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The Users’ Best of 2011 list has been posted in its entirety. Feel free to skim through it and lament the omission of your favorite albums.

Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of January 31, 2012. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

The 2 Bears – Be Strong (DFA)
Alcest – Les Voyages de L’Ame (Prophecy Productions) – Kyle Ward
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour – Out Of Frequency (B.A.R. Music)
Astral Doors – Jerusalem (Metalville)
Black Bananas – Rad Times Xpress IV (Piccadilly Records)
Bleeding Through – The Great Fire (Rise Records)
Cirith Ungol – Servants of Chaos [Re-Issue] (Metal Blade)
Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas (Columbia)
The Doozer – Keep It Together (Woodsist)
Candy Dulfer – Crazy (Razor & Tie)
Lana del Rey- Born to Die (Interscope) – Adam Downer
Matt Flinner – Winter Harvest (Compass Records)
Ruthie Foster – Let It Burn (Blue Corn Music)
Aretha Franklin – Knew You Were Waiting: The Best of Aretha Franklin 1980-1998 (Sony Legacy)
Jacques Greene – Concealer (Self Released) – Deviant
Gotye – Making Mirrors (Universal Republic)
Grimes – Visions (4AD) – Conrad Tao
Hit The Lights – Invicta (Razor & Tie) – DaveyBoy
Imperial Teen – Feel The Sound (Merge Records)
The Internet – Purple Naked Ladies [Physical Version] (Odd Future) – Deviant
The Jealous Sound – A Gentle…

10. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

[Official Site] // [Facebook]

Robin Pecknold wants to be the man on the screen – that much is clear from the get-go – but how far are we willing to bend to accommodate him? Quite a bit, it seems, judging by the Santoshian levels of patience with which all of us waited for his band’s sophomore release, Helplessness Blues, to drop. Although three years usually isn’t seen as a particularly long gestation period for an album – just ask Kate Bush – it wasn’t really the length of the wait that ended up toying with us big time, but rather the stop-start nature of the band’s initial recording sessions and Pecknold’s sketchy vision of what he wanted his group’s second album to be like. Having first said that he wanted the album to be released in late 2009, and that, “even if there are fuck-ups, I want them to be on there: I want there to be guitar mistakes; I want there to be not totally flawless vocals”, the principal songwriter for the Fleet Foxes ended up scrapping virtually the entirety of their first batch of recording sessions once he decided that he didn’t quite like what he was hearing, thus sending his entire crew back to the drawing board and about $60,000 in the hole. Once famously described by Seattle producer Phil Ek as having “talent coming out of his ass”, the Seattle native…

Let me preface this by stating outright that there are better ways to go about wooing the female object of your desire. In most cases, being yourself will do the trick. There is no substitute for self-confidence, and slyly passing along a once blank CD upon which you poured your heart and soul to a near stranger will only win you an awkward look – or a restraining order. However, a well thought out mixtape, delivered at the right time, can be a very romantic gesture. Whether you are courting a girl or have been dating her for quite some time, there are a few simple preliminary rules we should go over before I delve into our first lesson in the art of mixtaping.

First, you should never, never, ever create a mixtape for someone you LITERALLY JUST MET. A mixtape is supposed to say something, either about her or yourself, and there is nothing of romantic value that you can possibly need to divulge after spending twenty-five minutes chatting at the food court and sharing a Wendy’s frosty. If you come on too strong, you, like that frosty, will soon be nonexistent in her eyes, capisce? Okay, now that we have established what was hopefully obvious, let’s take a look at rule number two. PERSONALIZE IT. The trick is that you want her to think of you when she hears the songs, so try to steer clear of more popular items that she may have already associated a…

30. Deafheaven – Roads To Judah

[Official Site] // [Facebook]

Riding on the curtails of a buzzing demo, followed by the left-field addition into hardcore/metal label Deathwish, Bay Area’s own Deafheaven is a poster child of success this year.  Essentially springing up out of nowhere, their own special blend of “My Bloody Valentine meets Weakling” has spring boarded them into the limelight, reaching and relating to fans of multiple genres and styles.  Roads To Judah carries so much depth as an album that its nearly unimaginable to believe that it’s only a debut, leaving the door open for countless possibilities and directions as to which path this enigmatic group will tread upon next.  Whether its the shoegazey haze of ‘Violet’, to the post-rock/black metal hybrid of ‘Unrequited’, Roads To Judah is a melting pot of various musical styles that blend together to create one of the most memorable debut albums this generation has ever seen. – ThisLifeisGenocide

29. Protest The Hero – Scurrilous

[Official Site] // [Facebook]

“Vulgar verbal abuse; foul-mouthed; coarse, abusive, or slanderous,” reads the dictionary definition of “scurrilous”, which, while a more-than-decent descriptor of Canadian progressive metal band Protest the Hero’s (PtH) third studio effort, doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Scurrilous sees PtH indulging in shenanigans that frankly didn’t seem possible during their unpolished (but much-heralded) Kezia and Fortress eras. Most evident of all is their…

50. Esoteric – Paragon of Dissonance

[Official Site] // [Facebook]

At this point, Esoteric can be called the forerunners of funeral doom metal, because they’re just that good. Paragon Of Dissonance is more of the same from the esteemed band, only this time massive improvements have been made. The rhythm section and melodies that weave into the thick, crushing guitars are more interesting than usual, making massive song lengths seem shorter than they are. When I say massive song lengths, I mean that the longest song here is eighteen minutes long – that’s pretty long. Still, as usual, Esoteric handle their songs excellently, somehow keeping the listener hypnotized the entire time. It’s no easy task, but they make it look like child’s play. Now that’s some proper funeral doom! – Pizzamachine

49. Grouper – A I A

[Official Site] // [Facebook]

Well, isn’t this fitting. A I A, elusive and gorgeous little double-mini-album that it is, is perfectly content here, as the forty-ninth of fifty great albums this year, sandwiched between two metal albums you probably forgot to download. This is an album destined to be eternally lodged in the periphery of music criticism communities like the one we have here–something that distinguishes it from, say, Bon Iver, Bon Iver or James Blake or what have you. This isn’t to say that A I A is worse than those other albums–after all, it’s my fifth favorite…

Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of January 24, 2012. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

Aborted – Global Flatline (Century Media)
Archetype – Red Wedding (Dekagon Records)
Atomic Forest – Obsession [Remastered] (Now Again)
Battle Beast – Steel {EU} (Nuclear Blast)
Bhi Bhiman – Bhiman (Redeye Label)
Biohazard – Reborn In Defiance (Nuclear Blast)
Blessed By a Broken Heart – Feel the Power (Tooth & Nail Records)
Bleubird – Cannonball!!! (Fake Four Inc.)
Chairlift – Something (Columbia)
Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory (Carpark Records) – Adam Downer
Joe Cocker – Hard Knocks (Savoy Label Group)
Dead Icons – Condemned (Bullet Tooth)
Dion – Tank Full of Blues (Blue Horizon Ventures)
Craig Finn – Clear Heart Full Eyes (Vagrant Records) – Adam Knott
First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar (Wichita Recordings)
Foxy Shazam – The Church of Rock and Roll (EMI)
Gangrene – Vodka and Ayahuaska (Decon Inc)
Gonjasufi – MU.ZZ.LE. (Warp Records) – Deviant
Graffiti6 – Colours (Capitol)
Irdorath – Dekonstrukteur Des Fleisches {EU} (Massacre Records)
Kari Jobe – Where I Find You (Sparrow/EMD)
Lacuna Coil – Dark Adrenaline (Century Media) – Trey Spencer
Lamb of God – Resolution (Epic) – Steve M.
Madchild – Little Monster (Suburban Noize Records)
Tim McGraw – Emotional Traffic (Curb Records)
Ingrid Michaelson – Human Again (Cabin

10. Immolation – Providence

[Official Site] // [Facebook]

Providence is Immolation basically giving us more of the same, which just means more really quality death metal. Rob Vigna and Bill Taylor lay down some gnarly trems and pinch harmonics while Steve Shalaty rips it up on the kit. No bells and whistles here, kids – just riffs. And good ones at that. These five tasty tracks pick up where Majesty And Decay left off to show there’s still plenty of momentum and longevity in this quarter-of-a-century-old band. Let’s just hope Scion keeps footing the bill for more free metal of this caliber. – AngelOfDeath

9. Mogwai – Earth Division

[Official Site] // [Facebook]

It’s been quite a long time since Mogwai has really been able to “wow” listeners.  Their 1997 debut, Young Team did an admirable job, as did 2006’s Mr. Beast, but high quality releases have been few and far between for the Scottish post-rock band.  Their latest LP failed to make waves, and became a sort of “back burner” type of release.  However, the creativity and intrigue absent on Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will survived elsewhere, in the form of a little EP called Earth DivisionEarth Division features more thoughtful songwriting, with more lush atmospheres and mellow instrumentation, as well as vocals, a Mogwai rarity.  It stands out as wholly unique, with the beautiful and touching songs being some…

Here’s another glare from Stephin Merritt, and this time it’s a reminder: before this non-synth triology of nonsense was a late ’80s, early Indie band falling into the new decade with nothing but the tricks they’d been taught to survive. Tricks which they had failed at, anyway, because of Merritt himself, hands in his face and eyes rolling. It’s funny, because The Magnetic Fields would have been a big contradiction of terms– a breezy synth-pop band with a droning, insulting genius propelling them– if it wasn’t for Merritt’s attention to detail (or: attention to himself). The synthesizers of Holiday didn’t exactly sparkle for the sun shining on them, and why would they? Merritt’s never really gone for the sugary-sweet fare of twee’s higher-ups, writing a lyric like “under more stars than there are prostitues in Thailand” when he might have learned a more romantic sentiment from silliness like “la la love you.”

But Merritt is not silly. He’s like the version of himself Scott Walker sees before ghosts teach him to love Christmas, using the synthesizer as a tool to turn the theatrical into a pantomine, from the aliens-do-country road trips of Highway Strip to his definitely-ironic retelling of how people love on 69 Love Songs. He’s spoiling movies and ruining stories, and “Andrew In Drag” is a track, weirdly, in the spirit of those two records, downbeat and hysterical but told deadly serious, like the man rolling his eyes now and forever. And it’ll make sense in context,…

I don’t know why I’m writing this.

I mean, I kind of do. This should be my year-end feature, where I put the albums I liked in an arbitrary list so you can understand how I experienced the past twelve months. But how could I write that when I have no fucking idea what happened the past twelve months? So instead I’m writing this: an attempt to make sense of the most bizarre year– of music, of life, of culture– that I’ve ever experienced. I don’t think I’m going to succeed. What’s to follow is a self-indulgent rant on phenomenal music I didn’t really get, my bewilderment over the critical reception to Bon Iver, and a Channing-esque query as to what music even means to me anymore. But I have to do this. Even if I don’t know why.

I don’t think I’m alone. The entire year, I got the sense that nobody really knew what was happening in 2011 but just sort of ran with it. Reading the various year end write-ups across the internet, I’m comforted to see at least a couple other publications acknowledge of how weird this year was. SPIN, for example, is all about it. They seem excited about where this directionless quagmire is going to take us in the future. I’m fucking terrified of it.

It’s an old argument, but even as an internet writer, I have to admit the internet is over-saturating culture. To paraphrase Milan Kundera, we no longer live in a…

Here’s a list of major new releases for the week of January 17, 2012. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

The Anabasis – Back From Being Gone (10T Records)
Steve Aoki – Wonderland (Ultra Records)
Attack Attack! – This Means War (Rise Records)
Jessie Baylin – Little Spark (Blonde Rat)
The Big Pink – Future This (4AD Records) – Steve M.
Bombay Bicycle Club – Different Kind of Fix (A&M)
Cate Le Bon – CYRK (The Control Group) – Robin Smith
Roger Creager – Surrender (Thirty Tigers)
The Devil’s Blood – Thousandfold Epicentre (Metal Blade)
Ani Difranco – Which Side Are You On (Righteous Babe)
Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur (Zoe/Rounder)
Matt Elliot – The Broken Man (Ici d’ailleurs)
Enter Shikari – A Flash Flood of Colour (Hopeless Records)
Farsot – Insects (Prophecy)
Girls Generation – Boys (Interscope Records)
Anthony Green – Beautiful Things (Photo Finish)
Guided By Voices – Let’s Go Eat the Factory (Guided By Voices) – Robin Smith
Howler – America Give Up (Rough Trade)
Kells – Anachromie (Season of Mist)
Koncept – Awaken (Soulspazm Records)
Lantlos – Agape (Prophecy Productions)
The Life & Times – No One Loves You Like I Do (Slimstyle Records)
Loincloth – Iron Balls of Steal (Southern Lord)
Martina McBride – Hits and More (Sony Nashville)
Modern English – Ricochet Days (4AD Records)
Amaia Montero – 2…

50-31 | 30-11 | 10-1

10. Touche Amore – Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me

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

A few months ago I made my way down from the San Fernando Valley ‘burbs which I call home to the city of Echo Park, which is situated half way in between the seedy faux-glamour of Hollywood and Downtown Los Angeles, to see Touche Amore’s homecoming show at the Echoplex. As I drove past the venue in my feeble attempts to find a parking spot it hit me just how big they have become since the release of Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me. The show that night, also featuring La Dispute and Pianos Become the Teeth, was a microcosm of the current rebirth of and the post-hardcore scene that some have been calling “The Wave” and others like myself just call a welcome change of pace. And just like that night, with Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me Touche Amore have positioned themselves at the front of this movement.

Taking influence from early 2000’s post-hardcore bands such as Thursday, the 90’s emo underground, and the last 20 years of indie scene, Touche Amore’s Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me is a quick burst of artful yet emotional punk rock. Driven…

50-31 | 30-11 | 10-1

30. Givers – In Light

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

In the ever-changing world of the music industry, indie-pop is no longer the flavor of the month. Even its stalwart mainstays from New York City, California and England are expanding their instrumental palette in order to open up new sounds, vibes and textures. Who knew that it would be the Cajun and Zydeco hotbed of Louisiana which would produce one of the most promising talents that the genre has seen in years: Lafayette’s Givers. Their debut LP ‘In Light’ takes you on a trip around the musical world, with subtle Cajun & funk influences differentiating the band from the pack. The finger-picked acoustic guitar of ‘Saw You First’ adds a Southern feel, ‘Ripe’ has a decidedly Asian flavor, ‘In My Eyes’ and ‘Ceiling of Plankton’ contain some Caribbean calypso, while the beautiful ukulele boasting ‘Atlantic’ convincingly carries a Celtic vibe! With all 5 members being multi-instrumentalists and a brilliant boy/girl vocal dynamic, an expansive array of sounds and influences are apparent. Creative and experimental without sacrificing accessibility, ‘In Light’ is without filler and begs for repeated listens to explore its numerous layers, rhythms & melodies. Recommended Tracks: Meantime, Up Up Up, Atlantic, Noche Nada & Ceiling of Plankton. – Davey Boy

50-31 | 30-11 | 10-1

50. FaltyDL – You Stand Uncertain

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

Despite its title, Drew Lustman’s follow-up to 2009’s Love Is A Liability is anything but; it’s an album built upon an almost obsessive dedication, one that sees itself rising far above his debut LP because this time Drew wisely chooses to pursue just one of his many personalities. And he follows that trajectory almost aggressively, to the point where each song plays out as a natural extension of everything that’s come before it. You Stand Uncertain is a definitive statement of sorts for Falty, one that sees his affinity for doe-eyed house and garage absorbed to the point where one becomes wholly inseparable and almost indefinable from the other. It’s an album that sounds completely at odds with its surroundings; recorded in New York, it rebels against the timpani of a bustling city, the skyline framed by towering concrete monoliths by opting instead for more open climes, the kind defined by porcelain-white beaches and oceans that stretch out far beyond the line on the horizon. As such, You Stand Uncertain is a muggy, almost sweaty affair, coated in a thick haze of melting percussion and teary-eyed wonky synths, that dips from the junglist hardcore of ‘Lucky Luciano’ through the robotic…

Welcome to a new year and a new, quick-as-shit server. As we count down to our eventual extinction on December 21st,  you might consider checking out a few of these new releases. Please feel free to request reviews for any of the following albums from staff or contributors.

Acretongue – Strange Cargo (Metropolis Records)
Aesthetic Perfection – Inhuman (Metropolis Records)
Gabrielle Aplin – Home EP (Self Released) – Steve M.
Joshua Bell – French Impressions (Sony Masterworks)
Cyanotic – MedPack Vol. 1 (Glitchmode Records)
David Crowder*Band – Give Us Rest (Six Step Records)
KG Omulo – Ayah Ye! Moving Train (KG Omulo)
Lil Wayne – I’m Back (Deep Distribution)
The Little Willies – For the Good Times (Milking Bull/EMI)
Van Morrison – Live on Air (IMV BLUELINE)
Eric Nicolau – Won’t You Stay (Still Sails Music)
Nightwish – Imaginaerum (Roadrunner Records)
Rebelution – Peace of Mind (Controlled Substance Recordings)
Red Wanting Blue – From The Vanishing Point (Fanatic)
Safetysuit – These Times (Universal Republic Records)
SITD – Icon:Koru (Metropolis Records)
Snow Patrol – Fallen Empires (Universal Music Group)
Yo Gotti – Live From the Kitchen (J-Records)


Album Streams:

KG Omulo – Ayah Ye! Moving Train

Eric Nicolau – Won’t You Stay

Rebelution – Peace of Mind

Red Wanting Blue – From The Vanishing Point

Yo Gotti – Live From the Kitchen


SputnikMusic’s Most Played Artists of the Week (according to Last.FM):



Lana del Rey's got nothing on those chinky lips
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.

Meanwhile, two twenty-somethings in Minneapolis talked about the Internet as a nigh palpable place, released hyperactive music obviously emerging from what a breathless Tiny Mix Tapes feature called a “chaotic slipstream that has become its own gloriously bizarre anti-aesthetic”, and introduced thousands of white kids who just can’t let their precious indie rock go to the maximalist wonders of K-pop. (“Bubble Pop!” is a reliable favorite.) Montreal’s Claire Boucher, when not crafting the most engrossing pop music since “Heartbeats” first blew up, went out…


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