The best albums and EPs of the year 2021 so far - November - Music - Mixmag

Welcome to the November section of our best albums and EPs of the year 2021 rundown — read the full list here

Kaytranada ‘Intimidated’ (RCA Records)

‘Intimidated’ captures what Kaytranada is about. It has soulful melodies and fun, funky beats. With the song's piano and H.E.R.'s voice drifting through, the opener and title-track ‘Intimidated’ is a lyrical and expressive exploration of the fragile concept of love. Thundercat's calming voice is featured throughout the seductive song ‘Be Careful’, and ‘$payforhaiti’ features Creole rap from Mach-Hommy. This whole project carries the signature Kaytranada sound that fans know and love.

V/A ‘Celebrating Pride: For the Community, By The Community’ (Daytimers x Big Dyke Energy)

The project contains some big names in the music scene, such as SHERELLE and India Jordan, and up-and-coming artists, including No Nation, FAFF, Darama, and Riva.

This versatile project highlights the best queer electronic music in the scene right now. Each track shows the artists’ individual style and personality, and they all seamlessly bind together to create one cohesive compilation. Stand out tracks include Manuka Honey’s ‘Noise complaint’ and India Jordan’s ‘BALBY BASTARD’.

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Cooly G ‘Save Me’ (Hyperdub)

This two-track EP from Cooly G is a true amalgamation of many of the hottest global trends in dance music in 2021, with amapiano influence, deep bass and catchy vocals. The track ‘Save Me’ features vocals from Cooly G herself, while the vocals of Ruth Brown ring through on ‘We Can Find Love Too’. This EP is a showcase of Cooly’s versatility and skill.

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Silk Sonic ‘An Evening With Silk Sonic’ (Atlantic Records)

This album is full of funky basslines, catchy vocals and has a distinct 1970s R&B sound. It sees Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars unite together as Silk Sonic, and their individual style, confidence and flair does not get lost in this collaborative album. Both clearly have a knack for nostalgia and manage to accurately create a feel good album which is guaranteed to get listeners both grooving and emotionally invested.

Fred again.. ‘Actual Life 2 (February 2 - October 15 2021)’ (Atlantic)

Sample wizard Fred again.. returns this month with the second addition to his sonic diary - ‘Actual Life’ - an anthology of day-to-day life snippets made into floaty house tracks with raucous basslines. The second full-length record from the London producer and Mixmag cover star changes tone from his debut, picking up the pace from his often melancholic sound with tracks such as ‘Hannah (The Sun)’ and ‘Billie (Loving Arms)’ bringing some warmth to these winter months.

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Yosh ‘Skyline’ (Dansu Discs)

Yosh returns this month with his latest EP, ‘Skyline’, which lands on Manchester’s Dansu Discs hot off the release of his lauded single 'Gen 1’ and October-dropped EP ‘My Fire’. Bringing four new tracks to the table this time in the vein of jungle, 2-step and breaks, Yosh also adds a cheeky flip from Angel D’lite who reworks the title-track to top off the record.

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Parcels ‘Day/Night’ (Because)

Australian five-piece Parcels have been busy in the studio these past few years - and it shows in their latest project, ‘Day/Night’. This record flaunts a whopping 19 tracks, enough to keep you dancing for a solid 90 minutes on a soundtrack of jazz-funk-disco fusion. With standout tracks such as ‘Theworstthing’, ‘Famous’ and ‘Comingback’, it never once falls flat despite its mammoth length, and playfully pairs their glitzy, disco excellence with bags full of 70s-inspired catchy guitar licks.

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Elkka ‘Harmonic Frequencies’ (Technicolour)

Rewind a few months, and you might have seen Elkka on the bill for almost every UK festival, with a few radio slots to match. Now dropping her latest EP, ‘Harmonic Frequencies’, a four-track release journalling “a six month period” pointing to the end of lockdown, this record taps back into the producer’s revered sound with hypnotic vocal tracks such as the eponymous lead single, which details a “journey from being deprived of all of those things back to feeling fulfilled once more.”

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Parris ‘Soaked In Indigo Moonlight’ (Can You Feel The Sun)

Known as the ‘producer’s producer’, we’ve been hyped about Parris’ album as soon as news of it broke. The album inspired by the likes of Charli XCX, Lana Del Rey, Frank Ocean and more shows how the artist has infused pop into his bass stylings. The best example of this is the track ‘Skater’s World’, which has the essence of PC Music with its bouncy beat alongside the playful vocals from Eden Samara. The album also features artists Carmen Villain, Call Super and James K. The penultimate track featuring Call Super called ‘Poison Pudding’ has a similar energy to ‘Skater’s World’. Through a simple build-up, you can hear each beat slowly intertwine until the tempo dramatically changes into a pop-central chorus of electronic sounds.

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Laurence Guy ‘Your Good Times Are Here’ (Shall Not Fade)

This five-track EP delivers on its promise of a good time within the first few seconds, setting off with the vibey house pulse of the title-track. Originally written as a mix for BBC Radio 1, Laurence thought it was too good not to share as an EP. The track ‘I Know You Feel Sad’ sits in the centre of the EP as a mellow interlude of jazzy trumpets alongside soulful vocals singing lyrics such as “It’s all in your head.” ‘Mutual Disappointment is a Terrible Thing’ - a “chopped & screwed ambient version” of a track from his last EP - is befitting of its title with a sombre tone to round out the emotional journey.

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Shinichiro Yokota ‘Tokonoma Style’ (Far East Recording)

In his first album since 2019, Japanese electronic producer Shinichiro Yokota has created more masterful house grooves. The star of the album must be ‘Time Lapse’ for its core melody being so enjoyable. But full marks to ‘Midazolam’ too for breaking the mould of Yokota’s classic sound. It incorporates a huge mixture of interesting sounds, adding a technically charming electronic yet bassy tone.

Logic1000 ‘In The Sweetness Of You’ (Therapy)

Logic1000 has created a jam-packed EP, with an exploration of deeper beats alongside the brighter sounds she’s known for, alongside features from yunè pinku, Big Ever, and vocals in the mix. It’s described by Logic1000 as made for listening in a “quieter setting” than her previous work, which has been played by Four Tet, Annie Mac, and DJ Python.

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Arca 'KiCK ii' (XL Recordings)

Surprise surprise! In the very last moments of this month Venezeulan avant-pop star dropped the latest edition in her ‘KiCK’ series, the first of four released this week. Though we were already treated to a sneak peek of what was to come via ‘Born Yesterday ft. Sia’ the journey we’re taken on as a listener comes as a complete surprise - with Arca using her masterful production to maneuver between unsettling moments of darkness, euphoric, heartfelt pop, and harsh, deconstructed reggaeton. The record tells a story of transformation and flux, in all its monstrosity and allure.

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Sega Bodega 'Romeo' (NUXXE)

Though described as an album about “an imaginary girlfriend made entirely of light”, ‘Romeo’ is anything but a concept album. Deeply personal throughout, much of the record contains declarations of affection towards the Scottish/Irish producers' close relationships with those he has created music with. Bodega teams up with Arca and Charlotte Gainsbourg as credited collaborators on tracks ‘Naturopathe’ and ‘Cicicada – while ‘Um Um’ is about grieving the loss of frequent partner SOPHIE. The record plays with extremes, with elements of slapping drums, drum ‘n’ bass, hardcorem then delves into slow, euphoric melodies. A successful toeing of the line between hard and heartfelt, giving us all the pop satisfaction that we crave in between.

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Batu 'I Own Your Energy' (Timedance)

Batu is not playing around with the long-awaited follow-up from 2019’s ‘False Reeds’. Four-tracker ‘I Own Your Energy’ is consistently hard, fast and club-ready, marrying together intoxicating techno blends with pulsating percussion. In short, this is Batu getting back into the rave and we’re here for it.

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Leif ‘9 Airs’ (AD 93)

A world in chaos has helped ambient music to reign supreme, with people turning to soothing sounds to take their minds off, well, everything. Leif has been releasing some of the finest music in this field for years now, and his latest album ‘9 Airs’ is another exquisite offering. It ebbs and flows with transfixing beauty. Perfect if you need 40 minutes of calm to wash over you.

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MMM (Errorsmith & Fiedel) ‘On The Edge’ (MMM)

The pandemic has affected us all. One effect has been forcing out-every-night club regulars to withdraw from the dancefloor, and some have found themselves maintaining an interest in more introspective music since lockdown eased. That’s the kind of vibe found on MMM’s debut album. The Berlin techno staples have been releasing earth-shatteringly big club bangers since the mid ‘90s, but their first LP takes a different, less ravey direction. There’s still recognisably MMM signatures, like the tightly-constructed foundations and skittering rhythms. But overall, the mood is more reflective and melancholic than the ecstatic injections found on their previous 12”s. They master this new direction, creating a rich and intriguing record that’s well-suited to the longer format.

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Tangerine Dream ‘Probe 6-8’ (Kscope)

Tangerine Dream have been responsible for some of the most beautiful electronic music committed to record since the group was founded by Edgar Froese in 1967. After he sadly passed in 2015, the remaining members and new faces are honouring his legacy with more out-of-this-world synth-led sounds. ‘Probe 6-8’ is exquisite: the opening track ‘Raum’ lasts for 15 minutes and still leaves you wanting more, soothing the soul with its blissful tones. Grand River and Barker also prove outstanding remixer choices, bringing their own subtly euphoric ambient know-how to the table.

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Ciel ‘All We Have Is Each Other’ (Mister Saturday Night)

Ciel’s debut on Mister Saturday Night presenst five varied tracks tied together by an off-kilter energy. It’s a perfect record to coincide with reopening of clubland, reflecting both the apprehension and excitement of the tentative return to dancefloors. The rhythms sound jittery and anxious, but they plough forward with exciting momentum and pair beautifully with both the deeper and the more uplifting textures. Diving back into clubbing after so long feels like hitting your first rave with a fake ID and the emotional extremes that brings. Ultimately, it’s a thrill, and dancing to records like this with friends is a key reason why. After all, as the artworks declares, “When the world goes up in flames, all we have is each other.”

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Blawan ‘Woke Up Right Handed’ (XL)

‘Under Belly’ built serious hype when it dropped as the lead single, and the rest of Blawan’s debut EP on XL duly delivered on that promise. It’s hard-hitting, raw and atmospheric with just the right amount of playful thrown in more good measure. Exactly the type of EP we’d expect from someone with “K I C K D R U M” knuckle tats.

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Otik ‘Soulo’ (3024)

Otik has established himself as one of the best new names in UK techno this year, showcasing production prowess that subtly channels many distinct flavours into shapeshifting tracks. ‘Soulo’ is another gem of an EP, submerging emotive melodies and masterful rhythms in dubby haze.

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