Do I have high hopes for this year because it ends in ‘2’? Of course I do. Am I pleasantly surprised that the first month kicked off in fabulous fashion with some solid records that I’m already grooving to? Yes indeed!
The Weeknd, Dawn FM, released 7 January. Descending further into a semi-retro mood of 80s grooves and out-there production, The Weeknd’s latest is a foray into moody late night FM radio, complete with a disembodied laid-back smooth-talking DJ (voiced surprisingly by none other than actor Jim Carrey…??) providing in-between track talk.
Cat Power, Covers, released 14 January. Chan Marshall’s third covers record continues in the vein of reimagining several songs (including one of her own) into something different. Her take on Frank Ocean’s “Bad Religion” is absolutely stunning.
Moist, End of the Ocean, released 14 January. This Canadian band has constantly flown under the US radar but I’ve always liked their records. This new album is full of uplifting songs and great melodies.
The Wombats, Fix Yourself, Not the World, released 14 January. This band always has a brilliant knack for writing such cheery songs with some of the gloomiest lyrics and they pull it off so wonderfully! This one immediately grew on me and I’m sure this one’s going to be getting a lot more play over the next several months.
Elvis Costello & the Imposters, The Boy Named If, released 14 January. EC is still going strong after multiple decades with no sign of stopping. And he can still be acerbic, gritty and urgent when it’s needed. This album is short, tight, and ready to roll.
Pedro the Lion, Havasu, released 20 January. David Bazan surprises everyone with a ‘hey guess what here’s a new album’ and drops the long-awaited sequel to 2019’s Phoenix, and it’s a corker. It’s dreamlike and even a bit playful, focusing mostly on his own childhood memories.
Kids On a Crime Spree, Fall in Love, Not in Line, released 21 January. This one’s a recent find for me, they’re locals (Oakland) and on the Slumberland label, and they’re named after the SF Examiner article that inspired the movie Over the Edge, and I love them already. Punky and semi-lofi (just like most of Slumberland’s signings), just how I like my indie.
Yard Act, The Overload, released 21 January. Another one of my favorite finds of 2021, this super fun band takes the jankiness of The Fall, the melodies of The Strokes and the humor of numerous Northern UK punk bands (these boys are from Leeds) and weaves together weird and hilarious songs that stick in your head for days. Highly recommended!
Paul Draper, Cult Leader Tactics, released 28 January. The ex-Mansun singer releases his second album with a much darker and harder edge. Its first single “Omega Man” is a duet with Porcupine Tree’s Steven WIlson, kind of reminds me of the creepier songs from Six, Draper’s 1999 album with Manson and its video — filmed in the Chernobyl exclusion zone — really underscores the heaviness of the song and the album.
Eels, Extreme Witchcraft, released 28 January. Mark Oliver Everett’s music evolves once again with a surprisingly poppy and upbeat record, just going to show that not all of his songs are dour or fraught with tension.
The Beatles, Get Back: The Rooftop Performance, released for streaming on 28 January. A playlist/streamed album created to tie in with the IMAX big screen event of the rooftop concert, this is the full forty minute “show” complete with between-song chatter and multiple takes. For a recording done outside in the dead of winter on a roof in central London, this sounds pretty damn good!
Our Lady Peace, Spiritual Machines 2, released 28 January. I’ve yet to give this a full listen, but I’ve been looking forward to it, as I loved their 2001 release Spiritual Machines record. Both are projects in connection with futurist Ray Kurzweil and are quite leftfield compared to their more straightforward rock albums and aren’t for everyone, but I remain intrigued. [I am, however, slightly let down that they chose to release this in NFT form a few months previous, as I am very much not a fan of crypto nonsense, but I digress.]
Stay tuned for February, where we’ll see releases from Alt-J, Bastille, The Reds Pinks & Purples, Spoon, Beach House, Deserta, Johnny Marr, and more!