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Many musicians released great new music in 2021’s first quarter, perhaps too much good music. Given this countless amount of new music to enjoy, it can be hard to know where to start when exploring new music. That’s why, below, you can learn a bit about the five best-reviewed albums of 2021’s first quarter.
1. Ghetts: Conflict of Interest
Metacritic score: 95
Ghetts’ career started around the time when the hip-hop subgenre of grime first hit the map. For Conflict of Interest, Ghetts collaborated with one of grime’s pioneers, Dizzee Rascal, as well as newcomer Pa Salieu.
Across the album it’s clear that Ghetts’ style has evolved from raging bangers to a more diverse selection, including understated, cool-headed songs and a collaboration with Ed Sheeran. Although Ghetts’ overall musical tone throughout Conflict of Interest is introspective and a little melancholy. his tone suits the topics he explores.
2. Cassandra Jenkins: An Overview of Phenomenal Nature
Metacritic score: 87
Cassandra Jenkins’ An Overview of Phenomenal Nature is her second album. She tells a collection of stories filled with direct quotes and dialogue throughout her focused and breezy folk album. Although she sings about trauma in some of her songs, her writing brings a graceful quality of lightness as she discusses self-help. Jenkins composed the majority of her album with producer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaufman in his studio over the span of a week.
3. Floating Points: Promises
Metacritic score: 86
Promises is a highly-acclaimed collaborative album from the ambient electronic musician Floating Points, the modern-day jazz legend Pharoah Sanders, and the London Symphony Orchestra. Promises was recorded over the course of five years and features Sanders’ first recordings in more than 10 years. The album elevates Sanders’ deep saxophone expressiveness and wordless yet meaningful vocals. The London Symphony Orchestra’s strings further drive the album’s cinematic vibe.
4. tUnE-yArDs: sketchy
Metacritic score: 82
Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner of tUnE-yArDs released their third album sketchy last month. The record is a creative and introspective look into their previous work and features a core message of social justice. Garbus explores topics of sexism, environmental destruction, and gentrification while trying to maintain a sense of catharsis with uplifting tones.
Throughout sketchy, Garbus directs her lyrics toward certain demographics that she believes need to be talked to. Although the album features topics that she and Brenner haven’t delved into in previous albums, it maintains the duo’s signature art-pop sound.
5. Hayley Williams: FLOWERS for VASES/ descansos
Metacritic score: 79
Hayley Williams recently released her surprise second solo album FLOWERS for VASES / descansos, and like last year’s Petals for Armor, it’s another solo endeavor that doesn’t seem like a mere extension of her work in Paramore. It has more folk acoustic finger-picking elements than Petals, its poppier sister album.
In some songs, you can hear maudlin and muted piano playing that creates a warm and gentle sound. The album’s minimal production is fitting for her reflective lyrics as well, and you can even hear Williams’ humming while she strums her guitar.
What are your favorite albums of 2021 so far? Sound off in the comments!