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2021 awards: the planet in 15 flagship albums

1. Promises, Floating Points, London Sym. O. and P. Sanders

The trend was initiated before the pandemic, but it seems to have increased the interest of composers and music lovers for soothing, introspective and comforting music. “Promises” held: the British Floating Points imagined the perfect musical accompaniment for this eventful year. Between jazz and post-minimalism, this disc is absolutely beautiful, the legend of the saxophone Pharoah Sanders offering here a poignant performance on the nuanced orchestrations of the London Symphony Orchestra.


2. Collapsed in SunbeamsArlo Parks

Released at the end of January, in other words an eternity, the intimate song, gently groovy and delicately soulful from Anaïs d’Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho more than held on. Yes, she claims to be Joni Mitchell. Still need to support the comparison. It’s the case. The Briton is the voice of her generation. Better, she is the witness. She names (three of the titles are first names), she observes, describes, comments, strikingly accurate. Calmly, tenderly, she sings of life. Today and forever.


3. Africa victimMdou Moctar

He can dazzle and does not deprive himself of it, this Nigerian virtuoso, he can play folk-blues for us as much as explode with all the colors of a psychedelic sound and image, he varies the effects and the tempos, but it is never in vain. He is on a mission. It is a question of being heard in the cacophony of the world, and even on the dance floor, one cannot help being touched by what he expresses about the condition of his people: “Africa victim of so many crimes / If we don’t say it, they decimate us”.


4. They’re Calling Me HomeRhiannon Giddens

This album, recorded in a makeshift studio not far from Dublin, is a world. Better, it’s THE world. Nothing is foreign to Rhiannon the Irish, the African, the European, the American, the Native. She inhabits songs and emotions like countries, and the songs she has chosen (or created) for this new project are places of contemplation and mourning. Because death is everywhere, the pandemic mows without ritual. Rhiannon and her ally Francesco invite us into the church to their music.


5. Sometimes I Might Be IntrovertedLittle Simz

Sometimes I Might Be Introverted stands apart from Little Simz’s first three albums in its breath. From introvert in the opening, it feels like watching a movie, with the British rapper in the lead role, larger than life. Seventeen songs, not one too many, a committed, feminist, humanist story which, as a tribute to classic soul (Two Worlds Apart), then transports us to musical Africa (famous point and kill and fear no man) through the marginal world of London (Rollin Stone) without getting lost.


6. At My PianoBrian Wilson

Brian Wilson alone. Who plays his songs on the piano. Only that and all that: the exquisite beauty of his celebrated melodies, first intended, for the most part, for his Beach Boys. sixty years later Surfin’, Brian finds his best friend the piano. And does what he has always done: build. Track after track, the songs take shape: there are no harmonic interlacing vocals or fabulous instrumentation, and yet, everything is there. Under the fingers, in a few notes, a myriad of sounds. Miracle.


7. FireThe Bug

The English electronic composer Kevin Martin had the wise idea to revive his industrial dancehall project The Bug, as if he wanted to highlight the questions that concern us. Thereby, Fire can be heard like the soundtrack of our end of the world: its cataclysmic basses, its decrepit sound textures, the urgency of the texts of the poets and guest MCs. Powerful, oppressive, visionary, Fire warns of a bleak future if society stands still in the face of the challenges before it.


8. CarnageNick Cave and Warren Ellis

Two years after the monumental Ghosteenthe Australian Nick Cave offered this more modest Carnage, co-written and recorded during confinement with his old accomplice Warren Ellis of the Bad Seeds. The brassy voice of the musician finds the perfect setting in these dramatic songs with string orchestrations; the apocalypse is never very far in the poet’s work, but pearls like the title song and the pastoral Lavender Fields soften the concerns of the musician, worthy heir of the late Leonard Cohen.


9. Black to the FutureSons of Kemet

With Africa victim by Mdou Moctar, the London jazz orchestra Sons of Kemet offers the most militant album of 2021. And to better drive the point home, Shabaka Hutchings and his colleagues invite poets and singers (including Moor Mother and Angel Bat Dawid) to reflect on questions of identity, emancipation of African descendants and social justice by incorporating musical influences from the West Indies and the African continent into their compositions, consolidating the influence of the British on jazz today.


10. Bright LightsSusanna Hoffs

Whatever she revives, with the Bangles, in tandem or solo, she is the performer par excellence: without distorting anything, everything shines. She thus found in her catalog of the heart other songs loved between childhood and adolescence. Her sure taste and her passion thus brought her back on the path of Emitt Rhodes and his group The Merry-Go-Round, the Velvet Underground with Nico, the Monkees, Badfinger, even meeting a Syd Barrett. And Susanna sings all this beautiful people, and the world is more beautiful.


11. Deaconserpentwithfeet

The American composer and performer Josiah Wise had already made a good impression in 2018 with his first album Soil. With Deacon, he rises, inventing a modern soul, respectful of his gospel origins, but influenced by modern electronic and contemporary music. Her precious voice, her singular, baroque way of expressing lost or found love and her flair for memorable melodies make Deacon a successful disc from the first to the eleventh song.


12. Burn the fireJuliette Armanet

First title: The last day of disco. You have been warned. Here is the heiress of Véro Sanson and Barbara who abandons herself to the boom boom of the devil in the body, resolutely seventies, as we say in France. But so skilfully, with so much tact, such a sense of sad AND irrepressible melody, that the beat becomes a space for manoeuvre, a mode of survival. Dancing disco when it’s not going well, dancing disco in joy, not dancing disco all the time either: to Juliette Armanet the floor, complete freedom.


13. Call Me if You Get LostTyler, the Creator

Building on the success of his album igorthe composer and rapper Tyler, the Creator has refined his lyrics and chosen to make Call Me if You Get Lost a tribute to American hip-hop of the 2000s, inviting DJ Drama, Pharrell Williams and Lil Wayne to collaborate on this playful disc, colored by its forays into jazz, reggae and soul, warm and indifferent to trends on the scene hip hop. We won’t be surprised if he beats J. Cole, Nas and Kanye West at the Recording Academy Awards.


14. Sinner Get ReadyLingua Ignota

From the nine minutes of the gripping The Order of Spiritual Virgins in opening, we understand that this disc will require our total attention. What a shock ! With Sinner Get Ready, American composer Kristin Hayter (also known as Lingua Ignota), trained in piano and classical singing, opens up about the physical and psychological abuse she suffered. His encounter between experimental music and Appalachian folk, between his modern discourse and his rural roots, results in this important, violent and unforgettable album.


15. HeartClara Luciani

Sitting as she was on her first cover photo, here she is standing, determined… grown up! Not just tall, but THE tall, new dancing queen of pop. Song of affirmation after song of affirmation, she shatters the ceilings. “Love, love has never killed anyone,” she declares, freed. Funky song à la France Gall Michel Berger, intimate letter to Françoise Hardy, summer ballad with Julien Doré, the world of varieties now belongs to him.

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