If you have navigated through the vast interweb desert in search of great, up-to-date music, then I present to you the oasis. As part of a new feature here at Sputnik, we are composing a quarterly mixtape of sorts – one where black metal can be found alongside indie, and where staff and user tastes coalesce into one reliable knowledge bank. Here, any registered user can submit one song from this year that they feel stands above the pack. Below is a list of some of our favorite songs from the first three months of 2012. Feel free to listen to our selections, browse the descriptions, or even register and submit your own song for next time!
Special Thanks To The Contributing Writers For This Issue:
Klap4Music / OnlyAnchors / Tyraelxy / Clercqie / FelixCulpa / OmahaStylee94 / Crysis / Emim / InnocentShadow / Blackbelt54 / ChuckTheMan / Greg84 / AliW1993 / Sanders / SowingSeason / Patrickfannon / Dimsim3478 / Monsterpoptart / Theacademy / Dimor
So without further ado, I present to you (in no particular order) the first installment of Sputnik’s Infinite Playlist!
Orbital – “Straight Sun”
Yeah, we all know how reunion tours/albums/productions are mostly cash grabs for the artists involved. Why should we waste our time (and money) on those poor, rehashed ideas when we can instead relive the better times? In the case of the British dance gods of Orbital, things may prove to be very different, however. Their new album (and first in ten years, titled Wonky) will drop in April, and if we base our opinions on the forwarded singles ‘Never’ and – especially – ‘Straight Sun’, it will be huuuuuge. Lush piano loops, eery, futuristic synth lines, deep bass and crystal clear beats that are every inch as good as the ones from the glory days: I’m so in for this – and you should be too.
First Aid Kit – “Emmylou”
The two Swedish sisters (Klara and Johanna Söderbeg) that created First Aid Kit got their name, and their beautiful harmonies, by covering Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” on YouTube, a video that’s now gathered just short of a million views. Emmylou is the second single from The Lion’s Roar and it pays tribute to the likes of Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, June Carter and Johnny Cash. On the song, the gals’ vocals combine perfectly with twangy guitars and an upbeat melody. And it’s hard not to marvel at the beauty of Klara Söderbegs vocals along with the lone acoustic guitar around the 3:20 mark.
Abyssal – “Celestial Dictatorship”
Listening to Abyssal is like listening to my own personal soundtrack to the collapse of society. I couldn’t imagine it being anything else, because their sound is so cataclysmic and world-ending that to call it appropriate in any situation but the decline of civilization is just foolish. Heaviness is arbitrary if it lacks the atmospheric force to back it up, so believe me when I say that “Celestial Dictatorship” is immense; so crushing and destitute are the riffs and so precisely does this 9-minute monolith build itself you would think that these guys would already be masters of their craft. You would be wrong, because Denouement is the debut LP from this UK-based act, and is nothing short of astounding, not only because of its songwriting prowess but because of its ability to bend the genre in ways not quite orthodox. There is subtle melody underneath the dissonance, there is real emotion behind the noise, and “Celestial Dictatorship” is the apocalypse turned aural. “In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay” – Ernst Fischer.
Zelliack – “Autumn in Analog”
Zelliack finds Elliot Coleman abandoning all traces of Sky Eats Airplanes and Tesseract for a change in style to that of the acoustically fueled project. Opener ‘Autumn in Analog’ is the perfect introduction to Zelliack; combining soothing melodies with swooning vocals, the song becomes a journey in itself. The lyrics burst to life with each note hit by Elliot. While nothing extravagant, ‘Autumn in Analog’ proves that beauty is to be found in the simplest of things. “I view the sun as something to obey, evaporating puddles like it’s just another day ”
Loma Prieta – “Fly By Night”
Loma Prieta have outdone themselves in creating the fantastic slab of noise that is I.V.’s opener ‘Fly By Night’. It creates a great balance between its heavy and melodic sections, always having that distinctive sloppiness but ultimately remaining focused. Anyone looking for a great way to kick off 2012 should definitely give I.V. some of their time; it’s well worth it.
Dartagnan – “My Friend Steve”
This is definitely one of the catchiest pop-punk songs I’ve heard in a long time. It’s melodic, uptempo, and bursting with energy. The songs starts off with a fast-paced bassline, and then the singer jumps in over some intense punk chords. The tasty punk riffs dance around in your ears, and you’ll try to sing along even though you can’t understand half of the words. This band does the whole “pop-punk” thing better than most bands around today. Go download Breadwinner, Dartagnan’s debut EP which features this song, for free on their bandcamp page.
Geographer – “Life of Crime”
Geographer fits in quite nicely with your synth-oriented indie outfits – your Starfucker, your Discovery – but the rub isn’t in the electronics or spot-on melodies, but rather in Michael Deni’s voice, which could more fittingly be likened to that of an angel (or Ra Ra Riot’s Wes Miles, if we’re going by earthly comparisons). It’s his soaring alto that directs everything with soulful ease, but it’s also Nathan Blaz’s electric cello and the careful layering of electronic effects, filters and reverbs and loops stacked precariously on top of each other, that make Geographer more than just your average electro band. Their second LP, Myth, came out on Modern Art at the end of February – “Life of Crime” opens that record in typically triumphant Geographer fashion.
Ana Tijoux – “Desclasificado”
Many who rep Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux do so because of the way she integrates her biting lyricism with a seductive, inviting delivery in order to breathe a genuine conflict into her brand of “Art-ivista” hip-hop. La Bala (released January 31) can (and will) floor you on these grounds, but I find myself taken aback by the record’s production as well. “Desclasificado,” is futile and ominous, with a haunting orchestral background for Tijoux’s flow—which, as always, alternates between inviting and piercing, building up in a way that favors the latter.
Imminent Sonic Destruction – “Monster”
Going into 2012 one thing I didn’t expect to find was a band reminiscent of the middle 90’s era Dream Theater; that’s what Imminent Sonic Destruction has brought to the plate. I.S.D, as commonly abbreviated, is a band out of Detroit that was recently featured on Guitar World’s Unsigned Spotlight. I started listening not knowing what to expect. What I got was heavy, in-your-face riffage and thumping bass. In their track “Monster” it begins with the said riffage. Then you hear the singer come in and soon the chorus starts and in the background are some more prog-type synths. However the best part of this song is around 4:10. The vocalist has decent cleans that could use some work, but has excellent harsh vocal abilities. Around this time the onslaught of groove oriented, djent-like guitars start up again and things get very heavy. Overall this band, Imminent Sonic Destruction, while reminding me of the famous Dream Theater, are much heavier…and there is hardly any unnecessary wankary. I think this band will do well in the long run, and they certainly have something special going on right now.
Hodgy Beats- “Hidgashi Loves You”
On this new mixtape, OF member Hogdy makes a startling change of pace. This is probably the least OF sounding song that has been put out by one of their members. Hodgy may have been known as a mediocre rapper compared to other OF members but he has made significant upgrades to his flow and rhyme schemes. Hodgy’s soulful production and improved rapping makes this a definite standout this year.
Relations – “Never Change”
A number of breakups plagued music in 2011, particularly in the post-hardcore scene with the dissolution of arguably the genre’s greatest giants, Thursday and Thrice. You may remember the devastating two days upon which these two breakups fell, but the collapse of yet another band, Harbours, went unnoticed on the day of November 23rd, only a day following Thursday’s departure and two after Thrice’s. Personally, I found this to be the most disappointing of all. While Thrice and Thursday had left their mark on the post-hardcore genre and gone out with a bang through their respective latest releases, Harbours had barely scratched the surface in the brewing Californian underground hardcore scene. Their potential was undeniable, especially considering their year in releases…but to be honest, they had achieved nothing beyond the intriguing. Despite this, they were well on the road towards brilliance. With their breakup, all hope of a glorious, fully-formed record was lost.
But this hope was rekindled through one word, presented through a single post on Harbours’ Facebook page: “Relations”. From that post to the release of their debut EP, Summits, on March 1st, Relations had escalated from a mere rumour to something very special. The band, formed from the heart and soul of Harbours – Matthew Guittierez (vocals) and Raymond Bolado (guitar) – is furious and epic, yet simple and balanced. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than on Summits’ opener “Never Change”, composed of a malevolent Touché Amoré-like blast of hardcore, a veritable dance of instruments and masked screams, and a final, powerful outro of delay pedals, start-stop drums crashes and guitar stomps…not to mention those haunting final words, “everything I did, I did for you”.
This is just the dawning of Relations (much like the morning sunrise depicted on the EP cover), yet the band has already formed so well. Summits is what Harbours should have been, and fortells a bright future for one of the most promising new acts of 2012. Let’s just hope the world doesn’t end.
Veils – “Caves (Anxiety)”
‘Caves (Anxiety)’ by Veils is a hard hitting, dynamic track that should have fans of modern Screamo/Skramz keeping an eye out for future releases from this young UK group. Coming off of Clarity, an absolute beast of an EP, ‘Caves’ is a song that contains the tendencies of most recent Emo bands: fast paced vocals from singers that sound like they’re on the verge of tears, poetic lyrics, and a fondness for build-ups that explode at just the right moment. The first minute of the song is an unrelenting assault of pounding drums and hectic guitars that gradually slow down to a much more vocal-focused second half, in a style particularly similar to bands like Pianos Become the Teeth. While they have most definitely not reinvented the wheel, there are more than enough shifts and fantastic moments to make this song (and EP) a must-grab for any fan of the genre. Also, the singer happens to be one of the most powerful and impressive female vocalists in a genre almost completely dominated by men, so if you’re looking for a tiny bit of diversity in your Screamo or just want to be damn impressed, check this song out.
Cloud Nothings – “Our Plans”
Cloud Nothings stormed their fans with their surprising, roughshod sophomore album, “Attack on Memory.” With “Our Plans”, Cloud Nothings explore the seductive, alluring dark side of post-punk; bassline firmly Joy Division-esque, guitars both icy and fuzzy, at once cascading, note after note, lockstep with the bass. “No one knows our plans for us. We won’t, last long.” The sentiment is bleak, the vocals organically dry and searching, and the track is groovy against all reasonable hope. This is surely one of the finest, sneakiest, most unassuming songs of 2012. It’s fantastic.
Field Music – “Sorry Again, Mate”
Field Music is a band that simply can’t sit still long enough to get boring. Their music is continuously evolving within itself, rapidly turning one corner after another while incorporating as many styles and influences as possible. “Sorry Again, Mate” is a perfect representation of their sound, beginning with clunky percussion and slightly awkward guitars before delving into soft, airy pianos that eventually give rise to one of the most prolific sounding choruses of the still-young year. Just as you think the song is ready to die down, it prances into a random spurt of kazoo-sounding “ba-da-ba-das” before resplendently erupting into one last glorious refrain.
Inme – “Reverie Shores”
InMe, an alternative metal band from Essex, UK, have often been perceived as wallowing in mediocrity since releasing their debut Overgrown Eden in 2003. That album, while inconsistent, could have been a decent spring-board for the alt-metal band’s career. However, InMe failed to capitalise commercially on the success of their debut, despite producing consistently underappreciated material over the next decade. Their latest album, The Pride, showcases the catchy choruses of their 2005 album White Butterfly whilst retaining the technicality of their later works such as 2007’s Daydream Anonymous. ‘Reverie Shores’ is the first track from this album, and typifies the above, with a soaring chorus and a technical showcase from guitarist and front-man Dave McPherson. Although the lyrics may still lack maturity, one can’t deny that the band have successfully developed their sound into radio-friendly territory, without completely sacrificing their roots.
Epica – “Storm the Sorrow”
“I have always been a fan of Epica, mainly because of their fantastic blend of Simone’s amazing cleans, blasting symphonics, fitting use of growls, and heavy instumentalism. However, I feared that after hearing the amazing Design Your Universe, there was only one way to go from there: downhill. Luckily, this track (and the whole album for that matter) shows that Epica are still on top of their game, and that they are willing to keep working on their sound whenever possible. Yes, the lyrics may still be a bit cheesy, but you’ll all forget all about that when you hear just how much tighter their songwriting has become and how much better Simone’s cleans/Mark’s growls fit in this time around. This is a definite improvement over their past work, and further proof that they are, in fact, one of the best things to ever come out of the pigeonholed ‘symphonic metal’ movement.”
Air Tycoon – “Los Angeles”
The sunshine is slowly creeping its way into our lives, while the music gurus are shuffling rabidly through their now-defunct disc collections to find the ingredients to create the ample seasonal soundtrack. Because of the recent technological advances, one can just easily stumble upon an album deserving of the attention, like Air Tycoon’s debut, ‘Winter Purple’. A standout track off the album, “Los Angeles” is one that’s aware of its absurd degree of catchiness. With this knowledge comes an ability to deliver, as Air Tycoon packs only the most essential ingredients into the track. The song’s backbone is the utilization of intricate beats that blend seamlessly with the simple but sweet chords that make the track so stunning in the first place. Technicalities aside, though, the most important facet of this spring anthem from Air Tycoon is its versatility – whether you’re feeling a bit melancholic from winter’s brisk solitude or content from the delightfully habitable temperatures of the new season, this track will tweak that mood just a little bit in a positive direction. And while it’s true that the vocal sample “I’m 99 miles from L.A.” sounds a bit too glum for this judgment, the track’s triumphant atmosphere turns that exuded passion into another beast entirely, one whose optimism shimmers brightest in the sunlight.
Sharon Van Etten – “All I Can”
“All I Can” is probably the one song on Tramp that demands the biggest amount of time from the listener for it to reveal its true beauty. The song pretty much went through my ears unnoticed the first 10 album listens, but finally stuck firmly in my brain as potentially the best song of 2012 so far. The smooth, easy intro building up to an effective and beautiful climax seldom sounds this good in my ears. Sharon Van Etten’s voice on this song is pure gold, and in my opinion, it’s her best effort on the album.
The Magnetic Fields – “Andrew In Drag”
For all intents and purposes, Love At The Bottom Of The Sea is your typical Magnetic Fields album. It’s concise, inconsistent, and at times even frustrating, but as with all of their records it holds a handful of precious gems that make it completely worthwhile. Arguably the jewel in its crown, ‘Andrew In Drag’ possesses in spades pretty much everything that one could possibly want from a Stephen Merritt composition. Striking a perfect balance between his lovelorn ramblings and alternative humour, it’s equally disturbing as it is hilarious (even more so when accompanied by the video!) and epitomizes in little more than two minutes everything that he and his band are about. We’re not going to get another 69 Love Songs – projects such as that are rarely surmountable – but so long as they can keep knocking out wonders like this, The Magnetic Fields will always be worth the effort.
Christian Mistress – “Haunted Hunted”
“Haunted Hunted” is the most ambitious singular achievement on Christian Mistress’ unique spin on heavy metal, Possession. The driving rhythm section along with slithery guitar riffs provides a backdrop for Christine Davis’ enticing vocal performance that is powerfully emotive and genuinely frightening at the same time. Davis sings about disturbing images of “the blackest flowers blooming” and “flames reaching higher”, picturing the hopeless situation of a person being trapped in a twisted cult. Her strangely poignant delivery is interwoven by numerous meticulously crafted progressions before the song reaches its devastating conclusion in the lyrics “I’ve been haunted by the omens of faith / Chasm awaits.”
Also Check Out:
Cursive – “The Cat and Mouse”
submitted by user HBFS
Portico Quartet – “Ruins”
submitted by user Bloodbirds
Pallbearer – “An Offering Of Grief”
submitted by user DoubtGin
Tendersticks – “Show Me Everything”
submitted by user Jefflebowski
Foxy Shazam – “I Like It”
submitted by user ElephantREVOLUTION
Lapalux – “Gutter Glitter”
submitted by user Pentagon
Red Nightfall – “Coloured Dreams”
submitted by user Aids
Thank you for scanning through our January to March 2012 edition of Spuntik’s infinite playlist. I hope you were able to discover at least a few songs that you enjoyed. If you would like to contribute to the April-June edition, leave a post in my shoutbox and/or sign up for an account with the site.
See you next time!