August through November has revealed itself to be the sweet spot for 2021 releases. And that’s coming off a year where live music basically stopped.
Sorry Twitch, IG Live, even Bandcamp concerts. The latter are nice and well-intentioned, but you still don’t get the full crowd experience—we’re even missing that one dude who has no rhythm, bumps into people all over the venue, and keeps chanting at all the wrong music cues.
Running parallel to this alarming plethora of streaming platforms in the 2021 “get my money right” campaign, artists, DJs, and bands have been dropping releases quicker than racists getting booted from the NFL. (Too soon? Nah.) For anyone who writes about music, this deluge of music is a blessing, albeit one that tastes like a kale smoothie. Does more music equal better quality? Hmmm.
Just because folks are dropping records or rebooting tours that were delayed by COVID’s onset, that doesn’t mean they are all copacetic projects. Don’t let the “cool emo hair” on that remix release fool ya, it’s not what you want!
That’s where we come in.
Thankfully, there is a good bundle of new artists putting in that quality work, finding their niche, working their angle. Those are the releases upon which we’ve focused. Join us as we shine a light on some bonafide legitimate releases you might have missed this fall. These are artists who take risks, push parameters, snub trends. Are these records better than post-sex nachos?
Don’t be greedy. Just believe this; 48hills remains steadfast. Onto the next.
BINKI — MOTOR FUNCTION (FADER)
Already folks have coined the term “snotty-rock” in describing how binki gets down. Born to Kenyan immigrants in Pennsylvania and raised on his older siblings’ music preferences, the creator of the Motor Function EP made it a lit, inclusive update on the post-punk frequencies of yore. Produced by Justin and Jeremiah Raisen of Yves Tumor and Angel Olsen fame, this binki release shows the artist immersing himself in the archives of David Bowie, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Lou Reed. The result? Four moody rubber textures, that pogo rock, pop, electro, and shimmery jammers. Written from his own “anti-love songs” viewpoint, binki has an unpretentious-sounding process; “My lyrics are typically inspired by my day-to-day experiences. They come out like vomit.”
This right here? 2021 post-punk glory.
DAMU THE FUDGEMUNK — CONVERSATION PEACE (Def Pressé)
Fave hip-hop record of the year so far.
It’s really rare—like, way out of the contemporary tradition—to hear a hip-hop producer make clean boom-bap that sounds like it comes from the genre’s golden era. Washington, DC-based artist and producer Damu the Fudgemunk makes quick and specific work sound priceless on his new album. Add the quick-witted wisdom of MC Insight Innovates, and it becomes clear that Conversation Peace is a durable piece of artistry. This is a stoic first release in the new KPM Crate Diggers series from Def Pressé and EMI/KPM.
NYC BEAT BOXX — BLACK METEORIC STAR (Voluminous Arts)
NYC Beat Boxx draws inspiration from vinyl “beat collections” that circulated heavily in New York during the ’80s. For example, The Black Meteoric Star project consistently utilizes a tape deck that Gavilán Rayna Russom was gifted for her high school graduation as a sort of sketchbook for ideas. The producer and LCD Soundsystem member released the LP in September via her own Voluminous Arts imprint. The project began while Rayna was still recovering from Covid-19 and unable to engage a full studio of equipment. Instead, she focussed on drum beats alone, building tracks on an analog drum machine that were nearly complete without the addition of synths or vocals.
Sparse, minimal, and at times drone-y, this project is a time machine to the version of Times Square where you might get your wallet lifted—no Tony Romas back then—but also catch a plethora of skilled street dancers performing on traveling linoleum for mere shekels who just might pop in a Blondie video. How fitting is it that Break Dancing becomes a sport at the 2024 Olympics? This is a soundtrack to what they should be performing.
DIJAHSB — TASTY RAPS VOL. 1
Tasty Raps Vol. 1 is DijahSB’s first new project since the emcee’s second LP, Head Above Waters, was announced as a finalist in Canada’s prestigious 2021 Polaris Music Prize, where it appeared alongside a shortlist of The Weather Station, TOBi, Cadence Weapon, Mustafa, and more.
A performance of music from this release was retweeted by Kid Cudi, who called the show by the Toronto MC “tasty”, made the meaning of the EP’s name quite apparent.
“Although not as cohesive as my last album, I find that I was just having fun with this idea and wanted to create something short and precise in order to launch it” DijahSB stated. Six tracks deep, Tasty Raps, Vol. 1 is a delicious morsel that delivers skills, swag, and intellect with lyrics like, “I used to be a cog in a machine/Now I’m just a broad with a dream with masculine energy all in between.”
ALICIA WALTER — I AM ALICIA (Sooper Records)
The former lead singer of the Chicago-based art-rock outfit Oshwa packs a complex, rich text of genre styles, feeding off some type of “up with people” energy on her debut solo release. Part over-the-top art-pop filled with kooky (the good kind) ideas fused with a certain type of hip-hop. Throw in some new wave, big band arrangements, and full-tilt boogie enthusiasm—this is healing music for a world that’s in great need of it. So “hold onto your butts,” Walter is packing great-sounding love, buddy.
ANDY SHAUF — WILDS (ANTI)
Wilds, the new release from the Bienfait, Saskatchewan-raised, Toronto-based singer-songwriter, is a bit of an in-betweener that was announced it was going to be released just days before it dropped into this world. That’s good for Shauf, who now has a product to sell while he embarks on his 2021 North American tour. But it’s also good for listeners; a peek at a contemporary singer-songwriter coming into his own. Picked from those numerous workouts Shauf was playing with in 2018, these fleshed-out sketches, delivered in raw basement tape form, get us even closer to the addictively-warbled yarn magic that makes Shauf’s flawed characters even more human.
EKI’SHOLA AND JUSTIN CIECHOSKI — TALKS OF 21
Our 2020 Best of The Bay Winner Eki’Shola teams up with Justin Ciechoski for “a personal anthem” that pushes for righteous action.
“Inspired by BLM and frustrated by the rallying cry for solidarity without actionable steps taken to improve representation, Eki’Shola decided to bring her own vision to fruition,” went the press statement. Eki’Shola teamed up with drummer Justin Ciechoski on the track, recorded at Prairie Sun Recording Studio during the pandemic. This single marks the debut of collaboration between the two artists. Recently accepted into the Innova (the label of American Composers Forum) Bay Area Pilot program, Eki’Shola is also partnering with Ciechoski on an EP based on experimental improvisation, to be released in 2022.
ILLUMINATI HOTTIES — LET ME DO ONE MORE (Hopeless Records)
Ok mang, “tenderpunk” is the term Sarah Tudzin has created to describe her very singular, stylized version of hooligan trickster anthems. Let Me Do One More is the full-tilt creative vision of two years of sweat, strife—and finally, victory.
“I love these songs and they’re a part of me and I’m proud of them” Sarah reflects in a press release. All the sing-a-long hooks, wince-quiver self-expressions, and saccharine choruses find themselves synthesized into this quick digest of deranged pop music. A pretty solid profile in The Ringer discloses just how much hustle-sweat Tudzin put in as a producer, engineer, and mixer to get to her own solo career. Did you know her video for “MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA” is a double tribute to D’Angelo and Nickelodeon’s Slime Time Live? Straight tendergenius, son!
BADBADNOTGOOD — TALK MEMORY (XL Records)
Canadian ensemble BadBadNotGood made its name by crossing genres, taking hip-hop into jazz, and vice-versa. I became familiar with them through the Ghostface affiliation, and soon after was fully hooked.
They can also break your freaking heart. That 2016 “Time Moves Slow” joint with Sam Herring from Future Islands? It catches all the feels, making your eye slots leak salty reflection. Boom-bap street soul done right is always good for pondering.
Their upcoming release Talk Memory claims to be heading back to their roots. With collaborations featuring the legendary Arthur Verocai and new school icons Terrace Martin, Karriem Riggins, Brandee Younger, and super OG arranger Laraji, this little psychedelic jazz outfit heads to places uncharted once again. I’m down for the trip.
SAGAN — ANTI-ARK (Broken Clover)
Question; What do you get when you add Jon Leidecker, a member from Negativland (Wobbly), Bevin Kelley, a member from Blectum From Blechdom ( Blevin Blectum), and Jay Lesser, one of the touring members from Matmos?
While this may sound like a setup for a party joke, it’s actually a description of a supergroup-of-sorts that has a release dropping on one of our local SF labels of choice, Broken Clover.
Let label boss Mickey Darius explain. “I’d give you a synopsis of this record, but it’s too crazy to try and describe. Glitchy at times, but also moments of smooth glasslike sounds. Heavy beats and broken rhythms, but also atmospheric cloudy ambiance.” The vinyl version of Anti-Ark was delayed by a couple of months, like many imprints working at the behest of the backed-up pressing plants around the world. Check the Broken Clover Bandcamp page for updates.
TELEMAKUS — THE NEW HERITAGE (Radio Juicy)
San Francisco-based musician Telemakus makes “off-kilter and unique” music—at least, that’s his take. His upcoming The New Heritage is an album that was created virtually with musicians from 11 countries, with a focus on maintaining a live sound while exploring ideas the producer normally wouldn’t have considered. It moves like a crab hot stepping over sand. Jazz is the lead focus here, with hip-hop sampling and editing tricks making all the instruments street corner hucksters. Being a self-taught pianist, he draws influence from wizards Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, DJ Harrison, and Robert Glasper. Telemakus is on to something here and the world is about to find out what that is.
DOS SANTOS — CITY OF MIRRORS (International Anthem)
Chicago-based alt-Latinx band Dos Santos makes City of Mirrors a swirling pictorial of a record, one that balances and simultaneously exalts traditional genres with modish arrangements and charged techniques. Bandleader Alex E. Chavez states the goal in the press release: “This album is an assemblage … glimpses of tradition … reflections on our collective present … luminous echoes between love and solitude, hope and absurdity, euphoria and mourning.”