January 2021: Best Albums/EPs
Updated: Feb 14
Written collectively by Joseph Lu & Zim Ahmadi
A summary of the best LPs and EPs from January 2021. Malaysian hip hop artist, MC Syze makes an explosive comeback, some great Runescape music, beautiful songs about petting cats and more!
AETHERNET - FAX GANG
GENRE: ELECTROPOP / CLOUD RAP / WAVE / EXPERIMENTAL HIP HOP / BITPOP
While most of the SoundCloud community gets off from telling you about the perils of owning a Lambo. There’s something heart-warmingly authentic about Fax Gang’s Aethernet. It’s most definitely the bedrock of sad minor chords in every song. But it’s also the 0 to 100 transitions from lazy rap to MCR breakdown. In contrast to the unicorn glitter that comes out of every hyperpop song, the vocals in this album are completely lost in the mix, glitched and bitcrushed so badly that every track sounds like it's coming out of a toy keyboard. If that’s how you take your music, man is Aethernet the album for you. -Joseph-
ANYTHING TO GAIN/NOTHING TO LOSE, SHOTGUN, IMPLOSION
Collapsed in Sunbeams - Arlo Parks
GENRE: INDIE POP / NEO-SOUL / R&B / ALTERNATIVE R&B
Arlo Parks is a fresh voice with a magical knack of finding beauty in the ordinary. Rarely does an album as wholesome and positive feel so genuine. Messages like trusting your body, and making peace with your “own distortion” is filtered through ethereal, jazzy, lo-fi, R&B, trip hop and a myriad of other intimate sonic palettes so that every bit is a cup of special tea. The authenticity lies in the collages of experiences, memories and tiny happenings. The first song has the line “I see myself ablazed with joy, sleepy eyed // Feeding your cat or slicing artichoke hearts” which makes me want to cut artichokes and pet my cat like it’s the Key to the Highest Level of Consciousness. And they’re all beautifully sung. When the album gets meditative, it still harbours a type of intensity, as well, which keeps it alive, far and away from becoming platitudes. Arlo Parks also said in an interview with Billboard that she wants the album to feel universal and hyper-specific. She did exactly that and somehow more.
FAVORITE: GREEN EYES, EUGENE, BLACK DOG LEAST FAVORITE: BLUISH
20, STOP IT. - KID FRESINO
GENRE: JAPANESE HIP HOP / EXPERIMENTAL HIP HOP / HIP HOUSE / POP RAP / TRAP
If we’re being honest, your first reaction to Kid Fresino is probably something like “why is the dude from 7e flexing his new condo at me”. But if you can get past the nasally delivery, you’ll fall in love with the esoteric lyricism (about credit card champagne people and a lullaby ouija board) and the remarkably eclectic production. A touch of Kanye here. A sprinkle of Charlie XCX there. There’s even cuts that throws math rock into the melting pot. Maybe it’s because Fresino has a polyamorous approach with his producers or maybe it’s a deliberate attempt to bring order to a fragmented music scene. Either way, 20, Stop It. is probably what you get if you were raised on the stuff Melon listens to.
girl got a cute face; Shit, V12
Syze Does Matter - MC Syze
GENRE: HIP HOP / BOOM BAP / RAP / JAZZ RAP / SOUL RAP / TAMIL HIP HOP
Syze Does Matter is a testament to MC Syze's well-spent hiatus. The years when he wasn’t an active recording artist - which amounted to about a decade - he probably absorbed, reframed and re-polished everything he knew about hip hop constantly. Why? Well, because Syze Does Matter works so well as a hip hop time machine. From 90s boom-bap, to 00s Kanye, to Kendrick Lamar’s storytelling & production quirks (with tamer jazz inputs); there’s even a little bit of G-Funk, some Digable Planets, Blackstar era nostalgia (Elements), turntablism (Gratitude) and of course the ever-present Tamil influences in songs like Sala Salapu (by god, the production on the chorus in that track is addictive) and Ariraro (with a gut-busting intro and trip hop vibes). The album is an anthology of the many ways you can do hip hop while still being conceptually cohesive. Even in my least favourite track, Selamba, there is still memorable flow, (especially from Flizzow with his best verse in a long time) and a well-executed hook. It's not short in meanness and attitude either. But I think Syze Does Matter stands out the most when it dares to be personal and vulnerable. The sneak peek into MC Syze’s life, such as the conversation sample about his friend’s stutter in Macha Dei or the poignant advice in Gratitude, all adds to the endearing charm - whether fictional or not. Essentially, the dedication to craft in Syze Does Matter is evident in MC Syze’s chameleon-like flows and mannerisms, at home in the new and the classic.
ATCL (A THING CALLED LOVE), ELEMENTS, HERE TO STAY, ARIRARO
Modest Alterations [EP] – Dusty Mush
GENRE: PSYCHEDELIC ROCK / GARAGE ROCK / NOISE ROCK
Modest Alterations is probably what you’d get if Jack White didn’t make it big and got into really obscure punk music. Every song sounds like one big chaotic guitar solo (sometimes even without the guitar) conceived from the drug den in ‘that’ part of the neighbourhood. There’s a patina throughout every track which sounds like someone left an electric toothbrush on, topped off with the manic delivery of one very pissed-off French man. And we haven’t even mentioned the 7 ½ minute garage opera that is Corrupted Meditations. If you have a soft spot for Les Rallizes Dénudés, there’s no doubt you’ll dig Dusty Mush.
The Features of Your Mind
The Safety of Prosperity [EP] - Tütsen
GENRE: SEQUENCER & TRACKER / DUNGEON SYNTH / AMBIENT
Nobody expected Runescape to become its own genre but here we are. Tütsen has managed to get quite some mileage from a sound that is part Nintendo and part medieval folk. And while most of the tracks are computer-generated, there’s enough dynamics from the cascading synths and horns as well as some very subtle time shifts (particularly in The Ebbs of Court) to justify an active listening experience. But with its warm chord progressions and straight forward drumming patterns, it’s more likely you’ll be put to sleep if try to focus for too long. Instead, we recommend putting The Safety of Prosperity in the background while you work on your Skyrim-themed PS1 Styled Horror Game.
Queen Consort, The Ebbs of Court
A Sordid Sort
WASTELAND: What Ails Our People Is Clear - LICE
GENRE: EXPERIMENTAL ROCK / POST-PUNK / ART PUNK NOISE ROCK / BRUTAL PROG / INDUSTRIAL ROCK / NO WAVE / MATH ROCK / ART PUNK
Coming from whatever genre blackmidi is, WASTELAND is an exquisite corpse of underground rock with a strange undertone of samples and timbres - a quick google search reveals a mini-doc and what seems to be a crank box attached to a snare drum (you can even see it on their Spotify page). The riffs are nothing new of course, at least to the average post-punker, but each song pushes the boundaries what we currently call ‘guitar music’. In lieu of a lick, the opening track Conveyer opens with some very rhythmic scratching (no nothing like Tom Morello). And Persuader should be a new wave song, but it’s almost as if nobody in the band bothered to learn the keys.
Lyrics too are something LICE have not skimped on, with some of the most evocative prophetic apocalyptic lines to dawn the punk scene. If you remember your high school English Literature class, you probably already know what poem the band is constantly drawing from. In almost every way, WASTELAND is guitar music, but the band goes into so many unexplored territories, it’s hard to put these guys in the same category as many other rock bands. And if you don’t believe us, just listen to Pariah.