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Year End Lists - Individual

Rather than boring Sputnik’s readership with a numbered list of all the metal albums I liked and then spending three paragraphs bitching about how much metal sucked this year and how xSPONGECOREx is neither funny nor well made, I’ll instead bore you with a wall of text regarding the dichotomy that was metal in 2014. You see, this was one of the truly great years for metal – perhaps the best one in over a decade – but it was also filled with a smattering of laziness or just plain filth. Not filth in the way Innsmouth spewed out disgusting death metal riffs on their fantastic Consumed by Elder Sign, but filth in the way In Flames basically smeared some melodic guitar riffs with feces and then recorded Anders Friden crying and babbling as if he mistook a piss-flavored lollipop for a tasty and tangy lemon one.

So there was a lot that really isn’t worth mentioning in 2014, but for the sake of making this blog a presentable length I’m going to go ahead and talk about them anyway. As if we needed more of an indication that Agalloch were falling off their own bandwagon they managed to somehow defy expectations and release an album that was worse than Marrow of the Spirit. I’ll admit it: Marrow wasn’t all bad, in fact there are tons of moments that were pretty damn good, it’s just that it was all surrounded by moments where the band decided “Well, we’ve already…

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:

Hello, friends!

As is our yearly tradition here, I hope all of you were “Down with the Christmas” this week, no matter what festive holiday you celebrate:

Stream: The Paybacks – “Down with the Christmas” (3:55)

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"I have no grievances to air, but I'd like to participate in the Feats of Strength!"

I decided to break this entry down into 3 components: the Jom Expansion Pack (25 albums that missed my Top 25 for whatever reason, mostly because a) they’re good albums that had a lot of playback value for me this year, but paled in comparison to my Top 25, and/or b) I totally missed these albums by a nautical mile and heard them way too late in the year to give them ample consideration for the staff year-end feature), my 5 favorite EPs this year, and then my Top 25 Albums of 2013.

In the Expansion Pack, the albums are in alphabetical order by artist name — if I tried to organize this into a Top 50, it’d be 2016 by the time I’ve figured it out (given my typical output, anyway). When cultivating the Jom Expansion Pack, I tried to not pick albums that already appeared on…

26. Shugo Takumaru: “Katachi”

25. Gaytheist: “Stomach Pains”

24. Kvelertak: “Bruane Brenn”

23. Beastwars: “Realms”

22. Ghost B.C.: “Year Zero”

21. Darwin Deez: “You Can’t Be My Girl”

20. Dope Body: “Leather Head”

19. Coliseum: “Doing Time”

18. Meshuggah: “I Am Colossus”

17. M.I.A.: “Bring The Noize”

16. MGMT: “Your Life Is A Lie”

15. Oliver Wilde: “Perrett’s Brook”

14. Lord Dying: “Dreams Of Mercy”

13. Fiona Apple: “Hot Knife”

12. Deville: “Lava”

11. Janelle Monae: “Q.U.E.E.N.”

10. Gassaffelstein: “Pursuit”

9. Queens of the Stone Age: “The Vampyre of Time and Memory”

8. Kirin J. Callinan: “Victoria M.”

7. Portal: “Curtain”

6. Alice In Chains: “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here”

5. Arcade Fire: “Reflektor”

4. The Body: “The Ebb and Flow of Tides in a Sea of Ash”

3. The Dillinger Escape Plan: “When I Lost My Bet”

2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: “Sacrilege”

1. The Knife: “Full Of Fire”

——————————————————————————————————————————-

So, I have neither the time nor the ability to be creative with my list this year, but there were definitely things that are worth sharing so here goes (just about) nothing…

Note: I used Spotify links because it’s free and you don’t have to sign up as long as you use your Facebook log-in.

50. Moonspell – Alpha Noir

[Review] // [Spotify]

This is Moonspell stripped down to their core. There’s no gothic overtones, no keyboard cheese, no female vocals and the vocalist’s deep goth vocals probably make up no more than 30 seconds of the entire album. Instead the band deliver a blackened thrash version of their former selves, full of heavy riffs and death/black growls. Definitely recommended for those into the blackened metal style (notice I didn’t say black metal), even if you’ve hated everything else this band has ever done.

49. Lunic – Future Sex Drama

[Review] // [Spotify]

This is like semi-atmospheric electro-pop. Kind of like t.A.T.u meets Delerium or something similar. It’s catchy as hell and has little flourishes that set it apart from your average electro-pop.

48. The Saddest Landscape – After the Lights

[Review] // [Spotify]

There is just something about the way…

Why is Santa’s sack so big? He only comes once a year.

(Much like my review publishing rate in 2012, evidently.)

I think it goes without saying that my musical authority on this site has the approximate utility value of a glass hammer or a chocolate teapot, but I digress. It’s a bit of fun creating these individual year-end lists and collaborating with the staffers on the site’s year-end Best of 2012 list (maybe I can give some prizes away for guessing the staffers’ Top 5 or Top 10 for those interested — let me know if there’s any interest).

2012 was a really strange year for yours truly, with a lot of good and a lot of not-so-good, but I’m thankful that the year happened and I’m looking forward to 2013.

Before diving into my Top 25 of 2012, I want to encourage you to stream the music enclosed with each release if you haven’t already heard the records here. If what’s here piques your interest, then I hope you seek out the albums and support the artists by purchasing their records via whatever method you choose.

I wish you all good luck and good health this holiday season heading into 2013, and I certainly hope that your College Bowl Pick’Em Confidence picks are faring better than mine are currently (thanks for nothing, Fresno State).

All the best, everybody! But first, five runners-up to precede my Top 25 of 2012 list.

All the best, everybody!

Songs of ‘12 | Shows of ‘12

25. Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror

End of the Line” | Spotify

Sleigh Bells always struck me as sort of a gimmick, a one-trick pony on their debut Treats. To be honest, that trick, which makes Nigel Tufnel’s “but these go to eleven” explanation a parody of itself, is still in full effect here—Reign of Terror is loud and brash, letting the guitar slam out chunky, primordial chords with single-minded fervor. Alexis Krauss, however, is the star of Reign of Terror, putting her former teen-pop resume to good use as the shimmery shoegaze counterpoint to Derek Miller’s bludgeoning riffs. For all its volume, Reign of Terror is nuanced and careful in its use of textures and breathy harmonies, less concerned with fist-pumping and headbanging than focusing on the gorgeous tones and dreamlike atmosphere Krauss’ layered vocals achieve. It is a less brutish and far more beautiful Sleigh Bells than I ever expected.

24. Andy Stott – Luxury Problems

“Numb” | Beatport

I wish my old piano teacher was as cool as Allison Skidmore, who really opens up a whole new dimension to Andy Stott’s “negative space” realm (© Alex Robertson). Luxury Problems is intensely atmospheric and intricately layered, as Stott’s brand of minimal techno has tended to be, but Skidmore’s nebulous vocals give a heretofore-unseen…

Right off the bat I’ll announce that I didn’t get as much of a kick out of 2012, especially when I put it up for comparison next to 2011. Whereas I had trouble putting together a coherent and definite Top 30 last year, this year a decent amount of 3.5s sneaked into my Top 25 (#17-#24) and, heck, even a 3.0 somehow made it (at #25! Unbelievable travesty!). It’s also worth noting that the quality of the Top 10 was only significantly bolstered within the last three weeks or so, when I simply freaked out at how my playlist was starting to look and started massively consuming the stuff which was appearing on the Staff’s Best Of lists (I have the best writing colleagues in the world).

That being said, I don’t think the low mean score of the final Top 25 is necessarily a reflection of the lack of quality of the music that I listened to this year, but rather a direct consequence of the fact that in a finite amount of listening time granted to me (made even smaller by my full-time employment with an oil and gas company), I chose to actively pursue albums and genres which I had never focused on in the years prior. Heavier music took on a priority, for instance (those of you who know my musical inclinations will note that /m isn’t a term generally associated with yours truly), as did hip hop (/h?!??) and…

Time marches on.  Happy Holidays, everybody.

25. Bob Dylan – Tempest

“Duquesne Whistle” is the best song of 2012 that I laughed at upon first listen.  The opening bars sound like some fogeyish variety-hour bullshit, but then the snare kicks in and the song picks up with two-chord electric guitar accents, and it’s clear that Bob is continuing his streak of post-millennial knockout albums.  He could never sing, so his shot voice isn’t an issue, and his lyrics carry as much weight as they ever have:  “It’s soon after midnight, and my day has just begun.”  Just a gorgeous album.

24. High On Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis

Middle-aged fat guys making metal sound like the grizzled warrior that it is.

23. Glen Hansard – Rhythm And Repose

This album isn’t as good as I wanted it to be, but that’s alright.  It basically means that it isn’t as good as both Swell Season albums, but those albums didn’t have “High Hope” or “The Storm, It’s Coming” either, so all is forgiven.

22. Pig Destroyer – Book Burner

Pig Destroyer:  putting every wannabe macabre “poet” to shame since 1997.

21. Swans – The Seer

I don’t see the classic album that everyone else does, but it’s impossible to deny that this album is a huge musical achievement.

20. Taylor Swift – Red

Another Taylor Swift album, another few months of neckbeards and…

As the year draws to a close, I reflect upon the vast amount of music released this year.  While 2012 won’t go down as a landmark year by anyone’s standards, it did see a number of incredibly solid releases.  We saw heartbreaking hiatuses and joy inducing reunions.  Not much truly left an incredible impact on me, but the sheer volume of interesting and worthwhile releases was wonderful, to say the least.  Given only 25 albums to play with, choosing selections for this list was difficult.  Describing them was an even greater endeavor (chore).  So I decided to forgo the use of words, and project my feelings through an internet-folk’s most fluent language: cats.

25. Father John Misty-Fear Fun

Psychedelic folk:

24. Evening Hymns-Spectral Dusk

Indie/folk/country:

23. Lost in the Trees-A Church That Fits Our Needs

Indie:

22. Dweller on the Threshold-Dweller on the Threshold

Lo-fi/folk:

21. Gaza-No Absolutes In Human Suffering

Hardcore/Grind:

20. Abyssal-Denouenment

Death/Black Metal:

19. State Faults-Desolate Peaks

Hardcore/Emo:

18. Narrows- Painted

25-21

25. Mount Eerie – Clear Moon

24. Field Music – Plumb

23. Deftones – Koi No Yokan

22. The Gathering – Disclosure

21. Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s – Rot Gut, Domestic

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Listen: Deftones – “Rosemary”
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20-16

20. Coheed & Cambria – The Afterman: Ascension

19. Astra – The Black Chord

18. Ghost Mice – All We Got Is Each Other

17. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city

16. Racing Heart – To Walk Beside That Ghost

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Listen: Ghost Mice – “John and Jodie”
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15-11

15. Submotion Orchestra – Fragments

14. Papercranes – Three

13. Beach House – Bloom

12. Killing Joke – MMXII

11. Farewell Republic – Burn the Boats

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Listen: Papercranes – “Save Us”
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10-6

10. The Tallest Man On Earth – There’s No Leaving Now

9. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

8. Tigers on Trains – Foundry

7. Anberlin – Vital

6. Yellowcard – Southern Air

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Listen: Tigers on Trains – “Mont Ventoux”
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Album of the Year


The Nominees

Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!


Godspeed You! Black Emperor are no strangers to post-rock success. They found their calling early, with 1997s F#A#∞, an apocalyptic journey that painted the end of times as both a thing of beauty and an unspeakable calamity. Over time, their name has almost become synonymous with post-rock, and “Allelujah! Don’t…

I won’t begin to say that I listened to all that 2012 had to offer in the metal department. Given the genre’s ever-increasing popularity, listening to every demo, split, EP, LP, or live album would have taken more time than the year itself had to offer us. It’s tough to say I would even want to listen to it all, especially since I honestly thought that 2012 could have used a few heavy-hitters that never materialized. Expectations can be a bitch, so when I go into a year with high hopes I set myself up for failure. It’s good, then, that I entered 2012 with a bit of trepidation, not sure what was going to be a success or what was going to flop.

I’m sure that if I had made a comprehensive list of all of the albums I was going to listen to this year and wrote what I thought each would turn out like, the answers would be almost the polar opposite of how it all ended up being. Who, honestly, would have thought that Katatonia would release their best album since Brave Murder Day? Why did Time I not suck immensely? Did I really just put a Mount Eerie album on my top of 2012 list? These are strange questions for strange times, especially in the veritable cage I lock myself in by being a metal fan.

It’s been a wonderful year and I don’t know how to even talk about it in a way that isn’t neurotically structured around lists. Here are my informal reasons behind my favourite things. Merry Christmas!

Albums

25

Zammuto


Another wonderful tongue-in-cheek cut and paste job by the wonderful Books craftsman.  Zammuto is jollily demented, electronic music never short of fun and never over-stretching its ideas. Nick Zammuto has always had a knack for modulating the outreaches into something we can all get down to, and from this outing that almost feels like the point of his new project.

24

The Welcome Wagon

Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices

Direct songs from Christian to God, but it’s not like the word can’t translate.

23

Bill Fay

Life Is People


What’s so satisfying about listening to Fay’s album is how it doesn’t dispel the mythic rock history surrounding it. His first solo record in forty years, after being chewed out by an industry that took its liberty to take up every musician and then dump them, is a spectacle of sorts, something of a comeback overwrought with the emotion of being able to make music again.…

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