photo by Catherine B Photografie
(We’re into May 2022, so what the hell are we doing with a continuation of our LISTMANIA 2021 series? Well, it’s because Seb Painchaud, the main man behind the Montréal band Tumbleweed Dealer, didn’t really exhaust his 2021 recommendations with the year-end list he gave us last December (here). In this supplemental list he proves again that he has very expansive and eclectic musical tastes, un-confined by the boundaries of metal.)
As prophesied in my year=end list, I have returned with a whole list of shit I slept on last year. Now, that title might perfectly describe how I completely missed out on some of these albums until it was too late, but in other cases my relationship to them isn’t always of the ‘feces I laid dormant on’ variety. I like making this second list because it lets me name-drop some albums I really enjoyed but left off the yearly rundown for various reasons. I feel an AOTY candidate requires a deeper connection than just pure enjoyment with the listener. But then again, that might just be me being a fucking music snob. So some of these might just be simpler/more to the point/honestly in some cases better than the stuff on the aforementioned previous list.
So here is a list of 2021 releases I feel you should check out if you haven’t already…
…Except for this one. Yupe, I’m going all the way back to 2020 because I am just fucking addicted to this album and I need to tell someone about it.
Mathieu Fiset – The RoboJazz Band
I discovered this nu jazz artist with his 2021 album One More last year, which is excellent, but it’s honestly when I went through his back catalog and heard this album that I was floored. Have you ever wished Daft Punk would make a jazz fusion album? Probably not, but now that you’ve read that question you sure as fuck do, don’t you? Sleek, slinky, groovy ’80s fusion tracks topped with repetitive, catchy, robo-voice vocals, and if this live session doesn’t have you doing your best Soundwave impression to sing along, then you truly are a cold unfeeling robot at heart. “Soundwave superior, constructicons inferior”
And now, on with the stuff from last year!
Bong Mountain – The Battle Of Bong Mountain
Nope, put away your Sleep shirt and hopes for Iommi rip-off riffs. Despite song titles like “Best Weed On The Internet” and “Waterworld Of Warecraft”, this is actually pop-punk enthusiasm meets Midwest emo melancholy. If they ever make a sequel to Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, this needs to be in a driving sequence. Hopefully they never make that movie though.
C4 – Chaos Streak
On the other side of the punk equation, these guys bring us some real meat and potatoes hardcore punk. You know you’re in for a treat of the 2×4-to-the-face-Duggan-style variety when you see the only tags on Bandcamp are Punk, Hardcore, and Boston. And you know these guys don’t take themselves too seriously when you see “Health Freak Headstomp” and “Fat Blue Line” amongst the song titles. Looking back on it, this was only left off my year-end list because I was trying to be snobbish. As simple as this is, their effective, violent but catchy minute or so long tracks are probably what I listened to most all year.
Sugar Wound – Calico Dreams
Now let me start by saying I actually liked Dream Weapon, and when I said it sounded like everyone decided to cover the theme song from Charmed but they forgot to tell the drummer who thought they were still playing mathcore, I meant that in the best way possible. But I feel like this right here is the album Genghis Tron were trying to make but fell short of, a true meeting of shoegaze post-y airy vibes and electronics drenched mathcore/screamo.
CURSETHEKNIFE – Thank You For Being Here
I think the only reason this was left off the list is because I couldn’t remember why the fuck I had grabbed this, and from the band name I assumed it was bad Metalcore (seriously, all caps, three words combined in one, you’re assuming the same thing aren’t you?) and the fact that this was initially released as two EPs that had me dodging it on my phone until a few months into 2022 (it was also put out pretty deep into 2021, November and December for each EP respectively).
This is actually the perfect middle line between modern shoegaze and ’90s grunge. It’s got that reverb fog that lulls you in but also that power=chord crunch that wakes you back up into nodding your head along. Best whatever-gaze record of the year.
Diagonal – 4
On their first 2 albums these guys played a much more angular, abrasive, psychedelic, drone-ish type of prog. They were never a favorite of mind, but I enjoyed ‘em as a third-tier retro act. Then on album number 3, they went very smooth AM soft rock and completely lost me. I wasn’t planning on giving this latest release a chance until I saw the good reviews popping up.
They kept the focus on songwriting that they had gained on their third outing but went in a much more prog direction with it. It’s lite and airy but captivating and just downright pleasant. The mid-paced bass groove of “Spinning Array” will have you swaying along while its keys and space-y guitar playing will get you to close your eyes and just enjoy the ride; perfect album to fall asleep too, and I mean that in the best way possible. Lazy Sunday naptime music to daydream to.
Supernowhere – Gestalt
For some reason I passed on this album the first time I heard it and it’s only when I heard their recent album of B Sides that it clicked. I revisited Gestalt and could not figure out, for the life of me, why I hadn’t instantly fallen in love with it. Hyped-up indie rock or dumbed-down Math Rock, take your pick, it’s in that grey zone where it’s not complex and stays in 4/4 but has some tappity tap and odd beats, but the focus is on songwriting and a mid-paced dreamy atmosphere. Perfect car music for a long highway on a clear blue day.
Chris Conde – Engulfed In The Marvelous Decay
Another amazing, modern hip hop release from Fake Four. I’ve made no attempts to hide my fanboyism for Ceschi and almost everything he releases on his label. I came for the song he is featured on, “The Summer Of Our Discontent”, a hook-heavy sing-along anthem, but I stayed for the hard driving beats and Chris’s unique delivery, flow, and rhymes, especially on tracks like the hard-hitting “Mariposa”, the slightly Buck 65-like “Everyday”, and the groove-metal-ish “American Faggot” on which he speaks his truth about being an openly queer rapper from Texas, a reality I can’t even begin to imagine, but great music lets you connect with artists from different walks of life in a powerful way, and this album does just that.
Cicada The Burrower – Corpseflower
Their FFO on Bandcamp states Oranssi Pazuzu and Deafheaven amongst other, but to me that’s quite reductive to their sound. Where most bands merge genres and subgenres as an evolution, this album seems to really have a totally outside perspective of what extreme music can be. I could be wrong and the musician behind this could be a life-long metalhead, I don’t care enough to go find out, but the compositions have an almost Maudlin Of the Well-esque way of behind an alternate timeline version where extreme music evolved in a completely different way. It’s not experimental for the sake of it, it’s just its own thing, as beautiful as it is unique, and you don’t get that too often in any artistic medium, let alone metal.
Sketchshow – Waves
The seamless transition between the technical, hundred note a minute intro “Awake” and track 2, “Conscious”, and its relaxed, syncopated back-beat pretty much sums up what’s great about this slick math-rock record. If that didn’t win you over, the upbeat funky opening riff of “Delight” will get you bouncing along.
This one sat in my top 20 all year, and for some reason I can’t recall I had a last-minute change of heart and I switched it out, but it deserved its spot and was one the albums I listened to most all year. If you liked Orchards you will absolutely love these guys. They are, to me, the more musically proficient version of that toned-down TTNG lite poppy math rock so many bands are going for right now but no one mastered it like these guys.
Hedvig Mollestad – Tempest Revisited
Doomy jazz with some heavier fuzzed-out moments. This is the album that made everything click for me. I went backwards through the albums I couldn’t get into before and now it was clear to me that they were bad-ass all along, I just wasn’t ready for it.
At times modern, at times channeling classics like Miles Davis and Mahavishnu Orchestra, other times flirting with stoner rock-ish riffing, the opening track with its opening 5 minutes of old school jazz that turns into a guitar driven epic jam rock that keeps turning up the instrumentation until it’s an apocalyptic big band exploding into a perfect crescendo sums up everything you need to know about this album. The Crimson-esque beginning to the following song, “Winds Approaching”, and the way it finds itself almost dissolving into bop-esque moments just puts the emphasis on how crazy of a ride you are strapping yourself in for.
Meer – Playing House
I have a very faint memory of hearing this album late in 2021 when it was popping up on prog AOTY lists. I was probably skimming those releases pretty quickly because a minute into it this time around I was sold.
With this album you get that same amazing mix of prog and pop you’ll find on a The Pineapple Thief album (some of you might remember how much I loved their Versions Of Truth album from my 2020 list) except with less of a modern twist to the prog. I’m not saying this is retro, you won’t hear mellotron here, but the pop part of the equation isn’t the big synth-driven futuresque stuff you usually find mixed in with prog nowadays. It also has more extensive instrumental sections, but always goes back to a strong vocal-driven chorus.
The opening of track 2, “Beehive”, and its pompous ballsiness followed by the stripped-down verse that builds the song back up towards the chorus, highlighting their amazing female vocalist, is so good you’ll have a hard time believing Steven Wilson wasn’t involved in writing it.
Koyo – Drives Out East
10% Hardcore 90% Pop Punk, 100% fun. Discovered these guys from a live video where they played the opening track off this EP, “Moriches”, and to be honest they were pretty sloppy but the crowd was going apeshit. I figured I had to check the studio recording out. Now I get it, I would go apeshit too if I saw them play live. I’m over 40 now so by apeshit I mean stand at the back with my arms folded constantly stretching out my legs cause my knees hurt wondering how early is too early to leave and go home and if I can make it out without having to say bye to anyone, but I would really enjoy the music without showing any outward sign of it.
Krokofant – Fifth
I’m assuming the opening track’s title, “Watcher Of The Fries”, is a pun on the Genesis classic that opened their, imo, best album, and the music here backs up that assumption. Sounds like a jazz band take on classic progressive rock with a hint of psych/krautrock. Songs alternate between meticulously composed complex interlinking parts to freak-out improvised jams, melding the two different vibes so well that you never notice the transition.
It’s not a relaxing experience, more akin to an acid trip than a walk in the forest, coming with the need for proper time and space to properly navigate the journey it offers up that hallucinogens require, but just like that 5AM revelation that everything is related and connected you’ll get when tripping balls on whatever substance you chose, it pays off fully in the end and might just cure some of that PTSD we have all been carrying from surviving the last few years. Probably not, but at least you will have a bad-ass soundtrack to your existential dread. Enjoy!
The Chisel – Retaliation
Working-class music. Kinda shit that makes you buy one of those caps only cabbies and hardcore punk guys over 40 wear. Oi!
Sons Of Kemet – Black To The Future
I feel woefully inadequate and underqualified to describe this powerful album to you. Both because words fail me but also because I can’t even fathom the kind of suffering that brings about such compositions. To dare attempt to translate the minuscule portion of this musical experience I can understand would be, to paraphrase the words of the opening track’s incendiary spoken-word passage, pure caucacity. Just do yourself a favor and push play and keep an open mind. If you insist on having some tags to know what you’re getting yourself into, then Afrobeat meets experimental jazz. But summing this up with a few genres is reductive to the experience they have created.
Syncatto – Lost Inside
Polyphia type djent with a much bigger Latin feel. My favorite part of this great EP? That it got my 6-year-old son to get up and dance out of nowhere!
Now you gotta understand that in my house and car, music of all types is constantly playing, little of which seems to be perceived by him as anything else than background sound, but lately he has been picking up on certain beats and nodding his head or singing along to melodies, but this recording is the first time he ever got up, started dancing and verbalized his apperception for what was playing. He requested we play the whole EP a second time. When I tried to tell him about the various genres in play, he told me he didn’t want me to explain, he just wanted to listen to it. So I promptly shut up and we enjoyed the music together.
It was a powerful experience and he has since become more aware of the music playing around him. He even has a favorite song now that he requests at night to fall asleep to — Miles Davis‘ “So What” off of Kind Of Blue. I’ve tried tricking him by putting a different jazz track on but he actually recognizes it and calls me out and I feel like an asshole.
So this album was his musical awakening of sorts and I will forever remember it because of this. But also, because it’s really fucking good. Don’t let my proud daddy sidetracking confuse you, this album is here on its own merits!
So whats next? Shit I slept on 2021 part 2? See you next year for a 2022 rundown? I actually start writing more like I keep saying I will and bring you different articles? Who the fuck knows, not me. Good luck out there, shit still aint easy. To paraphrase so-old dude in a robe hanging out in a cave giving out swords I met when I was a kid: Its Dangerous To Go Alone, Take These Recommendations With You.
Cicada, The Chisel, and Sugar Wounds, &c…
Some RAGERS on here !
Agreed – some really good, left-field stuff. I fear however this breach may reopen the list of “Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs of 2021”, with poor Islander spinning and populating that thread into 2024!! (I think he only put it to bed like two weeks ago.)
The thought did cross my mind. 🙂 Calendars have meant nothing since covid, and time goes backwards and forwards in random ways….