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Contributor Features

In Memoriam: Chris Whitley

I’ve been listening to Chris Whitley for more than 20 years. At first, I was resistant to enjoying his music — how ridiculous we can be. I was in my early 20s, and I met a lanky guy who had grown up in international schools, and had a penchant for open tunings. He spoke in a soft American accent, he played guitar brilliantly, and he was outrageously cool. He leant me a record called Living with the Law and I scoffed at it. The man on the cover looked trapped in that weird, out-of-touch crossroads hangover between the ’80s and the ’90s. At the time, I was discovering indie music — and this seemed the anathema to it. I mocked it, tossed it aside, and dug my heels with immature abandon.

However, I had listened to it. And after hearing it a few times, the hooks were in. The title track truly is one of the great openers of the ’90s — grudgingly, I could not deny the pockets of beauty in the space created by those soft, chalky chord changes. The voice sounds as if it comes from a wagon trail, a passenger exiting a taxi, a shortwave radio, a factory PA, or a campfire hidden in an unending canvas of pine trees. Chris Whitley sounds of the city and the country, and of any age.

Whitley never achieved much fame beyond that album; he always…

Best Album Covers of 2022

by neekafat

Another year, another grid! Yes, yes, half a year late, but I couldn’t live with myself if there was a gap year, and I couldn’t risk letting such beautiful (or decidedly not beautiful) album covers go unnoticed. As always, this list is neither ranked nor listed in any logical order, but rather ordered through an aesthetic progression of color, framing, and connective imagery. This is by no means an exhaustive (though it was exhausting) list of 2022’s best album artwork, but I did do my best to provide covers of varied styles, genres, and backgrounds. I’m sure some will let me know if I didn’t succeed! For now, I’ll let the artworks speak for themselves.

Click here for a high-res image:

Best-Album-Covers-of-2022

 

The Albums:

Melody’s Echo Chamber // Emotional Eternal


Alexisonfire // Otherness


Julia Jacklin // PRE PLEASURE


Soccer Mommy // Sometimes, Forever


Tate McRae // I Used To Think I Could Fly

BLACK MIDI // Hellfire


More Eaze // oneiric


Tenci // A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing


Birds in Row // Gris Klein


Camila Cabello // Familia


Witch Fever // Congregation

Highly Suspect // The Midnight Demon Club


Welcome to the second edition of Sputnikmusic’s very special round table interview featuring the site’s Contributors! In this multi-participant discussion, the team shall face several serious and humorous questions to give them the opportunity to let them shine and introduce themselves. However, instead of throwing questions towards each other this time around, garas volunteered to be the host of this interview. We hope you’ll enjoy it!

[Part I: 2022] // [Part II: 2023]

garas: Hello everyone, it’s garas here! In the latest promotion event several new people were blessed with the opportunity to become members of the Contributor team. So, let’s start with the most important question you all are probably wondering about:

1a) What is your favourite caffeine source (if there is any), and 1b) also, who the hell are you?

Just to give an example: I love espresso con panna the most. Also, I’m garas, AKA Gary the Grumpy, the local dungeon synth/black metal enthusiast in the team. Otherwise, just a regular metalhead from Hungary who loves cats and fantasy books and games a lot.

The MoC looking sufficiently grumpy.

fogza: I’m currently in love with milk replacements, so my go-to is the coconut milk latte, or as they call it at Pret: the coco latte. I’m fogza, your regular indie fan and traditional song format enthusiast, originally from South Africa but now residing in the UK.

ashcrash9: I’ve never…

[Part I] // [Part II]

They say you were something in those formative years…

For many, our love of music begins with the influence of our family and friends. I can remember my mom blasting Hendrix so loud the windows shook and I could feel it through the stool I was sitting on. Or hunched by the kitchen window watching the spread of milky coldness on the glass while my father cooked with Paul Simon singing “Mother and Child Reunion”. Still later, I would remember my brother buying Bon Jovi patches for his denim jacket.

There does come a time when something we hear goes beyond our inheritance. When I consciously chose an artist that no-one else championed, it changed what music did for me — it became an expression of my personality. Musical taste, to me anyway, is sometimes an instinctual compass that unlocks a part of who we are. These are some stories about those moments, as told by our contributor team. –fog


Red Hot Chili Peppers

My first real love in life was skateboarding. From the age of 7 upward, it was all I would do with my time. I’d take my horrible factory-made deck out into the school carpark down the road from my house and spend hours on end trying to slappy curbs and ollie manhole covers. Eventually, when I’d skinned my knees enough or twisted my ankle so badly I…

[Part I] // [Part II]

They say you were something in those formative years…

For many, our love of music begins with the influence of our family and friends. I can remember my mom blasting Hendrix so loud the windows shook and I could feel it through the stool I was sitting on. Or hunched by the kitchen window watching the spread of milky coldness on the glass while my father cooked with Paul Simon singing “Mother and Child Reunion”. Still later, I would remember my brother buying Bon Jovi patches for his denim jacket.

There does come a time when something we hear goes beyond our inheritance. When I consciously chose an artist that no-one else championed, it changed what music did for me — it became an expression of my personality. Musical taste, to me anyway, is sometimes an instinctual compass that unlocks a part of who we are. These are some stories about those moments, as told by our contributor team. –fog


U2

It’s 2005. 2006? The exact year doesn’t matter. I’m 9, maybe 10 years old, and clearly don’t know much about how the world works, but I harbor an unquenchable need — as the oldest child in my family, as the son of a teacher and a preacher, as someone with all the love and support you could ask for, Maslow’s first three needs safely met — to present…

The city of Columbus has changed much over the past decade. Ohio’s reputation as ‘that lame Midwestern state’ certainly persists, but it’d be hard to figure that when observing the growth of the state’s capital; it’s undergoing one of the highest growth rates of all Midwestern metropoles. It’s no longer simply a domain for the Buckeye faithful (and the broken, battered Blue Jackets fans), but a combination of diverse people arriving from all corners of the United States. It’s a change that can be observed in the heightened enrollment rates of The Ohio State University. It can be felt in the explosive crowds filling the stands of the novel Lower.com stadium. It can be witnessed in the outdoor Shakespeare shows and the sprawling Arts Festival. Most importantly, for us at least, it can be heard in the bustling live music scene.

As a consequence of Columbus’ rise to prominence, its music market has considerably increased. Beyond the multitude of stadiums and theaters that can serve as concert venues, there are a plethora of smaller locales with their own personality and show miscellany. A trip to north downtown’s King of Clubs might feature the legends of melodic death metal Dark Tranquillity, a brutal combo of Thy Art is Murder and After the Burial, or an amateur wrestling display. KEMBA Live can provide The Shins, Wiz Khalifa, or Meshuggah. For something off the beaten path, The Rambling House exhibits bluegrass jam sessions, jazz and stand-up comedy. Regardless of…

It should bear no repeating, yet I’ll do so once more for those in the back: modern metalcore is in safe hands. Bands come and go, trends rise and fall, but the genre is a resilient one; a slew of acts have come to prominence in the past decade, each one eager to carve out a slice of the heavy music listening base. After an arduous day of stress, responsibilities and other such clutter, there’s no better release than a masterful breakdown or sudden barrage of discordant riffs. It’s an adrenaline rush that continuously defines the classification in a unique manner. Rest assured, this new school has officially taken up the mantle in their own ways, be it unabashed chaos, groovy swagger, or genuine emotion. Essentially, whatever one desires out of a -core package, the genre can quickly offer an appropriate escape. Combine all three approaches and a wondrous idea is formed: a tour across the nation featuring some of the hottest names mentioned in the underground. There’s always an audience hungry for the unrelenting pandemonium live metal shows can provide — something evident in the frantic mosh pits and equally energetic stage antics. Thus, the Beautiful Coma Tour was constructed: an epic union of Limbs out of Florida, Kentucky’s own Greyhaven, and The surprisingly-not-from-Dallas Callous Daoboys. As could perhaps be predicted, it was a match made in heaven.

Fans of the expanding Columbus underground scene gathered…

Welcome to sputnikmusic’s (first ever?) roundtable interview, featuring the contributors! The goal is to create an opportunity to illuminate some of the current contributing team, like how it goes with the staffers in the ongoing Staff Wars series: questions and answers in a cozy interview. But there is a twist: we ask and answer the questions by all of us! We hope you’ll enjoy it.

List of participants (alphabetical order): dedex, dmathias52, Evok, garas, JesperL, Kompys2000, Koris, linguist2011, neekafat, Sunnyvale, tyman128, YoYoMancuso

[Because this roundtable spanned several months, some responses have been edited for clarity.]

[Part I: 2022] // [Part II: 2023]


Question 1, via garas:
Who the hell are you, and what is your spirit animal?

garas: I’m the resident grumpy Hungarian who doesn’t care about just riffs and ambiance (or cats and craft beers) — I’d say it’s the perfect match to my biologist career. It’s darker than you think! [Carpathian Forest starts playing in the background] Also, my spirit animal would be:

Cat photo.

garas’ face every morning

dedex: I’m a Franco-Belgian idiot who likes way too many genres to properly focus on one. I’m a data analyst, so I spend my days looking at stuff and listening to music — dope! My spirit animal is France’s national emblem: the rooster (also called ‘the cock’), ’cause it’s the only animal that can sing with both feet deep in…

Once again, out of sheer obsession and love for visual art, I have compiled my 100 favorite album covers of the year. Keep in mind that this list is not ranked in any way, instead ordered left to right by aesthetics, imagery, and framing, with an emphasis on color this year. There is so much great album artwork that was left on the cutting room floor, and I’m sure there is an even greater number of albums that I didn’t happen to catch. 100 seems like a lot until you have to start cutting it down! I hope you enjoy these covers as much as I do!

Click or tap the 10×10 grid to see 2021’s high-res image. To see 2020’s featurette, click or tap here. –neekafat

2021nt


Emma Ruth Rundle // Engine of Hell

n1
Alice Phoebe Lou // Glow

n2
Hayley Williams // Flowers for Vases / DESCANSOS

n3
Mogwai // As the Love Continues

n4
Magdelena Bay // Mercurial World

n5
Rhye // Home

n6
Lingua Ignota // SINNER GET READY

n7a
Unireqvited // Beautiful Ghosts

n8
Celeste // Not Your Muse

n9
Eomac // Cracks

n10
BLACK MIDI // Cavalcade

n11
Papangu // Holoceno

n12
Abscession // Rot of Ages

n13
ZAÄAR // Magická Dźungl’a

n14
Sordide

While there was certainly no shortage of exceptional metalcore releases in 2018, one in particular possessed a level of ingenuity in its craft that deserved far greater praise. Despite their underground status, Noise Trail Immersion managed to emerge from the depths to secure a portion of the spotlight, revealing to a broader audience their expertise over technicality and atmosphere. Their brand of post metalcore contained a frighteningly aggressive quality owing to influence from black metal titans of the modern day. Such a combination bred a sophomore record that immersed listeners in a realm of psychological terror, portraying the decomposition of one’s mind as it travels through stages of nihilism, a loss of faith, and an eventual acceptance of cognitive demise. It was a blockbuster album towering above a stacked field of aspiring artists; few were able to contend with the level of songwriting the young group displayed so early in their career.

Creating such an experience, let alone constructing a worthy sequel, is a tall order for any collective to fulfill. After a prolonged period dedicated to arranging this long awaited album, the band joined forces with I, Voidhanger Records in order to house their latest creation. Considering how highly I value the nascent body of work cultivated by Noise Trail Immersion, comprehending the process that motivated their efforts immediately caught my interest. With the upcoming third disc approaching on the horizon, primed for takeoff to impose further dissonant riffs upon the masses, I had a conversation with primary composer…

After years of procrastination, deep into my 2020 lockdown, I decided to turn my love for album artwork into something concrete. Drawing off of my previous quarterly lists, I’ve spent the past year curating a compilation of the 100 most impressive and beautiful album covers of the year. The art is not ranked, but ordered through vague aesthetic similarities from color to framing to iconography. This list is not exhaustive, of course, as there were a plethora of stellar works that made it extremely hard to boil it down to just these albums. Special thanks to the user someone for his huge help in finding some of these hidden gems. Here’s to another year of beautiful artwork!

Click or tap the 10×10 grid to see the high-res image.

For a high-res image with each album listed, click or tap here. –neekafat

neekanotitles550


Black Thought // Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cane & Able

neek1
Kesha // High Road

neek2
Misery Signals // Ultraviolet

neek3
Within Destruction // Yōkai

neek4
Invent, Animate // Greyview

neek5
Zombi // 2020

neek6
The Vamps // Cherry Blossom

neek7
upsammy // It Drips

neek8
Kairon; IRSE! // Polysomn

neek9
Silverstein // A Beautiful Place To Drown

neek10
Psychonaut // Unfold the God Man

neek11
HHY & The Kampala Unit // Lithium Blast

neek12

Post-Metalcore:
The Little Engine That Could

A four-part series by MarsKid

[Part I] || [Part II] || [Part III] || [Part IV]


Part IV: Changing the Game

On paper, detractors that remained in the metalcore scene had plenty of ammunition in 2016. After years of providing the most chaotic brand of the genre to hit a mainstream audience, The Dillinger Escape Plan announced that they were terminating the band, concluding an enviable career with their swan song Dissociation. Their counterparts in Converge, though not absent from the scene, had not released new material since 2012, creating a subtle sense of doubt over whether or not there would be more to come. In the prog-core circle, proceedings apparently reached a grinding halt once key groups began to falter late in their career, in part due to personnel alterations. Erra presented Drift, which was caught in the shadow of Augment — a tall task to defeat such an influential record, in fairness — while Northlane began a steady decline in quality. Younger acts that took up the mantle were similarly faltering; Invent, Animate disappeared following Stillworld and lost a critical component when vocalist Ben English decided to depart from the band. For those that desired another surge in the creativity of the underground or the progress metal crossover realm, the classification seemed to have launched headfirst into a brick wall and shattered, with little…

Post-Metalcore:
The Little Engine That Could

A four-part series by MarsKid

[Part I] || [Part II] || [Part III] || [Part IV]


Part III: Death of a Genre?

What exactly causes a genre of music to ‘die’? The concept is used commonly, yet the specific definition shifts depending on who utters it. For some observers, a category experiencing a demise means that it has lost any and all creativity. Others contend it occurs when, as far as mainstream coverage is concerned, the genre appears to lose whatever relevance it had. In an extreme case, there may be so few named players in a scene that it might as well be declared obsolete. If anything, I find that the latter explanation seems most appropriate. First, the concept often supplied of ‘lacking imagination’ is less of a “genre is dead” scenario and more of a case of stagnation. Groups still exist in the classification — perhaps even in high amounts — but none of them are diverging from the classics that led to their emergence. Secondly, the mainstream is a poor judge of measuring viability, since the underground will never receive the same press coverage. Thus, a scene where the big-league bands are struggling can give a false illustration, because what happens under their domineering popularity might be compelling. The nadirs of metalcore may not have been at the productivity witnessed years prior, but it was…

Post-Metalcore:
The Little Engine That Could

A four-part series by MarsKid

[Part I] || [Part II] || [Part III] || [Part IV]


Part II: Underground Alone

The blueprints for post-metalcore had been amassed over the course of the 1990s. Once the genre began near the early 2000s and stepped into a new century, the efforts of groups past started to coalesce into products that combined their influences into the primary works of the post-metalcore catalogue. The overarching category as a whole was readying to embark upon a renaissance period that would result in an explosion of new acts. A changing of the guard was occurring as the hardcore acts of yesteryear passed the torch on to nascent crews. Those that survived the shifting of years, like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge, and Zao continued to accrue relevance, with the former two bands hitting their stride in the initial half of the new decade — Miss Machine would arrive in 2004, while the iconic Jane Doe would storm the metal world in 2001, forever changing the category it was attached to. It was in this period that an affinity for melody was championed, which found a home in the spacey soundscapes of Hopesfall and the addicting passages of Misery Signals. Norma Jean was starting to wreak havoc. Underoath was slowly starting…

Post-Metalcore:
The Little Engine That Could

A four-part series by MarsKid

[Part I] || [Part II] || [Part III] || [Part IV]


Part I: Roots

What Rolo Tomassi managed to accomplish in 2018 deserves to be remembered for decades to come. The year 2018 as a whole was a landmark for the metalcore genre in the modern era of its existence, but Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It attained mainstream attention that wasn’t matched by peers who performed a similar style. Across metal music platforms, the British collective dominated front pages and earned acclaim for a sound that wasn’t often brought to the forefront of the scene. Perhaps most surprisingly was the crossover appeal that the group cultivated; individuals that had not a care for metalcore or even metal overall discovered that the band scratched a very particular itch few other acts could offer. However, I’d argue that this phenomenon was inevitable, not shocking. It’s imperative to note that Rolo Tomassi were not an unknown entity, as their impressive body of work in the underground demonstrated a gradual progression to a magnum opus — Grievances was enough of a hint that a masterwork was imminent. Other than that fact, the precise presentation the group engaged in was a methodology that had been quietly developed in the background for years. It took a tremendous year for metalcore to expose…

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