The 50 best albums of 2021 so far


ALTIN ​​GÃœN – YOL [ATO Records]

The fundamental concepts behind Altın Gün’s music are those that need little adjustment. Their interpretations of Turkish classics are well informed by a sense of style: what to keep, what to change, and how to put it all together for a 21st century audience. At Yol, the band continue to make good, creative decisions in this regard by bringing synthpop sounds to the fore against a solid backdrop of complex and instantly recognizable Anatolian modal patterns. It raises questions of future sounds, as any album does when viewed in a band’s entire catalog: will later works see the band go even further into retrowave or funk? Will vintage psychedelia go away? The good news is that Yol proves the versatility of Altın Gün, reassuring listeners that the group can take many paths while taking us on a fabulous journey. – Adriane pontecorvo

Listen to: Bandcamp



The living dead should always be a cause for concern. Our loved ones can come back inconceivably impaired, empty-minded, even dangerous (for the memory). Luckily for us, Arab Strap’s return is more like a door that opens to reveal old friends who’ve gone on a trip. Better yet, the new album, As the days darken, finds Malcolm Middleton and Aidan Moffat far too busy showing how far they’ve traveled to spend time looking back. This is a record as rare as houndstooth: a comeback that not only exceeds expectations, but claims to be the crowning glory of the group (so far). – Nick soulsby

Listen to: Bandcamp


Cursed sun

Bachelor is a collaboration between two of the brightest diarists in the DIY scene: Palehound’s Ellen Kempner and Jay Som’s Melina Duterte. On the first album of the project Cursed sun, they join in a transparent and skillful way. Over ten tracks, they come together to make their listeners confidant, interweaving words of desire and anxiety with layers of sound exploration. Alternately bitter and sweet but still vulnerable, Cursed sun it’s the most engaging indie music, and Kempner and Duterte are a couple that you can relate to.

They are also versatile. Catchy and acerbic rock pieces comfortably rub shoulders with delicate ballads, acoustic and electric textures ebbing and flowing in seductive cross currents where no style is forbidden: hot blues licks, a noisy atmosphere, stripped picking and ripples. atmospheres lend themselves well to different times. – Adriane pontecorvo

Listen to: Bandcamp

BALTHAZAR – SAND [Play It Again Sam]


With Sand, Balthazar’s fifth studio release, the Belgians remain at their peak, while pivoting their sound in a whole new direction. Yes Sand has a visual equivalent, these are the interiors of a black European jazz club from the 1960s, perhaps something of a Jean-Pierre Melville police officer. The catchy closing song “Powerless”, with its dark piano motif and cries of “power!” In the chorus, sounds like a jazz standard that’s been around for decades, played and recorded dozens of times. Devolere’s low vocals on “You Won’t Come Around” conjures up the image of a lounge singer slumped over his microphone, glass in hand, mumbling the inner workings of his heart. For Balthazar, releasing such a confident and uplifting set of songs like these at one point would have been a remarkable achievement; doing it during a global pandemic makes Sand all the more special. – Brice Ezell

Listen to: YouTube



Electronic mazeThe cover photo of St. Fabian Tower, a now demolished tower in north London, where Basic Rhythm (real name Anthoney Hart) performed as a DJ on pirate radio station Rude FM. The analog grain of the photograph has real texture and depth, with the rich blue of the sky contrasting sharply with the sharp concrete of the decaying tower.

The tower also reflects the formality of Electronic maze. Hart described his sound aesthetic as “hardcore modernist,” and the St. Fabian Tower, with its brutalist architectural design, could easily be described by this label. This synergy between music and modernist architecture is found in the sharp and angular funk of “Larkin ‘Around”, which recalls the horizontal and vertical geometry of Modernism. It is also heard in the unfussy simplicity of “Techno”, which shares the lack of ornamentation of the aesthetic, and the skeletal “Peacock Palace”, which is also content to display its inner workings and structural composition. . – Tom morgan

Listen to: Bandcamp

BICEP – ISLES – Ninja Tune


Bicep’s instantly recognizable sound is the product of their eclectic obsession. House, garage, ambient, downtempo, psychedelic, and all the rest are intertwined in the skillful hands of Bicep. The playful increase in beats is particularly distinctive and central to the “Biceps sound”. Infused with syncope and polyrhythmic / tupleted steps, expect complex Biceps beats to affect you both physically and cranially. Biceps frequently use treble synths in place of bass and snare, effectively using the melody for rhythmic accompaniment. Pitch bend cymbals glide and drift, dancing between melodic loops. In layered dynamics, each part of the kit volume works independently. The hi-hat crescendos contrast and cascade around the diminuendos of other individual percussion elements.

He is was born from the conflicting double thought experienced by the North Irish duo now emigrated. The urge to explore in a revolutionary wandering spirit met with equally strong feelings of belonging and local identity. Biceps’ second outing is a lot more adult and confrontational, however, that doesn’t come at the expense of their characteristic eclectic abandonment. – B. Sassons

Listen to: Bandcamp

BIG | BRAVE – VITAL [Southern Lord]


Some recordings are greatly enhanced by the setting in which the listening experience occurs. Vital, by Montreal experimental metal trio Big | Brave, is an immersive type of record, best on the crank, meaning two options: a headset or you pop the large speakers. It looks fantastic on either, but I highly recommend the latter. Place the speakers slightly inward towards you on your left and right and let it tear.

A few facts: This is the band’s fifth LP, their fourth for adventurous heavy music label Southern Lord, their second designed by Seth Manchester (The Body, Daughters, Lingua Ignota), and their first with drummer Tasreen Hudson, who joined the band for the tour supporting their previous record A look among them. Big | Brave’s sound evolved steadily over their last four records, and the trio took advantage of pandemic isolation to write and record their most accomplished and, yes, vital work to date. – Michael frank lukich

Listen to: Bandcamp



Black Country, the beginnings of Road Road, For the first time, is a frenzied culture shock. The influences that made this album extend across the world and through history. The band’s lineup is equally intriguing and includes standard rock lineup: vocals, two electric guitars, bass guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. The saxophone and the more unlikely strings (mainly the violin) are added to the mix, as necessary as any other instrument in terms of composition. With such an eclectic and unique sound, it’s hard to categorize Black Country, New Road. But put a gun to my head, and I would say, think Pulp, but much angrier and with the bite of Charles Mingus, the free-jazz danger of Ornette Coleman, the cinematic fear of John Williams, the afrobeat. by Fela Kuti, the soundscapes of Sunn O))), the abandonment of klezmer, the experimentation of Black Midi, the enigmatic charm of David Bowie, and the pandemonium of 2020. – B. Sassons

Listen to: Bandcamp



Calculated tumult. There are no two words in English to best sum up the highly anticipated second album from Black Midi, the UK’s most ambitious and engaging experimental rock band. Those who cling to the cataclysm of the group’s genre-defying debut in 2019, Schlagenheim, don’t worry – there is little indication of Cavalcade a second year slowdown or collapse. Far, far from it. But while some tracks on the eight-song LP will prompt listeners to use adjectives such as ‘cutting edge’ or ‘brilliant’ or consult a thesaurus for synonyms, there are unfortunately occasional lulls on the album and this is the case. leaves slightly less than a full effort. – Justin vellucci

Listen to: Bandcamp



Pop and punk are constantly on the move in CHAI’s unique exuberant sounds. Professing an inclusive doctrine of neo-kawaii in their visual and sound aesthetics, the Nagoya-based four-piece group strives for high energy and irrepressible positivity, all with a satisfying rock side. It’s a bit of a surprise, so when the new album Wink does not open with a bang but with complete synthpop bliss. “Donuts Mind If I Do” is slow, warm, and sweet (“Everybody’s Falling in Love with Something / Sometime / Somehow,” vocalist and keyboardist Mana sings), with sharp hits from guitarist Kana adding height to the sound. subtle freshness of Yuuki subtle bassline and crispy drum beats from Yuna. – Adriane pontecorvo

Listen to: Bandcamp


Previous First live show in Friday summer concert series features Austin Van and the VanLiners - Los Alamos Reporter
Next Quad City Symphony Orchestra features petting zoo at Mercado