WARNING: All albums and their accompanying videos are completely uncensored. A number of them contain bad language that is unsuitable for children, NSFW topics and images, and/or political commentary that may offend or disturb some.
Houeida Hedfi – Fleuves de l’Âme (Traditional Tunisian Folk/Neo-Classical, Phantasy Sound)
The Skinny: Multi-instrumentalist Houeida Hedfi’s oustanding debut album melds traditional Tunisian folk music, contemporary sound design, and “a startlingly broad array of global genres.” Fleuves de l’Âme comes from a nine-year collaboration with co-producer Olof Dreijer (of The Knife), who first worked with Hedfi on her contribution to a 2011 compilation of female Tunisian artists. In particular, I love the enigmatic atsmosphere created by the many unsettling yet engrossing piano melodies that underpin tracks, which Hedfi then adorns with an array of gorgeous stringed instruments and rolling percussion. Fleuves de l’Âme‘s compositions imbue it with both suspense as well as awe, and it is not to be missed.
Standout tracks: Souffles du Nil, Appel Du Danube (feat. Planningtorock)
For fans of: Arooj Aftab, Toumani Diabaté
Ausecuma Beats – Musso (Afrobeat/Jazz/Funk, Music In Exile)
The Skinny: This remarkable nine-piece ensemble features musicians from locations as diverse as Senegal, Cuba, Mali, Guinea, Gambia & Australia, making Ausecuma Beats surely one of the most diverse groups featured on this blog in terms of countries represented. From its opening bars, Musso is a joyful ride of rich, jazzy melodies and compulsive grooves, a complete fulfilment of band leader and master djembe player Boubacar Gaye’s desire to create “something incredibly danceable.” If you don’t find yourself at least tapping your fingers or nodding your head along to the likes of Sallier or One More Time then you’re in trouble.
Standout tracks: Sallier, Bala (feat. Horatio Luna)
For fans of: Fela Kuti, Remain In Light-era Talking Heads, Mdou Moctar
Parcels – Day/Night (Pop/Indie Rock, Because Music)
The Skinny: Parcels’ second album seems to have been directed chiefly by the mantra that bigger is better. It’s a double album that runs over a hour and twenty minutes and embellishes the Australian group’s soft rock and pop stylings with sweeping production and cinematic interludes. For most bands this approach would result in an overblown mess, but here it turns out to be perfectly suited to the material recorded. The likes of Comingback, Free, and Famous are huge, 1970s-inspired pop smashes that wouldn’t pack nearly as much impact without the kitchen sink being thrown in both musically and in terms of production. More meditative pieces like Outside and Thefear also benefit from their emotive string arrangements. Parcels took a risk on Day/Night, and I hope that the final product has been as rewarding for them as it has been for listeners.
Standout tracks: Comingback, Somethinggreater
For fans of: Random Access Memories-era Daft Punk, Metronomy, Stevie Wonder
TWICE – Formula of Love: O+T=<3 (Pop/Disco, JYP Entertainment Company)
The Skinny: K-Pop icons TWICE channel the modern disco-influenced pop sound that has served the likes of Dua Lipa so well on the questionably titled Formula of Love: O+T=<3. There are twelve to thirteen tracks of perfectly-crafted pop here, more than enough to make this worth your while even if things go a little wobbly in the mid-album stretch between LAST WALTZ and CACTUS. Moreover, on highlights like MOONLIGHT, PUSH & PULL, and The Feels, TWICE distill that sense of sheer elation that great pop can generate, an infectious force powerful enough to put a smile on your face even in the dark of midwinter.
Standout tracks: MOONLIGHT, The Feels
For fans of: Dua Lipa, ITZY, Red Velvet
Aesop Rock & Blockhead – Garbology (Rap, Rhymesayers Entertainment LLC)
More 2021 Albums
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