Deafheaven – Infinite Granite
Released August 22nd, 2021 on Sargent House Records
Except for the last third of the closing track “Mombasa” this is a Deafheaven record that strips out the black metal influences of yore and presents instead a post-shoegaze sound, complete with jarringly clean vocals. Unfortunately with the change the band loses much of their edge and sounds like a lot of shoegaze records I heard back in 2009-2010 by bands like Ceremony or Mass of the Fermenting Dregs. That said, it’s a perfectly fine record in that genre. All things must settle in toward rest.
Tropical Fuck Storm – Deep States
Released August 20th, 2021 on Joyful Noise Records
One of indie’s biggest up-and-comers returns with an off-kilter, lurchingly funky collection of hooks. It’s not a particularly coherent record, unlike many of the other endearingly weird jazz-tinged post-post-punk records this year, but here and there is achieves a moment of shambling near-amateur sublime.
Sturgill Simpson – The Ballad Of Dood And Juanita
Released August 20th, 2021 on High Top Mountain Records
There’s a certain amount of nostalgia embedded into this record. It’s instructive that there used to be roaming country singers that would put out these sorts of trad country records, and this is a good formulation of that old sound, right down to the Willie Nelson cameo. Once you get past that, though, you can take it or leave it.
Pile – Songs Known Together, Alone
Released August 20th, 2021 on Exploding In Sound Records
Song sketches so light they may not even really exist at all. Drone that perks up into atmospheric shifts and sprouts voices before they, too, join into the drone. May actually be an Americana record; further research necessary.
Cleo Sol – Mother
Released August 20th, 2021
Tastefully understated neo-soul, but you can’t fool me: Cleo Sol is clearly one of the members of Sault and nothing you say will steer me away from this opinion.
The Joy Formidable – Into The Blue
Released August 20th, 2021
Ten years after crafting the textbook on frisson-laced alt-rock codas, the Joy Formidable keep plugging away at their own sound. It’s nice to hear a band change only slightly over the course of decade when they have such a signature, it’s just sad that no one ever caught on much to them.
Villagers – Fever Dreams
Released August 20th, 2021 on Domino Records
It’s pretty, and professionally made, with big chamber pop aesthetics and some slick hooks. The hooks are too slick, though – they often slide right out of my head and I’m left wondering what it is I listened to in the first place.
Shannon and the Clams – Year of the Spider
Released August 20th, 2021 on Easy Eye Sound
Trad old-school psych-garage, the kind that used to have a touch of country in it.
Holy Holy – Hello My Beautiful World
Released August 20th, 2021 on Wonderlick Records
It’s nice when an album shows up that encapsulates in detail why I dislike certain sub-genres – like this type of indie rock that is clean and boring and sounds like it was made to be on safe corporate playlists.
Martha Wainwright – Love Will Be Reborn
Released August 20th, 2021 on Cooking Vinyl Records
This album resurrects a particularly thorny problem question in my mind: who’s better? Martha? Rufus? Loudon the Third? Mama Wainwright Kate McGarrigle? I don’t know and neither do you.
Bnny – Everything
Released August 20th, 2021 on Fire Talk Records
The Chicago indie quartet’s debut borrows from the structure and hazy sadness of the Velvet Underground to explore Jess Viscius’ pain in the wake of her partner’s death. If it sounds like Galaxie 500 to you, you may be on to something.
Calva Louise – Euphoric
Released August 20th, 2021 on Blood/300 Records
Sounds too much like standard alt-rock bands like Paramore to be really worth recommending. If you’re hard up for that sort of thing, here’s your stopgap, but otherwise why bother?
Justus Proffit – SpeedStar
Released August 20th, 2021 on Bar/None Records
Look I like Elliott Smith as much as the next guy but if you’re going to draw deep influence from someone, do something interesting with it.
Sierra Ferrell – Long Time Coming
Released August 20th, 2021 on Rounder Records
A cute little country/Americana record that doesn’t push the envelope but fits in pretty well when you’ve got a certain mood on and a jug of rotgut to dispose of.
Nathan Salsburg – Psalms
Released August 20th, 2021 on No Quarter Records
Nathan Salsburg draws inspiration from the Tehillim specifically, and his Jewish heritage more generally, to create a stellar work of primitive Americana folk. His guests, including Will Oldham and James Elkington, as well as Israeli flautist/singer Noa Babayof, help round it out into a full experience.
BRNDA – Do You Like Salt?
Released August 20th, 2021 on Crafted Sounds
Like Parquet Courts, if Parquet Courts weren’t as viscerally good.
Alien Boy – Don’t Know What I Am
Released August 20th, 2021 on Get Better Records
Emo/shoegaze that scoops its influences wholesale from the underground heroes of the Nineties without doing much to them. Nostalgia will only get you so far.
Lorde – Solar Power
Released August 20th, 2021 on Universal NZ / EMI Records
What in fuck are you people on about? This album is perfectly fine. It’s laid back, has some great melodic moments, and has touches of lyrical interest in just the right places. I swear to god most of you whine and complain just for the sake of it. Like that dipshit from The Independent who called it tuneless. Clean out your ears, asshole.
Anderson East – Maybe We Never Die
Released August 20th, 2021 on Elektra Records
This is the very model of a modern blue-eyed soul record. Would not shock me if it charted, even though the overall effect is kinda bland.
DVSN & Ty Dolla $ign – Cheers To The Best Memories
Released August 20th, 2021 on OVO Sound / Warner Records
Smooth, soulful R&B with the occasional moment of rapping to replace what guitar solos used to do. Not essential by any means, but definitely good general party music.
Trippie Redd – Trip At Knight
Released August 20th, 2021 on 1400 Entertainment
Heavy 808s dominate the production and Redd’s off-kilter drug rap takes center stage except when some of his guests step in to outshine him, like on the Ski Mask the Slump God feature or on “Rich MF” where two of the biggest stars of the year (Polo G and Lil’ Durk) basically take the mic entirely. Cover’s in the running for worst of the year, but there’s definitely been worse hip hop released in 2021.
SosMula – 13 SONGS 2 DIE 2
Released August 20th, 2021 on Republic Records
He’s trying hard to be hard, but honestly everything from his scream-and-chew delivery to the album cover to the uninspired production to the over-the-top desperate image-making seems to just come across as something Pinkman would listen to when he was using.
Dame D.O.L.L.A. – Different On Levels The Lord Allowed
Released August 20th, 2021 on Front Page Music
Decent bars and an okay flow don’t make up for boring production and same-old ‘uplifting’ themes.
Chynna – drug opera
Released August 20th, 2021 on TWIN
She has a menacing flow and a great sense of atmosphere, but it all tends to run along one dimension.
LiL Lotus – Errør Bøy
Released August 20th, 2021 on Epitaph Records
The worst of emo and the worst of modern suburban pop rap, together at last! Thanks a pantsload, Epitaph.
Between The Buried And Me – Colors II
Released August 20th, 2021 on Sumerian Records
The phrase “Prog-Metalcore” should strike terror into my heart, or at least rapid-onset disgust, but this album isn’t so bad.
Wolves In The Throne Room – Primordial Arcana
Released August 20th, 2021 on Relapse Records
After kickstarting the Cascadian black metal movement, WITTR went in a completely different direction of ambient weirdness before the panic kicked in and they dashed back to their roots. Unfortunately now they sound like everyone else out there, even though they got there first.
Woman Is The Earth – Dust Of Forever
Released August 20th, 2021 on Init Records
A black metal trio from the Black Hills, Woman Is The Earth deliver a solid, howling set of black-metal/hardcore crossovers that grips tightly from the beginning and never lets go.
Nocturnal – Serpent Death
Released August 20th, 2021 on Dying Victims Production
Primitive – and I really mean this, it sounds like Morbid Visions level production – blackened thrash metal that is oddly listenable.