2021 has been a phenomenal year for music releases. The artists have gone beyond their comfort zones and released albums that are not only successful, but really exciting and consistently replayable across all genres. Here is my selection of the best albums released this year:
1. “Mercurial World” by Magdalena Bay
Magdalena Bay has been a powerful player in the underworld of indie synth pop and chillwave, slowly building a social media presence with grainy analog cassette video promos reminiscent of the ’80s. Along with their brand, the duo have crafted a distinct and catchy synth pop style that mixes the grooves of late ’70s dance hits with a production quality and songwriting style that can only be described as futuristic.
Magdalena Bay, originally from Tampa Bay, Florida, moved to Los Angeles as the duo began their musical journey. Their first full album captures the efforts of a project that has worked very hard to reach their level of success. “Mercurial World” is nothing short of a cybernetic pop adventure filled with songs that borrow unusual genre elements. Whether it’s the ’90s G-funk sensation of “Secrets (Your Fire)”, house-focused “Chaeri” or “Hysterical Us” influenced by the Doobie Brothers. The duo are proving that they are able to redefine what it means to dance in a post-pandemic era where dancing is gone.
2. “An Evening with Silk Sonic” by Silk Sonic
Anderson Paak and Bruno Mars ‘highly anticipated collaboration album is, in short, a loving ode to the long forgotten world of 70s funk and soul music – a far cry from the early records of the two artists’ discographies. The duo masterfully blend their strongest brands, with the clean and updated pop culture lyricism of Bruno Mars alongside the comedic one-liners of Anderson Paak on tracks like “Smoking out the Window” and “Fly as. Me “. Every flourish and little detail sprinkled into each song adds to the couple’s chemistry and song memorization.
The group’s creative influences are not only worn on their sleeves, but are audibly present throughout the album’s 30 minutes of performance. Featuring guest performances and writing credits from R&B legends Bootsy Collins and Nile Rodgers, the album captures an authentic snapshot of a music world dominated by the arrogance of Little Richard and Al Green. The only flaw of this record is that it leaves the listener asking for more.
3. “Bloodmoon: I” by Converge and Chelsea Wolfe
The spirit of collaboration dominated the music industry landscape in 2021, with unlikely artists teaming up to create records far greater than the sum of its parts – “Bloodmoon: I” is no exception. The record is the first of a two-part collaboration between the artists, born out of a behind-the-scenes conversation at 2016 Roadburn Fest between post-hardcore Bostonian legends Converge and Sacramento-based singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe. .
The record is a fierce combination of Converge’s sludge metal breakdowns and Wolfe’s unmistakable ghostly vocals, but the record is neither a metal album nor an acoustic record. “Bloodmoon: I” carefully draws the line between the two genres, creating a “dark folk” atmosphere that is both triumphant and dystopian, with standout tracks like “Coil” and “Crimson Stone”. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe brought in Cave In’s Stephen Brodsky, whose voice adds to the grim soundscapes of a masterful collaboration and wonderful first step.
4. “Call me if you get lost” by Tyler, the creator
Tyler, The Creator effectively challenged any traditional idea of musical growth, radically reinventing both his image and sound direction with every album he released. His unpredictable genre shifts reached a provocative high with his 2019 avant-pop record “Igor”. The record saw him abandon his hardcore rap roots almost entirely to a non-binary popstar character, propelling the already beloved rapper and producer to mainstream exposure.
“Call Me if You Get Lost” is a subversion of everything “Igor” has presented, ditching his playful pop art for a gritty, sketch-based experimental rap odyssey riddled with dark humor and disorienting production. . Tyler’s DIY philosophy reaches incredible heights with tracks like “WUSYANAME” and “Juggernaut”, which see the rapper pay homage to the flows of rap innovator MF DOOM and the production styles of hip-hop titans The Alchemist and J Dilla. Tyler’s artistry is on a much higher level and, while more esoteric than ever, and this record is an entertaining journey from start to finish.
5. “Blue Weekend” by Wolf Alice
London-based indie rock band Wolf Alice has consistently captured the attention of listeners around the world for their steady, cohesive rhythm and minimalist song arrangements. That’s why their record “Blue Weekend” came as a big surprise to longtime fans.
“Blue Weekend” masks the band’s signature sound with layers of reverb and noise, giving the band a melancholy edge to singer Ellie Rowselll’s already dark lyricism on tracks like “Delicious Things” and “How Can I Make It OK. ? “
The band’s sound profile feels like a feverish dream after a painful breakup, giving the band a much-needed push in the playlists of Spotify users and college radio stations across America. Wolf Alice took gold with this disc, which keeps you dragged from dreary to dreary.
6. VOLA “witness”
VOLA is not your typical metal band. The Copenhagen natives launched their musical career with the genre-defying debut album “Inmazes”, a record that turned the “djent” sub-genre upside down.
“Djent” is a metal subgenre that focuses on heavy, low guitar riffs and breakdowns. It bears musical similarities to the beat drops of dubstep and metalcore, which VOLA has learned to embrace with open arms, although it is controversial for longtime fans of the genre.
“Witness” of 2021 is an inimitably weird and fantastic mix of djent, ambient house and trip-hop. The album takes the listener on a journey through an assortment of sci-fi tales told through rock choruses and slow, choppy riffs on tracks like “24 Light Years” and “These Black Claws”. VOLA continues to be one of the best metal bands in Europe, constantly pushing the boundaries of rock and EDM.
7. “Cinema” of the Marias
Hailing from Los Angeles, The Marias spent most of five years meticulously creating a blend of Cuban pop and jazzy rock. These elements are in full force on their “Cinema” record, which is quite appropriate for an album with such a lush orchestral presentation. The group’s charismatic pop numbers take all their strength with the distorted and muffled voice of singer Maria Zardoya dominating verses of tracks like “Calling You Back” and her masterful restraint on surreal tracks like “All I Really Want is You”.
The band’s artistry is unmatched for such a unique and authentic expression of cross-cultural pop fusions, which is evident on tracks like the bilingual “Little by Little”.
8. “Ignorance” by the weather station
The Weather Station is a huge anomaly in today’s music industry as a band that mixes the characteristics of the “Great American Songbook” with the jazzy styles of Joni Mitchell of later times. This mix created a band that, quite simply, shouldn’t be able to survive in a music industry whose climate is rooted in sensationalism and pop punk standards.
Despite the current state of the music industry, the Toronto-based band thrives on their record “Ignorance”. By taking their unique sound palettes and going wild with them, the band creates well-written, moody and immersive tracks that keep listeners coming back for more. The opening of the album “Robber” is a shining example of their seemingly unrelenting musical mix of saxophones, violas, Latin percussion and jazzy piano chords. It perfectly sets the stage for the listener’s journey to come.
9. “Glow On” at the turnstile
Hardcore punk had started to reach a point of stagnation after its heyday in the late 90s and early 2000s, as genres derived from pop-punk and metalcore began to take hold of the rock and pop charts grand. audiences in the early 2010s. The vinyl boom of the past decade has spawned a new wave of musicians eager to explore older and more unusual forms of music, resurrecting genres as entirely different beasts.
Turnstile breaks the mold of hardcore punk and shatters it entirely on their record “Glow on”, which combines elements of shoegaze guitar leads, buzzsaw synths and party rock energy. The band harnesses the power of a live punk rock show and channels it into an intelligent, almost dance-like mix of different genres that makes even the most reluctant of punk rock want to dance in the middle of a mosh pit. The band’s presentation is precise and energetic throughout the record, making skipping any song almost criminal. Turnstile accomplished a sonic feat in making hardcore punk unique and invigorating once again.
10. “The Melodic Blue” by Baby Keem
Las Vegas rapper and producer Baby Keem had one of the most successful careers of the past year having produced tracks for Kanye West’s “Donda” and Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy” and even being featured in as a rapper on the first one. For Keem, his plans and aspirations began with a mixtape and a small fan base, which skyrocketed when he released his single “Family Ties” with rapper and Compton cousin Kendrick Lamar.
The track was followed by the surprise release of her debut album “The Melodic Blue”, which captures an artist at the intersection of adolescence and adulthood. This theme is reinforced by the emotional vulnerability of tracks like the Kanye West inspired tracks “Issues” and “Scars”.
Keem counteracts the changing mood of these tracks with more playful tracks like ‘Range Brothers’ and ‘Durag Activity’, where the rapper hones his songwriting and production skills by experimenting with complex brass arrangements. and discreet hooks. “The Melodic Blue”, which is largely self-produced by Keem, is a solid record that sees a young rapper begin the path to perfecting his craft both lyrically and instrumental.