2021: A music odyssey! (LPs & Mixtapes)

2021 is here! I've decided to make a list where I can put all of the 'complete' reviews of the year in one place! Hopefully by December 31st, there will be a cohesive list of my favorite artistic achievements of 2021!

*My rankings are almost always changing by a bit, so this is all pretty fluid...

"Rankings":
10/10 - 0
9/10 - 7
8/10 - 36
7/10 - 20
6/10 - 29
5/10 - 19
4/10 - 10
3/10 - 4
2/10 - 1
1/10 - 0
0/10 - 0

Kanye West - Donda
1.
98
GENRE: Experimental Hip-Hop, Gospel,

It's messy. It's all over the place. It's almost two hours of Kanye fucking west. It's "Donda".

Despite the controversy and confusion surrounding the release of this album, "Donda" defied the odds and has managed to be my personal favorite record of 2021 as well as my favorite in hip-hop's most legendary discography. "Donda" is an album about faith. Faith is displayed as more than just religious references and god complexes like on "Jesus Is King" but faith in the chaotic world around you.

"Donda" is Kanye's magnum opus. We have the heartfelt vulnerability of "ye", mixed with the grandiosity of "MBDTF" all along with a sense of collaboration from "The Life Of Pablo". All of the iconic trailblazing has come to head with Kanye's most intimate album to date. "Donda" is an exploration of ways to overcome loss as West dives into his relationship with his mother, his tumultuous rise to fame, and his rocky marriage. Even if you couldn't care less about Kanye, the person behind all the headlines, the music here is so wonderfully expressive and cathartic, it's impossible not to feel moved by the end of this masterpiece. I've listened to this record dozens of times yet each time sounds just as fresh and compelling as the last. It's "Donda".

FAV TRACKS: "Jail", "God Breathed", "Off The Grid", "Hurricane", "Jonah", "Moon", "Heaven and Hell", "Keep My Spirit Alive" (w/ KayCyy), "Jesus Lord", "New Again", "Lord I Need You", "Pure Souls", "Come To Life" (+ "Life Of The Party", "Up From The Ashes")
Lil Ugly Mane - VOLCANIC BIRD ENEMY AND THE VOICED CONCERN
2.
95
GENRE: Neo-Psychedelia, Dream Pop, Sound Collage, Instrumental Hip-Hop

Travis Miller returns to the Lil Ugly Mane name after 6 years to gift us his best work to date, displaying haunting genre fusions of sound collage, neo-psychedelia, and dream pop along with his the most memorable song-writing of the year. As a Creative Writing nerd, "VOLCANIC BIRD ENEMY AND THE VOICED CONCERN" speaks to me in a way that no other album from 2021 has. Lil Ugly Mane doesn't waste a single word on this record as each track is filled to the brim with the nihilist poetry that Travis became known for with his absurd Memphis Horrorcore material early in the 2010s. It's impossible to describe the power that the lyrics on tracks like "benadryl submarine", "human fly" and "clapping seal" have on me. You just have to experience it. All of this being said and Miller also managed to create what might be the most eclectic record of the year with influences from every genre imaginable. This ranges from the track, "styrofoam" which sounds like a 1920's piano ballad to the otherworldly alt-rock tunes on the crushing closer, "Porcelain Slightly" to tracks like "cursor" which essentially sounds like a circus theme made by a suicidal heartbroken drunk. Although most would agree that instrumentally speaking Lil Ugly Mane was entering unexplored territory, this record sounds like what Travis was destined to do.

FAV TRACKS: "bird enemy car", "benadryl submarine", "human fly", "styrofoam", "hostage master", "discard", "into a life", "headboard","clapping seal", "vpn" "cursor", "broken ladder", "porcelain slightly"
LUMP - Animal
3.
95
GENRE: Art Pop, Electronic

ORIGIN/LABEL:

RELEASE DATE:

A match made in heaven. Mike Lindsay and Laura Marling bring their A-game on "Animal" and create a breathtakingly immersive listening experience. The instrumentation and more progressive electronic influence brought to the table by Lindsay is immaculate and gives this album this pristine quality...almost like an antique art piece kept in mint condition. Laura also leaves her comfort zone on "Animal" as this entire record is an absolute gold mine for these infinitely evocative images created by Laura's esoteric poetry. I can't emphasize the sheer power of Laura's lyricism enough. I swear I should frame at least half of each song, I could ramble about the complexity behind each metaphor for hours. It's inspiring. This album's sound is timeless as we have some of the most creative song-writing concepts I've ever heard on the closer, "Phantom Limb" or on the crushing "Red Snakes" right alongside some of the most gorgeous compositions of the year like on the otherworldly opener, "Bloom At Night". The way these sounds are seamlessly brought together is impossible to wrap one's head around. I'm certainly not complaining since it results in a record that I can't imagine ever getting stale for me.

FAV TRACKS: "Bloom At Night", "Animal", "Climb Every Wall", "Red Snakes", "Paradise", "We Cannot Resist", "Phantom Limb"
Injury Reserve - By the Time I Get to Phoenix
4.
94
GENRE: Experimental Hip-Hop, "POST-RAP" (You'll know what I mean when you listen to the record)

Injury Reserve's latest record sees the group blurring the lines of any genre restriction to create an irreplaceable and forward-thinking sound that powerfully conveys the pain of loss better than any other record I've heard this year. "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" comes after the tragic death of Stepa J. Groggs, one of the founding members of the critically acclaimed Arizona trio. Although the group was already pushing boundaries before his death and hinting towards an avant-garde direction by associating themselves with names like Jockstrap, Slauson Malone and Code Orange, it's obvious that Groggs' death was the primary lyrical inspiration for the content on this record. Ritchie puts his all into each verse with some of the most simply poignant poetic images displayed on heart-breaking tracks like "Top Picks For You" and "Knees". Ritchie's heartfelt metaphors are accentuated by the mind-bending production here by Parker Corey which is unfathomably unique mixing influences from a myriad of genres. Ultimately, "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" might be the most inventive record of the year whilst also managing to handle the subject of death, mourning, and hopelessness in our dystopian with such care and sincerity, it's hard not to tear up.

FAV TRACKS: "Superman That", "SS San Francisco", "Ground Zero", "Top Picks For You", "Knees"
Dean Blunt - Black Metal 2
5.
93
GENRE: Art Pop, Hypnagogic Pop,
(It's Dean Blunt, he's his own genre)

RELEASE DATE:

ORIGIN:

Dean Blunt's follow-up to the 2014 masterpiece, "Black Metal" is just as if not more impressive. Dean Blunt centers these alluring song structures around the mysterious magic of the guitar. Blunt's usual aesthetic is more poignant and succinct than ever. From Blunt's trademark esoteric lyricism and his dystopian delivery to what can only be described as "Bluntian" sound design. This is arguably Dean's most hypnotic atmosphere as Dean slithers confidently with his usual oddball charisma around these shadowy soundscapes wrapped in a unique blissful enigma.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "SKETAMINE", "DASH SNOW", "NIL BY MOUTH", "WOOSAH", "the rot"

Link to review:
https://www.albumoftheyear.org/user/andrevital/album/377381-black-metal-2/
Magdalena Bay - Mercurial World
6.
91
GENRES: Chillwave, Synthpop

Magdalena Bay's debut is a transcendental pop experience that is possibly the most life-affirming and invigorating record to drop this year. Mica Tenenbaum and producer Matthew Lewin are unstoppable throughout "Mercurial World" as they effortlessly create unbelievably essential bops! Tenenbaum's song-writing is vivid yet intensely relatable with focused song topics and her vocals are stellar! Somehow Mica is able to compliment more energetic and chaotic moments in the production like on the chorus on "You Lose!" as well a come through with pillowy verses of comforting escapism on the track, "Dreamcatching". Levin's production is thrilling throughout with homages to 80s pop as well as an intensely futuristic dance sound found on "Chaeri" or the ominous "Follow The Leader". There is very little to nitpick here as Magdalena Bay comes through with the best pop record of the year.

FAV TRACKS: "Dawning Of The Season", "You Lose!", "Chaeri", "Hysterical Us", "Follow The Leader", "Dreamcatching"
Pink Siifu - NEGRO DELUXE
7.
90
GENRE: Sound Collage, Experimental Hip-Hop, Abstract Jazz

RELEASE DATE: April 9th, 2021

ORIGIN: Birmingham, Alabama

The deluxe version of Pink Siifu's 2020 album, "NEGRO" manages to be its own unique experience even separated from the original artistic statement. This deluxe is full of the same seamless blend of sound collage, punk, jazz, and hip-hop that Pink Siifu mastered last year. In comparison, these tracks are much more formless and atmospheric, creating a mesmerizing bind that leaves me hypnotized by the brilliant commentary commemorating the deaths of black people due to primarily police violence and celebration of black culture through nearly every genre. This is one of the most impactful pieces of art I've listened to all year.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "NEGRO FRIDAY", "BREATHE.birth", "Numbers on yo head", "NATION TYME PSA", "BLACKBETHAGOD!!!!!"

Link to review:
https://www.albumoftheyear.org/user/andrevital/album/343524-negro-deluxe/
James Blake - Friends That Break Your Heart
8.
89
GENRES: Electronic, Alt-R&B

Origin:

James Blake's latest album is an elegantly fulfilling emotional journey through Blake's process of coming to terms with loss and separation. Agonizing instability, bittersweet acceptance, and liberating rebirth. "Friends That Break Your Heart" leaves me speechless every time as Blake showcases some of the most poignant songwriting of his career...and that's saying a lot. At this point, can I even be surprised? Yet somehow I still am, as Blake with each record blows me away, this time with his most melancholic and ballad-focused record to date.

FAV TRACKS: "Life Is Not The Same", "Coming Back", "Say What You Will", "Lost Angel Nights", "If I'm Insecure"
Pi'erre Bourne - The Life of Pi'erre 5
9.
89
GENRE: Trap, Cloud Rap

Origin/Label: Columbia, South Carolina/ SossHouse - Interscope

Pi'erre Bourne's latest is a spectacular display of the calming power of trap music. "The Life Of Pi'erre 5" isn't just full of harmless fun built for lazy summer evenings on a basketball court, it's also honestly an impressive display of Pi'erre strengths as a producer and a vocalist. Pi'erre's production is taken to a whole other level on "TLOP5" with pristine transitions and creatively vibrant beats. Although these tracks certainly are reliant on mood, there's something about the ambitious progression of the production mixed with Pi'erre's relentless stream of hooks that keeps me coming back. Pi'erre's risk-taking on TLOP 5 pays off as he's landed on a uniquely hypnotic niche with longer tracks which may be a bit more patient but make this album infinitely replayable. From the blissful nostalgia on "Retroville" to the nocturnal conviction on "Sossboy 2", not even mentioning "4U" which might be the anthem of my summer, this album is consistently and thoroughly ENTERTAINING.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Switching Lanes", "40 Clip", "Retrovillle", "Amen", "Butterfly", "4U"
Arca - KicK iii
10.
89
GENRE:

ORIGIN/LABEL: Caracas, Venezuela/ XL Recordings

To start off December, Arca decided to drop four new records as part of her Kick series, successfully pulling off the most ambitious and impressive undertaking this year. I view the Kick series as a mind-blowing encapsulation of queer joy and a musical representation for Arca's journey of overcoming gender dysphoria. Whereas her self-titled record was a crippling record full of Arca at her most vulnerable created during the midst of her gender transformation, the Kick series is a moment of triumph where Arca is officially on the other side of the mountain, declaring herself invincible. Each record approaches this sense of "power" and "rebirth" in its own way which is why this series is so goddamn good. However, "Kick iii" still manages to stand out! The third installment in this series sees Arca unchained and unfiltered with some of the wildest tracks in her endlessly experimental discography. From the thrilling rap-inspired bangers, "Señorita" and "Bruja" to the staggering sound design on the chaotic spectacles, "Fiera" or "Intimate Flesh", everything here is overwhelmingly unique and masterfully haywire. There is a method to the madness and it shines through on the spine-tingling Aphex twin worship on "Skullqueen" or arguably the most gorgeous closing track of the year with the intricate "Joya". Few albums in history are as commanding as "Kick iii".

FAV TRACKS: "Bruja", "Incendio", "Morbo", "Fiera", "Skullqueen", "Electra Rex", "Intimate Flesh", "Joya"
Viagra Boys - Welfare Jazz
11.
88
GENRE: Art Punk, Cowpunk

RELEASE DATE: January 8th

ORIGIN: Stockholm, Sweden

Viagra Boys' sophomore record is an outstanding achievement in storytelling whilst also playing with overlooked subgenres in the post-punk sphere such as Cowpunk. Perhaps "Welfare Jazz" is most impressive when you take the rewarding progression of the album's protagonist. Lead vocalist, Sebastian Murphy takes the role of a sluggish scumbag in the dirtiest alleys of life slowly acknowledging his errors and desperately looking for forgiveness and redemption. One of the themes of this album is our protagonist's desire to leave the city and find refuge in the "country" which is also significant for the instrumental palette of "Welfare Jazz". The band embraces a mix of country influences along with their heavy punk sound making for a unique mix which is hard to find anywhere else.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Ain't Nice", "Into The Sun", "Creatures", "Secret Canine Agent", "Girls & Boys", "To The Country"
Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine - A Beginner’s Mind
12.
88
Indie darlings, Sufjan and Angelo link up to create the sweetest songs of the year centered around a movie-inspired concept that surprisingly enhances each track. This was always bound to be great considering how much of an obvious pairing Angelo and Sufjan's voices are and it didn't disappoint. "A Beginner's Mind" flows naturally despite the fact that each track is inspired by a different movie the duo watched. The song-writing is just picturesque enough to channel that same poetic feel of past Sufjan records yet connecting it with these films allows for the tracks to be a bit more accessible. All this being said, let's be honest the most important aspect of this record was always gonna be the melodies and yeah... they're pretty damn great! The vocals are soft-spoken yet intensely heartwarming with some of the catchiest tunes of the year on tracks like "Its Your Own Body and Mind" and "Fictional California" or just moving soundscapes like on the life-affirming, "Back To Oz"! This isn't a hard sell. If you haven't listened to "A Beginner's Mind" yet, what are you doing? Angelo and Sufjan inspire each other to deliver immersive atmospheres and soul-stirring vocals to make one of the most touching records of the year with endless replay value.

FAV TRACKS: "Reach Out", "Back To Oz", "The Pillar Of Souls", "(This Is) The Thing", "It's Your Own Body and Mind", "Fictional California", "Cimmerian Shade", "Lacrimae"
The Body - I've Seen All I Need to See
13.
88
The Body has kept all the original appeal whilst creating its most candid and powerful albums to date. With "I've Seen All I Need To See", The Body keeps it simple and focused on what they do best. This album emphasizes the brutally relentless noise factor of The Body's music. The loud mixing, the crushing and compressed drums, and the waves of distortion are all turned up as The Body creates a hideously grotesque beast. If there was ever a track that would be able to physically mutilate a listener, it would be "A Lament" or "Eschatological Imperative". At the end of the day because of "I've Seen All I Need" laser focusing on their ability to create a gigantic and blood-curdling soundscape result in an apocalyptic experience that proves how unforgettable The Body's music can be.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "A Lament", "Tied Up & Locked In", "The City Is Shelled", "A Path Of Failure"
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - CARNAGE
14.
87
GENRE:

RELEASE DATE:

ORIGIN/LABEL:

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis's latest collaboration is a predictably gorgeous and lavish chamber pop journey without ever being self-indulgent. Nick Cave lets loose with some of his most organically urgent verses lyrically and his most tortured and emotive vocal performances. Warren Ellis manages to pair Cave's emotions with elegance of the highest caliber instrumentally which ranges from unsettling to cathartic. Ellis' instrumental dynamic experimentation forces Cave to push his songwriting skills to another level as each track feels essential and focused. A violently poignant listening experience.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Hand Of God", "Old Time", "Carnage", "Balcony Man"
Yeat - Up 2 Më
15.
88
GENRES: Trap, Experimental Hip-Hop

ORIGIN/LABEL:

RELEASE DATE:

Yeat emerged from what seemed like nowhere in 2021 and instantly cultivated a devoted fanbase. I wasn't entirely convinced with some of his earlier releases this year like "4L" or the EP, "Trëndi", however with the release of "Up 2 Më", Yeat proved himself to be one of the wildest and most captivating voices in trap. Seriously, Yeat may have gained a lot of fame through TikTok virality but despite him constantly using the word "trendy", he is far from a fad. Along with his producers, Yeat has crafted a fresh and urgent sound full of elaborately menacing atmospheres and absurd one-liners. Many rappers have tried to capitalize on the cult-fandom of "Whole Lotta Red" but Yeat has taken that sound into new territory. On "Up 2 Më", he showcases some of those most manic deliveries ever heard in hip-hop. There's no one single vocal intonation for Yeat, as he recklessly hops from flow to flow like on the ferocious banger, "Turban" where Yeat barely sounds human but more like a feral beast. This may be hard to believe but throughout the entire hour of this album, Yeat is consistently unpredictable and amusing with his eccentric turns of phrases like on "Trëndy Way" or "Ya Ya" and monstrous cadences like on "Bak on ëm". Not to mention that the production here is trailblazing and relentlessly exhilarating like on "Kant change" or "Twizzy Rich". People may think that "Up 2 Më" is bloated, but when it comes to this version of Yeat, the more the merrier.

FAV TRACKS: "Cmon", "Gët Busy", "Trëndy Way", "Ya Ya", "Bak on ëm", "Hëy", "Turban", "Twizzy Rich", "Kant changë", "Lying 4 fun"
Arca - kiCK iiiii
16.
87
The final installment of the colossal KICK series sees Arca committing to ambient, avant-garde modern classical music. Wow. This album is simply stunning. Few albums this minimal are able to have such visceral hold on me as a listener. Imagine all the gorgeous vocalizations and immersive soundscapes from Arca's self-titled but this "kiCK iiiii" isn't about vulnerability as much it's about triumph. From the unsettlingly sexual, "Chiquito" or the staggering beauty of the vocals on "Tierno", Arca has never commanded my attention more. Even with no vocals, the arrangements on "Fireprayer" or "Estrogen" contain so much raw power and authoritative sensuality, it's phenomenal. Out of all the installments in this series, this might be the least accessible but it's also the most impactful full album experience with its arresting elegance.

FAV TRACKS: "Chiquito", "Estrogen", "Amrep", "Sanctuary", "Tierno", "Musculos", "La Infinita", "Fireprayer"
Anthony Joseph - The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives
17.
87
GENRE: Jazz, Spoken-Word

RELEASE DATE:

ORIGIN: Trinidad, Trinidad & Tobago

Anthony Joseph's "The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives" fulfills 2021's criterion of protest music. Joseph doesn't only deliver some of the most invigorating and fresh-sounding Jazz compositions I've heard in a while but Joseph's spoken-word additions to these tracks channel the energy of greats like Gil-Scott Heron. The cultural commentary about the concept of "Home" is striking throughout this album as Joseph tells stories from all throughout the Caribbean Diaspora. From the fiery vocals and clashing horns on "Maka Dimweh", the story of a Guyanese Soldier sent to clean up corpses after the Jim Jones massacre to the stellar ode to legendary Barbadian poet, Kamau Braithwaite on the opener, this album is a passionate journey and somewhat of a celebration of Caribbean Culture. Even if that doesn't intrigue you, the song, "Swing Praxis" see Joseph use his commanding cadence to create an urgent and gorgeous call for revolution. "The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running For Their Lives" is nothing short of an incredible triumph as Joseph crafts brilliantly forward-looking Jazz whilst painting this vivid, colorful and immersive picture of an often overlooked part of the world. This is the culmination of all of Joseph's work in the past decade and it's a wonderful magnum opus.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Calling England Home", "Maka Dimweh", "Swing Praxis"
Little Simz - Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
18.
87
Quite possibly the most critically-acclaimed and beloved release of this year, "Sometimes I Might Be Introvert" will certainly go down as an absolute classic. Little Simz delivers a larger-than-life theatric experience that serves as a formal answer to the question: "Who is Little Simz?". The production from SAULT member, Inflo helps bring a natural feel to all the instrumentation on bangers like "Speed" or the infectious collab with Obongjayar, "Point & Kill". Not to mention the Kanye-esque triumph exuded on tracks like "Standing Ovation". The most impactful moments might be when Simz into personal matters with such impressive emotional maturity like on one of my favorites of the year, "I Love You, I Hate You". Whatever she's doing on "Sometimes I Might Be Introvert", each idea is treated with the same amount of perfectionism and focus, resulting in one of the most memorable records of the year.

FAV TRACKS: "Introvert", "Woman", "I Love You, I Hate You", "Little Q Pt.2", "Standing Ovation", "Point & Kill", "Fear No Man"
SeeYouSpaceCowboy - The Romance of Affliction
19.
86
"The Romance Of Affliction" is one of the most overlooked records of the year as the band delivers on the potential of their first projects with a unique metalcore/emo tour de force. Frontwoman, Connie Sgarbossa had already shown her abilities previously but with "The Romance of Affliction", Sgarbossa proves to be one of the most compelling and intriguing vocalists in the genre. Firstly, I'll point to how unbelievably impressive it is that consistently throughout this record we have these irresistible melodies like on "The End to A Brief Moment of Lasting Intimacy" or "With Arms That Bind and Lock" being swallowed by this pure chaotic noise. It's this jarring yet gripping juxtaposition that makes this album have such high replay value even with its painfully heavy lyrical matter. Connie Sgarbossa nearly died of an overdose weeks after "The Romance Of Affliction" was finished and the lyrics very much dive into depression, drug dependency, and the suicide of Connie's girlfriend, and the impact of that event. It's brutally bleak, however as the title implies this album inhabits this grey area. "The Romance Of Affliction" in many ways is a beautiful record even with its dark and despairing content, although there might not be a happy ending, there's a powerful catharsis happening here which potentially proposes some hope of moving on from this grief.

FAV TRACKS: "Life as a Soap Opera, 26 years running...", "Misinterpreting Constellations", "The End To A Brief Moment Of Lasting Intimacy", "With Arms That Bind and Lips That Lock", "Ouroboros as an overused metaphor", "The Romance Of affliction"
black midi - Cavalcade
20.
86
If black midi hadn't won over the music nerds with their insane debut record back in 2019, they certainly did with this Avant-prog revival record, "Cavalcade". Opening with the mind-boggling mercurial bop reminiscent of something prime Captain Beefheart would put out, "John L" state's this album manifesto of truly creating a demanding and evocative experience taken to the extreme like no other record of 2021. Whether that be through the pure cacophony on "Chondromalacia Patella" or the nostalgic elegance on "Marlene Dietrich" or my personal favorite closer of the year, "Ascending Forth". "Cavalcade" is simply an experience, perhaps the most important experience that any music fanatic should have this year. That's all I can say.

FAV TRACKS: "John L", "Marlene Dietrich", "Chondromalacia Patella", "Diamond Stuff", "Ascending Forth"
Chief Keef - 4NEM
21.
86
GENRES: Drill, Chicago Hip-Hop, Alt-R&B (Keef-Style)

"4NEM" might not be Keef's most ambitious or inventive compared to previous career-defining moments like 2017's "Thot Breaker" or the "Back From The Dead" series but I firmly believe that this is Keef's most polished and well-rounded record to date. It's been a decade since Keef started turning heads with his first "Bang!" mixtape and it's legitimately beautiful to watch his growth as an artist. This latest record effectively is the epitome of all of the detours and adventures throughout Keef's colorful career. The end product is the most QUINTESSENTIAL Keef material! This is more than just fan service or just paying homage to his various projects, this batch of eclectic tracks is consistently captivating and absurdly iconic!

FAV TRACKS: "Tuxedo", "See-Through", "Like It's Yo Job", "Ice Cream Man", "I Don't Think They Love Me", "On What"
Sega Bodega - Romeo
22.
86
Sega Bodega's sophomore effort expands on his 2020 release, "Salvador" in every way and ends up being the ethereal experience of 2021. Sega wastes no time submerging listeners in this surreal yet grimy electronic atmosphere with a tight 10 tracks each with their own personality and purpose. Sega is very clearly inspired by artists like Arca and SOPHIE, Arca even appears on the colorful bop, "Cicada" and the track is "Um Um" was inspired by and dedicated to the one and only, Sophie Xeon. However, "Romeo" pushes boundaries and establishes Sega Bodega as his own artist with a distinct sound. From the stunning opener "Effeminacy" that perfectly lives up to its name to the nocturnal club banger with Charlotte Gainsbourg, "Naturopathe". "Romeo" captures this spiritual bliss dwelling within a hazy mess of a world. This album feels like meeting angels complete with halos and everything living in the scuzzy back-alleys behind a disheveled dilapidated bar. The powerful irony of the gorgeous delivery of the line: "Heaven is a place we won't go" might be the best way to describe this record. Beautiful.

FAV TRACKS: "Effeminacy", "Angel On Your Shoulder", "I Need Nothing From You", "Naturopathe", "Cicada", "Um Um"
Midwife - Luminol
23.
86
GENRES: Shoegaze, Drone, Slowcore, "Self-proclaimed Heaven Metal"

Origin/Label: San Miguel, New Mexico/ The Flenser

Madeline Johnston A.K.A Midwife's second album under Dan Barett's The Flenser label effectively expanded and improved on the promise that her 2020 record, "Forever" initially showed. With "Luminol", Midwife crafts a haunting listening experience that swallows listeners whole with its overwhelming sense of anguish and despondency. Midwife's approach to Shoegaze, Drone, and Slowcore had already been established with previous releases as she displayed her reverb-heavy forlorn vocals and her cavernous soundscapes. However, "Luminol" sees Johnston at the peak of her powers as she delivers a shorter batch of tracks that wastes no time with its malignant misery. From the isolation 'anthem' fitting for quarantine, "Colorado" to the spine-chilling descent into madness on "God Is A Cop", "Luminol" is Midwife's most impressive record yet.

FAV TRACKS: "God Is A Cop", "Colorado", "Promise Ring"
death's dynamic shroud.wmv - Faith in Persona
24.
88
As part of their exclusive Bandcamp Club, death's dynamic shroud's Keith Rankin might've injected much-needed life force into the Vaporwave genre. Vaporwave has always been an intriguing movement as a genre with an intensely dedicated fanbase and one of the first genres to be defined by the internet. Nevertheless, even hardcore fans (like myself) must admit that recently the genre's influence has been more centered around aesthetics rather than memorable releases. Many of the original figureheads of the genre have either faded in relevance or branched out into their own thing somewhat separate from Vaporwave like George Clanton and the 100% electronica. This is where death's dynamic shroud comes in. Although I don't want to devalue other releases from DDS, I have to say that "Faith In Persona" might be their best in at least half a decade if not ever. Keith Rankin takes charge for the first time and the end result is absolutely brilliant. (tbc)
Aesop Rock & Blockhead - Garbology
25.
86
GENRES: Boom Bap, Abstract Hip Hop

ORIGIN/LABEL: New York City, New York - Rhymesayers Entertainment

The Dynamic Duo, Aesop Rock & Blockhead are reunited to serve us yet another healthy serving of dense hip-hop bangers for weirdos! Much like Aesop's collaboration with TOBACCO back in 2019, Aesop isn't focusing on introspective storytelling as much as he is complimenting the eccentric and outlandish production with peculiar personas and nocturnally grotesque imagery. Both artists were simply made for each other as these tracks just feel so comfortably unconventional if that makes sense. "Garbology" is truly full of introvert anthems like "Difficult" and immersively bizarre atmospheres like on "More Cycles" or "Legerdemain". These two have cemented their place as underground hip hop's favorite oddballs.

FAV TRACKS: "Legerdemain", "Difficult" (STANDOUT), "More Cycles", "Flamingo Pink", "Abandoned Malls"
Madlib - Sound Ancestors
26.
85
GENRES: Instrumental hip-hop, Sound Collage

ORIGIN/LABEL: Oxnard, California - Madlib Invazion

Iconic and influential producer, Madlib gifts us a crisp collection of otherworldly instrumental hip-hop beats. The material on "Sound Ancestors" is reminiscent of a peak Dilla in many ways with its succinct nature and clever samplework. On top of that, the mixing and mastering are lush as Kieran Hebden of Four Tet fame helped make this sound as smooth as it does. Of course, Madlib is a master at creating an engaging atmosphere without overwhelming the sense, so this was always was going to be great but I also have to admire the thematic consistency as Madlib explores the sounds of indigenous/folk music of Latin America and Africa. This is a cratedigger album through and through and I'm here for it.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Road Of The Lonely Ones", "Hopprock" (STANDOUT), "Sound Ancestors", "Hang Out (Phone Off)", "Two for 2 - For Dilla"
Idles - CRAWLER
27.
85
GENRES: Art Punk

ORIGIN/LABEL: Bristol, UK - Partisan Records

"CRAWLER" might catch hardcore fans off guard. It certainly startled me as "CRAWLER" is far more patient and atmospheric than the biting commentary made on IDLES's staggeringly strong first two albums, "Brutalism" and "Joy As An Act Of Resistance". I see this record as a direct response to the backlash surrounding "Ultra Mono", personally I thought that album lacked nuance and seemed more focused on sloganeering than genuinely engaging critique. Maybe IDLES took that feedback to heart as "CRAWLER" might be their most ambitious and artful release to date. Don't get me wrong, IDLES haven't lost their edge like on the abrasive and disorienting, "Car Crash" or the enthralling "Crawl!". However, "CRAWLER" is an album focused on rewarding progressions and more immersive soundscapes like the opener, "MTT 420 RR" than ever before resulting in some truly hypnotic experiences matched with Talbot's commanding vocal delivery still conveying that urgency that makes IDLES' music feel so essential. This record might be a divisive direction but it's a necessary rebirth and reinvention for the band whilst delivering riveting concepts, thrilling song structures, and powerful vocal melodies.

FAV TRACKS: "MTT 420 RR" (STANDOUT), "The Wheel", "Car Crash", "Stockholm Syndrome", "The Beachland Ballroom", "Crawl!", "Meds", "Progress"
ZelooperZ - Van Gogh's Left Ear
28.
85
GENRE: Experimental Hip-Hop

ORIGIN/LABEL: Detroit, Michigan - Bruiser Brigade

One of the hip-hop underground's best-kept secrets, Zelooperz has outdone himself this time with "Van Gogh's Left Ear". The word I'd use to best describe "Van Gogh's Left Ear" is REFRESHING. In a year with so much saturation in the hip-hop scene, Zelooperz simply refuses to be put in a box and his latest record is an aggressive middle finger to any attempts at watering down Zelooperz's sound. "Van Gogh's Left Ear" is filled to the brim with the most beautifully bizarre bangers of the year with immeasurable amounts of energy. It won't take for this album to blow you away with its ferocity with the succinct opener, "Battery" or the manic collab with Quadie Diesel and Rx Nephew on "Paranormal Snaptivity". There is no way to possibly predict where the Detroit native is going next, each track is a wild adventure that highlights the colorful mind of Zelooperz. "Van Gogh's Left Ear" displays the beauty of taking risks as Zelooperz absolutely flourishes with absolute artistic freedom.

FAV TRACKS: "Battery", "Paranormal Snaptivity", "Each and Every Moment", "Bash Bandicoon", "Crying In The Club", "Dedicated My Life" (STANDOUT), "Bluez", "Satellites"
Armand Hammer & The Alchemist - HARAM
29.
85
GENRES: Abstract Hip Hop, Jazz Rap

ORIGIN/LABEL: New York City, New York - Backwoodz Studios

Armand Hammer links up with legendary producer to create an intxociating vibe that Armand Hammer's music has never aimed for before. billy woods & ELUCID are still delivering unforgettable commentary and coming through with harrowingly focused song topics like on "Chicharonnes" or "Robert Moses", however "HARAM" sees the duo attempt to match the vibe set by The Alchemist's jazzy production with more singing and mood pieces. All of this creates one of the most unique listening experiences in abstract hip hop and possibly the duo's most accessible project to date.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Sir Benni Miles", "Falling Out The Sky", "Chicharonnes" (STANDOUT), "Robert Moses", "Stonefruit"
Arab Strap - As Days Get Dark
30.
85
GENRES: Slowcore, Indietronica, Chamber Pop

ORIGIN/LABEL: Falkirk, Scotland - Rock Action Records

Arab Strap's grand return after 16 years of silence sees the duo continue to craft some special sardonic slowcore jams. Moffat's songwriting has only improved as he takes on topics such as porn addiction, depression, and xenophobia with such dejected self-defeatism, it's pretty cutting. "As Days Get Dark" understands dark comedy, from the topic of a man pursuing a career as a man who tells tragedies and weeps on the road to an audience on "Tears On Tours" to "Another Clockwork Day" which focuses on Moffat's distaste for the evolving technology surrounding in pornography, everything is presented in such a self-deprecating and nihilist tone. The eclectic yet consistently moody production from Middleton keeps this album sounding weirder than ever as he utilizes an impressive range of instruments. "As Days Get Dark" basks in the dark with muddy morality and putrid poetry, that's the point as Moffat and Middleton's refreshen their sound for this era's urgent topics.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Another Clockwork Day", "Heres Comes Comus" (STANDOUT), "Fable Of The Urban Fox", "I Was Once A Weak Man"
Rx Papi & Gud - Foreign Exchange
32.
85
GENRE: Cloud Rap, Hip-Hop

ORIGIN/LABEL: Bronx, New York & Stockholm, Sweden/ YEAR0001

"Foreign Exchange" is an unexpectedly significant crossover of two avant-garde sub-genres in underground hip-hop. Catching me off guard, the release of this record marks an intriguing instance of a member of the Rx Collective collaborating with a producer associated with the Scandinavian Cloud Rap pioneered by Drain Gang. This might sound like an odd idea on paper but "Foreign Exchange" is a brilliantly inventive project that efficiently that showcases the best of both sides. Rx Papi's confrontational and confessional approach is only emphasized by the heavenly production from Stockholm Native, Gud. Especially on heart-breakingly personal moments from Papi like on the opener, "12 Stout Street", "Still In Da Hood" or the surprisingly sweet and forlorn "Rahkel". Throughout this record, Papi's distraught delivery combines with Gud's sharp synths to make for an instantly engaging listen. Papi has never sounded as urgent as he does here and this is elevated by the cathartic soundscapes making for a combative listen that cuts the fat down to a powerful and succinct tracklist of 8 songs with just under 20 minutes of material.

BEST TRACKS: "12 Stout Street" (STANDOUT), "Albino Steve", "Still In Da Hood", "Rahkel"
The Body & BIG|BRAVE - Leaving None But Small Birds
33.
84
GENRES: Free Folk, Drone, Psychedelic Folk

ORIGIN/LABEL: Providence, Rhode Island/ Montreal, Canada - Thrill Jockey Records

"Leaving None But Small Birds" might be a significant collaboration between two of the most important Drone Metal bands right now but the music doesn't reflect either of the band's past work but instead embarks on a nostalgic psychedelic folk journey. And get this...it actually works! The Body and BIG|BRAVE both had stellar outings in 2021 and just have a general track record of unmatched creativity so I shouldn't have been surprised by how good this ended up being. Although there isn't much "metal" about this album apart from some distorted crescendos and the general obsession with the morbid, the two bands' ability to create immersive soundscapes carries over into this album with ease. "Leaving None But Small Birds" is very much a passion project and it allows the two bands to show love to "folk", not just the genre but the culture. By weaving motifs from Appalachian, Canadian, English, and Celtic folk tunes, the bands' attempt to capture this side of the world feels well-informed and genuine. In my opinion, they do a wonderful job at the unveiling that working-class isolation at the heart of it all. This might be a more patient listen but believe me, it's worth your investment with songs like the crushing "Polly Gosford" being insanely climactic! Overall, "Leaving None But Small Birds" is a shocking and enveloping record that manages to pair the expected noise of the bands' usual material and this arresting folk worship which is equally as unsettling. Powerful stuff.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Hard Times", "Polly Gosford" (STANDOUT), "Babes In The Woods"
Rochelle Jordan - Play with the Changes
34.
84
GENRES: Deep House, Alt R&B, 2-Step, UK Garage

ORIGIN: Toronto, Canada

Rochelle Jordan channels the mysterious and sensual energy of UK Bass, Deep House, 2-step, and Alternative R&B, to create both a much-needed celebration of nightclub culture and THE most infectiously danceable record of the year. Along with stellar contributions from producers, KLSH, Machinedrum and Jimmy Edgar, Rochelle Jordan transports listeners into a world pre or post-covid where the dancefloor is the ultimate escape. She explores this through many lenses from it's embracing the hustler's spirit of the catchy and confident "Count It" or presenting an ultimatum of night thrills on "Something". Whether she's displaying her seductive vocal delivery on the stunning, "Love You Good" or the sharp lyricism about her femininity, identity, and race on the anthemic "Broken Steel", Rochelle's persona is captivating enough to make each song significant in their own right. "Play With The Changes" manages to be accessible and thoroughly fun whilst also achieving something greater. The way that Rochelle and her collaborators pay homage to these different scenes of dance music and R&B music and proceed to blur the lines in between the two is nothing short of magical.

FAV TRACKS: "Love You Good" (STANDOUT), "Broken Steel", "Count It", "Nothing Good", "Something", "Dancing Elephants", "Situation"
Bo Burnham - Inside (The Songs)
35.
84
GENRE: Synth Pop, Musical Comedy

ORIGIN: Hamilton, Massachusetts - Bo Burnham/ Netflix

This might not be a conventional "album" per se. However, the music from Bo Burnham's critically-acclaimed Netflix Special is so strong, they continue to resonate even without any visuals. Burnham utilizes clever and nostalgic elements of synthpop to distract from the heavy and often depressing sentiment of isolation which is overwhelmingly present in the lyrics of each track. Aesthetically, "Inside" is simple yet uniquely accessible, however, on a songwriting front, we have some of the most essential "pop" tracks written of this year. Not to mention, that it provides the laughs that so many of us needed.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Comedy", "Sexting", "Welcome To The Internet" (STANDOUT), "That Funny Feeling"
Lancey Foux - First Degree
36.
84
GENRES: UK Hip Hop, Psych Trap

ORIGIN/LABEL: East London, UK - Human Resources/EMI

With "FIRST DEGREE", Lancey is liberated to create a deeply unsettling picture of a demonic destiny and an unquenchable self-confidence. In an interview with DJ SEMTEX in November, Lancey has described "FIRST DEGREE" as the result of a time in his life where Lancey stopped smoking and started cutting off fake friends. This revelation makes a lot of sense considering the overarching theme on "FIRST DEGREE". Lancey's lyrics are all covered in this bitter distrust in everything around him. Apart from the introspective banger, "HONEST" and the gorgeous and vulnerable, "CONTROLLING ME", the rest of this record consists of relentless and blunt anger aimed at...everybody. Lancey's eccentric style of melodic hip-hop has always been energetic but his pure presence behind the mic with a myriad of manic ad-libs and animalistic vocal deliveries is what makes this mixtape go above and beyond. All in all, "FIRST DEGREE" is a psychotic batch of seamlessly strung-together rap tracks slightly left of center which have me extremely excited to continue to follow Lancey as one of the most intriguing artists in the UK Hip-Hop scene.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "AIN'T THIS", "DONT TALK", "DON'T - TRUST ME", "BIPOLAR BAG", "CONTROLLING ME", "HONEST" (STANDOUT)
Arca - kick iiii
37.
84
GENRES: Glitch Pop, Electronic, Ambient Pop

ORIGIN/LABEL: Caracas, Venezuela - XL Recordings

The most underappreciated installment in the kick series, "kick iiii" might be the hardest to pin down as the album mirrors the cover with it's themes of fantastical, mythical transformation. I interpret Arca's kick series as a declaration of victory over the struggles she faced as a trans person, if we follow that narrative then we can see "Kick iii" as this battle where Arca relentlessly shows her bravery and assertive experimentalism and "kick iiiii" as Arca establishing her deity status in her fictional world, completely overcoming any earthly predicaments. "kick iiii" is the process of rebuilding and ascending into a supernatural world no longer bound by any genres or expectations. This record is unapologetically eerie with mystifying concepts everywhere from the hypnotic, "Witch" to the otherworldly melodies on "Xenomorphgirl" or "Altar". I understand why this album is considered more of a mess than the others by both critics and fans alike but there's something so admirably bold about Arca's commitment to this alien world where each song sounds like a new planet of surreal and extraterrestrial passion.

FAV TRACKS: "Esuna", "Xenomorphgirl", "Queer", "Witch", "Altar", "Lost Woman Found" (STANDOUT)
Shelley FKA DRAM - Shelley FKA DRAM
38.
84
GENRES: R&B, Soul

ORIGIN/LABEL: Munich, Germany/ Hampton, Virginia - Atlantic Records/ EMPIRE

Shelley is a changed man. This new self-titled LP displays the next step in the artistic evolution of Shelley as he delivers a poignant project full of mature sensuality. "Shelley FKA DRAM" is full of intoxicating, hazy soundscapes focusing on adult relationships from toxic lust to undying devotion. The compelling songwriting and soulful singing are still here but Shelley has moved on from the fun-loving eccentricities of "Big Baby DRAM". Personally, I feel like this growth feels powerfully natural as once again Shelley blows me away with engaging ballads like "Exposure" and "Remedies" along with showing off his magnetic charisma on tracks like "Cooking With Grease" or the magical duet with Erykah badu, " '93 Acura Vigor". Shelley's long-awaited sophomore LP is a story of romantic maturity and self-improvement whilst never losing focus of the main goal...making sexy ass music.

FAV TRACKS: "Exposure", " '93 Acura Vigor", "Cooking With Grease", "Rich & Famous"
Bicep - Isles
39.
84
GENRES: Future Garage, Outsider House

ORIGIN: Belfast, Northern Ireland - Ninja Tune

At the risk of sounding like an absolute nerd, this entire album feels like an intergalactic adventure for the ages. Bicep goes further into the rabbit hole and truly emphasizes the "future" part of "future garage". On top of the respectful mix of influences from the history of house music, we have some of the most blissful and enthralling melodies I've heard in the genre with the STELLAR singles, "Atlas" & "Saku". Pardon my pun, but Bicep was trying to flex with their self-titled debut, ending with some tracks which might've been technically impressing yet maybe not as high on replay value. This time around, the deep cuts aren't afraid to be a bit more on the simple side, "Sundial", "Fir", "Cazenove" and the latter half of "Hawk", yet the duo selects just the right vocal samples and otherworldly effects to make each track have its own unique color and emotional potency. "Isles" is a voyage to a galaxy of futuristic and bold sound and YOU are privileged enough to have a window seat with every listen!

FAV TRACKS: "Atlas", "Cazenove", "Apricots", "Saku", "X", "Rever"
Young Stoner Life, Young Thug & Gunna - Slime Language 2
40.
83
GENRES: Trap, Psych Trap, Southern Hip-Hop

ORIGIN/LABEL: Atlanta, Georgia - Young Stoner Life Records

Some may dismiss "Slime Language 2" as another bloated trendy hip-hop posse album. Be that as it may, in my opinion, the latest project from the Young Stoner Life label encapsulates exactly what attracted me to its main players in the first place. Despite its lengthy run-time, each track presents a fresh and risky subversion of the expected mainstream trap format. All of the eccentric characteristics that Young Thug embraced when he grabbed attention have been passed on to his protegés like Lil Keed, Lil Duke & T-Shyne. Not to mention some impressively colorful and vibrant production complimenting big-name appearances from heavy-hitters like Travis Scott and Future, both of which match the energy by giving odd and adventurous performances. Ultimately, "Slime Language 2" is a collection of infectiously entertaining detours into the nooks & crannies of the psychedelic trap.

FAVORITE TRACKS: "Slatty", "Ski","Came And Saw", "Warrior", "Pots N Pans" (STANDOUT), "Superstar", "Came Out", "Trance", "GFU", "That Go!"
Half Waif - Mythopoetics
41.
83
GENRES: Art Pop, Chamber Pop

ORIGIN/LABEL: Williamstown, Massachusetts - ANTI-

Nandi Rose, also known as Half Waif, has landed on her most poignant collection of tracks yet as she continues to make a name for herself within the art-pop realm. "Mythopoetics" takes all the elegant aspects of Rose's last projects, "The Caretaker" and "Lavender" and takes them further than ever! Although Half Waif may not be reinventing the wheel in her genre, it's hard not to be blown away by her authoritative yet deeply vulnerable vocals matched with her confessional lyrics. "Mythopetics" takes that very drama that has guided her aesthetic and takes it to its purgative extreme, making an album filled to the brim with vigorous displays of reinvention anthems. On tracks like "Swimmer", "Orange Blossoms" or "Fortress", there's a true sense of catharsis bleeding through that is sure to captivate most listeners.

FAV TRACKS: "Swimmer" (STANDOUT), "Take Away The Ache", "Fortress", "Party's Over", "Horse Racing", "Orange Blossoms",
Robert Finley - Sharecropper's Son
42.
83
GENRE: Blues Rock, Soul

ORIGIN: Bernice, Louisiana - Easy Eye Sound

With Robert Finley's third album, Finley has cemented his name as one of the most magnetic performers in modern Blues music. Even if his career started late in his life, his ability to convey vulnerability through his outstanding vocal range places him alongside Delta Blues Legends like John Lee Hooker & Muddy Waters. With the help of Dan Auerbach, "Sharecropper's Son" provides a sufficient amount of nostalgia and innovation as the soundscapes blend Gospel, Soul, and Blues Rock. On top of everything, Finley's sharp songwriting transcends the genre and serves as a vivid portrait of the Delta life as Robert tells stories of his time in jail, picking cotton
and his rough childhood.

FAV TRACKS: "Souled Out On You" (STANDOUT), "Country Child", "Sharecropper's Son", "Better Than I Treat Myself"
Wiki - Half God
43.
83
GENRE: Hip-Hop, East Coast Hip Hop

Origin: NEW YORKKKK!! - Wikset Enterprises!

I've been to New York but I wish I went to THIS New York! Wiki's 'Half God' is a collection of soul-stirring stories detailing the complexities of "home" and gets to the heart of the city that never sleeps. Compared to Wiki's usual aggressive deliveries and grimy picture-painting, "Half God" focuses on healthy nostalgia. From the sweet ode to Wiki's memories on his Roof on "Roof" or the vulnerable peeks into Wiki's childhood on "Grape Soda", you can feel the love. Same goes for the anti-gentrification anthem, "The Business". All of this accentuated by the stellar decision of collaborating with Navy Blue, who comes through with blissfully simple yet evocative beats reminiscent of prime J Dilla on tracks like "Promised" or "Never Fall Off". Needless to say, "Half God" is one of the most refreshing rap records of the year which all generations of hip-hop heads should be able to appreciate.

FAV TRACKS: "Not Today", "Roof", "The Business", "Gas Face", "Promised"(STANDOUT)
Kai Whiston - Drayan!
44.
83
GENRES: Wonky, Electronic, Alt-R&B, UK Bass

ORIGIN/LABELl: London, UK - Gloo

Kai Whiston's newest mixtape is unexpectedly ambitious for such a brief project and manages to stick the landing with confidence. Through the eyes of Kai Whiston's "hybrid-alien" son, Drayan (pictured on that beautiful cover), Kai Whiston focuses on making a uniquely supernatural listening experience. From the unsettling skepticism to the boundless opportunities, "Drayan!" essentially captures the emotions of crash-landing on a remote near-dystopian planet. That may seem a bit pretentious but believe me, the music here is incredibly fun with Kai's stickiest melodies yet and some of the most vibrant sound design I've heard this year. "Drayan!" is a project that showcases the endless creativity of Whiston and gifts us moments of otherworldly bliss!

FAV TRACKS: "Hybrid Child", "Drayan!"(STANDOUT), "Bothering Me", "Stingray"
CHAI - WINK
46.
83
GENRES: Neo-Soul, Art Punk, Synthpop, J-Pop

ORIGIN/LABEL: Nagoya, Japan - Sub Pop Records

CHAI's latest record is unabashedly wide-ranging as the Japanese girl band dips their feet into everything from neo-soul to J-pop to new wave and so much more. "WINK" is intensely colorful and vibrant as each track allows the bands' members to exhibit their irresistible endearing individuality and gleefully jejune vocals. The genre-hopping might be jarring for some just the carefree, sugary, feel-good sentiment is what connects each joyful adventure into a cohesive collection of summer anthems.

FAV TRACKS: "Donuts Mind If I Do", "ACTION", "Nobody Knows We Are Fun", "It's Vitamin C", "IN PINK" (STANDOUT), "Miracle"
Nas - King’s Disease II
47.
82
GENRE: East Coast Hip Hop, Conscious Hip Hop, Jazz Rap, Trap

ORIGIN: New York City, New York - Mass Appeal

If people thought the first "King's Disease" was a revival? What is this?!?
I'll just come out and say it, "King's Disease II" is the best Nas record since "It Was Written" and "Illmatic". Not to throw around needless comparisons because this record very much is its own thing with its own musical identity. Nas sounds so mature and self-assured than he has in the past two decades and it's all for the better as he delivers the slickest and most comforting verses of the year on tracks like "Store Run" or the instantly iconic escapist anthem with Lauryn Hill, "Nobody". On top of that, I think Nas has found the perfect collaborator in the form of Hit-Boy for his next records. Hit-Boys production is obviously very nostalgic bringing out the wisest side of Nas on tracks like on the closer, "Nas is Good" or the gorgeous romance on "No Phony Love". However, Hit-Boy also pushes Nas into the new generation of rap with some more forward-thinking production on the opener, "The Pressure" with its cavernous echoes or the off-beat trap banger, "YKTV"! This guarantees that "King's Disease II" isn't just Nas re-hashing successes of the past but reinventing himself gloriously!

FAV TRACKS: "The Pressure", "YKTV", "Store Run" (STANDOUT), "Nobody", "Moments", "No Phony Love", "Nas Is Good"
Poppy - Flux
48.
82
GENRE: Alt Rock, Grunge

Origin/Label: Boston, Massachusetts - Sumerian

Poppy reinvents herself once more with "Flux" as she pays homage to a mix of 90s Grunge, Riot Grrl, and the 'Alt Rock Chick' sound of the Mid-2000s. That might sound a bit odd on paper but believe me, Poppy's approach to this genre is more than just a trip down nostalgia lane. "Flux" is full of anthemic and empowering rock anthems that are just as creative and bold as they are incredibly accessible. Tracks like the infectious "Lessen The Damage" or the dreamy "As Strange It Seems" do wonderful jobs at highlighting the charisma and personality that has made Poppy such a compelling performer in the past years. "Flux" undeniably has a lot of attitude and confidence but it also contains just as much substance.

FAV TRACKS: "Flux", "Lessen The Damage", "Her" (STANDOUT), "Bloom", "As Strange It Seems"
Jaubi - Nafs at Peace
49.
82
Genres: Spiritual Jazz, Hindustani Classical

Origin: Lahore, Pakistan/ Astigmatic Records

Jaubi's long-awaited debut LP, "Nafs At Peace" deserves all the critical acclaim it's getting! Jaubi had already shown off their ability to take their Hindustani Classical influences and create something jazzier and more accessible outside of Pakistan. With "Nafs At Peace", they did exactly that! Without ever coming near to being self-indulgent, Jaubi crafts Spiritual Jazz melodies that you can get lost in effortlessly. Each soundscape is treated with the same attention to detail as you'd see in an Alice Coltrane song, with lush highlights being "Straight Path" or that celebratory self-titled closer. There is a great amount of love shown by each member to their instrument and to the genres they are attempting to blend which results in a heartwarming and escapist experience all around that many needed in this chaotic mess of a year.

FAV TRACKS: "Insia", "Straight Path", "Nafs At Peace" (STANDOUT)
Silk Sonic - An Evening with Silk Sonic
50.
82
GENRES: SOUL REVIVAL!!

ORIGIN/LABEL: Oxnard, California/ Honolulu, Hawaii - Atlantic Recordings

"An Evening With Silk Sonic" was one simple objective: Bring Soul Back! With each stellar single and cathartic romantic epic, Bruno Mars & Anderson .Paak creates the year's most soulful melodies! It takes a lot of effort to carefully recreate the sound of another time whilst also showing tons of respect and appreciation to those pioneers of the 70s! There's no denying the magnetic charisma and seductive quality of tracks like "After Last Night", "Leave The Door Open" or "Skate" making this one of the sexiest albums of the year and certainly making Silk Sonic one of the most exciting things that happened in 2021.

FAV TRACKS: "Leave The Door Open", "After Last Night", "Smokin Out The Window", "Put On A Smile" (STANDOUT)
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1mo
Thanks! The list is still very much a work in progress but yeah Injury Reserve and James Blake are definitely in my top 10!
1mo
Very cool list! I love to see Injury Reserve and James Blake W's, we share many similar picks :)
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