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5 Standout Releases of 2021 (so far)

The Weather Station “Ignorance”

The first part of 2021 felt like the heavy comedown of last year’s fever pitch. Singer/Songwriter Tamara Lindemann’s lyrical catharsis (“I confess I don’t wanna undress this feeling, I am not poet enough to express this peeling”) rang especially resonant when “Ignorance” was released in early February. Her fourth album is a deep, comforting breath of versatile folksy pop songs that brings a somber optimism to an uncertain future.

Chill Kousin “Save Yourself”

It’s a shame the chorus for “Chainlink” is technically considered obscene by the FCC because “I just bought a pot to piss in” is one of the catchiest hip-hop hooks this year. The Lexington rapper’s tenor delivery cuts through simmering beats on his latest EP, pinballing from confident braggadocio on “Bankhead” to pensive, self-aware lines like “watch your mouth… I know yours gotta motor that’s known to keep you in trouble” on “Vroom.” Also includes features from locals Fredd C. and RemoSensei!

Origami Angel “Gami Gang”

While mall-punk is having its retro revival, Origami Angel is bringing back everything that made old school pop-punk so much fun. At first glance, the frequent use of double-bass drumming and guitar fret-tapping harkens back to Van Halen more than Green Day, but the DC’s duo’s youthful energy undeniably belongs in the skatepark. Throw in some lyrics about Taco Bell and Pokemon and you have 2021’s most lighthearted album thus far.

The Murlocs “Bittersweet Demons”

Although intended for a 2020 release, the fifth record by The Murlocs’ feels more appropriate during the beginning of summer. The King Gizzard side-project has all the wizardly psychedelia with a healthy dose of early arena rock. Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s laid back vocals and harmonica lean against the pluckiness of Tim Karmouche’s piano and Matt Blach’s particularly dusty drum tone for an old time rock ‘n’ roll sock hop.

The Sparks Brothers documentary by Edgar Wright

This movie screams WRFL! Cult nerd-filmmaker Edgar Wright takes an astoundingly deep dive into brothers Ron and Russ Mael’s 50+ career as the little-art-pop/rock-duo-that-could Sparks. Through a series of talking heads from Todd Rundgren to Flea to Amy Sherman-Palladino, each of the band’s 25 (!!!) records is respectfully celebrated in chronological order, no matter how successful or unhip their material sounded in comparison to the current popular landscape.