2021 Album Reviews Round Up (Part One)

On top of the tons of tracks I’ve been working through this year I’ve been trying to consume as many of the year’s full length releases as possible. Here’s my thoughts on the first selection –

Headie One – Too Loyal For My Own Good (2021)

Following up last year’s full length debut (EDNA (2020)), Headie drops his fifth mixtape. Clocking in at 13 tracks and just shy of 40 minutes, this is better than most rapper’s actual albums. The quality is consistently high throughout, with Headie’s hard hitting raps sounding commanding atop production work that ranges from trap/grime to more commercial beats. Definitely worth checking out and it made me go back and give EDNA (2020) another spin which is also a really strong record.

  • 1. Too Loyal… – 8.5/10
  • 2. Love Me For Me? – 7.5/10
  • 3. Beggars Can’t Be Choosers – 7/10
  • 4. 2 Chains – 7.5/10
  • 5. Nothing To Me – 8.5/10
  • 6. Cry – 8/10
  • 7. Finer Things – 7/10
  • 8. Louis Vuitton Collar – 7/10
  • 9. Indecisive – Interlude
  • 10. Long Night In Knightsbridge – 7/10
  • 11. PTSD – 8/10
  • 12. Satisfy Me – 8/10
  • 13. …For My Own Good – 8/10
  • Overall – 8/10

AFI – Bodies (2021)

For a band on their 11th album it’s good to hear the passion is still strong. This isn’t the best album they’ve released in their career but does contain a couple of standout tracks (opener ‘Twisted Tongues’ in particular) that could easily make a best of list. The album’s first half is where it’s at it’s best, the first six tracks are all strong before tailing off in the final third. Definitely one for already established fans of the band to get the most enjoyment from.

  • 1. Twisted Tongues – 9/10
  • 2. Far Too Near – 8/10
  • 3. Dulceria – 7/10
  • 4. On Your Back – 7/10
  • 5. Escape From Los Angeles – 8/10
  • 6. Begging For Trouble – 7.5/10
  • 7. Back From The Flesh – 6.5/10
  • 8. Looking Tragic – 7.5/10
  • 9. Death Of The Party – 7/10
  • 10. No Eyes – 7/10
  • 11. Tied To A Tree – 6/10
  • Overall – 7/10

Everything Is Recorded – Saturday Specials: The CLIPZ Remixes (2021)

Everything Is Recorded is the project of XL Recordings founder Richard Russell and following the release of the FRIDAY FOREVER (2020) album comes this remix version from jungle producer CLIPZ. This is far harder hitting than the original album with the pace being uptempo on almost every track. It still retains some of the emotion and beauty present in last year’s release but adds beats that reach your ears with a real snap. It’s really good stuff but there isn’t enough variation across the whole thing to make it an essential listen.

  • 1. This World (feat. Maria Somerville & Infinite Coles) – 8/10
  • 2. Walk Alone (feat. Infinite Coles & BERWYN) – 7/10
  • 3. Dream I Never Had – 7.5/10
  • 4. Patients (feat. Aitch & Infinite Coles) – 8/10
  • 5. That Sky (feat. Maria Somerville) – 6.5/10
  • 6. Burnt Toast (feat. A.K. Paul & BERWYN) – 7/10
  • 7. Pretending Nothings Wrong (feat. Ghostface Killah) – 8/10
  • 8. Caviar (feat. Infinite Coles) – 7/10
  • 9. I Don’t Want This Feeling To Stop (feat. FLOHIO) – 7/10
  • 10. The Night (feat. BERWYN) – 9/10
  • 11. Lay Your Head – 7/10
  • Overall – 7.5/10

Paul McCartney – McCartney III (2020)

Despite being one of the greatest songwriters of all time, it’s fair to say that the majority of his solo albums can be approached with trepidation. It’s pleasing to report that this is his best and most consistent record for some time and for a man approaching his 80th birthday, it’s a delight to hear him still experimenting with his sound when he could just go the safe route. Not everything works (‘Lavatory Lil’ – urgh!!) but ‘Deep Down’ is his best song since the 80s and that track plus ‘Deep Deep Feeling’ have an almost Beta Band feel that really suits him. Worth a listen but not everything will stick with you once it’s finished.

  • 1. Long Tailed Winter Bird – 7.5/10
  • 2. Find My Way – 7.5/10
  • 3. Pretty Boys – 6.5/10
  • 4. Women And Wives – 6.5/10
  • 5. Lavatory Lil – 5/10
  • 6. Deep Deep Feeling – 8/10
  • 7. Slidin’ – 7.5/10
  • 8. The Kiss Of Venus – 7/10
  • 9. Seize The Day – 6.5/10
  • 10. Deep Down – 9/10
  • 11. Winter Bird/When Winter Comes – 6.5/10
  • Overall – 7/10

High Contrast – Notes From The Underground (2020)

I’m a big fan of this man’s work, especially the singles he’s put out over the years. Seven albums into his career, I was interested if he could still make drum’n’bass magic across a full length release. The answer is a definitive yes!! This album has the feel of a hardcore rave up; all jungle beats, reach-for-the-skies keyboards, soulful vocals and synapse rattling bass. This sounds great listening at home but must sound killer in a live or club setting. Highly recommended.

  • 1. A Few Notes On The Culture – 7/10
  • 2. Windows 95 – 8/10
  • 3. Going Up – 8/10
  • 4. Rhythm Is Changing (feat. Lowes) – 8.5/10
  • 5. Time Is Hardcore (feat. Kae Tempest & Anita Blay) – 8/10
  • 6. Met Her At A Dance In Leicester (feat. UK Apache & Ady Suleiman) – 9/10
  • 7. The Future Is A Mirror That Eats – Interlude
  • 8. Disk 2 – 7/10
  • 9. Arcadia (feat. Bim) – 7.5/10
  • 10. Hold On Me – 8/10
  • 11. Snare The Blame – 7.5/10
  • 12. More Brilliant Than The Sun – 7.5/10
  • 13. Dolphin – 7.5/10
  • 14. A Mind Voyaging Forever – 8/10
  • Overall – 8/10

Bugzy Malone – The Resurrection (2021)

After living a hard life, serving time in prison and nearly losing his life in an automobile accident, there was no way Bugz was going to waste an opportunity to drop something great and on this, his second album, he hits it out the park. He doesn’t possess a particularly varied flow, he’s not the type of rapper to wow you with technique but lyrically he really excels. Every track tells a story of his life and hits home hard as this isn’t someone making these things up for sales and likes, these are the confessions of someone who has lived every second of every scenario. The production across the record is superb, no out and out bangers but some epic sounds that help to paint the picture set out by the words – like any great soundtrack should. It’s an exhausting listen (15 tracks) but well worth it, this album should have at least got a nomination for the Mercury Music Prize, if not walked away with the win.

  • 1. The Resurrection – 8/10
  • 2. M.E.N III – 8.5/10
  • 3. Don’t Cry (feat. Dermot Kennedy) – 6.5/10
  • 4. Cold Nights In The 61 – 7/10
  • 5. Welcome To The Hood (feat. Emeli Sande) – 7.5/10
  • 6. The Masters – Interlude
  • 7. Van Gogh Effect – 7.5/10
  • 8. Salvador – 7.5/10
  • 9. Ride Out – 7.5/10
  • 10. Bounce – 7.5/10
  • 11. Notorious (feat. Chip) – 9/10
  • 12. The Immortals – Interlude
  • 13. Gods – 8/10
  • 14. Angels – 7/10
  • 15. Skeletons – 7.5/10
  • Overall – 8/10

Jazmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales (2021)

Probably more of an EP than a full length album – whatever the classification, it’s brilliant. Every track on here ranges from great to excellent and in ‘Lost One’ it has one of the most heart wrenching and moving songs of the past few years. Everything on here is performed superbly, the vocals from Jazmine (and guests Ari Lennox and H.E.R.) are awesome, powerful and strong without being showy and the production on each track is varied and of the utmost quality. Any of the tracks on here could be released as a single and do well, such is the quality of every song. This is top level stuff and definitely one for the listening lists. Let’s hope she doesn’t wait too long to give us her next release.

  • 1. Bodies (Intro) – 7/10
  • 2. Antoinette’s Tale – Interlude
  • 3. Pick Up Your Feelings – 8/10
  • 4. Ari’s Tale – Interlude
  • 5. Put It Down – 7.5/10
  • 6. On It – (feat. Ari Lennox) – 7.5/10
  • 7. Donna’s Tale – Interlude
  • 8. Price Tags (feat. Anderson .Paak) – 8.5/10
  • 9. Rashida’s Take – Interlude
  • 10. Lost One – 9/10
  • 11. Precious’s Tale – Interlude
  • 12. The Other Side – 8/10
  • 13. Amanda’s Tale – Interlude
  • 14. Girl Like Me (feat. H.E.R.) – 9/10
  • Overall – 8.5/10

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