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Sputnikmusic Staff’s 2020 Q4 Playlist

Welcome to the fourth installment of our 2020 quarterly playlist/mixtape! 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.



zombie girl

Adrianne Lenker – zombie girl
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a song that will make you feel warmer inside than ‘zombie girl’. It portrays sad romance and hopeful longing: “I sworn I could’ve felt you there, and I almost could’ve kissed your hair” / “Then the next night, dreaming I could feel your skin, but the dream escaped so easily”. songs follows suit as one of the most moving folk albums of 2020; a piece that consistently portrays total intimacy and crushing vulnerability. — Sowing


Red Rain
Collapse Under the Empire – Red Rain
Many of the genre’s stalwarts have released a new record this year, but I haven’t heard something that whets the third-wave whistle in Q4 quite yet, so I’m banking on the German duo to again exemplify a model of consistency. “Red Rain”‘s straightforward pacing augments the interplay between the walls of guitars and the track’s mollifying synths and strings. — Jom

WAKEN | Cuushe | FLAU
Cuushe – Hold Half
“Hold Half” is resurgent power. It’s the sound of grabbing hold of your life one more time, after falling deeper than you ever fell before. It’s dreamy but not lost, beautiful but not whispered, growing but not dependent. — granitenotebook


The Flower Kings – Solaris
The Swedish progressive rock veterans made their true comeback this year with Islands and ‘Solaris’ is one of the main reasons you should check the album out. There’s a plethora of keyboards and synthesizers embellishing some cool, steady grooves and their trademark lovely, melodic vocals. The tune goes through a slight deconstruction halfway, before returning to the smooth coda. — insomniac15


HEALTH – Colors
By its very nature, DISCO4 :: Part I is an ambitious, heterogeneous project, chock-full of great moments for listeners of all tastes. For me, the hardest hitter from the record was the HEALTH/The Soft Moon collaboration – a track filled with foreboding mist, gloomy swells, and a backbone of metallic creaks. It’s a track of two halves: it’s like walking into a fresh, brightly decorated room, but if you stare hard enough at the peeling edges of the vibrant wallpaper, you’ll uncover the begrimed wall sitting behind it. The pay-off in the last third of the track is industrial worship with a sonorous, synthetic groove and some classic, raspy vocal hisses from Luis. — DrGonzo


Love's Refrain
Julie Byrne, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Love’s Refrain
Julie Byrne’s vocals have a richness that contrast well with her typically light, airy folk compositions. Equally well (if not better) are they textured into Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s comparatively thick, hazy layering. ‘Love’s Refrain’, a shorter, more focussed reworking of the latter’s 2016 track, I can imagine playing over a Twin Peaks supercut. Hypnagogic in effect.—Dreamy and in love.—Belying, subtly, something dark, something beautifully, gorgeously, tragically sinster. — BlushfulHippocrene


Meg Myers – Hurt
These have always been my favorite kind of songs from Meg Myers. The kind that are haunting, emotional, and catchy as hell. That’s what “Hurt” is. — Willie


alive [Explicit]
Mitochondrial Sun – Pulsar 4
On “Pulsar 4” Niklas Sundin (of Dark Tranquility fame) delivers an excellent and exciting blend of black metal chaos and electro-ambient soundscapes. Programmed drums and blistering riffs collide with electronics to provide the kind of instrumental music I can actually get into. –Willie

NAH – Butterly Knife
Don’t know why NAH doesn’t collaborate more often. He’s so fucking good at producing for others. ZekeUltra, the Earl clone he is, sounds great over NAH’s sparse, forty-second instrumental. I recommend listening to it in the context of the album: ‘Inferno Code’’s dark, frenetic pulse contrasts damn well with ‘Butterfly Knife’s’ slow, menacing hip hop. Even on its own, though, the song is effecting, as calm as the hike to the edge of the cliff may be. — BlushfulHippocrene


Say Less
Nothing – Say Less
The Great Dismal caught me a bit off guard, as I’m not usually a big shoegaze fan. There’s something beautifully hopeless about this album that I immediately related to though, especially as it dropped mere days before the U.S. election. ‘Say Less’ embodies the record’s dark energy, and serves as an excellent introductory point for both Nothing and the genre. –Sowing
Priest (SWE) – Xpander
There’s always some reticence when there’s a lineup change over ‘creative differences’ and more attention is paid to a band’s theatrics than their music, but Cyberhead is a pleasant surprise. Opener “Xpander” is captivatingly dark and melodic, featuring the strongest vocal on the record, modulated or otherwise. With its industrial tilt, it’s clear the group have had a long apprenticeship listening to Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode, but Cyberhead checks most of the boxes for fans of Cold Cave, Blaqk Audio, or Ashbury Heights as well. — Jom


Something More
Roisin Murphy – Something More
This year’s ’80s disco revival has been an unexpected delight , and synth-pop veteran Roisin Murphy has probably been the most forthright of the bunch when it comes to dishing out steady dancefloor fuel. “Something More” is pure overblown bliss, from the melodramatic titular overture to its ultradeliberately weighted groove to the tender ham of the self-accompanying “I want it!”s that round the track off. Show me another banger from this year that owns being gloriously cheesy as well as this one; I’ll be waiting. — Johnnyofthewell


Unfold You
Rostam – Unfold You
It’s clear to careful production discography observers that Rostam is a talent. This is just another example of his immense ability to write good songs and drench them in a cautious, twinkling beauty. Over the course of almost four minutes, he creates a pocket symphony that would make Brian Wilson proud. — granitenotebook


 Spanish Merchant's DaughterSam Amidon – Spanish Merchant’s Daughter
If you’ve ever sunk deep into the mystical nuances of Ben Howard’s 2018 masterpiece Noonday Dream, then Sam Amidon’s self-titled is something you must hear. ‘Spanish Merchant’s Daughter’ isn’t the most impressively composed song, but it never fails to whisk me away to an imaginative place far away from the chaotic stressors of 2020. Once those opening acoustic guitars begin their mesmeric sway, I’m done for, every single time. Don’t deprive yourself of these four and half minutes of sensory bliss. — Sowing


 Let Go
Sharon Van Etten – Let Go
If you’re one of the unfortunates who felt alienated by Sharon Van Etten’s foray into glistening synthpop on Remind Me Tomorrow, “Let Go” might be just the invitation you need to get back on board. It’s her most purely beautiful song in a minute, a patiently unfurling slow-burner comprised of the best aspects of her earlier work. While Van Etten’s voice, still the best in the entire business, echoes the tautly controlled risings-and-fallings of “Tarifa” or “Your Love is Killing Me”, the song’s elegant production recalls the more art-folk leanings of her first classic epic. If the likes of “Seventeen” and “Hands” proved Van Etten had plenty of territory to claim outside her usual wheelhouse, “Let Go” is a perfect demonstration that she hasn’t wandered too far from her roots. — Rowan


Sólstafir – Drýsill
“Drýsill” is far from being the most ambitious track on Sólstafir’s new album, but it’s definitely one of the most balanced numbers from it. The synths harbour the poignant sadness throughout, while the guitars envelope the piece with transfixing harmonies and really sharp and accessible melodies. Couple that with Tryggvason’s wounded barks and you have one hell of a track on your hands. — DrGonzo


Baptize [Clean] [feat. Ant Clemons]
Spillage Village – Baptize
Spillage Village are here to save 2020 with some rapturous, quasi-religious, super-horny love. The freewheeling supergroup, who’ve grown from the core trio of Earthgang and J.I.D to multiple guitarists, producers, rappers and singers, locked down in an Atlanta studio right before COVID hit hard and emerged with a gloriously cathartic mess. “Baptize” is part Southern bop, part art-pop coda that’s the most Kanye thing you’ve heard since Kanye was still good, and part playing back J.I.D’s “Adam and Eve dumbass, apple-eating thumbass” line on repeat until Trump gets the fuck out of the White House. Go ahead, tilt your head back, hold your breath for the ritual. — Rowan

Open Wound
Svalbard – Open Wound
Svalbard’s seamless integration of hardcore and blackgaze is at its best on “Open Wound”. The guitars are mixed especially well throughout the record and the tremolo picking is appreciably crisp. Countrymates Rolo Tomassi are a logical association, so while I don’t see When I Die… placing as high as Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It‘s just-outside-the-top-ten finish, it seems likely you’ll see the Bristol quartet on our year-end list. — Jom


Tricot – Summer Night Town
Earlier this year, I was convinced that power-pop banger “Omae” would be the highlight of Tricot’s latest album, 10 – a cute take that might have been accurate if it weren’t for the ruthless perfection of every last one of the many hooks and melodies at play across the board here. Seriously, imagine being a guitar band trying to write pop songs in 2020 and making it through a start-to-finish listen of this. Instant endgame. “Summer Night Town” shifts stances often and effortlessly, landing an impractically catchy knockout with intimidating levels of grace. gg. — Johnnyofthewell


 O, My Daughter, O, My SorrowWilliam Basinski – O, My Daughter, O, My Sorrow
A central piece off William Basinski’s latest record, Lamentations, ‘O, My Daughter, O, My Sorrow’ introduces operatic vocal loops over dense, eerie sound scapes. The ambient music master delivers some of his most haunting layers, creating a hallucinatory effect for the listener. — insomniac15


All We Know
Zubin, YAWNS – Perfect Hell
There’s no doubt about it: Zubin has a masterpiece in him. Until then we have ‘Perfect Hell’, a song that brings Zubin’s angelic vibrato to YAWNS’ recent endeavour into artificial-sounding pop punk (emphasis on pop). Don’t mind the cheesiness of its aesthetic; in spite, or maybe because of it, ‘Perfect Hell’ is perfectly cool; it delivers a perfectly danceable groove. A certified bop, as the kids are wont to say. — BlushfulHippocrene


Yawning Man – Tumbleweeds in the Snow
The Godfathers of the Palm Springs desert scene finally released a DVD, playing an album worth of brand new music in the Mojave Desert where the generator parties began. ‘Tumbleweeds in the Snow’ is pretty much a soundtrack to the entire scenery and journey there. The blissful, dreamy guitar continuously wanders during this 15-minute epic, while the chunky bass and drum are like an anchor to its sweet, lush leads. — insomniac15


Contributing Staff Writers:

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

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We're privy to the fact that this playlist is coming to you a bit early, but we wanted to be consistent and put out a Q4 Playlist while still having time to turn our attention to the Staff's Top 50 Albums of 2020, which is on the horizon. Hope you enjoy this batch, and keep an eye and an ear out for the 2020 Mixtape, which will fuse all 4 quarters into 107 songs of sensory bliss.

some hard jams on here nice work everyone

Hey sowing- long time lurker. Have you checked out Black Foxxes new album?

No ERR & Thou, no Crippled Black Phoenix? Mmmmmmm...

Nice write-ups though!

I had both of those to start, but I figured the records were (and in the case of ERR/Thou, still are) so popular in the Trending Albums box for so long that it would have been overkill. If we had to pick 5 instead of 3, I would have kept them. The Svalbard was semi-cheating since it straddled Q3/Q4, but you know how it is here -- everything is Whose Line is it Anyway?, where everything is made up and ultimately doesn't matter!

When I realised my third pick wasn't on Spotify, I almost swapped in "The Invisible Past", but then had a moment of indecision and spent a while scouting for better tracks and then realised that this quarter (so far) is eh and then it was too late :[

Nice work everyone, some good picks and lovely words. That new Cuushe song is a mood

Somehow I thought Crippled Black Phoenix was released in Q3. Damn

sexy post

will check this playlist for sure.. some good looking stuff here

Svalbard is so good and everyone needs to listen to it

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