Guardian’s best albums of 2021 so far

An eclectic list from the Grauniad. I’ve heard three of them (Nick Cave, Dry Cleaning, Wolf Alice), and wasn’t especially impressed by any of them. So lots of listening to do.

Arooj Aftab – Vulture Prince
Black Country, New Road – For the First Time
The Body – I’ve Seen All I Need to See
Erika de Casier – Sensational
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis – Carnage
Chai – Wink
Chris Corsano and Bill Orcutt – Made Out of Sound
Digga D – Made in the Pyrex
Divide and Dissolve – Gas Lit
Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg
Fiver – Fiver with the Atlantic School of Spontaneous Composition
Gojira – Fortitude
Karol G – KG0516
Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime
Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams
Sons of Kemet – Black to the Future
Will Stratton – The Changing Wilderness
St Vincent – Daddy’s Home
The Weather Station – Ignorance
Yasmin Williams – Urban Driftwood
Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend

Unless you like Persian elevator music, you can skip the first😉

Not impressed by our pal Clarke’s team selection but guess we’ll see

I have no one….

I have respect for and confidence in Clarke, whatever happens next. He’s been responsible for the turnaround. I’m not sure what he sees in Big Lyndon, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Sorry for me its in my top of the year. Beautiful album.
Erika de Casier is very good also as is The Weather Station.

Missing my 2 top favourites of the year from Cassandra Jenkins and Piers Faccini.

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Agreed. If that’s elevator music I will never take the stairs again. Dry Cleaning is a good pick too.


There’s a fair amount of music in there which is a tad disappointing or perhaps a little hyped.

The Wolf Alice springs to mind. Easily their best album. Still a 3.5 to 4 out of 5. Ditto Sons Of Kemet. Interesting album but will come to be viewed as one of their weaker efforts.

The Weather Station have grown on me but it’s definitely been hyped as it’s one paced; rhythmically samey (identical on two tracks) and lacks dynamics. Dry Cleaning have attracted a certain sort of white male who got lost somewhere around post punk and sees originality where others see a facsimile of post punk. The attraction of Arlo Parks continues to evade me. Bland. I want to dislike the Nick Cave but, once again, it’s very good. Still a 4. Very good but not Skeleton Tree. I’d heard a lot a lot about Black Country, New Road. The reality was genuinely disappointing. Thin fare indeed.

Biggest disappointment by far has been the St. Vincent album. By no means a bad record. Far from it. However, she’s at her least interesting when she’s at her most personal. Musically she seems to have found a nice justification for the turn into a cul de sac but ultimately it’s a one off possibly transitional album. 3.5 at best. Always enjoyable but often not that memorable.

That leaves Arooj Aftab. Putting aside that the phrase “Persian elevator music” is a full on attempt at offensiveness the album itself has built on a little hype but then a great deal of word of mouth. Always a good sign. People buy it then talk about it. It’s a beautifully recorded album and, translation of the lyrics suggests great poetry at work. Is it perfect? No. The one English language track breaks the mood and seems unnecessary. However, it is likely to still be a contender for album of the year come December and everyone I have shared it with, generally with nothing like it in their collections, has loved it.

I think it will be talked about more and more in here and will be a contender for our unofficial album of the year.


Taste in music is fascinating. Some say something is bland others say beautiful. And then both positions could be reversed 180 degrees on the next recording. There is no definitive answer. Although I am sure I can state without fear of any contradiction that the Lighthouse Family are bland.

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I’d missed the Arooj Aftab and just read the Pitchfork review. Based on that I’ve bought it from Qobuz and will download it tomorrow.

Of the list I have Carnage, which is excellent, and New Long Leg. The latter is perhaps a bit of a post punk pastiche but that’s no bad thing when it’s done so well. There is nothing genuinely new in any case and most listeners won’t remember 400 Blows.

I find the Arooj Aftab a beautiful album. Big fan of Sons of Kemet too.

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Let us know what you think.

I’ve Arooj Aftab which is a truly excellent and actually Pakistani/American not Persian and Son’s of Kemet also excellent though not up there with Your Queen is a Reptile just yet though it is a grower.


I’ve only got a couple of the LPs on this list so far…

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis are great as ever, though this is not as good as Idiot Prayer.

Sons of Kemet - agree it’s not as good as queen but I’ve only spun it a couple times so I’m going to give that some time though on the whole for Shabaka Hutchins projects I prefer The Comet is Coming…

Full on “attempt” at offensiveness? Come on Mike. Tell ya what, I’ll give it another shot but suspect this is a case of folks listening to their hifi vs the music. I’ll be listening for prat and keep you apprised. :wink:

To be as polite as I can be… I have little respect for anyone who doesn’t see your description of the music as offensive, regardless of whether you like it or not, and whose reaction to that is to criticise posters on here with a long standing position of music first, hi-fi second. So, let’s end this here and just add you to my permanent ignore list.

Gojia - Fortidude is a very strong album. Bit less complex and less extreme so this might be the big breakthrough in the metal world but perhaps also beyond. Still not anyones cup of tea wich I fully understand!

The only one I have is Dry Cleaning (must one of those white males, then, still looking back to them glory days!)…primarily to hear the guitars on my system - sounded interesting on YouTube…it’s a good album…I wouldn’t say a favourite , but certainly not regrettable. I’ll listen to Mercury In Retrograde a lot more!

And I’ll keep an ear out for the Gojira. I remember quite liking them a few years ago.

Whoops, remembered I just ordered Arlo Parks…just to see.


Spurred on by the controversy here about the Arooj Aftab album, I’m listening to it now and loving it. I’m not at all offended by the “elevator music” description, but do disagree with it. I’d read nothing about this album, either hype or review, so very much listening with an innocent ear. A beautiful album with perhaps very mild reservations about the “Last Night” track.



I have championed each of Arooj Aftab, Dry Cleaning and the Nick Cave/Warren Ellis albums since release in places on here. Couldn’t be more different, but each worthy of my own list for sure. If you like the Arooj Aftab can I suggest either ‘Night Song’ or ‘Musst Musst’ by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan?

Wolf Alice and The Weather Station left me underwhelmed but if you have not heard it Mdou Moctar ‘Afrique Victime’ is worth checking out. Searing Saharan guitar rock which is feisty and exciting, although the quieter tracks on the album did less for me. He plays on a couple of tracks on the latest Bonnie Prince Billy/Matt Sweeny ‘Superwolves’ too. That album was much anticipated by me but is not quite hitting the spot.


PS I’d love to be in a full ‘elevator’ with Dry Cleaning on at full blast. Chortle

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Only listened to Wolf Alice album of which I didn’t like the production. To polished for me. Hoping I change my mind. Met the band a couple of years after the concerts in Bristol and London as my friend is the bass players cousin (his other cousin is the bass player for foo fighters, and his uncle is the original Poldark) and were very friendly and accommodating.

The concert at Bristol is one of my all time fav gigs.