Sophie Sputnik of Waltzer Credit: Amanda Wiggins

Waltzer founder Sophie Sputnik spent half the 2010s fronting Fort Lauderdale blues-punk duo Killmama from behind a drum kit—she anchored the band’s sparse arrangements in time while lighting them up with her fire-breathing vocals. After Sputnik moved to Chicago a few years ago, she got down to work on Waltzer, a solo project that fuses her grungy garage attitude with her love of neosoul. Late last month, she emerged with Waltzer’s debut album, Time Traveler (Side Hustle), which bundles together 50s doo-wop melodies, weathered blues riffs, and surging rock climaxes in red-hot, rambunctious songs that feel up-to-the-minute but unmoored in time—they’re a great complement to the ghostly neo-pop that former Chicagoan Meghan Remy makes as U.S. Girls. Time Traveler includes the country-tinged throwback “I Don’t Wanna Die,” where Sputnik sings like she knows death intimately—and, well, that’s because she does. In a recent interview with Ari Mejia at CHIRP, Sputnik briefly talks about surviving leukemia as a child. “It changed my entire life,” she says. “I felt really grateful that I had this idea that I’m not immortal.” Sputnik supercharges Waltzer’s music with purposeful drive, flooding it with all the life force at her command.   v