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Photo courtesy of Rukes

A rough night meant I didn’t make it to the festival grounds until close to 3, but that was never really a problem: the first act I wanted to see happened to be Sputnik favorite The Tallest Man on Earth at 3 pm in the Gobi tent. Throughout the weekend the Gobi seemed to be getting the least love, but this afternoon it was unusually packed, everyone there just to see one tiny Swedish dude and his guitar. He didn’t disappoint – any fears I had of his occasionally grating voice transferring to a live setting were quickly dispelled: he actually sounded better live! Everything came together on “King of Spain,” the audience lifting Kristian Matsson’s voice to new heights and his acoustic guitar ringing out over the tent grounds quite effectively.

My indie rock embarrassment of riches began shortly afterwards with Americana group Delta Spirit at the Outdoor stage. They may not be the most original band, but as a live performance they put on quite the show. Singer Matthew Vasquez’s long dark locks made him look like Dave Grohl’s lost twin, but he sounded more Walkmen than Foo Fighters, his gravelly voice propelling the band’s dust-and-blood barroom tales further than they could have hoped. For a band with a minimal following at the festival, Delta Spirit, like Titus Andronicus the day before, really delivered it for their fans.

I then caught the latter half of Irish rockers…

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Photo courtesy of Gavin Langille

For all the hype surrounding Coachella 2011 – the six day sellout, the mounting confusion and problems regarding the festival’s new wristband ticket method, the fear of scalpers selling fake tickets and wristbands not shipping out in time, once the festival was under way it was still the same old Coachella. Friendly people slapping hands and exchanging “happy Coachellas!;” temperatures routinely soaring above 100; enough drugs to make Noriega and Kesey blush; and music. Music that was at times brilliant, enthralling, obtusely weird, fist pumping, merely okay and atypically shocking and everything in between, but still the lifeblood of the festival no matter who came . . . and there were a lot. From shirtless fraternity boys to forty-year-old scene veterans, from stoned, bleary-eyed hipsters to day-glo-adorned rave kids, Coachella stuck them all in a boiling polo field of a pot and, for one weekend at least, helped them appreciate everything and everyone else. Coachella may be becoming more of a place to be seen than appreciated nowadays (over the course of the festival I saw Katy Perry, Tara Reid, Paul McCartney and even David Hasselhoff, all almost exclusively in the VIP lounges enjoying the drinks rather than the music), but few festivals can match its uniting experience. And it remains unforgettable.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Friday was going to be the coolest day of the weekend – a “pleasant” 93 degrees, blinding sun…

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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

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Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of April 19, 2011. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

Azymuth – Aurora (Far Out Recordings)
The Belle Brigade – The Belle Brigade (Reprise)
Blackfield – Welcome To My DNA (Kscope)
Blu – Her Favorite Colo(u)r (Nature Sounds)
Kimberly Caldwell – Without Regret (Capitol)
Cam’ron & Vado – Gunz N Butta (Entertainment One)
Del The Funky Homosapien – Golden Era (The Council)
Dengue Fever – Cannibal Courtship (Fantasy)
DJ Quik – The Book of David (Mad Science)
Duff McKagan’s Loaded – The Taking (Eagle Records) – Joseph Viney
Eliza Doolittle – Eliza Doolittle (Capitol)
Explosions In The Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care {UK} (Temporary Residence Limited)
Former Thieves – The Language That We Speak (No Sleep Records)
French Horn Rebellion – The Infinite Music of… [Digital release] (Once Upon A Time Records)
Graveyard – Hisingen Blues (Nuclear Blast America)
The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart (Sub Pop)
I’m From Barcelona – Forever Today (MUTE)
InfinitiRock – Apeirophobia (Base Trip Records)
Lanu – Her 12 Faces (Tru Thoughts Recordings)
Leaves’ Eyes – Meredead {EU} (Napalm Records)
Lenka – Two (Epic)
Mf Doom – Operation Doomsday: Lunchbox [Box set] (Metal Face Records)
Midnattsol – The Metamorphosis Melody {EU} (Napalm Records)
Mike Tramp & Rock N Roll Circuz – Stand Your Ground (Cleopatra)
Tracy Nelson – Victim of the Blues (Delta Groove Productions)
Norther – Circle Regenerated (Century Media)
Pendragon – Passion (Snapper Madfish)
Periphery – Icarus Lives!…

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It’s been about a month since Rebecca Black’s wonderfully inane ode to the JFK assassination, Friday, hit Youtube and became immediately immortalized as one of the greatest memes of all time. Naturally, it’s spawned countless parodies, some genuinely funny, others interesting novelties. But on this Friday, I wanted to share with you the best of them all: the Hell Version. This incredibly well edited cut of Black’s video, which is kind of like if Aphex Twin’s “Come to Daddy” was directed by Marilyn Manson on the worst day of his life, is genuinely terrifying. Bet you never thought you’d hear Aphex Twin, Marilyn Manson, and Rebecca Black mentioned in the same sentence, did you? Check out the video below:

Scary, no?

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.


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

I’ll admit that my opinion of Korn’s music is pretty low these days. I haven’t even remotely enjoyed one of their albums since Take a Look in the Mirror in 2003. I understand that a band has to expand their sound after a decade of releasing variations of the same idea, but See You on the Other Side and Untitled were terrible. It seems that even the band knew that they were headed down the wrong path because they eventually released a ‘back-to-roots’ album called Korn III: Remember Who You Are. Unfortunately, it seemed to lack actual conviction and appeared to confirm that God stole the only decent songwriter in the band. This takes us to the new song, “Get Up”, that features American electronic artist Skrillex.

When explaining “Get Up” Jonathan Davis had this to say: “I heard a few of Skrillex’s re-mixes and really felt there would be a good chance that he would have the right sensibility to connect us to a new hard sound and direction, but still keeping Korn guitars and our vibe. We were just thinking of trying something new, to be honest, so I had my manager reach out to the Skrillex camp. When we got into the studio the connection was instant!”

The song is apparently due to be released on a new Korn EP in May, and I’m not sure if this is a one-time engagement or if Skrillex will collaborate on…

Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of April 12, 2011. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

Azam Ali – From Night to the Edge of Day (Six Degrees)
Alison Krauss & Union Station – Paper Airplanes (Rounder)
Atmosphere – The Family Sign (Rhymesayers) – John A. Hanson
Autechre – EPs 1991-2002 (Warp Records)
Believer – Transhuman (Metal Blade Records) – Trey Spencer
Bell X1 – Bloodless Coup (Yep Roc Records)
Between the Buried and Me – The Parallax (Metal Blade Records)
Caustic – The Golden Vagina Of Fame And Profit (Metropolis Records)
Classified – Handshakes+Middle Fingers (Decon)
Clemits – My Secret Garden (MSG Records)
Combichrist – Throat Full of Glass [EP] (Metropolis Records)
Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion (Slumberland Records)
Brett Dennen – Loverboy (Dualtone Music Group)
Elbow – Build a Rocket Boys! (Downtown/Cooperative Music)
The Feelies – Here Before (BAR NONE ENT)
Foo Fighters – Wasting Light (RCA) – Nick Butler
Fractured – Beneath the Ashes (Metropolis Records)
Dana Fuchs – Love to Beg (RUF RECORDS)
Generationals – Actor-Caster (PARK THE VAN RECORDS)
Guano Apes – Bel Air {EU} (Columbia Europe)
Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost! (DFA)
Jessie J – Who You Are (Universal Music Group)
Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit – Here We Rest (LIGHTNING ROD REC.)
Joan As Police Woman – The Deep…

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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…

“I think Kid A is a bit weird…”

Running the business end of a website online, you tend to be confronted with the odd dubious proposition, always conducted by email. We’re all familiar with the most venerable exiled Princes of Nigeria, but fewer will be familiar with the Twitter follower scam.

The Twitter follower scam is probably best explained here (in fact, keep a tab of this page open because it crops up later), but in essence it’s a “service” offered by certain professional internet people, whereby they will access your Twitter account and, over the course of a week, begin to follow a large number of automated accounts that will follow you back, thus boosting your headline “follow” figure – until, that is, they all begin to unfollow you within a few days.

Anybody with a Twitter account will be aware of just how ubiquitous these bots are… now imagine you’re following them.

Usually I ignore these offers, as well as the numerous pittance-paying ad companies that contact us daily, but today was particularly humid and I had nothing better to do. I got an email from Glyn Berrington of UK mail order company Sturnam Clothing, offering me the opportunity to gain 500 new Twitter followers in just one week for the low, low price of $40, or £25. I just couldn’t resist.

(Apologies for the low text visibility – think of it as an artistic commentary on the shoddiness of the scheme.)

Intrigued by the possibility of connecting so many lines of generic…

Believer “Ego Machine”

Believer will be releasing their fifth album, Transhuman, on April 12th through Metal Blade Records. They initially released a video for the song “G.U.T.” which showcased the band’s new direction — a direction that seemed to focus more on stiff rhythms than on thrashy aggression. It was also the first song to showcase the band’s new vocal style on the choruses. The clean harmonized vocal style worked well contrasted with the band’s typical metal ‘rasp’ and showed that they were serious about continuing to push their progression.

The next song to be released was “Mindsteps”. This is an uplifting song that closes out the album with more stiff rhythms and a huge focus on melody. It also features nothing but Kurt Bachman’s new clean singing style. “Mindsteps” is also notable because it’s easily one of the band’s most subdued numbers. With the release of this song the band proved beyond a doubt that Transhuman had the potential to be a huge departure.

They’ve now released the final song before the release of the album, “Ego Machine”. “Ego Machine” displays yet another facet of Transhuman’s overall sound. This song brings back some of the band’s thrash leanings as well as the high pitched rasp associated with it. The chorus has the potential to be a surprise to fans with its deep throaty growl contrasted with clean singing in the background. Despite the thrashier sound it also still adheres to the band’s focus on stiff rhythms and a slightly…



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.

I struggled for awhile with the second part to this little discourse. The struggle was that, to be in full disclosure, I had no idea really where I was going with the argument. I simply knew that my first part was not enough and as a failsafe I put that “Part 1” at the end of the title. I had a rough idea at what I was trying to get at, but in terms of putting something together—well I was at a loss. So I’ve decided to structure this second part in a very Hegelian manner. Hegel’s method of discourse, for those of you who do not know it, is essentially to have a thesis, then an antithesis, and finally a synthesis. For, the first part of this blog post laid out my essential problem: where have all the big ideas gone? My suggestion, if it may not have been clear, was that the increasingly factional categorization—I believe nitpicking was the word I used—of genre labels by communities of music lovers such as ourselves here at Sputnik, is symptomatic of the endangerment of these big ideas. A ‘big idea’, as I see it, is an attempt to illustrate something specific in a way that transcends experience and connects to the mind of the audience. This is not to say platitudes or other generalizations, in fact that’s the opposite of what I mean. No, a big idea is one that makes you think beyond the way you normally do.

I believe…


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