The musical start of each year excites me way more than it should. The past few years had some promising beginnings. 2021 does not fall behind with a stunning number of well-executed records in various scenes.
It is only the middle of March, but the great new albums that surfaced are overwhelming. There are even more records announced to arrive soon to make it even better. This blog post is dedicated to ten of my favourite records so far – just a tiny fragment of the great new music of 2021.
With so many planned and surprise album releases, I realized 2021 will be yet another year where making a list of must-hear albums to conclude the year in December will be too hard to do.
For this reason, I collected some of my personal favourites (so far) in this dedicated blog post. Of course, this is a personal list, and also there are a lot of records I did not mention but find worthwhile. It is impossible to fit them all, so I tried to narrow it down as much as possible instead.
What Else Is Coming?
The start of 2021 for music could hardly be better. But there are a ton of other releases yet to come, giving fans of different scenes even more to look forward to.
The world of hip-hop is burning with speculations that, if proven true, will make it one hell of a year for the scene. Kendrick Lamar is rumoured to have something in the works, while Travis Scott unofficially confirmed his next record – Utopia will be “coming soon”.
Anderson .Paak is collaborating with Bruno Mars on a new project called Silk Sonic – the album should be nearly finished and surface soon enough. NF also announced a new mixtape with one single officially released. Clouds (the mixtape) is coming out on the 26th of March and promises the return of the dark hip-hop mastermind. Certified Lover Boy – Drake’s sixth studio album got pushed back from the intended January 2021 release, but we should see it by the end of the year.
The first Silk Sonic single tell us all we need to know – this project will slap hard
2021 is going to be a good year for heavy music as well. Rammstein confirmed they finished a new record and will be releasing it this year. While She Sleeps – one of the UK’s best metalcore acts at the moment are also putting forth their new record Sleeps Society on the 16th of April.
Latest single from Sleeps Society
This is just a tiny part of the upcoming releases to look forward to (my personal highlights) – the list is too long. You can check it out here and see if you missed an announcement from one of your favourite artists/bands.
Ten Of The Best Albums For 2021 So Far
Flowers For Vases/descansos – Hayley Williams
Flowers For Vases/descansos appeared unexpectedly and hit us like a ton of bricks in the face. After the smashing solo debut Hayley Williams blessed us with in 2020, a new solo record seemed too good of a possibility to be true.
Once again, the Paramore frontwoman exceeded abnormally high expectations and utilized a clever marketing strategy to make the surprise album as effective as possible. The first single My Limb was delivered to a fan’s postbox and leaked shortly after according to instructions by Hayley herself.
The album is a true masterpiece. It discloses a deeper look into a fundamental part of Petals For Armor’s spectacular journey. The vulnerability and power that Hayley possesses radiate from the record and take listeners thought a story of genuine heartache, pain, concern, liberation, and gratitude.
Flowers For Vases/descansos unveils different chapters of overcoming a turbulent end of a relationship. It guarantees emotional destruction but also offers comfort, support, and empowerment. It is one of the most genuine and raw musical pieces I have heard in years – a hard to top contestant for 2021’s best album.
Read my full review on the record.
Death By Rock And Roll – The Pretty Reckless
Death By Rock And Roll is an exposé about life, death, and rebirth. It is also a manifestation of a way of life and a touching tribute to Taylor Momsen’s best friend and The Pretty Reckless long-time producer Kato Khandwala.
The album is the first new music we see from the hard-rock formation since 2016’s Who You Selling For. The earth-shattering return of the band could not have been done better.
The trademark The Pretty Reckless hard-rock sound is all there – thundering instrumental build-ups of suspense and tension, electrifying drum and guitar solos, and Momsen’s unique raspy vocals switching with the most angelic mellow voice at the right time. The album also features a range of iconic collaborators including Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), Matt Cameron (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden), and Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave) with distinctive solo elements making up for a modern representation of rock and roll’s essence.
Death By Rock And Roll is the most important album for the band, and a great reminder of how much we need the empowerment of rock music today.
Read my full review on the record.
Terra Firma – Tash Sultana
It is hard to believe Terra Firma is only Tash Sultana’s second full-length. The artist has displayed one-of-a-kind energy and fine-tuned musical arrangement with her early EP Notion (2017) and debut full-length Flow State (2018), but it feels like Terra Firma is where she found a new type of confidence and vibe. The album has the recognizable Tash Sultana signature, however, there is a new, refreshing touch to the familiar charm.
But before you begin, I have one request, for the very first time you hear this record I would like you to take yourself to a quiet space, turn off the lights, light a candle and light some incense – this was the intended listening experience of Terra Firma. Sit back and enjoy the ride.Tash Sultana
Terra Firma is a well-executed piece with a consistent sound shifting between thought-provoking tracks, confession-like exposition of learned lessons, and relaxing, mind-freeing tunes. This combination supported by the mystic, outwardly instrumentals only Sultana can compose makes the album perfect for almost any occasion. You can feel the positivity and joy despite any external factors, which I find astounding.
Sand – Balthazar
Balthazar is one of those bands that you know will never disappoint you with a new release. The familiar sound and vibe you fell in love with merge with discreet new influences and inspirations making the new record just the right amount of different.
Sand continues the steady evolution of the band seen in previous releases in the most captivating and hard-hitting way. The album is a collection of songs encapsulating the appeal and irresistible charm of indie rock.
Heartfelt, raw emotions blend with musically refined tones. Unexpected twists and subtle perfecting touches leave you satisfied and impressed with the listening experience. Balthazar has always been one outstandingly attractive band, but I can confidently say Sand is a major step forward and the best record they blessed us with so far.
For Those That Wish To Exist – Architects
Architects are one of the UK’s most recognized and respected metalcore formations. The band is associated with brutally sharp sound and explosive vocals expressing pain, utter devastation, and demolition.
All of this makes For Those That Wish To Exist a huge risk for the band. The album unveils a considerably toned-down overall sound environment and a bigger focus towards the global (instead of the personal). However, the trademark heaviness does appear, and the core of Architects is still very much present.
The story of Architects is what urged them to explore pain, death, and devastation in such detail during previous albums. The tragic passing of Tom Searle pushed the band into a needed time-off period where many things changed. The focus of the band included.
Kerrang’s cover story interview preceding the release of the album tells us all we need to know – the band members started their own families and this helped them look at the global perspective a bit more carefully. Image belongs to Kerrang! by Ed Mason.
The pain and sadness from Tom’s cancer diagnosis and eventual passing will surly never disappear, but the world is facing life-threatening problems – For Those That Wish To Exist is focused around them.
There is a lot of emotion in the album. The personal struggles of the mind and sudden realization appear often enough, but the grotesque future of our world is the main element of the album. Architects managed to point the attention towards the most pressing issues of our society by putting forth the fear, devastation, and urgent need for action as frontal feelings in the record.
I see the sound of For Those That Wish To Exist as a drastic evolution and a praiseworthy effort. The five-piece plunged into completely new grounds for this album and utilized unexpected inspirations for a metalcore titan. But it all worked out incredibly well.
They did respect their origin and made the transition impressively smooth – soundwise and lyricswise, For Those That Wish To Exist is a real delight for both old-school fans of the band and new members of the family.
Suckapunch – You Me At Six
The record has modern rock energy mixed in with influences of various sorts. You Me At Six bring an explosion worthy as one of 2021’s best rock albums. The “no-fear, going all-out” type of vibe is present throughout the eleven tracks. You get a powerful energy boost, empowering lyrics, thought-provoking lines, badass vibes, and stunning rock music for 43 minutes straight.
The band managed to combine many new elements to their trademark sound and create yet another distinctive record standing out from the oversaturated music-scene.
Suckapunch is the perfect album for lifting your mood, getting that kickstart energy you need when you feel down, and finding the motivation to take on the world.
Internet Killed The Rockstar – Mod Sun
His solo career took him towards “hippie hop”. With three EP and full-length projects between 2011-2019, the artist explored various genres, twisting and bending everything he got inspired by to create his own distinctive sound and image.
After a solid streak of massive hip-hop bangers, Mod Sun took a rapid turn once again for his latest album. Internet Killed The Rockstar has the hip-hop energy and recognized style but the influence here is majorly gritty, wild punk.
The artist turned to the depths of his mind and past to expose some hard-hitting experiences, thoughts, and emotions. The eleven tracks construct a fascinating journey supported by a merge of punk, rock, hip-hop, and alternative notes, including a smashing collaboration with punk-rock queen (and current partner of the artist) Avril Lavigne.
Conflict Of Interest – Ghetts
I only recently encountered Ghetts but witnessing the superior display of grime presented with hard-to-top lyricism and vile beat arrangement turned me into an instant fan of the artist.
Ghetts has been in the scene for almost two decades which explains the banging success of his latest record Conflict Of Interest. Looking through his journey leading to the latest record reveals that the artist is a crucial element for the development of hip-hop in the UK. His evolution took him to the top of many charts, prime-time radio spots, and collaborations with eminent artists for the UK (and not only) music scene.
Conflict Of Interest captures the development the artist went through since the start of his journey. It is undisputedly (as stated by several high-profile critics, including NME and The Guardian) his best work yet, refined to every detail.
The tracklist includes an impressive collection of collaborators including grime super-stars Skepta, Dave, Stormzy, Giggs, Wretch 32, as well as others such as Emeli Sande, Moonchild Sanelly, Miraa May, and Ed Sheeran. The album is one of the finest demonstrations of highest-quality grime shining with perfected execution of lyrical content, theme exploration, wordplay, dramatic beat build-up and aggressive explosions. It also merges external influences to subtly take grime to the next level.
The Last Exist – Still Corners
Dream pop duo Still Corners completed their thematic album trilogy with their latest record. The Last Exit is best described as “desert noir” – it paints a mesmerizing picture of open-road Americana with the unique dreamy soundtrack associated with Still Corners.
The deep atmospheric sound and vibrant soul-melting tunes once again contribute to a very specific listening experience. Synchronized instrumentals and beats flow into Tessa Murray’s angelic vocals to lead us into the journey The Last Exit represents.
The album is mystic, charming, and free-spirited – it unveils the final chapter of the band’s Road Trilogy (The Trip / Strange Pleasures and The Message / Slow Air as respective part one and two). As usual with this outwardly band, the tracks will take you to different places, slightly resembling our own world, but the emotions will change depending on your mood.
The new inspiration the band explored is imprinted on the record, the atmosphere matches the “desert noir” concept and completes the journey that started with The Trip in the best possible way. The new elements added to the classic Still Corners sound make the record exciting and unpredictable.
Songs For The Drunk And The Broken Hearted – Passenger
Passenger is one of those artists making the absolute best of the lockdown. The Brighton-based alt/neo-folk artist released Patchwork – a neatly arranged, minimalistic album recorded during the lockdown, with the assistance of producer Chris Vallejo and guest musicians Andrew Phillips and Richard Brinklow. It was a simple, but powerful exposition, as expected by Passenger. The album was also released as a funding project for The Trussell Trust NGO.
2020 was supposed to be the year album number eleven saw the world as well. However, some delays caused it to appear in early 2021, giving more time for Patchwork to settle in and the anticipation for the new record to build-up.
Songs For The Drunk And Broken Hearted consists of twenty hard-hitting songs united under the concept of exploring a “newly single, broken-up, drunk, dealing with life” individual. The majority of the songs have almost entirely acoustic nature and the well-recognized Passenger signature all over them.
The folk influence is still there, slight rock inspiration appears at times, melancholy and nostalgia are overflowing and the emotions are easy to read.
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