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…
We all need feedback. Sure, the more you write, the more you understand what not to do- but the best approach to take with writing can sometimes be an elusive thing. In helping me with my Of Montreal review a couple years back, our dear Rudy pointed out that I used the word “frothy” in a hilariously incorrect way. Even MichaelJordan probably ran his anti-Circle-Takes-The Square reviews by his roommates before shit-posting them onto this site.
“Where are the jabs at the unnecessarily obtuse lyrics, MJ? Elaborate on those, man.”
Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that this is a good time of the year for constructive criticism. Hot on the heels of promotions, some of you ended up with an official title on the site (and an avatar that’s too big, just because why not,) and as a result, want to make sure your writing’s up to snuff. On the other hand, some of you may be wondering why you didn’t land the position for which you aimed- maybe you’re confident with your writing, but don’t know what’s missing. Or perhaps you simply post here because you like talking about your favorite records, and have been looking for more solidified feedback for quite some time.
The point of this blog post is to provide a place on the Sputnik review site where you can post a review in a comment below- and receive feedback fairly soon. Reminder: the forums side of this site has a Proofreading…
Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of February 11, 2014. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.
Abandon All Ships – Malocchio (Rise Records) – DaveyBoy
Aesthetic Perfection – ‘Til Death (Metropolis Records)
Band Of Horses – Acoustic At The Ryman (Brown Records)
Cashmere Cat – Wedding Bells (LuckyMe)
Cibo Matto – Hotel Valentine (Virtual Label)
Clan Of Xymox – Matters Of The Mind, Body & Soul (Metropolis Records)
Death Of Samantha – If Memory Serves Us Well (St. Valentine Records)
Eric Church – The Outsiders (Universal Nashville)
The Fleshtones – Wheel Of Talent (Yep Roc Records)
Frankie Ballard – Sunshine & Whiskey (Warner Nashville) The Glitch Mob – Love Death Immortality (Glass Air) – Will Robinson
Helms Alee – Sleepwalking Sailors (Sargent House)
Jay Malinowski & The Deadcoast – Martel (Pirates Blend/Sony Music Canada)
Katy B – Little Red (Rinse/Columbia)
Loners Society – King City Sessions (Autumn + Colour)
Maggie McClure – Time Moves On (Maggie McClure Music)
Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All (Run For Cover Records)
Neil Finn – Dizzy Heights (Lester Records)
Noah Gundersen – Ledges (Dualtone Music Group)
Sam Roberts Band – Lo-Fantasy (Paper Bag Records)
Sun Kil Moon – Benji (Caldo Verde)
Temples – Sun Structures (Fat Possum Records)
Thumpers – Galore (Sub Pop)
Tinariwen – Emmaar (Anti Records)
††† – ††† (Sumerian)
As a listener, there’s no greater feeling than when an album unexpectedly clicks on all levels. This happened to me about a month ago, when Hanging Garden’s third LP, titled At Every Door, suddenly felt like the greatest thing ever in the early, desolate morning hours. Granted, the album was a success with both me and the public when it came out in the January of last year, but it was only about a month ago that I grew to fully appreciate it and its transcendental qualities. In order to celebrate this personal revelation, I contacted the Finnish melodic doom metallers to learn a little more about all things Hanging Garden. They happily responded to my inquiries and thus this e-mail interview was born. The questions were answered by the band’s vocalist, Toni Toivonen, to whom At Every Door was the first record with Hanging Garden.
Hi! How have things been rolling in the Hanging Garden camp lately?
Hi! Quite well. We are actively composing new material for future releases, and have been doing a handful of gigs to promote our latest 7“ EP. Furthermore we just recently released a new music video for the track “Will You Share this Ending With me?”.
It’s been almost exactly a year since you released your third studio album, titled At Every Door. How has the past year been for Hanging Garden and how happy have you been with the reception of said album?
I bit the bullet and started cleaning my office today. I love being organized, but I hate cleaning. Do I really need to save notebooks and folders from undergrad courses that I’ll never crack open again? Even my graduate studies binder isn’t really connected to what I do today.
I'd show you the pages, but they're kinda sticky…
It was my good buddy’s birthday today, and although he’s in a different province now, we still have a chat every now and then about music past and present. He reminded me of one of our conversations last year, where we were debating about whether or not we were going to go to our 10-year reunion, which quickly segued into talking about the gigs we went to in high school. In 2003, our favorite gig was the immense Summer Sanitarium tour, which was a nu metal delight: Metallica, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Deftones, and Mudvayne.
It’s funny in a way, because Summer Sanitarium 2003 (~$46,000,000) outsold Ozzfest (~$23,000,000) and Lollapalooza (~$14,000,000) combined. Granted, Summer Sanitarium was the only stadium-driven tour that summer (save for Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band, who had a small run).
As our conversation progressed, we talked about bands that have aged well from that list (he is an avid Deftones fan) and bands that have fallen off our individual radars a bit (he didn’t believe me that Alien Ant Farm are releasing a new album this…
Austin-based Destroyer Of Light have just released their second EP, Bizarre Tales Vol. 2. While their lyrics still revolve around the ghastly horror stories, the quartet do a fine job of not repeating themselves musically. In contrast to their debut EP, which can be labelled as Black Sabbath-echoing traditional doom metal, the new release delves headfirst into a melodic sludge metal realm of Mastodon’s ilk. Instrumental opener ‘Battlefield Girth’ sounds monolithic due to its wondrous interplay of crushingly heavy riffs and hypnotic soloing, while the gloriously titled ‘Forbidden Zombi Ritual’ may be the band’s most accessible tune with infectious melodicism permeating both vocal harmonies and bewitching guitar leads. The remaining tracks see the band placing a greater focus on song progression while retaining a penchant for memorable riffs. Frontman Steve Colca augments the shift in style with howling vocals which sound more assured than before. In fact, Destroyer Of Light are growing rapidly as both songwriters and musicians, and Bizarre Tales Vol. 2 proves how versatile and expansive they can be. May the power of the riff compel you!
Here’s what singer/guitarist Steve Colca had to say about each number:
‘Battlefield Girth’ – It was one of the first Destroyer Of Light songs that we ever wrote, and decided to put it on this EP. We figured the song didn’t require vocals; so, we went with a heavy instrumental to start the album off.
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.
Quebec City-based Sandveiss burst onto the stoner rock scene by dropping their excellent debut, Scream Queen, in December. Effectively blending strong booming riffs with a hefty dose of blues-echoing grooves, enticing melodies and rock’n’roll swagger, this young group have already made a name for themselves in the saturated scene. In between the rehearsals for their shows in and around Quebec, Canada, the band have found some time to answer a string of questions for SputnikMusic.
Since you guys are an emerging band, tell everyone how did the whole project start?
(Luc) The idea of the project was born in my head 6 or 7 years ago. As the years past, I found myself to jam my ideas with different musicians. After building a couple of song structures with another drummer, I met Dan Girard (bass) who rapidly joined the band. For the next couple of months we worked on arranging the songs as a trio. At a certain point we had no drummer and Dzemal Trtak joined in. A couple of weeks passed as a trio, we decided to recruit a lead singer, that person was François Couture. With this lineup, we recorded a 4 track EP (Dead Man Stare, Do You Really Know, Untie Me and Green For Gold). The name of the band was chosen right before the release of the EP in March…
It’s Sputnik Music’s honor to provide the exclusive stream for the self-titled album of Portland-based progressive pop rock band Icarus the Owl. The album is set for release on Friday, February 7th in the U.S.
Icarus the Owl is the result of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, whose net effect yielded the band the production mettle of the acclaimed Kris Crummett (A Lot Like Birds’ No Place, Closure in Moscow’s First Temple, all of Dance Gavin Dance’s earlier records and many more.) This change is a subtle one, as Crummett works within the reach of what’s familiar to Icarus the Owl- but his contributions to the group’s sound work wonders.
In terms of the music, this is the most cohesive and memorable Icarus the Owl have ever sounded. Songs like “Flint and Steel” are sure to entice newcomers, while deeper cuts like “Input. Time. Destruct.” will make long-term fans out of them. Those that found joy in the group’s 2012 release Love Always, Leviathan are sure to see the same kindling flame in Icarus the Owl- the experience just feels more intuitive this around.
Icarus the Owl can be bought at any major digital music retailer once it drops next Friday.
When young dubstep prodigy James Blake stows the electronics and takes a seat at the piano, the results always seem to be astounding—like the soulful “DLM” from his most recent album, Overgrown. But his cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” on 2011 EP Enough Thunder takes the cake for Blake’s balladeering. Simple as it is, his hurried vocals exude such sincerity and vulnerability that it perfectly illustrates how powerful music can be when it’s just a man and his piano. Or a woman and her guitar.
Van Halen – “Ice Cream Man”
Electing to cover a somewhat obscure blues tune would seem extremely odd for a band like Van Halen, were brothers Eddie and Alex not raised by an accomplished jazz saxophonist and clarinet player. And the suggestive lyrical content that kept the song from being released until 1969 made it a perfect fit for David Lee Roth, who opens the number dedicating it to the ladies. Diamond Dave gets things started off slow and sultry over some acoustic guitar before everything erupts into a typical Van Halen rock epic. Eddie absolutely dazzles with his acrobatic shredding and whammy bar assaults. The tribute to the Chicago bluesman is often overshadowed by the also excellent cover of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” on the same record, but “Ice Cream
There’s something enchanting about what electronic producer Four Tet does in the below video – rather, what dontwatchthat.tv forces him to do. You can tell the guy’s got mixed feelings about having to compose an entire track in only ten minutes, and furthermore, only with samples from Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It’s the kind of process that forces one to rely on creative intuition, nothing else- and you can see that side of the producer shine through as he places Thriller on the record player. He spins it, and lands on arbitrary moments, and then assesses- he considers each instant as a possible instrument for the tune he’s about to make, and then he proceeds based on how he feels about it.
It makes me think about music in a different way. We get so used to hearing entire tracks, and we music lovers sometimes convince ourselves that hearing a song in any other way besides start to finish is sacrilege. But you see Four Tet cobbling together random moments from the record, and you see how much fun it can be to hear snippets from really engaging records. Each time he lifts the needle and picks a new spot it sounds like a new artist, and so when he fuses all these ingredients to make his own song it feels so unlike Thriller, and yet so familiar to that record my parents used to play around the house.
Watch this video if you want to see how Four Tet works…
Is Survived By is a frantic exercise in frustrating melancholy – that emotion you feel when you scream at yourself in your head for getting caught in a funk. It’s that whole experience of being down and self-aware, a prisoner in a cage that you created, throwing yourself at bars you know don’t exist to no effect with only some time reserved for the hopeless gazing down at shoes and giving serious consideration to giving up between each assault on the cage. We’ve all been there before and if you haven’t, well, fuck you.
The thing that makes Is Survived By a stellar album is in its ability to capture this feeling impeccably without doubt or question. There’s an inherent tension and despair to Jeremy Bolm’s persistently aggressive and ernest rants that’s made all the more poignant by the racing pace of the 30 minute album that just does this somewhat specific affliction incredible justice. — Tom Gerhart
OSDM revival was a pretty interesting novelty around the 2009-2010 period when pissed off metalheads (rightfully so) realized how terrible modern metal was and remembered how sweet it was back in the day and just started playing the same stuff they liked in ‘89. As of 2013, in much the same fashion as when metal died in 1993, the oversaturated landscape of this now hip OSDM revival scene is producing less and less interesting music. Thankfully, just when all hope of metal ever being good again was lost, Obliteration put out another record and make everything else this side of 2009 obsolete and boring.
While 2009’s Nekropsalms was more psychedelic and doomy, Black Death Horizon is a no-holds barred black death thrash attack to the face and it rules. With organic, old school production that would give Fenriz a stiffy and riffs that would piss even Jesus off, Black Death Horizon took the almost perfect formulas the band dug up from some frozen grave in Norway and somehow managed to improve on almost all of them. Seriously, there’s really no other way to describe this album. If you like metal, listen to this, and if you don’t like it, kill yourself. Sincerely, Satan — Hyperion
I’ll admit that French Ghetto flew under my radar all the way to the creation of this list, but there’s always time to repent, right? Fresh from the get-go, the pop hooks of this insanely catchy math rock release create a dance floor between your ear cavities and set straight to gyrating and bopping along all the way through on their race to the finish. With an air of confidence and maybe a little bit of a devil may care attitude, the relative levity of the album leaves it feeling fast and fun, especially through the first half.
Of course, the influence from hook masterminds Adebisi Shank and Straweberry Girls’ guitarist Zac Garren’s former band Dance Gavin Dance is apparent, but French Ghetto deftly manages to skirt the dangers of merely quoting and recycling source material while going just over the top enough to neatly put together what may easily be the year’s most addicting math rock release. — Tom Gerhart
As is our yearly tradition here, I hope all of you were “Down with the Christmas” this week, no matter what festive holiday you celebrate:
Stream: The Paybacks – “Down with the Christmas” (3:55)
"I have no grievances to air, but I'd like to participate in the Feats of Strength!"
I decided to break this entry down into 3 components: the Jom Expansion Pack (25 albums that missed my Top 25 for whatever reason, mostly because a) they’re good albums that had a lot of playback value for me this year, but paled in comparison to my Top 25, and/or b) I totally missed these albums by a nautical mile and heard them way too late in the year to give them ample consideration for the staff year-end feature), my 5 favorite EPs this year, and then my Top 25 Albums of 2013.
In the Expansion Pack, the albums are in alphabetical order by artist name — if I tried to organize this into a Top 50, it’d be 2016 by the time I’ve figured it out (given my typical output, anyway). When cultivating the Jom Expansion Pack, I tried to not pick albums that already appeared on…