Recommended Albums: October 2021

Welcome to October 2021’s edition of Recommended Albums, one of the most stacked and exciting months of music I’ve had the privilege of diving into and exploring. Plenty of high quality albums from artists that I’ve been a fan of for a while, along with some really great surprises from newcomers. You will undoubtedly see many of these records in my Top 50 list at the end of the year, and if there are any that you have yet to check out – these get my two-thumbs-up guarantee. Check them out below.

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Listen: Wet – “Blades of Grass” [2021]

After sitting on it for months, I’m so happy to be able to share this song “Blades of Grass” off of Wet’s new self-released album Letter Blue. The whole album is good and a return to form for the band, or maybe a return to me connecting with their material, after being lukewarm on their previous LP. Maybe it has something to do with the band self-releasing the album after being signed to Columbia previously? But aside from that – I enjoy it quite a bit – and even features Blood Orange. C’mon now!

“Blades of Grass”, for me, is an overwhelming, knees-buckling, mind-melting highlight – a true song of the year candidate. It’s also nearly impossible to search for. It’s ALSO incredibly tender, slow-building and ethereal. It’s not a song that will blow you away with sheer volume, tempo or overwhelming musical skill, but rather an elite sense of melancholy, beautiful soundscapes, vivid songwriting and gorgeous arrangements.

Instrumentally and lyrically, the whole track bends and sways, much like the subject matter at hand: blades of grass being pushed at will by the forces of the world. We’ve been subjected to some truly punishing circumstances over the last two years, leaving us feeling drained, inhuman and and numb to even our most immediate stimuli. Woozy synths hum and waver in and out of the mix as fluttering strings and patient piano rise and fall in the mix as the song continues to build. Singer Kelly Zutrau’s voice is a great recipient for digital effects like the ones utilized on this track, with faint wisps of autotune to further emphasize the vaguely robotic nature the track, recalling her guest feature on Clams Casino’s debut LP in 2016.  After a rise in dynamics around the midpoint of the track, the song kind of breaks down into a series of multi-layered, semi-wordless refrains, with Zutrau carving an instrumental landscape somewhere between Kllo and Majical Cloudz at their most spare. There are more quality upbeat moments on the LP and ones that get back to this tenderness, but in my mind nothing tops this.

It’s a devastating track that really connected with me this year. I’m sure I’d like it under normal circumstances, but you know – things are tough right now. I appreciate music like this that isn’t completely pandering in its sadness, rather occupying a space and just sitting empty for grieving and pain to expand and contract as the days go by. A gaping cave, a maw, tongue out, wind singing through the open nooks and swaying the tall grass that surrounds us. A quiet current lapping below your feet.

Wet’s Letter Blue is out now – buy/stream it HERE.

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Recommended Albums: September 2021

This is super late and I’m already running late on October albums – nearly two weeks of vacation in October will do that to a blog’s listening duties. Only nine albums this month, although I listened to plenty more. I tried to pluck my favorite songs down below the albums. That Sufjan & Angelo album is really great. I was putting off listening it for a while but I think the hype is justified. No real shockers on here – just the big ones. Couldn’t get any deeper than these unfortunately. Hope you enjoy.

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Listen: Central Heat Exchange – “Cold” [2021]

Wanted to feature Chicago band Central Heat Exchange, which I found while trawling through the releases of September 2021. Really dug the track “Cold”, that has some crushing distorted guitars + percussion mixed with dreamy background vocals and dream pop elements that persist throughout other tracks on the album. I tend to like the heavier songs anyways, so “Cold” really stuck with me, reminding me of Nothing or 2015-era Title Fight. Elsewhere on the LP you’ll find guest contributions from Living Hour, Varsity and Fran, along with a heavy dose of both melancholic and optimistic, drifting indie rock tunes. You’ll probably like it – Central Heat Exchange is out now – buy it & listen more HERE.

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Listen: Mr Twin Sister – “Ballarino” [2021]

REJOICE! Mr Twin Sister have slated the release of a new album, Al Mundo Azul, coming November 19. If you’re new to the blog, MTS has been one of my top favorite bands since their 2014 self-titled record, which also made the Top 20 of my Top 200 Records of the 2010s. You should go read that.

Anyways – we’ve already heard a few tastes from the record, including early 2021 singles “Diary” + “Expressions”, along with the more recent “Polvo” – “Ballarino” keeps up the trend of super upbeat, dance-centric sounds and rhythms that the previous tracks have established. Super punchy instrumental, a near-psychedelic funk element with tons of different moving parts and arpeggios all linking up. Nearly every single song the band has put out I love and “Ballarino” is no exception. I can’t wait to dance to this LP and let it completely consume me. Not for nothing, it also includes longtime live highlight “Fantasy”. It’s finally here. Hell yes.

No pre-order for the album is up yet, but you can support the single via the link HERE.

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Listen: älägator – “Haluan Herätä” [2021]

Shout out to my friend David who shared something about this band on his IG story + who always has a finger on the pulse of great new (and old, let’s be real) dream pop that flies completely under the radar. älägator is a band based in NYC that writes entirely in Finnish, a language I’ve strangely become more accustomed to seeing thanks to my relentless watching of Let’s Play videos of Finnish game Noita. The band recently released their debut EP, unen syvyydessä, via Friend Club Records and is being reissued by Disposable America.

But back to the music, the band make some really convincing 90s-reminiscent dream pop, soaked with reverb, and with a steady use of chiming acoustic guitar amongst gauzy electric moments. Sometimes slower (slowcore, maybe) pop/rock songs from the era lost you in a soup of sound, but this evades that. Tons of super engaging melodies and hooks, especially on this track “Haluan Herätä” and “Mennyt Lapsuus”. If you’re looking for a new companion for fall listening (I know I did before I came upon this) this is a great option. Glimmering, shimmering, glistening – all of the ideal dreamy music adjectives. They’re all good ones. Hopefully the band has more music in the works – I hope you’ll be watching alongside me!

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Listen: The Stick Figures – “September” [1981 / 2021]

Ok now here’s something very exciting, even though it’s named after the month that just passed. Just got tipped off to this great reissue compilation of Tampa band The Stick Figures, released by Floating Mill Records, putting together the band’s 1981 debut EP as well as six unreleased songs, two live versions and a new 2021 remix. The group concoct a raw, thrilling take on post punk of the moment – the press release said they were staples in the music scene in Tampa at the time and opened for bands like The Fall and Lounge Lizards. Just listening to the two live tracks on the record makes it seem like they’d be an absolute blast to see live.

Wanted to feature this track “September” – just a pitch-perfect jangle rock track with an acceptable use of glockenspiel (you can’t say that every day). Just a great sense of movement, super catchy melodies and choruses. John Peel even mail-ordered the EP and played “September” on his show. So right now it’s me and John Peel that you know like this band… I don’t know what to tell you if you haven’t hit play yet. If you’re at all a fan of jangle, classic early 80s post punk and the wide delta of styles that spread forth through the start of the movement to now, you owe it to yourself to check out this compilation. Get a taste of a group that’s not from NYC, LA, Chicago, etc. It’s good for you!

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Listen: Anz – “You Could Be (feat. George Riley)” [2021]

Would be remiss if I didn’t feature this new Anz single (not the newest one, mind you – that’s “Real Enough To Feel Good”) – it’s been one of my favorite songs of the year so far. So catchy + classic sounding. Put it on for a good time.

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Listen: DJ Seinfeld – “Tell Me One More Time” [2021]

DJ Seinfeld has mostly shucked his pigeonholing “lo-fi house” aesthetic that rocketed him to popularity in the late 10s on his great new album Mirrors (out now via Ninja Tune) but he maintains some of the crackly, R&B vocal sampling, percussive piano stabs & emotional synthetic strings found on his previous material on this new song “Tell Me One More Time” – one of my favorite songs of the year. It’s also got that one synth tone/texture that I associate with the laser tag I would go to as a kid. Whenever I hear that tone in a song, I’m done. It’s over. I’m handing over the keys and living inside the song now.

Mirrors is out NOW via Ninja Tune – buy it HERE.

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Listen: Anna Von Hausswolff – “Persefone” [2020]

Not sure how I didn’t post anything standalone about this Anna Von Hausswolf record, All Thoughts Fly, from last year. It was one of my fall staples and now that the weather is creeping back into the lower digits, the album too is steadily finding itself in my daily rotation. “Persefone” is one of the slower songs on the album (which, if you didn’t know is an entirely instrumental pipe organ album) but it’s one of the most emotional in its chord progression and singing/crying high tones from the organ. It was one of my favorite songs of last year and really gets me back in the mood for colder weather, darker skies and enveloping ennui. Just beautiful.

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