[sic] Magazine

The Editor’s Albums of 2021

The Editor’s Albums of 2021

In case you hadn’t noticed, at [sic] Magazine we do things a little differently. Our yearly round up isn’t a combined, consensus selection, (aka the same list as all the other mags in a slightly different order.) We’re a little bit more….boutique. Different releases go to different writers. Plus we don’t fileshare, out of pure respect to the artists, so we each don’t necessarily hear what our colleagues hear. And just like real life, we all have our own unique take on things. That’s why we publish individual lists.

Personally, I still recall the lows of twelve months ago. 2020 music was defined by covid19. Tours were wrecked and livelihoods impacted. On the flip side artists were inspired and we all had time on our hands during the lockdown. 2021 didn’t actually move the needle all that much, from a wider, industry perspective but it sure was a strong year for releases.

As we go through these, please spare a thought for some of the artists who don’t have Ed Sheeran-sized fanbases. These musicians make fractions of a cent from streaming services. It’s a business model that will surely eat itself, leaving us bereft of independent alternatives. While we still have these guys, let’s celebrate that by supporting wherever and however we can. See a gig, providing its safe. Buy stuff, direct from the artists own website. Watch their online performances and hey, if you love something, go procure the back catalogue.

Here’s my top ten of the year, followed by some videos:_

1. The InstitutesColosseums

A bold, brash reboot of nineties stadium rock. Part Britpop, part angst rock and part psychedelic/gaze you’ll fine angst, anthems and riffage galore. I heard this album, and I couldn’t see past it, honestly. Nice to see them getting some cool support slots but these guys need to headline somewhere massive.

2. Amusement Parks On FireAn Archaea

They suddenly popped up with this cracking album after a long hiatus. We’d had a few EPs but we weren’t expecting this. It’s ‘gazer, it’s art rock, it’s progressive….

It’s brilliant.

3 Low IslandIf You Could Have it All Again

The sleeper Oxford act do that Fleet, Iver, Orchestra croon over, gasp, actual pop music. Jamiroquai meets Thomas Dolby here so you’re never far away from the funk. Please can I have three albums of the year, Ed!)

4. Wolf AliceBlue Weekend

It’s just sensational isn’t it. Their strongest work to date. Why isn’t it number one then? It is elsewhere, honestly. Check out Paul Locketts round up. Hey, when I’m playing Blue Weekend, it’s number one, okay?

5. Stray TheoriesThis Light

Ambient neoclassical act Stray Theories go to another level here, proving the power of restraint. This isn’t unlike recent Hammock output. And isn’t that cover art gorgeous? Reminiscent of The Boxer Rebellion Union.

6. Jaguar Sun x Jesse MarangerBlooms

Ontario’s Jaguar Sun is one to keep tabs on. This is an EP but I’m sticking it in because formats are so fluid these days. Here he’s collaborating with friend Jesse Maranger but it isn’t a huge departure from the Jaguar Sun oeuvre. Dreamy, off-kilter pop with saturated vocals. Think Panda Bear.

7. Black Swan LaneHide In View

Can you believe this is their ninth. Ninth!!! More if you count Messengers (I certainly do) And no sign of let up. Jack Sobel helmed this one alone due to covid travel restrictions, and kinda proves what we’ve thought all along, that (aside from the truly collaborative early stuff) he’s the driving force behind BSL. In the absence of much missed Manchester legends The Chameleons, BSL will do just fine, thanks.

As the Leicester City fan said at various Southampton fixtures. “We want ten. We want ten”

8. BlankenbergeEverything

Russia’s Blankenberge are so named for my local seaside resort in Belgium. Shoegazing is pretty ubiquitous these days so one needs to filter a bit to find the gold. You don’t need to filter anything on Everything.

9. ClarkPlayground In A Lake

Thoughtful and forceful IDM/neoclassical from the WARP alumni. Will furrow a few brows as it laments global warming. Wise up humans.

10. SeasurferZombies

Just a really good, solid shoegaze/dreampop record, drenched in reverb and slightly Goth.

Compilation Of The Year:

Love For The GoodsoulsVarious artists.

Easy one. Over 100 banging songs for the price of a couple of coffees. Plus it is for a very worthy cause. No brainer purchase.

Comeback of the Year:

Madrugada Norway Project – Three Videos (thus far)

Not such an easy one with some huge names returning to the fold. James, The Manics, ….ABBA…Freakin’ ABBA ffs! It feels a bit trite to go elsewhere with this one but….it’s Madrugada guys. Anyone who has stood open mouthed at a Madrugada show will tell you the same thing. There’s nothing like it. The band plus that voice, well it’s all here, present and correct here on these three songs, the (Wicked Games meets Vocal) The World Could Be Falling Down, the countryfied Dreams at Midnight and the epic Nobody Loves You Like I Do. Oh and there’s a new version of Majesty to boot. When they come to town see them! Heck, fly to Norway NOW if you haven’t.

Honourable mentions.

Desperate JournalistMaximum Sorrow!
MogwaiAs The Love Continues
The War On DrugsI don’t live here anymore
Lost HorizonsIn Quiet Moments
Arab StrapAs Days Get Dark
Cold Water SwimmersHoliday At The Secret Lake
Marissa NadlerThe Path Of The Clouds
Big Red MachineHow Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last

The Institutes

Amusement Parks On Fire

Low Island

Stray Theories

Black Swan Lane