Okay we’re back. Time to continue my rundown of favorite albums of 2021. It’s been another great year of tunes, and right now I’d like to give a shoutout to some independent labels that are worth your time, money, and hard drive space in your brain. These labels aren’t just putting out albums, they’re dropping some serious vibes on our psyches. There’s a real creative mind meld going on with their releases. Each artist is their own thing, man. But there’s a continuity with the releases and the guys and gals that run these labels have a vision and an aesthetic to what they put out.
So do some weekend deep-diving with El Paraiso Records, Waxing Crescent Records, Third Kind Records, Azure Vista Records, Spun Out Of Control, SFI Recordings, Moon Glyph Records, Bricolage, Soundtracking The Void, Burning Witches Recordss, and Behind The Sky. That’s a just a few of the amazing independent record labels that are helping to rewire our brains, one album at a time.
Okay, so onto the albums.
Steve Moore & Blutech : Liminal Migration
What a fantastic collab between maestro Steve Moore and space techno wizard Bluetech. A mixture of dance floor bangers and the more ethereal film work of Steve Moore. Both Moore and Evan Bluetech come at this album with one thing in mind: get bodies moving. Now, with Moore’s dark sonic touches it feels more like a post-apocalyptic rave. And honestly, that’s the only kind of rave I’d have any interest in shaking my booty at.
Daniel Davies : Spies
Composer and John Carpenter collaborator Daniel Davies has really been busy the last three years. Releasing both his solo debut in 2018 along with David Gordon Green’s Halloween score with John and Cody Carpenter, then in 2019 putting out a documentary score. 2020 saw the release of his second solo album. And this year of course was the score for Halloween Kills. But before that was Davies Spies EP. Another fantastic and darkly-lit instrumental album, Davies uses voyeurism as a jumping off point to another set of dark, Gothic works of musical magic.
Gojira : Fortitude
Gojira’s Fortitude was introduced to me by my 16-year old son. I was skeptical as I’m an old and opinionated metal fan. New metal? Last great new metal album I heard was High On Fire’s Electric Messiah. But I finally gave in and found out that Gojira is a pretty amazing metal band. Prog metal, maybe? Whatever metal it is they are damn good at it. Fortitude is filled with chunky guitar riffage, pummeling bass lines, and next-level metal drumming that Dave Lombardo would be impressed by. Plus, these guys are passionate about the environment and they incorporate that passion into their music.
Sankofa : BLKTCHP
Another stellar release from the Midwest’s finest and most prolific MC Sankofa. Stephen Bryden, aka Sankofa, has a strong flow and next-level lyrics and BLKTCHP sports some of Bryden’s darkest and heaviest songs yet. Sankofa seems to up himself with every album, and his prolific output makes that all the more impressive. If you’re a hip hop fan and you still haven’t heard the mighty Sankofa, then you need to check yourself and check into BLKTCHP.
Alessandro Cortini : Scuro Chiaro
Italian multi-instrumentalist Alessandro Cortini approaches his solo electronic records like a cross between mad scientist and electronic composer. His latest album feels very cinematic, building mood and feel through these slow motion synth explorations. Cortini comes across like Fabio Frizzi had he gone the industrial/ambient route. Scuro Chiaro is music for contemplative androids.
UNE : Spomenik
Mark Radcliffe & Paul Langley are the electronic duo UNE. On their Spun Out Of Control debut Spomenik, UNE make a concept album of sorts about concrete monoliths built during the Cold War-era Yugoslavia. Radcliffe and Langley come at this project as if Kraftwerk were actually world history professors disguised as robotic musicians. Spomenik is engaging in narrative and icy sleek in production value, this is a must-have for fans of Kraftwerk and forward-thinking electronic music.
Wolfmen Of Mars : Might Be Evil
Wolfmen Of Mars returned in 2021 with another slice of grimy, whimsical musical mayhem with Might Be Evil, and album which owes as big a debt to Danny Elfman and sea shanties as it does to 80s horror scores, Creepshow, and White Zombie. Industrial wheezes intermingle with Carpenter vibes for an absolute killer set of tunes. That album cover pretty much sums up the vibe of this great album. Get on it.
Burial Grid : Shores of Quiddity
Another stunning electronic album from Adam Michael Kozak, aka Burial Grid. This time with Shores of Quiddity Kozak set out to make an album of calming electronic tomes to quiet the busy mind. Meditative tones to ease anxiety and allow a calm to come over us in times of need. The album works in that way, but the presence of an underlying darkness permeates these songs as well. It’s as if in attempting to build a world of ambient tones and pleasant vibes, Kozak shared some of his own anxiousness and psychic trauma. It makes the album all the more visceral and vital.
Repeated Viewing : The Family
Alan Sinclair, aka Repeated Viewing, continues his impressive run of imagined soundtrack wizardry with the intense The Family. Buzzing synths, electro rhythms, and an overall late 80s/early 90s vibe permeates this incredible score. Sinclair creates believable narrative for his albums, and The Family sports accidental deaths, fleeing from consequences, Satanic biker cults, and of course forbidden love. What’s not to love about any of this?
Lisa Bella Donna : Mourning Light
Mourning Light is an audio/visual collaboration between musician/composer Lisa Bella Donna and painter Alicia Jean Vanderelli. Recorded live in front of an audience, Lisa Bella Donna builds free form sound with the Moog using Vanderelli’s painting in real time as inspiration. The result is four long form musical pieces that channel the stunning soundscapes of Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, and Klaus Schulze. Art interpreting and inspiring art in real time. Absolutely stunning.
We’ll be back next week for the big, big show. My top 30 favorite records of 2021. I guess you could say I had a top 50 albums of 2021, but I was just too lazy to rank 50 albums. Plus, there’s some that have dropped in the last couple weeks that would definitely made it onto a list of sorts. Just didn’t have the time or brain frequency to include them.
So yeah, stay tuned. Listmania continues.