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)
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):
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…
When the powers-that-be at SSC (that’s “Sputnik Staff Central” for those out of the loop) almost ruled that all staff were to place their year-end lists on the blog this year, I quivered at the thought. It usually takes me about 15 minutes to center one picture, so could you imagine 25 or 40 of them!?
As it thankfully turned out, the consensus suggested such posting would be non-mandatory, allowing staff to be flexible with what they put up on the blog. All of a sudden, I thought that I would manage to scrape something half-decent together. And then, my learned colleagues had to get all artistic on me, didn’t they? Sowing led out before I even knew what my Top 25 albums consisted of… Chan & Tyler posted cool photos which would probably see me in jail for licensing infingements… Newbie Adam Knott went with the simple – but cool – idea of just listing songs instead of albums… Jom posted more links than I could click at… While Matt appeared from nowhere with a Hemingway-inspired half-a-dozen that totalled all of 18 words!
It was all too much for my feeble mind to take in… Resulting in this hodgepodge of albums, EPs, songs, videos, gigs & one final defining moment of 2011. Hopefully, it doesn’t come off as too informal and/or half-assed in places, and in the next week or so I will be formally posting my Top 40 albums & songs of 2011… As a LIST! Fuck…
Can I just skip the token introduction about how we’ve made it another year?
I mean, shit, am I the only one who WASN’T in that fucking New Year’s Eve movie?
If I know our readership (and trust me, with all the reported posts I’ve had to moderate this year and spam I’ve had to clean up, I believe that I do in more ways than I’d care to mention), you couldn’t care less about [these awesome things that happened to me] and [these shitty things that happened to me] and you just want to get right to the list.
The fact that you’re reading this sentence implies that you might actually look at my list before scoffing at it, so it’s with the utmost sincerity that I say, “Thanks!”
Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of “Well, no shit, it’s a Jom list…” picks on here; however, if, by chance, you stumble across an artist you haven’t yet heard, I encourage you to read my ramblings and listen to the stream provided for each record. I’m not promising that you’ll love it, but my goal is for you to have an understanding as to why it made it onto my list.
To conclude, I wish you all the best, with good luck and good health in 2012; at least, until the zombie Mayans come back from the dead to fuck our shit up.
Thanks again for reading!,
From Ingrid’s upcoming January 2012 release, Human Again, I invite you to get swept up in “Ghost” with me. Personally, I thought Everybody was a bit unimaginative for this whimsical, often quirky pop star…but it seems like she is on the right track again after teaming up with producer David Kahne (Imogen Heap, Bangles).
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
So 2011 was a lot of fun.
Spotify || YouTube
Trevor Powers’ music makes me feel a lot of things I just can’t put my finger on. When I first heard it, the walls of reverb and slow burning melodies seemed tailor-made to lull me to sleep. Like the best dream-pop records, though, it kept bringing me back, searching for the power in these seemingly nonchalant, mumbled lyrics and those chords that surge upwards, eternally hopeful. It’s more of a feeling than anything I can write down, though, the kind of satisfaction you get from waking up from a really good dream that you just can’t remember the details of. Dream music, that sounds about right.
Spotify || YouTube
If this is what jam bands do nowadays, I need to start growing my mustache out and cultivate a stash of patchouli, because this is the kind of 21st-century music that you air-guitar along to. I don’t know what front man James Petralli is mumbling on about half the time, but that’s hardly the point – when they’re infusing psychedelic rock with prog and jazz and a healthy dose of innovative looping techniques, you’ll be plenty focused on just trying to keep up.
, Bright Eyes
, Florence and the Machine
, Handsome Furs
, Manchester Orchestra
, Mister Heavenly
, The Antlers
, the Dear Hunter
, the dodos
, the Horrors
, The Jezabels
, the Kills
, the War on Drugs
, White Denim
, Youth Lagoon
Hi, my name’s Dave.
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…