There are few better storytellers in music than the late Townes Van Zandt, and few more overlooked, which is why it’s exciting to see more contemporary artists celebrate his timeless music as on the 2012 tribute album, Songs of Townes Van Zandt, featuring Steve Von Vill and Scott Kelly of Neurosis and Scott “Wino” Weinrich of Saint Vitus. Though all the covers contained on the album are exceptional, Von Till’s “Black Crow Blues” might just be the hardest-hitting. The supremely smokey voice that many have come to love from the post-metal titans breathes new life into the simplistic, lament-filled hymn of one of country music’s greatest and most tragic figures.
As influential as early sludge was on a young Kurt Cobain, it seems fitting that Nirvana’s somber acoustic number from the seminal Nevermind was given the down-tuned treatment from modern day sludge masters Thou. Their rendition begins pretty straightforward and true to the original before erupting into something seething and relentlessly heavy, conveying just as much emotion as the original—even if that emotion happens to be crushing hatred rather than depression. If their really was “something in the way,” that’s no longer a problem, because Thou’s cover smashed it into tiny bits.
Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of March 18, 2014. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.
Black Lips – Underneath The Rainbow (Vice Music)
Living in the sub-tropics means that spring comes both early and ends quickly. Not two weeks ago we missed 5 days of university because of snow (admittedly it was kind of a fluke) and now for the past few days the weather has been dominated by mid-70’s temperatures and a lot of sun. Pretty soon those mid-70’s will be phased out by mid-90’s and a whole lot of humidity, but the cool thing about such a short spring is that you become all the more aware of how you’re environment changes and grows with the coming of the heat. You can physically see wildlife burst into periods of growth and begin to spread through the dormant landscapes of winter and watch the progression from the infancy of seedlings into the lush greens and browns that were painfully absent in the frigid temperatures.
A change in seasons also brings with it an entirely new environment in which to listen to music. I’ve always listened to music for its impressionistic and expressionistic qualities, so the environment I choose to listen to music in has to be evocative in some way of the world the music is trying to build. Winter has its strengths no doubt, but humans were designed by nature to exist in nature, and winter all too often forces man to break that connection with walls of comfort. Spring is the natural relief from this state, an invitation for us to come out of our warm houses…
Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of March 11, 2014. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.
311 – Stereolythic (311 Records)
SputnikMusic’s Most Played Artists of the Week (according to Last.FM):
1. Real Estate
Have you ever been nervous before a gig that you have attended? Sure, there’s always some nervous energy, or even some nervous form of excitement if you’re looking forward to the act(s)… But I’m talking genuine nerves here. Because it happened to me for the first time a week or so back. New York funk-metal quartet Living Colour have always been one of my favourite bands, and I unfortunately was not in a position to have seen them live during their ‘90s heyday. So I was never going to miss them on their first visit to Australia in well over a decade.
To put it bluntly, however, Living Colour are now old. Lead vocalist Corey Glover especially looks it; having transformed from the spandex-wearing, dreadlocked front-man of yesteryear into the grey-haired, grandpa cap wearer of today. The very little I had seen of them playing via YouTube and the like seemed to suggest an overly earnest show which lacked energy and relied on high – but faltering – technicality. Those around me didn’t help the predicament, with a higher than usual drunk factor and many a googling youngster asking “Who’s Living Colour”?
So, last week I had the fortune of talking to one of my absolute favourite musicians, Paul Masvidal of Cynic. Cynic is a band that needs no introduction among the metal and progressive rock communities, having released two highly influential and respected albums that amalgamated both genres into a unique sound that has aged like wine through the years. The nature and origin of their third full-length album, Kindly Bent to Free Us, reveals a new side of the band and portrays a sound that is uncharacteristically calmer, and more slow-burning than anything we’ve heard from them in the past. Luckily, I got a chance to speak with the legendary frontman himself, and had him dissect the album in his own words, as well as discuss what he foresees to be the next big journey for the band.
Anyway, without further ado, here is my interview (hey, that rhymed!):
Ever since Traced In Air came out, you guys have kind of been steadily peeling away the death metal sounds that were present in Focus, and evolved into a band with a far more abstract sound. Every thing you guys have been doing since the release of Focus, has become more experimental, more melodic, and you guys have even been emulating the cosmic sounds of the ’60s and ’70s a lot more as well. What inspires you guys to direct the music of the band into new…
Tags: Cynic, Interviews, Kindly Bent to Free Us, Season of Mist
Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of March 3, 2014. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.
Arthur Beatrice – Working Out (Harvest Music)
I was playing pub trivia earlier this week with some friends, and one of the rounds was “Disney by Decade”. I knew this was coming because the ultra-shitty hostess was playing “A Whole New World” and “Part of Your World” and probably some other songs with “World” in them (perhaps “Two Worlds” was played, but Phil Collins gets a pass from me because it’s better than listening to 3 hours of Lilith Fair music, as is tradition in the hostess’ usual playlist).
Anyway, we aced the round (Can you name 3 out of the 5 animated films Disney released in the 1980s? How about the 2 animated films from the 1970s where a lion is depicted as royalty? I can’t remember the other questions because, you know, it’s a bar), simply because the girls on our team know their shit (my contributions rely solely on sports, music, and maybe books; in other words, I would get my ass kicked on Jeopardy! in every direction imaginable).
Speaking of which, fuck this guy:
If you don’t recognize him, take a listen to this smarmy asshole. Hunting for the Daily Doubles is brilliant, but only wagering just enough to advance to the next day is a bitch move (in my opinion, you play to win the game).
On that note, onto the…
One of the most difficult things about becoming an emeritus of sputnik is discovering amazing new artists and lacking any time whatsoever to communicate that interest to others who care about music. Since “graduating” from sputnik, or “becoming part of the force” (or whatever silly analogy makes sense to you), music has become an increasingly intimate thing to me. I don’t spend as much time searching for new artists, analyzing them, and especially writing about them. But when I encounter something I have a true admiration for, I typically find myself desperately striving to achieve five hours of sleep while finishing up lesson plans, grading papers, planning a wedding, and performing household duties. And all so I can wake up and go to work exhausted again. Needless to say, it’s a busy time for me and I regret that I don’t have ample time to review everything that I feel passionate about (i.e. Snowmine’s new record Dialects, which I heartily recommend to all fans of atmospheric alt/indie). So, in lieu of two reviews that I really want to write but have absolutely no time to, I present you with the first of what may be a continuing string of brief passages concerning artists and new albums that I have found to be exceptional.
Run River North – Run River North
Following a record that set out an impressive stall isn’t easy. Late Love was an invigorating debut that saw Oslo-based Wolves Like Us delving into dark post-hardcore with massive riffs, angular melodies and commendable tightness. It effectively revived the spirit of such acclaimed 1990s collectives as Quicksand and Drive Like Jehu, ditching the trends that have subverted the genre in the last 15 years. Black Soul Choir manages to sidestep the dreaded second album slump by expanding the quartet’s winning formula. The skeleton of the tracks still revolves around traditional post-hardcore attributes like throbbing bass lines and frenetic drum-beats, yet the focus is shifted towards atmospheric soundscapes that make the group’s brand of post-hardcore even more brooding. This shift also informs a more expansive approach to songwriting. The tracks usually take more time to unravel, which makes for a significantly more nuanced and moodier effort. Here’s my interview with the act’s charismatic frontman, Larsh Kristensen.
You’d played in lots of groups before forming Wolves Like Us. What compelled you to play together and form the band?
I think we all still had the desire to play. We all love playing music, and to a certain extent is is the only factor that has remained constant in my life. I’ve always played, and this band is just an extension of that. I don’t think I’ll ever stop playing music. So…
Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of February 25, 2014. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.
Barzin – To Live Alone In That Long Summer (Monotreme Records)
“Friends,” said I, “what song, if any, might make you stop mid-coitus because the mood was so irreparably damaged?” Several comments later, we had this hot new track from Adam Corey Thomas.
Here’s my interview with Henry Upton, the bassist for Maryland-based Lionize whose phenomenal new album Jetpack Soundtrack dropped on February 18th.
I’m of the opinion that people from many musical backgrounds can embrace your music as you combine so many styles. How would you describe your sound? Who do you think your target audience is?
I would probably call it groove rock. Or just rock music at this point. Our target audience is really anybody who is an avid music listener. I think we are accessible to the casual music fan as well, but we really covet the die-hard music enthusiast. Whatever genre that might be.
In the course of your decade-long career you’ve released five stylistically diverse albums. I guess the main shift was from the reggae-inspired Space Pope and the Glass Machine to Destruction Manual. What exactly dictated the change towards the heavy rock aesthetic?
Looking back it’s kind of hard to say. We were touring with reggae bands as well as rock acts. I think we just started to listen to different types of music and wanted to expand the sound of the band. We’ve always been big on Zeppelin, Sabbath, Deep Purple, etc. and grew into reflecting those influences. There was no conscious decision to change anything. It just happened.
You tour a lot, and have shared the stage with a multitude of different artists. What…
Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of February 18, 2014. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.
Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar)