Music used to be something transcendent for me, something that could carry me away to different worlds. Every album was an adventure with something exciting and stimulating just around the corner, like walking through an expansive forest to find streetlights hanging from the trees or entering my bathroom to see the mirror made of reflective puzzle pieces. Wondrous and new, music was a planet unto itself that consisted of objects stitched together through the creativity of a collective, notes and melodies becoming the nails and planks while the input of each individual band member was the hammer that connected everything. For hours I could wander the streets of this new place, listening to different albums without any agenda other than the sheer joy of continual discovery.
Eventually, everything had to be supplemented with music. Was it storming outside? I had to listen to an album that complemented the weather. Was I sad? I had to listen to sad music. I feel now that it was a lazy response, one that cheapened the experiences at hand. Music as a form of escape isn’t inherently purer than doing anything else to avoid problems just because it’s music. It is counterproductive. Listening to sad music because I was sad set me up for more sadness, but listening to happy music made me feel like a clown, an idiot, trying to jump-start a good mood based on the sounds hitting my ears, like some slobbering Pavlovian dog. Music failed me at those times and…
Congratulations to Greg Rybak (aka greg84 who successfully guessed all 10 albums in the top 10 and had the most accurate ordering of those 10 albums. He wins a special edition copy of Converge’s Jane Doe. Thank you for playing.
Yes, attempting to blog about the music of the USA on a site like Sputnik is patently ridiculous. I know. That’s one of the reasons I’m getting it out of the way early; the other is to say YOU’RE GOING DOWN AMERICA
Be honest – who’s side do YOU want to be on?
Ahem. So anyway, I suppose the best way to approach this to go back to a time when American music was exactly that – American music, and not some globally-dominant behemoth that just happens to revolve around California for some reason. And to kick that off, I’m resorting to playing personal favourites with comedian, country pioneer, and all-around vaudeville nutcase Uncle Dave Macon. This is the sound of America in its youth, still in thrall to the Appalachian folk music developed by Americans working in tandom with the Irish and Scottish diaspora, yet to discover and assimilate the blues music of the slaves that would lead them to musical world domination. Macon’s vocal delivery was radical for his time, particularly in terms of the music being recorded at the time, and his performing style was no different – more aggressive and raucous than country or folk has been since. And that’s before we consider the knee-slapping sexual innuendos that abound in so many of his songs, puns so well-concealed that half the time it’s not even clear whether or not it’s accidental.
You were just treated to the Sputnikmusic’s Staff’s Top 100 Albums of the Decade. Now it’s your chance to have your own top 100. To submit please navigate to the submission thread in our forum. Please also note that we are going to be very stringent about submissions so please read the directions carefully before popping off a list. Thank you!
1. Dredg – El Cielo
2. Glassjaw – Worship and Tribute
3. Gospel – The Moon Is a Dead World
4. Thrice – The Illusion of Safety
5. Kayo Dot – Choirs of the Eye
6. Deftones – White Pony
7. Circle Takes the Square – As the Roots Undo
8. Kidcrash – Jokes
9. Deltron 3030 – Deltron 3030
10. Have a Nice Life – Deathconsciousness
11. Hot Cross – Cryonics
12. In Pieces – Lions Write History
13. The Shape of Broad Minds – Craft of Lost Art
14. Daft Punk – Discovery
15. Venetian Snares – Rossz Csillag Allat Szuletett
16. Radiohead – Kid A
17. Against Me – Reinventing Axl Rose
18. Sun Kil Moon – Ghosts of the Great Highway
19. Passion Pit – Manners
20. Blue Sky Black Death – Late Night Cinema
21. Meet Me in St. Louis – Variations on Swing
22. Son Lux – At War With Walls and Mazes
23. Cursive – Domestica
24. Jaga Jazzist – What We Must
25. The Mars Volta – Frances the Mute
26. Deftones – Saturday Night Wrist
27. Kayo Dot – Downsing Anemone With Copper Tongue
28. Girl Talk – Night Ripper
29. Dead to Me – Cuban Ballerina
30. Hopesfall – The Satellite Years
31. Kronos Quartet & Mogwai – The Fountain OST
32. The Microphones – The Glow Pt. 2
33. Modern Life Is War – Witness
34. Maudlin of the Well – Bath
35. Girl Talk – Feed the Animals …
The Microphones are about as lo-fi as lo-fi music gets. Listening through their discography, you would imagine most of the recordings were completed in the attic of a log cabin, and that certainly may be the case. Even so, their musical output sounds so much grander and richer than an album with top-notch production, and there is a simple reason for this, specifically highlighted in The Glow, Pt. 2, and that is Phil Elvrum’s heart. The Glow, Pt. 2 is a nostalgic journey siphoned through Elvrum’s lyrics, yet the underlying emotional threshold is frequently rephrased through non-spoken portions as well. Listening to the overall ambiance of tracks like “instrumental” and “My Warm Blood,” Elvrum’s specific mood is mimicked through each creaky piano strike or through the disjointed manner in which he strums his guitar. Like Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over the Sea, The Glow, Pt. 2 has an intangible presence surrounding the record that makes it simply divine.
Only listening to The Glow, Pt. 2 as a whole will allow such appreciation, though tracks like “The Moon” are able to be taken aside to be appreciated. It is at times disheveled, but the meaning is never lost as drums defiantly pound over Elvrum’s mum vocals, which exponentially add to the glumness story behind “The Moon.” Quite…
You know, there used to be a time when the words ‘Uruguay’ and ‘World Cup’ went together like ‘Billy Corgan’ and ‘whiny bitch’. They both hosted and won the first one, in 1930, before hopping over the border to Brazil and gazumping them in their final in 1952. All this and two Olympic golds in the ’20s, too. They’re a shadow of their former selves now, though; largely relying on the skills of two gifted frontmen, one of whom looks not entirely unlike Simon Amstell.
So, who’s your favourite McFly?
Not unlike football, Uruguay’s music has tended to be overshadowed by that of its much larger neighbours, Brazil. Yet it had its own version of tropicalia, running concurrently to the Brazilian psychedelic revolutionaries, and the biggest name was in that was Eduardo Mateo. Finding an English-language equivalent for Mateo is difficult; he was an enfant terrible of the nation’s music scene, who was rumoured to struggle with mental health issues, and yet he became arguably the most influential musician the country had ever produced. The below track comes from his 1976 collaboration with Montevido born percussionist Jorge Trasante; a record recorded after both musicians were exiled from the country by the government-imposed period of martial law that ravaged the nation in the mid-’70s.
Before Mateo’s blend of rock, traditional Latin-American folk forms, and psych, though, there was the Uruguayan invasion – which is exactly what it sounds like. After The…
Howdy. You might have noticed something that something fairly big is about to start in South Africa, and as a European I am duty-bound to spend the next month waffling on and on and on about it. It’s great, though, because the World Cup offers us a chance to do many things, like laugh uncontrollably at France, get drunk at 2 in the afternoon, tell a room of journalists to ’suck it and keep on sucking it’, and research other countries in the hope of finding another stereotype to chant about. So why not do it here? I’ll bet that 95% of the people on Sputnik own songs from, at most, 6 of the countries participating (and that’s accounting for your token J-pop albums and weirdly popular outliers like Laibach).
So where better to start than the hosts?
One of these men is called Macbeth Sibaya. Awesome.
South Africa’s music is unique amongst that of Africa in the way it has permeated American culture, largely thanks to Paul Simon and his massively successful Graceland; indeed, when the average person tries to imagine African music, from any part of the continent, it’s almost certainly the monophonic vocal harmony of Ladysmith Black Mambazo they picture. It’s an odd stereotype, for sure, but it’s one that’s ensured that they were, and perhaps still are, more famous in the US than they were in their home country.
Yet Ladysmith are a one-dimensional representation of…
Weirdly enough, Illinois is so damn awesome for the same reasons that so many albums released this decade were not. If the 90s were too lazy and apathetic to care, than the following decade was the total opposite. Too much music was concerned with soaring ambitions and pretensions and that sort of bullshit – and it was mostly all because of this album. Gleefully pretentious and zealous, Illinois is a simple singer/songwriter album dressed up in the fanciest and most ridiculous outfits available, all while thankfully being completely honest yet self-deprecating at the same time. Despite being presented as an embodiment of a state, Illinois succeeds and belongs on this list primarily because it exceeds those high-reaching standards, simply by never losing track of the hopes and feelings of its creator. And more than just that: it never loses the listener as well. Not even the record’s ostentatious nature could hamper Stevens’ gift for creating music that’s accessible and invitational, which is why Illinois truly deserves its following. All those ornate, elaborated singer/songwriter records that followed succeeded in copying Illinois’s aesthetic, but if only they would have recognized the record’s scope. If only. - Cam
There’s no denying it. Ever since Botch called it quits at the rise of the millennium there has been a void in the metalcore scene. The void they left started a power vacuum that paved the way for the funk that it’s in today. Thank god for Narrows. Featuring Botch’s almighty Mr. Dave Verellen on vox and members of such greats as These Arms Are Snakes, Unbroken, and Some Girls, Narrows haven’t quite lived up to expectations, but their recent split with John Pettibone’s Heiress seems to have put everything back on track. For the better half of a decade I’ve been kicking and screaming, praying for a Botch reunion, but if “Recurring” is a sign of things to come, I might just be praying for another Narrows release.
Narrows – “Recurring”
Sometimes I wish every band would be like Andrew W.K. (who is crazy in a good way) but more often than not bands end up having a Tim Kasher (who a lot of times seems crazy in a bad way). Still, you can’t argue with results. The Ugly Organ almost completely abandons what Cursive did on Domestica, which was a complex, multi-layered indie album rife with aggressive post-hardcore moments to mirror its relatively simple story perfectly – a man and his wife on the road to divorce. Instead, The Ugly Organ throws much more into the mix, including Pinocchio and lyrics where Kasher actually refers to himself as opposed to a doppelganger. There are strings and hopefulness aplenty, and I would say that the end of “A Gentlemen Caller” is the most inspiring thing ever if “Staying Alive” didn’t sit at the end of the album like the Incredible Hulk about to tie helicopters into pretzels with its message of holding on. Overall, while Domestica might be a better musical statement, The Ugly Organ offers more of everything and also it won’t depress the hell out of you. – Channing Freeman
So the Season 1 finale of Glee finished ten minutes ago and I am very sad that I’ll have to find a new show to talk about for the next few months. I already wrote a blog about Glee here, but I am just bursting with things to say about why I love the show and I feel an unshakable need to share them with you, because the music of Glee is essentially all I listen to these days.
I'm trying to be ashamed but I am just too filled with happiness for that.
My fiancée, despite my numerous attempts to persuade her, absolutely refuses to watch Glee, saying that she doesn’t like musicals. In the immortal words of Aaron Weiss, “I half-heartedly explained, but gave up peacefully ashamed.” It irks me that she makes fun of the show and says she hates it without ever having seen an episode, but ultimately I don’t care whether or not she likes it, and secretly I’m even sort of glad that she doesn’t. I hate when people get pissed off that their favorite band is starting to gain popularity, even though we’ve all had that feeling, even me. You overhear someone talking about a band you like, calling them “French screamo,” (as an acquaintance of mine once called The Mars Volta), and your blood boils, wishing that you were the only one in the world with knowledge of that band, that their name wasn’t being tainted by half-wits.…
A few weeks ago Nick Butler posted this track, which directly challenged my manhood when it came to filthy, grimy, disgusting dubstep. What Butler doesn’t know is that I carry trash bags with me on a regular basis. Enjoy this particular overseas artifact, which proves that everything in Japan is indeed dirtier.
Max Bemis released his craziest and most ambitious project only after he became decidedly less crazy. In Defense of the Genre turned a lot of preconceptions about Say Anything on their heads (the loner persona, the winding canyons of his earlier songs), but mostly the album proved that Bemis had plenty of ideas beyond how much he hated everyone and everything. While the songs were shorter and less complex, they were also devoid of bullshit, and the fact that In Defense of the Genre has less filler in twice the material than …Is a Real Boy speaks louder praise for the record than anything else. Some of Bemis’ best songs are contained within, including the triumphant, lick-heavy “Shiksa (Girlfriend)” and the longing “Plea.” – Channing Freeman
Panopticon’s opener “So Did We” contains seven lines of lyrics, and they are all sung only once throughout the track. The rest of the song is made up of some of the most hypnotizing metal put to tape, and while Isis could only seem to get it perfectly right for one album, Panopticon stands as a pinnacle of post-metal. The rest of the songs are all similar in their approach yet wholly different…
two bottles of lubiderm and a box of condoms… this displeases Marshall
Last year, Eminem saying something like “Ain’t nothin’ but a whole lot of suckin goin on in rap” would be the equivalent to Oliver Perez saying something like “gee, the Mets’ starting rotation really sucks this season.” But this year, we get “Despicable,” a fucking jaw dropping two minutes where Em tears into fucking anything he wants to regardless of if it makes sense or not. On “Not Afraid,” Em promised he’d never suck again. On “Despicable,” he proves it. Eminem spits with the crazed desperation we remember from the albums where he’d fucking choke the shit out of his wife or drive off a bridge with his pregnant girlfriend in the trunk. Only now, we’re the victims. The indiscriminate “You” he threatens and mocks over two different stolen-but-sinister beats is probably everyone who wrote him off after Encore. And if this is any indication of the quality of Recovery, we’re all fucked.Believe him when he says “Bitch I’m as bat shit as Ozzy it’s obvious you can tell I go right off the bat. No pun intended but come any closer I’ll bite off your head.” Believe him when he compares himself to Donkey Kong. Marshall’s back, bitches.