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 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 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 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.