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It’s Sputnik Music’s honor to provide the exclusive stream for the self-titled album of Portland-based progressive pop rock band Icarus the Owl. The album is set for release on Friday, February 7th in the U.S.

Icarus the Owl is the result of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, whose net effect yielded the band the production mettle of the acclaimed Kris Crummett (A Lot Like Birds’ No Place, Closure in Moscow’s First Temple, all of Dance Gavin Dance’s earlier records and many more.) This change is a subtle one, as Crummett works within the reach of what’s familiar to Icarus the Owl- but his contributions to the group’s sound work wonders.

In terms of the music, this is the most cohesive and memorable Icarus the Owl have ever sounded. Songs like “Flint and Steel” are sure to entice newcomers, while deeper cuts like “Input. Time. Destruct.” will make long-term fans out of them. Those that found joy in the group’s 2012 release Love Always, Leviathan are sure to see the same kindling flame in Icarus the Owl- the experience just feels more intuitive this around.

Icarus the Owl can be bought at any major digital music retailer once it drops next Friday.

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James Blake – “A Case of You”

When young dubstep prodigy James Blake stows the electronics and takes a seat at the piano, the results always seem to be astounding—like the soulful “DLM” from his most recent album, Overgrown. But his cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” on 2011 EP Enough Thunder takes the cake for Blake’s balladeering. Simple as it is, his hurried vocals exude such sincerity and vulnerability that it perfectly illustrates how powerful music can be when it’s just a man and his piano. Or a woman and her guitar.

Van Halen – “Ice Cream Man”

Electing to cover a somewhat obscure blues tune would seem extremely odd for a band like Van Halen, were brothers Eddie and Alex not raised by an accomplished jazz saxophonist and clarinet player. And the suggestive lyrical content that kept the song from being released until 1969 made it a perfect fit for David Lee Roth, who opens the number dedicating it to the ladies. Diamond Dave gets things started off slow and sultry over some acoustic guitar before everything erupts into a typical Van Halen rock epic. Eddie absolutely dazzles with his acrobatic shredding and whammy bar assaults. The tribute to the Chicago bluesman is often overshadowed by the also excellent cover of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” on the same record, but “Ice Cream

There’s something enchanting about what electronic producer Four Tet does in the below video – rather, what dontwatchthat.tv forces him to do. You can tell the guy’s got mixed feelings about having to compose an entire track in only ten minutes, and furthermore, only with samples from Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It’s the kind of process that forces one to rely on creative intuition, nothing else- and you can see that side of the producer shine through as he places Thriller on the record player. He spins it, and lands on arbitrary moments, and then assesses- he considers each instant as a possible instrument for the tune he’s about to make, and then he proceeds based on how he feels about it.

It makes me think about music in a different way. We get so used to hearing entire tracks, and we music lovers sometimes convince ourselves that hearing a song in any other way besides start to finish is sacrilege. But you see Four Tet cobbling together random moments from the record, and you see how much fun it can be to hear snippets from really engaging records. Each time he lifts the needle and picks a new spot it sounds like a new artist, and so when he fuses all these ingredients to make his own song it feels so unlike Thriller, and yet so familiar to that record my parents used to play around the house.

Watch this video if you want to see how Four Tet works…

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10. Touche Amore – Is Survived By

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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

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


30. Obliteration – Black Death Horizon

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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


50. Strawberry Girls – French Ghetto

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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

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


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…

Sometimes I think the best and worst decision I’ve ever made was to become an obsessive music nerd, but what do I really have to show for it? A few hundred records dating from the sixties all the way up to today, three massive CD booklets, two terabyte hard-drives full of everything from top 40 pop to all but forgotten black metal cassette rips, and thousands of dollars in lost savings in the form of ticket stubs. I don’t regret a single second of it. But I must admit, being constantly inundated with new and unknown media almost every waking hour be it in the form of Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp, emails, or friends texting me about what new records have leaked has done considerable damage to the way that I take in new music. It used to be you bought a record and over the course of hours, days, and weeks it would blossom and grow. That first impression was important but even the most off putting records usually revealed some sort of secret, even if I didn’t necessarily enjoy them right away. Hell, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was a 4 year endeavor for me to finally see its genius. Now, though, I just don’t have the time to wait. It’s unfortunate and I hate it. Now those slow burners get tossed by the wayside. If it doesn’t hit immediately I move on to something else that does. Rarely does an album ever…

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”


10. Jenny Hval – Innocence is Kinky

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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

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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
Best of 2013


50. Summoning – Old Mornings Dawn

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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

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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…

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I still remember the first time I heard City of Ifa. I was in the car with my bandmate, and he was blasting Blue Shoes– and when the album transitioned into “The Human Atlas,” I was sold immediately. The track is post-hardcore that begins with the catchiness of pop-punk; complicated music that calms itself for its first minute before descending into instrumental chaos incarnate. It’s as if An Isle Ate Her decided, just momentarily, to stop writing the most complicated songs they could afford before harking back to their ways of havoc. This group is more melodic than that technical-metal outfit, though, recalling Thomas Erak’s work in The Fall Of Troy– how he’d write those tapped riffs that were impressive as hell, sure, but that also found a way into your head after a few spins.

Today marks the day that City of Ifa is finally streaming its self-titled album only four hours before its December 1 release date, and to call that a cause for celebration for the group’s fans would be an understatement. While the post-hardcore act (or at least more post-hardcore than any other genre label) has released some incredible music in its time, nothing has ever floored me at the end of the day. On a precursory glance, though, this record seems to possess all the necessary ingredients for success. Just by looking at the tracklisting (nope, I haven’t listened to this yet either,) this album looks more comprehensive than anything else…

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Sam Levin (synth bass), Timo Ellis (guitar, vocals), Dave Burnett (drums)

Describing the music of Brooklyn-based Netherlands is hardly an easy task. Erik Wunder (of Cobalt and Man’s Gin), who gets the credit for introducing me to these guys, defines their style as “hyper-noise-punk-electro-psychedelic-metal.” This seemingly convoluted tag oddly fits the outfit that doesn’t shy away from embracing divergent styles in a high-octane manner. The trio’s second full-length Silicon Vapor is one of the most invigorating rock records of the year, juxtaposing eccentric musical ideas with enticing melodies deeply ingrained in the rock tradition. These qualities are combined with extremely fuzzed-out tunings of instruments that certainly distinguish Netherlands from the pack. Here’s my interview with Timo Ellis, the trio’s frontman whose impressive resume includes collaborations with Yoko Ono, Melvins and John Zorn over his extensive 20-year career as a session musician.

What motivated you to form Netherlands?

I’d had a band called Bird Of Doom in the early 2000s. After its natural dissolution, I really wanted to maintain an outlet for my weirder rock inclinations!

Your music is rather difficult to pin down as you combine many different subgenres of rock, punk and even metal. How would you define your style?

I’ve made loads of dramatically different types of records besides the rock stuff. I think I’m up to 33 albums at this point: 17 LPs and 16 EPs. So, I think other styles of music end up naturally coming out a…

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

Alice Rose – each is a DREAM (Manual Music)
Avril Lavigne – Avril Lavigne (Epic)
Bryce Dessner & Kronos Quartet – Aheym (Anti Records)
Celine Dion – Loved Me Back to Life (Columbia)
Connan Mockasin – Caramel (Phantasy/Because Music)
Cut Copy – Free Your Mind (Loma Vista/Republic) – Rudy K.
DJ Rashad – Double Cup (Hyperdub)
Eden’s Curse – Symphony Of Sin (AFM Records)
Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (Aftermath)
Guido – Moods Of Future Joy (Tectonic Recordings)
Hellogoodbye – Everything Is Debatable (Old Friends Records)
Howe Gelb – The Coincidentalist (New West)
James Blunt – Moon Landing (Atlantic)
Luscious Jackson – Magic Hour (City Song)
M.I.A. – Matangi (Interscope Records)
Melodic – Effra Parade (Epitaph)
Melvins – Tres Cabrones (10 Spot)
Midlake – Antiphon (ATO Records)
Scott Stapp – Proof Of Life (Wind-Up)
Sore Eros & Kurt Vile – Jamaica Plain (Care In The Community Records)
Steven Wilson – Drive Home (Kscope)
Stryper – No More Hell To Pay (Frontiers Records/Universal)
Submotion Orchestra – 1968 (Circus Records)
Weekend Nachos – Still (Relapse)
A Wilhelm Scream – Partycrasher (No Idea Records)


Album Streams:

Avril Lavigne – Avril Lavigne

Bryce Dessner & Kronos Quartet – Aheym

Celine Dion – Loved Me Back To Life

Connan Mockasin – Caramel

Cut Copy – Free Your Mind


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