Remarkable Records of 2021
Satanic lap dancing anthems and avant-garde jazz-rock.
Cavalcade album artwork, by black midi
If 2020 was the year of isolation records, 2021 was the year of glimmering hope. We were bestowed with some deeply thoughtful and experimental releases that reflected a heavy few years with a vision of the future. Sonically, the best records of this year were both gentle and noisy. Artists were able to picture stages, tours and bright lights once again, and with that sound shifted from lo-fi home studio territory to bodacious and aspirational. Much-anticipated returns from sad siren Lana and equally misery-laden Sufjan Stevens (this time with Angelo de Augustine) didn’t disappoint on their melancholy richter scale - always with a large dose of self-awareness and campy fun.
American Spirit EP by John FM
From Detroit for fans of Kendrick. The protege of soul legend Omar S released this spooky deep-house record that saucily trips through dark Detroit streets and clubs, oozing confessions and opinions. The glamorous surprise of soaring a capella, swelling brass and distorted synths only adds to the charm of this moreish EP.
Una Rosa by Xenia Rubinos
A gorgeous meditation on love and loss, and an ode to Jamaican literature, Rubinos’ finest attribute is the poetry with which she cross-pollinates genres and influences with infinite ease. Flutes, humming and the singer’s own version of rumba carry this album to unusual, impressive highs.
A Beginner’s Mind by Sufjan Stevens
Along with Angelo De Augustine, the angelic crooner is back with his usual magic: creeping, exquisite orchestrals and whispered fables, with noisy, heavenly crescendos that make complete story-songs that stay with you long after. It sounds a little like Stevens back catalogs all rolled into one condensed and direct Sufjan comprehensive for any new listener of the indie-folk veteran.
Cavalcade by black midi
The British newcomers known for their energy-spouting live performances exploded onto the scene with a jazz-rock album that catapulted them to notoriety just as gigs stopped. With their finely honed new record, the five piece are readier than ever to flex their glorious, deafening experiential sound that’s somewhere between Alice Coltrane and Foals.
Believer (Deluxe) by Smerz
Out and out their very own thing is the only way to describe the Norwegian duo. Electronic pop seems too unsensual and unseemly a description, but adding a dash of techno and soul may be the closing thing to it. Listen to their highly anticipated album yourself.
When Smoke Rises by Mustafa
Having stripped the word ‘poet’ from his artist name, the prolific performer is no less poetic, simply shorter of name. His single 'Air Forces', from the soulfully heart-wrenching LP When Smoke Rises was co-produced by Jamie xx and features Sudanese tribal chants. The album sees a slow-down in approach and a more reflective pace than previous works but equal lyrical brilliance.
Afrique Victime by Mdou Moctar
The Tuareg bandleader has revolutionized psychedelic rock in recent years far beyond his native Niger. His gentle yet dynamic approach to storytelling means he covers body politics, geopolitics and other sites of human suffering in an album that’s nothing short of alive and beautiful.
Montero by Lil Nas X
No one has been isolating or moving through the world slow enough even to have missed this one. Lil Nas X is a true firecracker visionary and icon of our times, and the album - though detailed with some filler - has a handful of massive hits with dizzying videos (a gay lapdance for Satan, anyone?) and sassy delivery to match.
Be Right Back by Jorja Smith
The Manchester native bucks the Britpop, Hacienda, shoegaze posse and makes slick R&B-soul-rap-pop that positions the British city refreshingly back on the map. After collabs with German philharmonics, ENNY, and many other talents, Smith goes it alone like she does best.
Blue Banisters by Lana Del Rey
Elusive and cheeky as ever comes Lana Del Rey version 8.0 and she’s as bolshy and cooing as we needed her to be. You can almost feel her side eye. The standout track ‘Dealer’ features Last Show Puppets’ Miles Kane, adding to her branches of unexpected collab choices. She’s the most excellent weirdo and we’re so happy about it.
Words by Alexandra Pereira
Listen to our playlist with highlights from these Remarkable Records.
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