Even several days after the end, it’s hard for me to talk about Coachella in very many concrete terms. I saw a lot of artists; I met a bunch of people and even more freakshows; I spent my nights and mornings in campgrounds that would have called for UNICEF intervention in a 3rd world country; my sobriety was tested early and often; and I had more fun than I ever would have expected possible in such a short period. Those are the facts as I can see them now, and I certainly have plenty of opinions below. But as a whole? Coachella is difficult to conceptualize and even harder to summarize, a three-day festival that transforms a white-collar polo field into a musical oasis under the blazing hot desert sun. There were really only three constants over the three days: heat, drugs, and music. I was ready for the first, unsurprised but a little shocked at the overwhelming prevalence of the second, and (for the most part) utterly floored by the latter. Coachella is an experience, and anyone who tries to describe it in words will be doing a disservice. It’s more than just who played what and how well they played it, but it’s also so evasive a feeling that it’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been there. So please, if you ever have a chance, be it to make it to Coachella or Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza…
Two weeks ago, Sharon Jones released her latest incredible soul album, I Learned the Hard Way, on Daptone Records. The album is decidedly defiant and powerful, a certain step up from the already excellent 100 Days, 100 Nights. The first single is the album’s title track, filled with funky grooves, dirty horn licks, and the vocal perfection we have come to expect from the group. Jones’ vocal performance is particularly gripping–convincingly delivering her own version of “I Will Survive” by defying her lover and rising strong. This album, along with the rest of the Dap-Kings’s discography, directly ports 60’s and 70’s funk music to the 21st Century and manages to sound just as good, if not better, than any George Clinton record.
Tags: 2010, funk, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, soul
Call me old fashioned, but there are few things in this world better than a quality punk show. The two hour dance-a-thon of a Girl Talk gig comes close, and even then, that’s more of a having a chill time fun, not the shit yourself kind of adrenaline rush fun that was on display at the El Rey theater on April 20th. Fresh off of a world-wide touring haul, The Bronx, and their mariachi alter-egos Mariachi El Bronx, were finally back home in Los Angeles, and from the looks of things, they couldn’t have been happier. Joining the LA natives were Aussie grunge-fanatics Violent Soho and the eccentric rootsy blues of Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss.
Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss kicked off the night. As they took the stage one couldn’t help but be intrigued. Wheeler’s sharp get-up and life-worn face made him seem like a visage of a younger Tom Waits at first glance, and with his guitarist Schloss armed with a beaten twelve-string and hiding behind a veil of Jerry Garcia-esque facial hair, they ripped through set of country tinged acoustic numbers filled with stories about hard women and hard drinking. Wheeler’s voice was well suited for his worldly tales, but it was Schloss that stole the show; his old guitar belting out emotive blues progressions and twangy pentatonic runs.
Mariachi El Bronx were up next. Dressed in full costume, the LA punks’ playful homage to the Mexican heritage of their hometown was…
Five points from an outsider:
1) Logic would surely dictate that the standard of American Idol would be much better than that of its UK equivalents, The X Factor and Pop Idol. Roughly speaking, there are 309 million people in the US and just 60 million in the UK – surely a country with five times as many people will have five times as many brilliant singers, and ergo, would be five times as likely to have a seriously world-class talent? Apparently not; we shouldn’t forget that Leona Lewis was a complete fluke, but the fact remains that AI hasn’t even come close to producing anything on her level. Not even Kelly Clarkson is comparable; she survives by having great songwriters and producers, not a great voice. Even taking the average ability of the contestants into account, the only reason the US have the upper hand on the UK is because we, as a nation of cynical, hate-filled piss-takers, are obliged to field one complete joke every year. Take them out of the equation and we stack up. We probably shouldn’t.
2) I sure am thankful to be watching a singing competition that doesn’t have Jedward in it, mind.
3) What the hell is with all the guitars? Is there some sudden obsession with a pre-conceived notion ‘authenticity’ on this show, or has it always been this way? In the UK at least, the show has always been happy to embrace its gleefully vapid nature, but the US…
The way a new Caribou album always works, it should have been preceded by a “transitional record.” In the time between Andorra’s baroque-pop and The Milk of Human Kindness’ neo-psych, continuity would tell us that this artist born Daniel Victor Snaith would need a few messy experiments before arriving at the airy wallop on 2007’s “Melody Day” from the overt DJ overtones on 2005’s “Pelican Narrows.” I’d imagine there a few GBs worth of Caribou experiments, whole lost albums built up in practice, anticipating the final release to pull off another shape-shift.
To account for the last three years between Andorra and Swim, there are probably a few dance records taking up storage on a laptop somewhere as Caribou’s latest release hits stores today. At first glance, Swim and first single “Odessa” appear to be skirting the trends that have prevailed into the new decade, slathering polyrhythms in swashes of color and sampled horns, undressing the flustered production that used to announce a Caribou track. But what initially comes off like a grasp at relevancy begins to reveal itself as a deconstruction of the dance tracks Caribou has been shoveling production onto for the last decade: “Odessa” takes a microscopic look at his usual flighty psychedelia and studies the obtuse, despairing beat that grounds it. Add in impersonal lyrics detailing a woman leaving her man and “turning around the life she let him siphon away” and you have one twisted summer jam. The hardest part of breaking up is…
First of all, Happy Birthday to staff member John Hanson. In commemoration of this joyous event all of you should go post nice comments in his shoutbox.
Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of April 20, 2010. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.
Airbourne – No Guts. No Glory. (Roadrunner Records) – Davey Boy
Tags: New Releases, News, Sputnik
I want to take the chance and present to you a young band from Germany – for several reasons. For one, they are among the best exports from my hometown of Aachen in terms of music, touring and the like. Also, they are a bunch of really nice and fun guys to hang out with, that’s always a plus. But last and cetainly not least: they are giving away their current album “Idee:Mensch” (Idea: Human) for free. So if you might like what you hear here, you can check out the whole package free of charge.
Longing For Tomorrow is a 3-piece Indie / Post-Hardcore/ Punk Rock outfit, that evolved out of a 4-piece Screamo/Post-Hardcore band. As one might guess from the name, early works were completely in English, the band has moved to German lyrics though. They constantly tour, and after a very successful tour through Brazil in late 2009, the band will depart to Russia soon and return to South America later this year.
Below you find some of my personal favorites from “Idee:Mensch”. Check out the bands MySpace for a free download of the album.
Longing For Tomorrow – Was uns bleibt
Longing For Tomorrow – Gipfelstuermer
Longing For Tomorrow – Blickes Fang
Tags: free, indie, Longing For Tomorrow
Dubstep? The question mark is important; that beat sure ain’t 2-step. But if dubstep is going to grow into something else entirely – something for the mainstream album listeners – let’s hope it’s as good as this pulsating, emotive epic. It’s like listening to Skream’s awesome remix of La Roux’s “In for the Kill”, except it doesn’t have La Roux on it (and that’s gotta be considered a huge improvement, right?)
Super limited deluxe special editions of albums (I think I got all of the adjectives) are getting a bit ridiculous. On one hand, I think it’s really awesome that there are bands out there who want to give the fans a little something extra, but then I realize that most “special editions” contain some shitty, half-assed DVD that has thirty minutes of footage (if you’re lucky) about what five of the songs are about.
The horrible thing is, I will almost always buy the special edition even though logic has proven time and time again that it is a total waste of money. And do I legitimize my purchase by watching the DVD/listening to the bonus tracks/utilizing surround sound technology to hear Opeth’s Still Life in a whole new light? Nope. I very rarely take advantage of the band’s decision to bestow insight into their writing process and/or the things they do while they’re on their tour bus or inside their tour van. Here is a list of some of the bonus content that I have done absolutely nothing with:
- The DVD included with Underoath’s Lost In The Sound Of Separation. It’s worth mentioning here that I bought both the special edition of the CD that came with the DVD, and the special vinyl box set that also includes the CD and DVD. So I have two Underoath DVDs that I will most likely never, ever watch. But hey, 10″ vinyl in the shape of a sawblade!
Sweden has always had a strong DIY culture. Look no further than the brand name most famously exported from the Scandinavians, IKEA, for an indication of the trait. Easy, self-assembled and stylish furniture, much like the music that the nations independent scene has made its name with. Where the status quo of mainstream pop music in most other countries is that of record executives with dollar signs for pupils and the incendiary scorn of independent/niche fans, Sweden owes a huge part of its musical history to the genre; ask anyone to name a Swedish artist and seminal pop act ABBA will undoubtedly fall from their lips, and for good reason. ABBA may in fact have been the most important group ever to emerge out of the country. As well as lighting the world up with hustle inducing hits like “Waterloo” and “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)”, they encouraged a nation to let loose their inhibitions and muster up the confidence to write music in English; simple, excellent pop songs, kooky accent and all. Bands like Roxette (of “Listen to your Heart” fame) and The Cardigans followed suit, creating intelligent, accessible pop that lit up the charts throughout the 90’s, with the former registering four #1 singles in the US and dozens more UK Top 40 hits.
Looking specifically at the contemporary state of the independent scene, you wouldn’t have to go further than the…
“Sunnyside” is the kind of song that I’ve been waiting for from Kaki King.Stripped down and honest, it’s her first song that aims right for the heartstrings. She’s had material that has come close, but it has always missed the emotional mark due to a greater concern with showing off just how good a guitarist she is. Not only is “Sunnyside” an F-you to those that proclaimed her just another songwriter playing shallow background music, it may just have the best use of the word “wiener dog” in the history of music.
After a long hiatus from the blog, I am determined to return in magnificent splendor. In this simple and unassuming post, you’ll find no less than 3 stellar tracks for your listening pleasure. Enjoy.
Gold Panda – You
The Mary Onettes – The Night Before the Funeral
Genre: Indie Pop
DOM – Burn Bridges
As any Sputnik regular will know, a couple of the staffers here have got a thing going on for UK hip-hop; Orphans of Cush did gatecrash our 2009 top 50 at an impressive #27, after all. You might have realized, too, that the latest record from the scene to makes among us is Devil May Cry by Iron Braydz.
Now, I couldn’t tell you why, but something about Braydz made me cast my mind back to the early part of last decade, when UK garage was just beginning to turn into grime, and British urban music has a stranglehold on UK radio and people still gave a crap about the MOBOs. So Solid Crew were absolutely massive then. Hell, they were probably the biggest band in the country, regardless of country; they genuinely revolutionized UK rap. Angus Batey pointed out as much in a recent Guardian interview with the group’s lynchpin Megaman, while the band still gets respect in the scene; Durrty Goodz, on the state-of-the-nation address “Switching Songs”, acknowledged the change they brought to the UK garage scene.
‘Deep basslines and a load of energy
That lyric encapsulates why the band were never really embraced…
Belfast’s finest vocal-averse rock troupe And So I Watch You From Afar stepped into the Music Maker in Dublin city centre a couple of weeks back to record the first “Intervention” in association with our friends at State magazine.
The concept of State Intervention is simple: impromptu gigs are arranged in diffuse spots around the city, from music shops and bars to parks and street corners. The featured act is announced on the morning of the gig via Facebook and Twitter, and the whole gig is professionally shot and plastered up all over the internet for the whole world to squeeze and poke and do all sorts of deranged shit to.
And So I Watch You From Afar – ‘S Is For Salamander / Set Guitars To Kill’
Tags: And So I Watch You From Afar, Instrumental rock, Irish, State magazine
The new staff members aren’t yet able to post in the staff blog, so I’m doing my favorite son Adam Thomas a big favor here and posting his blog about this year’s Record Store Day. I’m lending my support to this blog post, as Record Store Day is a big fucking deal for guys like us who buy vinyl and albums that you can’t get at Best Buy, etc. So give Adam your full attention and support your local record stores if you have any! As a sidenote, here are some possible names for his future column: Adam’s Spasms, Adam’s Orgasms, Adam’s Chasms. Just some suggestions.
Just a little reminder for y’all, the fourth annual Record Store Day is this Saturday, April 17th. For those not in the know, Record Store Day is a world wide celebration of independent music retailers, marked by a plethora of special releases from musicians on both major and indie labels, and special in-store appearances by tons of bands both big and small. So why honor the local record shop? Despite the fact that they can at times be a bit more pricey than their superstore counterparts, local record stores foster a sense of community amongst their consumers, stocking albums based on what their clientele want, not based on corporate buggery and marketing deals. This personal touch is what they rely on to survive, and with retail giants like Wal-Mart, Target, and Best Buy holding brick and mortar retail music sales by the balls and…