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underrated albums of 2021

Under/Over-rated Albums of 2021

Over the course of 2021, there have been huge releases from several high-profile artists (Billie Eilish, Lorde, etc.). But at The Mancunion we want to boost some underrated and overrated albums of 2021 you may have missed.

Underrated!

Remi Wolf – Juno (Serena Jemmett)

Remi Wolf – Juno Album Cover

Remi Wolf’s debut album Juno, released in October, consists of 13 songs. Filled with upbeat groove, soul and funk this album can’t help but make you want to boogie and dance, even if you down in the dumps. The entire album screams high energy, chaotic lyrics and vivid instrumentals. Only being 25 years old, the album shows off Remi’s youthful and anarchic personality. The first song ‘Liquor Store’ refers to alcohol addiction which resulted in her attending rehab in summer 2020. This is also revisited in the 7th song ‘Volkiano’ where she sings “Fought myself in circles ’bout to flip from drinking to sober”. She’s reclaimed pop culture with her style and visuals, using bright psychedelic prints, patterns and colours and has become an all-round icon or in her words “thrift store baddie”. Everyone should have this album saved and downloaded.

julie – pushing daisies (Kevin Thomas)

Photo: julie – pushing daisies Official EP Art

pushing daisies by julie is my pick for the most underrated project (EP) of 2021. The band consists of Keyan Zand (vocalist and guitarist), Alex Brady (vocalist and bassist), and Dillon Lee (drummer). I first heard the group with their single ‘flutter’ back in lockdown last year. The grungy shoegaze sound blew me away – it didn’t seem overly derivative and certainly stood out from the mediocrity that often comes from such “nu-gaze” acts.

On pushing daisies, the group’s influences become much clearer and their sound more defined. ‘lochness’ is a highlight with the piercing guitar drenched in reverb alongside the explosive drums creating a raw, post-punk atmosphere reminiscent of Sonic Youth (especially with the noisy breakdown at the end). ‘daisy pusher’, my favourite track, is a treat for fans of Swirlies with heavy layers of distortion and the contrast between Keyan and Alex’s vocals accentuating the dreamy atmosphere. Overall, ‘pushing daisies’ is a satisfying project from one of the best up-and-coming shoegaze bands and I hope more people listen to them.

Kacey Musgraves- star-crossed (Maddy Oxley)

Photo: Kacey Musgraves – star-crossed Official Album Art

After winning a Best Album Grammy in 2018 for Golden Hour, an album full of affectionate love songs, star-crossed couldn’t be more different. Kacey Musgraves laments honestly, without any bitterness on her divorce, with tracks about struggling to live up to the expectations of being a wife, the disappointments of casual dating, and the realities of growing apart from someone. Despite not finding the album especially relatable, I was instantly drawn to its charm upon hearing ‘breadwinner’, and the dreamy vocals throughout manage to entrance the listener for all 15 tracks. Despite Kacey being a recent Grammy winner, I’ve heard little hype around this album and would love for it to get the attention it deserves.

St Vincent – Daddy’s Home (Alex Ferguson)

Photo: St Vincent – Daddy’s Home Official Album Art

The second St Vincent album to be produced by Jack Antonoff, following 2017’s Masseduction, Daddy’s Home swaps Masseduction‘s jagged, 80s-inspired electronic pop-rock for the laid back, sleazy sound of early 70s funk and psychedelia. ‘Live In The Dream’ sounds like it could have been written by Pink Floyd, while tracks like ‘The Melting of the Sun’ and ‘My Baby Wants A Baby’ are warmly tinged with soul influences. The entire album sounds like it was written and recorded in a smoky, run-down New York studio apartment in the 70s – in the absolute best way possible. In a year when Jack Antonoff produced two rather disappointing comeback albums for Lorde and Lana Del Rey, it’s a relief that ‘Daddy’s Home’ bucked the trend and reassured us that Antonoff and St Vincent are still a match made in musical heaven.

Parquet Courts – Sympathy For Life (Harvey O’Toole)

Photo: Parquet Courts – Sympathy For Life Official Album Art

After a three year wait following their joyfully resentful sixth studio album Wide Awake!, New York rock band Parquet Courts finally gave us their new album Sympathy For Life in late October of this year. Churning, riff-heavy singles such as ‘Walking at Downtown Pace’ led everyone to believe this record would follow in the footsteps of their frequented punk tendencies. But what they were given in the rest of the album was a dance-dominated approach, driven by synths and left with space that used to be so packed and excitable in their previous work. Whilst many may have been left disappointed after the misleading singles, it doesn’t mean the album should be shunned. Sympathy For Life seems to be a project of transition for Parquet Courts. They’re experimenting with sounds and trying to push themselves, and though it doesn’t seem to find its final form in this record, it promises exciting things in the near future.

Willie Dunn – Creation Never Sleeps, Creation Never Dies: The Willie Dunn Anthology (Maddie Drake)

Willie Dunn

Photo: Willie Dunn – Creation Never Sleeps, Creation Never Dies: The Willie Dunn Anthology

A posthumous release from the great Canadian folk musician Willie Dunn. Of half Mi’kmaq and half Scottish/Irish background, Dunn became known in Canada in the late-sixties into the seventies for his protest songs demanding attention to the plight of Canada’s indigenous peoples, most famously with ‘The Ballad of Crowfoot’ (1968) and ‘I Pity the Country’ (1971), both of which feature on this unforgettable anthology of his work. His voice is deep, both comforting and unnerving; songs are beautiful and tragic, angry and filled with wonder at nature. I’m not folk’s biggest fan but I know I’ll be coming back to this album for a long time. Favourite song: ‘I Pity the Country’.

Overrated

Little SimzSometimes I Might Be Introvert (Maddie Drake)

Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert album cover

To my best friend Laurie who loves Simz with all his heart: I’m sorry. I just didn’t like it that much. I liked Simz’s previous album Grey Area, and having seen her live back in 2019 I’m aware she’s a wonder to behold, but I just didn’t get this album. Simz opens up about her struggles with the clash between her own identity and the public one she’s created for herself, but to me it’s a kind of vulnerability and honesty that is so strong that it feels contrived and sickly. I found some of the more spoken-word interludes straight-up boring. There are good moments on it, probably my favourite being ‘Woman’, but nothing to shout about, really. Also, I didn’t what her appearance in the new Venom movie was all about. Anyway. Sorry again Laurie.

Tags: 2021 in music, album of the year, julie, kacey musgraves, parquet courts, st vincent, underrated albums

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