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Track of the Day

Rock veterans Wilco recently left Nonesuch Records to start their own label, and with that comes, of course, another new Wilco release. “I Might” is the first single off it, initially available only to those who picked up a copy at the band’s Solid Sound Music Festival in Massachusetts but thanks to the magic of the Internet now available here online for everyone. The band’s eighth proper album, tentatively titled The Whole Love is set for a September release.

The track itself has a driving acoustic melody with a thick bass that reminds me a bit of “I Am A Wheel’s” hook minus the adrenaline, but the track is about what you’d expect from Wilco at this stage in their career: enjoyable, light, dare I say happy. It may veer a bit closely towards “dad-rock” for those who didn’t really enjoy Wilco (The Album) but if you like joyful Jeff Tweedy over depressed, pill-popping Jeff Tweedy, than you’ll be even more excited for the upcoming record.

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The 2008 film Berlin Calling wasn’t exactly a huge hit in the west, yet as actor and composer for the film, Paul Kalkbrenner achieved quite substantial popularity in Germany. Sure some such as Ben Klock, Marcel Dettman and others around the Berlin scene may have as much talent; but comparing to his status and fame would be very difficult. Kalkbrenner’s work on Berlin Calling should not be trivialised because of its popularity. Sky and Sand still connects so easily and with such minimal effort, in a way that many in his field wouldn’t have a handle on. Tracks other than the single such as Azure likewise are in persistent motion, with minimal brush strokes conveying such beautiful imagery.

Sure it was always going to be difficult to follow up on Berlin Calling given its popularity, but Icke Wieder certainly delivers on the sounds that have served Kalkbrenner well in the past. Picking a highlight from the album is difficult, with Sagte der Bär, Kleines Bubu and Der Breuzen among others worthy of a mention. Yet Kruppzeug provides a nice characterization of Kalkbrenner’s sound, very much of Berlin, and very much minimalist. The song builds carefully, a pattering beat moving persistently across a simple melody. Though moving towards an end, Kalkbrenner’s minimalist narratives prove the most rewarding experience.

For the full review of Icke Wieder

Since Irish Dave – as opposed to Aussie Davey – pressed “refresh” on the SputnikMusic ‘Track of the Day’ yesterday and espoused all things Irish, I thought I would follow his lead today and head a little north to the sunny country of Scotland. Ever since this wee Southampton supporter got many a laugh out of trying to decipher what the hell Gordon Strachan was saying in his post-match press conferences, something about that thick accent has tickled my fancy.

Musically, the nation has always provided some fond memories. Expats such as AC/DC and Jimmy Barnes took Australia by storm decades ago, while Simple Minds and The Proclaimers set the charts ablaze in the 80s. ‘Take Me Out’ and ‘Chelsea Dagger’ saw Franz Ferdinand and The Fratellis continue the momentum last decade, while rockers Biffy Clyro were a bees d!ck away from being the most inspired live act I witnessed last year.

Continuing the notion that the Scots are just a little bit different to the rest of the world, Glaswegian six-piece Dananananaykroyd are now upon us with their crazy band name and self-labeled fight-pop genre. Performing a difficult to describe combination of indie-pop and post-hardcore, debut LP ‘Hey Everyone’ received resounding critical acclaim, while their energetic live show saw many a band member get injured as their audience were encouraged to perform a wall of cuddles!

Album #2 ‘There Is A Way’ has just been released, seeing the unique group rock up their boisterous sound.…

I’m sure you’re all fully aware at this point from my reviews, blog posts and twitter ramblings that I believe Irish music – and Dublin music in particular – is in the midst of a golden period, and nobody represents this better than labels Popical Island and the Richter Collective, either of which three-piece scuzzy pop outfit Squarehead can call home. (I’ve talked about Squarehead here before to mixed reaction.)

Saturday night saw indie collective Popical Island – jointly run by Squarehead drummer Ruan Van Vliet – put on their second annual Popicalia, a free all-day, child-friendly gig featuring as many of the label’s acts as they could fit in, including Land Lovers, Yeh Deadlies, Groom and the excellent We Are Losers (see the full, awesome running order here).

Time constraints meant I could only make it along for two acts – the aforementioned Losers and Squarehead – but I walked away with one particular tune stuck in my head and I haven’t been able to shake it since. Squarehead’s ‘Fake Blood’ was voted #1 Irish song of 2010 by Ireland’s most popular music blog, Nialler9, and it’s a real belter of a tune, resting somewhere between Weezer-influenced alt. rock and ebullient Brian Wilson-inspired pop.

‘Fake Blood’ appeared on the first Popical Island compilation (€5 on Bandcamp). The second compilation (which features another Squarehead song, ‘Candle’) can be streamed here and will also (presumably) be available for the same low price on Bandcamp soon.

Though I have no doubt the more blog-savvy of you would have caught onto Jai Paul’s awesomely wobbly ‘BTSTU’ sometime last year while it was weaving its way through the blogosphere like wildfire, for those of you who didn’t, here’s your chance to hear the most delicate “Don’t fuck with me, don’t fuck with me” ever recorded. Since being listed amongst the likes of James Blake, Jamie Woon, Yuck and Jessie J in BBC’s Sound of 2011 poll, things have been quiet from the Jai Paul camp but we do know he’s signed to XL Recordings and retreated to the studio to work on his debut full length (hopefully to be released sometime this year) and while that remains in the works, we can at least cherish what we have.

Jai Paul – BTSTU (Edit) by Jai Paul

With all the world-changing events that have occurred in the past few days – the killing of the world’s most wanted terrorist and, the big one, two celebrities getting married on TV – you’d be forgiven for asking “who gives a shit about Miley Cyrus right now?”

Well you’d be forgiven, but you’d also be wrong. See, while a team of Navy SEALs were storming a compound in Pakistan and doing what they do best, media savvy Miley was also hard at work, becoming the single most important musician of all-time. As Nitsuh Abebe’s excellent article in New York magazine explains, Miley’s 2009 hit ‘Party in the USA’ has inadvertently become Osama Bin Laden’s “death song” – the track that everyone flocks to on Youtube to have barely-literate partisan debates pissing contests.

(Incidentally, we ran with Team America’s ‘America, Fuck Yeah,’ thinking we were on solid ground. Clearly we’ve lost touch with the crucial preteen girl demographic that will decide all future world events. If nothing else, it’s heartrending proof that no matter how tight he shuts his eyes and just wishes as hard as his little heart will let him, Jom is just never going to be a little girl again.)

What does this have to do with anything? Nothing, really. Except that, not content with ousting Bruce Springsteen from the top of the “awesome anthems with USA in the title that we can chant in celebration of having vanquished the enemy,” Miley’s also…

While gamers everywhere explode with frothy, hyper-excitibilty over the release of the second installation in Valve’s Portal series, The National have given the rest of us a reason to be just as happy; hot off the heels of their contribution to the soundtrack of indie flick Win Win, they’ve dropped another new song to go along with the videogame.

“Exile Vilify” is meant to evoke the “same visceral reactions from its listeners that Portal does from its players” and though my gaming knowledge extends as far as Mario Kart and FIFA, if that statement rings true, you can count me in. It’s the sort of somber, slow-moving ballad that the band seems to be able to produce at a whim, suspending Matt Berninger’s croon above a beautiful piano melody and string arrangements, and it’s just as good as we’ve come to expect from a band that rarely ever puts a foot wrong. You can find it below, along with the teaser trailer for Portal 2:

The National – Exile Vilify by Hypetrak


For those of you already dreading that some random bloke named Kaz (operating under the moniker Redlight King, named after the so-called ‘tree’ that kicks off a drag race) is going to butcher a Neil Young classic, fear not, as it’s not a cover song.

VRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMM!

Hell, it’s not even about a ranch hand who looked after some cows. It is a rather heartfelt tribute to his father, a schoolteacher by day and a stock car racer at night (“The life he demanded / Kept us all in a struggle / When he ruled with his fist / It kept us all out of trouble,” writes Kaz, before jokingly relaying that there are no father issues).

He has added in recent interviews that his songs on his forthcoming debut “are written about real issues, real experiences. I like to bring listeners in deep, and give them time to look around . . . . [w]riting songs when you’re in a dark place is dangerous. The songs I wrote for this album I won’t write again. I won’t have to. I hope people will be able to connect with it and take from it what they need. It’s about the human condition; in the end, we’re all the same.”

Kaz did ask Mr. Young, however, for rights to sample the song. Rarely one to entertain sample requests, Young (and/or his lawyers) refused multiple times before finally relenting.

Sonically, imagine Everlast meets non-Devil

Depending on which way you look at it, London indie folk band Mumford & Sons represent either the future of commercial music or its distant past.

In the old, old days (or as recently as the seventies), before the pursuit of massive first-week sales became record industry dogma, it was commonplace for albums to start low and make their way to the top of the charts. With the huge advances in marketing and the windfall profits of the CD era, record industry thinking became totally geared towards the first week, and artists found it virtually impossible to break through commercially without embracing it.

However the incredible success of Mumford & Sons’ 2009/2010 release Sigh No More (it reached #2 on the Billboard Top 100 a year after its release) spells out what many of us have been predicting for years: when people no longer feel compelled to buy music before they’ve heard it, the charts become more representative of what people actually like, rather than what they think they might like. And we have a lot more money in our pockets with which to bail out banks, insurance companies and car manufacturers.

Which is why it seems perfectly normal when an artist like Taylor Swift – a member of the now very exclusive club of artists who still sell millions of records – records a cover of Mumford & Sons’ ‘White Blank Page.’ Notwithstanding the musical similarities (though there is a chasm between Swift’s bluegrass style and Mumford’s…

Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron’s return to the studio in 2010 produced an album nearly as interesting as the struggles and addiction that kept him away for so long. In We’re New Here we see Heron’s latest album remixed and rethought in a contemporary fashion. Far from glossing up Heron’s gritty vocals; artist Jamie xx rethinks Heron’s material in ways totally unsuited to his rambling. Yet as with his treatment of Adele’s Rolling In The Deep, we see Jamie xx casing Heron’s vocals in a new electronic surrounding that makes no bones about departing entirely from the original. NY Is Killing Me throws such rough punches, the dark dubstep bass the perfect companion to rather mirthless lyrics. It is the wide range of ways in which the album compliments and contrasts its source that makes Jamie xx’s rethink so compelling.

For a full review of We’re New Here by Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx, please check out Deviant’s review here.

Canuck tween heartthrob Justin Bieber and Iowa’s favourite douche-metal band Slipknot have more in common than you’d think.

With Lady Gaga famously having Christened her fans her “little monsters,” you could be forgiven for thinking the phenomenon began with her. In actuality, musicians have been giving pet names to their followers for decades, long before Slipknot dubbed theirs “maggots.” More recently, Justin Bieber inadvertently entered the pop dictionary as a noun, his most ardent fans having been dubbed “Beliebers” by a disbelieving public.

What do these two names have in common? Simples. The late, great Richie James Edwards penned the words: “Little people, in little houses, like maggots: small, blind and worthless.” Clearly, Slipknot have a great affection for their fans – or at least did before they all grew up and realised that well-fitted clothes are always more flattering. Fittingly, Beliebers (and Believers in general) also tend to be small, blind and worthless in varying quantities.

Which brings us to the video. ‘Psychosocial Baby’ shouldn’t really work on any level yet, somehow, it works on every level simultaneously with reckless disregard for everything that is good and pure. Furthermore, it confirms three basic tenets of the Universal Law: a) Slipknot have always been a pop band with a shitty metal backing track; b) the Biebs is death metal to the core; and c) it’s still really creepy when Ludacris raps about his 13-year-old girlfriend waking him up in the morning.

There is a download link on Youtube.

Regular readers of the blog will know that we’re big fans of BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge - not just because they invite artists to cover a diverse array of songs, but also because they invite guests from right across the spectrum of artists instead of just sticking to rock acts.

This afternoon, it was the turn of New Jersey pop-rockers My Chemical Romance, who had previously performed Blur’s ‘Song 2′ on the show. Stating a clear preference for Britpop, the group have again opted for a ’90s classic in the form of Pulp’s ‘Common People.’

Everybody knows that the original is one of the best songs ever, with a fantastic video to go with it, and William Shatner has already served up the ultimate cover version. However My Chem’s punkier take on the track manages to retain much of the drama  and intensity that made it such a great song to begin with. And more proof that the Live Lounge is the best thing since, well, ‘Common People.’

My Chemical Romance – ‘Common People’:

William Shatner feat. Joe Jackson – ‘Common People’:

When you have over 60 international bands touring Australia at the same time, a number of things can occur… The Poms frequently get sunburnt, the yanks usually get arrested & the kiwis just never end up going back. But there’s one thing that can always be counted on… Photo shots with koalas and kangaroos. Here’s Gaslight Anthem drummer Benny Horowitz fulfilling his tourist visa obligation.

Down under, we must also look like guinea pigs or something. On the one day at the Soundwave Festival 4 weeks ago, I personally witnessed multiple new songs from bands eager to test out their new tunes on a hopefully welcoming audience. The Blackout, The Bronx and There For Tomorrow are all outfits who took the opportunity to do so, since they have new albums coming out soon. But the most intriguing band to perform a new track was New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem.

Still unknown as to whether this was an offcut from ‘The American Slang’ sessions, a new track for a forthcoming album, or just some awesome ditty that a talented bunch of guys can write and dispose of when they see fit, the song is called ‘Biloxi Parish’. Now I could break it down for you with paragraphs of descriptive analysis, but all I really need to say is “The Gaslight Anthem” and you should already know the quality that you are in for.

Or should you? For – as can be seen on the humorous, if mumbled, preamble on…

All faces.

BBC’s Radio 1 premiered another new Fleet Foxes song set to appear on their forthcoming album Helplessness Blues. It’s not quite the warm, sprawling title track released a month ago, but further establishes that Helplessness Blues will be more of the same good old folk that made everyone fall in love with their debut album. I’m usually one to criticize a stagnant sound, but personally, I’ll never tire of Robin Pecknold’s voice.

Fleet Foxes – Battery Kinzie by One Thirty BPM

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