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Everybody will have different experiences based on their preferences, their familiarity with one product or another, as well as what hardware they’re using. In the interest of transparency, this is my brief history and a list of test devices. I’ve been a member of Spotify Premium since July of 2011 and I’ve never really had any issues with it or a desire to try to find anything better. On the other hand, I do like Apple products so I had to give Apple Music a shot. The ‘test devices’ that were used for my comparison of Spotify and Apple Music are the following: iMac, Macbook Pro, iPhone 6+, iPhone 4S, iPad 3rd Generation and iPod Touch 5th Generation. There will be a lot of comparisons to Spotify since that service is obviously Apple’s biggest competitor.

The Good:

The actual presentation of both the desktop and mobile versions of Apple Music are beautiful.  On the desktop, the streaming albums integrate flawlessly with any purchased/ripped music that is already on your iTunes. The only way to tell the difference is the little cloud icon with an arrow through it that lets you know that you can download the track for offline use. The integration doesn’t stop there, though. When you select an individual artist there are a few new features that pop up. The most noteworthy is the addition of three tabs at the top of the band page. The first is ‘My Music’ which is exactly what you would…

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10. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

[Official Site] // [Spotify] // [Facebook]

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Stream: “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” (3:16)

From the opening punch of the track of the same name, Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a haymaker of unapologetic transgender perspective made to come across in one of the few avenues of emotion we humans actually comprehend and respect: music. If Laura Jane Grace simply wrote a press release, or an essay, or spoke at a convention, it wouldn’t mean a damn thing, but the thousand pound hammer of “You want them to notice the ragged ends of your summer dress / You want them to see you like they see any other girl / They just see a faggot” set to a marching, military snare beat is a statement that will wake people up and make them take notice.

Transgender Dysphoria Blues isn’t comfortable, but I’ve got to imagine it’s nowhere near as frightening and downright dangerous as it must be to actually live as a transgendered individual in our modern society. But the…

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30. The Antlers – Familiars

[Official Site] // [Spotify] // [Facebook]

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Stream: “Intruders” (5:25)

By now, everyone knows what to expect from a record by The Antlers, and Familiars sees the American indie rock/dream pop outfit choosing not to buck that trend by tunneling even deeper into the niche that they’ve been carving for themselves since 2006’s Uprooted. That being said, if results continue to be as good as this, few will complain. “Palace”, Familiars‘ opening track and lead single, is a ringing endorsement of the band’s default setting, with its multifaceted arrangements and striking lyrical play (“Now he hangs your mirrors separately/So one can’t show you what the other reflects,” whispers vocalist Peter Silberman at one point) finding a precise balance between melancholy and erstwhile nostalgia. Elsewhere, “Intruders” is a masterclass of the dramatic musical narrative: “Well this is my house/So fuck your doubts and your cute battalion,” intones Silberman poisonously over a bed of swelling strings. For a group of artists who have always specialized in the art of being subtle, these are…

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50. Thou – Heathen

[Official Site] // [Spotify] // [Unofficial Facebook]

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Stream: “Into the Marshlands” (6:58)

Thou have been creating some of the most soul crushing doom metal ever set upon human ears for the last several years. Heathen is no different. It’s an unholy manifestation of distorted guitars and the burliest of burly riffs. Yet, Heathen also expands the New Orleans doom-mongers’ sonic palate in new atmospheric directions, with mournfully layered chords creeping their way into even the heaviest of places. It’s an unrelenting triumph to the emotion that is able to be coaxed from extreme music. –Adam Thomas

49. Kenn Nardi – Dancing With the Past

[Official Site] // [Spotify] // [Facebook]

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It’s been a pretty good year for music. We had quite a few bands get back together and make some excellent music. There was also quite  a few other artists that just continue to churn out quality releases, and of course there were also a few surprises. Anyway, different people use different criteria to make their end-of-year lists. Some want to worry about an album’s impact on a genre or how unique an album is. Me — I only worry about how much I enjoyed listening to it. These are my top 25 most enjoyable albums of the year.

25. Beyond Creation – Earthborn Evolution

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Technical Death Metal with emphasis on the bass.

I love technical death metal just so long as the technical doesn’t overpower the death. This is one of those rare bands that manages to straddle the line between the two elements without losing track of either. My favorite thing about this album has to be the bass playing. It’s all over the music and is mixed right up front. Some might find that a bit overbearing, but it’s right where it should be.

24. Anaal Nathrakh – Desideratum

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL:

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10. Touche Amore – Is Survived By

[Review] // [Spotify] // [Facebook]

Is Survived By is a frantic exercise in frustrating melancholy – that emotion you feel when you scream at yourself in your head for getting caught in a funk. It’s that whole experience of being down and self-aware, a prisoner in a cage that you created, throwing yourself at bars you know don’t exist to no effect with only some time reserved for the hopeless gazing down at shoes and giving serious consideration to giving up between each assault on the cage. We’ve all been there before and if you haven’t, well, fuck you.

The thing that makes Is Survived By a stellar album is in its ability to capture this feeling impeccably without doubt or question. There’s an inherent tension and despair to Jeremy Bolm’s persistently aggressive and ernest rants that’s made all the more poignant by the racing pace of the 30 minute album that just does this somewhat specific affliction incredible justice. — Tom Gerhart

9. Danny Brown – Old

[Review] // [Spotify] // [Facebook]

I was never a big fan of XXX. Nor did I really consider myself any sort…

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30. Obliteration – Black Death Horizon

[Review] // [Spotify] // [Facebook]

OSDM revival was a pretty interesting novelty around the 2009-2010 period when pissed off metalheads (rightfully so) realized how terrible modern metal was and remembered how sweet it was back in the day and just started playing the same stuff they liked in ‘89.  As of 2013, in much the same fashion as when metal died in 1993, the oversaturated landscape of this now hip OSDM revival scene is producing less and less interesting music.  Thankfully, just when all hope of metal ever being good again was lost, Obliteration put out another record and make everything else this side of 2009 obsolete and boring.

While 2009’s Nekropsalms was more psychedelic and doomy, Black Death Horizon is a no-holds barred black death thrash attack to the face and it rules.  With organic, old school production that would give Fenriz a stiffy and riffs that would piss even Jesus off, Black Death Horizon took the almost perfect formulas the band dug up from some frozen grave in Norway and somehow managed to improve on almost all of them.  Seriously, there’s really no other way to describe this album.  If you like metal, listen to this, and if you don’t like it, kill yourself. Sincerely, Satan — Hyperion

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50. Strawberry Girls – French Ghetto

[Review] // [Spotify] // [Facebook]

I’ll admit that French Ghetto flew under my radar all the way to the creation of this list, but there’s always time to repent, right? Fresh from the get-go, the pop hooks of this insanely catchy math rock release create a dance floor between your ear cavities and set straight to gyrating and bopping along all the way through on their race to the finish. With an air of confidence and maybe a little bit of a devil may care attitude, the relative levity of the album leaves it feeling fast and fun, especially through the first half.

Of course, the influence from hook masterminds Adebisi Shank and Straweberry Girls’ guitarist Zac Garren’s former band Dance Gavin Dance is apparent, but French Ghetto deftly manages to skirt the dangers of merely quoting and recycling source material while going just over the top enough to neatly put together what may easily be the year’s most addicting math rock release. — Tom Gerhart

49. Soilwork – The Living Infinite

[Review] // [Spotify] // [Facebook]

During a year that was rather generous to the metal community, some may…

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10. Jenny Hval – Innocence is Kinky

[Official Site] // [Spotify] // [Facebook]

Language is the issue at the heart of Innocence is Kinky: how it changes by dialect, accent, personality, interpretation. “The voice,” Jenny Hval posits on “The Seer”, the album’s closing track, “is a wordless tissue, the fog from Heart of Glass. Listen to the lips that feed you.” Who feeds you? For what are we listening? Why the fog from Werner Herzog’s Heart of Glass (an infamous little movie where the actors underwent hypnosis)? Hval will answer these questions, but only in the abstract; her aims are for provocation, surely, which is nothing especially new in this digital landscape. But more importantly, Hval means to steer the conversation onto itself, taking many folks to task for their role in the presentation of gender and sexuality in the public view, and does so by cultivating a new sound and appropriations of well-worn (now shimmering, damning) genre tropes.

Which is to say: man, this album rocks. Hval’s aim is unwieldy, rounding out delicate folk reminiscent of 2011’s more spacious Viscera with feedback scorched rock tunes treated with the same scope and fervor that marked that auspicious solo debut. Some songs find the head-turning meeting point between them, as one does in the standout “Is…

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30. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse

[Official Site] // [Spotify] // [Facebook]

Whether unabashed optimist or sterling cynic, everybody can hear a bit of themselves in Pedestrian Verse. It’s a collection of solemn songs, and anybody who’s even vaguely familiar with Frightened Rabbit should have expected that from the minute they learnt of its existence. But this time around, it isn’t such a bad thing to be a downer– the beautiful thing about this record is that despite its dispirited undertones, it certainly has its own way of coping with things– constructive melancholia. Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison is no stranger to woe, but his lyrics have never embraced that as much as they do here. There’s no need for Hutchinson to pretend anymore– he’s too old for that. He can get away with singing “Let’s promise every girl we marry / We’ll always love them when we probably won’t” in opening track “Acts of Man,” because he’s including himself in the very demographic at which he’s scowling. Frightened Rabbit’s music has always been about breaking promises, if not forgetting about them entirely; it just seems that with Pedestrian Verse, the trick is accepting it’ll always be that way. –Jacob Royal

29. The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation

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50. Summoning – Old Mornings Dawn

[Official Site] // [Spotify] // [Facebook]

Summoning have proven time and again that they are absolute masters of their craft, however small their niche may be. Not only are they arguably the best symphonic black metal band ever to play the genre, they take a concept that permeates black metal as a whole and do what nearly all others cannot: turn it into something that is alive and sentient. Old Mornings Dawn brings back the imagery of Middle-earth like only Summoning could, with massive tracks featuring their signature keyboard-laden soundscapes, lumbering guitar melodies, and echoing screams. It has been 7 years since we last heard from Summoning, but they continue to conjure dreams of Tolkien’s universe within our mind’s eye. –Kyle Ward

49. Vali – Skogslandskap

[Official Site] // [Spotify] // [Facebook]

Vali’s Skogslandskap is one of the most heartfelt and dainty records of 2013. Released at the end of August, just before autumn could start to raise its tenebrific head once more, it is a record that supremely fills the role of a loyal comrade…

‘Cranley Gardens’ by Church of Misery (taken from their upcoming album Thy Kingdom Scum)

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Church of Misery have been through a lot since originally forming back in 1995. The band was founded by Tatsu Mikami (bass guitar) after the breakup of his thrash metal band, Salem. He wanted to do something that reflected his other musical inspirations – doom metal and doom rock. Apart from metal and thrash, he was strongly influenced by doom bands like Saint Vitus, Black Sabbath and became aware that his own riffs had started to include doom vibes. Also, he was very much into late 60’s/early 70’s heavy rock material like Leaf Hound, November, and Blue Oyster Cult. It was natural for him to shift his musical direction from metal to a more rock-influenced style. It wasn’t until 2001, though, that they finally released their first full length album, Master Of Brutality, via Southern Lord Recording. Since that time, they have released two more full-length albums and have continued to captivate audience with their self-proclaimed murder doom — and they’re finally about to release their fourth, Thy Kingdom Scum.

For your listening pleasure, Sputnik Music is proud to premiere the song ‘Cranley Gardens’ from that album. The band’s fourth album, Thy Kingdom

Sputnik Music, in conjunction with Finch, is currently giving away two tickets to their New York City concert on Wednesday March 13th. Check out the contest page and make a submission. Contest ends March 12th.

Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of March 5, 2013. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

Autechre – Exai (Warp Records)
Ashley Monroe – Like a Rose (Warner Bros.)
Blue hawaii – untogether (Alternative Distribution Alliance)
Boz Scaggs – Memphis (429 Records)
Caitlin Rose – The Stand-In (ATO RECORDS)
The Cave Singers – Naomi (Jagjaguwar)
Chelsea Light Moving – Chelsea Light Moving (Matador Records)
Cloud Cult – Love (Rebel Group)
The Demigodz – Killmatic (Dirty Version Record)
Enforcer – Death By Fire (Nuclear Blast)
Hatchet – Dawn Of The End (The End Records)
Hiromi – Move (Telarc)
Hollis Brown – Ride On The Train (Alive Records)
How To Destroy Angels – Welcome Oblivion (Columbia)
Jason Graves – Tomb Raider – Original Soundtrack (Sumthing Else Music Works)
Javelin – Hi Beams (Luaka Bop)
Jimi Hendrix – People, Hell & Angels (Legacy)
Josh Ritter – Beast in Its Tracks (Pytheas Recordings)
Kate Nash – Girl Talk (INGROOVES)
Kvelertak – Meir (Roadrunner Records)
Krokus – Dirty Dynamite (The End Records)
Madeleine Peyroux – The Blue Room (Decca)
Making Movies – A La Deriva (Independent)
The Men – New Moon (Sacred Bones) – Adam Downer
Mishka – Ocean Is…

Finch has re-united in order to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their album What it is to Burn. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a ticket to the Irving Plaza date you’re out of luck because it is sold out. Fortunately, there are still tickets available for the March 13th show at the Gramercy Theatre in New York and Sputnik Music has two to give away.

In order to win these tickets just e-mail us at sputnikreviews at gmail dot com and tell us which of Finch’s full length albums you like more and why. Make sure the e-mail subject is Finch Contest. In case you can’t remember, they are What it is to Burn and Say Hello to Sunshine. It’s a tough choice, so you have until Tuesday March 12th to let us know. The show is 16 years and up unless you opt to bring a parent with you. So, be the coolest 14 year old to ever take their mom to a Finch concert — just don’t be surprised if you leave the show alone (we all know your mom).

You can also buy your tickets here for $28.00 plus fees. The show will begin at 7:00 pm and will also include The Almost, The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die.

Tickets: http://concerts.livenation.com/

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Congratulations to our newest contributors and staff. Go to their shoutboxes and let them know how happy you are for them.

Our news has been a little off-and-on lately so here’s a list of major new releases beginning February 18, 2013 and running through March 1, 2013. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

February 18
Fractal Gates – Beyond the Self
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away (Kobalt)

February 19
Anders & Kendall – Wild Chorus (Nine Mile Records)
Atlas Genius – When It Was Now (Warner Bros.)
Beach Fossils – Clash The Truth (Captured Tracks) – Cam
Boil – aXiom (ViciSolum Productions) – Greg Fisher
Bobby Long – Wishbone (Ato Records)
Buckcherry – Confessions (Century Media)
Dark New Day – Hail Mary (Pavement Ent)
Devourment – Conceived in Sewage (Relapse)
Eat Skull – III (1-2-3-4-GO!)
Giles Corey – Hinterkaifeck (Enemies List Home Recordings)
Iceage – You’re Nothing (Matador Records) – Adam Downer
Jamie Lidell – Jamie Lidell (Warp Records)
Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet – In A World Of Mallets (Basin Street)
Krypts – Unending Degradation (Dark Descent Records) – Kyle Ward
Mark Kozelek – Like Rats (Caldo Verde)
Mark Kozelek – Live at Phoenix Public House Melbourne (Caldo Verde)
Matmos – The Marriage Of True Minds (Thrill Jockey)

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