Records Of The Year 2021

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Records Of The Year 2021

As another year of ups and downs stutters to an end I've been trying to wrangle some of the best music that's been released in our (near) 8 years in to a definitive order. Of course, putting an objective art form in to an order of 'best' is a fools errand, so I make no claims that one is better than another, just these are records I love. 

So, here they are, in an order that currently makes sense to me (but no doubt will change the second it's published). What is definite is that these records, especially those in the top 10, have been on constant rotation

1. Badbadnotgood - Talk Memory [BUY]

We've been fans of Badbadnotgood for a few years now - from their early hip hop reconfigured as post-bop jazz albums, through their Ghostface collaboration, their work with Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, The Creator, and their previous album IV, but Talk Memory is a real step up. Taking in David Axelrod-referencing jazz-rock, Miles Davis' electric 70s records, Sun Ra's cosmic piano balladry, cinematic strings (courtesy of the great Arthur Verocai) along with appearances from Laraaji, and Terence Martin, this psychedelicized jazz wonder hasn't left the turntable all year.  

2. Cindy1:2 [BUY]

San Francisco has been turning up a lot of our favourite bands these past few years, with the SF labels Mt St Mtn and Paisley Shirt, along with Tough Love in the UK, bringing most of them to our attention. Cindy's third record, 1:2, has been on heavy rotation here all year. Fully rounding out the minimalism of it's slow burning debut, with nods to 90s-era Low, or Galaxie 500's gently melancholic Velvets reverence. This isn’t dream-pop sunshine bliss; half-closed black drapes hang on the window where the narrator stares into the middle distance

3. William DoyleGreat Spans Of Muddy Time [BUY]

The muscular electronica from his earlier East India Youth records has been rounded out with the singular sound of British art-rock - specifically Robert Wyatt, Eno's 70s work, Robyn Hitchcock, etc - for a dizzying, maximalist, career best record. 

4. MadlibSound Ancestor [BUY]

Madlib always makes great records, everybody knows that, but it's probably a little too easy to let them pass you by due to how prolific he is. This one, arranged by his pal Keiran Hebden (Four Tet), is like all the great collaborations - Gil Evans and Miles Davis, Holger Czukay and Can, and Jean Claude Vannier and Serge Gainsbourg. Placing this record in that lineage may be a stretch, but it's not far off, and that's better than most can hope for. A future classic. 

5. Modern NatureIsland of Noise [BUY]

We're big fans of Modern Nature here, their debut, How To Live, was our 2019 album of the year. This new album is another step up - a beguiling, free-flowing, career highlight, which takes in some of British free music luminaries on its mesmerising wander, with hints of Traffic's utopian jazz-folk throughout


As beautiful and challenging as ever - a distorted, decaying, difficult wonder. Taking a leap on from 2018's Double Negative, HEY WHAT goes deeper in to the abstraction, further in to the noise, but still finding catharsis in the end. What a band (who've also been referenced several times already in this list...)

7. The Reds, Pinks & PurplesUncommon Weather [BUY]

Glenn Donaldson's third album album as The Reds, Pinks & Purples in as many years (with a great double album due next year) was another winner here. Concise, jangling, mope-pop of the highest order, which can stand alongside the reverb-laced pop of Dan Treacy's 90s output, as well as The Wake, East River Pipe, The Field Mice, et al.  

8. G.S. SchrayThe Changing Account [BUY]

G.S. Schray is an artist whose albums - both solo and as a member of the Lemon Quartet - we push on everyone who comes in to earshot. This new record of elliptical ambient jazz gently shapeshifts throughout; like falling asleep to Talk Talk's Spirit Of Eden and waking up as the final notes of Hejira fade out

9. Emma-Jean ThackrayYellow [BUY]

Having trained with Keith Tippett, and going on to study alongside Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia, Emma-Jean Thackray took the cosmic jazz of Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra and the George Clinton's P-Funk as jumping off points for her debut, a record as fully realised as Endtroducing or Geoff Barrow's work with Portishead - an all-encompassing work, from a unique talent.

10. The Weather Station - Ignorance [BUY]

The latest Weather Station album - ostensibly a 'folk' record - now sees Tamara Lindeman backed by a full band (two drummers, saxophone, synths, wind instruments, etc) and dipping in to Sensual World-era Kate Bush, along with the elegant jazz-pop of early China Crisis or Peter Gabriel. A career highlight in a career of highlights

Other records we love, but haven't put in any discernible order:

Total HellTotal Hell [BUY]

Badge Epoque EnsembleFuture, Past & Present [BUY]

Arab StrapAs Days Get Dark [BUY]

Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The LSO - Promises [BUY]

Hannah PeelFir Wave [BUY]

FlowertownFlowertown [BUY]

Joseph ShabasonThe Fellowship [BUY]

Ryley WalkerCourse In Fable [BUY]

Sons of KemetBlack To The Future [BUY]

ColleenThe Tunnel And The Clearing [BUY]

Rose City BandEarth Trip [BUY]

MG BoulterClifftown [BUY]

White FlowersDay By Day [BUY]

Blue OrchidsSpeed The Day [BUY]

John Carroll Kirby - Septet [BUY]

Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble - Now [BUY]

The Goon SaxMirror II [BUY]

Richard NorrisHypnotic Response [BUY]

Peace Flag EnsembleNoteland [BUY]

Durand Jones & The IndicationsPrivate Space [BUY]

LiarsThe Apple Drop [BUY]

Amyl & The SniffersComfort To Me [BUY]

Deux FillesShadow Farming [BUY]

King Gizzard & The Lizard WizardButterfly 3000 [BUY]

Dougie StuFamiliar Future [BUY]

Ducks LtdModern Fiction [BUY]

Vanishing TwinOokii Gekkou [BUY]

Dean WarehamI Have Nothing To Say To The Mayor of LA [BUY]

Helado NegroFar In [BUY]

Parquet CourtsSympathy For Life [BUY]

CelestialI Had Too Much To Dream Last Night [BUY]

GrouperShade [BUY]

Richard Dawson & CircleHenki [BUY]

Tonstartssbandht - Petunia [BUY]

Jeff ParkerForfolks [BUY]

Michael HurleyThe Time Of The Foxgloves [BUY]

Ichiko AobaWindswept Adan [BUY]

Fine PlaceThis New Heaven [BUY]

April MagazineIf The Ceiling Were A Kite [BUY]

Irreversible EntanglementsOpen The Gates [BUY]

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