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The evergreen jazz merchant-cum-voodoo warrior Dr. John is probably the type of person who you could file neatly under ‘Seen It All’. It was perhaps a surprise, even with his long track record, that 2012’s Locked Down  LP was as free, easy and palatable as it came to be. Written, recorded and produced heavily in conjunction with Black Keys’ mainman Dan Auerbach, the album is one that sees the 72 year old doctor grab a new lease of life with both hands.

Tracks such as “Revolution” and the record’s eponymous effort show a certain fire; understandable for a New Orleans native who will have looked on in horror as his hometown was almost swept away. However, it’s “Ice Age” that stands out the most. A subtle sense of anger and exasperation pour out of the Dr’s mouth, taking aim at those who like “smoking crack and final blunts” and who “ain’t got a cent”; those who fiddle as Rome burns. Maybe it’s a missive against the parts of New Orleans that have been slow to recover. Perhaps it’s a rant against the wider world. It doesn’t matter, as such themes are very pertinent wherever you are. That’s the saddest thing of all, but if anyone can ease you into the gloom with a message and rhythm, then it’s this guy.

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2013 Is The Real Apocalypse

The end of an old year and the start of a new one is perfect for musohacks to fill up space in their dog-eared magazines and laggy websites. December sees retrospectives that tend to be useless insofar as it’s stuff you and they already know. Come the new year, come a new way to fleece your audience; the BBC’s Sound of <year> collection is heavily plagiarised as writer’s pokerface us and say “Hey, we knew about this lot all along!”

What seperates Sputnik Music from the other sites is the technology available to us. For reasons best left unknown, all staff now have access to a computer that pings emails from the future. One future staff member (name not revealed so as to prevent paradox) decided to reveal the big talking points on a year ahead for us, but one already forgotten for them:

  • Captain Beefheart returns from the grave! Not content with being dead, the man also known as Don Van Vliet found out the other side just wasn’t as cool as he thought it would be. His return was heralded as one of the most shocking of all time, and his move onto the lucrative after-dinner speech circuit propelled him right into the heart of public affairs. It wasn’t to last, however. After attempting to strangle Barack Obama at a $10,000 a head White House dinner, the Captain caught fire and quickly combusted in the Oval Office. His last words? “Ah feel like battery

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Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of January 8, 2013. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

If you haven’t had the chance yet, feel free to check out the staff’s Best of 2012 feature. You can view it right here.

Black Veil Brides – Wretched And Divine: The Story Of The Wild Ones (Universal Republic) – John Hanson
Broadcast – Berberian Sound Studio (Warp Records)
Chris Tomlin – Burning Lights (Six Step Records/Sparrow Records)
Conor Maynard – Contrast (EMI)
Download – Furnace Re: Dux (Metropolis Records)
Dropkick Murphys – Signed And Sealed In Blood (Born & Bred Records) – Jom
Gameday Regulars – Nobody Likes A Quitter (Veggie Co. Records)
Hollywood Undead – Notes From The Underground (A&M Octone)
Less Than Jake – Greetings & Salutations (Fat Wreck Chords/101 Distribution)
My Chemical Roamnce – Conventional Weapons #4 (Reprise)
Never Shout Never – Indigo (All The Best)
Nolwenn Leroy – Nolwenn (Decca)
The Ongoing Concept – Saloon (The Ongoing Concept)
Overcome – No Reserves. No Retreats. No Regrets. (Facedown Records)
Sinking Ship Symphony – Sinking Ship Symphony  (Globe Garage)
Skinny Molly – Haywire Riot (RUF Records)
Snuff – 5-4-3-2-1-Perhaps! (Fat Wreck Chords)
Solange – True (Terrible Records)
Thorcraft Cobra – Count It In (Redeye)
Twenty One Pilots – Vessel (Fueled By Ramen)
Vomito Negro – Fall Of An Empire (Metropolis Records)
Wooden Wand – Blood Oaths Of The New Blues…

I was pumped for this show a good month before it even happened– as soon as it was announced.  Few bands have been making as big of waves in the modern emo scene than empire! empire! (I was a lonely estate) and The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die, so my excitement was warranted.  Teaming up for one show made for the perfect combination, as both bands have a similar style and delivery.  It also worked out that empire! empire! is a one man band, thus needing The World is… to fill in for the positions that Kieth Latinen could not possibly play.  The result was a seamless transition between the two, and wonderfully played show overall.

Despite the “big” names attached, the real show stealer was a local band called Saintseneca.  Hailing from Columbus, the band is a four piece folk group full of mulch-instrumentalists.  Without traditional percussion, the bulk of their music is comprised of twangy strings and heartfelt vocals.  Each selection was as beautiful and intriguing as the last, with each member swapping out duties ranging from guitar to ukelele.  It made for a very dynamic performance, always keeping the crowd on their toes not knowing what to expect next.  I had heard of the band, and had even dabbled in a bit of their material.  Never did I expect to be so impressed, as they were truly the band of the night.  Arrowhead happened to be…


10. The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

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

I think it’s about time that I let you all in on a little secret: I’m just a touch older than the average SputnikMusic user. Shock horror, huh? In fact, I may even be old enough to have seen items go out of fashion, only to have them return in popularity years later. Thick-rimmed glasses, new wave music, mini-skirts and vinyl records are all examples of such phenomena, so when The Gaslight Anthem released a single titled “45″, you could say that my interest was aroused… When the old-fashioned quartet went on to title their fourth LP ‘Handwritten’, I was officially an acolyte to the Ministry of The Gaslight Anthem. And yes, I do still hand-write many of my reviews, just like Brian Fallon and the guys would want me to. Here, famed producer Brendan O’Brien assists the New Jersey natives in carving out huge, soaring anthems which lose little of the band’s endearing sincerity. The accomplished musicianship takes in every corner of rock, with Fallon’s vocals continuing to improve as his surprisingly introspective lyrics make the detailed storytelling no less captivating. ‘Handwritten’ may downsize the outfit’s punkier leanings and be too familiar for some, but it is ultimately another assured, consistent and cohesive album from a rock’n’roll band at the top of…


30. Yellowcard – Southern Air

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

Ever since frontman Ryan Key took the reins with 2001’s One For The Kids, Yellowcard has been an example of what is right with pop-punk – the sunny vibe, the catchy choruses, the heartfelt lyrics, and the ever-so-rare element of consistency. An entire generation has been afforded the opportunity to follow YC’s career like a book, and Southern Air manages to keep stride with an audience that is not only aging, but is also maturing. Here, the energy flows freely and lyrics are chosen carefully. The result is an album that is equally as meaningful as it is infectious, lacing the subtle contributions of Tay Jardine (We Are The In Crowd) and Cassadee Pope (Hey Monday) with off-the-wall drumming and half-minute violin solos to make the most complete sounding album of the band’s career. With Southern Air, Yellowcard has finally managed to merge all of their best qualities into one disc. Bon appetit, pop-punk enthusiasts! -SowingSeason

29. Menomena – Moms

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

Breakups are hard, but you wouldn’t know it from Menomena, who followed up a split with founding member Brent Knopf and another in a long line of critically acclaimed albums with Moms, which just might happen…

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50. Propagandhi – Failed States

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

Failed States is Propagandhi’s bitter album. The Canadian punk rockers have always worn their angry, fist-raising politics on their sleeves – a particularly effective formula when mixed with the band’s more recent thrash-punk inclinations – but this time around it’s accompanied by a rather stark sense of futility. Guided by figures such as Chris Hedges, Failed States lambastes the vapid state of affairs which places more value in material culture, political, and religious talking points over genuine discussion. It isn’t hard to find reason for their cynicism; months ago, the band posted an interview of Hedges conducted by Fox News wannabe, Kevin O’Leary. Rather than engage Hedges in a discussion of the Occupy Movement, O’Leary was content in resorting to ad hominem attacks and semantic traps. It was an embarrassing display from what is supposed to be a serious political talk show, and for a band that’s built their career on promoting political activism and intelligent discussion it has to be a bitter pill to swallow. Consequently, much of the Failed States features diatribes against such stupidity, political apathy, and inaction; where previous albums parried against ideological opponents, this time around Propagandhi lament the seeming lack of engagement outside major social movements such as Occupy, YoSoy132, and 15-M. Propagandhi accentuates this with a ferocious…


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…

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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…

In March 2012, Lester Chambers (of The Chamber Brothers fame, a 1960s soul group) posted the following image to his official Facebook page:

That hit song? “Time Has Come Today”.

In fighting for an open Internet (especially in the face of threats such as SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, and so on), entrepreneurs such as Alexis Ohanian — who once upon a time co-founded reddit and created Breadpig in 2008, an organization he describes as “an uncorporation that deals in delightful geeky wares and helps people helping the world” — have decided to flex their proverbial muscle and do something about such injustices.  Upon seeing Lester’s story, Ohanian asserts that individuals around the world have an incredible opportunity to help support artists in the digital realm.

The two men met in April 2012, with Lester participating in a reddit Ask Me Anything around this time to tell his story and shed light on the corruption and tyranny of the record industry as he understood it. Lester’s story served as a catalyst to get him back in the studio to record another album.

With Breadpig, profits are disseminated to individuals and corporations that “make the world less sucky”, and the “uncorporation” spends its time “discovering and promoting fascinating technology, hacks, and ideas from all over the world” that are inspirational and impressive. Lester is now writing a new record, entitled Lester’s Time Has Come in an effort to not only rekindle his faith and trust in others’ vested interest…

In an effort to coalesce the reviews site with our sister site’s forums, feel free to drop in and introduce yourselves here! Your password for the reviews site will be the same as it is for the forums. Hat-tip to Black Ink for being the catalyst to try things out… until we continue to segregate ourselves, that is!

Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of December 11, 2012. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

This will be the last weekly new releases post for the year, but will return on the 8th of January 2013. Happy holidays everyone!

Angels & Airwaves – Stomping The Phantom Brake Pedal (To The Stars Records)
Blink 182 – Dogs Eating Dogs (Blink 182)
Blue Stahli – Antisleep Vol.3 (FiXT)
Burial – Truant/Rough Sleeper (Hyperdub)
Capture The Crown – ‘Til Death (Sumerian)
Chief Keef – Finally Rich (Interscope Records)
City Lights – Acoustic (Invogue Records)
The-Dream – Terius Nash:1977 (Def Jam)
Genetix – Installation/Natural State (Artikal Music)
Hybris – Occult/Agent (Subtitles Music)
Jenni Rivera – La Misma Gran Senora (Fonovisa Inc)
Kasra – Surface VIP/So Real (Critical Recordings)
Mistabishi – Skum (Noh Music)
PRPLX – Fabric Of Space (Tempo Recordings)
Spktrm – Android Dreams (Project 51)
T.I. – Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head (Atlantic)
Tiga – Non Stop (Pias America)
Time & Distance – ON (Time & Distance)
Watch This Burn – My…

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


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


22. Dweller on the Threshold-Dweller on the Threshold


21. Gaza-No Absolutes In Human Suffering


20. Abyssal-Denouenment

Death/Black Metal:

19. State Faults-Desolate Peaks


18. Narrows- Painted


Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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