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
At first I wasn’t sure what to make of this band – they clearly have a knack for accessible songwriting akin to Of Monsters and Men,…
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…
Chris Brooks (keys, vocals), Nate Bergman (vocals, guitar), Henry Upton (bass)
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)
Ashley Riley – All The Pretty Things (Riled Up Records)
Bayside – Cult (Hopless Records)
BossaCucaNova – Our Kind Of Bossa (Six Degrees)
Candice Glover – Music Speaks (Interscope Records) Cynic – Kindly Bent To Free Us (Season Of Mist) – Jacob Royal
The Feeling – Boy Cried Wolf (BMG)
Guided By Voices – Motivational Jumpsuit (Guided By Voices)
I Killed The Prom Queen – Beloved (Epitaph)
Issues – Issues (Rise Records)
The Jezabels – The Brink (PIAS America)
Junius – Days Of The Fallen Sun (Prosthetic Records)
Kevin Seconds – Off Stockton (Rise Records) Lionize – Jetpack Soundtrack – Greg Fisher
Lost In The Trees – Past Life (Anti Records)
Lucy – Churches Schools & Guns (Stroboscopic Artefacts) Phantogram – Voices (Universal/Republic) – Brendan Schroer
Planningtorock – All Love’s Legal (Human Level) Slough Feg – Digital Resistance (Metal Blade) – Adam Thomas
Solids – Blame Conclusion (Fat Possum)
Suzanne Vega – Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles (Amanuensis Productions)
Vales – Wilt & Rise (6131 Records)
We Are The In Crowd – Weird Kids (Hopeless Records)
William Fitzsimmons – Lions (Nettwerk Records)
The other day, I stumbled upon a most brilliant piece of satire: The Chainsmokers’ new single “#SELFIE (out now on typically straight-faced Dim Mak Records). Every single element of the track scoffs at what we’ve taken to be the norm nowadays in the #PLUR region of the musical map, and it does so exquisitely. The satire is so prevalent, in fact, that you’d be hard-pressed to find a single part of “#SELFIE” which doesn’t poke fun at something. The vocal sample is clearly the focal point of this satire – an extended cut from the voice of a woman, most likely drunk and wearing a shirt that says “EAT SLEEP EDM” or “KEEP CALM AND RAVE ON,” as she lauds the hedonistic life of sleazy guys, Instagram filters, Internet stars/models, and clubbin’ in America in the year 2014 (sample anti-poetic gem: “Did you see her? She’s so short, and her dress is so tacky. Who wears cheetah?). And, of course, at the song’s climax, she delivers the clincher, everything The Chainsmokers take to be wrong with today’s scene distilled into five beautiful words: “Let me take a selfie.”
Beyond that wonderful verbal commentary, though, lies an ocean of mouthwatering deceit. Take the song itself, for example: it’s as generic as they come, with two low-register notes repeated over and over again pre-drop and the exact same synth texture post-drop, the standard snare/clap doubling over and over again until a drop that can only be described as “#EPIC,” and repetitive, grating…
We all need feedback. Sure, the more you write, the more you understand what not to do- but the best approach to take with writing can sometimes be an elusive thing. In helping me with my Of Montreal review a couple years back, our dear Rudy pointed out that I used the word “frothy” in a hilariously incorrect way. Even MichaelJordan probably ran his anti-Circle-Takes-The Square reviews by his roommates before shit-posting them onto this site.
“Where are the jabs at the unnecessarily obtuse lyrics, MJ? Elaborate on those, man.”
Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that this is a good time of the year for constructive criticism. Hot on the heels of promotions, some of you ended up with an official title on the site (and an avatar that’s too big, just because why not,) and as a result, want to make sure your writing’s up to snuff. On the other hand, some of you may be wondering why you didn’t land the position for which you aimed- maybe you’re confident with your writing, but don’t know what’s missing. Or perhaps you simply post here because you like talking about your favorite records, and have been looking for more solidified feedback for quite some time.
The point of this blog post is to provide a place on the Sputnik review site where you can post a review in a comment below- and receive feedback fairly soon. Reminder: the forums side of this site has a Proofreading…
Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of February 11, 2014. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.
Abandon All Ships – Malocchio (Rise Records) – DaveyBoy
Aesthetic Perfection – ‘Til Death (Metropolis Records)
Band Of Horses – Acoustic At The Ryman (Brown Records)
Cashmere Cat – Wedding Bells (LuckyMe)
Cibo Matto – Hotel Valentine (Virtual Label)
Clan Of Xymox – Matters Of The Mind, Body & Soul (Metropolis Records)
Death Of Samantha – If Memory Serves Us Well (St. Valentine Records)
Eric Church – The Outsiders (Universal Nashville)
The Fleshtones – Wheel Of Talent (Yep Roc Records)
Frankie Ballard – Sunshine & Whiskey (Warner Nashville) The Glitch Mob – Love Death Immortality (Glass Air) – Will Robinson
Helms Alee – Sleepwalking Sailors (Sargent House)
Jay Malinowski & The Deadcoast – Martel (Pirates Blend/Sony Music Canada)
Katy B – Little Red (Rinse/Columbia)
Loners Society – King City Sessions (Autumn + Colour)
Maggie McClure – Time Moves On (Maggie McClure Music)
Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All (Run For Cover Records)
Neil Finn – Dizzy Heights (Lester Records)
Noah Gundersen – Ledges (Dualtone Music Group)
Sam Roberts Band – Lo-Fantasy (Paper Bag Records)
Sun Kil Moon – Benji (Caldo Verde)
Temples – Sun Structures (Fat Possum Records)
Thumpers – Galore (Sub Pop)
Tinariwen – Emmaar (Anti Records)
††† – ††† (Sumerian)
As a listener, there’s no greater feeling than when an album unexpectedly clicks on all levels. This happened to me about a month ago, when Hanging Garden’s third LP, titled At Every Door, suddenly felt like the greatest thing ever in the early, desolate morning hours. Granted, the album was a success with both me and the public when it came out in the January of last year, but it was only about a month ago that I grew to fully appreciate it and its transcendental qualities. In order to celebrate this personal revelation, I contacted the Finnish melodic doom metallers to learn a little more about all things Hanging Garden. They happily responded to my inquiries and thus this e-mail interview was born. The questions were answered by the band’s vocalist, Toni Toivonen, to whom At Every Door was the first record with Hanging Garden.
Hi! How have things been rolling in the Hanging Garden camp lately?
Hi! Quite well. We are actively composing new material for future releases, and have been doing a handful of gigs to promote our latest 7“ EP. Furthermore we just recently released a new music video for the track “Will You Share this Ending With me?”.
It’s been almost exactly a year since you released your third studio album, titled At Every Door. How has the past year been for Hanging Garden and how happy have you been with the reception of said album?
I bit the bullet and started cleaning my office today. I love being organized, but I hate cleaning. Do I really need to save notebooks and folders from undergrad courses that I’ll never crack open again? Even my graduate studies binder isn’t really connected to what I do today.
I'd show you the pages, but they're kinda sticky…
It was my good buddy’s birthday today, and although he’s in a different province now, we still have a chat every now and then about music past and present. He reminded me of one of our conversations last year, where we were debating about whether or not we were going to go to our 10-year reunion, which quickly segued into talking about the gigs we went to in high school. In 2003, our favorite gig was the immense Summer Sanitarium tour, which was a nu metal delight: Metallica, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Deftones, and Mudvayne.
It’s funny in a way, because Summer Sanitarium 2003 (~$46,000,000) outsold Ozzfest (~$23,000,000) and Lollapalooza (~$14,000,000) combined. Granted, Summer Sanitarium was the only stadium-driven tour that summer (save for Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band, who had a small run).
As our conversation progressed, we talked about bands that have aged well from that list (he is an avid Deftones fan) and bands that have fallen off our individual radars a bit (he didn’t believe me that Alien Ant Farm are releasing a new album this…
Austin-based Destroyer Of Light have just released their second EP, Bizarre Tales Vol. 2. While their lyrics still revolve around the ghastly horror stories, the quartet do a fine job of not repeating themselves musically. In contrast to their debut EP, which can be labelled as Black Sabbath-echoing traditional doom metal, the new release delves headfirst into a melodic sludge metal realm of Mastodon’s ilk. Instrumental opener ‘Battlefield Girth’ sounds monolithic due to its wondrous interplay of crushingly heavy riffs and hypnotic soloing, while the gloriously titled ‘Forbidden Zombi Ritual’ may be the band’s most accessible tune with infectious melodicism permeating both vocal harmonies and bewitching guitar leads. The remaining tracks see the band placing a greater focus on song progression while retaining a penchant for memorable riffs. Frontman Steve Colca augments the shift in style with howling vocals which sound more assured than before. In fact, Destroyer Of Light are growing rapidly as both songwriters and musicians, and Bizarre Tales Vol. 2 proves how versatile and expansive they can be. May the power of the riff compel you!
Here’s what singer/guitarist Steve Colca had to say about each number:
‘Battlefield Girth’ – It was one of the first Destroyer Of Light songs that we ever wrote, and decided to put it on this EP. We figured the song didn’t require vocals; so, we went with a heavy instrumental to start the album off.
I could go on and on about the vitality of Death Grips’ music — even if I myself don’t happen to be one of their bigger fans — so I won’t. Instead I would like to talk a minute about the forgotten legacy of Huey Lewis and his band, The News. If memory serves me right, Huey Lewis and the News came into existence around the same time the J Geils Band wrote that shit stain of a song “Centerfold”, and basically they rode that sound until it died a couple years later. It’s quintessentially mid-1980’s — which means it both sucks and rules at the same time. Think the same sort of stupid kitsch nostalgia that makes you order a Canadian Whiskey even though you know Crown Royal is nothing more than water and brown. Anyways, in that time frame Huey Lewis and the News released what is known in most circles as “The Whitest Album Ever Made” with 1983’s Sports. The song “It’s Hip to Be Square” isn’t on that album, but for all I care about it should be because then it would have been even more of a classic album in the same way Snow’s breakthrough single “Informer” is.
Quebec City-based Sandveiss burst onto the stoner rock scene by dropping their excellent debut, Scream Queen, in December. Effectively blending strong booming riffs with a hefty dose of blues-echoing grooves, enticing melodies and rock’n’roll swagger, this young group have already made a name for themselves in the saturated scene. In between the rehearsals for their shows in and around Quebec, Canada, the band have found some time to answer a string of questions for SputnikMusic.
Since you guys are an emerging band, tell everyone how did the whole project start?
(Luc) The idea of the project was born in my head 6 or 7 years ago. As the years past, I found myself to jam my ideas with different musicians. After building a couple of song structures with another drummer, I met Dan Girard (bass) who rapidly joined the band. For the next couple of months we worked on arranging the songs as a trio. At a certain point we had no drummer and Dzemal Trtak joined in. A couple of weeks passed as a trio, we decided to recruit a lead singer, that person was François Couture. With this lineup, we recorded a 4 track EP (Dead Man Stare, Do You Really Know, Untie Me and Green For Gold). The name of the band was chosen right before the release of the EP in March…
It’s Sputnik Music’s honor to provide the exclusive stream for the self-titled album of Portland-based progressive pop rock band Icarus the Owl. The album is set for release on Friday, February 7th in the U.S.
Icarus the Owl is the result of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, whose net effect yielded the band the production mettle of the acclaimed Kris Crummett (A Lot Like Birds’ No Place, Closure in Moscow’s First Temple, all of Dance Gavin Dance’s earlier records and many more.) This change is a subtle one, as Crummett works within the reach of what’s familiar to Icarus the Owl- but his contributions to the group’s sound work wonders.
In terms of the music, this is the most cohesive and memorable Icarus the Owl have ever sounded. Songs like “Flint and Steel” are sure to entice newcomers, while deeper cuts like “Input. Time. Destruct.” will make long-term fans out of them. Those that found joy in the group’s 2012 release Love Always, Leviathan are sure to see the same kindling flame in Icarus the Owl- the experience just feels more intuitive this around.
Icarus the Owl can be bought at any major digital music retailer once it drops next Friday.