Goodbye 2021 - A lookback at some of our favourite albums
A lot of incredible albums were released this year - we handpicked some of our favorites!
Crooked Machine - Róisín Murphy
There is no one who can transport you to another dimension, quite like Róisín Murphy and her long-time collaborator Crooked Man (Richard Barratt).
Crooked Machine is a reinterpretation of Murphy’s 2020 album Róisín Machine (produced by Richard Barratt), and where Róisín Machine was a glittering intergalactic journey into outer space; Crooked machine is a dark interstellar exploration. We had been tempted with an album of this nature after the release of Róisín Machine, as alternate versions of the tracks were released (e.g dark and light mixes by Crooked Man, check out the dark mix of Something More)
Crooked Machine opens with an eerie battle cry, with rising sci-fi synths - alerting you that you are on alien territory, before diving into a divine bass with pad accompaniment, inviting you to unleash and let yourself go. From here, there are primal bass lines, hypnotic and ethereal reimaginings of the vocals, gorgeous synthesis, all wrapped up with touches of the warmth of early 2000s house.
Assimilation is possibly one of my favorite tracks on the album, opening with uneasy vocals accompanied by a Tron string section (if you close your eyes, you will feel like you have been stranded on a different planet in another galaxy); the track then descends into dark electronics, made for exploring at night time and reconnecting with a fundamental part of yourself. The reimagining of Something More is amazing also, (titled Less is More) and is gritty, relentless, pulsing beat, sawtooth bass.
Lose yourself in the magical darkness of Crooked Machine; an album to be explored in the night, where you enter a dark portal in your mind and dive right in.
to hell with it - PinkPantheress
This album sounds like something I would have played on a transparent Nokia phone in the early 2000s, possessing the raw addictive quality of songs from that era; garage drums, dreamy vocals, catastrophically good hooks with genre blended beats, making you unable to listen to anything else for days on end. to hell with it has the feel of a mixtape, as a result of its DIY feel, all the more adding to its irresistibility.
It opens on Pain, which has an air of familiarity to it (as it samples one of the most popular garage songs of that decade, Flowers by Sweet Female Attitude) The vocals are sublime, easily flowing over the garage beat, at times sounding like they have been chopped and sampled in the best way possible.
The influences do not just stop at Garage and DnB, the song Last Valentines samples Forgotten by Linkin Park. In I must apologize she samples sound synonymous with the early 2000s; the main piano melody line running throughout Crystal Waters Gypsy Woman, and drums from Hot Pants. Just for me is a masterpiece of sampling and arrangement, and is possibly one of the most addictive songs you will ever hear.
An Overview on Phenomenal Nature - Cassandra Jenkins
There are moments of immense clarity in life; this clarity being of the kind that is accompanied by a deep sense of peace; as the wonder and magic of nature and our very existence fills your senses. This type of realization can be induced by listening to listening to music that manages to tap into some fundamental truth; one that fills life up with kaleidoscopic wonder.
An Overview on Phenomenal Nature is one of these works that possesses the wisdom you may seek in books, podcasts and other places you may turn to in order to find a deeper understanding of life. The song Hard Drive begins with a spoken reflection, one that reminds us of the wealth of knowledge that lies in the lifetimes of those around us, and how sharing this enriches us. There is something about the wisdom of this album, in both the lyrics and the clouds of glittering magic, that makes it unlike anything I have ever heard before, and will nourish every part of you.
LESSONS VOL 4 - chordandjocks
There was a time, in the mid-2000s, when Soundcloud was where it was at with regards to finding some of the very best hip-hop mixtapes and beats, and when you found a good one, it ignited a raw, unbridled joy that made you want to experience every day to the fullest. These discoveries also fuelled many to pursue production themselves, to play around with samples and instruments, so that they too could create their own magic. LESSONS VOL 4 has this magical quality; the expert chopping, sampling, arranging and mixing from the Arkansas-based producer; production that radiates the warmth and skill of a masterful artist.
But first features flawless Hip-Hop production, the chopping of the vocal samples, the drum programming, the rich texture of the melody. We then go into somethin’ boucha’( don’t bother), which features some impeccable vocal chopping. LESSONS VOL 4 is the work of a highly skilled artist and producer; if you feel the will to keep going slowly sapping from you, put this on, and bring the sunshine back. If you are curious about how chordandjocks gets his sound, check out our interview with him earlier on in the year.
Leisure - Duett
Leisure is a virtual reality experience for your ears - immersing you into the pastel world of commerce from another time.
I came across Duett while researching an article on Mallsoft, and was immediately drawn to this album by the divine artwork ( by Rose Cartwright). It sounds as gorgeous as it looks, opening with Gallery, a calming experience that sounds like it is being played to you from a palm-covered mall, welcoming you to the land of grandeur and commerce.
Next on the guided tour is Department, with some incredible synthesis and drum programming featuring some ambient sounds; this is a nice chilled walk through the world of shopping. Lifetime is not as chill, it demands you wake up, and power walk; to get what you need to get done, done (some seriously beautiful pads are on this track). We end this journey at Fountain, where we ponder what to do now, and what comes next. Put headphones on, travel back in time, and escape another landscape.
C - GIRL - City Girl
There are some albums that immediately bring out the happiness and joy of youth; the newest album from producer City Girl being a solid example of this. C- Girl features some of the best chilled Hip-Hop//Pop/Rnb productions I have heard in a long time. This masterful production paired with gorgeous vocals and harmonies puts this album on a level of its own.
Opening with Pack It Up Boy, a gorgeous (and highly addictive) burst of chill-hop/pop/ lo-fi happiness, featuring sublime vocals from tiffi. We then go straight into L2M, which grabs you from the second it starts with its mix of insanely good drum programming (the 808s and the kick fusing together perfectly) all mixed with the lush vocals of Kelsey Kuan.
An incredible album from start to finish, from a truly exceptional producer. No matter how down you feel, listen to this and re-ignite your joy for life. Read more about City Girl’s process for creating an album here.
Soberish - Liz Phair
I was looking through the music for the show Yellowjackets, when I noticed one of Liz Phair’s songs was on the official soundtrack. I then discovered to my delight, that she had a new album out. It is a skill in itself to make a song you have never heard before induce the warm feeling of familiarity, while still experiencing the excitement of hearing something new. This album is wonderful, ( reminding me of my favorite songs from the 90s, early 2000s) with fantastic songwriting, divine harmonies and beautiful choruses ( for example, the second song The Game feels like I have known it all my life, and have grown up listening to it).
What are some of your favorite albums from this year? Let us know in the comments!
In this blog section we host new music releases, artist features and handpicked playlists by the Musicngear staff.
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