Welcome to one last roundup post of music I’ve enjoyed this year before I move on to my year-end lists!

ALBUMS

Deerhoof – Actually, You Can

SPOTIFY // BANDCAMP

I love the guitar tones and riffs on this album, the song structures have a lot more body than their previous album. The energy in Satomi’s vocals and the way the mixing puts so much clarity and vibrancy of the instrumentation front and center have really won me over. It’s a relatively short listen too, capping off around a tight 32 minutes.

IDLES – CRAWLER

SPOTIFY // BANDCAMP

I have kind of grown out of loving this record as much as I did last month, still it’s admirable how willing they are in changing up their sound with each subsequent record. It’s a hit and miss when it comes to their second half with some meandering and flat instrumentals but the first half has some heavy hitters, particularly Beachland Ballroom, which has quickly become one of my favorite songs from the band. I’m interested in how they’ll evolve or refine their sound in future releases.

Silk Sonic – An Evening with Silk Sonic

SPOTIFY

Bruno and Anderson have impeccable vocal chemistry on this project. The recording and mastering of the instrumentals give off this nice retro-modern 70’s smooth soul sound. The songwriting is sometimes funny, sometimes cheesy, but almost always enjoyable. I wish the album was longer and had a bit of a more versatile instrumental palette.

Illuminati hotties – Let Me Do One More

SPOTIFY // BANDCAMP

With a balanced mix of tender slowburners and kickass powerpop performances, this album is one of the bigger sleeper hits for me in the indie rock scene. The guitar lines carry this infectious energy, and Sarah Tudzin’s vocals, whether it be her more snotty or more shy vocals, makes the album have a unique personality that made an impression on me.

Yuta Orisaka – State of Mind

SPOTIFY // BANDCAMP

I honestly didn’t see Orisaka going on a prog-rock-clashing-with-chamber-pop direction after a couple of folkier chamber pop releases –  but he makes it work. The pacing of the album kind of suffers from the genre clash but I love how Orisaka works with some bold rock ideas and pairs them with his creative vocal work and jazz-y instrumentation. I think he has something great on the way if he continues with this sound in future releases.

Sweet Trip – A Tiny House, in Secret Speeches, Polar Equals

SPOTIFY // BANDCAMP

I’m extremely late to the party with this one, but yeah, this album is good. I don’t think it’s as consistent as I hoped it would be but some of the tracks, on their own, sound great. The glitch, indietronica production is often blissful, like I’m witnessing the recreation of nature in a hyper-realistic video game – pixel by pixel. I really wanted to love this album a lot more but there are underwhelming moments in the record that drag on for quite a bit.

Magdalena Bay – Mercurial World

SPOTIFY // BANDCAMP

Although the duo wear their influences on their sleeves pretty heavily, they have something going for them in their sci-fi-drenched atmospheric soundplay, catchy production and dreamy vocals that made me come back to this album every now and then. I can’t say I find their songwriting or album concept all that riveting, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for their future releases.

Catbite – Nice One

SPOTIFY // BANDCAMP

This is a short and refreshing set of well-recorded and well-performed ska-or-ska-adjacent songs. It’s impressive how the band doesn’t run out of instrumental ideas keep each track feeling relatively fresh throughout the record’s runtime. It’s not the most original-sounding album ever, nor do I love each and every single track – but overall, this album is a fun time. I would even say that this album is a nice one.   

Arca – kick ii, iii, iiii, iiiii

Arca’s four-album release at the start of this month was a treat. The visuals and themes of “kicking against oppression” associated with these records came off pretty compelling. I love how different in vibes the records are, and even though I don’t love all the albums equally, I really admire the vision.

The second kick is an extension of the more reggae and dance elements from its predecessor, and I would say the album has hit after hit for the entirety of the first half. I love the production and how dynamic Arca’s vocal performances are on this run of tracks. The second half features more deconstructed and industrial tracks which I think are executed better on her other kick albums.

Now KicK iii is, in my opinion, worlds apart from her other kick albums in terms of consistency and cohesion. I don’t think there’s a single track on this album that I thought was the “odd one out”. Whether it be visceral, violently sexual industrial bangers that start off the album or the slower, more cerebral tracks on the back end – the album blew my mind from first listen and it still does, I haven’t fully recovered from how overwhelmingly amazing this record is. Spoilers but this is easily getting a top 5 spot in my year-end list.

Now kick iiii is the most underwhelming of these four to me, I’m not sure whether it’s because I came off kick iii with unreasonable expectations or because most of the tracks flew by me without making much of an impression, or maybe it’s both. I wish I liked this album a lot more, there are interesting production choices and Arca’s vocal work sounds absolutely beautiful on some tracks, sadly there are only a handful of such tracks.

The last of these kick releases is the most ambient and classically inclined one. I think this is one of the more consistent ones in the kick series, the tracks sound like individual mood pieces that work together in building this mysterious, minimalist yet powerful overall sound. There are sections in the album that come off as stilted but I still admire this record for the compositional ideas, nevertheless.

EPs

Clown Core – 1234

SPOTIFY // BANDCAMP

This feels like an extension to their Van album from last year, and even with the songs feeling more like vignettes than complete tracks – I love the ideas presented throughout this short EP. There is even a beautiful ambient piece that feels like the most completed track on the EP. I came off wanting more from this release, I really hope we get more from this project next year.

PinkPantheress – To Hell With It

SPOTIFY // SOUNDCLOUD

The drum and bass production backing her confessional and shy vocals seems to work really well in most of the tracks on this mixtape. Sometimes the shortness of the track runtimes take away their potential, but the big singles are some of my favorite R&B tracks I’ve heard all year.

Rainbow Chan – Stanley

SPOTIFY // BANDCAMP

I think the first half of the EP is absolutely stellar, the way the art pop production mix with vocal lines that carry a strong sense of searing nostalgia. The songwriting is personal and colorfully romantic, I honestly think that’s the strongest aspect of this collection of tracks, which was the opposite for me for her last album – I liked the production a lot more there. The last few tracks are comparatively a bit more same-y to me but they are far from being bad songs.

That’s a wrap for my GOOD Music 2021 volumes, I have been posting on this series a lot more often than I initially expected and, hopefully, I can continue with this next year too. My post on my favorite EPs of 2021 is on the way!