I know which album I bought the most copies of this year. The super-deluxe-I-was-drunk-in-New-Orleans-when-it-went-on-sale version of Future Past came with two CDs, two records, and a cassette plus some sort of signed art card that I haven’t looked at. Upon realizing that the records were missing two of my favorite tracks, I put everything up for sale except the deluxe CD which is the best listen. To the Discogs member who took the cassette off my hands, thank you. I was close to dusting of my tape deck and who knows where that would have led.
I am babbling. While Future Past certainly makes my favorite albums of 2021, the year provided an incredibly eclectic mix of new music from both established and emerging artists. You can see my full list at my website (www.velvetrebelmusic.com) but I wanted to share a handful that might appeal to the Duran Duran family. If you want to discover more new music, Rhonda and I host Encores Club every month of so and discuss new music through the eyes and ears of “experienced” music fans. Hit subscribe and you’ll get notified of each new episode!
LAURE DRE – MOVING SPACES
The Japanese influenced electro-pop of Moving Spaces remains the perfect album for after-dark adventures in 2021. Whereas a lot of retro wave manages to capture the aesthetic of decades past, Dre’s songwriting sets her apart in a crowded scene. This is a brilliantly executed album on every level with engaging artwork adding to the overall experience of an album that works as a complete work of art.
ACTORS – ACTS OF WORSHIP
I came to Actors via music from their synth player, Shannon Hemmet, who also records as LEATHERS. Her EP is one worth seeking out especially if you like your synth music a little more pop-oriented. That isn’t to say Actors are not extremely catchy when they want to be and the echoes of Duran Duran and Japan add a new layer to the band’s darker tendencies.
WOLF ALICE – BLUE WEEKEND
It’s been eight years since I first heard Wolf Alice’s EP Blush and that seems a lifetime ago. In that time, they have been taken for granted because they aren’t releasing new albums constantly. This lack of product is actually a blessing. The space between the three studio albums is filled with real musical growth as artists. The most atmospheric album to date, Blue Weekend is another example of how Wolf Alice are consistently excellent while exploring new territory.
SODA BLONDE – SMALL TALK
Charming. That is the best way to describe this debut from former members of Little Green Cars. When we discussed this album on Encores Club, I didn’t realize how often I’d keep coming back to songs like “Tiny Darkness”. The production of this album really allows the instruments to breathe which makes for a warm listening experience.
PSYMON SPINE – CHARISMATIC MEGAFAUNA
This is the first record I bought in 2021 and I still think “Jumprope” is one of the most addictive singles in many years. Experimental but still grounded in delightfully vibrant pop, Psymon Spine are the type of band that you’ll stumble upon on a side-stage at a festival and end up skipping the headliner because they have stolen the day. Maybe not sonically, but Psymon Spine remind of Blondie’s versatility mixed with the adventurous nature of Talking Heads.
LEAGUE OF LIGHTS – DREAMERS DON’T COME DOWN
One of the first albums I really dug in 2021, I’m still listening to League of Lights as we reach the end of the year. Sounding like it would be completely at home in 1986, the album captures a retro-pop vibe without sounding intentionally dated. The playing doesn’t over-emphasize it’s synth-pop influences and keeps the focus on strong songwriting and solid arrangements. We talked about it on an episode of Encores Club earlier this year.
VELVET REBEL – NITE-RUNNER
Ok, just kidding. This doesn’t belong on any Best Of lists but here was some fun earlier this year I had remixing the club banger from Red Carpet Massacre.
Below is a playlist with the artists above and a lot more. Another fantastic year for new music!