‘Sufjan Stevens is the Picasso of indie folk. He takes the soothing NPR/car commercial sounds we know and love for their warmth and familiarity and says “Nope” and farts in our faces.’ – V. Dreth
Sufjan Stevens is indeed the most ubiquitous, evasive, phlegmatic chameleon of our times (the indie ones), and represents many a thing to many a chum. To Pangea, he represents comfort and joy. To Pheromone, he represents balance and gay. To johnnyoftheWell and MarsKid, he represents being sick to death of the press circuit around which his latest effort Javelin is still running many a lap in this limpest of years. Now, KILL or KEEP has always been about pluralism (usually in the form of severe fucking death), and as a result we are going in! Into Illinois! Everyone has something to say about this one: the songs are endless, the possibilities are infinitesimal and the classic status is, yes sure okay you get it. What will our takeaways be? Will we sync or swim (in the Maynardian sense) as a team? Only Sufjan has the answers…
The team is johnnyoftheWell and MarsKid and Pangea and Pheromone.
Every song must either be KILLed or KEEPed.
There is no minimum KILL threshold.
Every time a song is KILLed, the KILLer must name a location that Sufjan Stevens should have…
This interview was conducted and formatted by user Slex
After a ten year hiatus in which the band remained hard at work, beloved (at least on Sput) alternative rock band There Will Be Fireworks have finally returned with a follow-up to the cult classic The Dark Dark Bright. Ahead of the impending release of Summer Moon on November 3rd I was able to correspond with Nicholas McManus (vocals, synths, guitar) and Adam Ketterer (drums).
The first question I have is, did you guys ever feel burdened by the legacy of The Dark Dark Bright? At least on Sput it was hailed by many as an instant classic, did that shadow ever loom as you guys worked on Summer Moon?
NM: I think it’s all relative. We’re aware that there are these amazing little pockets online that still love The Dark, Dark Bright – and we’re really appreciative of that and humbled by it – but we’re equally aware that in the grand scheme of things we’re a little DIY band self-releasing records to a small audience. To be honest, we kind of thought everyone would have forgotten about us anyway. It wasn’t until we re-released The Dark, Dark Bright on vinyl earlier this year that we realised how many people still cared. There’s a certain freedom that comes from all that. Also, we don’t do this for a living, we’re not actively involved in any scene and we’ve not been playing shows, so for most of the last ten…
someone walks into a bar. It’s someone. I am johnnyoftheWell. It was a slow afternoon, and there we were. KILL or KEEP? Aye, why not – which record? Several meaningful opuses were teased, all of them beyond the space of our timeslot. Where does gravity default to on a slow afternoon? Well… has anyone ever listened to Phoebe Bridgers on a fast afternoon? Is such a thing even possible? Please do contact us immediately if you have pulled this off. We signed our rights away. It was time: time to get punished! Has her downer norm-magnet SowingSeason “5.0 Classic” passport to all of social media all the bloody time throughout the whole pandemic aged well? Time to find out…
The team is johnnyoftheWell, and someone.
Every song must either be KILLed or KEEPed.
There is no minimum KILL threshold.
Every time a song is KILLed, the KILLer must name a vaguely Boygenius-adjacent artist whomst’ve the youthes should be consuming instead.
jotW: Um, I expect little from this album and am ready for anything? It has disappointed me many times and probably aged more than anyone including me is/was prepared to admit. This is very exciting boy I can’t wait to see what someone does to it.
someone: I remember listening to the record a bunch back in the…
Music has had a bad year. Sputnik has had a bad year. Awful things have happened, and the jury is still out on who to blame — silly jury! They should spend less time pointing their fingers and more time clapping their hands at the one user who can save us. After a randomised selection of noble volunteers, it was determined by fated that this user would none other than the site’s longtime dismantler of philosophies, distorter of diets, shredder of manchildren, encourager of all the most unlikely and profane interests, BaselineOOO! Here she is! There will be no images: hush and look at Baseline’s words.
* * * * *
jotW: Greetings BaselineOOO, lucky winner of the Sputnik Interview Raffle. You have appeared before us today to save Sputnik. How does this feel?
BaselineOOO: Hello, Sputnik! Baseline at your service, or should I say, at your rescue? Honestly, I’m resonating with this whole “saviour” thing, my messianic syndrome is tingling. It feels like finding a glitch in reality and riding it. Saving Sputnik? Don’t I do that every day with my succulent comments? Should be like just another day at the office for me!
jotW: Let me explain the rules: I will write in italics and you will not write in italics, otherwise the interview will break and you can’t save Sputnik. I will ask you questions and you will try to answer them. You may ask me questions in response and…
This feature is part of a newly-rebooted series aimed at exploring the discographies of interesting and/or important bands whose wider body of work is often overlooked on this site. There will be lots of words and a few pictures, but the main deal is that if a band features here, they are good and you should listen to them! And if you already jam them, hit up the comments and explain where and why I went wrong! Get going!
With Souvlaki‘s 30th anniversary back in June and Just for a Day’s 32nd just last week (along with a new LP, Everything is Alive), it is time to remember this greatest of it is time to dive once into the shoe, to gaze once more at the slow. I’m going to cover every individual release here (no comps!), and I ended up doing it so quickly that I entirely forgot that Frippertronics actually made his own version of this list in 2017 until I was 75% of the way through. Six years and…
The year is 2023 and rock ‘n’ roll is officially dead in the ground, as recently cemented by Queens of the Stone Age’s latest record In Times New Roman. Sad? Well lemme tell you, this time ten years ago many thought the same – they thought rock’s parent bands had split up prematurely, failed to split up at a dignified age, failed to move with the times, or flat-out lost its grit. Radiohead had once promised us the future: the future was Muse, Coldplay and The Killers. The future haemorrhaged its savings accounts on Chinese Democracy and The Endless River and left a creative dearth so dearth-like that we are today surviving our way through the legacies-to-be of Black Midi and The 1975 because the hacks finally have someone to talk about again.
Dad said everything would be okay as long as rock ‘n’ roll could save us. Fuck you, dad.
Back in the ’10s people thought rock had failed to find new parents. They were (dubiously, but prevailingly) wrong! Radio rock didn’t need a stepdad – it needed a dad who stepped up! The dad was Josh Homme, second only to Dave Grohl on extending gruff-pop-music-played-on-guitars’ lease on popular life, allowing us to remember and savour that ten years before that, the man was churning out classic bangers to which good, dumb, good times were (probably) had in fraternal multitudes.…
I had benefitted greatly from her care and yet I had always kept my heart hard to her, believing that if Weezer did make it, I would want to be free for the many superior options I imagined would be available to me.
– Rivers Cuomo on his on-off relationship with Jennifer Chiba (later Elliott Smith’s girlfriend)
No further preamble on this one (here it is): KILL or KEEP is back in full swing, and to celebrate our return with maximum hubris, we decided to sidestep our usual brief for bloated opuses in need of a butcher’s trim. Instead, we tumble headlong into one of the worst records ever made.
At a poxy 35 minutes, Weezer’s cursed flagship record Pinkerton might as well be a doe in the headlights here – can KILL or KEEP do justice to such a fragile ego death album with such, uh, vast horsepower behind it and Pheromone’s egregiously powerful foot at the wheel? What kind of justice can we do for a man like Rivers Cuomo, whose entire existence is itself above justice, logic and humanity? Let’s see…
The team is jesperL,johnnyoftheWell, and Pheromone.
Every song must either be KILLed or KEEPed.
There is no minimum KILL threshold. There was no need for a maximum KEEP threshold.
Phero: This is a sexy album. It is an album about sex. It…
At the start of KILL or KEEP Vol.9 (Taylor Swift – Red), we promised we were getting back together.
But then, at the end of that KILL or KEEP, we broke up again.
It took some time, but an elite KILL or KEEP hitsquad eventually assembled for a champion assignment album party. It was time to do the inevitable: to look back in time, to a time before 100 gecs, before Whorecore-gate, before nu-gaze,, before retroism decided Linkin Park were good actually, and to start directly into the face of the modern music landscaping capitalism egotism vortexes. That’s right. We were to examine a record that changed the shape of commercial hip-hop and wiped its arse across the whole consenting pop landscape including, as of now the good pages of KILL or KEEP. It was a proper comeback and we took the elevator up to the top. Can we get much higher? Is he too high? Too big for his boots? If so, just you watch as we KILL him down to size.
Without further ado, I give you: Kanye West…what do you even say about the man?
The team isjohnnyoftheWell, normaloctagon, Pheromoneand Windowpain.
Every song must either be KILLed or KEEPed.
We played with a specialrule:Every song KILLed must be accompanied by a cancellable take that Kanye himself has not yet said.
Tim Hecker’s discography is a patchwork of ambient treasures, as rewarding to the deepest pursuits of one’s navel as it is deceptively tourist-friendly. As such, in honour of his latest album, No Highs, the Staff team has undertaken to give it the Treatment. Here are our picks! Patience goes a long way with Mr. Hecker, and so we have taken a generous length of time to absorb No Highs and reflect on the rest of his corpus. We hope the wait has been worth it.
Tim Hecker’s music feels natural and synthetic at the same time; it’s therefore no wonder that he’s been drafted mercilessly into the ranks of Forward-Thinking Electronic Artists in the early part of the 21st century, with its various temporally specific concerns about the divisions between the kinds of artistic “decisions” made by a computer program and those made by those with eyes to see cathedrals everywhere.…
Another year, another grid! Yes, yes, half a year late, but I couldn’t live with myself if there was a gap year, and I couldn’t risk letting such beautiful (or decidedly not beautiful) album covers go unnoticed. As always, this list is neither ranked nor listed in any logical order, but rather ordered through an aesthetic progression of color, framing, and connective imagery. This is by no means an exhaustive (though it was exhausting) list of 2022’s best album artwork, but I did do my best to provide covers of varied styles, genres, and backgrounds. I’m sure some will let me know if I didn’t succeed! For now, I’ll let the artworks speak for themselves.
It is 2023, and SputStaff is back. The time is right now and the occasion is (checks notes) the release of the latest Metallica album-that-now-exists 72 Seasons! We did our best to get inspired from that record’s impetus and momentum and, uh, given that it’s now been out for over a month, we’ll leave it up to you to decide how easy a feat this was! In all sincerity, though, practically all of us jive with ‘tallica to some degree or another and in terms of ballots alone, this might have been the most full-handed collaboration of the lot. Please enjoy probably the least controversial selection of Metallica classics of all time (and righteously so!), freshly critiqued for your consumption.
In an alternate universe, “Blackened” is the kickoff to an imperial second era of classic thrash; in ours, it’s the last time Metallica ever managed to out-Metallica themselves. …And Justice for All needed to instantly satiate the ravenous appetite of a metal world…
I don’t usually like writing about, recording or otherwise chronicling live performances out of respect for the integrity of the moment, or whatever, and in Ichiko Aoba’s case, this effect is so pronounced that I avoid the whole live side of her discography in spite the intimidating levels of acclaim heaped on it. I know what she sounds like live and I would rather revisit my own memories than hear a recording (unpick the cognitive dissonance here as you see fit). This time was different; this show had pronounced discursive questions floating over it, mainly to do with the popularity spike Aoba has enjoyed since I last saw her, but also her incorporation of chamber arrangements into otherwise spartan solo performances. Given the factors that originally made her so compelling to me, I’ve always treated both of these with a certain amount of suspicion, which translated into very clearly defined expectations and reservations for this show; in puzzling out my own answers to these, I inadvertently ended up with ample material for a decent-sized feature. So, in we go:
This was my third time seeing Ichiko Aoba, and she now commands a decidedly larger international following than on the first two (both 2019). Those shows were spent cross-legged on pub floors, spellbound by her tiny figure lit by a single lamp in the middle of whichsoever space, keenly aware of the inhalation and drink-sippingrates of what felt like every other person in the space. Her performances were…
Hello and welcome to the future of Sputnik’s recently rebooted, charm offending, hernia cleansing, fool hunting, wokeshopping mania avenue for the brave and brainless. Staff Wars is back! This is where we stick members of the Staff team against the wall and interview them within an inch of their lives. Steel yourself as impossible questions are posed and the Staffers you’d never had the courage to approach before surpass your wildest expectations.
Today’s subject is an adorable young bean of Good Sput Stock, so fresh-faced that I originally misremembered the number of years he has been on Staff by a factor of 0.5 (this has been edited and I have been shamed). His penmanship is pointy, his reverence is zany and his charm is a gosh darned weapon. Please welcome: AsleepintheBack!
AsleepintheBack hi. What day/time is it and how is your day?
I am somewhere in France on a Wednesday evening after a most adequate day thanking you I hope you are swell.
What are you jamming at this moment?
The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble – Here Be Dragons (thank you MoM).
Hmm. Let’s break some ice: what can humans learn from birds?
How to fall with style (penguins exempted).
Love penguins. Which problematic historical figure do you find most attractive?
I’d bang Stalin tbh (he can Soviet my Union, wink wink etc.).
Yikes hot, great! Now, the question on everyone’s lips: why are you named after an Elbow album?
God knows lol. My dad likes Elbow. I like my dad. There was probably some further reasoning between those two…
Hello and welcome to the futureof Sputnik’s recently rebooted, charm offending, hernia cleansing, fool hunting, wokeshopping mania avenue for the brave and brainless. Staff Wars is back! This is where we stick members of the Staff team against the wall and interview them within an inch of their lives. Steel yourself as impossible questions are posed and the Staffers you’d never had the courage to approach before surpass your wildest expectations.
Today is dedex. No fancy introductions, for you know him, for he is Sputnik. What is Sputnik, this Sputnik, this Sputnik you speak of? It is dedex (you fool)! dedex is the still-in-his-prime mentor figure they put in the tutorial level so you have an idea of the character the game narrative wants you to level up to. The game is Sputnik (and you, uh, win or you die); he is the mascot and you can talk to him and learn from him, but can you be him? Hell no! And now he is Staff! Let’s go:
dedex HELLO! Welcome to SputStaff 2023! How do you feel?
First of all HELLO!!
Well I feel good because I’m staff lol. In all seriousness, life is hectic but in a good way, which is basically the best way to live, right?? Or not, I’m tired.
Is there anything I can do for you before this interview starts?
Please be a good boi!
Okay – psych?!!? – I’m just nervous full of giggles because this is both the first Staff Wars in a year and the first nu-Staffer interview I’ve…
Here we are having already closed the books on January, a month more tied to dearth than plenitude: dearth of sunlight, dearth of warmth, and somehow, usually, a dearth of halfway decent music, as the big consumption season of the holidays spends itself into a kind of productive dormancy. The year so far seems to be belying that notion, as an uncommon number of quality releases are being dug up from the frozen ground and passed around as sustenance through the hard months. The most conspicuous fruit of this early-year gleaning is also, paradoxically, among the most minimalist, and, to be frank, the most musically unremarkable, while still remaining one of its creator’s great artistic statements.
12 is easy to pigeonhole as a mere collection of etudes for piano and synthesizer, a soothing, lukewarm, ambient bath recalling the melancholic tranquility of Satie and Eno, always lovely, but sometimes minimalist to the point of being threadbare in execution. It takes a bit of a deeper reading of the thing for it to open up to the listener, a bit of reflection on what exactly this austere approach is revealing. Ryuichi Sakamoto’s 12 was recorded in the winter of last year, and its threadbare qualities often reflect that; the austerity of its titles, its art, and its music are, in a way, those of the bare clinging on and enduring that life can seem to be during this season. But of…