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While most portable music devices these days are definitely capable of supplying quite reasonable sound quality, the earphones packaged with the device often are very much lacking. In particular, the earphones supplied with ipods & iphones are lamented in the audiophile world, and even upgrading to a low-range pair of headphones can dramatically improve the listening experience. This should not be taken as an authoritative guide, but just simply an outline of what key factors to be aware of when purchasing headphones for your ipod.

Does price matter?

In short, yes. The price of ear or headphones is generally very indicative of their sound quality. Yet as the price escalates, the marginal difference in sound quality decreases. In other words the difference between a $300 and a $400 set of headphones will not be discernable for the typical listener. In particular at higher price ranges, there is no gain for portable listening devices. Furthermore with electronic audio files, the quality and bitrate of the file will have a significant impact on the listening experience, and more expensive headphone models will tend to highlight the flaws of the file.

Another caveat is that brand is often more important than price. If you opt for the right brand, even at low prices you’re likely getting bang for your buck.

What brand then?

There are a number of quality brands out there. In general try to stray away from the Japanese giants Sony, Phillips & Panasonic. For open headphones Grado have an outstanding…


You know, something has only just occurred to me. After the respective falls of France, Italy, and England, there was plenty of talk on football websites about the dominance of South America at this tournament, with their representatives in the quarter finals totalling half the draw. And yet, the tables have turned dramatically – European teams have put an end to Brazil and Argentina’s hope in emphatic style, while an admittedly impressive Paraguay couldn’t do enough to take Spain out and the continent’s lone remaining team, Uruguay, needed the Hand of God II to even have the chance to beat Ghana on penalties.

And to think, back when Mexico and Uruguay qualified from Group A at the expense of 2006’s beaten finalists France, it all looked so rosy. It was only a spot of continental in-fighting with Argentina that stopped Mexico’s impressive run – one so incredible that it even managed to make Giovani dos Santos look like a professional footballer.

In case you’d forgotten that he played for Ipswich, here’s proof.

Since they border America, you would expect that plenty of Mexican acts have found favour there – intriguingly, that’s not the case, as most of the acts that have crossed the border from the Mexican charts to the American ones have been from elsewhere in South America, be that Columbia (Shakira), Spain (Julio Iglesias), or Puerto Rico (Ricky Martin). The one clear and obvious exception to that is Carlos Santana, the man behind one of the biggest…


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When England were pummelled into submission by Germany, there can’t have been much consoling the players or the more dedicated fans. If somebody had told them, however, that the team that had just humiliated them would go on to inflict an even bigger and more spectacular dicking all over their bitterest rivals, it might have made things easier. Thanks, Germany. You’ve done us all a favour. The only sad thing is that now we have to bid everyone’s favourite fatso Diego Maradona goodbye, presumably with a big sloppy kiss, a bear hug, and a smack on the arse.

I’m not joking. He even kissed Carlos Tevez.

A picture with so much grease it should carry a health warning.

Neuva cancion was already covered in Chile’s entry, with the music of Victor Jara, but Argentina also embraced the genre and contributed to it heavily – and no wonder, with the sheer volume of political upheaval the country suffered during the 1970s. He’s not quite the star that Victor Jara is, but Atahualpa Yupanqui is Argentina’s most important figure in the movement – he was too early to really be a part of the political activism that surrounded the music, but he was frequently covered by acts at the heart of it (including, on the rare occasion, Chilean ones) and in Argentina, he came to take on a Godfather-style role. He was even given the nickname Don Ata. As the key link between the country’s folk tradition and its first…


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God, did anybody else feel seriously bored these past two days? We’ve been spoiled this summer; somehow it just didn’t feel right not having any football on, even with Wimbledon to keep my thirst for sport going (even if there are literally two people willing to talk about tennis at my workplace, and one of them is me). We’re back today, though, with a potential classic in the shape of Holland against Brazil. It’s easy to have mixed feelings on a match like this when it happens at the quarter final stage – it’s brilliant for the neutral fan and for the world cup itself that a team as unfancied as Ghana or Uruguay (or perhaps even Paraguay) will make the semi finals, but at the same time, it seems wrong that we will be kissing goodbye to one of these teams so early. Perhaps it’s for the best that Holland go out now, though – I mean, could you imagine a team lifting the World Cup when their star player looks so much like Screech from Saved by the Bell?

C’mon, are you seriously gonna tell me you can’t see it?

Dutch folk music distinguishes itself from that of the countries around it almost purely by virtue of tempo – to be blunt, it’s faster – although the more simple rhythms and grounded melodic patterns are also a giveaway sign. Much of it is built around dancing, which goes a way to explaining why…


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Okay, so maybe I was a little harsh on Honduras when I described them as the nondescript country in the World Cup. It was true, sure, but it was harsh. There are, after all, no small number of European countries with diminutive personalities taking part, and unfortunately, today I have to turn to one that haven’t played a game in the tournament in a week, since they were beaten comprehensively by Japan. I, of course, decided to write about them at the time, since I expected Denmark to progress. D’oh. Why, I’ve almost made as big an idiot of myself as this prick!

One of these men plays for Denmark. It’s not the sober one.

Denmark’s music scene is arguably the most notable thing about it right now, as it happens. You might be shocked to realize how many Danish acts you know – Aqua, The Ravonettes, the shit one out of Metallica, Mercyful Fate, and Junior Senior are just five you should all have heard of, and that’s before you get to Mew. Truthfully, I was determined NOT to post anything by Jonas Bjerre’s rag-tag mob of foppish art students, simply because they’re so big within the Sputnik community, but I’ve reneged for one reason; I’ve realized that their best song, which dated way back from 1997, will have been missed by a big chunk of the fans who found them via Frengers and And the Glass Handed Kites. So for those people….here it is.

Outside…


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For the alternative/indie world, 2010 has been a banner year of excellence. From The National’s grandiloquent High Violet to The Tallest Man on Earth’s one-man powerhouse The Wild Hunt, 2010 has produced defining albums from well-known acts to stunning debut albums from artists who promise so much more in the future. In the sweeping praise that so many albums have garnered this year, it goes without saying that some things got left behind, some things that, in less impressive years, may have risen to the top of the blogosphere. This blog will attempt to bring to light some of the lesser-known highlights of 2010.

Daniel Bjarnason – Processions [Symphonic/Classical]

We begin in February with Daníel Bjarnason’s Processions, an album that I have praised for months now–from posting the opening movement “Sorrow conquers happiness” from his multi-tracked cello suite Bow to String to reviewing the album with high praise. Yet, I cannot give this album enough praise, standing in the same echelon of excellence as High Violet, The Wild Hunt, The Archandroid, and all of the other albums that we have heard over and over. The album dances between bombastic and aggressive to hauntingly minimal, as if Max Richter decided to borrow from Stravinsky instead of Glass. In addition to Bjarnason’s brilliant compositional skills, the performers on the album (including the Iceland Symphony Orchestra) are first-rate, an indication that Iceland’s music scene goes far beyond Sigur Rós and Björk, and it is not going away anytime soon. Posted here…


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Time for a breather? Girlfriends and wives the world over are suddenly breathing a sigh of relief this sunny day, as for the first time in three weeks, there isn’t a single World Cup game taking place. For me, that’s a handy opportunity to go back and pick through the wreckage of the teams who’ve already found themselves eliminated and wonder why my predictions were so woeful (considering I’ve already written about Paraguay, Ghana, and Uruguay, and they’re going strong for now). Then again, at least I’m not the only person in England who’s put in a woeful performance this summer!

Fabio Capello reacts to Rooney losing the ball yet again.

Trying to pinpoint one piece of music that completely encapsulates everything about a country is impossible unless you’ve spent a significant portion of your life living there, which is why I haven’t done it yet. England, however, is another matter, so I hereby present to you the single most English piece of music in history. You want camp? You want a pompous and slightly lily-livered sense of pride? You want a romantic view of the rolling hills of the countryside painted by people who’ve never actually lived there? You want a bunch of drunken yobs chanting meaningless crap at each other in large groups? Elgar’s got the goods. Why the hell isn’t this our national anthem?!

So where do we find Englishness specifically in popular music? Well, here’s an interesting, if flawed thought; in a recent…


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Part One / Part Two

In July of 2006, mx founded the Sputnikmusic Staff – a move which, frankly, was made much too early.

The summer of 2006 was an interesting time for the site.  Its active userbase had been declining almost since the site was founded, but this was never more readily apparent than that summer, when Sputnik was plagued with downtime because of problems with the server.  At one point, the site was down for two entire weeks, and many started to accept that it might not come back.  And although it did come back, the damage had been done.  For one long interminable summer, Sputnikmusic’s active userbase consisted of under fifty people who kept the site alive, posting and commenting and trying to make sure the site that meant so much to them didn’t die by the wayside, because even though there was still a decent (for the time) amount of outside readership that didn’t have accounts, would they visit the site if no one was posting any reviews?

Still, mx implemented a number of big changes to the site.  Apart from fiddling with the design and layout of the site, he added a slew of new features, a few of which are still around today and a few that turned out to be not so great.  Lists were a huge addition.  If users weren’t content with simply talking about Metallica in a Master of Puppets thread, they could now post a…


If I thought Day 1 was packed, Day 2 took things to a whole new level, making it extremely hard to walk anywhere efficiently (and definitely not without a group constantly linking hands), and making the floor of the main stage a lost cause before I even arrived. I dared to see some trance at the Neon Garden when I first arrived, catching Aly & Fila and a whole bunch of fluorescent-painted individuals who must’ve been the happiest concertgoers I’d seen yet just fist-pumping like it was Jersey Shore West Coast-edition. Next up was will.i.am at the main stage, who stuck out like a sore thumb on the lineup sheet and played a predictably oddball set heavy in funk classics to liven the crowd up as the sun began to set.

Photo courtesy of Spin.com

Filipino/Dutch DJ Laidback Luke followed will.i.am, and was playing when what was easily the most surreal experience of the festival occurred. The floor had long been closed to any more spectators, but as Luke continued to play unruly concertgoers began to wash over the high fences barricading the stands from the floor, spilling onto the floor and causing absolute havoc among security. The sound was soon cut off, and from my vantage point way up in the stands, the combination of what looked to be a surefire riot, helicopters suddenly swooping low overhead, and the stadium in a frenzy, was terrifying but really, really fucking cool all…


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England, France, and Italy might have already fallen by the wayside, but today is the day that European giants will start to drop out of the World Cup race not via their own incompetence and attitude problems, but because they’ve been beaten by a superior opponent. I hope, at least. It’s Spain vs. Portgual today and I can only hope it’s the first real display of European quality at this tournament; the first one not tainted by the incompetence of the opponents, at least.

I also hope we get to see Ronaldo cry. Just because.

I mean, c’mon. Are you telling me that’s not a beautiful sight?

The most recognisable artist from Portugal amongst Sputnik’s userbase is undoubtedly Moonspell, and for good reason; they’ve proven to be one of the most enduring metal bands in the world, with their latest outing, 2008’s Night Eternal, earning enough acclaim to make you forget that it had been a full 13 years since their debut, the cult classic Wolfheart. This song is from the latter, which is as essential a part of the gothic metal canon as Mandtlion, Bloody Kisses, and Wildhoney.

Portuguese music is probably best known in the wider world for fado, however; a genre with Iberian folk origins that could be linked to blues, in the way that it incorporated African rhythms introduced to local musicians by way of the slave trade and became synonymous with songs of longing and yearning. It’s older, though, with examples dating…


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Over 80 artists and DJs. Five stages running the gamut from house to dubstep to trance and more. 185,000+ people attending and dancing until 2 a.m. over two days. More Ecstasy pills than the population of Los Angeles. Calling the annual L.A. Electric Daisy Carnival a mere “rave” is an insult to something that has to be considered one of the largest music events in the world, not to mention an intense kaleidoscope of sounds and visuals that require far more work and setup than your average festival show. Oh, and don’t forget the varied array of carnival rides, from your standard Ferris wheel and fun house to spinning tops and massive swings (best ridden sober). With such a breadth of artists and experiences to be sampled it’s practically impossible to catalogue every highlight of the weekend, and the fact that the Coliseum grounds where the event was held was nearly impossible to traverse effectively past sundown made it difficult to see everyone I wanted, but those I did rarely disappointed.

…and this was EARLY

Opening at 2 in the afternoon every day, the festival was already jam packed by the time I arrived (usually around 4-ish), and like Coachella before it, EDC’s popularity has skyrocketed over the past couple of years. The main stage (the Coliseum stadium including the floor) was half empty during the Friday headliner in 2009; this year they closed off floor access before sunset,…


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Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of June 29, 2010. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

3 Inches Of Blood – Here Waits Thy Doom [Re-Issue] (Century Media)
3oh!3 – Streets of Gold (Atlantic)
AG – Everything’s Berri (Fat Beats Records)
Laurie Berkner – Best of the Laurie Berkner Band (Sony)
Ceschi – The One Man Band Broke Up (Fake Four)
Judy Collins – Paradise (Wildflower)
dDamage – Aeroplanes (Module)
Diddy – Last Train To Paris (Interscope Records)
The Dream – Love King (Def Jam)
Dwele – Wants, World, Women (E1 Music)
Emarosa – Emarosa (Rise Records)
Equilibrium – Rekreatur (Nuclear Blast)
Alejandro Escovedo – Street Songs Of Love (Fantasy)
Eternia & MoSS – At Last (Fat Beats Records)
Ernie Halter – Franlin & Vermont (Rock Ridge Music)
The Herbaliser – Herbal Tonic (Ninja Tune)
Indigo Girls – Staring Down the Brilliant Dream (Self Released)
Iwrestledabearonce – It’s All Happening [Re-issue] (Century Media)
Katzenjammer – Le Pop (Nettwerk Records)
Kero One – Kinetic World (Plug Label)
Jane Krakowski – Live At Feinstein’s At The Regency (Drg)
Maps & Atlases – Perch Patchwork (Barsuk) – Adam Thomas
Marco Polo – The Stupendous Adventures (Duck Down Music)
Papa Roach – To Be Loved: The Best of Papa Roach (Geffen Records)
Parkway Drive – Deep Blue (Epitaph)
Pitbull – Armando (Sony U.S. Latin)
Rush – Beyond the Lighted Stage [2 DVD] (Zoe


Just a day after England’s abject humiliation, is it time to kiss goodbye to my favourite team of this entire tournament? I spent a good two months telling anybody who would listen to keep an eye out for Chile, and their frankly outrageous 3-1-3-3 formation this summer, and with two victories, countless shots on goal, and a dominant, if ultimately fruitless performance against European champions Spain, they haven’t let me down. Today, though, they face Brazil. It’ll be a battle between two very different ideologies – Brazil’s solid pragmatism against Chile’s practically suicidal commitment to getting men forward at any cost. Chile could very well pull off a shock, but this is a World Cup. You can’t bet against Brazil. It’s the law. Still, at least Chile can come out of the tournament saying that they, along with Germany, can boast one of the two most exciting young talents to emerge at the tournament.

Arise Sir Sanchez!

The one single figure that probably encapsulates the history of Chilean popular music more than anybody is Victor Jara. A crucial part of the folky and politically charged Nueva Canción movement, which was the first and still biggest genre of popular music associated with Chile, he would perhaps still be held in such high regard even if he were still alive, but his death – in a hostage situation at the hands of General Pinochet’s armies during a military coup, no less – cemented his legend. As a member of the Chilean…


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Part One

It didn’t take long.  By the end of 2005, Sputnikmusic was seeing exponential growth in its userbase.

It was technically a new website, but Sputnik didn’t face the hardships that most new domains have – namely, lack of viewership – thanks to its origins in the MX forums.   And although the vast majority of the forum users would come to abandon the site in its infancy, the number of views they lent early Sputnik reviews allowed them to pop up within the first pages of Google searches for music reviews.  A further boon for the website was the fact that it was founded before the demise of MXtabs and was therefore linked on each individual MXtabs page (Guitar, Bass, and Drums).

A link to Sputnikmusic on the MXtabs Guitar page.

Sputnikmusic’s major appeal came from its focus on the userbase, another holdover from its time as a subforum populated by members of MXtabs.  Except for the site’s design, layout, and general coding (which was run by Jeremy Ferwerda [mx]), MXtabs was run by the users.  They created the tabs and posted them on the site, which could then be rated and critiqued by other users (with a 5-star rating system and a link to “Correct This Tab”).  Sputnikmusic was meant to follow this same format, but there was more of a learning curve for the new members.  An amateur guitar player who posted a guitar tab on MXtabs was a…


I’m going to totally honest with you about why South Korea are getting their day in this blog now, the day after being eliminated from the competition by a rampant Uruguay side. The whole point from here on out, really, was to try to second-guess each game as it came, posting up each country just before they get knocked out whenever possible. It’s been such a unpredictable World Cup, though, that I’ve ended up with France, Italy, Denmark, and Switzerland flying back to Europe before I’ve even thought about them, while Uruguay, Japan, Paraguay, and Slovakia have made a fool of me for getting them out of the way so quickly. Honestly, I thought South Korea would win against Uruguay yesterday. And honestly, there is not a hope in hell you will get me to try to predict the winner of either of today’s games. No way.

So instead, here’s a write-up of South Korea, a country that is the exact opposite of North Korea in more ways than just the obvious.

I mean, would Kim Jong Il allow this? WOULD HE?!?

Those of you that idolize and worship everything Nippon – c’mon, admit it, there’s a lot of you – may be surprised to learn of the cultural sway South Korea has in the Far East; in fact, there is a large cult following of South Korean cultural artefacts in Japan not unlike America’s cult following of Japanese trends. For that reason alone, it seems counter-intuitive to delve…


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