Sputnik Synopsis: Our Q1 2018 Mixtape

Published: March 31, 2018

Welcome avid music listeners!

We missed a quarter or two, but who’s counting? The infinite playlist has been a Sputnik tradition ever since I can remember, and we’re back baby! Jom was kind (or cruel?) enough to let me organize the playlist this year. Some coercion may have been involved, but it made for 30 creative and biting blurbs this time out. With such a diverse range of tastes among the staff, this edition has a little big of everything to sink your teeth into…

simpsons music

Don’t forget to check the Spotify playlist below in addition to skimming through the blurbs! The best part about this whole thing is branching out and listening to something you wouldn’t normally stumble upon.

 

ABLINDARCADE
All The Luck In The World – “Golden October”
A Blind Arcade
Listen if you like: Frightened Rabbit, Elliott Smith, Horse Feathers

Perhaps no better example of A Blind Arcade‘s beauty could be cited than “Golden October.” The album’s third track offers up poetic melodies that experiment with time signatures, as well as wintry effects that instill an absolutely breathtaking atmosphere. The whole thing commences with some simply strummed chords, introduces strings, slowly emphasizes the force of each drum beat, and eventually alters the vocal melody to rise and meet the intensity that the rest of the song has already arrived at. The way it all happens so subtly is a thing of beauty, and by the song’s final minute you’ll be totally spellbound. –Sowing

DECEPT

Avslut – “Martyrium”
Deceptis
Listen if you like:
Emperor, Mayhem, Satyricon

Maybe I’m just getting old, but to me the best era for black metal was the 90s. Don’t get me wrong, I love the twisted progressive black metal bands and enjoy a majority of the post black genre — hell, I even appreciate the symphonic black metal — but nothing hits me like that classic 90s sound. That’s what Avslut excel at, the classic 90s black metal sound, and “Martyrium” is an excellent example of why. “Martyrium” features the break-neck pace black metal is known for, but the band is also smart enough to vary the tempos. They also bring the ice-cold melody that endeared me to black metal while also carrying a heavier, more modern sound. Deceptis is one of the best black metal releases I’ve heard in a while. — Trey Spencer

BLACK MOTOR

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “Question of Faith”
Wrong Creatures

Listen if you like: The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Mark Lanegan, The Black Angels

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s universe got darker with each album. On Wrong Creatures they made an effort to deepen this somber, uncanny atmosphere, focusing on toned down ideas more than noisy rockers. ‘Question of Faith’ lies somewhere in between, boasting a steady groove, embellished by occasional sharp leads and washes of distorted chords. Pete Hayes’ voice has this weirdly chill vibe and you can easily imagine him singing this to someone in some small town’s bar. The tune could’ve easily been featured in one of the new Twin Peaks’ Roadhouse segments, especially since the band resemble a bit James’ character in real life. –Raul Stanciu

CALEXICO
Calexico – “Flores y Tamales”
The Thread that Keeps Us

Listen if you like: Buena Vista Social Club, Santana

Each Latino tune on a Calexico album is a highlight. The cheerful melody of ‘Flores y Tamales’ calls for celebration, contrasting their rather dark latest LP, The Thread that Keeps Us. Jairo Zavala’s warm croon works beautifully alongside heartfelt percussion and horn sections, plus the chorus is downright infectious. I am waiting for the day the Tucson-based act will release an entire record of Latino music. Raul Stanciu

ENDLESS
Endless Heights – “Come a Little Closer”
Vicious Pleasure
Listen if you like: Deftones, O’Brother, Touche Amore

Although Vicious Pleasure sounds very much like what its title suggests – this bittersweet cross between love and hate – there are still a few breaks in its otherwise airtight makeup. One of the most rewarding moments actually comes when Endless Heights deviates from its formula on the sprawling, gorgeous ballad ‘Come a Little Closer.’ There’s less reverb, discordance, and feedback – and for the first time on the record, everything sort of breathes. It’s a necessary exhale on what feels like forty-two minutes of the band holding its collective breath; waiting to either explode or to let out one cathartic gasp, as they do here. –Sowing

BEMOREKIND

Frank Turner – “1933”
Be More Kind
Listen if you like: Anthems, folk-punk

“1933” is Frank Turner doing what Frank Turner does best: loud, anthem-driven rock music backed by politically charged lyrics and an in-your-face attitude. From the moment the first line rolls off his tongue, it’s a track that finds Turner and co. in constant movement. Behind a dance-inducing duo of keys and harmonicas, the song tackles our societies’ skewed perceptions of change with some of the most effective lines penned to date by the folk-punk musician. Simple revelations like “don’t go mistaking your house burning down for the dawn!” are just too damn fun to sing along to – preferably after a long day when you can just say fuck it and let loose. And that’s exactly what “1933” is: Frank Turner letting loose with his most aggressive, natural wordplay in years. Even with its political backbone, it’s just a good time, really. –Atari

FU MANCHU
Fu Manchu – “Clone of the Universe”
Clone of the Universe

Listen if you like: Monster Magnet, Kyuss, Fatso Jetson, Brant Bjork

Simple and to the point characterizes most of Fu Manchu’s music. There’s always a cool groove unfolding on each song and their latest album’s title track is as good as it gets. The blunt verse riffs are the foundation of the entire track, while Scott Hill’s laid back vocals bring the right attitude to the mix. The second half picks up speed, revealing the punk influences that always spiced their output. Almost 30 years old later, these California surfer dudes still show everyone how it’s done. –Raul Stanciu


GoGo Penguin – “Transient State”
A Humdrum Star
Listen if you like: Mammal Hands, Portico Quartet, pretty much anybody on the Blue Note

There are several instances where “Transient State” resplendently soars, from the opening piano at :56 to the vibrant double bass and piano run at 1:23 to the absolutely stunning motif beginning at 3:12, but the entire album shows impeccable precision and grace without being overly cerebral.  If you liked Man Made Object from two years ago, A Humdrum Star is similarly full of brilliant sweet spots, especially “Raven” and “Reactor”. –Jom

ICEAGEE

Iceage – “Pain Killer”
Beyondless
Listen if you like
: Horns.

Remember the NME? It wasn’t a great publication, but it did like to play kingmaker with independent music in a way that could either be profoundly informed or hilariously inept— magazine covers plastered with Pulp, but also Texas and JJ72. Their converage of Iceage in their infancy lends itself to the former, as a confrontational, Swedish, hardcore punk band shared pages with The 1975 and The Neighborhood, amply hyped as a band that featured a vocalist well known for physically getting into audience’s faces. They seemed positively innovative, but it wasn’t until 2014’s Plowing Into the Field of Love that they genuinely were writing sophisticated, intellectual guitar music. Their latest single, featuring Sky Ferreira, shifts that approach towards melodiousness and convention. They don’t relinquish tensile, balssiness either, and so they make an even more thorough and convincing type of rock music than on albums prior; no minor achievement, all things considered. –Arcade

JUDICATORRR
Judicator – “Spiritual Treason”
The Last Emperor
Listen if you like:
Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, Helloween

That awkward moment when you discover that a group of guys from the place where the elderly choose to retire (Arizona) plays European power metal much better than European bands… Judicator’s main (and very much apparent) influence is early-Blind Guardian, which means that their brand of power metal has a lot of thrashy tendencies and sometimes borders on speed metal. Their main difference from the German bards is based on the content of their lyrics which deals with historical events rather than the fantastic world of J.R.R. Tolkien. “Spiritual Treason” is their first single from their upcoming LP and if the rest of the album is as good as this track, we might have in our hands the best European power metal album of the year so far. Oh and a minor detail, Hansi Kursch once again proves the gentleman that he is by lending his amazing voice to Judicator for this song. –manosg

katie herzig

Katie Herzig – “I Don’t Mind”
Moment of Bliss
Listen if you like:
Amy Shark, catchy pop music

“I don’t mind if the future isn’t clear”, Katie Herzig casually croons through the hazy centerpiece of Moment of Bliss. For a pop album, it’s as vibrant in color as its accompanying album art. However, no song fits the bill for ethereal, cute dream-pop quite like “I Don’t Mind”. It takes off slowly – a gentle partnering of strings and pianos – but settles its home in the clouds before long. Oh, just a fun sput-fact: Lucid hates this. Is it trash or slickly produced indie-pop? The debate is on! –Atari

LOMOON
Lo Moon – “Loveless”
Lo Moon
Listen if you like: Talk Talk, Coldplay, Phil Collins

Lo Moon won’t be known so much for its infectious choruses as it will its sprawling, breathtaking soundscapes – a trait brought forth in spades on “Loveless.” The song weaves through seven minutes of entrancing beats, moody vocals, and percussive upsurges that gratifyingly inject life into a song that distinctly pronounces the death of a once profound and meaningful relationship. –Sowing


Long Distance Calling – “On the Verge”
Boundless
Listen if you like: If These Trees Could Talk, Russian Circles, Anathema

I’m always on the prowl for post-rock, so while I acknowledge Long Distance Calling have released stronger material in the past (e.g. Avoid the Light), these Germans continue to excel in cultivating brooding soundscapes with a keen eye for melody. With Boundless, the band have returned sans vocalist, instead emphasizing layers of thicker, heavier rhythm riffs and effect-laden lead guitar. “On the Verge” is one of the record’s calmer cuts, but its soothing presence is one of the year’s more memorable post-rock tracks for me.  –Jom

MANORCH
Manchester Orchestra & Julien Baker – “Bad Things to Such Good People”
Bad Things to Such Good People
Listen if you like:
Julien Baker and/or Manchester Orchestra!

To address the obvious first: the combination alone of the two artists involved here could make your average /r/indieheads frequenter melt into a puddle of delight. The collaboration far from disappoints, but it deliberately plays against your expectations. Eschewing a slow-building epic in the style of A Black Mile to the Surface, “Bad Things to Such Good People” is a Pedro the Lion cover built around an ambient bed of keyboard and vocals, unceremoniously dropped onto the internet for a charity. Yet the choice of song is apt, grappling with the nasty side of religious faith in a way that both Andy Hull and Julien Baker are very familiar with: “and all the while, the Good Lord smiled / and looked the other way”. The vocals are the only feature of the song outside of the quiet instrumental, and they’re as confident and beautiful as you’d expect from two indie rock professionals. “Bad Things to Such Good People” is a genuine curiosity, more in line with the obscure Manchester Orchestra/Frightened Rabbit collaboration than anything else, but in its simplicity and grace is an emotional high as powerful as anything on Simple Math. –Rowan


Mimicking Birds – “Belongings”
Layers of Us
Listen if you like: Ugly Casanova, Fleet Foxes, Gomez

Soothing, charming indie pop with a palpable knack for melodic songwriting, especially when the band delve into psychedelic territory, as heard in songs like “Sunlight Daze”. The band are signed to Glacial Pace Recordings, so take a guess who shows up for a guest appearance on “Island Shore”?  Other than Sowing’s recommendations, you arguably can’t get much more Sowing-core here. –Jom

MOBY
Moby – “The Tired and the Hurt”
Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt
Listen if you like:
Sad gospel, trip-hop, apocalypses and their aftermaths

Who would’ve thought Moby would make our soundtrack to the end of the world? “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters” dealt in a hint of the biblical, sure, but “When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die” quickly brought things back around to the touchingly personal; his subsequent masterpiece perfected the formula by cutting up religious hymns into cries of loneliness and love. Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt is like a slow-motion film of the ashes after a war, Vonnegut’s vision of the bombing of Dresden extended across the earth, and its beating heart is “The Tired and the Hurt”, perhaps the finest song Moby’s released since his late-90s peak. The chorus could have come straight from a sample on Play in all its female gospel beauty, were it not an original melody rubbing shoulders with Moby’s disaffected narration. The voice is mechanical and distant enough to make lines like “there was love, and no dying / there were forests as far I could see” sound like the fallout from a nuclear event, and the effect is moving but detached; a lament by machines for the human masters they helped destroy. –Rowan

MOONGATES

Moongates Guardian – “The Darkness Dwells in Durin’s Halls”
Leave the Northern Mountains
Listen if you like:
Summoning, Caladan Brood, Falkenbach>

Atmospheric black metal inspired by the Lord of the Rings. What can possibly go wrong? Well, a lot but how many times have you been disappointed by a metal album that starts with the sound of a horse neighing (or even better, a horse’s hooves)? “The Darkness Dwells in Durin’s Halls” feels like if it’s cut from the same mold as a lot of Summoning tracks, meaning that it is based on a catchy keyboard melody and builds on that with black metal vocals, spoken word passages and some traditional atmospheric metal instrumentation. Granted, some may find the strong Russian accent on the spoken passages a bit annoying but think of it as part of the theatrics (like on Dracula movies) and the majestic journey that Moongates Guardian seem to take us while we enter the Great Hall of Durin. —manosg

NIGHT IN GALES
Night In Gales – “The Abyss”
The Last Sunsets
Listen if you like:
In Flames (classic era), At the Gates

This might rub people the wrong way, but I’ve never been a fan of Night In Gales’ previous releases. The Last Sunsets, though… that, I am a fan of. As “The Abyss” shows, Night In Gales have jumped right back to that classic Gothenburg sound; specifically In Flames’ The Jester Race with a hint of At the Gates rasp and aggression. So, “The Abyss” (and by extension, the entire album) isn’t new or original by any stretch of the imagination. What “The Abyss” is, though, is an excellently riffy jaunt through a melodeath sound that pretty much doesn’t exist anymore. –Trey Spencer

OCEANSOFSLUMB

Oceans of Slumber – “The Banished Heart”
The Banished Heart
Listen if you like:
Draconian, My Dying Bride, Luna Obscura

Cammie Gilbert is easily the best vocalist in doom. Is that a grand statement? Absolutely, but one listen to “The Banished Heart” and it’s pretty much undeniable. Does her band do that voice and potential justice? Not as much as they should. That doesn’t stop the title track to Ocean of Slumber’s sophomore release, The Banished Heart, from being epic, though. It has the prerequisite heavy slow sections and even a quick blast beat outburst, but what makes this album is Cammie’s vocals when she sings “I hold you. I need you. I said forever, I mean forever”. What takes the song from being just another doom track to required listening is the entire rest of the song after those lines are sung. The motive piano that builds back to Cammie’s soaring emotive vocals and the return of the doomy riffs near the end. It’s definitely a song you have to just let play. — Trey Spencer

REPUBLICOFWOLVES

The Republic of Wolves – “Bask”
Shrine
Listen if you like: Brand New, Manchester Orchestra, Tigers on Trains

A shouted ‘let’s get to work!’ commences “Bask”, the second song off of The Republic of Wolves’ new LP shrine, and it feels like maybe it also doubles as the group’s mission statement. Electric riffs immediately barge down the door, searing through the air and setting the tone for hellish screams of ‘I’m telling lies about myself, to myself’ ‘ – the likes of which we haven’t heard since 2010’s “Greek Fire.” A dense bridge comprised of echoed, overlapping vocals and electric feedback gives way to yet another wrinkle – a pristinely produced, resonating mantra of ‘where do all the lost minds go’, which features backing vocals from All Get Out’s Nathan Hussey. At the end of what can only be described as an insanely catchy hook, the band dives right back into the bleak shouts, screams, and deceptively complex riffs that defined the core of the song – and then ends it all with a spry, completely unanticipated acoustic guitar outro. “Bask” is both beautiful and ruthless, and quite possibly the best song that they’ve ever made. –Sowing

SEVEN

Seven That Spells – “Omega”
The Death and Resurrection of Krautrock: OMEGA

Listen if you like: Acid Mothers Temple, The Mars Volta, Master Musicians of Bukkake

The Croatian psychedelic/progressive act released the tightest LP in their discography, aptly called The Death and Resurrection of Krautrock: OMEGA. The final part in the trilogy brings the most chiseled tunes Seven That Spells crafted so far. The Eastern-meets-Balkan grooves and the multitude of pattern changes that make up the crazy, mesmerizing second half (including a full blown psychedelic freak out as the coda), create a mammoth of a track that easily summarizes what these guys are all about. There’s a lot do dig in over multiple listens, but it’s really worth the time. —Raul Stanciu

Sleep Union – “No Saints”
Drowned in the Harbor EP
Listen if you like: Hot Water Music, Red City Radio, The Gaslight Anthem

This Denver-based outfit deliver an auspicious debut EP chock-full of sterling melodies and alluring atmosphere. It’s unfortunate the band name is going to be a pain in the ass for our database, but songs like “Sleepwalkers” and “No Saints” serve as welcome harbingers of what’s hopefully to come. Keep them on your radar. –Jom

SOCCERMOMMY

soccer mommy – “Scorpio Rising”
Clean
Listen if you like:
indie pop, Coca-Cola

There’s an abundance of nice, breezy melodies to be found on Soccer Mommy’s “Clean”, but none of them with the gorgeous, smooth demeanor of “Scorpio Rising.” It’s a perfect song for the early spring – Sophie Allison’s crisp delivery detailing everything from kissing in a park to metaphors of bubbly Coca-Cola. So, what makes this song so special? It all comes down to intimacy. It’s the only track on “Clean” where Sophie sounds like she’s performing in the same space as you, without any fuzz or hazy demeanor to hide behind. This is simply Sophie Allison, mask removed and all. –Atari

SOJOURNER

Sojourner – “Winter’s Slumber”
The Shadowed Road
Listen if you like: 
Summoning, Saor, Evanescence, epic metal

No other metal track this quarter has managed to hook me from the get-go like “Winter’s Slumber”. With a beastly opening combo of pianos, snyths and perfectly-timed flutes, it’s simply monolithic in nature. Yet, there’s something about Sojourner’s form of heavy that goes down so darn smoothly. This is atmospheric metal done right – elegantly constructed with swelling builds and unexpected drop-offs. Side note: much like Pallbearer’s album last year, that album art looks straight out of Breath of the Wild. Coincidence? It doesn’t get more epic than this. –Atari

TEENAGEWRIST

Teenage Wrist – “Dweeb”
Chrome Neon Jesus
Listen if you like:
Slowdive, The Cure, Kill Hannah, Chapterhouse

Teenage Wrist’s music drifts somewhere between the shoegaze of Slowdive, the alt-pop of Kill Hannah, and the grunge of Dinosaur Jr. with just a bit of modern The Cure thrown in. So, what kind of music does that make this? I don’t really know. Chrome Neon Jesus totally feels the kind of album those shoegaze bands might make if they discovered sobriety and grunge. “Dweeb” begins with a reverb-filled bass and guitar line that makes me think of Chapterhouse but louder, but soon they come in with a grungy riff that transitions to a clean guitar sound and the soft vocals of any number of Slowdive-ish bands. From there (and pretty much the entire album) the band make me feel like I’m listening to shoegaze, but the grungy sound and catchy choruses keep me from drifting into a coma. –Trey Spencer

TURBOWOLF

Turbowolf – “Very Bad”
The Free Life

Listen if you like: Death From Above, Karma to Burn, At the Drive-In

There are few bands who combine many styles to create an instantly recognizable sound these days. Turbowolf are a gritty, odd hard rock band that blend alternative rock, punk, psychedelic and old school metal riffs, thus, creating catchy, schizophrenic tunes. ‘Very Bad’ harkens to their raw, high octane debut LP, boasting pile-driving, boogie-inspired riffage with some soulful vocal contributions from Chantal Brown (of Vodun). During the coda, the main hook gets even more intense, enough to tear the house down. The whole song is simply a lot of fun with significant replay value. —Raul Stanciu

Turnstile – “Big Smile”
Time & Space
Listen if you like: Snapcase, Twitching Tongues, Incendiary

Time & Space is certainly a love letter to New York hardcore in general, but the array of other flourishes Turnstile incorporate throughout the record is a true highlight. The metallic/post-hardcore heard in “Come Back for More/H.O.Y.” , “High Pressure”, and the title track is when they are at their best, but the band also have a fair bit of fun in songs like “Generator”, “Moon”, and “Big Smile”. Vocalist Brendan Yates never relents, emphatically snarling and shouting with gusto as bellicose guitars and combative snare (especially in “(Lost Another) Piece of My World”) pummel throughout the 25-minute runtime. –Jom

VINCE

Vince Staples – “Get the Fuck Off My Dick”
Get the Fuck Off My Dick [Single]
Listen if you like
: Kendrick Lamar, Ramona Park, Sprite.

I saw Vince Staples 10 weeks ago. He was perfect; he prowled, coolly, and was careful and thoughtful about his movement. He opted against rapping to the track and largely avoided animated displays. He missed maybe 1 or 2 songs I would’ve wanted. It didn’t matter. He was the most elegant, incisive, and economical performer I’ve seen on a festival stage, akin to a modern day Wire. It didn’t matter. The people grumbled; I don’t know why they grumbled. Their disappointment was a forced lie to themselves and the live spectacle of Vince Staples. “Get the Fuck Off My Dick,” a dedication from Vince to Vince in praise of his own live performance- ‘on par with something you’d see in the Centre Pompidou’— neatly lambasts a culture of rap conservatism and juggles institutions and namesakes as if they meant nothing. Next to Vince and the year he’s just had, it’s arguable that Def Jam, XXL, and NPR do mean nothing; “Get the Fuck Off My Dick” is just the anthem for their meaningless. –Arcade

YOUNGF

Young Fathers – “In My View”
Cocoa Sugar
Listen if you like
: The Life of Pablo, New Order.

Cocoa Sugar is almost the best album of the last three months, but instead of feeling singular, it’s defined by a frustrating nearness to greatness. Which, it must be said, is a shame, because its reverential of so much greatness— David Bowie, Kanye West, a history of African music— and it always feels like it’s hanging just shy of those names. It doesn’t feel like a total creation of Young Fathers which, again, is as much a compliment of their ambition as it is a criticism of what they’ve made with Cocoa Sugar. It’s still a warm, religious, groovy album, with “In My View” its obvious single. Its obvious introspection and political metaphors are appropriate, whilst a bastardized Camus quotation as the coda seems quintessentially Young Fathers; well-read, whilst offering giration and pummeling, tribal drums to relieve the political weight of it all. Despite minor misgivings and disappointments, Cocoa Sugar rarely deviates from that tested and satisfying approach, and “In My View” is its clearest and most representative moment. –Arcade

Bonus Blurb

JUDAS PRIEST

Judas Priest – “Rising From Ruins”
FIREPOWER
Listen if you like:
Saxon, hooks, old-school metal that’s actually good in 2018

“WE’RE STANDING AS ONE, WE’RE CARRYING ON – RISING FROM RUINS.” Enough said. It’s Judas Priest, and FIREPOWER contains hook after hook of the best metal they’ve come up with in nearly 20 years. It’s a bloody blast. –Atari

SIMPSONS THANKS

A huge thank you for your interest and discussion in our 2018 Q1 Playlist! More importantly though, a very special round of applause to the following staff for their blurb contributions: Arcade, Jom, manosg, Raul Stanciu (insomniac), Rowan, and Trey Spencer (Willie). See you next quarter!

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