Remarkable Discoveries 2021
Many of these already-established artists tapped into brand new listenerships with their edgy collabs and turns of direction.
Enny (Photo: artwork from debut EP Under 25)
Moreover, we’re impressed with the continuum of energy and confidence that’s currently searing through the artist's creative fields, with a number of eye-catching videos and visuals that speak volumes of the suppression we all felt during lockdowns. Artists like Shygirl and Dawuna feel truly like the kind of artists of our time: daring, raw, fun and surprising at every turn.
Mystifying Damon McMahon is no newcomer, with his Sufjan Stevens-meets-Thom Yorke kind of genteel brilliance, but he reached new ears in 2021 with teaming up with loveable, gobby Sleaford Mods, whose vocalist Jason Williamson seems such an unlikely pairing for the soft and brooding McMahon. ‘Feel Nothing’ is an absolute stomp that recalls LCD Soundsystem.
Theatrics are at the core of Shygirl’s ever-growing canon; with their expressive stage antics, costume and video material second only the prowess of her stellar songwriting and delivery. Part of the coolest clan on the planet (Arca, Charli, Eartheater, Sega Bodega et al), Shygirl’s references unsurprisingly lean into everything compositional from classical to industrial, as well as harnessing a sharp skill for rap, grime and cooing like an angel.
Findlay: 'Life Is But a Dream'
This Manchester talent is no stranger to the indie-folk-pop scene but 2021 was her year to shine. Her fierce approach to confessionals is at once vulnerable and frightening; she reminds us of PJ Harvey’s earliest years, with a splash of Sharon Van Etten’s fiercer angles.
Wet: ‘Bound’ feat Blood Orange
Anything Dev Hynes touches turns to gold, not that Wet, a Brooklyn indie duo on the rise, needed much help. Their tricks come in recognisable format: slick two-step beats, swelling synths, sexy-ass bass and caramel vocals. They sound influenced by Empress Of, Warpaint and Frou Frou - making them timeless across this peak indie decade or two. Weirdly, and nicely, there seems a bit of a 90s girlband vibe to the way Wet’s frontwoman Kelly Zutrau sings too.
Dawuna: ‘Bad Karma’
London dwelling Ian Mugerwa (via Maryland and Nairobi) released electronic R&B masterpiece Glass Lit Dream to a world that didn’t realise how much it needed its visceral, open-scarred, memoir of a past life. We can hear D’Angelo and James Blake in this, but then again Dawuna is completely his own thing. The soundscape of even the opening track is so loaded with tension-inducing field recordings you feel like you’re in his movie.
Chaii: ‘Get it Done’
The Iranian/NZ rapper has ripped through 2021, a tornado of opinion and versing-finesse. For artists to be heard outside their native New Zealand alone is rare, and to have a global audience even more impressive. Chaii is not only carving space in the industry for Persian female rappers - after careers as both a sound engineer and a stunt driver in movies. Pineapple Pizza is not to be missed.
Julia Shapiro: ‘Death XIII’
Don’t miss the gravely existential Zorked from the former frontwoman of Seattle grunge faves Chastity Belt. Sink into this trippy and reflective album on a rainy day.
Enny: ‘Same Old’
Jorja Smith lent vocals to an unknown South London's rapper Enny on the track. Peng (which, if you're wondering, is London slang for hot). The association helped bring Enny to great swathes of new listeners, and we’re subscribed to the Enny way for the long run.
Obongjayar: ‘Message in a Hammer’
For fans of Moses Sumney and serpentwithfeet, blowing up the second half of 2021 and tipped to have a huge entry on the mainstream scene. His rhymes have a certain irony and sensitivity that’s elevated by his tongue-in-cheek videos. ‘Message in a Hammer,- in all its tight and catchy glory, is a fab place to start with this Londoner.
Fixed fast within the Copenhagen art scene is the characterful Ydegirl (Andrea Novel), whose story of the centuries old bog lady is binded closely to her very own lore of suffering, silencing and subsequent freedom and recovery. Her long awaited album of experimental folk finally dropped, wonderful for fans of ML Buch and Fiona Apple. Watch out for her collabs with Jura and other Copenhagen newcomers in 2022.
Words by Alexandra Pereira
Check out our playlist of remarkable discoveries from 2021 in Moodagent.
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