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2020:  Q1  |  Q2 |  Q3

Sputnikmusic Staff’s 2020 Q3 Playlist

Welcome to the third installment of our 2020 quarterly playlist/mixtape! Below you will find hand picked songs from July to September. 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.



I Love You

Acid Moon and the Pregnant Sun – I Love You
Jamming Speakin’ of the Devil is like travelling in a time capsule, as the Israeli outfit moves easily between Rolling Stones rock ‘n’ roll and psychedelic cuts a la Jefferson Airplane. “I Love You” is one of the more upbeat tunes of the album, and takes the listener back to late-‘60s San Francisco. — manosg


Adrianne Lenker – anything
Adrianne Lenker is peak Sad Music to Feel Good To: Warm. Patient. Open. In the sun, in the rain; half-asleep, half-awake. Small-scale ‘Holocene’: epoch of the self. — BlushfulHippocrene


Easy Action
The Atomic Bitchwax – Easy Action
‘Easy Action’ is another fine example of The Atomic Bitchwax’s knack for smooth, catchy tunes. Channeling pop sensibilities alongside their hard rock/stoner roots, the song becomes very easy to get into, whereas the chorus simply sounds fun. — insomniac15


Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was
Bright Eyes – To Death’s Heart (In Three Parts)
Down in the Weeds is an album all about endings – either relational (Oberst’s divorce weighs heavily here at times) or on a global scale. ‘To Death’s Heart’ is both the heaviest and saddest song on the record, referencing the 2015 terrorist attacks that killed 90 people at the French Bataclan theatre and adding in a lyrical callback to Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’. All of this blends into a dire portrait of life during the modern age – it’s the emotional centerpiece of Down in the Weeds and an essential listen for fans and non-fans alike. — Sowing


Bright Eyes – Calais to Dover
Those expecting a paean to Calais or Dover (or London or Cardiff, for that matter; both are afforded ecumenical mentions) will be disappointed. The penultimate song on Down in the Weeds is very specifically about dislocation in the face of forward physical movement, concrete geographical landmarks: nothing, after all, is changing, but Oberst manages to wring beauty and poignance out of treading the water he sails on. …and there’s a guitar solo. It’s very good. — Winesburgohio


Say the Name [Explicit]
clipping. – Say the Name
clipping chose an opportune time to release “Say the Name”, a song largely manifested from the Candyman film franchise. You know Daveed Diggs and co. aren’t messing around from the first few seconds, a recurring, pitch-shifted sample of the Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”, inarguably one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time. But the trio, in classic clipping style, transfuse these influences from horror and horrorcore into a larger portrait, about violence being done to black bodies in the name of white pride. “The streets bleed sweet syrup, the bees love it/they coming on a swarm, rainin’ on your college-ass disco,” Diggs raps in a tightly controlled flow. It’s a Wu-Tang shout-out, a callback to some of the original film’s most enduring iconography, and a dire warning about the state of the world all in one. — Rowan


Blood of the Titans
Dawn of Ashes Blood of the Titans
At the minute, The Antinomian stands as the quintessential industrial metal album of 2020. It’s a perfect example of how to take all of the great associated aspects of a genre and then mix them with a more contemporary mindset. “Blood of the Titans” is a bulking, mechanical beast filled with Kristof’s menacing hisses over pounding drums, chilling ambiences, and a despondent array of electronic melodies that are sure to titillate you if you’re looking for a more traditional industrial sound. — DrGonzo


Ensiferum – For Sirens
If you like your power metal at break-neck speed, then “Rum, Women, Victory” and “Run from the Crushing Tide” are ideal choices. However, “For Sirens” is a better representative to feature here in the Q3 playlist, as the keyboards and clean vocals from newcomer Pekka Montin elevate Thalassic to greater heights despite the moderate (but not plodding) pace. There’s several moments of vocal interplay between Montin and harsh vocalist Petri Lindroos throughout the record (the Amorphis-like “Andromeda” is one such highlight) and there’s still plenty of folk (“Midsummer Magic” is quite the jig), but “For Sirens” shines with its multi-layered melodies and for its festive bridge, culminating in one final epic chorus/post-chorus from the two vocalists. — Jom


alive [Explicit]
guardin – alive (Feat. PVRIS)
Middle-class malaise is rarely that interesting. It lacks the specificity of most struggles, and is more often than not grounded in some romanticisation of pain. A pain no less real because of that, but one that can be rolled to, anthemised, sung in the midst of a flurry of shitty decision making. There’s reason to be critical of that. It makes for damn good music, though. And yes, ‘alive’, featuring PVRIS, is a damn good song. –BlushfulHippocrene


Dylan’s disgusting baulks in the opening seconds of HEALTH and Full of Hell’s collaborative track are set to be a defining moment on the new DISCO4 :: Part I album. It’s just shy of being two-and-a-half minutes long but it doesn’t squander a second, abrasively chugging along like a demonic vehicle that’ll obliterate anything that gets in its path. That brief, congenial window of opportunity where Jake softly bemoans his parts is a brilliant setup for Dylan’s final moments on the song, unleashing everything he has before it ends. An unlikely tag team, but one with fantastic results. — DrGonzo


Seabed Eden
Ichiko Aoba – Seabed Eden
Following on from her Ghibli-esque single “Amuletum” from earlier this year, “Seabed Eden” sees Ichiko Aoba take another tentative step out of her own private universe and into more immediate territory. Armed with an electric piano and a handful of melancholy 7th chords, she’s as timestoppingly beautiful as ever here; this track is up with the best of her straightforward material. Having maintained a decade’s worth of steady output, it’s starting to look like she’ll never put a foot wrong. — Johnnyofthewell


Atomic Age
Imperial Triumphant – Atomic Age
Since Ulcerate overloaded the metal consensus with the most monochromatic of pyroclasms, it’s nice to hear a credible band reintroduce a little colour to the 2020 extreme-o-verse. Just like the rest of Alphaville, “Atomic Age” pulls no punches when it comes to #brutality and #dissonance, but, wisely noting that jazz’s wealth of dissonant vocabulary runs far deeper than metal’s, Imperial Triumphant take cues where appropriate and chalk up #decadence to their resume with a distinctly New York flourish. “Atomic Age” twists this way and that with a resting-rabies-face unpredictability you know in your gut you should be giving a wide berth. Ignore this. Ignore me. Don’t look away. Soak up that radiation. Phwoar. — Johnnyofthewell


The Dash Between Years
inthebackground – In Taxis
The adage of how we eat with our eyes first holds true with album art as well, with The Dash Between Years‘ art reminiscent of The Mars Volta or And So I Watch You From Afar, and tracks like “DDLM” and “That’s That” are similar in gusto. While there are certainly times where the Californian quintet lean into the more pensive sides of post-rock (“Letters to the Bay” is sublime, and the multitude of pedals in “Between Two States” is a delight), the eclectic shape-shifting heard throughout “In Taxi”‘s second half constantly keeps you on your toes. At a breezy 26 minutes, The Dash Between Years is a solid parallel for fans of Strawberry Girls and CHON. — Jom


Happy Song
John Petrucci – Happy Song
“Happy Song” lives up to its name in scope and style all while showcasing Petrucci’s legendary fretboard chops – in a major key! As with most of the album, the track knows how to make good use of themes and slow down when it needs to. That’s right – it’s an instrumental “virtuoso” song (and album!) that showcases talent tastefully. Most of all, Terminal Velocity feels like an album where Petrucci has recaptured his guitar joy and “Happy Song” feels like the track most emblematic of his reinvigorated playing. It’s a track that will bring a smile to the faces of DT and JP fans new and old. — AtomicWaste


Marilyn Manson Broken Needle
Marilyn Manson’s incredible eleventh album doesn’t give an inch for you to feel bored, but We Are Chaos’ final track in particular is a real highlight — a culmination of all of its brilliance. Starting out with an acoustic guitar and a bubbling backdrop of synth effects, the track simmers and swells before making a final surge across the melancholy it has formed. Its approach is not too dissimilar to that of the hazy fan-favourite “Coma White”, but this has a more appropriately mature feel to it and is just as formidable. — DrGonzo


Dreams of Fancy
Motorpsycho – Dreams of Fancy
Motorpsycho have released one of the best records of their career this year, further exploring the vast sonic plains of psychedelia and progressive rock. There are so many excellent songs on The All Is One, it is very hard to pick just one highlight. However, ‘Dreams of Fancy’ might be slightly overlooked being featured at the end of the 85-minute long odyssey. Nevertheless, the hip swinging groove is addictive, whereas the melodic, orchestral-like touches of Mellotron and acoustic guitars around it contrast the main rhythm very nicely. Also, the viola and guitar solos during the second half offer the track a lovely, hypnotic feel too. — insomniac15


My Morning Jacket – Wasted
The Waterfall II is at times noticeably brighter and bouncier than its 2015 counterpart, but ‘Wasted’ wants no part of that Beatles/Beach Boys worship. This is a psychedelic rocker with an extended breakdown/solo, recalling a more ambitious mixture of The Arctic Monkeys and The Black Keys. This is an old-school rocker that will not only kill at live shows, but also make you want to speed down the highway going ninety. It’s the kind of song that exists as proof that traditional rock is still here, and thriving at that. — Sowing


Where Falcons Fly
Operus – Where Falcons Fly
If you’re up for some over the top symphonic power metal, then look no further than Operus’ sophomore effort. Interesting songwriting, impeccable execution and an epic scope, characterize the band’s music, and “Where Falcons Fly” encapsulates all these traits in less than five minutes. — manosg


Triple AAA
Phoxjaw – Triple AAA
The Bristolian quartet’s debut record is a time-bending kaleidoscope of influences. From the evil carnival organ in “Bats for Bleeding” to sing-along alternative rockers like “Half House” to the post-hardcore underpinnings heard in “You Don’t Drink a Unicorn’s Blood” and the back-half of “Trophies in the Attic”, there’s a wide swath of dissonance and vitriol. The aggressive “Triple AAA” is a prime cut on Royal Swan, with discordant guitars and thick, muddy production providing a syrupy ‘Protomartyr-meets-Thrice, produced by Mike Patton’ feel, making for one of the record’s strongest offerings. — Jom


Primitive Man – Entity
Primitive Man reign supreme as the heaviest, most nihilistic Metal band currently extant (sorry Ulcerate!) and all other bands of a similar ilk should rightly genuflect before them. Entity is evidence why: a purulent and putrescent noise intro segues into coruscating vocals, bleak lyrics and blast-beats. It’s relentless, sure, but you’ll take the beating and wear the bruises with pride. — Winesburgohio


The Duelling Cavalier
Protest the Hero – The Duelling Cavalier
“The Duelling Cavalier” fucking slaps. Protest the Hero found a gorgeous sweet spot with Palimpsest, streamlining their sound to the barebones of gargantuan hooks and elaborate concepts while keeping the proggy guitar antics intact. Just witness how this song burns through an almost punky verse and chorus in three minutes and change, only to transpose into a bone-chilling closing refrain: “Follow my lead, fall into decay, fall into me”. Rody Walker handles all this with some of his finest ever vocals, succinctly summarising the end of the silent film era and weaving it into a larger idea about the way all empires come to an end, and these fuckers still didn’t think it was good enough to make the proper album. — Rowan


Under The Sun
 Ruston Kelly – Under The Sun
While much of Shape and Destroy maintains an even keel and a smoothed out, glossy finish, the penultimate track ‘Under the Sun’ bursts through with the kind of passion that made 2017’s Halloween such a breakthrough release for country-rock. Lyrical references to his divorce with Kacey Musgraves aren’t lost on listeners, either: “If it hurts, either way / What’s the point in dragging it out?” It feels like the entire album builds to this moment, and Ruston’s blend of grit and melody doesn’t let us down. — Sowing


Have You Decided?Ruthven – Have You Decided?
Gah, beautiful. Could listen to Ruthven’s falsetto forever. Even before the drums kick in — sustained, solely, by sinuous synths — the song is utterly captivating. Once they do but, cuing with them bouncy pianos, slinking guitars, ‘Have You Decided?’ becomes truly wondrous. — BlushfulHippocrene


Son Lux – Undertow
Son Lux excels best at interweaving pop nous with orchestral flourishes, and Undertow exemplifies this as a series of musical vignettes by turns thrilling, menacing and richly beautiful – so intercourse then. Stops and starts, like the restless, heaving breath of a lover: sexier than sex – or most depictions of it anyway – and more sensuous than brushes of skin against skin, until the vigorous, sensual gasp of a climax. — Winesburgohio


Taylor Swift – epiphany
Is “epiphany” serene or sinister? The music suggests the former, layers upon layers of instruments bled together in Aaron Dessner’s hands, breaking like waves against Swift’s voice. But that’s where the track’s hardness comes in, where the lyrics make comparison between soldiers dying in World War 2 and healthcare workers putting their lives on the line to treat others during COVID-19. The main refrain takes this to an extreme, a horrifying nursery rhyme – “with you I serve, with you I fall down” – that seems to paint the fallen as expendable from the moment they signed up. But the conclusion offers a kind of grace, vague and undefined but nonetheless tangible, like the end of a pandemic that’s far away but we have to believe will eventually come: “only 20 minutes to sleep, but you dream of some epiphany/just one single glimpse of relief, to make some sense of what you’ve seen.” — Rowan


Levitation 21
Tigran Hamasyan – Levitation 21

The bubbling bass current of “Levitation 21” and its complementary percussion section are right out of the Animals as Leaders “thump” playbook. With the exception of replacing distorted guitars with dark, bass-heavy piano, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a new Abasi experimentation or collaboration – in the best possible way. Pianos and eastern chanting/wailing are where Hamasyan takes a detour, but for the most part, both travel the same road in slightly different vehicles. Other tracks on The Call Within are significantly less influenced by Abasi and company, but “Levitation 21” is undoubtedly the album’s hook – and it’s a fun new twist on a known commodity that is often imitated but rarely replicated. –AtomicWaste


tricot – おまえ (Omae) Lyrics | Genius Lyrics
Tricot – Omae
Sometimes it seems like Japan’s the only place in the world where worthwhile pop rock isn’t dead as history. After releasing a slew of overpolished non-starters in this year’s Makkuro, Tricot bounce back with a mathy power-pop banger that tears through the playbook and drops hooks for days. The band’s energy is at an all time high, and with a snappy lyrical back-and-forth to round things off (Don’t you even realise you’re the loudest person in the world? But you’ve gotta know, you’re the best) it makes for one of their most memorable songs to date. Welcome back. — Johnnyofthewell


Someone To Serve
Two People – Someone to Serve
This emerging Australian duo have just released an irresistible follow-up to their already strong debut. Second Body manages to create a blissful atmosphere in just 30 minutes and ‘Someone to Serve’ is one of the most beautiful songs on it. Phoebe Lou’s lush, processed vocals enhance the dreamy pop vibes of the reverb-drenched synthesizers, almost merging at certain points. The tune flows so smooth, you can listen to it ten times a row. –insomniac15


Feeling so Low
Valkyrie – Feeling so Low
Valkyrie have nothing new to offer to the world of heavy rock, but those twin lead guitar harmonies and the Pentagram-reminiscent “Feeling so Low” make up for any lack of originality. The soulful vocals and the tasty solos add the necessary flavor and make Fear a very enjoyable listen. — manosg


Contributing Staff Writers:

AtomicWaste | BlushfulHippocrene | DrGonzo1937 | insomniac15 | JohnnyoftheWell | Jom | manosg | Rowan | Sowing | Winesburgohio

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Q3 Playlist comes a little early as we mentally prepare for the year-end voting and features in December.

You may notice that each quarterly playlist is linked together at the top of the page (Q1/Q2/Q3), so feel free to explore previous playlists that you missed.

Thanks to all of the staff who participated this round!

Nice, probably my favorite of the 3 playlists, lots of variation and good stuff.

clipping, nice

That inthebackground song is reaaaally fun.

Yeah I dug that too on my first spin. I'm not normally one for instrumental rock but that held my interest. I'm actually spinning the whole album now. PS - the artwork is phenomenal.

Thanks again for putting this together -- lots of good stuff to check out here.

We're already at 85 songs for the year, so hopefully the year-end/Q4 playlist will round out nicely around 110/115 songs. Not a bad reference point for anyone looking to cut through the red tape and just hear some great songs.

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