An interesting year that was: notably lacking any clear frontrunner for that coveted “album of the year” title recently occupied by Kanye West (not here, but that’s besides the point) and Animal Collective, it was nevertheless filled to the brim with brilliant music that often dealt with “pop” in some capacity, be it eschewal of its conventions or brazen embracement of its occasionally unsavory tendencies. Merrill Garbus did the former and, in the process, acted on the limitless potential of pop’s universality – a useful technique, considering that w h o k i l l was, more than anything, a record that, in the words of a certain Maya Arulpragasam, “put people on the map that never seen a map”. Gang Gang Dance and Dan Bejar released two of the year’s most critically acclaimed albums by adopting the latter method; both Eye Contact and Kaputt found effortlessly distinctive vocals surrounded by garish sonic touches, presented mostly without irony.
Look I know this looks like a big wall of text, and believe me it really is, but I sort of have a point. First off, it’s true I’m lazy and I’ve spent my entire Christmas break applying for Graduate Schools (get a real job amirite?) and frankly the last thing I want to do this Christmas Eve is hunt down images and work on layout for a few hours. I didn’t even vote in the staff best of (so don’t blame me). Most importantly though a thousand words are worth a picture so maybe these words might paint an appropriate year-in-review. As the title suggests, this has been a year where the 80s have ruled supreme; I want to dedicate this entire year, actually, to the under-appreciated 80s electro-pop duo OMD. Saxophones, keyboards, sex, and hazy soundscapes of drunken post-Sharon Stone effluence and tumescence dominated the sounds of the year—canticles of vanity in the best way possible. M83, Destroyer, and Bon Iver were big movers this year and they ultimately define this sound.
It was a good year. It was not a great year; certainly not a great year in respect to 2010. There were some stellar recordings, but there wasn’t too much fight in reaching my top 25. Feist’s Metals, The Dodo’s No Color, Bill Calahan’s Apocalypse, Phonte’s Charity Starts at Home are significant runners-up, and I never did get to The Roots’ Undun or WU LYF. Once the 25 was set, the order
You may remember me from such adventures as: the last few years and generally stealthing around like a motherfucker while letting Jom take all the blame for the real shit that went down.
Last year, I counted in Christmas with 12 days of excellent (and some not so excellent, but topical) Christmas songs. I’d intended to reprise the series this year but, as one or two of you might have noticed, I’ve taken my leave from this place, and Christmas seems as good a time as any to say a formal goodbye and let you know I’m not going to be back.
I won’t patronise you all by saying it’s been a pleasure. Mederating Sputnik is a labour of love but it is hard and, ultimately, unrewarding work. I have had good times taking care of this place over the years, but I urge you to spare a thought for Trey, Jom and Chan. They do an incredible amount of work that you never see – every single instance of bullshit you pull falls squarely on their shoulders and quite frankly they’ve all got more important things in their lives.
Well, not Chan.
But seriously, I’d like to leave on a positive note. Sputnik is a great place to learn – it’s afforded me the tools to become a professional writer and I’m sure I won’t be the only one. Sputnik was built on a sense of community and…
I always used to think of new year’s resolutions as an inane exercise. Whoever conceived the idea seemed to be proposing that we should only target improvement once a year, a notion that we all would dismiss promptly and adamantly. As inconsequential of a gesture as it is, the new year’s resolution has actually begun to carry some weight to me. I don’t view it as a single goal for for the next 365 days, but rather as an impetus for change. For example, my 2011 resolution was to get a “real person” job. It’s not like I wasn’t providing a valuable service to the community at my local grocery store, but as a college graduate with a B.A. in mathematics and a B.S. in education, it was rather underwhelming…even considering the abysmal state that the economy was in. I was always on the prowl for a career-oriented opportunity, but I knew that I wasn’t completely applying myself. That admission alone was enough to compel me to set a clear, definable goal – and it just so happened that the new year (and new year’s resolutions, subsequently) coincided perfectly with my desire to take my professional life to the next level. I put myself on a strict weekly schedule for submitting applications, made an effort to visit more potential employers on location, and I even branched out and started my own tutoring program. It only took three months to pay off. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have gotten a…
I go back and forth on whether time passes too slowly or too quickly, but either way, I’m surprised every year when it’s time to make another list. It’s always nice to go back and revisit albums that came out earlier in the year; the memories they evoke are a nice gauge of how good or bad the year was. Merry Christmas to everyone on Sputnik, and I hope you all have positive memories when you make your own lists.
25. Childish Gambino – Camp
Community has become one of my favorite television shows ever, and that’s the only reason that I listened to this album. I didn’t listen to Watch the Throne or Goblin or undun or really any other hip-hop album that came out this year. I just haven’t really been in the mood. But I’m glad that I listened to Camp, because it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable listens of the year. It’s catchy but that’s not really it. A lot of people have criticized Donald Glover for his lyrics, and I’m certainly willing to concede that some of them are pretty bad, but this is probably the album that made me listen most attentively this year. By the end of my first listen, I really felt like I’d been on a journey, like I’d gotten to know Glover a little bit. There’s a lot of confusion on Camp – most of the record…
I’m sorry for the TL;DR length of this. I guess I rambled a lot. And secondly, I apologise for the quality, which might be the result of a late 5 hour rush through this. It has been a very good year.
All of these are lovely Sputnik 4.5s, I would say. Unless they’re 5s. Enjoy!
Dananananaykroyd– There Is a Way
When I saw these guys play their last show in Leeds (ever!) on their last tour of the universe as we know it, I sort of felt like I was hitching a ride. Everyone else seemed so clued in on these guys, so it was like the outside of post-hardcore’s very own in-joke, one that only makes sense when you see how joyous an experience they are. There’s the hair ruffling—which I was on the receiving end of—and the wall of death that converts death into hugs. Most will tell you that prior knowledge of their albums is pointless, and it kind of was that way: I could pick up every chant of “da na na na!” as it bounced from fan to fan. It was the gig first for this band, but going back to There Is a Way felt wholly satisfying to me- I was able to see where one ridiculous song ended and where the next began. The two best—“Think and Feel” followed by the stomping “Muscle…
Before I’m lambasted for only putting only six albums on my ‘best of 2011′ list, I’d like to mention a couple of things. One: I’ve digested less music this year than any of the last five or six, and two: there were plenty of albums which I liked but clearly had no place on a ‘best of’ list, especially in a top ten. The lack of discovery isn’t due to any ‘personal issues’ or ‘other commitments’ (though I have been really busy). I’ve just fallen ‘out of love’ with new music a bit this year, and I don’t know whether that’s due to me or the music, but, regardless, something isn’t quite right. I hope to find myself back in the game next year. The quality of reviews/reviewers on this site has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years (seriously, even some of the user reviews blow me away) and I’d be foolish not to want to be a part of that. Anyway….
Inspired by Hemingway’s six word story (after being reminded of its brilliance in Knott’s lyrics post a couple weeks back), I challenged myself to go one better and write my best of 2011 with mini reviews that had only half the word count. It wasn’t easy. Some might say it required even more effort than those writing 500+ words. Others know me better than that. In no order:
Hi. My name is Adam. I’m 22, I speak three languages, and I don’t believe in god. When I was 15 I got my heart broken and fell into radio pop-punk, which put it back together again without even thinking twice. Since then, I’ve gradually fallen deeper and deeper into music; I discovered post-rock through God Is An Astronaut and dubstep through Burial, and as it grew more dizzying it got more important. I love music.
Is it so wrong to admit that? And yet, almost every professional music publication in the world denies the humanity behind both its writers and its readers by presenting itself as wholly impartial. Critique 101 reads as follows: “don’t refer to yourself in the first-person; it looks unprofessional.” Is that what “professionalism” means now – detachment? How can you expect people to take seriously any article whose author claims that what he’s written is not a reflection of himself? Why would you want to? People don’t listen to music in a state of disconnect; whatever’s playing right now, the chances are that it’s making you feel something. So why would you ever want to even pretend that the best way to talk about music is by taking five or ten steps back? Or even one?
There is simply no such thing as an objective stance on music. OK Computer is not better than “Friday” by Rebecca Black. Sorry. I wish beyond all limits that it were possible to say so, but there are definitely…
Halloween draws to a close and I found myself wandering home off the bus listening to Red House Painter’s “Katy Song” on the moonlit path and thinking about words and music. I had just finished conducting a seminar on the “Sirens” episode of Ulysses. For those not familiar with the text I will explain it briefly: Joyce writes an entire chapter in a bar scene and structures it as a fugue. The language serves a tripled purpose—narrative, thematic, and sound qualities. Snippets of songs and of important lines in the book are refrained and build one on top of the other fuga per canonem. So I was churning over thoughts of language patterns, phonetics and word associations, when I began thinking about nachtmusik. There is no real reason to actually associate certain kinds of music to the night, just as there’s no real reason why Ulysses should be considered Joyce’s masterpiece of the day and Finnegans Wake his masterpiece of the night. These concepts are purely constructs of the mind, for whatever reason we do it; the Real, idleness, nostalgia, kernelization of sound.
Then it hit me: night music is night music for the same reason that language is the perpetual creative act. Because language is the highest echelon of creativity; we have our set rules (grammar) but beyond that there are infinite ways to construct a sentence (ask Kafka) and infinite ways to combine phonemes to create neologisms (ask Joyce). The same goes for music; these chords sound nice…
Music does a lot of different things to a lot of different people but I think what I love about it the most is the way it can condense and translate the most complicated and screwed-up ideas, situations or emotions into a song, or (better) just a single line. Some artists have the capacity to say in a word what would take most people a paragraph. I think of Hemingway’s response to a friend’s wager that he couldn’t write a story in six words: For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn. I think what this kind of beautiful expression needs is a connection at the front end so powerful that instinct takes over and says it for you.
Sometimes artists express things in simple ways and it rules, LOOK, songs!
The Mountain Goats – Old College Try
I wanna say I’m sorry for stuff I haven’t done yet; things will shortly get completely out of hand.
I’m just delving into the Mountain Goats discography and I get the feeling this isn’t the only line he’s written that could fit on this list. To me, this line sums up that feeling of unavoidable chaos where you know you’re strapped into a ride that you should technically be able to stop but really, really can’t. What I absolutely adore about the way he phrases it is that it’s so matter-of-fact it almost makes it seem not his fault. Or mine.
I don’t know about you, but oftentimes I find myself analyzing the music behind a movie just as much as the film itself. It’s difficult to determine to what extent a soundtrack influences my opinion of a movie’s quality…technically it shouldn’t, but I always favor movies with indie-geared soundtracks (500 Days of Summer, Garden State) all the same. It’s something that annoys the hell out of my friends, which is why I’m not sure if this is common or if there is just something really wrong with me. But anyway, I glanced through my library and pulled out notable soundtracks (some good, others very bad) and decided to evaluate them for their contributions to the movie and their overall quality. Since it’s Halloween today, let’s begin with Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas:
The Nightmare Before Christmas
This is one of those movies with a cult following, and I totally get why. It’s stunningly original, visually appealing for its time, and it features a thoroughly enjoyable plot. For music enthusiasts, the soundtrack has to be another reason. It follows the storyline extremely closely, sometimes even narrating through song or spoken word (via Danny Elfman). It has been remade, but nothing touches the original which, if you ask me, is a classic.
Sample: “This Is Halloween” by Danny Elfman
Across The Universe
Now this one I never understood the hype for. I was a sophomore in college…
Anyone booked on a Qantas flight right now is probably searching for something to do at an airport. Well, how about getting out your iPad, an acoustic guitar and a violin? Because that’s what these three gentlemen recently did at Shanghai airport.
For those unfamiliar with the guy under the hoodie (surely risking arrest by airport security just for wearing a hoodie) and the part-alien drummer, this is pop-punk outfit Yellowcard playing ‘My Hero’ by The Foo Fighters.
Let me start off by saying that I’ve been listening to Iron Maiden all day, so my ratings and descriptions might be more venom-filled than they were in the last entry because I had to pause Powerslave to do this. Also, am I the last person to notice that on the cover to Powerslave, the stairs lead right into Eddie’s crotch?
Where this entrance leads, nobody knows. Except for Eddie. He knows.
I enjoyed doing the first part a lot because I don’t often feel nostalgic. By no means was my childhood hard, but they weren’t exactly halcyon days that I reminisce about either. My childhood and teen years are just sort of hunkered down in the background of my mind, only making themselves known on very rare occasions. So it was pleasantly surprising that I felt the urge to revisit some of the songs and videos that got me into music, even though some of them weren’t all that great. It’s nice to be reminded of more innocent times, especially because we can so often be blinded by all the musical knowledge we’ve accrued over the years. We weren’t always like this, and songs like these will always be there to remind us of that.
Story Of The Year – “Anthem Of Our Dying Day”
It was a toss-up between this song and “Until The Day I Die,” but this song won out because it definitely brought back more memories (although I can…
I discovered music television when I was around 13 years old. As I’ve stated in numerous reviews where I incessantly talk about myself (Atavanhalen has dubbed the past few Sputnik years “The ‘Me’ Generation”), I didn’t have a very distinct notion of what music television even was for the majority of my childhood. But one day I was at a friend’s house and he turned on MTV2, and my life was forever changed by shitty music. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that I really loved some of the things I saw on television, but not surprising. I didn’t know anything else existed. Tonight however, I was struck by nostalgia and I traveled to Youtube to revisit some of those songs, and some of them hold up reasonably well. Of course, some of them are just fucking shit. And oh my god the fucking videos.
Three Days Grace – “I Hate Everything About You”
One distinct memory that I have involving this song contains a bit of early-era elitism from me. I told my older brother that the radio sucked, and he responded by turning on the local rock station. This is the song that was playing, prompting him to say, “See? One of the BEST SONGS EVER. The radio doesn’t suck, idiot.” And I didn’t argue because at the time, I agreed that Three Days Grace had written one of the BEST SONGS EVER. It was a simpler time. Back then, every song I heard had the potential…
Actually Exhibit B is kind of cool but that picture is unforgivable. And I don’t remember Kevin Costner bullying a troll with a fish. Dude was just minding his own business under a tree. Fuck’s sake lads, get it together.
‘Robin Hood’ appears on Edguy’s new album, Age of the Joker, which is scheduled for release on August 26 a.k.a. tomorrow.