» News and Features » Skiddle's Q4 Album Roundup // 2021: The records you need to hear
Skiddle's Q4 Album Roundup // 2021: The records you need to hear
From '70s inspired Cali-soul to acoustic reworkings of some of the biggest indie anthems of our time - Our final quarterly album roundup of 2021 consists of some real treats. Continue reading to discover our top picks
Last updated: 12th Nov 2021
It feels right to kick off our final quarterly album roundup by first acknowledging what an outstanding year 2021 has been for music. Besides the overdue return of the live scene, the reopening of treasured venues and nightclubs, and the eventual reinstating of dancefloors nationwide, the vast offering of sublime records we've all been exposed to over the past eleven months has been nothing short of life-saving. Undoubtedly playing a huge part in keeping the collective psyche intact, we especially have a lot to thank music for this year.
From the outset, we've been spoilt to volumes of incredible records, each conveying their own mood and emotion, whether that was frustration and anger or feelings of optimism and joy, relative to the uncertain and changing times. And now the picture ahead of us is becoming clearer, we can surely look forward to a new generation of musicians and sounds to keep us enchanted and probably distracted at times from the world around us.
Our album highlights of 2021 - taking into account each of our roundup features - are as follows...
Serial hit-makers, Anderson Paak and Bruno Mars have unleashed their first-ever collaborative LP, An Evening with Silk Sonic, under their all-new joint moniker.
The nine-track LP, released via Atlantic Records today, is a shameless tongue-in-cheek homage to a bygone era of music, still cherished by millions of music fans the world over. Built upon stunning arrangements and oozing with soul-soothing sounds, harking back to the R&B movement of the '70s, the album plays out as if telling the story of soul following its progression to the present day.
Keep an ear out when listening for the subtle nods and references made throughout to some of the greats of the time, including groups The Ohio Players, The O'Jays and Kool & The Gang.
It's clear that a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into creating this album. It's a record that offers a very close and true representation of a much-loved Cali-soul sound, and yet both Mars and Paak still find the energy to bring humour to the album, with their aesthetically accurate music videos and press shots.
Check out the official music video for 'Smokin Out The Window' below and see for yourself...
FFO: Anderson Paak., Bruno Mars, Janelle Monáe, Parliament
Skiddle's top tracks: Smokin Out The Window, Fly As Me, Blast Off
Animé - TWOPOINTFIVE
Release date: Friday 5th November
Platinum-selling rap star, Portland's Animé has recently returned with a fresh new sound on his latest album - TWOPOINTFIVE.
The follow-up to 2020's Limbo and the second in the 'POINTFIVE' series, the first of which featured high-profile guest appearances from the likes of Gunna, Rico Nasty, and G Herbo, TWOPOINTFIVE is an 'exercise in spontaneity', according to Animé himself. Produced off the cuff in his bedroom, the record exhibits a noticeable shift in direction from his earlier releases, with influences apparently derived from various disciplines of dance music, such as PC music.
Applying his lauded wordsmith skill and vocal talent to this unplanned and contemporary sound experiment, the resulting product is a sort of mashup, flitting between different ideas that still somehow carries his Animé signature.
A record that's seriously hard to nail down, produced by an artist unafraid to stand out and challenge others operating in the same space. A very interesting listen.
FFO: Mick Jenkins, Saba, Tierra Whack, JPEGMAFIA
Skiddle's top tracks: OKWME, Sh!t2Luz, Charmander
Richard Ashcroft - Acoustic Hymns Vol. 1
Release date: Friday 29th October 2021
Former frontman of The Verve, indie king Richard Ashcroft has been lying dormant for the past few years, give or take a few gigs here and there, clearly readying his latest project, a reworking of classics from both his own extensive back catalogue and The Verve's.
Released at the end of October, Acoustic Hymns Vol 1. see's Ashcroft stripping back twelve well-known tracks, including 'A Song For The Lovers' and 'Lucky Man', giving each an epic symphonic makeover with the help of the impressive string and brass section at London's famous Abbey Road Studios.
If you thought the grandeur of 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' couldn't be improved upon, you need to reconsider. This beautifully revised track, like others on the record, will scoop you up and transport you somewhere far away for seven long minutes. Other widely adored tracks which make an appearance on the LP include 'Sonnet', 'Velvet Morning' and 'The Drugs Don't Work'.
Be sure to also check out the vocal collaboration with Oasis legend, Liam Gallagher on 'C'mon People (We're Making It Now).
FFO: The Verve, Ian Brown, Ocean Colour Scene, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Skiddle's top tracks: Bittersweet Symphony, Lucky Man, A song For The Lovers
The War On Drugs - I Don't Live Here Anymore
Release date: Friday 29th October 2021
Upon the first listen of The War On Drugs new album, I Don't Live Here Anymore, you could be excused from feeling as if you'd accidentally stepped into some sort of wormhole and travelled back in time to the soft-rock era of the 1980s. Not so much instantly noticeable from the outset of the fifty-two-minute long-player, which opens with a folky almost Fleet-foxes sounding lullaby, the album begins to show its true self and its very obvious influences from the second track, 'Harmonia's Dream' onwards.
The soul of Bruce Springsteen lives concurrently within this album and every now again, Bryan Adam also pops up to make a cameo appearance. And they're not the only ones. Snippets of sounds likened to groups such as Dire Straits and Simple Minds can be observed across the record, and let's not get started on the title track. Every one of you will have heard Kim Carnes 80s pop banger, 'Bette Davies Eyes'. Listen to the opening of the title track, 'I Don't Live Here Anymore' and try and tell us it doesn't sound similar.
All things considered, it still doesn't take away from the lengths the group and lead singer, Adam Granduciel have gone to create what is an outstanding album. Written and meticulously produced over seven years, the record is a labour of love and another accomplished pop record from a knowledgeable and experienced set of musicians.
Yes, there are similarities that can't be ignored but look past those initial red flags and you'll be pleasantly surprised by what you find.
FFO: Future Islands, Bruce Springsteen, Real Estate, Dire Straits
Skiddle's top tracks: Harmonia's Dream, Change, I Don't Live Here Anymore
IDLES - Crawler
Release date: Friday 12th November 2021
Bristolian punk-rock quintet, IDLES are back again with their fourth album offering in five years - Crawler.
Unlike its predecessor's, 2017's breakthrough album, Brutalism, the Mercury Prize-nominated Joy As An Act of Resistance and last year's Ultra Mono, Crawler has a menacing air of intention about it. The half-cooked ideas found in last year's average-at-best LP, an attempt in part to recreate the success of Joy as An Act Of Resistance, have been well and truly discarded and replaced with new and innovative ones.
Crawler is more sure of itself. It has purpose. It boasts sonically abstract designs and has a deeper, much more profound subject matter, heard in the emotive and unmistakable vocal of Joe Talbot. From the balladesque, punk rock operatic that is 'The Beachland Ballroom' to the discombobulating ebb and flow of 'Car Crash' and the experimental themes heard in the aptly named, 'Progress', here's an album that will surely set the cat amongst the pigeons, in a largely overcrowded and unvaried scene at present.
Old school fans also need not worry too much about the band stepping out of reach of their roots. 'the Wheel' and 'Crawl!' should pacify any craving for that punchy IDLES sound we've all come to love.
A corker as far as we're concerned, the 'fab five' have really hit the nail on the head with this one.
FFO: METZ, Protomartyr, Girl Band, Preoccupations
Skiddle's top tracks: The Wheel, Crawl, The Beachland Ballroom
Courtney Barnett - Things Take Time, Take Time
Release date: Friday 12th November 2021
Courtney Barnett first made an impression on the international scene back in 2015 with her single, 'Dead Fox'. Known for her witty lyrical penmanship and her nonchalant, narrative style vocal delivery, an element of her act that many have noted as a nod to Velvet Underground legend and influence, Lou Reed, the Australian singer-songwriter has worked hard to hammer out her own sound and career releasing a handful of very successful LP's. And her latest effort might be the next to join that list.
Released today, Things Take Time, Take Time is one of the shortest records on our list and in Barnett's back catalogue, at just over half an hour long. Comprised of ten individual tracks, the record harbours less in the way of pop-folk classics, the likes of 'Dead Fox', dealing instead in the more subdued. Perhaps an attempt to capture and portray a certain mood or feeling felt by Barnett at the time of writing and recording, it's slower-paced and easy going. Or maybe a new direction for the indie-folk star?
Whatever she's trying to achieve, we're here for it. It's a record that's getting a lot of love here at Skiddle HQ.
FFO: Snail Mail, Kurt Vile, Julien Baker, Julia Jacklin
Skiddle's top tracks: If I Don't Hear From You Tonight, Take It Day By Day, Write A List Of Things To Look Forward To
Damon Albarn - The Nearer The Mountain, More Pure The Stream Flows
Release date: Friday12th November 2021
Anything that Damon Albarn turns his hand to rarely goes unnoticed and the same can be said of his latest solo project, brand new album - The Nearer The Mountain, More Pure The Stream Flows.
The man with the golden touch, or golden ear, strikes again. As if he hadn't had enough success already with one of his several other musical projects - including Blur, Gorrilaz and The Good, the Bad and The Queen, to name a few - here he is again, this time conjuring up a somewhat uncharacteristic assemblage of audible delights.
So what makes this record so different from his others? In one word - melancholy. It's a theme that runs through the entirety of The Nearer The Mountain, More Pure The Stream Flows. But don't be quick to write it off as a record that's going to get you down. It's got a great deal more to offer than that. It's rich in texture, combining a vast assortment of instruments, sounds and melodies, some of which you'd be forgiven for likening to those used by the likes of Bowie and Baxter Dury, in our opinion.
This is an album you can plug into when you need to escape from the world outside. A cinematic journey in music. It has the feeling of an overlooked cult classic. One that fans, writers, music historians and the like might gush over in years to come.
FFO: David Bowie, Gorrilaz, Baxter Dury, Thom Yorke
Skiddle's top tracks: Polaris, The Tower Of Montevideo, Royal Morning Blue
Due for release next week...
Adele - 30
Release date: Friday 19th November
Arguably the biggest pop star on the planet right now, Adele, you might have heard, has announced the release of her hotly anticipated, fourth album - 30.
Marking her first album since 2015's multi-award-winning LP, 25, the new record is said to be an up-close and personal account of the singer's life behind closed doors. With some attention given to the breakdown of her marriage and subsequent divorce from her ex-husband, Simon Konecki, 30 also explores themes of redemption and reflects upon coming through the other side of an altogether difficult period.
In 2017, Adele recieved the award for 'Album of the Year' and 'Best Pop Vocal Album' for 25 at the fifty-ninth annual Grammy Award ceremony in Los Angeles, California. It housed one of the singers biggest ever records to date, 'Hello' which also collected awards for 'Record of the Year', 'Song of the Year' and 'Best Pop Solo Performance'.
Can the Tottenham-born singer-songwriter recreate the success of 25 with her new album? We'll have to wait and see.
FFO: Lorde, Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, Lana Del Rey
Skiddle's top tracks: Easy On Me
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