2021 was another the eventful year to say the least. Amidst all of the craziness, we were gifted with some amazing pieces of music from a wide variety of genres. This year’s list was tough to create, as there were many candidates and lots of difficult decisions to make, but in the end, I feel like it’s become an accurate depiction of what I’ve been in to for the past year. So without further ado, here is Derdy Harry’s top 10 albums of 2021 (in no particular order).
Almost 5 years after their last studio album, the experimental jazz group from Toronto released their long awaited fifth LP this past October. Opposed to their last album IV which featured various talented vocal artists, BADBADNOTGOOD decide to return to their instrumental roots on Talk Memory, which I personally found super exciting. The album starts extremely strong with its epic lead single, “Signal from the Noise,” and successfully carries that groove and emotion through the rest of the album.
“Signal from the Noise”, “Beside April”
Easily one of my favorite finds of the year, Norwegian post punk band Pom Poko’s sophomore album Cheater is non-stop fun. Their distorted basslines and upbeat drums pair exceptionally well with the soft, yet powerful vocals provided by frontwoman Ragnhild Fangel. After hearing this album and then tracing back to their earlier work, they have quickly become one the bands that I am most hyped to see live. Hopefully sometime soon!
“Cheater”, “Andy Go To School”, “Like A Lady”
Up next we have the highly anticipated sophomore LP from the dynamic Belfast born duo, Bicep. Having began its recording towards the beginning of the pandemic, Isles takes a more toned down and emotional approach than their previous self titled album, featuring less four-to-the-floor drums while still maintaining their moving and iconic sound. Their extremely well executed live streams were definitely a highlight while in-person shows were on hold, and I am beyond excited to see their live set in New York at the beginning of April.
“Atlas”, “Apricots”, “X (feat. Clara La San)”
For his latest album, synth wizard, orchestral composer, and absolute genius Floating Points provides an emotional and mysterious expedition of sound, comprised of various movements that combine to create one cohesive 47 minute piece. Joined by saxophone legend Pharaoh Sanders as well as the London Symphony Orchestra, Promises is a patient, yet enchanting display of the UK native’s range and expertise when it comes to beautiful composition.
*This one doesn’t really work like that, listen to it all at once!*
Next up on our list is Tread, the fantastic new album from British producer Ross From Friends This Brainfeeder release featured easily one of the most powerful singles of the year, “The Daisy”. As the album’s opening track, it sets the scene perfectly for the rest of RFF’s melancholy yet danceable tones. His recently announced show at Meow Wolf in Denver is bound to be an unforgettable experience, mark your calendars for this one!
“The Daisy”, “Revellers”, “XXX Olympiad”
Returning for his first full length project since 2016, Canadian producer Tor takes us through a sonic realization of what his “sense of home” means to him. Created in his high-rise Vancouver apartment, Oasis Sky is a dreamy and ethereal LP, filled with delicate, yet groovy percussion and plenty of magnificent synth work. It’s no wonder why our very own Weir is inspired heavily by this artist, thanks for the suggestion Chris!
“Inkeri”, “Foxglove”, “City 66”
The next album on our list is brought to you by another one of my favorite finds from this past year, experimental solo/collaborative jazz project Robohands. Their newest LP, Shapes, is a refreshing look at modern jazz, complete with luscious horn sections and tasteful drum grooves. With subtle shades of smooth hip-hop influence present throughout the project, Shapes is a fantastic album for getting work done, going for a drive, or simply just relaxing.
“Perceptron”, “Leaves”, “We’re from Nowhere”
After being introduced to his music by my roommate Dan aka Tripleset, I have been absolutely obsessed with German born and based producer Skee Mask. Coming off of his 2018 masterpiece Compro that was named “Best New Music” by Pitchfork, Skee Mask delivers another beautiful full length project, composed of mystical and unique blends of ambient, IDM, and garage influence. While the album is a hefty 18 tracks, Pool still manages to stay fresh, expertly balancing hazy and tranquil synth work with dark and moody breaks.
“DJ Camo Bro”, “Dolan Tours”, “Testo BC Mashup”
Easily one of my favorites from this past year, this next album comes from Brighton’s DnB maestro Unglued. On his debut LP, the UK producer does not hold back, delivering a consistent and exciting drum & bass project with tons of range, drawing influence from soul, funk, jazz, jungle, and more. It seems like ever since his breakout remix of High Contrast’s “If We Ever” in 2018, Unglued has been absolutely killing the scene. Hopefully he announces a US tour soon, this man is definitely not one to miss.
“South by West”, “Springs & Things”, “Crusty Rolls”
Having used his last album Singularity for the same purpose, I was super excited to hear that Jon Hopkins’ 2021 release was going to be written specifically for psychedelic meditation. In contrast to his previous work, Music For Psychedelic Therapy is a completely rhythymless journey. However, what the project lacks in Hopkins’ signature industrial drums, is more than made up for in its organic beauty and spaciousness.
*This one also doesn’t really work like that, listen to it all at once!*
For our honorable mention, we have the first full length album from LA native and Dirtybird signee, Lubelski. Created from several modular synth sessions in his Los Angeles studio, Happy Accidents is a fitting description for this wild and wonky LP, sprinkled with features and collaborations from some of Dirtybird’s finest. After having met him at this past year’s DB Campout, I can confirm that this man’s personality is just about as “out there” as his music is, which translates extremely well on this project.
“Just the Way (feat. Ardalan)”, “Asylum”, “Ice Cream Cone (feat. Life on Planets)”