It was as if 2021 had been quietly polishing its nails, ready to unleash a fresh wave of calamities as soon as the calendar turned to a new year. Many bands canceled or postponed tour dates in 2021. This is because of Grimes’ dystopian comments about cryptocurrencies and economic systems. Moreover, the outraged politician’s choice to compel people to “live with the epidemic” instead of doing an action to stop it.
However, last year saw the release of many intriguing albums; this piece explores 9 outstanding records you may have missed in 2021.
Imaginary People by Charlie Martin
Hovvdy is a Texas-based indie band known for its off-center take on folk-influenced indie rock. Hovvdy’s band mate Charlie Martin (the other half of the duo) decided to forgo the band’s eccentricities. He chose more understated piano and guitar songs for his debut solo album, Imaginary People. Songs by Martin include wacky character sketches that conjure rustic settings and provide the CD with a sense of youthful wonder. While the tales Martin weaves are simple, the feelings they evoke are everything from simple or childlike. At the same time, he appeals to our basic wants for home, love, and companionship, and he does it without coming off as unduly sincere.
Gas-Lit by Divide and Dissolve
Gas-Lit is the newest album by Divide and Dissolve. It’s rare to find an album that smulders like Gas-Lit. The drowning doom metal of this Australian combo is so thick. It is smeared with thick smoke that you almost have to wipe the soot off your clothing after listening to it. In spite of this, you can still pick out chugging drums, distorted guitar riffs and menacing saxophone wails through the thick cloud of sound. It’s a hazy, ethereal experience, but once you’re sucked in, you won’t want to get out. In their tune, “Did You Have Something to Do with It,” Minori Sanchiz-Fung recites a poem she wrote and performed herself. It reaffirms the band’s objective of decolonization and the demolition of white supremacy.
Leave Love Out of This by Anthonie Tonnon
Singer/songwriter Anthonie Tonnon from New Zealand is fascinated with how things work. It’s impossible to know what will happen in the future since strong people control so many variables at any one time. Lovingly written balladry is the vehicle through which Tonnon comes to terms with this truth. But in many respects, Tonnon’s songs are still about love. Since global capitalism is a powerful ocean current, it seems reasonable that our emotions ripple in near harmony. When it comes to his most recent album, Leave Love Out of This, Tonnon expertly captures this dynamic. Rather than composing love songs about the impending apocalypse, he uses character sketches and historical fiction to depict current-day melodrama.
Lets It In by Breathe Panel
I became enamored with Soph Nathan of The Big Moon’s band Our Girl, led by Breathe Panel member Lets It In. Their first album, Stranger Today, was released in 2018, and to this day, I’m still blown away by their heartfelt lyricism and stunning guitar work.
Lets It In is a similarly well-crafted collection of songs. The band has brilliant guitar interplay and vocal inflections. Both are there when the songs need them but never overpowering. While they’re aware of the aural world they’re within and the spectrum of emotional tones evoked by their sounds. The music they make retains a looseness despite their meticulous attention to detail. Nick Green’s gentle cooing is pleasant despite his reluctance to use speak-singing techniques. It is a demonstration of the versatility of his soft voice.
Parallel World by Cadence Weapon
Canada’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize was awarded to rapper and poet laureate Rollie Pemberton (Cadence Weapon) for his new album Parallel World. It is also my favorite hip-hop album of the year. Paste recently interviewed Backxwash, a past recipient of the prize, who contributes a verse to “Ghost” on the album. On Parallel World, Pemberton writes with flair over distorted rhythms and weird synthesizers. He focuses on aspects of our hyper-capitalist age. Mainly, Cadence focuses on ubiquitous surveillance, political deadlock, and the ever-evolving forms of racism.
S/T by Canal Irreal
On their first album, listeners of punk and hardcore music will recognize Canal Irreal’s yelps. You won’t soon forget Martin Sorrondeguy’s untidy, frightening cries from Limp Wrist and Los Crudos. If you’re a fan of gothic post-punk and hardcore, you’ll love Sorrondeguy’s self-titled album, which has members of Sin Orden backing the band. Sorrondeguy’s diabolical snarls on “Glaze” and his rapid vocals on “Knockdown” are deliciously juicy and energetic. Otherwise, they might easily strike dread into the listener’s bones.
Mother by Cleo Sol
Sault has only been around for a few years. However, their five albums of the forward-thinking soul have won the hearts and minds of people throughout the globe in a very short period.
Sault, who produced the album, claims that Sol recorded most of the vocals with her infant in her arms. Sol’s vocals and words take center stage on Mother, Sault’s most intimate release. The album features sparse piano arrangements and clean instrumentals that let Sol’s voice and lyrics do the heavy lifting. Sol talks about the lasting love between generations and how faith and perseverance have only deepened these ties. She doesn’t shy away from discussing the more complex, competing feelings. Her devotion and compassion are unshakeable.
Pale Horse Rider by Cory Hanson
Pale Horse Rider, Cory Hanson’s second solo album, is filled with country-tinged acoustic ballads. They are reinforced by pedal steel guitar, piano, and his famously beguiling voice. His previous solo album was full of dramatic orchestral compositions. It’s not just any old twangy psych album, either. It is a work of art featuring Hanson’s thought-provoking and frightening imagery.
Moreover, his surprising sound diversions. Hanson recorded the album in the desert, and it’s full of movement, cosmic awe, and the difficulty of coping in a world that doesn’t love you. Despite the record’s vastness, it contains intimate and introspective ideas expressed in creative, surreal words.
A Common Turn by Anna B Savage
The first thing you’ll notice about Anna B Savage’s music is her voice, but there are plenty of other gems. On her first album, A Common Turn, an alto voice is so powerful that it enhances every song’s emotional stake, making her songs even more powerful. In a way, her voice is like the wind: it shifts from quiet and nurturing to soaring and even operatic in seconds. To enhance the earthiness of her work, her voice frequently crumbles and vibrates with gorgeous faults. Her peculiar sense of harmony generates a mysterious, all-knowing beauty. Because of this, the songs that she writes are even more poignant. They reveal how little she can make sense of things and struggle with the realities of everyday life.
Here are nine records that you may have missed in the year 2021. For a variety of reasons, they either didn’t come to your attention or didn’t make the cut.
This might be referred to as an “honorary mentions” list. However, some of these albums are able to hold their own against some of the performers that dominated the music scene in the year 2021. As a matter of fact, I’d like not have them withheld from everyone who reads my work.