And here we are. Huh. 2021. Every bad shit 2020 threw at us is now magically resolved. Oh wait. No it isn’t, and there is even more shit coming our way. That’s the reason we always circle back to music, let the beauty of it enchant us and inspire us. January rocked with tons of fantastic albums, so let’s get right into it and discover something new!
No matter which moniker Rory Allen Philip Ferreira takes, he stands as one of the most interesting figures in modern hip hop. Be it his defining performances as milo, releasing several ‘basically the best hip hop performance of the year’-level albums, or his more playful Scallops Hotel material. With his newest character, R.A.P Ferreira, he takes a new chapter with his usual witty, smooth, and impressive vibe, inspiring as ever on bob’s son.
I was a huge prog fan for a very long time, but my interest in the genre suffered in recent years. Most of prog is actually the exact opposite of the terms initial meaning, being formulaic and safe for the most part. While Glass Kites newest offering isn’t revolutionary, its incredibly well-crafted, immersively arranged soundscapes shows patience and open-mindedness, and I have to give them kudos for that, on top of being a beautiful piece of music.
The highest praise I can give this weird concoction of an album is that you definitely never heard anything like that before. God’s Trashmen Sent to Right the Mess is extremely compelling and challenging, luring you into every nook and cranny it presents on the first impression. Even if the album makes it very hard to get into it at the beginning, it presents so many outlandish ideas and sounds that it was irresistible to me to not spend an high amount of time to unlock it. Still trying, though.
YOASOBI – The Book
January 6 // Sony Music Entertainment Japan
I know that I’m a sucker for Japanese music. It started with my unconditional love for math/post rock legends toe, and progressed to a general liking of most of the country’s music scene. Often very playful and vibrant, a lot of Japanese artist strive for an impalpable level of perfection, which is pretty awesome. YOASOBI‘s dancy J-pop is no exception, and her fantastic new EP The Book should bring even the biggest pop grouch to dance in his living room.
For being a Danish artist, Aggi Dix sounds so close to one of those typical urban US artists on Simmer, nailing every bit of aesthetic while adding a lot of likeable character into each of her tunes. Catchiness and smoothness are the main keys to the achieved pleasantness of this release, and if you’re even a little bit interested in modern r’n’b and neo soul, get into this!
Welcome to the first album of 2021 which I claim to be on my favorite albums of the year. Lice‘s blistering art punk extravaganza is calm and flamboyant in akimbo mode, but never boring. While not being super accessible, delving into the strange world of WASTELAND is highly rewarding and mesmerizing, and I’m looking forward to have this album as my companion throughout the year as a reliable source for fucking high-level artistic expression.
Sometimes, the only thing you need to succeed is charm. A Dream is Just a Big Thought isn’t original by any means, but every song oozes of charm and joy, which lifts the record throughout its playtime to an enjoyable, diverting experience, bathing in the recent revival of ’90s alt rock and Midwest emo.
Thank god that math rock gets off to a good start in 2021. Last year was kind of a lackluster time for the genre (one of the highlights, funnily, was alphabet holds hostage‘s previous EP), and now truth in habitual gives a promising kickstart. Playing with certain math rock and shoegaze traits, the EP remains a bit rough and, for the lack of better terminology, unfinished, but manages to turn that around as one of its best qualities. Excited for what the future of this project turns out to be.
From Russia with pain. Well, off to a interesting start I guess! To contrast your usual black metal purist, I adore that modern black metal, especially with the blackgaze wave, didn’t shy away to embrace other kinds of beauty. Vjuga is a shining example for that, combining bleakness and elegant beauty with ease and confidence!
I didn’t plan to like this record as much as I did in the end. Fuzz rock is normally pretty boring to me, not bringing much to the table besides hollow genre tropes. Doom Machine injects so much fun and energy into this type of music that it’s hard not to like it. A real gem for the genre, and I bet you won’t be able to stop grooving your head to the badass, cool riffs.
Finnish indie? I take that. Picture Of A Good Life is fucking catchy and extremely Scandinavian. On top, it glamourises itself with a dreamy, gazey, and angsty sound, but the songs themselves are the real star of the shows. Charming little indie anthems make this album crazy enjoyable, and I’m circling back regularly while watching the snow fall.
Quite a few times, Shapes is borderline too clean, too slick. Sometimes, it misses some warmth, something I deeply crave in music. Why does it work so damn good then? Robohands have a great pulse going on throughout the whole album, making it joyful, accessible, and very easy to enjoy. Want some no-nonsense modern jazz experience? You’ll find it here!
Ah, this again. The old man will tell you what a travesty it is that basically no one talked about this phenomenal record, how overlooked it went down, only picked up by a handful of dedicated outlets. To be fair, it’s kind of my job to be offended by the missing praise. Won’t You Take Me With You is a haunting, overly wonderful album, somewhere between Nick Cave and David Lynch; dark, romantic and twisted. One of the best records of the year so far.
It’s generally a good advice to just check out all the releases coming from Brooklyn-based hip hop collective PRO ERA, and Nyck Caution‘s jazzy smooth new album Anywhere But Here. With great features from his mates like Joey Bada$$ or Kota The Friend, Caution created a likeable and flowy hip hop highlight, closely losing the spot for my favorite hip hop release in January to small EP from another very imteresting artist. But we will talk about that later.
Jazz starting out strong is a good sign for 2021. Australian-based project Menagerie is headed by multi-talented artist Lance Ferguson. With an organic sound and modern twists, Many Worlds builds up similar vibes to things you would hear from the ever-changing, colorful London jazz scene, incorporating classic jazz structures with afrobeat and other elements. The album manages to always sound lighthearted and relaxed, even when there is a lot going on; a rare quality in jazz. Great.
Starting a bit bitter here. I love Nothing‘s Tired of Tomorrow, and I’m very disappointed with the band’s follow-up records. Those albums might work for others and brought the band more recognition, and power to them, but I was searching for something with a similar vibe for ages. A Way Back gave me exactly that, and I’m very thankful.
Still Corners appeared on my radar with their 2018 release Slow Air, and they raised my eyebrow with their desert-y dream pop, sprinkled with charming neo psychedelia. So clearly, I was really stoked for The Last Exit, and luckily the band managed to take it up a notch, making their soundscapes even denser and their aural collages even dreamier.
Ah, French black metal. There is something extra special about this particular branch of the genre, and it’s still hard to pinpoint. Maybe it’s the noir vibe a lot of bands transport. Or some French woods. I don’t know. Nonetheless, Les Chants de Nihil is sharp and epic, loaded with great melodies and drive. One of 2021’s first black metal highlights.
Remember when I mentioned my favorite hip hop release of the month earlier? Here we go! Brooklyn-based rapper/producer Erick the Architect (of Flatbush Zombies fame) created one of the most emotional experiences in rap since Loyle Carner‘s Not Waving, But Drowning. Coincidentally, Carner is on this EP. Couldn’t be any better. Go listen for yourself.
I’ll take 20 Japanese shoegaze tracks any day. Stomp Talk Modstone even plays with space rock elements, but first and foremost, they have the most gaze from all the cats in town. Linger In Someone’s Memory With a Lurid Glow is wonderfully dreamy, and transports this mesmerizing Lost in Translation vibe. Don’t miss this!
This wonderful trio creates a immersive jazz soundscape, letting their respective instruments – saxophone, piano and drums – shine with simplicity and containment, but opening up with eclectic solos every now and then. Garden of Expressions is an excellent entry point for jazz newbies, but it also rewards jazz enthusiasts with delicate arrangements and a rich, vibrant sound.
I’m really out of touch what is currently popular on the charts or what is in hot rotations on radio stations. As a consequence, I wasn’t really aware that Celeste already had several popular singles out, I just thought that her new album Not Your Muse is a really tasty jazz/soul/pop record. When I played it, my s/o got curious because she knew some of the songs too well, since the they got overplayed on the radio. Once again, I’m glad for not having music ruined like that. And yeah, that album is great.
Arlo Parks‘ previous EP’s Super Sad Generation and Sophie already showed her potential as a top notch songwriter, everyone was eager to get into her debut full length, so naturally I was incredibly stoked for Collapsed in Sunbeams. No surprises here. This modern bedroom pop/neo soul offering rings all the right bells, establishing Parks as yet another incredible act from the ever-growing, ever-changing London jazz/soul scene.
Thanks for scrolling!