What a year it’s been! Despite venue closures and festival cancellations we’ve still been treated to some excellent new albums. Chief record buyer at the Exchange Marty gives us a rundown of his top picks of the year.
10 – Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg
New Long Leg is South London 4-piece Dry Cleaning’s debut album, following on from their 2019 EPs Sweet Princess and Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks. Frontwoman Florence Shaw’s cynical, deadpan lyrics are reminiscent of Courtney Barnett and Art Brut’s Eddie Argos, but where Barnett and Argos tend more towards sprechgesang (speak-singing), Shaw’s vocals are full-on spoken word.
New Long Leg is available on black vinyl from Ventnor Exchange.
9 – Nubya Garcia – Source
The British jazz scene is currently having a very good time, and Nubya Garcia’s debut album Source is a shining example. An album that has two top-notch remix versions within the same year is testament to how good the original material is. Tracks like Pace are swirling, heady affairs, with rhythms separating and combining again to make music which is at once relaxing and invigorating.
8 – Myd – Born A Loser
Born A Loser is the debut full length album from French house artist Quentin Lapoutre, otherwise known as Myd. This album is wall-to-wall bangers, which is to be expected, considering it’s released on Ed Banger Records, the label that gave us the hits of Justice and Cassius. From the pulsing title track, to the funky Together We Stand, this is one for fans of the aforementioned French labelmates, as well as Metronomy and Jungle
Born A Loser is available on double black vinyl from Ventnor Exchange.
7 – Amyl and The Sniffers – Comfort To Me
The outstanding sophomore album from the Melbourne pub-rockers, conceived when the band were all in the same house during lockdown. Lead singer Amy Taylor’s energetic vocals are almost like incantations, never frenzied or wild, but deliberate and rhythmic, like a second drumbeat. Security is one of my favourite pieces of punk guitar work for a good while.
Comfort To Me is available on red vinyl from Ventnor Exchange.
6 – Jordan Rakei – What We Call Life
When he was 23, Jordan Rakei stated that he wanted to release five albums before he turned 30. What We Call Life is the last of these quickfire albums, but it is anything but a rush job. A record that came about as a result of Rakei reflecting on his recent therapy sessions, this album is intimate, hypnotic and thoughtful. Diverse instrumentation, atmospheric synths and complex rhythms come together to create a harmonious and layered sound, a lovely chill hop album.
What We Call Life is available on green vinyl from Ventnor Exchange.
5 – Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
Following 2019’s Grey Area, Little Simz fourth album is a wonderful piece of work. Including interludes, the album is 19 tracks, clocking in at over an hour long, and yet never outstays its welcome. The two lead singles Introvert and Woman (featuring the fantastic Cleo Sol) set a high bar for the rest of the album, which every song clears easily. Both cinematic and introspective, for me this is Little Simz’ best album to date.
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is available on double milky clear vinyl from Ventnor Exchange.
4 – Floating Points, Pharaoh Sanders and LSO – Promises
More jazz, this time from electronic musician Sam Shepard, better known as Floating Points, in collaboration with legendary saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra, released on Luaka Bop. Sanders listened to the debut Floating Points record, and decided to befriend Shepard and suggested they make a collaborative album. The result is one long piece split into nine ‘movements’, a gorgeous ambient masterpiece fusing synthesisers, orchestral instruments and Sanders’ saxophone and vocalisations.
3 – El Michels Affair – Yeti Season
Consider this: A Tarantino film set in the 1st century BCE, a hero’s journey from Anatolia to the Himalayas along the Silk Road. This, from cinematic soul band El Michels Affair, would be its soundtrack. A record designed to scratch every musical itch I have: Turkish psych-esque guitars, fuzzy synth bass, jazzy piano, funk drumbeats and the beautiful vocals of Say She She’s Piya Malik singing in Hindi. If you have been in the Exchange at any point this year, it’s a near certainty a track from this album has been played in the background
Yeti Season is available on blue vinyl from Ventnor Exchange.
2 – Sons of Kemet – Black To The Future
I will not apologise for the amount of jazz on this list. I was nervous that Sons of Kemet’s 2018 album Your Queen Is A Reptile would be difficult to top, but by the end of Joshua Idehen’s monologue on the first track Field Negus, my fear had been ripped from me. Fierce yet loose, both celebratory and righteously angry, brimming with pulsating brass and fantastic features from the likes of Kojey Radical, Lianne La Havas and Moor Mother, it is very difficult to listen to this album and stay physically or emotionally still.
Black To The Future is available on double orange vinyl from Ventnor Exchange.
1 – Genesis Owusu – Smiling With No Teeth
23-year-old Ghanaian-Australian rapper Kofi Owusu-Ansah released his debut album this year and it is my favourite album of 2021. All the songs, from the soulful A Song About Fishing to the Shepard tone-esque thumping drive of The Other Black Dog, are so mind-burrowing and catchy that I have been humming them to myself for the best part of this year. The energetic nature of the tracks don’t disguise, but emphasise the album’s central theme of Owusu’s struggle with depression, which he personifies as the colloquial ‘black dog’. This is a slick, genre-hopping, well-produced debut, and I can’t wait to see what is yet to come from Owusu.
The vinyl copies of this album evaporated before I could get my hands on them, so please, if you find any on your travels, buy two, and send one to the Exchange.