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Sputnikmusic Staff’s Q3 Playlist 2021

Welcome to the third installment of our 2021 quarterly playlist! Feel free to jam the songs 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. Alternatively, you can always let us know what we missed! Thanks for reading/listening.

To view the historical content of these playlists, visit the bottom of this page.



Signal from the Noise

BADBADNOTGOOD – “Signal from the Noise”
At the height of BBNG’s (TikTok) fame comes ‘Signal from the Noise’, a psychedelic jazz marvel. The band’s longest track in some time, it’s also its most filmic. Having proven itself in a number of ways over the last few years — popularity-wise, as well as in terms of diversity and productivity — its about time BBNG returns to crafting albums. And if this and ‘Beside April’ are any indication (what else is the point of single?), Talk Memory is going to be a well-crafted album. Lotsa fun, too. — BlushfulHippocrene


Cloud Rat “Mother Tongue/Glitter Belly”
Cloud Rat is a band I forget exists until I’m absolutely sideswiped by whatever they’re releasing at the moment. In 2019, it was the intensely satisfying blackened-grind Pollinator. Now, it’s the single “Mother Tongue/Glitter Belly,” which follows the updated sound of the aforementioned LP. It’s a lacerating onslaught, harsh and punchy, ending in unsettling ambience and glitches. It’s some of the fiercest Cloud Rat have sound, despite the added melodies present in the background. — Xenophanes


I'm the Echo
Darkside “I’m the Echo”
The ethereal atmosphere Nicolas Jaar and David Harrington cultivate on Spiral is something to behold, and the hypnotic “I’m the Echo” is a delightful foray into Darkside’s psychedelic/art rock ethos. The song bubbles like a cauldron under low flame, and despite the 8-year gap between records (assuaging concerns that Darkside was going to be a one-off project), no evidence suggests that the New York-based duo’s chemistry faltered. — Jom


Empty Gardens
Eidola “Empty Gardens”
Far and away my favorite song from this record, there are too many individual highlights to mention. New lead guitarist Sergio Medina (ex-Stolas) is an obvious standout in the track’s frenetic latter half, and the segue between the song’s first breakdown and third verse is stunning. The Architect has a bit more sheen, but Eidola continue to carry the mid-2000s progressive post-hardcore torch. — Jom


Jazz on the Autobahn
The Felice Brothers  “Jazz on the Autobahn”

In this masterclass of both storytelling and melodic craft, we get one of the most enjoyable folk/country/Americana songs of 2021. Helen (the wife of a Texas oil tycoon) and a man simply known as “the sheriff” argue at length about whether or not the apocalypse will sound like the song’s title, as pianos dance jubilantly in the background and horns blast out with a sense of ironic euphoria. Even amid its postmodern imagination, there’s a quaint and rustic atmosphere that hearkens back to classic greats like Dylan and Neil Young. This is folk songwriting at its best. — Sowing


Draw Down The Moon [Explicit]
Foxing  “737”
I can’t get enough of Conor Murphy’s screams. Ever since I heard ‘Gameshark’, or the end of ‘Lich Prince’ on 2018’s Nearer My God, I knew that I wanted Foxing to make their very own version of Daisy – something abrasive, maybe even grungy, and loud as hell. ‘737’ delivers on all those wishes, proving that the darker and more aggressive this band gets the better they become. The way this song moves from pastoral acoustics to a sudden and unexpectedly fierce breakdown is a thing of utter beauty; it’s up there with Foxing’s very best. — Sowing


Fill My Mouth
Goat – “Fill My Mouth”
Oh how I missed the musical nectar of Sweden’s best kept secret. A long absence that has been finally put to an end with the release of a box of hidden tracks, alternate versions and, thank the Maker, two new tracks that signify the band’s still-beating pulse. One of these two gems is an enrapturing, hip-shattering, neck-bending psychedelic funk tune that carries the sweet poison of hope. If this is the tip of the iceberg, may the poles melt soon so the rest is revealed! — Dewinged


Horte – “Kilpemme”
When I look at Maa antaa yön vaientaa‘s artwork I can’t actually tell if I’m looking at flower or snow – but maybe it’s meant to be that way? “Kilpemme” is as equally mind-bending as the cover that adorns the rest of this Finnish post-rock. Samples and clean vocals soar over ebbing noises and developing atmospherics. There’s a slow climb here wrapped in lush vocals. If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, Horte has an adventure waiting. — Gnocchi


Outside [Explicit]
Injury Reserve – “Outside”
You can hear, on 2019’s s/t, Ritchie starting to become increasingly disillusioned with the whole music thing: with the industry itself, and with his role in it. Most obviously, on ‘Best Spot in the House’, he beats himself up over the exploitation of the death of a friend in his music, and tries to justify the sense of alienation he feels from his fans, and the impact his words have on them. Elsewhere, the trio laments the pitfalls of fame – Ritchie re: that alienation, and Groggs in his battle with alcoholism. Always, though, the group makes its love of hip hop known. It’s hard to imagine, given all this, what Ritchie and Parker might have been feeling going into the release of By the Time I Get to Phoenix, the least obviously ‘hip hop’ release Injury Reserve has produced thus far — especially in the wake of Groggs’ untimely passing. The opener, though, ‘Outside’, despite all this, is quintessential Injury Reserve. Ritchie, borderline parodic in his aggression, is simultaneously deferential to and sick of his place within hip hop, eschewing any kind of typical rap scheme or delivery for something nonetheless resemblant of the lead in to a hard as hell battle rap. Parker, always down to get weird, gets fucking weird. And though Groggs’ doesn’t appear on the song (at least I don’t think so), his spirit is certainly felt: in the song’s odd, even awkward sense of whimsy; and in its willingness to be unapologetically real in the strangest – the least real – of circumstances. — BlushfulHippocrene


Days of Future Past
Iron Maiden “Days Of Future Past”
I share the voice of many when I say Iron Maiden has been around me all my life. I was raised under their wing, they showed me the magic of music, blessed me with heavy fucking metal, and granted me a world of immortal songs and everlasting albums that became my house in the tree, my little mental shelter, safe from the woes of the adult world. Since Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned to the band twenty years ago, Iron Maiden have indulged themselves with lengthy and overly complex compositions that has brought them more criticism than praise, so it’s when they reach to the glorious past with shorter tracks like mid-album banger “Days of Future Past” where their flame burns the brightest, shedding light on that now forsaken refuge, where my future came to be and my past will never die. — Dewinged


Sable Original Video Game Soundtrack
Japanese Breakfast “Glider”
If you would have told me a year ago that Japanese Breakfast would have been the center of my 2021 emotional universe I probably couldn’t comprehend it. Her devastating memoir, Crying in H Mart, coupled with her latest record, have been looming heavily in my mind for months. This year has already been an embarrassment of Japanese Breakfast riches, making the addition of her soundtrack to the upcoming video game Sable a surprise treat. “Glider” has been floating around for some time, but the official release is leaps and bounds ahead of those YouTube bootlegs and live versions. Soft and serene, it feels more in line with the pre-Jubliee work, featuring ethereal layers and an ineffably morose tone. It’s pure magic; a distillation of the past and present sounds Japanese Breakfast has been chasing. Even if Sable doesn’t meet its hype, at least we’ll have “Glider.” — Xenophanes


Jinjer – “Vortex”
The Ukranians’ fifth album is the one that has won me over. Jinjer has always been a noise in the background for me, wrapped in a misty cloak of genre tags and prejudices. With “Vortex” they somehow managed to rip through, something just clicked. In Wallflowers, their snazzy fusion of math rock, metalcore, nu-metal and God only knows what label I’m missing, shows how much they have grown since their first inception, with the charismatic Tatiana Shmailyuk always on the spotlight, while her three associates engineer and power the shredding machinery she commands. And if there’s any doubt that their formula hasn’t achieved their most refined form yet, let “Vortex” clear that up for you. — Dewinged


Favor (Jesu Remix)
Julien Baker, Jesu Favor – Jesu Remix”
Let’s not talk about this one. — BlushfulHippocrene



Donda Chant
Kanye West “Donda Chant”
Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Donda Chant is not really one of the small handful of songs on Kanye West’s post-music dimension-reaving ultradildo of a new album that I want to hear again at any point of my life, but it sums up West’s half-baked ambitions and empty statements with absurd cogency and deserves far more credit than any of you rathounds have given it. Like, Donda is supposedly the story of a myth of a man stepping into his ego in order to set aside his ego in order to prostate himself in faith and grief and selective humility on the most visible platform he can pay comical amounts of money for, and the way he (maybe) chose to open that is with a fucking self-“produced” iPhone recording of Syleena Johnson monotonously repeating his mother’s name to the point of meaninglessnes before the rest of the tracklist has so much of a chance to get to grips with making her its central figure? Is it humble simplicity or is vacuous bullshit. I have no idea: Kanye wins. Genius. I genuinely believe that this is the perfect opener to Donda in its current form, far more than the mediocre “Jail”, and, unlike virtually everything else on the album, it hardly overstays its welcome. Now you can listen to it one more time you’re welcome. — Johnnyofthewell


Donda Chant
Kanye West – “Heaven and Hell”
As bloated and hit-or-miss as Donda ended up being, it’s still difficult to refute that the album delivered some of Kanye’s best songs to date. “Heaven and Hell” is my personal favorite: an absolute ripper that sees West at his most lyrically convicted and musically infectious. The moment when he commands, “devil, lay down” followed by that gospel choir eruption is a moment for the ages. He came up with more emotionally profound material on Donda (see ‘Jesus Lord’), but nothing gets my adrenaline going like ‘Heaven and Hell’. — Sowing


West Hills
The Killers “West Hills”
One of my favorite feelings in music is when an artist you’ve resigned to being “who they are” do a 180 and surprise the hell out of everyone. That was The Killers on Pressure Machine, and ‘West Hills’ is the strongest embodiment of just how much better the band got on that album. The song resides in small town America, at the intersection between Christian faith and drug abuse: “They got me for possession of them hillbilly heroin pills / Enough to kill the horses that run free in the west hills”…”If there really is a judgement, when He pulls my chart, he’ll reject my actions but He will know my heart.” Combined with pristine acoustics, somber strings, and a momentous rock crescendo, ‘West Hills’ is everything I’ve wanted The Killers to be since I first laid ears on Sam’s Town. — Sowing


Celestial Blues [Explicit]
King Woman “Celestial Blues”
Kris Esfandiari signed a dark contract with forces beyond in order to create her third full release with King Woman. There’s no other explanation. There’s simply no other way she can keep up the pace with as many releases in the past two years as any other band does in a decade. The opening track bears the album’s name and also its emotional burden. Kris howls to a life of dayless nights surrendering to the demon inside her, whose bewitching melodies summon a storm of sludgegaze, harbinger of one essential album of this 2021. — Dewinged


Seiko Oomori “WHO IS BABY”

She never misses. For reasons that deserve and have been afforded a separate discussion space, it’s been a rough couple of months to follow Seiko Oomori, but in spite of this her effervescent self-covers album PERSONA #1 has preserved its excitement far more than I expected back in July. The grinnably titled “WHO IS BABY” is the most refreshing cut there, downscaling the album’s sugar just a tad and trotting out a pensive slice of midtempo bubblegum that shows her now-irrefutable instincts for straightforward pop at their finest. Quaint bop. — Johnnyofthewell

The Hollowing of Girls
Shedfromthebody – “The Hollowing of Girls”
So there’s probably an album coming early December from these guys, and while that doesn’t exactly fall into the release specifications that would normally see a song hit this blog/feature I can’t help but come back to this track. Sweet, sultry tones mix a blend of pop and folk through something penned as ‘doomgaze’. If that description isn’t exactly correct I’m not about to give it much thought. I’m thinking that “The Hollowing Of Girls” is just a teaser for a late release record, a little reminder to not draft my end of year report too early. — Gnocchi


Clean Up On Aisle Five
Trifecta “Clean Up on Aisle Five”
Described as jazz fission (“Like jazz fusion, but less efficient”) by bassist/Chapman stick guru Nick Beggs, Fragments‘ brilliant bleep-bloop opener is a logical progression from what originally began as soundcheck jam sessions with drummer Craig Blundell and keys extraordinaire Adam Holzman during To the Bone‘s promotional tour. Sonically celestial and carnival in scope, “Clean Up on Aisle Five” is an adroit fusion — er, fission — of jazz orchestration and arrangement. — Jom


Astral Pariah [Explicit]
Trophy Scars “Astral Pariah”
Trophy Scars’ masterful new album is so densely paced that it’s more than a little awkward extracting an isolated cut, but “Astral Pariah” is expansive enough to make space for itself. It is quite huge: our protagonist is roaming a great plain and thinking about such things as the cosmos and the recently murdered entirety of the female side of his family. Watch his guilt and existentialismtionings soar like an eagle as Trophy Scars play pretty guitar notes and sing a grand chorus and are excellent. Get your apex here, get your climax in album form. — Johnnyofthewell


Aeon Blue
Ulver “Aeon Blue”
After last year’s disappointing Flowers of Evil, it looks like Ulver are done with bangers that don’t bang and back to curating atmospheres that lubricate the wheels of time and turn your study playlists into convenient tickets to limbo. “Aeon Blue” fucks. This one is absolutely textbook when it comes to making enough small alterations to a clean, compact arrangement that no-one has any business bemoaning it as one simple idea drawn out to eternity. Good. This song, in part because of its circumstantial though practically unnoticeable status as a live recording, is what the real ones with whom I’m definitely still friends call “true music.” — Johnnyofthewell


Primal Chasm (Gift of Fire)
Wolves in the Throne Room – “Primal Chasm (Gift of Fire)”
Considering this album is on a probable trajectory for album of the year status it only makes sense to include it in as many lists as possible until December rolls around. “Primal Chasm (Gift of Fire)” is a ritualistic, black metal explosion cultivating all the aesthetics I crave in a modern day black metal opus. Isolating this track from its peers however was a bit of a chore and if I had my way I would simply just feature Primordial Arcana as a whole. – Gnocchi


 Invading the World of the Guilty as a Spirit of Vengeance
The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die “Invading the World of the Guilty as a Spirit of Vengeance”
Being one of those people who brags about “being there at the beginning” has never been so rewarding. The World Is…, over a decade ago were a drop in the ocean; a group of twinkly emo scrappers riding a tsunami of popularity. There was no way of knowing ten years ago, cramped in a campus area bar, that this exuberant young band would turn into one of the most consistently fascinating bands in the scene. Since then, they’ve gradually morphed into the strange and unwieldy group featured on “Invading the World of the Guilty as a Spirit of Vengeance.” – Xenophanes


Ker al Loch
Yann Tiersen “Ker al Loch”
The eerie, glitched-out vocal that precedes the blissful piano that is the centrepiece of the first half of ‘Ker al Loch’ should key you into a ballooning ugliness beneath. Fast-moving electronics — which are soft at first but very soon come to overwhelm — interfere, make frantic, and ultimately agitate the piano into something less blissful, less centred. By the track’s second half, they have taken over, like some parasite. But eventually, they dissipate. Then, they die. The blissful piano returns, somehow heavier-sounding. Weathered in a way that makes you stronger. Good song, I like it. – BlushfulHippocrene


Contributing Staff Writers:

BlushfulHippocrene | Dewinged Gnocchi | JohnnyoftheWell | Jom | Sowing | Xenophanes

Sputnikmusic Staff Playlists History:

2020  |  2021

Q1  |  Q2  |  Q3  |  Q4

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might be my favourite Staff playlist this year

Didn't even know there was a new Trophy Scars. Darkness, Oh Hell is on of my favorite EPs of all time. Gotta jam this stat. thanks!

super duper hyped for that BBNG record wooooo

"Jail" rules, chill

Nice! Gonna jam it today.

jail more like ow my sides that jay z verse

Jay Z's verse is terrible and the song would be better without it but kanye's vocal melodies (as I said in the thread, there are like three or four distinct ones that each kill me every time) go

nice work erryone, blush i v much like the sound of that yann tierson hmm

yann tiersen as a name has this proust-madeleine quality to me. like goddamn I think when I had my dad's ipod at like age 7 he had Yann for some reason. it def brings /something/ back...

good work all tho, gotta hit the next one

jail vocal melodies are dec but not strong enough to carry the track over that joke of an unfinished arrangement alas, a new thread shall have to be spun mr. robertsona (aka yann, dare 'e?)

Fine work guys.

Dewi’s maiden blurb is the biz

Nice little paragraphs all around : )

This Darkside song is so good.

Sweet picks and blurbs folks, gonna jam some of these this week.

Stunning work, team. "set aside his ego in order to prostate himself" if this isn't a deliberate sopranos reference I've lost all faith

once a typo now the rock of my church

that japanese breakfast song is bliss, but also by far the most japanese thing i have heard from her and i do not like this blurring of lines

Great job everybody, I wish I'd have the time to chip in with a blurb or two...

Will definitely check out Cloud Rat and Goat.

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