It’s that time of year in the music world where we all — magazines, websites, radio stations, podcasts —look back and make lists. Everyone has been putting out their picks at the 6-month mark of 2021 and for this week’s New Music Experience the staff of WNXP pull together a playlist of our favorites so far. It’s extra special as it also marks our first six months in existence! We celebrate that with selections from Jewly Hight, Marquis Munson, Celia, Emily Young, Paige Jack, Michael Pollard, Adam Culver, Aaron Monty and me.
While we are looking back, we’re still keeping up with what’s happening this week by spotlighting songs from big releases today including Lucy Dacus, Cautious Clay and Beabadoobee. We start with a somewhat surprise drop from an artist the whole staff is excited about – the anonymous UK collective known as Sault. They released two of the most acclaimed and socially resonant albums of 2020 and announced recently they would drop their newest album Nine today. As usual there is very little info attached to it and as usual the music is very, very good. The way they weave playful production with unconventional grooves and deep, timely lyrics hits just as we’d hoped, especially on the song “London Gangs” which starts off the New Music Experience.
- 1. Sault “London Gangs”
- 2. Jason’s pick: Cherry Glazerr “Rabbit Hole”
- 3. Cautious Clay “Shook”
- 4. Celia’s pick: Bachelor “Stay in the Car”
- 5. Jewly Hight’s pick: Serpentwithfeet “Same Size Shoe”
- 6. Marquis Munson’s pick: Silk Sonic “Leave the Door Open”
- 7. Adam Culver’s pick: Bantug “High Worry”
- 8. Michael Pollard’s pick: Amythyst Kiah “Black Myself”
- 9. Paige Jack’s pick: Hiatus Kaiyote “Get Sun”
- 10. Emily Yong’s pick: Shame “Alphabet” 1
- 11. Aaron Monty’s pick: Jelani Aryeh “Marigold”
- 12. Beabadoobee “Cologne”
- 13. Lucy Dacus “First Time”
- 14. Still Woozy “That’s Life”
Sault “London Gangs”
Cautious Clay “Shook”
Jewly Hight on serpentwithfeet:
From my perspective the music of the first half of 2021 has been an embarrassment of riches. I have been made to feel swept up in a symphonic musical while walking down the street by Spelling’s album The Turning Wheel. Through Valerie June’s album The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers, I heard past and future bend to meet each other in ways I’d never witnessed before. It was exhilarating hearing Houston Kendrick use the particulars of his perspective to stretch open a too-narrow world on Small Infinity, and hearing Allison Russell leap off the pages as the hero of her own story on Outside Child. The albums from Genesis Owusu, Amythyst KIah and Lucy Dacus grabbed me with their imagistic, shape-shifting vigor, their surreal amplifying of melancholy, their reflective clarity. There are albums on the way from Madi Diaz, Leon Bridges, Bomba Estereo and Torres that I’m ready to get lost in too, and I haven’t even mentioned any of this year’s EPs. But the album that snuck up on me with its unguarded sweetness and made me tear up as I ran down an alley, was Deacon by serpentwithfeet. Serpent made such playful use of R&B, gospel and avant-garde elements in his celebration of grown-up intimacy, flirtation and friendship, especially the ways those qualities are embodied between Black men.
Aaron Monty on Jelani Aryeh:
From the first moment I heard Jelani‘s voice I wanted to turn it up, hear more songs, and know everything about him. Marigold is the perfect song for the summer and I’m excited to hear his debut I’ve Got Some Living To Do later this month.
Marquis Munson on Silk Sonic:
My pick for my favorite song of 2021 so far is Leave the Door Open by Silk Sonic, the collaboration between Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak. The pandemic was very depressing to deal with — staying away from family and friends, local businesses closing down and the social unrest going on — and the music reflected that. I love that music, don’t get me wrong. I love to Fight the Power because every day is a good day to fight the system but sometimes I need those songs that help me forget about the world’s problems for just 3 to 4 minutes. In 2020 that was Thundercat’s Dragonball Durag and this year it’s been Silk Sonic bringing the Phildelphia Soul sound to 2021. It forced me to bring out my uncle’s old Stacey Adams, floral button up shirt and bell bottom pants to show up to your local bar-b-que.
Michael Pollard on Amythyst Kiah:
My selection for the best so far list is Amythyst Kiah’s abrasively triumphant Black Myself. That song has stuck with me since the moment I first heard it. I love the bluesy/rocky sound, I love the lyrics and I love the statement she is making. A worthy addition to the list indeed.
Celia on Bachelor:
I’ve been awed by super-duo Bachelor formed by friends and fellow artists Melina Duterte of Jay Som and Ellen Kempner of Palehound. They released the rocking single Stay in the Car in March, then followed with the full album Doomin’ Sun in May. In early June they synced up dozens of friends from the indie music world, the majority of them women and/or queer, for a virtual festival and telethon supporting nonprofit Seeding Sovereignty. Because of their fast acceleration, a compelling debut, and the sonic and songwriting merits of this track my Favorite so Far in 2021 goes to Bachelor’s Stay in the Car.
Emily Young on Shame:
We’ve all been witness to the new post-Brexit post-punk movement happening in the UK accompanied by a cohort of bands like Dry Cleaning, Idles. Fontaines DC and my personal favorite Shame. The London based band’s sophomore album Drunk Tank Pink is my favorite record of 2021 thus far. It is full of loud, scuzzy punk songs and the frenetic opening track sets the perfect scene for a mosh pit — something I missed so dearly during the pandemic.