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…
Every music critic likes to imagine, even if only subconsciously, that their year-end wrap-up will have some neat tale or trend that encapsulates the year in a couple of easy paragraphs. Unfortunately, the nearest one I could find is that two of the year’s best albums both had ‘England’ in the title and wrote about the country from completely differing, yet equally telling angles; and not only is that a drastic over-simplification that ignores 96% of my yearly top 50, but writing about that on an American website is hardly all that user-friendly, is it? (And hell, it’s probably about as relevant as pointing out that another two of the year’s best were also recorded by women with the surname Roberts.) For a while, I though the fact that I couldn’t find an angle might be the angle, that I’d end up writing about how music had splintered so much that it would be impossible for a story-arc like 1967’s psychedelic revolution, 1977’s punk outbreak, 1991’s ‘year of grunge’, or 1995’s Britpop wars to ever happen again.
Then I looked at the music I’d listened to this year, and I suddenly realized what the real story was – this was a fucking great year for music. There was so much good going on this year that I feel like I’ll still be catching up with it in April; there’s at least a dozen acclaimed albums I’m sure I’d like that I simply haven’t got around to yet (hello,
I guess it’s that time of year again. The time of year where I relentlessly put off things like studying and finals to somehow narrow down all that I’ve listened to in 2011 to a coherent 25 albums, which proves to be a near-impossible task every time. Yet, knowing that I’m almost certainly going to hate this list in a couple months, here I am anyways, trying to explain how or why these albums are better than the rest, and why some are better than those, and why one is better than them all.
I mean, I always mess it up. For context’s sake, last year I inexplicably managed to put Sufjan’s The Age of Adz at the top position, in a year that had The Monitor and The Wild Hunt and a bunch more deserving records. This year I also go with an out-of-nowhere oddball, a brilliant record that I didn’t realize was so amazing till very recently. I don’t know why I do this. Seriously. I mean, I guess it always becomes an emotional thing at this time of the year, when subjective thought takes a backseat. I feel as if this can be excused, though. It’s almost Christmas.
And it’s been a hard year. Without getting too sappy or self-involved or anything, a tragic event happened this year that shook me and my entire community to its core. Four of my friends died in a car crash coming back home from…
If there was a year where music met the digital, it was 2011. It was the year where the persona encompassed the artist to the point where it mattered more than the music. The obsession over identity explains the rise of Odd Future, the polarizing Lana Del Rey, Kreayshawn, and countless other hyped artists. Though it’s been said, many times, many ways, Twitter and social networking have changed the perception of our favorite artists forever. Who would Tyler, the Creator be without @fucktyler? How could The Weeknd have emerged without Drake tweeting about them and without their ability to create an initial image through a free, downloadable mixtape and smoky, hazy static-image YouTube videos. Would ASAP Rocky have gotten a $3 million record deal?
That being said, my favorite music of 2011 largely stays out of these battles. With the possible exception of The Weeknd, there was no artist who leveraged their ability to construct an identity through the digital age and embody that space in their music. That’s not an easy task, and to date, only Kanye pulled it off last year with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Strictly musically, 2011 was a year where every genre flourished, and I became more and more invested in hip-hop as the most culturally important genre around right now. It’s another product of going digital, with more and more artists gaining enough publicity for us to notice. More and more artists have the tools to create music. It’s a wonderful time for…
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…
Czar formed in January of 2009 from the ashes of Chicago’s industrial-metal juggernaut Acumen Nation. The trio consisting of Jason Novak, Dan Brill and Brian Elza is a fusion of brain and brawn, power and finesse, brutality and hooks, or what Outburn Magazine has coined “thinking man’s metal”. For fans of Gojira, Jesu, Mastodon and Helmet.
Czar take the dense riffs of post metal, the twitchy rhythms of prog and a healthy dose of straight-forward industrialized metal and form it into one excellent beast of an album.
Earlier this year, the world was meant to end. You’ll probably recall that it didn’t, but on looking around, you could probably just about be forgiven for keeping the champagne on ice; it’s not exactly pretty out there. With that in mind, there is obviously no room any more for miserable or downtrodden music. Forget F# A# Infinity: the true sound of the apocalypse is blind defiance in the form of these nine songs, some ecstatic, some considered, all (ultimately) optimistic. And it goes like this:
Coldplay – Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall
Said soundtrack begins, obviously, with a synth. Everything about Mylo Xyloto was euphoric and celebratory but this track is a microcosm of all the joy and release that Coldplay’s new album sprints through. In 4 minutes it morphs from an innocuous (but still insatiably catchy) beginning to a deafening climax. Every tear, every tear, every teardrop is a waterfall. Denial? Who cares.
The Dangerous Summer – War Paint
Like those intro drums indicate, sometimes it’s better to clench your fists and rise to a challenge; here, it’s the noble cause of laying down your arms. Poltical relevance! But really, nobody pictures a battlefield in the Middle East on hearing the words “Come down; all the fighting’s over!” It’s packed full of adrenaline and conviction in all the right ways, and opens one of the most relentlessly energetic albums of 2011. COOOME DOWWWWWN…
December is always a very slow month for new releases. Due to that fact and the influx of upcoming features, this will be the last news post of 2011. Review links will be updated on this page through the end of the year, but all of the other items will be put on hold until 2012.
As a reminder, voting is still open for the Users’ Best of 2011 list. Go to this thread, (read the guidelines) and vote:
Here’s a list of major new releases for December 2011. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.
Age of Woe – Age of Woe [EP] (Pivotal Rockordings)
Bassnectar – Divergent Spectrum (INgrooves) The Black Keys – El Camino(Nonesuch) – Rudy Klapper
Cormorant – Dwellings (Self Released)
The Cure – The Cure: Bestival Live 2011 ([PIAS] America)
Czar – Vertical Mass Grave (Crack Nation) Doris Day – My Heart [U.S. Edition] (Arwin Productions)
The Dead Milkmen – The King In Yellow (QUID ERGO)
Neil Diamond – Very Best Of Neil Diamond (Sony Legacy) Dia Frampton – Red(Universal Republic) – Trey Spencer Korn – The Path of Totality(Roadrunner Records) – Deviant
Lionize – Superczar and The…
Dia Frampton is one-half of the duo known as Meg and Dia (mind-blowing shit, I know). Apparently, she decided to audition for the TV show The Voice after her band was dropped from their record label. Her only goal was to try to bring attention to their current release, Cocoon, but she ended up finishing second overall. So, with fame comes the great responsibility to go solo, and that is where we are now. Dia was signed by Universal Republic and is set to release her debut solo album, Red, on December 6th. This is the video for her first single, “The Broken Ones”. I haven’t heard the album yet, but apparently she will be sticking with her ‘indie roots’ throughout the album. As long as she releases more music videos, who cares
Dia Frampton – Red
Release Date: December 6th Record Label: Universal Republic
It’s that time of year again — time for the Sputnik users to vote for their favorite albums of the year. Deviant and the Contributors will be heading up the voting and details. Go to this thread, (read the guidelines) and vote:
Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of November 29, 2011. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.
Anchorsong – Chapters (Tru Thoughts)
Beggars & Thieves – We Are the Brokenhearted (Frontiers Records) Blut Aus Nord – 777 – The Desanctification(Season of Mist) – Kyle Ward
Brand New – Your Favorite Weapon [Deluxe Edition] (Razor & Tie)
Cage – Supremacy of Steel (SOPQ)
Curren$y – Jet Life/Jet World Order (iHipHop Distribution)
Fades Away – Perceptions (Fades Away Productions)
Gorillaz – The Singles Collection: 2001-2011 (Virgin Records)
Hot Chelle Rae – Whatever (RCA)
Kj-52 – Kj-52 (Bec Recordings)
The Lemonheads – Hotel Sessions (CBRA)
Me Vs. Myself – Where I Am… Where I Want To Be (Century Media) Ourlives – Out of Place (Spartan Records) Pink Martini – A Retrospective (Heinz Records)
Rashad & Confidence – Element of Surprise (Ill Adrenaline)
Maria Rita – Elo (Warner Music Latina)
Royal Hunt – Show Me How to Live (Frontiers Records)
Soziedad Alkoholika – Cadenas De Odio (BOA Music)
Trey Songz – Inevitable (Atlantic)
Vildhjarta – Masstaden (Century Media)
Xenomorph – Empyreal Regimes (Self Released)
Young Jeezy & Yo…
Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of November 22, 2011. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.
Big Time Rush – Elevate (Columbia)
Mary J. Blige – My Life II: The Journey Continues, Act 1 (Geffen Records)
The Break Up – Synthesis (Metropolis Records)
Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow (ANTI Records) Vanessa Carlton – Hear the Bells [EP] (Razor & Tie)
Caustic – White Knuckle Head Fuck [EP] (Metropolis Records) Cloudkicker – Loop (Self Released)
Chris Cornell – Songbook (Universal Music) Daughtry – Break The Spell(RCA)
Dimlite – Grimm Reality (Now Again)
Doap Nixon – Doap Traffiking (Nickel Bagz)
Doomtree – No Kings (Doomtree Records) James Durbin – Memories Of A Beautiful Disaster (Wind-Up) Floating Points – Shadows [EP] (Eglo Records) – Deviant
Gazpacho – London (KSCOPE)
J. Period & Black Thought – The Best of The Roots (RBC Records) Kingdom [US] – Dreama(Night Slugs) – Deviant Koji Kondo – The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony(Nintendo)
Lagwagon – Double Plaidnum [Reissue] (Fat Wreck Chords)
Lagwagon – Duh [Reissue] (Fat Wreck Chords)
Lagwagon – Hoss [Reissue] (Fat Wreck Chords)
Lagwagon – Let’s Talk About Feelings [Reissue] (Fat Wreck Chords)
Lagwagon – Putting Music in its Place [Box Set] (Fat Wreck Chords)
Lagwagon – Trashed [Reissue] (Fat Wreck Chords)
Magazine – No Thyself (Wire-Sound Records)
Mobb Deep – Black…
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: