My longstanding policy of cutting off my best-of-year considerations at 30-Nov each year does, admittedly, leave me in the position of potentially missing out on important releases in December. But, I have to cut-off somewhere, and stopping at the end of November at least gives me a chance to write my end-of-year lists (they take a considerable amount of time to do, I should add). You can read the 2020 editions here.
Just days into 2021, then, and I’m back on the saddle of considering the best new music. This is a mix of releases from late last year, and a few new releases for January, too, as we get back into the swing of what already looks to be a busy year in the genres that I broadly cover. As is traditional, too, I’ll be giving a list of relevant confirmed and expected/potential releases in 2021 on Friday, which in these strange times at least gives us something to look forward to.
If you’ve been following this site across 2020, too, you’ll know that I’ve been busy with various livestreams, and they resume this Thursday after a Christmas and New Year break. You can always find my upcoming livestreams, and also other upcoming livestreams and events generally, here.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook and Twitter. All songs will have an embedded player from Bandcamp where possible to listen along, otherwise, Spotify and/or other services will suffice – and there are playlist links for both Spotify and Youtube above.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a Livestream or event I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (use the FB box above).
It’s been eight or so years since we last heard new music from Imperative Reaction, after they wound down and clearly took a break following their self-titled album and related touring (which included an exceptionally rare UK date, at Infest 2012). Mirror has been a long-time coming, too, the title having been mentioned, as well as work on the new material, for a few years now, but just before Christmas the first tracks finally broke cover (as well as pre-orders for the release date of 15-Jan). Pick of the pair of new tracks most have heard so far – and indeed from the album, now I’ve heard the whole thing – is the savage Like Swine, a dancefloor stomper where Ted Phelps lets rip on the chorus with a buzzing fury, and I can’t help thinking that there is a rare political comment hidden in the violent metaphors spat out by him.
/You and I Will Never Die
After the retreat to darker, perhaps less accessible sounds on Eternal Daughter, the first track from Kanga’s second album proper hints at a turn back to the poppier feel of that excellent debut (album of the year on this site in 2016, too), that remarkably is already over four years old. Godless tears out of the traps with bright synths and fuzzy basslines, while Kanga herself assesses her relationships with people and with religion (and entwining the two, somewhat, too). A great lead-up to the upcoming album, this, and I’m intrigued to see where else Kanga chooses to take her sound next.
/Who’s Afraid of a Good Time?
Shane Talada has long been a prominent voice in North American industrial/noise, having long understood the blurred lines between the two styles – and he’s explored variants under both The Operative and Marching Dynamics monikers, and most recently under Artillery Nightspace. This latest release under the latter name is the best album of the style I’ve heard in an age – metallic-edged, punchy industrial rhythms jostle for space with screeching bursts of noise, and it makes for an enormously enjoyable, listenable release. Pick of the album, though, is this groovy, lumbering monster of a track, that only makes me wish we had dancefloors to stomp the night away to on.
There was something of a muted reaction to the last album Wake Up The Coma – certainly for this writer, it was the weakest FLA album in a couple of decades, at least – and while the surprise announcement of a new album made before Christmas was a good thing, I didn’t get my hopes up too much (especially as there was no track to hear to start with). That first new track, though, did come a couple of weeks later, and…it’s not bad at all. As had been hinted at on the last, guitar-less tour, they’ve gone back to being (an almost) fully electro-industrial band again, and my first thought while listening to the propulsive rhythms and multi-tracked, treated vocals of the chorus of Unknown was that this feels like a hark back to Hard Wired. The rest of the album backs this up – the booming bass of recent albums is absent, and very much, this feels like something of a reset.
/uNKNOWn tO vIRTUe
/The Inevitable Relapse
Probably the European counterpart to Dead When I Found Her, Martin Sane’s Fïx8:Sëd8 takes inspiration from similar realms – the weirder, atmospheric corners of electro-industrial, but in many respects their respective output couldn’t be more different. While DWIFH eschew the dancefloor, for the most part, instead going for reflective, deeply personal pieces, Fïx8:Sëd8 are a harder-edged, more immediate proposition. uNKNOWn tO vIRTUe is a great example of this – twinkling, tapping synths are chinks of light shimmering across pulsing, heavy rhythmic programming, while desperate sampled voices fill gaps in the mix. An artist I was late to the party with – only really fully appreciating how good they were when I saw them live at BIMFest in December 2019, but I certainly won’t be missing out on the new album, out later this month.
/In The Depths of His Eyes
An intriguing premise, this. A duo formed of American minimal techno producer Troy Pierce and Colombian audiovisual artist Natalia Escobar, and according to the blurb accompanying the album pre-order on Bandcamp, the visuals came first, before the songs were written. The exquisite marriage of the two on lead single In The Depths of His Eyes suggests that they are onto something. Ghostly, nighttime forest scenes provide the base for visuals that are never quite in focus, never quite giving you clarity, and the pitch-dark, downtempo gothic trip-hop of the music is elegant and distanced. Colour me absolutely fascinated to hear the rest of the album.
I somehow missed this when released in November, and only picked it up a couple of weeks later, but it is absolutely worth a mention here. Now signed to the fabric-related Houndstooth imprint, SCALPING’s reach is already growing, and hopefully in 2021 (at some point!) I’ll finally get to go to the now four-times-rescheduled, sold-out London show that was originally meant to happen last March. Still no news (yet) on an album, mind, but this single will do nicely in the meantime. As before, there is a mutant feel to what they do – using techno/industrial techniques within energetic rock/post-rock to create mind-melting, powerful tracks that must absolutely destroy live. This track ominously builds in power before taking an unexpected turn into a psych-techno groove, and then the guitar-led, industrial rock roar crashes back in to spectacular effect, as well as a pummelling drum interlude and acid screeches painted like grafitti over the chaotic mix. In just four minutes, there’s a whole lot going on. Nice to see the NME finally catching on in December, too – SCALPING’s previous single Ruptured was track of the year on this site a year ago…
A release that isn’t as long as it first appears – it’s actually a three-track EP with a number of their previous releases all tacked on, so I suspect it will be a neat primer of their work so far, prior to a full-length new album later in the year. This Winnepeg trio is clearly a group steeped in the world of post-hardcore and noise-rock, and this short, 100-second track seethes with anger and frustration, full of blasting riffs, thundering drums and raging vocals. In short, just how I love it.
/Insignificant is the Wormking’s Throne
A track so popular that I played it at the three consecutive /Stormblasts prior to Christmas, this is from yet another excellent Icelandic black metal band – although from the album as a whole, it is obvious that there are more influences at work than just that style, with ripping thrash being a particular influence on some of the album, that’s for sure. You only need to listen to the brutal opening of Insignificant is the Wormking’s Throne to see that – it sounds enormous, monstrous, and fucking amazing. Across the seven minutes of the track, it takes in thrashing blastbeats, symphonic black metal, harmonized melodies, and by the end, the only recourse is to put it back on again.
Also of recent interest in terms of Black Metal has been Akhlys, a US band working in considerably darker, more intense realms than many of their peers, at least going on this excellent album. A broad concept album titled after the Orphic Goddess, apparently, in musical terms it is a head-spinning, impressive trip into the abyss, and Ephialtes gives the distinct feeling of being dragged into the said abyss with the band, as they continue playing in the chaos. Production-wise it sounds tens of storeys tall, a colossus of power that nails the brutality and inherent evil of Black Metal, doing justice to a style that often is let down by paper-thin production techniques in the pursuit of “Kvlt” appeal.