This has been an abun­dant year for new music, hard­ly sur­pris­ing as artists were forced into lock­down, stuck in their hous­es / bed­rooms /studios with only synths and gui­tars for com­pa­ny. We’re delight­ed to bring you Gourmet Gigs’ favourites this year: a com­bi­na­tion of albums and an EP. A few long-await­ed albums turned out to be a tad under­whelm­ing but there were some absolute gems nev­er­the­less over the course of the year. What were your favourites of 2021?

The Besnard Lakes The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thun­der­storm Warn­ings With a new cre­ative free­dom cour­tesy of their new label Full Time Hob­by, the Cana­di­an crew have pro­duced this stat­uesque and sub­lime­ly beau­ti­ful work – prob­a­bly their best to date. After the death of the father of front man Jace Lasek, the band were inspired to explore the sub­ject of death and rebirth in this majes­tic album. Thun­der­storm Warn­ings needs to be savoured slow­ly and in its entire­ty in order for the lis­ten­er to reap its full reward. 

UNKLE RONIN I A wel­come mix­tape from James Lavelle with reworked ver­sions of for­mer tracks, this album is designed to get us out and club­bing again. There’s a souped-up ver­sion of the gor­geous Feel More / with Less (from the sec­ond The Road Part II album and sung so effec­tive­ly by Leila Moss). Michael Kiwanuka’s soul­ful vocals do jus­tice to On My Knees while Do Your­self Some­thing Good sounds some­what like Alaba­ma 3. A sec­ond Ronin album is on the way and per­haps anoth­er exhi­bi­tion (review of Beyond the Road at Saatchi Gallery). 

Nightmares on wax

Night­mares on Wax Shout Out! to Free­dom Ibiza res­i­dent George Eve­lyn’s ninth album fea­tures an array of notable guests such as New York duo Oshun, plus Green­tea Peng, Shaba­ka Hutch­ings and more. Woozy, sum­mery sounds snake their way out of your speak­ers, such as on Imag­i­neer­ing – a sophis­ti­cat­ed, lounge lul­la­by. Breathe In, the con­tri­bu­tion with New York hip-hop duo Oshun is the album’s high point, a silky, spir­i­tu­al psy­che­del­ic wonder. 

W H Lung album cover

W H Lung Van­i­ties. For that ’dif­fi­cult’ sec­ond album W H Lung have tweaked and ramped up their sound. No more of the long intros and for­ays into swirling psych vor­tex­es, Van­i­ties sets its sights firm­ly on the dance floor. In the open­ing track Calm Down, vocals ven­ture, to great effect, into the realm of Jim­my Somerville, while Show­stop­per’s dri­ving beat gets into your soul. 

The Weather Station

The Weath­er Sta­tion Igno­rance. The album her­ald­ed its arrival with the creepy and intense Rob­ber fol­lowed by Atlantic. Tama­ra Lin­de­man, the dri­ving force behind the The Weath­er Sta­tion, express­es her ideas about cli­mate change and unease about the state of the world, com­bined with feel­ings and emo­tions after a break-up. Beau­ti­ful, com­plex arrange­ments fea­tur­ing synths, sax­o­phone, flute and strings buoy up Lin­de­man’s vocals. 

The Lounge Soci­ety EP Silk For the Starv­ing. The young Heb­den Bridge band fol­lowed up their force­ful first sin­gle Gen­er­a­tion Game with this EP con­sist­ing of four con­fi­dent, local­ly polit­i­cal songs. Burn The Heather attacks the grouse shoot­ers whose hob­by destroys the habi­tat and adds to flood­ing prob­lems while Val­ley Bot­tom Fever describes the depres­sion of Calder Val­ley res­i­dents who see next to noth­ing of the sun dur­ing the win­ter months. 

Alex Maas Lev­i­ta­tion Ses­sions. Last year, Maas released his first solo album called Luca, which fea­tured on our fave list. More of a good thing has come our way in 2021 in the form of a live album called Lev­i­ta­tion Ses­sions, fea­tur­ing a mix of Luca tracks and some new ones. Maas’ melan­choly vocals car­ry the weight of the world on these reflec­tive, folk-tinged tracks. Maas released Lev­i­ta­tion Ses­sions to give us a glimpse of the songs in a live set­ting, before the pan­dem­ic took hold and ruined everything.

Dry Clean­ing New Long Leg “It’ll be ok, I just need to be weird and hide for a bit and eat an old sand­wich from my bag”. Almost impos­si­ble to pick a favourite line, but that might just be mine, from the bril­liant Scratch­card Lan­yard. The inter­play between Flo­rence Shaw’s still­ness, the dead­pan south Lon­don spo­ken vocals and the churn­ing gui­tars around her is in per­fect bal­ance. Her wry lyrics jump from non sequiturs to steams of con­scious­ness thoughts, reveal­ing obses­sion or vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty. Unsmart Lady focus­es on women and body image: “Fat, podgy, none make­up… hair remover”. A bril­liant first album from a band who have become a bit of a nation­al obsession.

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