I don’t know if it is just me, or 2021 is indeed impressive in terms of new music. I covered some album highlights for January-March, making up for a stunning music start of the year, but I didn’t expect that was just a tiny little fraction of what is to come just one month later.
Struggling to keep up with new music during the whole of April, I decided to take a better look at what came out. The list blew me away, and I decided to make another round of highlights. This blog post is dedicated to the fifteen best album and EP releases of April 2021. I also included a short teaser of some promising upcoming records only focused on the six albums I am most excited about.
Maybe I am paying way more attention this year, or maybe 2021 is outdoing the last two years of music. But the facts are there is an overflow of new music constantly coming up. It is hard to stay on top of it.
One gem from March
The music world is generous this year, and the best part is there is, even more, to come (announced and unannounced). Before starting to write the post, I only had six or seven albums in mind, but diving deeper helped me catch up with all the awesome stuff, and the selection got a bit bigger.
I also put one extra album I missed in my last post as an extra before quickly browsing the upcoming releases I am most excited to hear. Everything in the post is a collection of various genres and styles aiming to have a piece for every taste. Hope it works out, let me know which of those is your favourite and what I missed in my list. Always happy to talk music with you!
The list is chronologically arranged.
2nd of April 2021
Demi Lovato – Dancing With The Devil… The Art Of Starting Over
It is not a secret Demi Lovato went through hell after her 2018 drug overdose. With a long absence following 2017’s Tell Me You Love Me, Demi was missed and managed to accumulate concerns about her mental health and eventual recovery.
Lovato’s struggles and tributes are carefully documented in the YouTube Originals Demi Lovato: Dancing With The Devil. As a proven artist unafraid of transparency and vulnerability, she allowed us to deep dive into her recovery and self-exploration with a stunning conceptual full-length album as well.
A bit more about the album, series, and Demi’s experience
The nineteen tracks in the record go through heartfelt and genuine lyrics expressing painful emotions, finding strength, understanding oneself, experiencing rebirth, and sending messages of hope and empowerment.
Dancing With The Devil… The Art Of Starting Over does not follow the typical pop album concept of having a compilation of songs you can listen to on shuffle. There is an impressive amount of depth and cohesiveness in the record. It represents a timeline and an immersive journey you fully appreciate only by plunging into it from start to end as Demi arranged it.
The first three tracks serve as preludes to the story and feature a more serious, acoustic, almost ballad-like nature. They are considerably darker and introduce us to the scary downfall the artist fell into when she slipped into the overdose.
Later on, we gradually go through more dark periods leading to glimmers of light, finding strength and hope, and eventually being reborn and getting one more chance at life. The sound starts getting poppier, however, elements of rock, RnB, folk, and noticeable addition of strings appear in different songs to diversify it – the album never manages to get boring.
It is an interesting ride to experience, undoubtedly the best music Lovato put out yet. A list of impressive guest features makes it even better – Ariana Grande (Met Him Last Night), Sam Fischer (What Other People Say), Noah Cyrus (Easy), Saweetie (My Girlfriends Are My Boyfriends), Sam Smith (I’m Ready), and Marshmello (OK Not To Be OK) appear in the different versions of the album. And there are a lot – bonus tracks, acoustic variations, and even different cover art contribute to Lovato making the best of her smashing return.
8th of April 2021
Sufjan Stevens – Mediations
Sufjan Stevens is one captivating artist to explore. He is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist not afraid of experimentation in any sense. That helped him create nine-full length studio albums (the last one numbering 49-tracks united by a grand concept) and more collaborative projects and soundtrack albums.
They feature different styles and motives, including lo-fi, indie-folk and rock, alternative, avant-garde, baroque and chamber pop, amongst other diversifications.
One of the first releases
I consider Stevens master of immersive instrumental pieces. The latest instalment in his diverse discography proves this by taking you on a ride that makes you leave this world and enter the realms Stevens orchestrated with meticulous precision.
Mediations features ten instrumental tracks building the first part of a five-volume album titled Convocations. The record is a tribute to Stevens’ biological father, who passed away in September 2020.
Each volume of the massive concept album reflects a different stage of the mourning process after a devastating loss. As described by Stevens’ label (Asthmatic Kitty), those 49-tracks “reflect a year of anxiety, uncertainty, isolation, and loss”.
9th of April 2021
Tommy Cash – Moneysutra
Tommy Cash never disappoints. That is if you are looking for something like a hybrid of unreal beats and drops, nonsensical lyrics with little hints of substance, Russian-accent rap verses, and bass-heavy explosions of abstract hip-hop.
Master of videos too!
The latest EP Moneysutra has Tommy collaborate with fellow superstars Diplo, $UICIDEBOY$, BONES, RiFF RAFF and Элджей (Eldzhey). The classic Tommy Cash take on music strikes again with a new set of musical and lyrical inspirations to make it a short but worthwhile experience.
An explosion of beats and instrumentals featuring unnatural samples and inspirations supports all five tracks. The honourable guests preserve their recognized signatures and perversely unite with Tommy Cash, bringing out unexpectedly good results.
The EP does not neglect Tommy’s trademark bizarre lyricism – weird rap verses prevail with subtle hints of grander messages incorporated somewhere in the depths.
We see the professional rap superstar expose and degrade social media fakeness and posh attitude in Zuccenberg. Self-irony mixed with argumented cockiness shines in Racked, while badass, “gangster” remarks (in a way you never saw before) take the spotlight in Siri, Millionaire Mullet, and Nalik.
9th of April 2021
Charlotte Cardin – Phoenix
Charlotte Cardin displayed a stunning fusion of jazz and pop music in her first EP, Big Boy (2016). Main Girl EP followed shortly after in 2017, giving us a bit more of the incredible voice, lyrics, and instrumental execution the young artist is capable of. That, however, marked the start of a long absence of the beloved rising star from the scene.
Read my review of Charlotte’s early work here
The charming artist did not sit idly during those four years. While balancing her personal life and modelling career, her debut full-length Phoenix was in the making. Four years of accumulated emotions, personal and externally witnessed experiences, new music inspirations, and hard work brought one stunning body of work.
Phoenix has the signature of Charlotte Cardin all over. The collection of thirteen songs is not united under a grand concept but features different life stories and the most passionate emotions you can find in modern music.
Heartbreak, deception, desire, lust, dedication, love, romance, confusion – just a bit of the feelings Cardin vividly makes come alive. The mix of different sound inspirations well-incorporated in the typical lo-fi, acoustic, and ambient beats and instrumentals works wonders to illustrate the captivating storytelling of each song.
Cardin makes up for her long absence from the scene and manages to build up even more interest and expectations for her future moves. Phoenix is a true delight to dive into from start to end.
BROCKHAMPTON – Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine
With the impressive number of thirteen active members, Brockhampton has the potential to bring some of the most versatile hip-hop in modern days. They successfully proved their ability to do just that with the five preceding full-lengths showing a mix of different styles, inspirations, lyrical focus and beat-instrumental relationship.
Roadrunner brings a fresh take on the classic Brockhampton music. It features elements from previous releases, however, the new record stands out as a way more organized and neatly arranged piece.
There is minimal scattering and fragmentation with incoherent switches of moods and vibe in one song. The focus in each track is way better. That results in a clearer transmitting of emotions and a rightful spot for each member in different songs.
Melody and rhythm are the foundations of Roadrunner. The tracklist features Brockhampton’s most personal and emotional tracks to date, including stories of Joba’s father’s passing, Kevin Abstract’s sexuality and personal struggles. The emotional impact is stronger than ever.
That merges with diverse rap approaches and major pop influences rightfully following the chart success of Sugar and subsequent remix featuring Dua Lipa. Self-reflection and thought-provoking remarks are a given in most songs, but the collective does not neglect the wilder side of their music. Bass-heavy explosions and badass energy bring balance helping the band stay true to their origin.
16th April 2021
While She Sleeps – Sleeps Society
In the four early full-lengths and several EPs of While She Sleeps, a few things stand out – demolishing metalcore energy and instrumentals, razor-sharp clairvoyance of political and moral standpoints, and an outstanding ability to connect with listeners.
Over the years, the band produced vile tracks overflowing with riffs that make you scream and chant while destroying your furniture. That always goes hand in hand with thought-provoking self-exploration or socio-political theme exploration. Nothing is an exception from the latest album as well.
One of my favourite metalcore albums ever
The band is now a confident contributor to the UK heavy music rise. Sleeps Society is the first album produced under a Patreon model, allowing the band more flexibility and the involvement of fans in many aspects of the songwriting.
The record takes one of the tops spots in my personal favourite albums of 2021 with ease. It has the flourishing energy the band always carried taken even higher with explosive riffs and drum parts following aggressive screams and growls, eventually tuning down to gentle singing and mild back vocals.
They mastered the balance of heavy and mellow and used it to bring forth important topics regarding our self-destructive tendencies, degrading value system, straying away from nature, digital addiction, and mental health complications born from all of that.
The album is rich in relevant topics and goes deep enough to provoke burning questions for our collective and individual lifestyle. However, the Sleeps Society is not a strictly metal album. A variety of genre influences appear, making it digestible for the general public.
The Offspring – Let The Bad Times Roll
The tenth studio album took so long due to different internal and external complication. However, the return of the band is as powerful as you can expect from an immortal punk entity.
Strangely enough, even after a nine-year absence, the band still has the trademark sound you can never mistake. The explosive riffs and untamed energy overflow from each song. That makes the album sound like a very positive collection of songs, but that not exactly the case.
Looking at the lyrics unveils a different world from the expected uplifting energy bomb. In the true punk spirit, The Offspring built the album around relevant issues and delicate subjects that need to be talked about despite the emotional strain they bring.
The best way to describe Let The Bad Times Roll is fast and dark. The tracklist puts lots of attention towards mental health issues and socio-political tragedies falling over modern society.
The album has been in the works for roughly seven years, which helped the band accumulate a lot of material for discussion. The final result is praiseworthy – they managed to put forth the most pressing (universally) personal and global themes that need solving and present them in an explosive punk-rock way that fits them best.
It feels like they never left their prime.
Two Feet – Max Maco Is Dead Right
Two Feet gained immense popularity overnight after releasing his first solo piece Go F*ck Yourself, almost as a joke. Playing in jazz and soul ensembles before trying out as a solo artist, Zachery Williams (real name) successfully incorporates those elements with electronic, lo-fi, and ambient tunes to create his distinctive style.
Two Feet released three surprisingly well-working EPs in 2016-2018. They showcased his unique abilities and charming sounds, creating a brooding distant atmosphere. A mix of late-night (more like early morning) tunes you would vibe to while sobering up or getting down from an epic high marks his signature. That is mixed in with lyrics varying in themes, always remaining very hard-hitting and emotional.
The latest addition to Two Feet’s discography preserves his recognized style, mixing different genres to create lovable sound and atmosphere.
Max Maco Is Dead, Right? has an interesting thematic prelude and epilogue. It represents a full-circle storyline (possibly) exploring the experiences of the main character the narrative revolves around.
Opening tracks are essential for a listening experience
The opening hints about the unfortunate mess that follows in the tracklist. Stories of love, heartbreak, lust, and substance abuse take you on a ride resembling Enter The Void. It is weird, majorly f*cked up, but relatable, emotional, and hard-hitting.
Two Feet uses minimal lyrics and well-created sound that manage to tell detailed stories forming clear shape in your mind. Mental health struggles, hitting rock bottom, and fighting addiction make dark twists during the album.
Max Maco Is Dead, Right? never gets boring or repetitive and has the potential to both help you relax and drift away or entertain you with abstract, twisted storytelling.
Greta Van Fleet – The Battle At Garden’s Gate
Some bands manage to produce old-school rock and roll and make it more appealing than it ever was. One such name is Greta Van Fleet, and their newly released record The Battle At Garden’s Gate is the classic rock album of modern times.
Greta Van Fleet formed in 2012 but entered the scene in 2017 with debut EP Black Smoke Rising. Since then, they continued to prove their potential and reach new levels while abiding by their mission of promoting peace, love, and unity with their music.
After touring their debut record Anthem Of The Peaceful Army for two years, the band collected lots of experiences and managed to grasp the different realities of the wide world. That is the main inspiration behind the second full-length, The Battle At Garden’s Gate.
The whole album has a way more “worldly” feel to it. It includes diverse themes with a darker, moodier feel, corresponding to the many misfortunes the band witness while touring.
Despite the dark exposition of reality, Greta Van Fleet continue focusing on the positives by promoting peace. The opening track Heart Above, serving as a prelude to the complicated, cinematic experience the album represents, is a good example of that.
The Battle At Garden’s Gate is a diverse and powerful record uniting relevant themes with classic rock instrumentals, vocals, and solos.
It is worth noting the band managed to break away from the accusations of imitating Led Zeppelin that appeared in some controversial reviews of their debut. The sound and tone of the new album are strictly theirs. It is sure to push the band further into stardom and the hearts of quality rock music lovers.
Paul McCartney – McCartney III Imagined
McCartney III Imagined is a remix album featuring an impressive list of guest artists such as Beck, Dominic Fike, Anderson Paak, Phoebe Bridges, St. Vincent, Blood Orange, and more. Those appear to cover or re-imagine McCartney‘s original work, giving it a whole new look and appeal.
The standard album came out in December 2020, serving as a continuation of Paul McCartney’s solo records McCartney I and McCartney II. The third instalment shows the artist on all instruments again and creates the specific retro atmosphere merged with modern influences and on-the-spot inspirations.
McCartney III marks the 18th album by the beloved artist. It was recorded during the lockdown and started with McCartney playing around with instruments, creating tracks for his own liking, not targeted to become a release or appeal to any public.
The original album is a masterpiece itself, however, the remix breathes new life into it. The instrumentals are naturally outstanding, considering McCartney’s vast experience in the music world. His lyrics take a new voice or get re-arranged by contemporary performers.
Each featured artists carries their unique touch and remains true to themselves. It is worth diving into it from start to end and witnessing the magical unity of old-school, proven experience with modern experimentation and progressive thinking.
London Grammar – California Soil
California Soil marks an important, career-defining point for the UK-based formation London Grammar. The collective successfully proved their potential and established a well-recognized sound, consisting of a tempting blend of ambient, ethereal, classic, trip-hop, and electronic influences.
Melancholy and soaring vocals wrap around California Soil as expected from followers of the band. Hannah Reid’s haunting vocals take us through a pallet of themes focused around her own experiences with being a female in the music industry, dealing with fame, and losing control of her life.
That is the first album where Reid takes control of the creative process, provoked by the negative attitude and struggles she faced in the industry (something I still find ridiculous – gender inequality continues being a thing in 2021).
The tracks have various inspirations both in terms of lyrics and sound, but the main message is clear – London Grammar are taking bold steps forward in their career and bringing their music to the next level one album at a time.
Missio – Skeletons Part 3
Missio is a duo usually associated with gritty, electronic sound taking listeners to different places varying in lyrical substance, messages, and involved musical inspirations.
The EP series Skeletons provides a different look at Missio’s music. It is way easier to digest and consists of soft, almost acoustic sounds. Synth and orchestral tones take the spotlight and create a reflective, meditative state of mind.
The lyrics stay as accurate as in the full-lengths – short but powerful remarks provoking self-reflection and thought.
The focus of Skeletons Part 3 is the stripped-back delivery of the songs. Missio teamed up with composer Fiona Brice and the Tosca String Quartet to bring out an impressively coherent and tranquil collection of songs.
30th April 2021
Manchester Orchestra – The Million Masks Of God
You would assume that a band with six full-length albums and several EPs would have no problems putting together album number seven. But the reality is a band that values perfection, evolution, and substance also realizes the need to progress and try new ways of creating music.
That is what happened with the sensual collective Manchester Orchestra and their seventh full-length, The Million Masks Of God. The album took two and a half years to produce, not because of incompetence or lack of experience. The whole album feels like one song – there is outstanding coherence and flow.
There is a feature of heavy, emotional topics presented with different supporting sound. Thought-provoking one-liners appear just as elaborate experience with hard-hitting feelings on the front line. Self-reflection and exposition of painful and joyful relationships also take the spotlight at times, preventing the coherence of the album to make it repetitive or boring.
The instrumental support is, as expected from Manchester Orchestra, next-level. Everything is coordinated to perfection, and it feels like different members play as one.
There is noteworthy experimentation with more drums and different sound arrangement that makes the album different from early releases. An immersive experience from the first note, The Million Masks Of God is a best enjoyed played from start to end without breaks
Royal Blood – Typhoons
The UK duo Royal Blood steadily proved their worth and outstanding potential to revolutionize rock since their entrance into the music scene in 2013.
Two albums and two EPs during 2013-2017 encapsulated their unique sense of music arrangement and gripping rock variation. How Did It Get So Dark? marked an extended break for the band, leaving things on a bit of a… dark note. Their latest album, Typhoons, shows why that had to happen and how the band came back recharged and ready to take over the world again.
Typhoons moves away from the dark, gritty sound and shows Royal Blood linger between hard-rock, pop, electronic, and dance influence. A wonderful combination hosting lyrics with a lot of depth and not so happy stories.
Thematically the record deals with the downfall of frontman Mike Kerr into the vices of the rockstar life. Drugs and alcohol abuse took their toll, but the singer quickly realized it and crawled back to sanity. The record documents this journey, including the darkest moments and the brightest revelations of hope and recovery.
Typhoons feels like dancing through chaos and finding some weird sense of control in the process. A lot of shine and glitter appears over the sound of each track, making it very easy to enjoy. The euphoric and fun sounds merge with vulnerability and transparency in the lyrics, creating the possibility to have a different experience each time you replay the record.
Most importantly, it shows Kerr get back to his normal self and help put of one of rock’s most promising acts back in the right track.
Zhu – Dreamland
EDM is a dangerous field to try to break. Zhu is one artist that managed to stay on top of it by producing captivating rhythms, delivering hypnotizing live sets, and adding unique elements pushing the genre forward with each release.
The artist remained anonymous for almost a year since he appeared on the scene. The idea was to focus on his music and art, discarding any prejudice or irrelevant factors for judging the music. It worked and also helped Zhu gain rapid popularity in the scene, making him one of the most desired producers for festivals and dance clubs.
Each album Zhu put out proved he is not one of those artists that find a formula for success and abuse it to the maximum. He includes various collaborators in his music and adds unique flairs of diverse elements to make his music relevant, attractive, and entertaining.
Skrillex, Bone Thugs N Harmony, and A-trak appear in early releases, while Yuna, Kota The Friend, Channel Tres, Arctic Lake, Tinashe, and partywithray add their distinctive touches (and necessary vocals) in latest the release Dreamland 2021.
The album carries the important concept of looking forward to creating a better version of the future while uniting spacy guitar riffs, atmospheric synths, and soulful funk elements to make the sound as diverse as possible.
It is a great album to get lost in and a perfect way for Zhu to top the list of potential EDM festival line-ups again.
Slowthai – Tyron (12th of February 2021)
I somehow missed mentioning this record in my previous album compilation post, but it’s never too late to talk about good music.
Slowthai is a Northampton-based grim rising star containing a rebellious, hyper-active punk spirit and the ability to shoot witty hip-hop verses in mere seconds. He is the best of both worlds that might start the definition of punk-grim as a genre.
His debut, Nothing Great About Britain, displayed the above-mentioned punk energy and rebellious voice under heavy beats and addictive spitting of grime-natured verses. Interesting references appear in Slowthai’s videos (see above) with unexpected depth of lyrics hiding beneath the playful and provocative beats and delivery.
The first record is a good foundation of those qualities. It focuses on the external perception with small hints of the deep self-reflection the artist is capable of.
Tyron is split into two halves of seven tracks each. That seems like a risky move, however, it has major significance. The first half spells out in all caps implying the more aggressive delivery and yelling prevailing in the vocals.
The second part – all lower-case unites softer moments with more poppy samples and gentle instrumental and beat structure.
The album is a well-working combination of social commentaries, witty one-liners with badass energy, and internal struggles. Slowthai finds the time and space to reflect on himself and his surroundings but does not forget to display his “rapper side” with aggressive, confident remarks.
That is the best part of the album, apart from the quality grime overflow, it shows the different elements of one human being. Tyron serves as a reminder that people are complex creatures – there is always another side to see and another perspective of the story.
Coming Up Next
After a year of silence, California-based trio Hey Violet came back with the single Friends Like This (March 12th 2021). On April 16th, another single Problems surfaced with a delicious charge of alt-pop tunes, sweet-talking vocals, and rhythmic drumming.
The new track has the classic exposition of a dangerous love-related predicament that can potentially turn into an anthem of ignorance regarding red-flags.
The band announced that three EPs discussing loss, falling to vices, and growing from mistakes are on the way. There is no specific date yet, but they are heavily teasing their work in the studio with frequent snippets of upcoming tracks appearing in the background.
NoMBe – Chromatopia (May 7th 2021)
NoMBe (Noah McBeth) made a lot of noise with his debut album They Might’ve Even Loved Me. A conceptual piece centred around the women who helped shape the artist into what he is today. That includes tracks dedicated to his mother, godmother, high school crushes, summer flings, and former girlfriends.
They Might’ve Even Loved Me displays an extraordinary sense of music environment creation, mostly consisting of tracks with mellow, gentle feel arousing unexpected emotions and bringing out buried memories.
The artist recently dropped Boys Don’t Cry – a beautiful track about society’s toxic depiction of what men should be like and how they should behave. Playful dream and dance-pop sound surrounds the narrative and hints about the direction Chromatopia might take.
NoMBe released the single on his birthday and announced that the album is coming out on the 7th of May.
Twenty One Pilots – Scaled And Icy (May 21st 2021)
Tyler Joseph mentioned the band accumulated material for two full-lengths – one about the next chapter of their phenomenal world-building and one that is a separate entity.
With the sudden release of Shy Away (of course, only indicated by cryptic messages scattered around the Internet) on April 7th, the band announced the new album Scaled And Icy scheduled for May 21st. The single and supporting materials sparked numerous theories about what happens after trying to leave Trench, but the only thing we know for sure is that “Dema propaganda” is playing a major role.
On the 30th of April, we saw the second single, Choker, showing Tyler and Josh battle in a magical toy shop filled with easter eggs and hints about the album.
Scaled And Icy is a long-anticipated next step for the band. The record will most likely feature heavier pop influence and milder tunes compared to the last two releases.
Both sound and lyrics will be interesting to observe as the introduction of new characters got confirmed (Trash the dragon) and things left off in at a cliffhanger with Trench.
Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever (July 30th 2021)
Billie Eilish gracefully sweeps away the award for the most popular person in the world. Also, for the artist creating the biggest hype in the music world the past few years.
Her debut full-length When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? had her take over the world by breaking records, stealing all major music awards, and selling out arena tours in mere seconds.
Seeing the next step of her development is a dream for many.
Billie rightfully became a phenomenon with the new take on pop music. She fussed haunting dark elements, touching lyrics, interesting samples and mastering with emotional vocal delivery to create a beautiful end result.
With the godsend touches of her brother Finneas (involved in the wonder of his sister’s music from day one), Happier Than Ever will surely live up to the abnormally high expectations for a sophomore album.
Billie classified the record as “the favourite thing she’s created” and shared an intriguing tracklist. Hopefully, we will see a few more singles before the faithful release date.
Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (September 3rd 2021)
Little Simz is one artist that majorly contributes to the development of the UK (and global) music scene but somehow remains underrated.
With four mixtapes, five EPs, and three full-lengths, she has a great repertoire of versatile hip-hop tunes ranging in themes, instrumentals, beats, and delivery. Latest album Grey Area established her trademark style with confidence, radiating strong political and moral views reinforced by her bone-chilling verses and beat drops.
The album also helped her snatch several awards and build up hype for her next moves.
On April 21st Simz released the explosive new single Introvert. The piece begins with an almighty orchestral introduction building up to the well-recognized drops Simz easily destroys with verses about fear, frustration, and freedom.
The music video (directed by Salomon Ligthelm) completes the powerful track and indicates the next album will blow any expectations away.
K. Flay – Inside Voices (June 11th 2021)
The genre-bending rising star K. Flay consistently proved her worth and outstanding charisma since her debut in 2014. Five EPs and three full-lengths later, she can proudly say her footing in the music scene is solid, and the biggest rise of her career is on the way.
K Flay possesses a unique charm and way of delivering not-so-easy-to-talk-about themes. Transparency and vulnerability always support the mellow or energetic alt-pop tunes she wields. Her early work indicates her mission of staying true to talking about whatever she sees relevant for the time.
She revealed to Alternative Press that the concept of the next EP, Inside Voices, revolves around her most vulnerable moments. The record drains inspirations from the need to release frustrations built up during the pandemic and all the crazy stuff happening in the world. There will be dark guitar riffs, progressive edge, and dynamic fusion of genres with the help of interesting collaborators.
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