Every month this recap becomes more intimidating. Granted, it’s a pleasure to reflect upon how fruitful 2021 has been for music. Alternatively, it’s a nightmare to reflect upon exactly how fruitful 2021 has been for music because every month I balk at everything I’ve missed. I’ll show my ass here and admit I still haven’t listened to the new black midi. I have listened to these four albums, however. And you should too. There’s even a little thematic coherency between them, though you’d have to spend your waking hours as engulfed by music as I am to come to the same conclusion.
Pan Daijing – Jade 玉观音
During an interview with RedBull Music Academy, Pan Daijing admitted that although she’s enamored with cinema she has little affinity for horror films. This explains why JADE 玉观音 gurgles with tension like a bloodless horror movie. Every moment across Daijing’s outsider opus comes off as haunted, yet the album is not what one envisions when they think of terror-inducing noise. It’s comforting actually. Daijing carves out an isolated space with enough room for anyone to join. The walls come closing in on JADE 玉观音’s harshest tracks but they never suffocate. It’s the inner machinations of loneliness made communal, a juggling of dread and empathy.
Your Old Droog – Time
Time starts with “The Magic Watch,” an odd track for Your Old Droog in that it’s a straight-faced tale about time travel and cherishing the moment. It’s a curveball that suggests Time might contrast the rest of the rapper’s 2021 output. That wouldn’t be unwelcome. YOD is certainly talented enough to deliver a meditative project, but thank god “The Magic Watch” ends with a radio DJ announcing he’s going to use a time machine to kill baby Hitler. YOD solidifies his position as 2021’s best rapper with another boom-bap hip-hop tape, housing gut-busting punchlines underneath a gruff flow. Time is an excellent entry point into YOD especially if you’ve slept on either of his prior collaborations with Tha God Fahim.
MIKE – Disco!
So much of the hazy micro-rap landscape is indebted to MIKE. He’s been pumping out albums every year since 2017, each one navigating different aspects of grief and depression. Disco! is the brightest entry yet as MIKE enters an acceptance period, taking the lessons of dependence and community, and vowing to be an active aid to those around him. His maturation still has to parse his kaleidoscopic bedroom production but this time around it shimmers more often than it droops. The jazzy disjointed beats are looser on Disco! as MIKE’s vocals commandeer the project. He hones in on his technicality with varied rhythms and repurposed flows.
Seputus – Phantom Indigo
A common theme amongst my favourite albums this past month has been their ability to find positivity in the most unexpected places. That said, you’d have to squint and plug your ears to identify the optimism on Phantom Indigo. More likely you’d hear frustration, malice, and death metal that spirals into and out of comprehension. Any positivity must traverse coiled song structures and delirious riffing. Once digested Phantom Indigo becomes a document of understanding. Seputus convey the tension of recognizing one’s faulty thought patterns and the grind to escape from them. They understand how hair-pulling difficult that can be. If they can extrapolate that feeling to tape, then we can do our part to overcome our invasive apparitions.