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Feature: The 40 Best Albums of 2021

The time has come for me to spend a frankly absurd amount of time agonising about not only which albums are worthy of TWP’s acclaim, but exactly where in the table of acclaim said albums should lie. It’s been a hand-wringingly tense experience, but we are finally here. Thank fuck for that.

Of course, the enormous elephant in the room is Traumprinz, or DJ Irini to be more specific. A couple of months back the anonymous producer posted a 3 hour set comprising brand new material on the Planet Uterus Soundcloud. Not quite a mix, definitely not a full album, it doesn’t really qualify for this list. And literally as I was writing this up today they posted another four separate sets of music that so far is amongst the most extraordinary stuff I’ve heard in this or any other year. Sufficed to say, if there had been anything approaching a proper ‘album’ from all these various drops, it would have almost certainly topped this list.

Regardless, once again it’s been yet another incredible year for music, and more specifically the album: a year of highs and lows; of huge artists underdelivering; of previously unknown artists completely blowing me away. Music continues to give me more joy than pretty much anything in my life, and I am continually grateful for its constant presence.

Here, then, are TPW’s picks for the very best albums of 2021.

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Music

Me Lost Me – Gaudete

Do you like traditional 16th century carols? Are you an Alan Partridge aficionado? If so, listen to this – it’ll blow your socks off. Me Lost Me has made a real treat for your ears with her take on Gaudete which is available to download for the duration of December and will then sink back into the dark depths from whence it came forever.

The song is pay what you feel – all proceeds will go to Rainbow Home North East, a small locally based charity whose fundamental aim is to reduce the significant difficulties and hardship experienced by LGBT+ asylum seekers in the North East of England.

Lean into its reverb-heavy horror-folk vibes and rejoice.

https://melostme.bandcamp.com/track/gaudete-trad-16th-century

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Interviews Music

One Track Mind: Cousin Kula

The recent Rhythm Section signees talk about a record that relentlessly soundtracked a memorable tour.

The premise of One Track Mind is pretty simple: I ask artists to pick one track that means a lot to them – either something they’ve discovered recently, something that’s been with them for years, or one that reminds them of a specific time in their life or career – and tell me what makes it so special to them. I get to talk to the artists I love, and they get to talk about the artists they love. Love all round!

Today we welcome Bristol-based jazz/psych outfit Cousin Kula to TPW. With co-signs from the likes of BADBADNOTGOOD, their debut album Double Dinners landed last week and follows previous EPs OODLES and STROODLES along with their 2020 Casa Kula Cassette, which caught the attention of Bradley Zero who subsequently signed them to his Rhythm Section label.

For their One Track Mind selection, Cousin Kula talks about their touring obsession with a record by a fellow Rhythm Section artist.

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Music

Yvy Maraey & Mike Nasa – A Família (ft. Noah Slee)

This is the debut single from Brazilian artist Yvy Maraey, working in collaboration with Berlin-based US rapper Mike Nasa. Incorporating elements of Bossa nova, hip hop, rnb and soul, A Família sits somewhere between Solange and Buscabulla, with a slow, chugging beat providing an earthy base for her sublime vocal. One to watch, for sure.

https://soundcloud.com/yvy-maraey

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Music

Self Esteem – Still Reigning

This week I have been obsessively listening to every album I enjoyed in 2021 with no small amount of misguided self-importance in preparation for TPW’s hallowed end-of-year list, so I haven’t really been on the case in terms of new music. I did however find time to go and see Self Esteem, and I haven’t been able to get this song out of my head since. She was fucking great, and there are lots of dates on the tour still to come. So go!

https://www.selfesteem.love

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Music

Jake Muir – Tonic

Ilian Tape really are in a league of their own. Regardless of which particular branch of electronic music they’re currently championing – usually several simultaneously – it’s pretty much guaranteed to be brilliant, and Jake Muir’s new album Mana is no exception. Tonic – the lead track – is ambient techno at its finest, beatless save a subterranean kick that echoes, ominously, in the background, grounding what is otherwise a freewheeling soundscape of restlessly twitching synths and shimmering celestial pads.

EDIT: Jake just pointed out to me that the entire album is actually composed of samples, without a synth in sight. Shows how attuned my ear is to electronic music after nearly four decades obsessive listening.

https://iliantape.bandcamp.com/album/itlp10-mana

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Music

Donato Dozzy – wooden dolls don’t cry

Dozzy! Dozza! The Big Doz! Everyone’s favourite Italian polyrhythmic techno don returns to Tresor Records with a four track EP 124 which includes this headscramblingly relentless chugger. “Down the rabbit hole we go!!” I’d probably say if I were an ageing music PR with a fairly limited vocabulary and not enough time to come up with something more original. Oh wait…

https://dozz.bandcamp.com

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Interviews Music

One Track Mind: Corrina Repp

The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter delves back into a song that soundtracked a memorable roadtrip

The premise of One Track Mind is pretty simple: I ask artists to pick one track that means a lot to them – either something they’ve discovered recently, something that’s been with them for years, or one that reminds them of a specific time in their life or career – and tell me what makes it so special to them. I get to talk to the artists I love, and they get to talk about the artists they love. Love all round!

Currently based in Los Angeles, Corrina Repp originally emerged in the Portland scene and has, across six albums and two decades, carefully and patiently developed her sound. Fragile, delicately crafted, and often stripped down to the very barest of bones, Corrina’s music explores universal themes through intimate and often personal narratives that gives it real emotional heft. I first became aware of Corrina via her 2006 album The Absent and The Distant and still go back to it on an almost weekly basis, especially the track Afloat, which is, without doubt, one of the saddest and most beautiful songs ever written. Her brilliant new album, Island, is out now, and if you’re a newcomer to her work it’s a great place to start.

For her One Track Mind selection, Corrina talks about the transportive experience of hearing a song from a titan of US jazz and pop music for the very first time.

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Music

Volta Sunset – Trip

There’s a lot of brilliant music out today, most of which will at least get a little coverage on various blogs, big or small. But I’d like to draw your attention to Volta Sunset’s new single Trip, a stripped-down, shuffling, soulful cut that you won’t find anywhere outside of Soundcloud, and is a really incredible piece of work. Dreamy, atmospheric, understated and hypnotic, it’s reminiscent of Frank Ocean’s quieter moments and deserves to be heard by as many people as possible.

https://twitter.com/voltasunset

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Music

Damiana – Sunken Lupine

After an exhaustive (10 minute) search online there’s nothing I can tell you about Damiana I’m afraid, other than their latest release Vines was released on a clear vinyl limited to 100 copies which has now sold out. Too late suckers! This came out back in May but – 100 clear vinyl fanatics aside – seems to have flown largely under the radar, which is a shame as it’s really beautiful. Think Enya minus the hooks, with a little shake of Engima(!), combined with a dollop of mid 90s ambient trance – Chicane, or someone similar. Sounds fucking hideous right!? Well it’s not, I promise.

https://hausumountain.bandcamp.com/track/sunken-lupine