Albums of the month: 7 albums you need to hear from September 2021

Albums of the month: 7 albums you need to hear from September 2021

An absolute avalanche of new releases hit us in September 2021 as the pandemic-postponed records finally surfaced. We’ve whittled our shortlist down to just seven you absolutely must hear right now so here’s our albums of the month picks. 

Albums of the month September 2021

After the drought, comes the flood. As albums have been delayed unintentionally or strategically as the 2020/21 lockdowns played out we’re now seeing a glut of releases flood out as a distinct ‘return to normality’ is sought by the masses and our masters.

As demand is fuelled supply is still choked and the music industry is grinding painfully in a bottleneck around production (with vinyl delays particularly bad, exacerbated by the ongoing trend for reissues) and a cacophony of ‘pick me’ promotional activity in which – as ever – the most interesting voices are stamped down and go mostly unheard.

We’ve had an overwhelming amount to listen to but we’ve corralled the stampede into a manageable list of 7 essential albums of the month for September 2021. Through many of them is this idea, the theme, of journeying. Perhaps a product of so many of them being created or completed during the isolation of lockdown, and the introversion which accompanied it, or perhaps coincidental to our situation in many of the records we highlight here there is the reflection of growth – painful and beautiful – and the completion of cycles. While some of the records touch on this common theme, they remain distinct from each other so choose your favourite and dive in.

If you do like any of what you find here don’t forget it is Bandcamp Friday today (1 October) when the platform forgoes its usual percentage and makes sure 100% of sales goes to the artist or label. It’s a great way to support independent music if you have some money to spend.

With so much coming out we’re sure we will have missed something so leave us a comment here, on Twitter, or on Facebook and let us know what your favourite album was this September.

7 albums of the month – September 2021

YAY MARIA – OYEZ (Year Of Glad)

YAYMARIA OYEZ album cover

OYEZ, the debut album from Derby-based trans and queer musician YAY MARIA, culminates in the vulnerability-loaded but defiant battlecry: ‘Being queer is beautiful’. Not only the conclusion of the album, but a marker on Maria Machin’s own journey it’s exactly the sort of ‘powerful and unshakable affirmation of joy, love and solidarity’ the record overflows with. This is exactly the sort of music to hold you, love you, and support you through turbulent times of any scale.

From a DIY beginning the album has bloomed into something packed with the details you’d expect from Machin’s creativity (Grawl!x, My Psychoanalyst) – electronics, featured artists (Franx, Emzae, the town crier from Peak District town Belper), and through it all a fearless face-in to the feelings many of us turn away from as too much, too hard, too frightening. Here Maria takes your hand and shows you the light that casts the sinister shadows, and that when your steps are faltering you can always start to dance.

Reviewing recent single Template we described it as ‘a microcosm of [the album’s] theme and a total electro-pop bop full of colour and light, with love shot through every note, lyrically delivered with a wry humour’. Here then is that wider world, grown from the hope it can make even ‘one outsider feel better about themselves’. It is an ‘antidote to otherness’ – a description we can’t argue with as on this debut record under the YAY MARIA moniker she has found the perfect means to reinforce the importance of togetherness, and to embrace your true nature as a way to make sense of a chaotic world.

Self-love might not always come easy, especially when society tells you that you don’t fit, but in this beautiful, joyful songs YAY MARIA will dissent and hold that space full of beauty, truth, and love ready for you. A stunning and emotional record for its honest exploration of Maria’s own journey, deemed to become a favourite through deeply creative melody and instrumentation, and elevated to greatness through making that personal reflection resonate universally.

An underrated artist of our times in all her musical guises – don’t sleep on YAY MARIA’s debut.

Find YAY MARIA album OYEZ on: Bandcamp. There is an album launch party at Bustler Street Market, Derby on Monday 11 October (details here), and YAY MARIA will also support Withered Hand, Alice Hubble, and The Hobbes Fanclub in Nottingham on 8 October (tickets here). There are more live dates through autumn.

Alice Hubble – Hexentanzplatz (Happy Robots)

Alice Hubble Hexentanzplatz album cover

Following on from her 2019 debut album Polarlichter Alice Hubble‘s second long player, Hexentanzplatz, is described as ‘one lady at home with her enormous collection of synthesisers’. Accurate as that might be this is an album which is far from a self-indulgent cataloguing of the capability of instrument and rather a heady pop record touching on themes of illusion, love, feminism and protest.

Named after the myth-bound German mountain – Hexentanzplatz translates as Witches’ Dance Floor – the record showcases Hubble’s immersive storytelling at its best. Surrounded by those twinkling synths and washes of sound she channels anger and frustration at the lack of real meaningful change post #metoo on Power Play, recognises the idealisation underpinning each crush on Projections, and using that namesake mountain as metaphor and setting for a celebration of inclusivity on the title track.

Brilliantly rendered and sometimes quirkily inspired, this is another winning album from Hubble and one which you’ll return to for its melancholy, its joy, and its melodic details and delights.

Find Alice Hubble album Hexentanzplatz on: Bandcamp. Alice Hubble plays with Withered Hand, The Hobbes Fanclub and YAY MARIA in Nottingham on 8 October (tickets here). Look out for our interview with Alice Hubble in the next few days.

Moor Mother – Black Encyclopedia of the Air (Anti-Records)

Moor Mother Black Encyclopedia of the Air album cover

Camae Ayewa, aka Moor Mother, has been called ‘the poet laureate of the apocalypse’ and in the seeming chaos, challenging and often harsh soundscapes, and the brutally beautiful lyrics she’s crafted over the last decade you can see why.

Black Encyclopedia Of The Air is perhaps her most accessible album yet – paring back the onslaught in favour of space, without stepping away from her gift of deconstructing the systems which bind.

While leaning into free jazz phrasing once more there are also pop hooks, and a commitment to face the rhythm head on but the truly stomach-sinking reality of this album is while you’re being shot through futuristic sonic space-scapes the message is no longer about rallying to fight, but acceptance that we’re “post-everything, 12:01 on the doomsday clock.” This isn’t an album for the apocalypse, but for what comes after the utter destruction of everything.

Find Moor Mother album Black Encyclopedia of the Air on: Bandcamp. There is a UK tour date on 13 November 2021 at Kings Place London (details). Read our review of Moor Mother and billy woods album Brass.

Sleigh Bells – Texis (Lucky Number Records)

Sleigh Bells Texis

More than a decade on from their debut Treats and five since their last long-player, Sleigh Bells has matured and polished their sound on latest offering Texis without losing a single ounce of the energy and drive which made them so compelling from the off.

There’s a cynicism in any backward glances their cast, ferocious and playful in equal measure, as they wryly reference their own longevity amidst a storm of indie-rock-trip-hop genre blending.

A band who is adept at modern pop, at fusions of high energy youthful genres, and at in your face but sweet vocal delivery Sleigh Bells has delivered brilliantly again with Texis.

Find Sleigh Bells album Texis on: Bandcamp. The band are on tour across North America in October and November.

Martina Topley Bird – Forever I Wait (Self-release)

Martina Topley Bird Forever I Wait album coverMartina Topley Bird‘s fourth solo album, Forever I Wait, comes some 11 years after her third (2010’s Some Place Simple) and marks a long-awaited but very welcome return to her work. Self-produced and featuring collaborations and arrangements by Robert del Naja (Massive Attack), Rich Morel (Deep Dish), Christoffer Berg (Fever Ray) and Benjamin Boeldt (Adventure) this is an album of fractured beauty, exploration of the fragilities of life, and of finding the strength to continue when devastation is all around.

Of the record Topley Bird said, “It’s a trip through different emotional states and frequencies from insecurity and desire, all the way through to serenity and acceptance with themes that resonate from my young teens all the way through till today. Things that I’ve seen and things I’ve felt and worked through, although sometimes I sense them trying to return”

Melodically there are aspects of Dub and electronica as you might expect, underscoring the desire and heartache the record is centred on. The experiences behind this record are shared with a raw precision, while the time taken to create the musical world can be felt in the careful curation and skilful movement through the tracks. A long time coming maybe, but definitely worth the wait.

Find Martina Topley Bird album Forever I Wait on: Bandcamp

Someone – Shapeshifter (Tiny Tiger Records)

Someone & Tessa Rose Jackson Shapeshifter album cover

The work of Danish/British artist Tessa Rose Jackson under the name Someone, album Shapeshifter is a beautiful and surprising blend of 60s folk acoustics, and expansive psych shot through with fragility and…well…loveliness.

Nodding back to influences including Joni Mitchell the album – like so many getting releases right now – is set against the backdrop of lockdown while not explicitly being about that experience. Instead it reflects the path Jackson took through – ‘Staying positive and staying playful.’

It is a gentle album in parts, described as velvet-lined and very much evoking that feeling of softness and luxury in its scope and delivery. Warm and hopeful, this is an album for when the constant battle of the world today is laying heavy on you, and showcases deft arrangements, vast soundscapes and intimate instrumentation from an artist we can’t wait to hear more from.

Find Someone album Shapeshifter on: Spotify

Shush – I Could Have Imagined Anything (Kitchen Knife Blood Pact)

Shush I Could Have Imagined Anything album cover

We’re always here for some the crunchy guitars, softly diffused but bright vocals, and sepia-tinged emoting of US bubblegum punk, and with I Could Have Imagined Anything Shush tick all our boxes.

Releases from this scene are often scrappy, and in which the speed and rawness of getting the music out somehow anyhow can be felt as much as heard. That energy is here, but wielded powerfully across a collection which ebbs and flows, bringing in towering walls of sound before head-spinning drops.

One of the best garage rock albums we’ve heard this year from a band which may be all that passed by this side of the Atlantic. Don’t let it escape you – sink into its depths, ride out its highs, and find there are bands keeping the genre fresh even while nodding to all that has come before.

Find Shush album I Could Have Imagined Anything on: Bandcamp

Further listening – more albums of the month from September 2021

Double up (and a bit more) your listening with another 8 albums we’ve been loving this month:

  • Life Model – Lost On Weekdays, Lonely By Sunday (Last Night From Glasgow) – check our review of single Sit Still
  • Roxanne De Bastion – You & Me, We Are The Same (Nomad Songs)
  • Sam Forrest – Crooked Candle (Hidden Bay Records)
  • Vanessa Anne Redd – Sweet Way Around (Sharp Attack Records) – check our review of single By The Time
  • Mara Simpson – In This Place (Downfield Records) – check our review of single Serena
  • Cowgirl – Cowgirl (Safe Suburban Home)
  • Amyl and The Sniffers – Comfort To Me (Rough Trade)
  • Carol Hodge – The Crippling Space Between (Midnight Stamp)

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Find out what other new music has been exciting us recently and get in touch if you want to submit music or contribute to Popoptica.

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Sarah Lay

Sarah Lay is editor of Popoptica.
A long-standing music journalist she's also co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an author of novels, and when not messing around with words and music, a digital strategist.
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