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

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

Little Simz ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’ (Age 101)

Little Simz asserts her place among the UK’s finest with this masterpiece of an album. Combining again with collaborator Inflo, the pair are up there with the likes of MadGibbs and 21 Savage and Metro Boomin when it comes to the great contemporary rapper/producer pairings. Across a lengthy but well-earned 19 tracks, ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’ hits majestic orchestral heights and dips into scuzzy depths, all the while maintaining the street smart flows and bars that make Simz’s raps so sharp. Buy it here

Moor Mother ‘Black Encyclopedia Of The Air’ (ANTI-)

Moor Mother releases operate on a level few other contemporary artists can reach, stitching complex themes and concepts into hard-hitting, experimental frameworks. The resulting sound is always totally captivating, even when your mind is racing to make sense of what it’s hearing. For those unfamiliar with her work, ‘Black Encyclopedia Of The Air’ could be the perfect introduction, with Moor Mother calling it her most “accessible” release. Buy it here

Ash Lauryn ‘Truth’ (FWM)

The debut EP from Atlanta-based Ash Lauryn serves up some sumptuous house cuts. ‘Life Is Back’ opens up the record with a joyous ode to the reopening world featuring Lauryn’s smooth vocals - “Life is back / and it feels like bliss / all of the simple things / that we’ve grown to miss” - and comes backed with a blissed-out Kai Alcé remix. ‘Truth’ is grittier, with throbbing and rattling percussion, while closer ‘Dancin In The D’ is the pick of the bunch, transporting listeners to a moody, atmospheric dancefloor in her hometown Detroit. Buy it here

Tems ‘Orange Was a Place’ EP (RCA)

All the attention heaped upon Tems right now is warranted. The Nigerian rising star’s debut release last September caught ears across the world, landing her top of Billboard’s Next Big Sound chart before signing to Sony’s RCA records outlet. Her second full release ‘If Orange Was A Place’ is a masterful start to that partnership, weaving her evocative vocals through gently brooding instrumentals. Buy it here

Lyra Pramuk ‘Delta’ (Bedroom Community)

Lyra Pramuk’s ‘Delta’ expands the remit of a remix album, giving artists free reign over the full range of 2020 album ‘Fountain’ to experiment with how they please. Not confined to single track reworks, artists such as KMRU, Eris Drew and Gabber Modus Operandi craft beguiling tracks that feel like whole universes are contained inside them. Buy it here

M1llionz ‘Provisional License’ (Ten Percent Music)

M1llionz’s debut album arrives with his ascent to greatness well underway. The Birmingham MC’s distinctive flow and menacing drill beats have gripped the UK rap fandom from the start, and tracks like ‘Y PREE’ last year brought mainstream attention. ‘Provisional License’ keeps that formula firing, with guest spots from Headie One, AJ Tracey and Lotto Ash to boot. He’ll have no problem passing any tests coming his way. Buy it here

Simo Cell ‘Yes DJ’ (TEMƎT)

Those who were expecting a record full of Simo Cell’s unique brand of brashness, humour and flair for his first release since 2018, were not disappointed — ‘Yes DJ’ bends effortlessly between footwork, techno and broken beat. Title-track ‘Yes DJ’ is everything you remember about the old Simo, hissing drums are cut up with trippy hi-hats with a female vocal repeating over and over “DJ” and “Yes”. ‘Short Leg’ and ‘Whispers’, meanwhile, are a lesson in tempo, traversing between intense percussive melodies and dirty basslines. ‘Not all it’s Cracked up to Be’ and ‘FARTS’ bring things back down, veering into dubstep and trap, leaving no base uncovered for this wrapped up, fleshed out tribute to the club. The record comes alongside a fanzine of Simo’s favourite record tokens, so yeah. Buy it here

박혜진 Park Hye Jin ‘Before I Die’ (Ninja Tune)

박혜진 Park Hye Jin’s debut album is full of heartfelt, sunshine-drenched piano riffs and longing vocals. ‘Before I Die’ was written and performed completely by the Korean producer in Los Angeles and tracks like ‘Me Trust Me’, ‘I Need You’ and ‘Never Give Up’ have a clear Californian inspiration seen within the leisurely insertion of guitar riffs and hip hop beats. ‘Let’s Sing Let’s Dance’ is a deconstructed piano house banger, while ‘Hey, Hey, Hey’ is downright dirty techno. A glimpse of vulnerability comes in ‘Before I Die’ as 박혜진 Park Hye Jin raps over a slow, winding synth in both Korean and English about missing her family. The record has a track for every mood, demonstrating 박혜진 Park Hye Jin’s massive range as an artist, as well as intimate documentation of her journey so far. It wildly journeys between being powerful and uplifting, to heart-rendingly exposed, to just plain horny, and you’ll find yourself grateful you came along for the ride, Buy it here

RP Boo ‘Established’ (Planet Mu)

Footwork originator RP Boo’s fourth release for Planet Mu is a beautifully wrapped up anthology of his journey, Black pride and the hardy, competitive nature of Footwork battles. ‘Established’ Boo insists, was to allow his listeners to get close to something beautiful, “to enjoy with family and friends,” while telling the story of the footwork movement, and its roots in disco, techno and house (there’s even a small nod to Paul Johnson.) Highlights include ‘How to Get It Done’ featuring the ‘Nuthin But a G Thang’ sample, ‘Finally Here’ (ft. Afiya), a vibey, ghetto house-inflected track that will have you feeling the heat of the dancefloor from the cups on your headphones, and closing track ‘Another Night and Day’ an ecstatic cut that combines gospel vocal, cheeky percussion and joyous four-to-the-floor. The poignant ‘Beauty Speak of Sounds’ is perhaps the most striking of all the tracks of the records, as RP Boo imagines himself in the “grasslands of Africa,” declaring over the low, morose synth “I’m Beautiful.” ‘Established’ is everything footwork is and also everything footwork can become. An essential listen, you’ll find yourself grateful you exist in the same timeline as ‘Established’. Buy it here

DJ Seinfeld ‘Mirrors’ (Ninja Tune)

Just a few years on from his debut record, DJ Seinfeld’s sound has matured from the innocent days of lo-fi house, now progressing to the depths of Italo, garage and disco, while shifting experimentally, but carefully, to a further-reaching palate. Vocal features and samples flow through the record with standout tracks like ‘U Already Know’ and ‘Tell Me One More Time’ weaving them in expertly. Buy it here

Lauren Flax & Posthuman ‘Endless Summer/Ottomen’ (Balkan Vinyl)

Posthuman and Lauren Flax are an unruly force when paired together, as this four-track EP serving up two new singles alongside quickfire revisions attests. The record was forged from a simple conversation: “You remix one of my tracks, I’ll remix one of yours, and we’ll stick it out on vinyl”, the producers agreed. And here we have it: the fast-paced, garage-spun, dancefloor-filling sounds of Posthuman’s ‘Ottomen’ and Flax’s ‘Endless Summer’, bolstered with banging rexmies. Buy it here

Tom Misch ‘Quarantine Sessions’ (Blue Note)

Tom Misch filled the empty void of lockdown with some homemade tunes helping us to cosy up and turn off with every new release. Those sombre moments alone, guitar in lap, have now been collected and compiled into one album - ‘Quarantine Sessions’ - which features a mixture of covers and improv moments. Misch’s take on garage classic ‘Gypsy Woman’ still sounds familiar to the original - while his Nirvana cover ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ comes softer, more down-tempo.

jamesjamesjames ‘James 2007’ (Shall Not Fade)

jamesjamesjames has proven his versatility once again in his genre-bending EP ‘James2007’. With heavy drums, house beats and snappy vocals, the album is an exciting listen for anyone into a bit of variation in their releases. The opening song ‘It's Not You, It’s Me’ fuses jungle breakbeats and SOPHIE-style hyperpop, giving listeners a musical ride from the off. Buy it here

Onipa ‘Tapes of Utopia’ (Boomerang Records)

Onipa’s new album ‘Tapes of Utopia’' celebrates the mixtapes found in many Ghanian markets. It is an eclectic mix of West African percussion and electronic music that pays tribute to the richness of African music styles in the 21st century. The songs are laced with rap lyricism that’s socio-culturally charged and guides the energy of the whole album. The legendary Tony Allen features on ‘Chicken No Dey Fly’ and ‘Mokole’ features Ghanaian rapper M3NSA. Buy it here

Nao ‘And Then Life Was Beautiful’ (Little Tokyo)

Nao’s serene, vocally impressive album provides high keyboards, smooth harmonies and an opportunity for reflection. Laced with ethereal vocals, this emotionally charged album makes beauty of the very turbulent year and a half we have had. The song ‘Antidote’ is a highlight of the album, featuring strong Afrobeats influences and the vocals of Nigerian highlife singer Adekulne Gold, Buy it here

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