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2020:  Q1  |  Q2

Sputnikmusic Staff’s 2020 Q2 Playlist

Welcome to the second installment of our 2020 quarterly playlist/mixtape! Below you will find hand picked songs from April to June. Feel free to jam the playlist below while reading what our writers had to say about each selection. Tell us what your favorites are in the comments, as well as any new artists you may have discovered here – or, alternatively, tell us what we missed! Thanks for reading/listening.



Ad Infinitum – Marching on Versailles
Do a quick Google search for Melissa Bonny; she’s hot. Not just physically, but vocally. She seems to specialize in power metal, symphonic metal, and is also one of the more convincing female growlers out there. “Marching on Versailles” displays that ability with one of her many bands, Ad Infinitum. “Marching on Versailles” shares a lot in common with the proggy symphonic power metal of a modern Kamelot album execept heavier without nearly as much theatrics and cheese. — Willie


Andrew Judah – Hair of the Dog
If you’re into the theatrical, progressive rock of The Dear Hunter, then allow me to introduce you to the next best thing. Largely unknown, Andrew Judah’s Impossible Staircase is a blend of enormous vocal hooks spilling over with poppy choruses – all rooted in instrumental elements of grittier rock ‘n’ roll. ‘Hair of the Dog’ is the album’s epic centerpiece and arguably one of 2020’s best tunes. — SowingSeason


Asking Alexandria – They Don’t Want What We Want (And They Don’t Care)
Make no mistake; Like a House on Fire is not a good album, it’s bloated by about thirty minutes, the production is nothing short of awful, and the songs themselves hardly serve up anything worth being vocal about. Which by now, probably, has you asking yourself why “They Don’t Want What We Want (And They Don’t Care)” has even reached this mixtape. Well, the truth of the matter is that it’s a pretty damn fun track to listen to. Despite the laden reliance on vocal effects and its over-produced nature in just about every other regard, underneath its caveats the band attempts to mix contemporary hip-hop electronics and beats with alt-rock styled grooves akin to Royal Blood. Most of the bands that started out around the same time as Asking Alexandria are sat in a pit of stagnation, trying to imitate Bring Me the Horizon and the few other really successful acts from that scene, and while Like a House on Fire most certainly fails as an album, it’s songs like “They Don’t Want What We Want (And They Don’t Care)” which show a glimmer of differentiation from that mindset, and presents mindless fun, if nothing else. — DrGonzo1937


Big Red Machine & Michael Stipe – No Time For Love Like Now
There are few voices I fervently love for being untrained and strained like Michael Stipe’s. His greatest work rises and falls with the ebbing of a track with little regard for key (refer to “Nightswimming”, “Country Feedback”), and 2020 sees a new backing for his vocals some ways from R.E.M.’s rock-solid tunes. Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon provide a faded, forlorn track, over which Stipe seems to lament the world’s current isolation, despite writing it a year before quarantine. “Whatever waiting means in this new place, I am waiting for you,” he croons, and that fragile little bird of a voice has never sounded more beautiful. — Rowan5215


Chronophobe – Mantra
Did Chronophobe have any idea what would befall the world at grand scale shortly before their April release? I can’t imagine they did, but the lyrics to “Mantra” are terribly fitting to our current state of the world: locked indoors, reassuring ourselves in the immortal words of Dan Quayle that “the future will be better tomorrow.” While all of Chronophobe’s latest EP manages an optimistic, math-y twinkle around lyrics that hope for the best but brace for the worst, “Mantra” seems the most fitting to me for the, well, mantra of “Everything will be okay, everything is going fine, everything will be okay…” that seems to be on repeat in my own mind every time I have even a brief look at the news. — AtomicWaste


Cold Years – Night Like This
I’m being a bit loose with the calendar here given that Paradise‘s release date has been postponed again, but fans of The Loved Ones, The Gaslight Anthem, or Hundred Reasons should add this shimmering rocker from this Scottish quartet to any summer playlist. A thick, punchy rhythm section complements vocalist Ross Gordon’s signature snarl throughout, but the song’s pensive bridge before a final raucous chorus is another obvious highlight. — Jom


Currents – Monsters
I am a sucker for semi-technical metalcore bands that use just a little bit of electronics/atmosphere like Currents. “Monsters” is easily my favorite song from their latest album. It has its technical intense moments, subtle electronics, a catchy chorus, and a huge breakdown. If this is your kind of music, it’s pretty much all the essentials boiled down to 3 minutes and 32 seconds. — Willie


Fiona Apple – Heavy Balloon
Fiona Apple doesn’t make immediate music, but there are tracks on Fetch the Bolt Cutters with a more urgent impact than “Heavy Balloon.” But everyone reacts to Fiona differently, and the relatively unassuming track hit me hard with its uneven tone and aggressive cadence. The harmonization is beautiful and the subtle dynamic growth mirrors the restlessness of the entire album; a microcosm of whatever the hell is going on right now. — Xenophanes


Fiona Apple – Cosmonauts
Many writers have embarrassed themselves trying to explain Fetch the Bolt Cutters, doing the album a disservice in the process. This is partially down to scarcely chartered areas of hyperbole, but mainly because the album never needed an industry ramble to begin with: all it needed was a strong voice. Fiona Apple brings this in spades and any conjecture surplus to unpacking her presence here immediately stands out as such. Since we’re cutting to the heart of things, there is no moment that sums up exactly what the Strong Voice Of Fiona Apple is about here better than her full-throated growl of “NOW” in the “Cosmonauts” bridge. It’s the most concise of the album’s many emotional epicentres, one second of furious catharsis. The remaining 51 minutes 53 seconds are history. — JohnnyoftheWell


Geotic – Breathtaker
You know something is going on in the world when Geotic is by far my most listened to artist of the year. “Breathtaker,” an Adult Swim single, however, would rank highly any year. It follows closely with more recent Geotic releases, far removed from his ambient beginnings, but even further removed from Baths more pop-oriented releases. The climactic shifts are perfectly placed but belie the more thoughtful and moving moments between. — Xenophanes


GoGo Penguin – Atomised
I adore how cinematic “Atomised” is. The opening 1:24 is frenetic in pace, but it’s this next section that’s my personal favorite, as the double bass and percussion imbue the track with danceable energy and gusto. “Signal in the Noise”, “Totem”, and “F Maj Pixie” are other standouts in an album chock full of them. — Jom


Gordi – Volcanic
‘Volcanic’ is a terrific term for Gordi’s music. The singer-songwriter was raised in a tiny rural town about an hour out from where my parents live, but her effervescent debut Reservoir was more suited to skyscrapers and cities full of life than dirt roads and beat-up old utes. Ironically the song seems positioned to go against its titular emotion, detailing an emotional crisis with a heartbreaking detachment, until the final minute of the song introduces a piano and the best musical bait-and-switch you’ve heard all year. To say more would be an injustice to Gordi’s fluid, gorgeously amorphous music, which has a way of translating the uncertainty of identity and sexuality into songs of explosive love like nothing else. — Rowan5215


Hayley Williams – Dead Horse
I could honestly pick any song from Petals for Armor as I’ve probably listened to the collection well over 100 times by now, but “Dead Horse” sticks out to me as one of the record’s most upbeat, memorable, and flatly honest tracks. Instrumentally, the track packs all of the pop hooks, bubbly melodies, and all of the “yaya”s The Rolling Stones got out once upon a time. But the raw emotion of the track bleeds out in lyric simplicity and visual recall that runs counter to its singalong pop energy. In combination, “Dead Horse” channels honesty and admission into a celebratory exorcism – a startlingly validating transformation of pain into joy. — AtomicWaste


Jess Williamson – Gulf of Mexico
Sorceress is a wonderful journey planted firmly in a barren desert of country and folk-pop, interspersed with rock elements and thirst-quenching synths that hydrate the listener trudging through this harsh setting. The album is best enjoyed collectively, but it only seems fitting to pick “Gulf of Mexico” because it encompasses all of the themes that are abound in Sorceress. Its duality with love, age, and what it means to be a woman – these themes are generally presented with two meanings. The same goes for Jess’ vocal performance which has her lamenting her poetry, but not without a deepened, subtly complex sense of optimism and enthusiasm underlying the words she’s pouring out. In short – it’s a fantastic song in its own right, but it’s also a well-earned payoff when you’ve heard all that came before it. — DrGonzo1937


Keaton Henson – Ontario
A masochistic part of me hoped new solo Keaton would never see the light of day. Given ‘Epilogue’, it would’ve made sense. ‘Ontario’ (so, too, ‘Career Day’) could’ve snuck its way onto Birthdays or Kindly Now. This does feel like a new era: Keaton’s a married man now, no longer a slave to relationships past. He can still be sad, though. He can still write songs. — BlushfulHippocrene


Macaroom + Chiku Toshiaki – kodomono odoriko
After releasing an all-time glitch-pop classic and a respectable bedroom pop space-out last decade, Japanese indietronica group Macaroom joined forces with the legendary rag-and-bone man ukulelist Chiku Toshiaki for a collaboration album. This was mainly comprised of reworkings of his tracks within Macaroom’s palette, but the title track is the sole original and a strong standout. Penned by Toshiaki and supported by his distinctive vocals, Macaroom’s unobtrusively glitchy indietronica is all over this, making for one of 2020’s most charmingly quirky tracks. — JohnnyoftheWell


Mark Lanegan – Daylight in the Nocturnal House
Mark Lanegan poured all his demons into his latest record, Straight Songs of Sorrow. Musically, the most crushing moment might be folksy ‘Daylight in the Nocturnal House’ with its melancholic, picked resonator guitar chords, moody synthesizers and piercing guitar leads. All these alongside Lanegan’s attempts to move on from his troubled past make for a powerful and compelling tune. — insomniac15


Mekong Delta – Mental Entropy
Did anyone even know this was released? I sure as hell didn’t. Anway, “Mental Entropy” features a streamlined version of Mekong Delta’s angular tech/prog metal. Kind of reminds me of a blend of Psychotic Waltz’s Mosquito and Watchtower’s Mathematics, but with a more modern sound. The rhythm section, in particular, is just phenomenal. The vocals, as always, are an acquired taste but their more grating moments have been reduced significantly here. — Willie


Moby – All Visible Objects
‘All Visible Objects’ is the instrumental epic closer to Moby’s latest, eponymous album. In a way, it sums up very well its overall vibe, using dance beats over which mournful piano and synthesizers abound. The tune grows, as he pushes up front the majestic chord progressions, up to an overwhelming yet lush vibe. — insomniac15


Nat Vazer – Like Demi
The recent wave of dryly sardonic female Australian songwriters – which hit warp speed with the release of Courtney Bartnett’s impeccably disaffected “Avant Gardener” – was to me both a welcome change and not at all a surprise. It’s the classical millennial story: presented with so much information, tragedies and opportunities and literal worlds on fire just when we should be starting to get our lives in order, the only logical move is to shut down and put yourself at a remove with a cheeky wink at the camera. If that sounds a bit formulaic as a template for music, thankfully Nat Vazer is here with Australia’s answer to “Archie, Marry Me”, coming with a wit so sharp the track barely needs guitars. “You’re asking me to dial it down? Is this offensive and loud, is this offensive and loud?” she sneers, providing the title for an album of tight, exacting power pop tunes trafficking in anger, sarcasm and joy in roughly equal measure. — Rowan5215


Paradise Lost – Darker Thoughts
The opening track to any artist’s album is an important one. It tells a lot about the artist making it – revealing a transparency in their efforts, to guide the listener into a certain direction thereafter: do you have a mood-setting instrumental, a weird avant-garde snippet that leads into a track with tangible substance, or do you throw your chips down and go for the jugular? For Paradise Lost’s sixteenth LP, the band went with the last one, opening up their magnum opus in the most spectacular way possible. A sprawling epic filled with acoustic instrumentation, a soaring solo, sludgy riffs, and a heaving dose of classic doom rhythms that swing like a pendulum. “Darker Thoughts” is easily the most authoritative and transfixing opener to any of their previous efforts, but it’s also impressive to know the rest of the record maintains this same level of energy and engaging songwriting. — DrGonzo1937


Phoebe Bridgers – Graceland Too
Get that parasocial relationships with musicians aren’t cool. How, though? How to refrain from feeling intimately about music so intimate? How not to listen to ‘Graceland Too’, and think, “Oh, Julien…”? The sphere of influence of a listener is small; other than in the abstract, non-existent. To be touched, perhaps, is enough. And how not to find this touching? — BlushfulHippocrene


Protest the Hero – The Fireside
I’ve spent the last decade absolutely shitting on Protest the Hero and their increasingly intumescent sound which began shortly after Fortress. But Palimpsest managed to take the most grating parts of Volition and Scurrilous and crank them into some sort of zen-like mixture of traditional metal and progressive rock. It works in the most joyous way, and “Fireside” is the most infectiously catchy example. It’s weirdly beautiful and fun, with a heaping spoonful of melodrama. It’s all so messy and silly and shouldn’t work, but the track, and album as a whole, is the most refreshing version of traditional metal since The Underground Resistance— Xenophanes


Rina Sawayama – Akasaka Sad
Rina Sawayama’s debut full-length draws on its strength as an identity piece just as much its roster of bangers, and “Akasaka Sad” is the peak of both sides. It’s a deeply uneasy halfway house caught between Sawayama’s London and Tokyo backgrounds: Sawayama’s delivery mangles English and Japanese phrasings into a near-nauseating thrill, while producer Clarence Clarity’s hard-shouldered arrangement mangles hip-hop and R&B-isms and packs a punch. I vaguely recall Sawayama declaring mid-livestream that this song was a late addition and that Clarity wrote half the arrangement while she was on the toilet (or something to that effect), so that’s cute; this track could never have come from any other duo in pop. — JohnnyoftheWell


Ruston Kelly – Rubber
Heard this at least a couple dozen times since its mid-June release. The pattery trap high hats lost their novelty quickly. What was left was a song among Kelly’s best: considerably earnest, even self-hating; not at all without a sense of humour. — BlushfulHippocrene


sleepmakeswaves – Zelda
Truthfully, I wanted to put “The Endings That We Write” here simply because it’s post-rock done right, but “Zelda” deserves its spot here because it’s the first time the Aussie outfit have predominantly featured vocals in their music (courtesy of guitarist Otto Wicks-Green). I’ve enjoyed how dissonant and psychedelic some of these newer tracks have been, so I’m definitely keen to see what the full LP will be like in July. — Jom


Solar – Spit it Out
Kpop act Mamamoo’s leader, Solar returned to the public’s eye with a lovely earworm, ‘Spit it Out’. Her solo single mainly blends Latino beats with warm, summery dance rhythms. Building towards the infectious chorus, her sensual croon gives way to powerful vocal lines that luckily don’t go overboard, thus, leaving some room for the listener to enjoy the grooves. — insomniac15


Thomas Azier – Entertainment
‘Entertainment’ is a commentary on the ever-blurring line between technology and humanity. It plays out like an unhinged, sinister Bowie tune. Azier’s vocals are manic and theatrical as he sings “I get orgasms through my phone” and “Let me taste your virtual skin” to a constantly intensifying electronic backdrop. It’s nearly impossible not to get sucked into this slightly terrifying matrix. — SowingSeason


Zach Bryan – Messed Up Kid

With an old acoustic guitar and harmonica, Zach Bryan can say more about love in four minutes than I could in an entire lifetime. While his lyrics are romantic and to the point, his delivery is what sells it – voice cracking as he sings, “I’m a messed up kid with nothin’ to show – except a girl sayin’ she’ll be here everywhere I go.” As Zach continuously turns down offers from major labels, he exhibits a rare level of ingenuity that should be treasured in today’s expedient, commercialized musical climate. — SowingSeason


Contributing Staff Writers:

AtomicWaste | BlushfulHippocrene | DrGonzo1937 | insomniac15 | JohnnyoftheWell | Jom | Rowan | Sowing | Willie | Xenophanes

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Thanks to everyone for participating and to Willie for stepping up with the blog creation.

blush < 3

i don't get how heavy balloon is relatively unassuming, it's what people here love to call 'bombastic'

lol 'bombastic.' you're right (and ofc it's neither)

Great job everyone, sweet playlist!

Lots of stuff I have to check in here! Love that you're repping Ruston Kelly @Blush! He's released another single called Radio Cloud since Rubber that's just as good. All three songs from this album have me insanely pumped

The guy also just announced his divorce from Kacey Musgraves, which should mean there’s been some primo songwriting happening (although obviously horrible for both of them)

checking this playlist now!

Listened to this over the past couple days. There were some pretty great tracks on here!

I got a job for every able bodied man... Xeno. Love the Protest album. It's growing on me with every listen (4.2 spit score ATM). Thanks for the write up!

wow that Nat Vazer track is fantastic!

is there a way to block playlists?

yes but imma need your date of birth and some fresh cookies

sounds suspicious

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