Seasonal Music Round-Up — Spring / Summer 2021
It’s that time of the year again; the second quarter of the year has been and gone. This not only means that 2021 is already half over, but also that I am now ready to share my second round-up of the year.
While the year 2020 saw me commence monthly round-ups, I thought that making it seasonal instead would be a more unique way of doing things. This is the follow-up to my Winter / Spring Round-Up, which covered my favourite music spanning from January to March 2021, so be sure to click here if you missed it.
The months of April, May and June will be covered in this article here. It has been a pretty big rollercoaster of a month, with many downers and uppers. But as things are going generally, the second half of this year should hopefully be more promising as a result. I have been fortunate enough to finally find full-time work once more, which means I have to be stricter in regards to time. Nevertheless, this true labour of love will continue.
This segment of the year is arguably the most important of all. It’s the projects released at this time of year that typically have a huge impact on the rest of the year, thanks to them giving us good vibes in the lead-up to summer.
So without further ado, let’s go over the best bits of this season, starting with the top ten albums.
Top 10 Favourite Records of the Season
[in no particular order]
Armand Hammer & The Alchemist — Haram
Discovered by myself at the very start of the season, Haram not only serves as yet another showcase of The Alchemist’s incredible talent as a producer, thanks to the balanced blend of gorgeous and unnerving beats, but also a chance for me to experience the insane level of chemistry between billy woods and Elucid, as they once again join forces under the Armand Hammer moniker.
BROCKHAMPTON — ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE
Since the conclusive edition to their triad of SATURATION projects in 2017, the dynamic energy that the BROCKHAMPTON boyband undeniably championed seemed to be diluting slightly with each following release, in favour of a more accessible sound. Somehow, they managed to achieve both of these qualities with the amazing new chapter in their discography.
Blue Lab Beats, Kaidi & NK-OK — The Sounds of Afrotronica
While feeling very reminiscent of what was my favourite album of 2019; The Comet Is Coming’s Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery, this new effort from Blue Lab Beats, Kaidi & NK-OK injects elements of afrobeat into the dynamic Jazztronica formula, to create something that feels truly unique. I absolutely adored the funk and vibrance that these artists jam-packed into this awesome project.
Gojira — Fortitude
Thanks to their incredible teaser tracks earlier this year, the release of Gojira’s latest effort was one that I ended up highly anticipating. Fortunately, the metal band did not disappoint. With the same primal feel that made their previous album Magma so intriguing, but a sharper focus on hitting as hard as they can, Fortitude stands as an awe-inspiring and explosive album.
Alfie Templeman — Forever Isn’t Long Enough
What better way to kick off the true lead-up to summer, than with an album from someone who had already started championing summer vibes with his 2020 EP. Aside from that, Forever Isn’t Long Enough also sees Alfie Templeman at his absolute best. An album that oozes this much confidence and warm energy obviously rubbed off on me the right way.
J. Cole — The Off-Season
Admittedly, I was quite late to the party, when it came to fully experiencing a J. Cole project. However, The Off-Season proves that the rapper still hasn’t lost any of that edge. And within a narrative that frequently reflects upon that very idea, the overall presence feels very powerful, and very special. There’s a great range of versatile tunes, reminiscent of other hip-hop legends.
Gary Numan — Intruder
After the aesthetic uniqueness of Savage (Songs from a Broken World), It was great to see it stick around, and given a darker coat of paint, on Gary Numan’s latest effort. The entirety of Intruder seems to remain incredibly consistent with its intensely sinister feel, and it really drove that sense of engagement forward. In-fact, I feel it may be one of the most engaging records this season.
St. Vincent — Daddy’s Home
After missing the party with the Masseduction hype train, I thought it best to give St. Vincent’s following project some love. And fair to say, I am certainly glad I made that decision. The whole project definitely had that artistic integrity enlacing the whole thing, and it really made clear to me just how multi-talented and versatile this artist is.
MIKE — Disco!
This project certainly grew on me quite quickly. While MIKE’s 2020 album weight of the world had the versatility, Disco! still carries a good deal of that versatility, while tying it to a retro disco-like aesthetic. I could really appreciate how vibrant the atmosphere was, on what is another example of MIKE’s masterful abstraction and remarkably fluid flow.
Tyler, The Creator — CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST
Was there any doubt that this was going to be on here? Not only is CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST undeniably another bullseye project from Tyler, but also stands importantly as one that celebrates the rappers career, his upbringing, and his unique personality all at once. It is truly a vanity project at heart, but one that I can proudly get behind, and have immense fun as a result.
Top 30 Tracks of the Season
[in no particular order]
Armand Hammer & The Alchemist — Black Sunlight
The key thing that I loved about this track was just how godly the production sounded. And with the amazing flows that go with it, it feels faultless!
Tkay Maidza — Syrup
The big, booming, bad boss energy that powerfully drives “Syrup”, along with the artists lyrical flow makes it one of my favourite Tkay Maidza tracks to date.
BROCKHAMPTON — DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY
There were quite a few gems to pick from when it came to BROCKHAMPTON’s new album. But the important message of this track made it stand out on top.
Raf Rundell — Turning Tides
I absolutely adore the warm and hazy vibe that enlaces this awesomely soothing tune. Definitely one of the best chill summer tunes of the year so far.
Years & Years — Starstruck
Now that Years & Years is now an Olly Alexander solo project, it was amazing to see that he can still bring the cosmic and dynamic energy on “Starstruck.”
VUKOVI — KILL IT
VUKOVI really are looking to have yet another big musical year in 2021. And “KILL IT” reminded by exactly why I love this band and their colourful energy so much.
Dua Saleh — signs
There is an incredibly strong sense of self confidence and attitude that powers the likes of “signs”, which shows an even greater development surrounding Dua Saleh.
Little Simz — Introvert
Little Simz set the bar high with her 2019 album. But she really has taken a step up with the godly nature, and empowering message of “Introvert”.
Blue Lab Beats, Kaidi & NK-OK — Não Tem Nada Não
The sense of funk that this track harnesses feels absolutely bottomless. I know exactly what I’m getting every time with this track, which is non-stop feel-good vibes.
Frank Cater & The Rattlesnakes & Joe Talbot — My Town
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes and IDLES’ Joe Talbot make a true dream-team, in a gritty and undoubtedly catchy post-punk anthem.
Royal Blood — Boilermaker
After vividly remembering this track from Royal Blood’s 2019 set at Reading Festival, it was amazing to see this absolute banger released officially.
Gojira — Sphinx
Everything I love about Gojira’s newest album, seems to be encapsulated perfectly in this hard-hitting, and awe-inspiring heaviness of this track.
Billie Eilish — Your Power
Billie Eilish really hit it where it matters, in a single that heralds the start of a new chapter for Billie Eilish; not only as an artist, but as a person.
Alfie Templeman — Wait, I Lied
Honestly, any fresh track from Alfie Templeman’s latest album could’ve made it on here. however, “Wait, I Lied” definitely sticks out as one of the most infectious.
Xiu Xiu — Killing Distance
This track feels so true to that weird, early era of electronic music, that I was certain “Killing Distance” must’ve been a cover. But it is simply Xiu Xiu’s creativity at its best.
Horsey & King Krule — Seahorse
Despite King Krule only being a featured artist on this track, it is still the best representative of that King Krule aesthetic I love, in a very long time.
Sons Of Kemet — Hustle
There’s something so foreboding about that almost chanting brass sound, that serves as the backbone for the immense level of engagement that “Hustle” brings.
J. Cole — a p p l y i n g . p r e s s u r e
I absolutely loved how well this track flowed, both lyrically, and in terms of the instrumental. It had a very DAMN-like feel, that gave the whole thing a nostalgic twist.
Lil Nas X — SUN GOES DOWN
I wholeheartedly appreciated how deep and reflective Lil Nas X made his newest track. Looking back on his upbringing and self-doubts, this tune was absolutely beautiful.
Gary Numan — Saints and Liars
Amongst many other tracks that were dark, sinister, and above all, engaging, “Saints and Liars” was arguably one of the best carriers of all three qualities.
St. Vincent — Down And Out Downtown
The beautiful and soaring sound of this track definitely carried a heavy Weyes Blood feel. And thus, will likely stands as a very special track of 2021 in my mind.
IDK — Peloton
This track was stuck in my brain for at least 48 hours, and I still love it! If that doesn’t represent just how well-crafted “Peloton” is, I don’t know what will. IDK’s best track so far!
black midi — Chondromalacia Patella
One thing I loved about black midi’s new album, was how the band flowed so well in and out of intensities. One of the most glaring examples of this was indeed this track.
Yves Tumor — Jackie
From the moment is bursted into life, I instantly fell in love with “Jackie”. This track really captured what made the previous album so great, and ramped it up to 11!
ToyQueens — WINE.
ToyQueens put out two incredible tracks this season. However, “WINE.” eventually grew on me extraordinarily. The retro-rock feel is the most convincing I’ve heard in ages.
YONAKA — Raise Your Glass
I only got chance to listen to “Raise Your Glass” a few times since it came out. But it is still easily the best track the band have put out this year; perhaps even ever!
KSI — Holiday
KSI takes fans by surprise once again. And by all means, “Holiday” is a pleasant one of that. A truly chilled and feel-good summer tune and love anthem.
Mykki Blanco & Blood Orange — It’s Not my Choice
The solemn and nocturnal jazz feel of “It’s Not my Choice” sets the perfect backdrop for Mykki Blanco’s lyrical flow, and Blood Orange’s hazy high-notes.
Tyler, The Creator, Lil Uzi Vert & Pharell Williams — JUGGERNAUT
Once again, a LOT of songs from this album could’ve made it on here. But the hard hitting drum-beat and amazing features on “JUGGERNAUT” really won me over.
Backxwash & Michael Go — BURN TO ASHES
After going through an album that left me longing for just that one amazingly dynamic and engaging track, “BURN TO ASHES” was exactly the closer I needed.
Listen to the full playlist of all of my favourite tracks of April, May, and June below.
My Favourite EP of the Season
Half Moon Run — Inwards & Onwards
While there was a slight shortage of EP reviews from myself this season, the month of June finally manage to bring us a few great ones. The best of these in my opinion, was an EP that allowed me to reconnect with the indie folk-rock group I listened to for a while, known as Half Moon Run. And honestly, what I had loved about their music originally, has definitely stuck around on Inwards & Onwards.
Music Video of the Season
Tyler, The Creator — CORSO
Whenever Tyler, The Creator comes through with a new album cycle, it’s not only the music we have to look forward to. We also have all the amazing, quirky, and funny music videos too. As the most recent, and first “complete” music video of Tyler’s newest cycle, the video for “CORSO” felt like the most fitting pick. Playing out much like a Quentin Tarantino film, this video had my attention from start to finish.
Album Cover of the Season
Armand Hammer & The Alchemist — Haram
I took it upon myself to actually pixelate the album cover myself, as a way to censor the sensitive content. But needless to say, that really says a lot about how striking this cover art for Haram truly is. Featuring, to put it bluntly, two severed pig heads, the imagery could be linked to the injustices with policing that the record carries as one of its themes. However, it also stands as a striking juxtaposition to some of that album’s more gorgeous tracks.
And that conclude the first of four seasonal round-ups, and furthermore, the first half of 2021. Keep your eyes peeled for the next round-up, arriving at the end of September.