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Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of June 10, 2014. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

The Amity Affliction – Let The Ocean Take Me (Roadrunner Records)
Anathema – Distant Satellites (Kscope)Trey Spencer
Andrew Bird – Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of… (Virtual Label)
Arch Enemy – War Eternal (Century Media)
Big Wreck – Ghosts (Zoe Records)
Body Count – Manslaughter (Sumerian Records)
Chrissie Hynde – Stockholm (Caroline)
Clipping. – CLPPNG (Sub Pop)
Craft Spells – Nausea (Captured Tracks)
Death Grips – The Powers That B – Part 1: Niggas On The Moon (Death Grips)
Dub Thompson – 9 Songs (Dead Oceans)
First Aid Kit – Stay Gold (Columbia) – Rudy K.
The Fresh & Onlys – House Of Spirits (Mexican Summer)
The Great Sabatini – Dog Years (Solar Flare Records)
Hollie Cook – Twice (Mr. Bongo)
Jack White – Lazaretto (Columbia)
Lust For Youth – International (Sacred Bones)
Mars Red Sky – Stranded In Arcadia (Listenable Records)
Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare (Season Of Mist) – Voivod
Memory Map – The Sky As Well As Space (Joyful Noise Records)
Mike Rosenberg – Whispers (Black Crow/Island Records)
O.A.R. – The Rockville LP (Vanguard/Universal)
Plastikman – EX (Mute)
Popcaan – Where We Come From (Mixpak Records)
Quantic – Magnetica (Tru Thoughts)
Rippikoulu – Ulvaja (Svart Records)
Say Anything – Hebrews (Equal Vision

Simon Bonwick (drums), Jimbob Isaac (guitar/vocals), Nikolai Ribnikov (bass)

Hark’s debut full-length Crystalline is a heaving beast of an album that stretches out the bounderies of sludge metal. The songs on the disc are plenty complex with meticulous twists and turns oftentimes honed to perfection. The might of early Mastodon, Crowbar and High On Fire is combined with the technicality of progressive metal and a dash of hardcore pugnacity to dazzling effect. I’ve recently approached Hark’s frontman Jimbob Isaac to talk about the creation process of Crystalline, and his ongoing career as an illustration artist.

Hark is a new outfit, but you also fronted sludge metal luminaries Taint last decade. There’s a 5-year gap between the last Taint release (All Bees To The Sea EP) and Hark’s debut. Why did it take you so long to compose new music?

The space between releases is simple to explain. Forming a brand new band, with a new vision, new personalities and the high quality levels that we committed to producing, is certainly not a quick or whimsical process. Forming Hark was a total gamble, in terms of there being no guarantee as to whether Simon, Niko and myself would even be able to write music together. We worked solidly for 3.5 years, to form the band, and write music that genuinely moves us.

There are certainly some similarities between the sound of Taint and Hark. The sludgy, riff-based approach seems to be intact.

Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of June 3, 2014. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

50 Cent – Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire To Win (G-Unit Records)
Apathy – Connecticut Casual (Dirty Version Records)
Biome – Lost Dubs (Biome/Bandcamp)
Bis – Data Panik Etcetera (Do Yourself In)
Blue Sky Black Death – Euphoric Tape III (Blue Sky Black Death/Bandcamp)
Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin (Merge Records)
Bok Bok – Your Charizmatic Self (Night Slugs)
Buzz Osborne (as King Buzzo) – This Machine Kills Artists (Ipecac Recordings)
Camper Van Beethoven – El Camino Real (429 Records)
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Only Run (CYHSY Inc.)
Curtis Harvey – The Wheel (FatCat Records)
Devon Williams – Gilding The Lily (Slumberland Records)
The Donkeys – Ride The Black Wave (Vanguard Records/Universal)
Echo & The Bunnymen – Meteorites (429 Records)
Edward Rogers – Kaye (Zip Records)
Fucked Up – Glass Boys (Matador Records)
Fu Manchu – Gigantoid (Redeye Label)
Gabriel Kahane – The Ambassador (Sony Masterworks)
Gold-Bears – Dalliance (Slumberland Records)
Hamilton Leithauser – Black Hours (Ribbon Records)
Kan Wakan – Moving On (Verve)
Lucy Hale – Road Between (Hollywood Records)
Matisyahu – Akeda (Elm City/Universal)
Miranda Lambert – Platinum (RCA Records/Nashville)
Nightmares – Suspiria (Rise Records)
Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal (What’s Your Rupture?)
PHORK – High End (NNA Tapes)
Redvers – Truth In Silence (Redvers/Bandcamp)
Rich Robinson – The Ceaseless Sight (The End Records)

Over the past few days, there’s been a bit of a hullabaloo on Sputnik regarding what, exactly, constitutes evidence in a review. In the comment thread for contributor Josh Fountain’s review for the new Powerman 5000 album, there have been a few people attacking the review itself for, among other things, its “lack [of] basic argumentation.” At the risk of pulling some comments out of context, users have described it as a review “chock-filled with “cheap insults,” one that is “extremely annoying” and “filled with animosity.” While for every user who complained, there were about five or six supporting the reviewer (which, to an extent, I approve of), the thread still devolved into a trainwreck of “this review sucks/you suck/Powerman 5000 sucks/this thread sucks.”

I’ve already voiced most of my thoughts about the review itself in the first few pages of comments, but for those of you unwilling to read a few extra paragraphs of me blathering on about writing about writing about music I basically argued that evidence in the traditional sense is moot in terms of writing reviews. Of course it’s possible to describe a song down to the timbre of an instrument and utilize that as evidence as to why it’s an objectively brilliant and/or stupid piece of art, but for the near-total majority of the general Sputnik-reading-and-writing populace such criticism is undesirable and usually too dense and pedantic to read. If an author wants to argue that the reason such-and-such a song is…

Roots was one of my top 5 records last year, which made me super excited for Aura ever since the album was announced. Now, thanks to the man behind Saor, Andy Marshall, Sputnikmusic has the chance to host the stream for what is bound to be one of the finest black metal albums of the year, from one of the finest newcomers to the genre. Filled to the brim with authentic Celtic melodies and wonderfully lush primeval soundscapes, Aura is a real treat for those who like their metal atmospheric and epic. You can pre-order Aura from Saor’s bandcamp. The album will officially be released on June 6th, 2014 via Northern Silence Productions.

The stream has ended!

Even though I have 100+ reviews on Sputnik, I’m actually a man of few words, at least when it comes to writing. Verbally I can talk on for days and about pretty much anything if in the right setting, but you’ll rarely see me posting a review that’s over 1000 words. Why so, I really don’t know. I guess opening myself up to a screen just isn’t the same. In any case, enough rambling, here’s what you need to know about MiXE1 and their debut album Starlit Skin:

1. MiXE1 was formed in 2010 and they play electronic rock music with a poppy vibe.
2. The band’s name is pronounced Mikes one, and all the songs are “set” in a futuristic city of the same name.
3. As of now, the band is independent, after the closure of their previous label Static Distortion Records in 2013
4. Starlit Skin is a solid debut that will surely see the band craft out a nice little niche for themselves.
5. I’ve learned from Jom that lists of five are always the coolest.

In co-operation with MiXE1’s frontman Mike Evans (super nice bloke by the way), Sputnikmusic now has an exclusive chance to stream the band’s debut album, starting from today (31.05.14) up until the midnight of next Friday (06.06.14). So don’t be shy, give Starlit Skin a whirl, and if you enjoy it, do go and support the artist by purchasing the album (bandcamp link…

Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of May 27, 2014. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

7 Seconds – Leave A Light On (Rise Records)
Austin Mahone – The Secret (Universal Republic)
Ben Frost – A U R O R A (Mute)
Black Anvil – Hail Death (Relapse)
Cher Lloyd – Sorry I’m Late (Epic)
Crowbar – Symmetry In Black (Entertainment One)
Crowder – Neon Steeple (Six Steps Records)
Eyehategod – Eyehategod (Housecore Records)
Harassor – Into Unknown Depths (Dais Records)
Haunted Hearts – Initiation (Zoo Music)
Hercules And Love Affair – The Feast Of The Broken Heart (Moshi Moshi)
Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like A Bell (OWSLA)
Jerry David DeCicca – Understanding Land (Virtual Label)
Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires – Dereconstructed (Sub Pop)
Little Barrie – Shadow (Tummy Touch Records)
Mariah Carey – Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse (Def Jam)
Mark Jones & Twenty Paces – Breaking Even (Mark Jones & Twenty Paces/Bandcamp)
Marty Friedman – Inferno (Prosthetic Records)
Matthew Barber – Big Romance (Outside Music)
Misery Index – Killing Gods (Season Of Mist)
Moe. – No Guts, No Glory (Sugar Hill/Universal)
Owen Pallett – In Conflict (Domino)
Peter Murphy – Lion (Nettwerk Records)
The Ready Set – The Bad & The Better (Razor & Tie Recordings)
Reuben And The Dark – Funeral Sky (Arts & Crafts)
Roll The Tanks – Broke Til Midnight (Epitaph)
Rush Midnight…

Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of May 20, 2014. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

Archie Bronson Outfit – Wild Crush (Domino)
Blu – Good To Be Home (InGrooves)
Brian Jonestown Massacre – Revelation (A. Records)
Bry Webb – Free Will (Idee Fixe Records)
Chatham County Line – Tightrope (Yep Roc Records)
Cherry Ghost – Herd Runners (PIAS America)
Comet Control – Comet Control (Tee Pee Records)
Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain (Nonesuch)
DZ Deathrays – Black Rat (I Oh You)
The Everymen – Givin’ Up On Free Jazz (Ernest Jenning)
Haley Bonar – Last War (Graveface Records & Curiosities)
Hedley – Wild Life (Capitol Records)
Joakim – Tropics Of Love (Tigersushi/Because Music)
Jolie Holland – Wine Dark Sea (Anti/Epitaph)
Kate Tempest – Everybody Down (Big Dada Records)
Mr. Scruff – Friendly Bacteria (Ninja Tune)
The Okee Dokee Brothers – Through The Woods: An Appalachian Adventure Album (Okee Dokee Music)
Plaid – Reachy Prints (Warp Records)
The Roots – …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin (Def Jam)
Royksopp & Robyn – Do It Again (Cheery Tree)
Smoke Fairies – Smoke Fairies (10 Spot)
Toumani Diabaté and Sidiki Diabaté – Toumani & Sidiki (Nonesuch)
Trans Am – Volume X (Thrill Jockey)
Traxman – Da Mind Of Traxman Vol. 2 (Planet Mu)
White Sea – In Cold Blood (Alternative Distribution Alliance)
Yann Tiersen – ∞ (Infinity) (Mute)
Zero Boys – Monkey (Z-Disk)


Album Streams:

Increasing your band’s exposure can be a daunting task. Some are fortunate enough to have found spots on “The Big Four” American networks (or their equivalents); for example, House, Parenthood, and Scrubs all have (or had) prime-time TV spots, and expanding our parameters to include networks like CW (e.g. Gossip Girl), HBO (e.g. Treme), and Showtime (e.g. Weeds) illuminates how well-placed music can complement a show’s storyline. The same principle can be applied to video games, too, as well as marketing (e.g. Feist’s “1 2 3 4″ video for Apple). The premise is simple: write music that people enjoy (and that you enjoy playing) and, theoretically, you might not have to worry about finding work. On the other hand, bands should be strong enough to cultivate their own following first before hoping that a company or brand does it for them.

And then there are times where there’s the “other” category. ADAM are an all-female group based out of the Netherlands, and an unofficial video for their forthcoming single “Go to Go” has eclipsed 5 million views in less than a week. It reminds me of Clayton Cubitt’s Hysterical Literature series, which integrates culture and sexuality and pleasure into an alluring black-and-white package, but in the case of “Go to Go”, the women sing their way through their song under similar conditions:

The Dutch lasses pride themselves on “daring to be [themselves]“, and it’s empowering to see another example that the marriage of music and sex can…

Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of May 13, 2014. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere (Profound Lore) – Kyle Ward
Bane – Don’t Wait Up (Equal Vision Records)
The Black Keys – Turn Blue (Nonesuch)
Blondie – Ghosts Of Download (Noble ID)
Blondie – Blondie: 40 (Noble ID)
Brantley Gilbert – Just As I Am (Valory)
Chromeo – White Women (Big Beat/WEA)
Coldplay – Ghost Stories (Parlophone/Atlantic)
Cursed Sails – Rotten Society (Rise Records)
Dolly Parton – Blue Smoke (Sony Masterworks)
Dylan Gardner – Adventures In Real Time (Bingo Masters)
Front Line Assembly – Echoes (Metropolis Records)
Gruff Rhys – American Interior (Caroline International) – Raul Stanciu
Guided By Voices – Cool Planet (Guided By Voices)
Hiss Tracts – Shortwave Nights (Constellation)
The Howlin’ Brothers – Trouble (Readymade Records)
Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Goin’ Home (Concord)
Killer Be Killed – Killer Be Killed (Nuclear Blast America)
Kishi Bashi – Lighght (Joyful Noise Records)
La Sera – Hour Of The Dawn (Hardly Art)
Levi Weaver – Your Ghosts Keep Finding Me (Rock Ridge Music)
Little Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband (Loma Vista/Republic)
Malka Spigel – Gliding (Swim)
Michael Jackson – Xscape (Epic)
Midnight Faces – The Fire Is Gone (Broken Factory)
Mirah – Changing Light (K)
Mushroomhead – The Righteous & The Butterfly (Megaforce)
Only Crime – Pursuance (Rise Records)
The Pains Of Being Pure At…

Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of May 6, 2014. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

Atmosphere – Southsiders (Rhymesayers)
BADBADNOTGOOD – III (Innovative Leisure)
Barrows – Red Giant (Barrows)
Baths – Ocean Death (Anticon)
Ben & Ellen Harper – Childhood Home (Prestige Folklore)
Black Stone Cherry – Magic Mountain (Roadrunner)
Crash – Hardly Criminal (Community Music)
Current Swell – Ulysses (Nettwerk Records)
Elephant – Sky Swimming (Memphis Industries)
Eno & Hyde – Someday World (Warp Records)
Epica – The Quantum Enigma (Nuclear Blast America)
Fujiya & Miyagi – Artificial Sweeteners (Yep Roc Records)
The Horrors – Luminous (XL Recordings)
Hunter Hayes – Storyline (Atlantic)
Kina Grannis – Elements (One Haven Music)
King Dude – Fear (Not Just Religious Music)
Leisure Cruise – Leisure Cruise (Last Gang Records)
Liam Finn – The Nihilist (Yep Roc Records)
Lily Allen – Sheezus (Warner Bros.)
Lykke Li – I Never Learn (Atlantic)
Matrimony – Montibello Memories (Sony)
Money – The Shadow Of Heaven (Bella Union)
Morning Parade – Pure Adulterated Joy (So Recordings)
My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult – Spooky Tricks (SleazeBox) – Raul Stanciu
Natalie Merchant – Natalie Merchant (Nonesuch)
Naughty Boy – Hotel Cabana (Capitol Records)
Nikki Lane – All Or Nothin’ (New West Records)
Papercuts – Life Among The Savages (Easy Sound Recording Company)
Paws – Youth Culture Forever (FatCat Records)
Rachel Taylor Brown – Family (Rachel Taylor Brown/Bandcamp)

“Chill out. What you yelling for?” Avril Lavigne seemed to implore critics after her “Hello Kitty” video incited a massive internet outcry. Detractors accused Avril of tasteless, tacky cultural appropriation at the very least and racism at worst, a claim she slammed on Twitter with “RACIST? HOW? I LOVE JAPAN!” Defenders were quick to point out that “It’s all been done before,” “it” being the type of pop Japanophilia Gwen Stefani rode hard a decade ago with her Love. Angel. Music. Baby. album. “If you could only let it be, then you would see,” they seemed to counter. If only we could just view the “Hello Kitty” video as the hyper affectionate, albeit naïve and bizarre love letter to Japanese culture Avril intended it to be, perhaps we’d see its real beauty. Unfortunately for everyone, Avril Lavigne included, things are a little more complicated than that.

Seeing Avril acting like somebody else gets me frustrated. Her early persona was one of an every-girl, a people’s pop star less interested in selling sex than she was talking one-on-one to a generation of disenfranchised Hot Topic shoppers. Now, a tanking career and a marriage to the man who is arguably Music’s Most Hated Canadian, she looks like she’s constantly watching her back, like she can’t relax. Though she looks fine in pictures with Kroeger, a gruesomely awkward set of fan photos that some poor souls spent an obscene amount of money for confirm that she becomes somebody else around everyone else.…

Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan (guitar/keyboards/vocals), Kenneth Kapstad (drums/keyboards/vocals), Bent Sæther (bass/vocals/guitar), Reine Fiske (guitar/keyboards/vocals)

Motorpsycho are one of Norway’s finest bands today. Being active for 25 years now, they have been revolving around the  progressive/psychedelic hard rock sphere in the past couple of years. However, they are renowned for their occasional musical shape shifting and their vast discography tackles several genres including metal, jazz, pop and even country. Their latest masterpiece, Behind the Sun, was released at the beginning of March and the band started touring their homeland the same month. After a short Chinese stint, they will cross Europe starting May and June. Luckily, bass player and vocalist Bent Saether found some spare time to answer a few questions for Sputnik Music:

You’ve been playing together for 25 years now and that’s a hell of a long time for bands these days. How do you guys feel now as a veteran act? What kept you guys intact and going so strong?

It’s hard to say what the reasons for our longevity are, but I think a few of the following facts may at least partially explain this:

Musically, we at some point early on decided that ‘all music we want to play is Motorpsycho music’. This takes the matter of “staying true” to whatever musical style you happened to play when you started out of the equation, and enables you as an artist to utilize whatever musical style you feel…

For the last two months I’ve been trying to enjoy the new Andrew Jackson Jihad record, and at 4:30 this morning while standing in a parking lot somewhere in the decaying outskirts of Long Beach, California it finally hit me why I don’t. It’s because I’m selfish. I don’t want to empathize with Sean Bonnette, I want him to empathize with me. I’ve spent years inflecting myself into his own insecurities. It’s not that I can relate to his exact sarcasm and nervousness, but I can find myself in between his prose and then take it for my own. It’s sort of like what Justin Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack sang almost a decade ago in “L.G. FUAD.” – “…the only way I have learned to express myself through other peoples’ descriptions of life…” It’s such a shitty thing to say, but I participate on emotional appropriation on a grand scale. I live vicariously through the grooves in my record collection, only I take what I need and move on. I completely discard its context and heart like trash pulled to the curb after a house party, feeding only off of the emotion behind the stories and taking them for my own. It’s cheap and absurd but that’s why music is such a personal thing. We build connections to lyrics and sounds based off of how they coincide with our own lives. We’re all guilty of musical colonialism and emotional conquest. Luckily art resonates differently in everyone, helping

Just Mario from CHON and I chilling after the show, that's all.

When I heard instrumental progressive group CHON was touring across the United States- and alongside the unforgettable Animals As Leaders, no less- I felt that if I missed the Atlanta show, I’d never quite forgive myself. And I believe that to be true- even though this show happened two months ago, and I’ve been buried in work and studenthood ever since, I’ve thought about the show for awhile.

There were many great things about the show. For starters, I got to meet some fellow Sputnikers- contributor Matt Harrison (YourDarkAffected) and user Daniel Davis (Paradox1216.) We went out for drinks afterwards, and had a fantastic time just talking about music. And the show itself, for which there was plenty to discuss.

The concert headliners, Animals as Leaders, introduced many of their newer tunes with an energy I didn’t quite expect of them live. After all, you hear the stories of their live performances being a little messy and/or lethargic, but I certainly didn’t witness any of that. Tosin and company were having a blast throughout the occasion, and even played jammer “Physical Education” live for the first time. Even if the band’s music gets a bit tedious after about ten songs live, it was still a spectacle to see them perform their instrumentally taxing songs with such agility onstage.

You know who else killed it? CHON themselves. These kids aren’t…

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