ten. CROSSED STAR
Nothing gold can stay. After the dream bliss of the instant classic Golden hour, Kacey Musgraves’ marriage fell apart. Star crossed serves as her divorce album. Departing completely from his country roots for a more grown-up pop sound, Musgraves struggles with the mess of post-breakup emotions (“Justified”), the weight of a one-sided relationship (“Good Wife”), and gets his claws with a blunt warning about his insecure ex who wants to take advantage of his spotlight and his fortune (“Breadwinner”). But she refuses to be fully vindictive, instead trying to find places for optimism (“Keep Looking Up”) and nostalgic grace, even scrolling through the modern torture of old photos on your phone (“Camera Roll”) .
9. LET ME DO ONE MORE
No one grabs the elasticity of emotional extremes brought on by fear of late capitalism like Sarah Tudzin of the Illuminati Hotties. Sometimes it’s the overactive anxiety of an over-stimulated brain reflecting on relationship insecurity in the face of dynamic pop punk (“Pool Hopping”) or quick ADHD lines about refusing to take anything at all. serious with arrogant bravado, rolling his eyes and bratty on a quirky clicking angular guitar sound (“MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA”). But she is also capable of effectively slowing things down and of sharing her romantic desires in tender, delicate tunes rich in detail (“Threatening Each Other re: Capitalism”, “Growth”, etc.). Let me do one more finds musical truth in the balance between these polarities.
8. MAGIC MIRROR
At Magic mirror, Pearl Charles manages to distill the musical nostalgia of Los Angeleno in a sweet aperitif without ever appearing by heart. With a slight pinch in his voice, the singer-songwriter swings through clean pop disco numbers with effervescent retro style (“Only for Tonight”, “Imposter”), loses himself in bass grooves (” What I Need “) and feels right at home, basking in the warmth of the slide guitar over desert rock songs (” Slipping Away “). All the while, Charles strives to put any impostor syndrome aside in the hopes of finding and accepting it fully realized (“This is the best I have ever felt / And I never not even feel myself “).
Japanese Breakfast had long been a live that I loved, but Michelle Zauner’s energy and infectious charm had never been fully captured on her band’s nebulous LPs. Jubilee rectify that. The album is a kaleidoscope, shining Zauner’s warmth through a dazzling array of colors and sonic shapes. “Paprika” vibrates with a magical beat of glittery and magical fanfare. “Be Sweet” bathes in sophisticated bliss in a way that modernizes the unique 80s rock synth model. Musical variation keeps things fresh throughout, whether it’s ominous electronic swells (“Posing in Bondage “), a dusty string section (” Kokomo, IN “) or a sultry sax on staccato guitar hits (” Slide Tackle “). The confident force that emanates from every note and lyrics on songs like “Savage Good Boy” only underscores just how Jubilee captures an artist at the height of her powers.
SAID THE WHALE
“You can find joy in every agonizing moment of existence on this planet.” The deck lyrics of Said the Whale’s sweet single “Honey Lungs” also serve as a thesis statement for the Canadian pop-rock group. Faced with the overwhelming world around them, Said the Whale turns around and delivers a relentless array of love songs without ever sounding cloying. The band’s skillful musical touch – from the kinetic drums crashing over “The Ocean” to the symphonic grandeur of the instrumental track “February 15” – and their elite talent for writing hooks reinforce any sentimental words they surround. Whether singing about love that can pull you out of the holes you get lost in (“Show Me Everything”), seems to go on endlessly (“99 to the Moon”), or floats on the breeze an air of fond fondant (“Dandelion”), the group directly targets the most cynical parts of our hearts and hits the mark.
5. VIOLENCE ON SCREEN
The Scottish synth-pop trio CHVRCHES excel in mixing a feeling of haunting melancholy with an ever-youthful desire. Screen violence brings things back to the roots of the group to fully immerse themselves in this psychic territory. Singer Lauren Mayberry sorts her fears of intimacy and disconnection into a world of screens (“Lullabies”) with her usual radiant timbre, which acts like glitter tossed onto the bed of synth-pop alienation. CHVRCHES even calls on Robert Smith of the Cure for an empathetic reflection (“How Not to Drown”). There’s just no lull in this collection of insanely catchy songs.
4. HEY WHAT
HEY WHAT it looks like the world is ending, but there is beauty to be found in the finality. The Minnesota Rock duo Low straddles the noisy and harmonious tip of the plain, creating meticulously crafted, overwhelming walls of harsh, violent, and flickering sounds counterbalanced by the compassionate vocals of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker. The tweaked soundscapes resemble hypnotic warning sirens (“I can wait,” “More”), which only underscores the confusion that Low tries to sift through. At its best, on a song like “Days Like These” where the clear, crystal-clear guitar lines timidly peak before being blitzed by a distorted crunch and Sparhawk delivers his lyrics like a hymnbook, HEY WHAT sounds like sacred music – Gregorian chants for our time – tapping into an inherently human spirituality.
3. SOMETIMES I COULD BE INTROVERT
Anglo-Nigerian rapper Little Simz has not limited her reach on Sometimes I could be introverted. A creative tour de force, the hour-long album takes listeners on a journey through the different sides of what it takes to be a woman. The MC looks at the presence of love (“I See You”), African feminine swag (“Woman”), daddy issues (“I Love You, I Hate You”), while maintaining a level of sane uncertainty (“Miss Understood”), and a host of other concerns with an eerie lyrical flow that feels smoothly never rushed while embodying an unadorned blunt edge. The album is sprinkled with marked interlude tracks, which, rather than slowing the pace, almost give the presentation a magical, Disney-style floating feeling. From the grandiloquent horn of the opener “Introvert” to the minimalist and slow rhythms of stoner burn of “Rolling Stone” to the shattering African rhythms of “Point and Kill”, the soundscape never becomes complacent. And Little Simz either.
2. TAKE THE CORNERS SOFTLY
In such a chaotic world, it can be difficult to find time for introspection and to enjoy life’s little moments. At Take smooth turns, Steady Holiday (aka Dre Babinski) attempts to take those tiny and difficult steps through sophisticated indie pop. Babinski’s voice carries notes with a slight melancholy that recognizes the inherent sadness without letting them overwhelm him. “White Walls” confronts her need to stay busy for fun with a serene influence. “Sunny in the Making” cranks up the bass for a dancing meditation on the constant effort forward despite the setbacks. From the sparse acoustic tracks of “Love Me When I Go to Sleep” to the lush indie layering of “Living Life” to the darker rock bite of “Tangerine”, Babinski expertly adapts the tones of her music and her voice to maximize the emotional resonance. Take smooth turns stresses that being delicate should not be seen as a weakness, but as a form of self-care.
1. HOME VIDEO
No song from 2021 sounded more alive than those found on Home video. Lucy Dacus’ songwriting reaches new heights on her third album, painting lyrical scenes rich in color, personal detail, exhilarating and scary emotions. Home Videos is an album of compassion. It presents the discovery of a young love in explosions of rock happiness (“First Time”) and pain (“Partner in Crime”). “Please stay” calmly confronts the feeling of helplessness when trying to reach a suicidal friend, with each line that passes painful. But compassion doesn’t have to be weak either. It can be furious, as exemplified by “Thumbs” and its suppressed murderous thoughts towards a partner’s emotionally trying father, or anger at a sweetheart who settles for less on “Christine.” More importantly, the songs written by Dacus here are beacons of performance for gay children seeking love while growing up in repressive Christian communities (see: the taboo exploration of “VBS” – the Bible school of the holidays). The closer album “Triple Dog Dare” gracefully sums up the emotional essence of the album – despite the family drama, unspoken feelings, fears and seemingly no way forward, keep any silver lining possible. Find your love. Run away from it all. Love simply. ??
Green to Gold – Woods
Hall of fame – Polo G
Live ’95 – Mega Ran
Little oversights – Julien Boulanger
Shake the towers – Kitner
Infinite granite – Heaven
Sling – Clairo
Valentine – Postal mail
Ignoring – The Weather Station