The one good thing to come out of the pandemic is that a lot of musicians just continued to write and record music while we were on a 15 month shutdown. 2021 has had albums coming out fast and furious so far and it shows no signs of slowing down. With that in mind, it’s time to talk about a few of the best ones so far.
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - Carnage
I’m an easy mark for anything Nick Cave puts out, but Carnage, his newest LP, is incredible even by the high standards of his discography. Teaming up with bandmate Warren Ellis on something other than a soundtrack, Cave & Ellis produced a deeply moody and beautiful album and made us forget entirely that this wasn’t a Bad Seeds album. This will be in my year end top 10 for sure.
Gojira - Fortitude
Riding the wave of success produced by their 2016 LP, Magma, Gojira have blasted the doors off of 2021 with their newest LP, Fortitude. It’s becoming more and more impossible to just brand Gojira albums as Metal because there’s so much going on over the course of Fortitude’s 52 blistering minutes. I didn’t expect to be as floored by this one as I was, but it’s truly a brilliant album. Gojira is at the top of my “Must See’ live show list of 2021.
Sons of Kemet - Black To The Future
London Saxophone master, Shabaka Hutchings had already reached “Can Do No Wrong” status in my mind with his previous Sons of Kemet albums and his recent work with The Comet Is Coming, his tremendous space jazz trio, but Black To The Future, the newest album from Sons of Kemet pushes him into all time territory. More traditional in parts, but also boundary expanding, Black To The Future really does feel like it’s from the future. Equal parts saxophone brilliance and Tube/Drums rhythmic power, this is an album that I’ve been listening to almost nonstop for weeks.
Dry Cleaning - New Long Leg
I’m trying to decide if the thing that impresses me the most about the debut album from London’s Dry Cleaning is how amazingly good it is or how impossibly polished it sounds for a brand new band. 4AD did us all a favor by signing this band and getting this record in our hands. Jagged guitars, languid and seemingly disinterested vocals and the bass & drums driving it all along that you’d expect in a post-punk band combine to make this album almost completely irresistible. Well, I can’t resist it and honestly, I don’t want to because it's that good.
Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra – Promises
Combining the electronic music of Floating Points, the timeless saxophone work of Jazz legend Pharoah Sanders and the venerable London Symphony Orchestra seems like a strange mix, but it ends up producing one of the best albums of 2021. Both sides comprise the single track, Promises, delivered in nine movements of music that resides somewhere between Ambient and Orchestral in nature. It’s hard to explain, but a single listen will draw you in and never let you go.
Sleaford Mods - Spare Ribs
Equal parts rap, slam poetry, performance art and the airing of grievances, Sleaford Mods delivered another great album right at the beginning of 2021. If you’re not an anglophile, this one might totally go right past you, but if you can listen to it with an open mind and a desire to laugh, you just might fall in love with this band from Nottingham like I did a few years ago.
Julien Baker - Little Oblivions
Indie songstress Julien Baker dropped her third and perhaps finest album this February. It’s not that her previous albums weren’t great, because they were, but this one feels like all the pieces finally fell into the right place. If you like Phoebe Bridgers or Sharon Van Etten, there’s a good chance that you will love this one just as much.
Weezer - Ok Human
It feels weird to put a Weezer album on a “Top Albums of…” list, or at least to put it on one in the 2000’s, but OK Human feels like the best thing they’ve done since at least Maladroit. Blending Rivers Cuomo’s shiny pop with a 38 piece orchestra may have been the best idea they’ve had since, well again, since at least Maladroit. It just works on so many levels and that’s all I need. Welcome back Weezer, at least until you release your next album. Oh wait, they’ve already done that.