The War On Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore
Released on Atlantic Records
Moving beyond a mere Eighties heartland pastiche, Philly’s The War On Drugs have come to truly encompass a certain sound and a certain longing that vanished from the airwaves thirty years ago. It’s not just beer commercials anymore Kozelek you goddamn rapist, it’s the whole thing.
Geese – Projector
Released on Partisan Records
More like Ought than Squid, but with less obsession and interest.
Lone – Always Inside Your Head
Released on Greco-Roman Records
Pure ambient break-pop, like it’s the mid-Nineties all over again.
Lotic – Water
Released on Houndstooth Records
Experimental glitch pop whose repetitive motifs can sometimes grind out rather than propel forward.
Kayo Dot – Moss Grew On The Swords And Plowshares Alike
Released on Prophecy Records
An uneven set of prog-goth movements that feature a series of weak vocal choices and meandering tempos.
Sam Evian – Time To Melt
Released on Fat Possum Records
Seventies soft rock gone indie, with hints of light psychedelia, soul groove, and big ideas.
Lolina – Fast Fashion
Released on Deathbomb Arc
Bizarrely listenable avant garde experimentation built around loops and phrases that go again and again until they achieve a Zen koan-like status.
Emily Scott Robinson – American Siren
Released on Oh Boy Records
Workaday sad-eyed country songs that manage a good heartstring-tug here and there but fall into cliche more often than not.
Dear Laika – Pluperfect Mind
Released on NNA Records
Experimental piano balladry with swirling vocal textures. Makes for good background ambience.
Marissa Nadler – The Path Of The Clouds
Released on Sacred Bones Records
Marissa Nadler has become an American folk-rock hero and she continues this arc on her latest entry for Sacred Bones. Here, the songs are clearer and more distinct than before, and there are touches of class rock moments (a la Neil Young) that were previously buried.
Lunar Vacation – Inside Every Fig Is A Dead Wasp
Released on Keeled Scales Records
Middle of the road indie rock, largely indistinguishable from dozens of similar bands that sound kinda like Alvvays.
Fortitude Valley – Fortitude Valley
Released on Fika Records
As above, more middle of the road indie rock, but this time with some real pep to it.
Monolord – Your Time To Shine
Released on Relapse Records
The riff central to “The Weary” is a mutation of Sabbath’s “A National Acrobat.” The rest of it is fine – heavy stoner rock that tends to err on the lighter side of things. Made me put on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, which is nice.
Billy Bragg – The Million Things That Never Happened
Released on Cooking Vinyl Records
I wasn’t sold on the old guy’s old-guy songwriting but then “Freedom Doesn’t Come For Free” had me honkin’, so in the end it’s got some pretty good songs on it.
Charlotte Cornfield – Highs In The Minuses
Released on Double Double Whammy Records
Sad-eyed country tinged pop music that brings to mind Neil Young and Big Thief
Hot Garbage – RIDE
Released on Mothland Records
Sweet garage rock driven by tube amps with the reverb all the way up and an ear for unsettling noise.
The Parrots – dos
Released on Heavenly Records
Indie garage with an interesting balance between tropical good vibes and harrowing space rock.
Kuunatic – Gate of Klüna
Released on Glitterbeat Records
A Japanese trio that practices “tribal psych” which, once you listen to it, makes perfect sense.
Theon Cross – Intra-I
Released on New Soil Records
The tuba has always been the odd man out among brass instruments. It is more often a comedic prop than a respected instrument – an accompaniment to ableist bullshit about fat people walking when it should be viewed as an essential accompaniment to the low end of any jazz group. Theon Cross’ tuba should change your view on the instrument, hopefully; he’s been using it with Sons of Kemet for a while but here he is on his own, leading up a talented group and mixing jazz exploration with cutting, globally incisive hip hop.
Tori Amos – Ocean To Ocean
Released on Universal Records / Decca Records
Yeah it’s Tori Amos, and yeah she sounds bigger and slicker than ever, but where is the progress? Where is the artistic art? She sounds like she did in 1995.
Vels Trio – Celestial Greens
Released on Rhythm Section Records
An experimental synth-rock/jazz fusion that somehow sounds simultaneously futurist and retro.
Nightmares On Wax – Shout Out! To Freedom…
Released on Warp Records
Soulful and layered, an album that lays back and lets you explore it at your leisure.
Mick Jenkins – Elephant In The Room
Released on Cinematic Records
Heavy flow but light beats, which detracts from the potential shown here.
DJ Abilities – Phonograph Phoenix
Released on Rhymesayers
Old school ripping and scratching with some clean 80s-era synth work to tie it all together.
Light Conductor – Sequence Two
Released on Constellation Records
Ambient drone that feels a little too repetitive to be a repeat experience.
Bat Fangs – Queen Of My World
Released on Don Giovanni Records
The Runaways and Def Leppard? In 2021? Well, here we are I guess.
Limp Bizkit – Still Sucks
Released on Suretone Records
Yes, they do.
Megan Thee Stallion – Something For Thee Hotties From Thee Archives
Released on 300 Entertainment
Her over-the-top sexuality tends to distract from how good a rapper she is, but both are on full-bore display here.
Sematary – Screaming Forest
Released on Haunted Mound Records
Remember witch house, that 2010 microgenre that took the production world by storm? I do and I know damn well both Tyler and Finneas clearly remember that shit. So does Sematary, but in a less fun way. This is basically Salem’s King Night but with worse production and vocal choices.
Mastodon – Hushed And Grim
Released on Relapse Records
It never hits the staggering heights of their first three albums but it presents some strong alt-metal ruminations on death and the nature of grief.
Archspire – Bleed The Future
Released on Season of Mist
Tech death gets a bad rap (from me) because it sacrifices musicality for raw speed. Archspire has the raw speed (the closing track hits 400 BPM) but they also have hooks, a decent sense of dynamics, a sense of humour, and sheer brutality as well.
Jerry Cantrell – Brighten
It was telling in 1998 when Jerry Cantrell released his debut solo work, Boggy Depot. It was immeditaely apparent how tied his songwriting style was to the moaning vocal style of Layne Staley. Little has changed here in 2021. If you aren’t sick to death of this because of the appropriation of the sound by a thousand lesser bands, this is the master of dreary, buzzy grunge metal and he knows exactly what he’s doing.
First Fragment – Gloire Éternelle
Released on Unique Leader Records
Glory-seeking death metal that manages to find what it seeks and even gets downright funky at times.
Ghost Bath – Self Loather
Released on Nuclear Blast Records
A depressing black metal record that owes a good deal of its moves to the much hipper blackgaze movement, even if it does like to wallow in winter-wolf howling and throbbing riffs.
Labor Intvs – Sunken Crucible
Black metal with a lot in common with drone/doom motifs and capable of bursting to hellish life when you least expect.
YLEM – Sunless
Released on Willowtip Records
Chaotic, gnarled death metal from the trackless wastes of Minnesota.
Lucifer – IV
Released on Century Media
Female-fronted trad metal that has the classic crunch of mid-Seventies Sabbath and some of the mean walk of groove metal bands.