Wednesday 19 January 2022

Albums I Never Got Round To Reviewing In 2021: Abba, Silk Sonic, Adele and more...

I catch up on the latest albums from Abba, Silk Sonic, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Alice Phoebe Lou, James Blake, The Armed, Mastodon, Young Thug, Injury Reserve, JPEGMAFIA, Lone and BADBADNOTGOOD. 

There were so many albums I listened to in 2021 that I never got round to reviewing. Below are some of the records I thought were worth talking about. Let me know of any albums I missed!

Voyage – Abba

This comeback album is shockingly naff. After 40 years apart, I guess it was unrealistic to expect more hits like ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Mamma Mia’. However, I was hoping for at least an attempt at a few catchy campy dancefloor fillers. Aside from ‘Just A Notion’, none of the tracks hit the spot – they’re all slow and serious and terribly dated. The ultimate low point is Christmas song ‘Little Things’, which features nauseatingly mushy lyrics and ends with a choir of children and recorders. No thank you (for the music).  

An Evening With Silk Sonic - Silk Sonic

Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak’s homage to 70s Motown is incredibly well-crafted, even if it’s not really my cup of tea. Some of the melodies remind me too much of an old Stylistics CD my mum used to overplay (and continues to play to this day on repeat whenever I go round), but thankfully without the castrated vocal tone. That said, there are still a lot of tracks here I love such as upbeat funky banger ‘Fly As Me’ (those trumpets!) and smooth babymaker ‘After Last Night’ (big up Thundercat and Bootsy Collins). The intentional hamminess adds to the enjoyment.

30 – Adele

I still can’t listen to barebones piano ballad ‘Easy on Me’ without thinking the chorus is going to break into ‘In The Jungle The Mighty Jungle’. However, this is otherwise an impressive selection of soul songs. Fuelled by her recent divorce, Adele pours her heart out and sings her lungs out. I was not expecting the rawness of ‘My Little Love’ (ngl, I was close to tears) or the spine-chilling vocal acrobatics of ‘To Be Loved’. Without wishing another divorce on Adele, I hope her next album is as intimate, because this blows her past material out the water. 

= - Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran is still churning out play-it-safe pop records. Aside from jumping on a house beat on ‘Bad Habits’ and delivering a twinkly lullaby to his baby daughter titled ‘Sandman’ (which sounds like a Cocomelon song), he’s pretty much doing the same boring shit he was doing on ÷.  As Ed sums up in the opening line: ‘I have grown up, I am a father now/ Everything has changed but I am still the same somehow’

Glow - Alice Phoebe Lou

South African neo-folk singer-songwriter Alice Phoebe Lou delivers this absolutely gorgeous breakup album. Alice’s fluttering Leslie-effect-soaked voice oozes with raw emotion and the jazzy guitar chords really add to the sense of longing. I would have liked to hear a few more songs that match the energy of ‘Dirty Mouth’, but otherwise these songs it’s a fantastic album that goosebump-inducingly beautiful.  

Friends That Break Your Heart - James Blake

James Blake’s last album was too cheery for my liking. His choirboy vocals and atmospheric electronic production sound so much better when channelling sorrow, as is the case with this new album Friends That Break Your Heart. As the title suggests, it’s a breakup album, but one about breaking up with friends (which is a pretty unique approach). Blake’s voice sounds truly haunting on tracks like ‘Say What You Will’ and I love the bittersweet production on tracks like ‘Famous Last Words’. It’s definitely an improvement from Assume Form

ULTRAPOP – The Armed

There’s nothing poppy about ULTRAPOP. Anonymous Detroit collective The Armed have crafted a challengingly noisy album in which indie, shoegaze, grindcore and industrial electronica all collide. The drumming is dizzyingly fast and chaotic – that snare takes a serious beating on ‘Masunaga Vapors’. At points the fuzzy production, frenzied instrumentation and screechy vocals are almost too much to bear. However, the collective are able to contrast this with pockets of euphoric guitar melodies, dreamy vocals and groovy basslines as on tracks like ‘Average Death’ and ‘Real Folk Blues’ that provide a genuine sense of beauty. Add to this some pretty witty lyrics (you’ll need to use Genius) and you’ve got a pretty flawless album. Well done, The Armed, whoever you are.  

Hushed and Grim – Mastodon

On Hushed and Grim, metal stalwarts Mastodon are sounding a lot more, well, hushed and grim. They’ve traded in the catchy arena style rock of Emperor of Sand and Once More ‘Round the Sun for a much more intricate, thrashy, mean sound reminiscent of their older material – and, by this token, it shouldn’t sound ‘hushed’. However, the guitars just sound a bit muted in the mix. Fortunately, the ‘grim’-ness makes up for it on many tracks in the first half such as explosive track ‘The Crux’ and fidgety single ‘Sickle and Peace’. In the second half of the album, the record becomes a bit more of a slog, despite still containing some decent moments. Did it really need to be 1 ½ hours long? 

Punk - Young Thug

Punk contains some of the rapper's most personal tracks to date, and there are moments when his delivery is so raw it feels conversational. However, I’m still not converted. Although much more subdued overall, Thuggah’s shaky delivery still sounds utterly painful at points (the high-pitched cracked delivery of ‘aaaasking’ is a prime example). A lot of the beats are also disappointingly generic.    

By The Time I Get To Phoenix - Injury Reserve

Injury Reserve’s new album is definitely not easy listening. In fact, it’s one of the most challenging hip hop albums I’ve listened to in recent years. At points, the abstract lyrics, wacky flows and avant-garde glitchy beats can feel impenetrable. However, there are also many meaningful bars, catchy hooks and moments of sonic beauty buried in the music for those who are patient enough to keep digging. Much of the album seems to be about finding peace in hopelessness exemplified through lines like ‘ain’t no saving me or you’ and ‘knees hurt when I grow/and that’s a tough pill to swallow/because I’m not getting taller’. It reflects the challenging sound of the album and also feels like an apt theme given the recent death of member Stepa J. Groggs - there is no mercy in death, and no mercy given on this album. 


Experimental hip hop artist JPEGMAFIA feels like he’s really fine-tuned his sound on this album. The lo-fi beats continue to be utterly wild, but are much more infectious this time around. I cannot get enough of the soulful sample in ‘Hazard Duty Pay!’. Also, is that an Animals as Leaders sample on ‘End Credits!’???  He’s got to be the only artist rapping over both 80s r&b samples and prog metal guitars. As for the rapping itself, Peggy continues to sound as energetic and provocative. The bars arguably aren’t as memorable, but the fiery delivery makes up for it. 

Always Inside Your Head – Lone

Electronic producer Lone returns. While the synth chords continue to be just as heavenly, the slower ambient pace of many of these tracks makes this a lot less riveting than previous Lone records. The best cuts are the more upbeat and dynamic numbers like ‘Mouth of God’ and ‘InLove2’. One new aspect that I do hope gets carried onto the next record is the use of vocals – Morgane Diet’s breathy singing really does give the music a new dimension. 


This new album from the Canadian instrumental jazz collective is made up largely of improvised tracks. As a result, there are no sharp transitions to provide the unpredictability of previous BADBADNOTGOOD records. Despite this, the way each track organically build and ebbs is phenomenal – I found this to be a much more gripping listen than IV.  I particularly like the gritty rock flavour of ‘Signal From The Noise’ and the orchestral soul vibe of ‘Love Proceeding’.