘In This Light and On This Evening’, even fans of English indie-rock band Editors could be forgiven for approaching their follow-up ‘The Weight of Your Love’ with equal parts trepidation and dread. Anthemic, stadium-baiting lead single ‘A Ton of Love’ helped allay fears a little, although even the lead single from ‘In This Light…’ (‘Papillon’) was fairly strong.
More interesting is the curious selection of ‘The Weight’ as the new album’s 2nd single. The Muse-like ‘Sugar’ or hooky backing vocals of ‘Formaldehyde’ seemed more obvious choices, with ‘The Weight’ more playing the role of fantastic album opener, for mine. It’s a brave choice and hopefully one that will pay off.
Beginning with dark, ominous synths before giving way to an incessant beat and almost folky guitar strums, Tom Smith’s striking baritone soon captures attention, even if his trademark ambiguous lyrics (“I’m a lump of meat with a heartbeat”) occasionally confound. Most pleasing is the existence of an ever-present tension, with each sound after sound, instrument after instrument and melody after melody being meticulously added to build up and then release. Brilliantly, this pseudo title track is both thoroughly melodic and accessible.
The video – which was filmed in Nashville, where the band worked with producer Jacquire King (Tom Waits, Kings of Leon) – follows the straight-forward template from ‘A Ton of Love’: Black & White footage of the band playing the song. Borrrrring? Maybe, but it kind…
Having been released earlier this year, ‘Riptide’ isn’t a brand spanking new tune, but given it would have barely been heard around these parts, I thought it would be well worth spotlighting. It’s creator is Vance Joy, a pseudonym for 25 year-old Melbourne singer-songwriter James Keogh.
Talk about a rags to riches story: Just 4 years ago, Keogh was playing state league Australian Rules Football for the Coburg Tigers, hoping to get drafted by an AFL team. Two years later, the young man was working part-time as a gardener while also showcasing his unpolished musical skills at open mic nights around Melbourne. Come 2013, with only a five track EP to his name, Keogh has signed a five album deal with Atlantic Records!
The infectious ‘Riptide’ is undoubtedly the track which got Vance Joy noticed by the label heavyweights. It’s a fantastic little folk-pop song with its charming ukulele & bright harmonies seemingly perfect for any season of the year. Including a chorus that will instantly implant itself in your mind – as well as give you a chuckle in the below video – the song is bound to pop up on a film, tv series or advertisement some time soon. When it does, just remember that you heard it here at SputnikMusic first.
For the life of me, I’ve never quite been able to figure out which elements of Gold Panda’s music speak to me the most. I’ve always been fascinated with the orientally-focused electronic producer, because he has this way of expressing Asian culture in a distinctly relatable lens, but what about it works best? “Brazil” answers these questions with a (probably warranted) eye-roll, reminding us it’s all about the textures and percussion. Because ultimately, what’s most important here is the mood the reversed sample creates, the serene and almost angelic vibe it gives off. But damn, does the percussion complement it– as confident as ever, the tom hits are as important as the basic drum-&-snare pattern. The two merge in a marvelous way that’s characteristically Gold Panda, assuaging any remaining anxieties about the producer’s upcoming release. The only complaint about the track is the sub-par sample used, a man apathetically saying the song’s title. It wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t utilized as the primary voice of the track, but its monotony detracts from the overall mood “Brazil” presents. But annoyances aside, the track continues to tread the same path Gold Panda’s been working towards for his whole career. Maybe by the time he stops messing around with all these teasers of releases, he’ll have built the worthy and telling compilation of oriental culture his talents have always demanded of him.
Keep your eyes peeled for Gold Panda’s upcoming full-length, titled Half of Where…
Colin Stetson is one of those rare musicians who successfully creates harmony from discord. In each of his New History Warfare albums, he constructs via saxophone, if only to deconstruct, to tear down the walls of sound from around him and to arrange them in a strangely beautiful manner. And New History Warfare III: To See More Light is no different– if anything, it further proves Stetson’s worth in the avant-garde community– but the most interesting choice regarding the album is Justin Vernon’s featured vocals. Laurie Anderson’s vocals were comforting on Judges, but they weren’t as blatant as Vernon’s are here. I rather like the change-up, though, because the album functions well with more of a vocal centerpiece to guide the chaos. Besides, Stetson makes sure the vocals are distorted just enough to fit the destructive panoramic picture he paints with the saxophone.
Colin Stetson has released a few tracks off the upcoming album thus far, but the one that’s probably most representative of the overall album’s sound is “High Above a Grey Green Sea.” Listen to the track, and see where it takes you. If nothing else, you’ll at least be damned shocked at how much sound one man’s capable of making.
Keep an eye out for New History Warfare III: To See More Light, out on April 30th, 2013 on Constellation Records.
The French trio Blaak Heat Shujaa certainly know how to capture the laid-back vibe of California on their new full-length The Edge Of An Era (Tee Pee). The band delivers psychedelic desert rock that’s equally indebted to the Eastern mysticism of Om and the groove-laden jamming of Kyuss. After all, the record was produced by Scott Reader himself, and it makes for a trippy, if at times overly familiar ride.
The song that clearly stands out amid the haze is penultimate “Pelham Blue.” The tune sees the trio collaborating with legendary Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson’s fame. Needless to say, it’s sheer bliss. The style of the band superbly complements Lalli’s dreamy vocals and trippy imagery, which momentarily bring to mind the best Fatso Jetson songs. Lalli’s knack for crafting spellbinding melodies is in a class by itself, and Blaak Heat Shujaa accompany his performance with their most evocative intrumental work to date. The effect isone of the most ravishing songs of the year. Don’t forget to breathe, don’t forget to open your eyes…
I’m beginning to think that I have some sort of affinity with bands from Louisiana. Just two years ago, I awarded my album of the year to little known indie-pop outfit Givers and their debut LP ‘In Light’. While that feat won’t be achieved in 2013 by the quintet I’m about to introduce you to, The Pelican State has once more delivered a band that has been on high rotation on my playlist of late.
Having initially caught my attention with one of those gimmicky self-proclaimed genres, Super Water Sympathy walk the talk on their second LP ‘Hydrogen Child’. The aforementioned self-labeling is that of “water pop”, but one gets the feeling that the term has only been created because it sounds better than “alternative indie pop-rock”.
Below is ‘Uh Oh!’; the lead single and album opener from ‘Hydrogen Child’. A bouncy and deceptively catchy tune where each instrument gets a chance to shine without dominating proceedings, it provides the framework for the eleven tracks which follow.
Devo’s first LP, 1978’s Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo is a chopping board of insane ideas that somehow work. Underneath the madcap dress code, jerky rhythms and daft subject matters lies a dark heart. ‘Space Junk’, once its lyrics are studied, is something of a post-apocalyptic fever dream; the world is laid to waste by falling cosmic debris. Poor Sally…she never stood a chance.
Well she was walking all alone
Down the street in the alley
Her name was Sally
I never touched her, she never saw it
When she was hit by space junk
When she was hit by space junk
When she was hit by space junk
“In New York, Miami beach
Heavy metal fell in Cuba
On Christmas eve”, said Norad
A soviet sputnik hit Africa
It’s falling fast
It keeps coming, it keeps coming, it keeps coming
And now I’m mad about space junk
I’m all burned out about space junk
Walk and talk about space junk
It smashed my baby’s head, space junk
And now my sally’s dead, space junk
In ‘My Childhood Friend’, Swedish post rockers Dorena have offered up one of the best surprises of the year so far. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I won’t. Just give it a listen. For a genre that’s been criticized in recent years for becoming too stale and predictable, this is a much welcome blast of fresh air.
Okay, so is it just me or is R&B getting, like, too good lately? 2011 saw The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Drake and others, but those were the “cool” artists who were primed, in a way, to release some deliciously trendy beats and hooks with the latest producer close behind them. But look at 2012: Miguel, always a fantastic singer but never a captivating artist, had both the catchiest single and corresponding album in “Adorn” and Kaleidoscope Dream, respectively. Then there’s Jeremih, the dude who wrote, uh, “Birthday Sex”–he showed up with his Late Nights mixtape, a mainstay in the car-playlist rotation for those lucky enough to have sought it out on Datpiff.
Now we have Ciara, of all people, releasing the jam of at least the first quarter of the year. I don’t even really know who Ciara is–I had to YouTube “1, 2 Step” to remember its melody–but this has to be the last straw. Produced by Mike Will Made It (who also took the reins on Jeremih’s similarly awesome “773 Love”), “Body Party” is so convincingly sexy and catchy and lush that I’m pretty sure all R&B artists are forming a cabal and want to demobilize me with an onslaught of jams or something like that (also: that new Justin Timberlake album). It’s a conspiracy, guys. But what a sexy conspiracy it is.
The other day someone asked me if I’m familiar with Clutch, and I was like: HAHAHA. Here’s their new song from their upcoming album Earth Rocker which is set to be released on March 19th. “Crucial Velocity” juxtaposes darkly tinged riffs with sing-along chorus and, most of all, it grooves like hell. The futuristic themes known from the outfit’s previous albums come back in full force. Neil Fallon is all about his “rocket 88″ that’s “fastest in the land” making a nice allegory to the great power of imagination. “Unpredictable times call for the reliable friend” after all.
Despite being formed in 2009, Sans Parade – an indie-rock trio two thirds Finnish and one third Swedish (amongst a studio support cast of several others) – had released only a handful of songs prior to last month, when they released their self-titled debut album. For that, they had good reason. They were working on it.
The band described their journey to the album’s release as ‘long and arduous’, and it’s easy to hear why when listening to the album opener ‘The Last Song is a Love Song’. Not that the song is strained, difficult, or heavy with conflict. It isn’t. Rather, it appears to have been meticulously crafted from the bottom up, thoughtfully structured and arranged, and fastidiously tinkered with to achieve the most accomplished opening statement the band could ask of themselves.
It’s obvious in the choice of instruments, the way they’re played, what they’re accompanied with and when: they’ve all been given a consideration rarely seen amongst fresh upstarts, let alone more experienced outfits. The familiar quiet-loud post-rock dynamic is employed with no eye-roll backlash; instead, the guitar-embellished string section behind singer Markus Pertulla is dynamic and expressive, offering a contained, delicate intensity in the verses, swelling at the bridge, and then throwing it all to the sky for the eruptive chorus. It’s a chorus that begs to be played loud, and you’d do well to oblige.
It’s clear that Sans Parade have not just aimed for, but doggedly pursued, a first impression…