DECEMBER // TWENTY TWENTY ONE
I didn't really listen to that much new music in December because I was catching up on all the stuff I had missed over the year but there were a few essentials I caught along the way.
Chief Keef - 4NEM
Out of nowhere, two years after his last release, Chief Keef is here in late 2021 dropping one of his career best projects. From the monster intro, the incredible energy is kept going for the entire project with banger after banger that try out new experimental flows and production choices while also not straying too far from Keef's tried and true Chicago drill style that he broke out with as a teenager. Definitely not worth overlooking!
Rival Consoles - Overflow
Opening this album with the off-kilter cinematic build-up of the 10 minute long track Monster is surely one of the most exciting ways you could start off an LP this year. So it's maybe a shame that the sequencing of this album following doesn't really land. It's a bit more weird and varied, though some songs feels more like interludes that don't quite fit in with the massive spacey electronic production that Rival Consoles thrives at creating. This is a very enthralling listen but for me, maybe not one with too much replay value. The longer tracks like Monster and Flow State are definitely the highlights. If you enjoy film soundtracks and semi-ambient pieces then this is well worth a shot though.
No Rome - It's All Smiles
Genre: Altternative R&B, Pop
No Rome's debut album comes off the back of some cleanly produced EP's and singles as well as the support of The 1975's label. If you're a fan of The 1975, you're likely to be a fan of No Rome too. Similar soft pop-rock production with some interesting mixes of influences, from trip-hop to shoegaze to UK garage. This is actually quite an appealing alt-pop record, accessible yet still with lots of interesting things going on on a track by track basis. I think this is a really good debut, lots to love here. I particularly like the shoegaze vibe of Secret Beach, the electronic production on Remember November and you couldn't ask for a better closer than Everything which is romantic, hazy, psychedelic and explodes into noisy clarity at the end.
Lil Peep & Harry Fraud - HIGH FASHION
Genre: Cloud rap
Lil Peep tragically passed away over 4 years ago now, and yet here we are with new music. I've held some scepticism over how some of his post-humous releases have been handled, namely Come Over When You're Sober, Pt. 2 which felt weirdly overproduced and had a suspect xxxtentaction collab stapled on the end. This is three songs from Lil Peep and fantastic producer Harry Fraud that were recorded before he passed. No idea why it's surfacing right now but it sounds quite nice. The jazzy Living Rooms sounds particularly good, but generally Peep occupies this Harry Fraud cloud rap styled production very well. Again it's a reminder that Lil Peep really was a generational talent and is well missed to this day.
underscores - boneyard aka fishmonger
Genre: Indie-pop, Electronic
Following a breakout album earlier this year, underscores come back with a meaty EP. It's fun and deliberately rough around the edges indie-pop music, taking some inspiration from the 'hyperpop' subgenre, in it's mish-mash of styles and confident approach to switch things up in an instant. This EP is almost 20 minutes and has a great flow. It's a realy good follow-up to their fishmonger album from earlier this year. The production is really interesting and fresh sounding, kind of all over the place in the best way. I like that dubstep can appear in a song and it not be cringe. How time flies!
JANUARY // TWENTY TWENTY TWO
The Weeknd - Dawn FM
Seven days into the new year there's already what's pretty much guaranteed to be one of my favourite releases of the year. With his last album After Hours, The Weeknd finally felt convincing as a popstar and Dawn FM continues this, apparently the second in a trilogy of releases that started with After Hours. While it's not too different in sound from After Hours it feels like an even better album experience due to the 'Dawn FM' radio framing device where Jim Carrey of all people pops in as a host. The production is top-tier for a pop album and The Weeknd's still got some surprises up his sleeve, like the lower pitched singing on the fantastic Gasoline and the eerie Every Angel is Terrifying which turns into a radio advert for the afterlife.
FKA Twigs - CAPRISONGS
Genre: Alternative R&B
A more low-stakes "mixtape" from the amazing art-pop / alternative R&B artist FKA Twigs. This is more a fun collection of different ideas that probably wouldn't make an album, featuring Charli XCX style futuristic pop tracks as well as little detours into other sorts of production, like UK drill and featuring a lot of collaborations with other artists in her relative lane such as Daniel Caesar and Jorja Smith. A collaboration with The Weeknd is probably her biggest attempt at a pop crossover attempt yet, though despite the rest of the album being reasonably accessible it's still weird enough to be distinctly FKA Twigs. It's a playful record that is a great change of pace, even if not as instantly essential as her main body of work.
Boris - W
Genre: Experimental Rock
Japanese experimental rock / metal band Boris have been going since the '90s and putting out album after album. While not totally consistent, it's always interesting to check out a new album due to how often they switch styles, from droning metal to shoegaze to just all-out j-rock. This is a return to their drone metal roots and as someone whose personal favourite Boris album is Flood this is very nice! Pretty different from most of their recent stuff, but not a redundant re-tread of the early work. It's very good, there's some really beautiful and noisy tracks on offer here.
Matt OX - YEAR OF THE OX
2022 is the year of the ox, is it also the year that Matt OX transcends his novelty value. After gaining notoriety as a goofy kid rapper who "actually isn't that bad", more recently now just turned 17 years old he's been playing around with current underground trap sounds. Last year's SoundCloud exclusive UNOROTHDOX EP was pretty cool. All January he released a song a day, which can be complied into this expectedly quite large album. Is the 31 day gimmick worth it? Uh, probably not, this could've been trimmed down into something more palatable, but the highlights here are great and it's generally worth a look for those who enjoy the current Playboi Carti esque alternative trap sound (see also: YEAT). While his influences are obvious, he's not bad at compiling current sounds into a set of interesting songs. Definitely could be shorter though!
NANORAY - Digimaiden
More videogamey, hyperactive breakbeat slappers from NANORAY. This is pretty fun the entire way through and another very worthwhile compilation of the sort of sounds you'd hear from late '90s and earl '00s arcade games but with a great ear for danceability and sampling. It feels like a banger soundtrack for the best racing videogame never made.
Burial - Antidawn EP
Genre: Electronic, Ambient
Will Burial's sparse and brand of dark, atmospheric electronic music ever get boring? Guess it depends on the listener, I don't think there's likely to be many surprises on this new EP (which is over 40 minutes long, so pushing the idea of an EP) for those who are already familiar and on board with Burial's work, but when his brand is so strong, I doubt many people will be complaining. It's notably one of their longest releases in years and one that successfully captures his signature downcast mood. So if you like Burial, you'll probably like this new EP! Hooray!
Pom Poko - This Is Our House
(and writing about when I went to their live gig)
Genre: Noise Pop
Pom Poko were on my radar for a while BUT I didn't check them out until this month since they were playing a gig near me, and I enjoyed their music quite a lot! Very technical instrumentation but with playful singing and the fact they're unafraid to get weird and loud at any point is cool! This new EP is pretty good, continues the trajectory of their work on their two albums released previously.
Seeing them live was really cool, a really energetic and memorable performance where they bled some songs into one another and ended with a chaotic noisy breakdown which was more than suiting to end a show without an encore. Lots and lots of fun!
(picture credit: me :^) )
Jacques Greene - Fantasy
A really solid EP from French-Canadian electronic producer Jacques Greene. Very smooth and lush sounding electronic compositions that invite repeat listens. Lots of slick little breakbeats and what sometimes feels like homages to the early work of Aphex Twin. Sky River has a melancholy vocal track which adds weight once the drums and more detailed instrumentation grow in. Judging simply from this EP, Jacques Green is still making some of his most promising music over 10 years into his career.
Some Singles to be Highlighted:
New Toro y Moi Single(s)
Toro y Moi is a very prolific artist, though he went 2021 without a new release, seemingly gearing up for a new album to be released this April. This lead single seems to point towards more traditional instrumentation than his past electronic leaning releases and a very funky vibe. Toro y Moi is one of my favourite artists so I'm there for whatever he's doing and this seems pretty promising and definitely not a repeat of any of his past sounds. There's another single out as well but I'm not listening because I want to saviour the album experience 🤓.
New Denzel Curry Single
Very, very, VERY strong single from Denzel Curry who has a new album coming soon! Excellent lyrics and production, really couldn't hope for a better taster for his new album. A beat switch that uses the same sample makes the song seem natural, Denzel's flow is hitting hard with a boom-bap style over some slick vocal samples. Denzel's first big ambitious album TA13OO was pretty good, but sometimes buckled under the weight of itself, so his more lower-stakes follow-up ZUU was a better project, but if he keeps up the tone and general strength shown on this single we're bound to be one of his best releases yet.
New brakence Single
A second single for a new brakence album soon to be released (I hope). Definitely one of my most anticipated records and this single does nothing but stoke the fires of anticipation. His production matched strong singing is unmatched in the 'glitch-pop' lane. This is catchy and dark, still looking to be a pretty dark project lyrically but one where the production is left to absolutely flourish and embellish the great vocals.
New JID Single
JID has been one of the most technically impressive rappers to emerge in the latter half of the last decade, though we've been waiting since 2018 for a follow-up to his last record. Seemingly this might be the year with this single. He just sounds effortlessly good here and the production flipping a classic sample is excellent and features a very natural 21 Savage feature and an excellent beat switch.
New Father John Misty Single
Absent since the pandemic, Father John Misty seems like the exact musician to comeback with a scathing new album in the vein of Pure Comedy but seemingly he's doing something a bit different for his upcoming album to be released in April. This has a classic Hollywood sound to itself and the vocals are typically strong and clever. Seemingly this is going to be a pretty direct concept record so it will be interesting to hear the full album when it's released.