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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…


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!,

Jom

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).

Enjoy.

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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.

25. Youth Lagoon – Year of Hibernation

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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.

24. White Denim – D

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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.

23. Bibio – Mind Bokeh

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Hi, my name’s Dave.

(Hi 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…


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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,

All expressions of jubilation and pleasure (and depressing-looking hand claps) are property of the Great Leader, who likes to look at things.

Err’day I’m shuffarin’.


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…


Happy December!

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!

///

25

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…


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