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01.28.20 Dicography Journeys12.20.19 COMPLETED: 2019 Yearly Staff List Liste
01.14.19 Listening to the entire 2018 staff list01.02.19 Listening to the entire 2018 staff list
10.16.11 Good Stuff In Japanese10.16.11 Good Stuff In Japanese
07.19.11 New Thrice Song. 03.24.11 Tv Show Opening Videos
05.03.10 Porcupine Tree Setlist 4/3002.03.10 Attention Sputnik Metalheads
12.24.09 No End Of Year Feature???08.31.09 Moustache Metal!!!
07.25.09 Summer Albums05.11.09 Home From College
04.12.09 I Hate Cynic03.16.09 Recent Acquisitions
01.28.09 If You're Willing To Play The Game, We'12.18.08 Emo Advice
More »

COMPLETED: 2019 Yearly Staff List Listen

Last year I listened through the entire Sputnik staff list from 50 to 1. It was a lot of fun, and forcing myself to check out every album in order opened me up to a ton of music I never would have checked otherwise. I've been looking forward to doing the same this year, especially since a lot of my anticipated albums were flops and I didn't do a whole lot of other exploring in 2019.
50Bon Iver

Including this on a 2019 list feels heavily like an obligation. i,i didn't appear out of nowhere, like For Emma. It didn't reinvent the artist with an expansion of sound and themes like the s/t. It didn't perform a deft turn into left field with resounding success like 22, A Million. It just kind of is. It's Bon Iver, all right, and there's still quite a bit to like here. But i,i rarely sticks in my brain after I listen to it, and I usually forget it exists when considering what to listen to next.

Verdict: It's more Bon Iver.
49The Tallest Man on Earth
I Love You. It's a Fever Dream.

I've always liked this guy but I am rarely in the mood for this brand of sad-man folk. In that context, I actually like this a whole lot more than I expected. The opening track is a perfect microcosm of the album: you know exactly what you're getting, but this average-sized man handles the content with such proficiency that it ends up being fairly gripping all the same. I'll be coming back to this.

Verdict: Everything I knew it would be, yet somehow surprising and intriguing
48The Comet Is Coming
Trust in the Lifeforce of Deep Mystery

This is exactly the sort of thing that someone who prides themselves on their "diverse musical taste" probably has on repeat constantly. It's presented as a "jazz" album but the improv performances that can be truly labeled as such are few and far between. But if liking this makes me a pretentious soyboy, then sign me up, because it's a smooth milkshake of beats and self-important horns. I'll be baiting all my hipster friends with this.

Verdict: This album makes me smart and gives me street cred at my local Starbucks
47Desolate (DE)

This is why I do this. This album wasn't even in the Sputnik db until yesterday. Missing it would have been a tragedy. I love everything about this. It's immediately evocative of staring out a rain-streaked window on a train ride through the countryside in Japan. I spent a lot of time doing that while listening to Swarms and Burial, and Desolate updates that aesthetic nicely.

Verdict: My wheelhouse, my comfort zone, and possibly a future favorite.
46Big Thief
Two Hands

This was so dull I can't think of anything to write about it.

Verdict: In one ear and out the other.
Nothing Left to Love

This hails from another genre I generally stay away from, but once again it's got a charisma that pulled me in. It reminds me of my teens, shouting along in the car to Define the Great Line for the umpteenth time. I also like that it's lean and fast and doesn't overstay its welcome. 30 minutes is about all the tolerance that I have for the metalcore chuggity chug these days.

Verdict: Aggressively pleasant; will be coming back to this.
In Cauda Venenum

I cared so little about a new Opeth release that I haven't listened to this until now. I was wrong. Opeth sound like a new band here. Mike's vocals sound better than ever, even though it's clear they're aging. The songwriting is surprising and intriguing in a way we haven't experienced since Watershed.

Verdict: This actually belongs here on this list. That alone is a surprise.
Periphery IV: Hail Stan

Periphery has always hung around at the.. um... just barely out-of-sight-edge... of my awareness. I liked what I heard, but never enough to prioritize checking it. Reptile had me wishing that I had been paying more attention when I first put this on. The rest of the album kind of slows down and whether I continue to listen to this record will hinge on how well those songs hold up with me. But damn, that opener alone is worth it.

Verdict: Reptile is the shit.
42Flying Lotus

A thoroughly enjoyable update of the classic Flylo sound. I agree with a lot of the criticism of this record: it's a tad bloated and could use some sort of concept or arc tying it all together. But I listen to Flylo for mindless tasks like programming or spreadsheet work, and this works just as well as Cosmogramma even if it's more homogenous with fewer "wow" moments.

Verdict: More Flying Lotus is always welcome.
We Are Not Your Kind

The last time I listened to Slipknot, I was a teenager driving my 1995 Ford Ranger having it introduced to me by a growly voiced MC on my LOCAL ALTERNATIVE.... ROCK!!! radio station. I probably let a pretentious smirk curl the corner of my lips before loading my tape deck with my faded copy of Trick of the Tail by Genesis, satisfied with my musical superiority over the plebs. I was a little shithead back then. But I maintain that I was a correct little shithead.

Verdict: As I listened to the 60th minute of Slipknot playing the bottom string of their 4 or 5 guitars, I found myself wishing for that scratchy recording of Phil Collins singing about monsters and volcanoes. This will be the last time I listen to Slipknot on purpose.
40James Blake
Assume Form

I put this on immediately after finishing We are Not Your Kind. I'm not going to lie, my impression of this album is probably skewed by what a refreshing palate cleanse it was after that, but I found it more listenable and more tightly themed than The Colour in Anything. Sweet little R&B love songs with a nice smattering of stylistic variety went down real smooth, and I'm optimistic that there's more to unpack here. I guess I get the criticism of this album in the context of Blake's past releases, but having never been a huge fan in the first place, I think I was positioned to let this album be what it is.

Verdict: I see this playing on a night drive in my future.
39La Dispute

What struck me on first listen to Panorama was its strong sense of restraint, something I'd like to think I highly value in my tunes. There's clearly a lot to experience here, and I'm excited to come back to it.

Verdict: I think I love it.
38King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard
⁣Infest The Rats' Nest

I first listened to this when I was extremely sleep deprived and none of it stuck out to me at all. I tried it again this morning in the car on my way to work and.... idk I guess I don't really get it? It's definitely more amenable to that rock-in-the-car setting than with headphones in an office cube. I suppose a good throwback album has to have some special ingredient that compels me to do more than just explore its obvious influences, and I'm not hearing that here yet.

Verdict: I'm extremely ambivalent on this, but feel compelled to give it more time to grow on me.
37Tim Bowness
Flowers At The Scene

This was extremely pleasant without being too saccharine or having the aesthetic of snooty prog rock. It's perhaps a bit too inoffensive for its length, but that impression may wear off on repeated listens, which will definitely happen for me.

Verdict: Good prog pop that makes me feel like less of a dad than most prog.
36Black Midi

Despite being presented as a tough first listen, this album immediately grabbed me from the opening track. This is like the antidote to last year's Daughter's album (which I also greatly enjoy) - more listenable and positive yet still strung-out and messy. There's a lot going on here, and I really dig the vast majority of it. One thing that really stuck out to me that may help explain my positive impression was the sheer depth of the sound - not just in any one moment, but the extremely pleasant transitions between fuzz and clean guitar tones and easy bass playing. I love this.

Verdict: Immediately one of my favorite finds so far from this list and an instant "bands to follow" member.

This was really same-y sounding at first but it really came alive in the the latter half imo and Covenant slays. I ended up liking this and my head was bobbing up and down through most of it.

Verdict: Nothing incredible but getting to hear Lopez drum again is worth the time by itself. I'll probably be back to this.
34Wicca Phase Springs Eternal
Suffer On

There was a time, probably around 2007, where I would have declared this album an unparalleled masterpiece, one of the best ever crafted. Nowadays i'm slightly more jaded with this sadboy aesthetic, but that's my primary caveat with this music. This was a really fun listen, tinged with nostalgia and yet it has an oddly off-kilter updated sound that appeals to me. Judging from the average rating, that's not true of everyone, but count me among the positives.

Verdict: I feel like sad music is easy to make, but that doesn't take away from the quality of this.
33Danny Brown

I only occasionally seek out hip hop, and when I do I need a few things: strong instrumentation (e.g. not relying solely on the rapping or lyrics) and a sense of identity. A moody atmosphere and a narrative arc tend to help as well. While this certainly doesn't describe this entire album, there were a few tracks (the opener, the title track, 'Shine') that really delivered and will surely be stuck in my brain for weeks and months to come.

Verdict: I always appreciate a hip hop album that grabs me.
32Moon Tooth

Yuck. This hit me as silly, overblown, and somehow painstakingly complex yet spectacularly dull. Sure there are a few moments here and there. But I could not keep my attention focused on this for more than a few seconds.

Verdict: I'm willing to give this another chance, but I'm not looking forward to it.

YUM. Now this is more like it. The bones of this thing are Deftones-meets-Boris bottom string worship, but just as that starts to wear thing a catchy hook or neat guitar effect comes in and steals the show. It's an interesting contrast to my reaction to Moon Tooth: I can see someone describing that album the same way. I guess I'm much more drawn to this somewhat experimental, sludgy stuff than a more traditional hard rock/metal sound. I digress though.

Verdict: Surprisingly, this hits all the right strokes for me. I'll be jamming this multiple times in the future to be sure.
There Existed an Addiction to Blood

I wrote in my Danny Brown writeup about what I look for in hip hop. Truth be told, it was listening to clipping back in 2014 that made me realize all of that, so going in I knew I'd probably enjoy this. About halfway through I realized this is a concept album about.... vampires? Werewolves? something? Whatever it is I love having a hip hop album with a dark, narrative concept like this. To me at least it's very unique.

Verdict: I can easily see myself putting many hours into this album. Next time I'd like to be doing something where I can pay more attention to the lyrics.
29Jimmy Eat World

I mean, it's Jimmy Eat World, so you know it's not going to be bad. Thankfully, I actually enjoy this slightly more than Integrity Blues (unpopular opinion, I know) and imo there's a few career highlights here.

Verdict: This band is always unremarkable at worst, and this this hits somewhere between that and Futures.
True North

This has been on my check list since it came out, so this was a nice chance to finally listen to it. On one hand, I do get tired of these overproduced, intentionally epic metal albums. It's why I didn't enjoy last year's Amorphous album or this year's Falls of Rauros record. On the other hand, everything on this album is so... symbiotic. There's lots of moving pieces here, and everything just works. Despite not being a huge fan of this style of vocals in metal, they really carry the music (which could stand all by itself tbh) especially on tracks like Up North.

Verdict: Lots of Sputcore metal doesn't live up to the hype for me, but this comes pretty close.
27The Highwomen
The Highwomen

I was not expecting to like this at all. I didn't enjoy the Brandi album from last year, and I hate country. So suffice it to say that the opening track took me completely off guard. It's so immediately moving and stunning and it should be played at every feminist rally from now on. The rest of the album comes much closer to my preconceptions: saccharine country pop with over-literal lyrics and carefully calculated sappiness, which is a shame since this group is clearly capable of so much more.

Verdict: The title track will be in my rotation. The rest... we'll see I guess.
When I Get Home

This was a really unexpected gem for me. I tend to dismiss artists who can be perceived as generic radio R&B, hence why I've never touched anything by Solange. But 30 seconds into this album I was sold. Jazz chords with some smooth electronics and angelic vocals, coupled with an accessibly experimental sense of songwriting, and this is everything I need from a pop album.

Verdict: This is set to make my somewhat embarrassing. I can't wait to chill out to this again.
Morbid Stuff

Last year's list really got me back in touch with modern pop-punk and this continues that. I like the rawness of this, and it perfectly straddles that line between self-pity and outrageously snarky. Not much more to say here; if you know what pop-punk is, you'll know that this is an exceptionally solid example of all its best parts.

Verdict: It's added to the rotation when I'm spinning Spanish Love Songs or Say Anything.
24Matana Roberts
COIN COIN Chapter Four: Memphis

I'd like to think that I have the fortitude and patience for music that could be labeled as "challenging". So that's why I'm going to give this another shot after my initial impression. My first listen through this was rough; while the spoken word bits give some relatability to this album, especially in the second half, the instrumentation is so wildly outside of anything else I listen to that it all just sort of ran together with no moments I could really grasp on to. I'm reminded of the Fire Orchestra album from this year, except on that album there were at least a few down-to-earth sections to tide you through while the rest of it grew on you.

Verdict: It's incredibly unfair to judge something this weird on first listen, which is why I'll reserve judgement for now. It's different from anything else I listen to which is good, I guess.
23Xiu Xiu
Girl with Basket of Fruit

Continuing the theme of "wtf am I listening to right now", I plunged into this immediately after the Matana album. In hindsight, that was incredibly unfortunate, as this was my first time listening to Xiu Xiu and I really wasn't ready for more impressionistic noise. I understand that being intentionally off-putting is sort of this genre's thing, but goddamn it give me some beauty here and there.

Verdict: I'll try this again when I'm more in the mood, for the sole reason that it's a prolific and respected artist that I"ve been meaning to check for years. The Pumpkin song was really cool.
22Russian Girlfriends
In The Parlance of Our Times

If all punk music really needs in order to be good is charisma, then these guys have got it dialed in. Great vocals, impactful songs, and well-written political lyrics made for a great listen.

Verdict: It's good, catchy punk. I'm satisfied.
21Kishi Bashi

I didn't really care for this guy back when Lightgh or whatever was getting the buzz. And during the first track or so, I was feeling pretty vindicated that this was nothing more than safe, if a tad quirky, pop. But idk.. something happened by the time I was slapping my thigh along with the closer that made this record totally captivating. I'd need to listen again to elucidate exactly what it is, but for reasons I can't explain I really loved this.

Verdict: Loved, will be back.
20The National
I Am Easy to Find

I've never really been a big fan of these guys and this didn't change that. It's pleasant enough; something I'd give to my mom to listen to. It was definitely a challenge to get through this album and it left me wondering whether a band playing nice but relatively safe pop songs really has enough to say to justify an hour long record.

Verdict: It's The National and unless you cream your jeans at the mere mention of their name it's nothing outstanding. I will put some of these songs on my shuffle playlist but can't see myself coming back to the whole album.
19The Dangerous Summer
Mother Nature

I can't say this really jumped out at me or took me by surprise, but it was definitely enjoyable. In particular, the final 3 songs were pretty hard hitting and emotional.

Verdict: I look forward to listening to this again in a different context, like on a drive or on the beach, but can't say this will become a regular member of my rotation.
18FKA Twigs

I'm well over a decade from the last thing resembling a breakup, so for a piece of art to bring me into that situation and make me really feel it is very impressive. I was ready to declare this as overhyped, but now after getting through it I'm wishing that more people could hear this. It's such an absorbing, heartfelt, and continually innovative and unexpected piece of music that never gets lost in its own abstraction of human emotion. This is truly something special.

Verdict: Easily one of the best albums of the list so far. Well worth its universal praise.
17Great Grandpa
Four of Arrows

Imo, this is how you take the mold of indie rock/folk and infuse it with your own unique personality. In the context of this project, it's hard not to compare it to similar releases I wasn't so crazy about, like The National. Comparisons aside, this is a lush, meticulously crafted, and lyrically engaging piece that completely arrested my attention at multiple points during its runtime.

Verdict: The kind of album you just want to throw all over your music-loving friends so that everyone you know hears it. I think this thing will have longevity.
16Serpent Column
Mirror In Darkness

The staff writeup had me excited for some honest to goodness skramz, and so I was a little taken aback by the solidly metal sound of this. It's really good, don't get me wrong. It did come off as a tad homogenous on first listen, which isn't necessarily a bad thing for the genre, but I do wish there were more pivotal moments like the final minutes of "Warlords".

Verdict: A really unique flavor of its respective influences combined into a satisfying package. To me this is basically easy comfort listening so I'm sure this will get many relistens in which I can pick out more details.
15Tyler, the Creator

This is my first Tyler, the Creator album, and as such I do feel like I'm missing a vital bit of context here. I'll be changing that soon, because this was immensely enjoyable to me. The songs have easy to follow structures and dense, vertically composed arrangements, the rapping is surreptitious yet impactful, and the whole thing just kind of melds into a gooey, poppy dessert album.

Verdict: An unexpected favorite. I'll be listening to this again, but not before I give Flower Boy a shot.

I don't have much to say about this because honestly I wasn't giving it my full attention during most of its runtime. What stood out to me was a nice, dreamy aesthetic, but not much else.

Verdict: I owe this album a more focused listen in the near future.
13Angel Olsen
All Mirrors

This is an album of highs and yawns, with the more dynamic tracks like the opener and the title track stealing my attention, while the more straightforward boppers like "Spring" and "What it is" feeling complacent and obligatory. Still, the sonic palate in these songs is adventurous enough that I feel like there's still enough there to let them ruminate for a few more listens.

Verdict: I don't share this site's love affair with Angel, but this was interesting enough to make me return sometime in the future.
Fear Inoculum

It's undeniably a Tool album. It's overlong, bloated, and self-important. It's also full of great riffs, an absorbing atmosphere, and without a doubt one of the best rhythm sections in popular music. The staff review is spot on when it says that this could have come out right after Lateralus and it wouldn't feel strange.

Verdict: Maybe the best thing I can say after my first listen through this is that it made me want to go on a Tool binge.
11Vi Som Alskade Varandra Sa Mycket
Det Onda. Det Goda. Det Vackra. Det Fula.

Some of the newer users here won't remember the late 00's when shit like this was all the rage on the Sput. In 2008-9 I'd listen to something like City of Caterpillar or Mesa Verde multiple times a day. So to hear an amazing, updated iteration of that sound makes me feel like a young college student again. Nostalgia aside, this is objectively amazing stuff. The reverb-laden guitars are fire, and when they go crunchy like in the main riff of "Kontakt" it's positively orgasmic for me.

Verdict: For me, this a pure gold find. I expect very heavy rotations of this album.
10Weyes Blood
Titanic Rising

I just don't get this, guys. It just sounds like dated, plodding pop music with a few beep boops layered on top. There are nonetheless two reasons why I will give this another chance: 1. community commentary, particularly Dewinged's writeup in the user list, heavily lean on the caveat that this may not sound interesting at first, and 2. everything from "Movies" onward was marginally better than the first half.

Verdict: I really did not like this. I hope I get the hype after the next listen.
9Jenny Hval
The Practice of Love

This is much more my speed, as expected from Jenny. Tightly themed and instrumentally intriguing throughout, this left an impression on me such that I won't think back on this as "that other singer-songwriter album" like so many other things on this list. I loved the trance-infused beats here as well is those delicious, delicious vocal harmonies. At 30 minutes in length this was such an easy listen, and I was sad when it was over.

Verdict: Artsy pop done right.
8Cult of Luna
A Dawn to Fear

Fun fact: this and Bon Iver were the only 2 albums from the list I had heard prior to starting this project. So yeah, this is great, and a lynchpin for modern post-metal. What else is there to say except that if you haven't heard it yet, you need to do so immediately.

Verdict: Always great to have an excuse to listen to this again. A slow-burning and menacing journey through shadowy landscapes.
7Purple Mountains
Purple Mountains

This is a strange one. I find it pretty musically myopic, but the lore surrounding it and the lyricism do lend it a sort of transcendent quality. I also appreciate any artist that makes some kind of attempt to embody the true spirit of country/americana without resorting to tropes or cliches.

Verdict: Enjoyable but not exactly gripping. I'll probably be back. Also RIP.
6State Faults

Okay... so I hadn't heard this yet. I was very much looking forward to it based on the hype, but I kept putting it off knowing that I'd hear it when I did this list. Holy mother of god was this first listen a revelation. Here is an album that brings me crashing back down to earth and reminds me of why I wade through hours of average-sounding music to find the good stuff. I feel hyperbole welling up in me as I try to describe how this record made me feel, so without further ado...

Verdict: How is every single moment on this album so. fucking. incredible.
5American Football
American Football (LP3)

If you've ever listened to an American Football record before, you know exactly what this will sound like. For me, that sound is so charming and it's executed so well here that it doesn't really matter. This is American Football at their most dreamy, transcendent, and awkwardly vulnerable.

Verdict: It's American Football again, and it's very good. Like, I can't imagine urging my friends to listen to this as the next big thing, but it will definitely be included in my list of 2019 music you should hear.
4Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds

Ok, so I haven't heard Skeleton Tree or any other Nick Cave album for that matter, so obviously I'm missing a huge chunk of context to this record. I do know the background of the last two albums though and I really feel like that's all you need to immerse yourself in Cave's emotions here. While I was not really expecting to get emotionally invested in this album, I found it completely transporting me away from my work desk and into Cave's universe of swirly electronic orchestrations, stilted lyricism, and mythological references. It's a true testament to the quality of an artist that an isolated pick from an intentionally constructed discography gives this kind of empathetic response even free of any knowledge of its broader musical context.

Verdict: This one was a really pleasant surprise, and definitely the catalyst for further exploration into previous Cave records.
3Big Thief

While my reaction to Two Hands was "why do people like this so much", UFOF is a slight upgrade into "I can see why you like this, but it's not really my thing." I feel like this album does a better job of showing off this group's strengths and kept me more engaged through more lush instrumentation.

Verdict: I can see why you'd like this, but it's not really my thing.
2Lana Del Rey
Norman Fucking Rockwell!

Stylistically I was expecting a bopping pop record for some reason, so that was dead wrong. I'm a little split on how much I enjoyed this album. There's clearly gold in here; the lyricism is top notch, the vocals are great, and a few of the songs just really punch you in the gut. But for me at least there's too many by-the-numbers pop songs where Lana is just playing a boring chord progression on the piano in 4/4 for 5 minutes with very little going on. It's when she breaks those instrumental constraints, like in Bartender for instance, that the music works with the lyrics to really create something special.

Verdict: I'm a little on the fence here, but the good parts held my attention. I'm not sure I needed this to be an hour long, though.
1Laura Stevenson
The Big Freeze

I'm really not sure what to put here, because I feel like I'm beating a dead horse every time I try to summarize a singer-songwriter folk album. How many has there been on this list? 10? I don't know and I'm not going to count, but this album was another one. What is there to say? It checks all the boxes: Nice voice. Some great climaxes and moments. Relatively unadventurous songwriting. A lyrics-centric approach. An aesthetic that you can predict simply by glancing at the album art. In part, I think my frustration with this listen was influenced by its #1 status on the list, which is unfair and uwarranted. I just find myself wondering if all the people who vote for stuff like this ever feel the need for something more. That can be perceived as snobbish, but looking back on this list there were plenty of entries that I felt at least attempted to push the musical envelope. Continued in comments.
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