The best of 2021

Weekend Mix music critic John Hayden selects his best albums of the year.

LITTLE SIMZ

Sometimes I could be introverted

When Mercury Prize-nominated MC Little Simz nominated Kendrick Lamar on Sometimes I Might Be Introverted, she firmly established herself in that same line of stop-and-touch storytellers. Like Lamar, whose 2012 breakthrough was captioned “A Short Film,” Simz embarked on his own odyssey on LP number four, grappling with his titular introversion in the face of the complexities of city life. The large-scale film production – all lush horns and sighing strings – fused the raw emotion of ’70s soul with its radiant rhymes, showcasing an utterly absorbing brand of vulnerability.

Single download: I love you i hate you

PLAYBOI CARTI

Red Lotta Whole

While far from a daring leap forward, it’s still heartwarming to know that in these trying times, the contagious dopamine rap of Playboi Carti is here for us. The Atlanta author’s second album saw thundering bass and bouncy hits scramble to position alongside his wheezy, wheezy, and edgy ad-libs, as the repetitive chorus of Rockstar Made (“never too much” ) revealed Whole Lotta Red’s manic manifesto. With a surreal outlook encompassing statements such as “I am in the twilight zone ….

Single download: Hymn of the vampires

DRY CLEANING

New long leg

Hot dog cravings, plush llamas, “panties in pants” – unconventional post-punk lyrical fare – that’s what made this South London quartet so appealing. Anchored by the fun reveries of Florence Shaw, Dry Cleaning’s debut LP turned everyday minutiae into pure punk poetry. Thanks to the steady production hand of John Parish (PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding) and a sonic palette reminiscent of the spiky guitars of Gang of Four (John Wick), the molasses-thick basslines of Black Sabbath (Unsmart Lady) and Sonic Yout’s (Every Day Carry), New Long Leg has thankfully moved beyond simple novelty not driven by sequitur.

Single download: Little intelligent lady

PINK PANTHER

to hell with that

No one else has summed up 2021 as well as an anonymous 19-year-old Londoner. After posting a slew of bedroom-produced tracks on TikTok, PinkPantheress found viral fame thanks to its self-proclaimed brand of ‘new nostalgia’, which put a melancholy lyricism to the irreproachable brilliant drum and drum samples of the beginning of the century. -bass (including the imposing Circles of Adam F, which forms the basis of the main single Break It Off which changes the algorithms). Intimate bubblegum breakbeats, ethereal cooing, and tongue-in-cheek observations such as “I wasn’t supposed to be so bored at nineteen” suggested a mercurial new talent poised to transcend the social media vibe.

Single download: To break up

OLIVIA RODRIGUE

Sour

On her future Grammy debut, Disney Channel alum Olivia Rodrigo not only revealed a Swiftian talent for turning heartache into hit singles, but also an almost forensic understanding of her demographics. Sour was a fiercely assured hybrid of delicate ballad (“I don’t want your sympathy, I just want me to come back,” opined the majestic Enough For You) and lawless pop-punk impertinence (“I can’t even park in parallel ! ‘)

Single download: already seen


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