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The Top 50 albums of 2021 – 20-11

The countdown continues

doyle art


William Doyle – Great Spans of Muddy Time (Tough Love)

“This is a lockdown album that not only transcends Doyle’s own mental health challenges, but also his wide musical influence. Not so much carefully curated but wild in its abandon. By proxy or default, there is a manageable tension at work by way of carefully crafted instrumentals and vocal textures not so much recalling the artist’s reference points but more reconciling them.”


Park Hye Jin 박혜진– Before I Die (Ninja Tune)

“All in all, it’s this ability to straddle not just time signatures but attitudes that positions artist and album as so staunchly original and utterly repeatable. Each iteration of the producer’s work seems destined to be played again and again, whether that’s in order to savour the incredible detail in sample-based efforts like ‘Sunday ASAP’, bask in the infinitely inviting tones of ‘I jus wanna be happy’, or allow the smooth layers of sub-heavy head-nodder ‘Watchu Doin Later’ to smoothly wash over you. A testament to the collapse of genres critics have been writing about for a decade or more already, you can’t help but feel lucky to live in an age when difference and daring are finally being celebrated again in some corners of the music scene. So, best make the most of it then.”


Growing- Diptych (Silver Current)

“Self styled masters of the ‘big room ambient’ scene, Growing turn in two hugely elongated but undeniably exquisite explorations that on one level seem to be all about a single tone, but actually contain a whole world of expanding and contracting harmonics. A more gorgeous, thoroughly horizontal listen you are unlikely to find anywhere else this year..”


Wojciech Bakowski – Voyager (Temple)

“A truly original melding of styles, as poet – not to say leading contemporary artist and animator too – spouts forth his atmospheric profundities over a mixture of sultry grooves and dislocated jazz breaks. Proof, if ever it was needed, that there’s always something new to be done with music, whatever the naysayers might insist about it all being done before.”


New Age Doom & Lee Scratch Perry – Lee Scratch Perry’s Guide To The Universe (We Are Busy Bodies)

“It’s an entirely fitting end to the reggae pioneer’s career that he – as someone who has collaborated with everyone from the Beastie Boys to The Clash and The Orb – should end up signing off with an album made with post-rock collective New Age Doom. Equally fitting is the title, which does indeed suit the contents, as Perry expounds on all he’s learnt over the years and attempts to pass on that knowledge to us.”


Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg (4AD)

“Firmly positioned in the most exciting end of British punk, New Long Leg continues on that fine form, and in many ways elevates the game significantly. Offering ten songs that set the band’s proverbial stall out clearly, the record is a demand not to be taken too seriously, even if the music itself feels like the end result of more than a decade of serious fine-tuning and boundary-pushing on the part of the band members, who lay claim to past endeavours with hardcore and indie bands, and in the visual arts.”


IDLES – Crawler (Partisan)

“Idles are back on top, taking a chance on their own criticisms with a more introspective LP than ‘Ultra Mono’, revealing the band’s various wrestlings with addiction and desperation. In true post-punk fashion, it’s an emotive sophomore development from lead brain Joe Talbot, spanning plod-rap grungers (‘Car Crash’) and dark disco-rock (‘When The Lights Go On’), all giving off his signature brand of hopeful nihilism, with the ultimate message that ‘the show must go on’.


Mira Calix – Absent Origin (Warp)

“Having crept out with little or no fanfare towards the end of the year, Absent Origin is an album that refuses to let go its grasp once it arrived, keeping the listener coming back for more and rewarding such loyalty with layer upon layer of richness underlying what are sometimes the simplest of melodies.”


Amon Tobin – How Do You Live (Nomark)

“Having given each of his post-Ninja Tune alter egos the chance to establish their unique characters over the past two or so years, Amon Tobin returns to his own moniker to offer us ten unique and highly original tracks worthy of his esteemed reputation. Never one to stand still, he’s progressed steadily since his days as a leftfield breakbeat merchant to where he is now, which on this evidence is a sound painter of vast and ambitious sonic canvasses, collages of instrumentalism that are hard to pin down but leave indelible marks on your psyche.”


Stigma – Too Long (Pessimist Productions)

“Exotically broken beats and humming atmospheres make this effort from Stigma something that exists outside the norms of neatly classified genre dance music, and it’s all the better for it. With its twin obsessions with hip-hop beats and electronic ingenuity, it’s something that might have turned up on James Lavelle’s Mo’Wax when the label was at the height of its powers. Yeah, that good and more.”