2021 End Of Year Lists: Albums Of The Year

It's been the second year of this decaying earth's most serious apocalypse of late, and while most of the world hurried toward a state of forced composure, it's constantly being made evident that we still need to go a long way to earn back our misconceived equilibrium. As the world changes, we are duty-bound to adjust or perish faster than our previous expectations. The pains of existence ache a bit more this minute.

For special, appropriate, honest to goodness music, seek only in the underground, and nowhere else. These are D//E's Albums of the Year 2021.


30. Year Of No Light – Consolamentum
On their 20th anniversary as a band, French post metal stalwarts, Year Of No Light, returned with their first album in eight years, and Consolamentum came out to be a momentous release, a clear exhibition of the band’s maturity and sophistication. One of the architects of the linking of shoegaze and electronic elements in contemporary heavy music, Year Of No Light keep being experts in what they do, and they innately level clarity with tension, proving that their caliber is very well deserved.



29. Fotocrime - Heart of Crime
Fotocrime follow the excellent South Of Heaven with an album of different creative methods, mainly regarding its production. As a product of quarantine, Heart of Crime comes across more unprocessed and more straightforward than the project’s previous material, with Ryan Patterson handling everything, including recording and mixing. The result is still representative of Fotocrime’s eminently dark spirit; an album which exploits its many ideas in a downright matter-of-fact way.



28. Marissa Nadler - The Path of the Clouds
Nearing twenty years of a productive career, Marissa Nadler’s ninth full length, The Path of the Clouds, is one of the artist’s most atypical works. The new album finds her with one foot in her fine, familiar dreamy folk comfort zone, while at the same time it is also a record which clearly reaches toward new territories both musically and conceptually. Nadler seems to be more than qualified for trying her hand at the art of the murder ballad, and for this reason, the creation of an album of such storytelling nature possesses all the signs of an instinctive endeavor.



27. Grouper – Shade
For her twelfth album, Liz Harris’ Grouper created a juxtaposition between the grittier experimental sounds of the project’s earlier days and the more straightforward songwriting of her newer material. Shade was created over the course of the last fifteen years, and although it’s not the quintessential Grouper album, it is definitely a record which possesses all the merit that’s made the act’s discography one of the most appealing mysteries in contemporary underground music, whether that’s Grouper’s distorted side or the earthy and emotional minimalist folk of the recent past.



26. Alessandro Cortini - SCURO CHIARO
Longtime Nine Inch Nails member, Alessandro Cortini, not only came up with one of the most interesting albums of the year in the sphere of ambient and experimental electronica, but he did it through the invention of Strega, (‘witch’ in Italian), an experimental semi-modular synthesizer which like the album itself, it’s inspired by the idea of contrasts and the alchemy of sound. Firmly, SCURO CHIARO puts Cortini’s solo act on the map of freethinking/reformist music, and leaves the aftertaste of something grand which is beginning to unfurl.



25. Blankenberge - Everything
St. Petersburg’s finest shoegazers, Blankenberge, wielded a third album which appeared very consistent with the band’s great reputation. Everything is another set of song on the lines of the group’s dreamlike sound, and their pristine mixture of hazy dreampop, dynamic shoegaze and expansive post rock. The new album shows Blankenberge being a very potent and comfortable act, bringing forth their finesse by combining alluring melody with superabundant fuzz and reverb.



24. BIG | BRAVE – VITAL
Reliable, prolific bringers of punch, solidity, emotion and sophistication, BIG | BRAVE, use their fifth full length to once again strip noise rock to its bare bones, and at the same time take the genre to its extreme. Like every BIG | BRAVE album, VITAL is tough to digest, it’s unpredictable and it defies descriptions and labels. Above all, it makes an exciting listen, and it’s an exciting phase of the band’s consistent evolution.



23. Divide And Dissolve – Gas Lit
Divide And Dissolve’s quest for decolonisation and the destruction of white supremacy commenced a few years ago, and it has given rise to a series of self-releases worthy of commitment and exploration. For their Invada debut, the unconventional duo take their heavy fusion of doom, sludge, drone metal and experimental sounds to further realization, though an uncommon and revolutionary for the genre, cultivated manner. Gas Lit is an artwork of many levels as much as it is a thought-provoker, and a statement against some of the world’s biggest injustices.



22. Portrayal Of Guilt - We Are Always Alone
Although different from each other, both albums which Portrayal Of Guilt released in 2021 are characteristic of the band’s edgy spirit and their developing genre mixing grasp. Opposed to the more recent and more caustic CHRISTFUCKER, We Are Always Alone showcases the extreme act’s most approachable qualities without holding back the abrasive moments. Full in sentimentality and existential angst, We Are Always Alone is the definitive example of Portrayal Of Guilt’s erosive nonconformity..



21. Midwife – Luminol
Named after the chemical used in forensic investigations to reveal trace amounts of blood at crime scenes, Luminol stands for Midwife’s regard for profound truth, and consequently it comes across as a record of profound warmth and emotion. Madeline Johnston has been honing a sound and style of her own which Luminol seems to be bringing to its peak, yet, Midwife comes forth more like an act absorbed in the brutal honesty of the present and less like someone who’s depending on extension.



20. Tristan Welch - Temporary Preservation
Tristan Welch bases the concept of his latest album on his profession as a funeral director. Temporary Preservation is a term the experimental composer uses to describe the process of restoration of a lifelike appearance of the deceased, an expression whose musical translation feels accordingly grim and individualistic. More minimal and more straightforward than most of the artist’s material, Temporary Preservation reforms the drone and ambient qualities of Welch's superb guitar work and electronic filters into a uniform piece of bona fide avantgardism.



19. MØAA - Euphoric Recall
Euphoric Recall introduces Seattle musician Jancy Rae’s vision for a solemn sound which brings together ethereal dreampop and edgy post punk in an organic manner. Now based in Venice, Italy, where the album was finished, MØAA is the promising instigator of one of the most propitious debut albums of the year. Euphoric Recall has also been paired to brilliant aesthetics which underline and highlight the rising project’s multifariousness.



18. King Woman - Celestial Blues
Out of the artist’s many creative roles which have given disparate creations ranging from extreme metal to experimental noise, Celestial Blues feels like the most personal record Kris Esfandiari has created thus far, at least outside the domain of the more earthy Miserable. It’s an atmospheric work which relies on Esfandiari’s songwriting openness more than her abilities as a passionate performer, and that kind of unique and unreserved truth is easily recognized in the album’s dark homogeneity.



17. Bizou - Tragic Lover
Composed of current and former members of Light FM, The Smashing Pumpkins, Wax Idols and Glaare, fresh band, Bizou, have the makings of an adaptable supergroup written in their DNA, yet, they come across more like an underground act with an excited mentality and high levels of expertise. Bizou’s debut full length, Tragic Lover, provides a cool unification of shoegaze pop, darkwave, synthpop and post punk which can easily be enjoyed and appreciated by all kinds of audiences.



16. True Faith - They Can Always Hurt You More
Steadily productive since their emergence last year, among other releases, True Faith’s 2021 includes a splendid six-song EP, a live split with the up and coming Doused, as well as their debut album, They Can Always Hurt You More, which presents the Boston band carrying out what they do best. Drawing inspiration from subjects personal to their members such as the abuse in the medical system, True Faith’s debut sets the seal on the impression D//E had since the release of the band’s first ever tape; evidencing that this is clearly one of the finest growing acts in post punk today.



15. Kraków Loves Adana - Follow The Voice
Kraków Loves Adana brought back Follow The Voice after a falling out with their former label, and made it the title track of their new album which they perceived as something that exists in a parallel realm to that of their previous full length, Darkest Dreams. The band followed their customary path of lush synthpop with a dark twist, and the outcome is another compelling record from an act which is maturing in a consistent manner.



14. Wolves In The Throne Room - Primordial Arcana
One of the archetypally pioneering acts in contemporary extreme metal, Wolves In The Throne Room assess their greatest strengths and adapt them into a record of ritualistic, sometimes dramatic occult properties. Primordial Arcana sees WITTR going for a grander sound and creative approach, utilizing passages from folk and shoegaze in a seamless way. The result is a record whose spiritualistic and naturalistic character overpowers its epic qualities, and comes across as being completely down to earth.



13. MONO - Pilgrimage of the Soul
On their eleventh album, Pilgrimage of the Soul, Japanese experimental post rock veterans, MONO, proved for the nth time that they are one of the most skillful exploiters of the post rock fundamentals. Wrapped up in a big extent of emotions, and with its cinematic feel to the front, the album easily compares to some of the many previous milestones of a band which is going through the third decade of its creative path with elegance and eminence.



12. Nadja - Luminous Rot
Where drone and shoegaze collide, it’s not easy to think of an act greater than Nadja who have been a long-standing and steadily prolific presence in the heavy experimental music realm. Luminous Rot finds the husband/wife duo of Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff expanding on their dreamy mixture of gaze, post punk and industrial, in a package heavily influenced by science fiction novels. At the same time, Luminous Rot is one of the most graspable albums in the duo’s vast discography.



11. Teethgrynder - Hostages
Visual artist and multi-instrumentalist, Jay Thurley, returned with Hostages, the fourth Teethgrynder record; a heavily collaborative endeavor featuring A-list underground artists like Jaye Jayle's Evan Patterson, Bossk’s Robert Vaughan, The Jesus Lizard’s David Yow, visual artist Richey Beckett, Filth Is Eternal vocalist Lisa Mungo, Fall of Efrafa's Neil Kingsbury and more. Grounded in the blues, Hostages is an immensely dark noise rock album, aesthetically strong, musically imposing, and ultimately representative of the most accomplished version of Teethgrynder thus far.



10. The Armed – Ultrapop
Examining pop culture and tearing to pieces all traces of conventionality only to come out the other end with something frantic and innovative which challenges genres and labels, The Armed’s Ultrapop transforms pop music into something almost impossible for plain terms to describe, a piece of work with a heavy punk heart and a post hardcore soul. The album succeeds at its aim to bring to life something largely idiosyncratic with main focus on intensity, and The Armed have instantly become the best newcomers in underground nonconformity.



9. Emma Ruth Rundle - Engine of Hell
A creator of extreme heaviness in the most fragile of ways, Emma Ruth Rundle’s Engine of Hell presents the acclaimed artist at her rawest form. Although rooted in her earlier folk-bent offerings, ERR’s latest full length doesn’t compare to anything she has created in the past, while the music’s connection to the self-directed videos and the generally great visual direction, suggest something very personal and immersive throughout. Minimalism and simplicity have always been among ERR’s greatest strengths, and Engine Of Hell is the exact personification of these traits.



8. Dlina Volny – Dazed
In relative post punk terms, Dlina Volny’s dark synthpop seems to be hitting the exact middle spot between Eastern European coldness and Western glamor. The Belarusian trio’s sophomore album was produced by longtime David Lynch collaborator, Dean Hurley, and its impressive sound and aesthetics have placed the band among contemporary post punk’s finest secrets. Dlina Volny is an act interpretative of interesting dichotomies, as Dazed tackles contradicting themes like “pain and euphoria, anxiety and passion, despair and hope,” all in an engaging manner.



7. Psychic Graveyard - Veins Feel Strange
On their path to becoming noise rock royalty like their members’ background demands, Psychic Graveyard have delivered a triad of excellent albums, all praiseworthy examples of eccentricity given through intricate, heavily electronic-bent production and strong lyricism. Veins Feel Strange reveals that Psychic Graveyard’s acclaim isn’t coincidental, and that their stability as a band is the main factor of their authenticity, while the band’s lack of pretension doesn’t go unnoticed.



6. Deathsomnia - You Will Never Find Peace
UK/Esthonia-based trio, Deathsomnia, make great use of their members’ individual backgrounds in punk, hardcore, post metal and electronica, and produce a superbly well balanced record. The band’s type of heavy darkwave is completely of their own, and it explores themes related to the depths of the human mind, the vastness of existentialism and the abjection of modern dystopia. You Will Never Find Peace is a stunning debut, not only for the amounted creative power of its topnotch contributors, but also due to its palpable profundity and originality.



5. The KVB – Unity
Going through the second decade of their existence as a band, The KVB sound naturally comfortable taking their fusion of synthpop, shoegaze, krautrock and modern psychedelia to greater heights with an album which feels dense and completely focused in its diverseness. Unity sees Nicholas Wood and Kat Day expanding their scope, drawing inspiration from unusual lyrical themes, and fleshing out the sound which they’ve been enhancing for many years.



4. Deafheaven - Infinite Granite
Deafheaven progress naturally, in an instinctive manner, and although the cleaner shoegaze direction isn’t totally unexpected, it’s definitely something inspiring to experience as a listener. Whether Infinite Granite is the beginning of a shift in sound and character which will last long, only time will tell. Regardless, the album illustrates an important band at a certain point in their exciting career, and in the final analysis it strikes as a deeply heartfelt work of art, and an enjoyable listen all the way through.



3. Cold Cave - Fate In Seven Lessons
It’s no secret that Cold Cave aren’t exactly traditional in the ways they’re putting new music out there, hence it’s debatable if we are to consider Fate In Seven Lessons either as a brief album or a hefty EP. Since it’s pressed on LP, it feels more appropriate to place it in the album’s list, where its conciseness is the only point about which one can be critical. Fate In Seven Lessons is a nearly perfect record, showcasing CC’s brand of synthpop and darkwave elegance at its most reachable, with the band overcoming their own boundaries and sounding as inspired as always.



2. Glaare - Your Hellbound Heart
Having set the foundations of their post punk, synthpop, darkwave and industrial hybridity with their 2017 album, To Deaf And Day, Glaare delivered their sophomore album in 2021 which presented a fully fleshed out version of their initial vision. Your Hellbound Heart is a nervy, tense and feverish album presented in the form of propulsive, sensuous, retro-futuristic goth, and in 2021’s terms, it’s something rather unparalleled. Composed of founders Brandon Pierce (Ancestors, Buried at Sea, Black Mare, Soft Kill) and Rachael Pierce who cut her teeth demoing pop songs for major labels, together with Marisa Prietto (Wax Idols, Bizou) and Rex Elle (Black Math Horseman, Animato), Glaare are undoubtedly one of those on whom to keep an eye.



1. Converge & Chelsea Wolfe - Bloodmoon: I
The concept of Bloodmoon started back in 2016 in Europe where Converge brought in Chelsea Wolfe and Ben Chisholm, and did some live shows framed as Converge Bloodmoon. The lauded hardcore band’s intention was to expand on their original ideas with the help of different creative voices, and the two sides found chemistry and compatibility in each other. Five years later, the entire lineup of Converge (Jacob Bannon, Nate Newton, Ben Koller and Kurt Ballou), the core of Chelsea Wolfe’s project (Chelsea and Ben), together with Cave In’s Stephen Brodsky brought the Bloodmoon idea to record, and realized it thoroughly to produce an immaculate album of esoteric fragility and maximum heaviness. Bloodmoon: I is the product of a group of diverse, forward thinking, unpretentious musicians who convey the impression of being more than eager to become part of larger body for the sake of the actual art. Beyond Converge or Chelsea Wolfe or Cave In or any of the many side projects in which all these people are involved, Bloodmoon is an entity of its own.
 


1. Converge & Chelsea Wolfe - Bloodmoon: I
2. Glaare - Your Hellbound Heart
3. Cold Cave - Fate In Seven Lessons
4. Deafheaven - Infinite Granite
5. The KVB – Unity
6. Deathsomnia - You Will Never Find Peace
7. Psychic Graveyard - Veins Feel Strange
8. Dlina Volny – Dazed
9. Emma Ruth Rundle - Engine of Hell
10. The Armed – Ultrapop
11. Teethgrynder - Hostages
12. Nadja - Luminous Rot
13. MONO - Pilgrimage of the Soul
14. Wolves In The Throne Room - Primordial Arcana
15. Kraków Loves Adana - Follow The Voice
16. True Faith - They Can Always Hurt You More
17. Bizou - Tragic Lover
18. King Woman - Celestial Blues
19. MØAA - Euphoric Recall
20. Tristan Welch - Temporary Preservation
21. Midwife – Luminol
22. Portrayal Of Guilt - We Are Always Alone
23. Divide And Dissolve – Gas Lit
24. BIG | BRAVE – VITAL
25. Blankenberge - Everything
26. Alessandro Cortini - SCURO CHIARO
27. Grouper – Shade
28. Marissa Nadler - The Path of the Clouds
29. Fotocrime - Heart of Crime
30. Year Of No Light – Consolamentum





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