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Sputnikmusic Staff’s Q2 Playlist 2021

Welcome to the second installment of our 2021 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.

To view the historical content of these playlists, visit the bottom of this page.



AFI – Dulcería
AFI continue to delve deeper into a more sophisticated sound three decades into their career and ‘Dulcería’ is the most suave moment on Bodies. I dare to say the groovy bass lines and silky guitars echo Roxy Music and Davey’s smooth croons are impressive and very catchy. The result is such a beautiful and elegant tune. — insomniac15


Altarage – Magno Evento
Succumb sees the dissonant Basque collective broaden its spectrum by reconciling experimentalism and orthodoxy. Besides being one of its discordant highlights, the charismatic ‘Magno Evento’ stands as one of the best tracks the band has ever recorded. — TheNotrap


Maleza (Black LP)
Bala – Hoy No
The Spanish in me felt it was sort of mandatory to spice up this playlist than with some caustic stoner punk from the north west coast of Galicia, a beautiful land well known from its constant rainy seasons, affable people, Celtic music and now also Bala, the duo formed by axe-grinder and professional screamer Anxela Baltar and drum stormer Violeta Mosquera. Now playing on major leagues thanks to them signing with Century Media and after touring far and wide outside the Spanish border, Bala are set to conquer and destroy audiences all over the world with their heated live performances and a brand new album under the belt. May this second track from their new album “Maleza” be a short and sweet taste of what to expect. — Dewinged


Black Midi – John L
Praised and despised in equal manner, young post punk rioters Black Midi have never been met with indifference. Reactions to their craft are as feverish as the evil serpentine melody that drives first single and opening track “John L”. For all that is worth, there’s no easy way to explain why this track resonated or made such a strong impression on me the first time I heard it. Surely the video that illustrates the frantic tones and organized chaos of “John L” made a good work in presenting Black Midi’s latest output in all its glory. This wicked tune is an ambitious swim against the current that is guaranteed to test your patience and corrode your judgement to the point of ardent acceptance or puzzling denial, and believe me when I say it, Black Midi know exactly what they are doing. — Dewinged


Little Season I
Bruno Pernadas – Little Season I
This past winter, I became obsessed with The Beach Boys thanks to the discovery of their lost classic, The Smile Sessions. Private Reasons embodies a similarly sunny and experimental demeanor – sure, they’re entirely different styles of pop, but the spirit is the same, okay man? “Little Seasons I” is a highly orchestral slice of eternal optimism that will immediately whisk you off to a lush and tropical locale. I dare you to find a better modern psych-pop song; you won’t. — Sowing


What's the Rush
Cold Moon (USA-CA) – Simpleton
Shimmering guitars dominate throughout the estival “Simpleton”, with a The War on Drugs-meets-Wilco amalgam that should easily find its way onto your summer barbecuing (or lazy river rafting) playlist. Like a slow-blooming flower, the sauntering tempo eventually opens up to a bright, lively bridge. Your thoughts on tambourine? “I don’t mind / And it won’t be the last time.” — Jom


Michelle Pfeiffer [Explicit]
Ethel Cain – Michelle Pfeiffer (feat. lil aaron)
I’ve never been quite wowed by Ethel Cain. Heartachen as they are, her songs have always erred on the sleepy side; nodding off at the driver’s seat, only ever getting to experience the crash as some third person or pre-emptive ghost. ‘Michelle Pfeiffer’ is no different, really, but it does afford its listeners some form of climax. In doing so, it brings Cain one step closer to grand pop emo inbred darlinghood. — BlushfulHippocrene


Flotsam & Jetsam - Blood In The Water - Amazon.com Music
Flotsam and Jetsam – Blood in the Water
Flotsam and Jetsam stormed into 2021 by unleashing one of their best albums to date. Of its accomplished moments, the title track is the one I would like to emphasize, for it mirrors the fiercest and most irreverent side of the band. — TheNotrap


I'm Waiting on You
Fuckin Whatever – I’m Waiting On You
Here’s a pitch: Anthony Green, John Nolan and Adam Lazzara, loopy in lockdown like all the rest of us, get together and layer the shit out of their vocals until twisted, dreamy songs emerge. Now add clattering percussion from Grouplove’s Ben Homola, to transform these weird experiments into genuine pop bangers. It sounds like a fever dream I came up with waiting for the next Taking Back Sunday album, but Fuckin Whatever is very real and very great, especially the intoxicating, richly textured “I’m Waiting On You”. It’s something special hearing these three distinct and powerful voices interact; Green’s high-pitched wail of “they can’t kill us if we’re already dead” soaring over Lazzara’s gruffer lower range is a mix that has to be heard to be believed. — Rowan


 the angel of 8th ave. [Explicit]Gang of Youths – the angel of 8th ave.
“the angel of 8th ave.” is the perfect title for Gang of Youths’ comeback single, all ‘just-casually-tossing-off-some-fire’ lowercase stylisation and unabashed Springsteen adoration. Indeed the song is almost amusingly straightforward, a lithe pop banger that clocks in under 4 minutes from a band who made their name on extended, hyper-literate barnburners. But context hugely elevates “the angel of 8th ave.”; as a kiss-off to the first run of Gang of Youths’ career, a way to clean the slate before the alleged stylistic departure to come next year, you couldn’t ask for more. This is simply a short, sharp banger that dares you to forget it even as the hook bounces around the inside of your skull. –Rowan


I don’t need to explain this to anybody familiar with these two names (read: everybody that bothers to read music blogs). This is one of those rare collaborations that makes as much sense in theory as it does in practice. Seriously, I don’t need to sell you on Nine Inch Nails in 2021, do I? Go listen to Iglooghost – Lei Line Eon, because not enough people did. –MiloRuggles


Fear of the Fallen
Helloween – Fear of the Fallen
The long-awaited pumpkin gathering is sure to be one of the most defining metal moments of 2021. While one would expect a Michael Weikath or Kai Hansen song to make the cut, my pick goes to Deris’ tune ‘Fear of the Fallen’, as it successfully captures both the catchiness of the band’s second era and the magic of their golden years. — TheNotrap


Hundreds of AU – Symbolic
Taking aim at the entire Venn diagram containing “People who support what occurred in Washington DC on January 6th” and “People upset that monuments and institutions that memorialize white supremacists are being removed or renamed,” Hundreds of AU’s Paul Alan pulls no punches on this album opener. The screaming distortion and reverb-laden instrumentation can drown out his “myth of nostalgia” vitriol at times, but “Symbolic”‘s middle section provides a brief respite before unleashing another round of venom. –Jom


Iosonouncane – Ashes
“Ashes” is the moment I knew I’d stumbled upon something special. Iosonouncane is not a household name, but for all of IRA‘s general weirdness and its vastly unsettling vibes, most of it feels vaguely familiar: there’s Radiohead for sure, a dash of Swans, and maybe even some Sigur Ros. That’s some damn good company to be in, and “Ashes” embodies everything you’ll surely love about IRA – 2021’s dark horse candidate for album of the year. — Sowing


t h e . c l i m b . b a c k [Explicit]
J. Cole – t h e . c l i m b . b a c k
Cole’s effortless control of rhythm and rhyme often acts as a sort of ‘watch the birdie’ trick, distracting the audience from hit-and-miss songwriting and rocky album experiences, but “t h e . c l i m b . b a c k” is a best of both worlds scenario. The beat is a woozy carnival ride, and the first verse’s braggadocio is counterbalanced by a second verse that describes losing a friend due to that very same clout. Real cleverboi introspective stuff here, capped off with an autotune chorus to scare off the poseurs. –MiloRuggles


In Hell
Japanese Breakfast – In Hell
“In Hell” is a sad song about a dead dog. It’s for people who feel powerless and distraught for reasons so banal that they can barely find it in themselves to choke up over them. Hell is finding someone to love, and I can’t see you again: those words are at once too little and too much, but Michelle Zauner (aka Japanese Breakfast) circuits their sentiment with self-stalling phrasing and deadpan attention to detail until the full breadth of their implication lands with appropriately crushing effect. Her arrangement is almost sickeningly palatable and quite excellent, very nearly the “best” on her wonderful new album, but mostly I just miss my cat. — JohnnyoftheWell


Mood Ring
Kississippi – Big Dipper
Kississippi’s transition from dark dream-pop band to pop solo act hasn’t been a smooth one. 2018’s Sunset Blush, despite frontwoman’s Zoe Reynold’s newfound confidence, lacked the well-rounded moodiness of breakout EP We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed, whilst also failing to embrace fully its pop ambitions. How exciting, then, that ‘Big Dipper’, featuring Alex Menne of Great Grandpa, not only recaptures the intoxicating haziness of old, but plants Reynold firmly, comfortably (finally) in the realm of pop. That too with unbridled maturity and an enviable energy. — BlushfulHippocrene


Long Lost
Lord Huron – Long Lost
Long Lost (both the song and the album) takes the best elements of folk and country, and then swirls them into this dizzying, antiquated faux-50’s show tune nostalgia setting. I’ve truly never heard anything sound so modern and so dated at the same time; it’s brilliant. The album’s title track is cut right from the album’s center and represents its core sound perfectly: pianos ring out in splendor, towering choruses sing about taking to the mountains, and saccharine yet incredibly smooth string sections serenade your ears. ‘Long Lost’ is one of the most organically beautiful folk songs I’ve heard in ages. — Sowing


Melkor – Fremd
Brandmale came at a time for me when I’d basically given up on seeing this year as a great black metal year. That was probably death metal’s fault, but I was more than glad to hear “Fremd”‘s visceral sentiment while the band name toyed with my ideas for Tolkien-lore. Also: Hi Fremds! — Nocte


Born to Go
Monster Magnet – Born to Go
If there is one band who can emulate Hawkwind’s energy and power is Monster Magnet. Dave Wyndorf has covered a handful of their tracks throughout his career and the latest is another banger. ‘Born to Go’ soars with sharp guitars and pounding drums as you’re being immersed in its universe. At the same time, if you haven’t listened to the original act’s music, you would never tell this isn’t a Monster Magnet song. — insomniac15


At Empire's End
Motorpsycho – At Empire’s End
Lying at the heart of their latest odyssey, Kingdom of Oblivion, ‘At Empire’s End’ features both sides of the Motorpsycho spectrum. Soft, acoustic moments are intertwined with progressive riffs and grandiose Mellotron leads à la King Crimson. On each album, they offer that moody number that gets to truly shine after repeated listens. This is one of them and a lovely counterpart to the heavier cuts. — insomniac15


Astronaut In The Ocean [Explicit]
Our Last Night – Astronaut in the Ocean
The teenage me would be smug as fuck over this track. Our Last Night have covered Masked Wolf’s “Astronaut in the Ocean,” a rap-track-turned-rock, and it’s gloriously fun to hear. This version ups the tempo, throws layer after layer of skill and precision at it, using a variety of vocal and genre styles, and says what it needs to in just over two minutes before dropping the mic. It’s one of those covers that brings a completely different feel to it, while staying completely faithful to the source material. In the days where I held a myopic view on music – rock being better than everything else – I’d have seen this as an obvious win for the team. — DrGonzo


Lustful Sacraments
Perturbator – Lustful Sacraments
I love Perturbator. I find his abrasive darkwave style deeply gratifying and unique, and I have done since day dot. Lustful Sacraments is different though. This album refrains from Perturbator’s usual frontal assault, instead opting for a reserved soundtrack-esque style filled with post-punk and industrial. “Lustful Sacraments” is perfect to sample because it encompasses a lot of the bigger picture here. It displays this mature synergy, balancing his bread and butter for veterans, while drawing in a much broader audience by incorporating sounds from Frontline Assembly right through to Echo & the Bunnymen. –DrGonzo


EAT (NXT Soundtrack)
Poppy – EAT
This is embarrassing. After however many incarnations of disaster art, Poppy has finally made a banger; her early work catered to creeps, her more recent shit to nu-metal apologists, almost all of it was dreadful, and I insulted every wing of her audience (a lot). No longer intent on pedalling novelty cringe, she’s slammed together an absolute slapper of a metal song and made me feel a little bit silly, not to mention uncomfortable. “EAT” paints a manic portrait of anorexia, packing a genuinely unnerving edge behind its most infectious hooks; at the drop of a hat, Poppy has flipped from I get why this is very obviously meant to be fun[ny] to is it really okay for me to enjoy this so much? It’s horrible and it slaps. She also screams in 2021 and it sounds good: fire Chino, hire Poppy. –JohnnyoftheWell


Royal Blood – Boilermaker
Typoons is pretty forgettable as an album, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t whole-heartedly embrace Royal Blood’s QOTSA worship on “Boilermaker.” Those insanely compressed, fuzzy guitar tones, punctuated grooves and slinky-cool vocals are all hallmarks of a modern Queens tune, but the track pulls it off so effortlessly it becomes the glaring stand-out from the rest of Typoons’ tepid tracklisting. — DrGonzo


 Show Up
Samia – Show Up
I didn’t know, listening to The Baby, that Samia was an industry pl– the daughter of celebrities. That’s a good thing; Samia’s music was and remains relatively unassuming–lacking depth, maybe, but certainly not resonance. ‘Show Up’ is certainly light, in sound and in subject matter; I’ve listened to it, like, a hundred times, though, so I don’t know, you explain that. — BlushfulHippocrene


Like I Used To
Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olsen – Like I Used To
It’s frankly ridiculous that it’s a) already Q2 of 2021, and b) that I’m writing about not one but two Springsteen-worshipping standalone singles. And while we expect a bit of E Street Band-ian bombast from Gang of Youths, hearing Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen bust out a pulse-pounding duet over the “Born to Run” riff is one of the most unexpected – but delightful – turns this year. Van Etten has been on a monster run since her comeback in 2019, dropping loosies for soundtracks here and there that would make most bands blush, but “Like I Used To” is something different – an absolute worldbeater, the kind you play in your head stepping up to the pitch to make the fateful swing in the last act of an inspirational movie. I don’t play sports, obviously, but I do bump “Like I Used To” on repeat, letting the spine-tingling singing of two of the best vocalists currently alive lift me up and take me far away. — Rowan


STUFF. – Cumulus
This Belgian quintet’s junior effort is a delightfully quirky record with a robust middle section (truly, the “Honu”-“Cumulus”-“Finding Mu” trio is sublime). Copious amounts of EWI from Andrew Claes augment the track’s celestial ethos, as “Cumulus”‘ funky cauldron sounds like it will boil over at any moment — especially as the rolling congas start to take hold in the song’s second half. — Jom


Sweet Trip – Chapters
What’s better: woozy dream-pop or technicolour IDM? Who cares – Sweet Trip have always been at their best milking both styles for everything they’re worth in tandem, and “Chapters” is an electrifying, gorgeous, seamless, kinetic buzz-buzz case study of why this is so. It’s probably their best track since their 2003 opus Velocity : Design : Comfort and, coincidentally, the truest thing to that album’s palette that they’ve done since. Maximalist indietronica doesn’t get any better than this. — Johnnyofthewell


Tännebränne – Storm
So Storm’s take on progressive technical death blues probably isn’t for everyone. I mean that probably went without saying. Regardless of your disposition to shout-styled vocals that fall somewhere between Hatebreed and Slayer, “Storm” plays on atmospherics and cuts between groove based riffs and winding atmospherics and tilts itself as another Swedish death metal force doing the things that Swedish death metal bands do. — Nocte


The Great Acceleration
Terminalist – The Invention of the Shipwreck
So Notrap went and found thrash’s face of 2021, but Terminalist itself wasn’t too far behind the eight ball. In a new decade where thrash-y bangers are looking to be at a minimum, “The Invention of the Shipwreck” showcased a blur of possibilities. Combining thrash, speed metal and bonkers take on space led operas. The eleven minute closer might be a little daunting, bookending a more than consistent, if not somewhat blending album – but this track is anything but a wreck. — Nocte


Feeling Myself
Wolf Alice – Feeling Myself
I don’t know who Wolf Alice is. I don’t know exactly what their vibe is supposed to be. I don’t know what any of their music pre-Blue Weekend sounds like. What I do know is that I’m an absolute sucker for quiet-loud-quiet-loud dynamics in warm, rich stereo. The smooth yet brash bass tone that sets off the explosion for the chorus and the strings that glide atop the carnage like meteor shower in slow motion – that’s what I’m here for, baybee. Well, that and solidarity for a fellow onanite. — MiloRuggles


Zao – Croatoan
I went ahead and called this the best album in Zao’s career when I reviewed back in April. It was more a hunch than a fact-proven statement, I hadn’t even listened to their whole discography just yet. To this day, and whether that thought process have led me or not to the ultimate truth, I still believe that “The Crimson Corridor” is truly a special album. I chose “Croatoan” because it paints a wide picture of what is Zao in 2021. A superb use of clean vocals, a fantastic production work achieved by the band and Dave Hidek, and the band firing up their sound in a way that I wouldn’t expect from musicians so far into their journey. So respect for the metalcore godfathers, and may their flame burn high and bright into the dark and uncertain future. — Dewinged


Contributing Staff Writers:

BlushfulHippocrene | Dewinged | DrGonzo1937 | insomniac15 | JohnnyoftheWell | Jom | MiloRuggles | Nocte | Rowan | Sowing | TheNotrap

Sputnikmusic Staff Playlists History:

2020  |  2021

Q1  |  Q2  |  Q3  |  Q4

Follow us on…


Cool : )

Here it is

Much love but Dulceria is the worst song I've heard this year

Love this playlist but wtf is OLN's cover doing here LOLOL. Their cover of "Skyfall" back in the day still slaps though.

Nice to see Ethel Cain get a shout, her EP and that song in particular are some of my favorite stuff released this year.

Yeah Ethel Cain is amazing [2]

Never heard of Cold Moon until the inclusion of Simpleton on this list, jamming now. Simpleton is a total jam, love that type of mellow Americana/rock, good stuff in general as well.


that cover is a total banger

Sweet jams

Lots of good stuff here, both in terms of selections and writing. That black midi album seemed like something that would end up in various year-end lists, but it seems like you need to carve out time to properly digest it.

Looking forward to Q3!

Woah, what a sexy bunch of write ups, wooooo mama
I love the black midi track referenced here, but the album's got some momentum issues. Wonderful production and probably worth the hype though

dis looking gud

Glad others on the site like Ethel Cain. Prefer Golden Age to the new EP, personally, but Michelle Pfeiffer is borderline perfect and I'm convinced she's gonna release something seriously GREAT one day.

Like that Gang of Youths song so much more after reading the blurb. And surprised how great that Hundreds of Au song is, goddamn.

Also yeah that Van Etten/Olsen duet is a 5/5

Nice to see some love for Dulceria.

>> Like that Gang of Youths song so much more after reading the blurb
>> Also yeah that Van Etten/Olsen duet is a 5/5

Agree with both of these sentiments. Kudos, Rowan Springsteen.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this, we're amassing quite the collection over time.

I love everything Gang of Youths has ever done, the new single included. They toe the line perfectly between Springsteen/The National influences while still totally embracing their own ambitions. Leaupepe's lyrics are also vastly underrated.

Exactly what I was looking for.

I will sell my interior to literally anyone

glad my double Springsteen salvo made an impact even after they got separated by the alphabetical order, haha. cheers boys

and great work everyone on this, probably the best set of blurbs we've had for a quarter

This would probably be a weird playlist to hear front to back

I love that about it. Few other sites can someone pop in and get that kind of variety.

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