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  • Writer's pictureMatt Levin

Translove Airwaves Fav Music of 2021!

Updated: Jan 3, 2022

2021, are you still here? Jeez. And we all thought 2020 was awful! Someone said, if you've had a good year, the least you can do is keep it to yourself! We get the joke, but the truth is, music is one of the few things that brings people together after it's pushed out into the world. And it turns out this insane year was incredibly rich with new music, and so here are 10 of my favs of the year. I know everyone loves top ten lists, but these aren't in any order, it's all incredible, inspired stuff! There's no best, they're all winners to my ears.

Music should become more on point and transcendent during troubled times. Vietnam gave us protest music and tons of socially conscious classics, Punk rock and even early new wave to some extent was fueled by Reagism, Thatcherism, and all of the other isms of the day that were trying to suppress the masses. That's part of the role of art, to try and make sense of the often harsh realities of the day , when things are bleak, and push back on our leaders who are invariably only making things worse.

In a way, blissed out psychedelic rock made by folks stuck in their bedrooms is a form of protest in the sense that we're all on this bad trip right now in the age of Covid, and at least musicians can lay down these beautiful, healing sounds that can take themselves, not to mention the rest of us on a happier journey, at least for 45 min or so, both sides of your vinyl. Not that some of this music isn't more confrontational in either the lyrics or instrumentation. But in general, whatever the musical flavor is, this years crop of albums feel more cathartic than BC(before Covid), as they should. Tension and release indeed!

So, enough of me rambling on. Here's the tunes! Happy new Year!

Tibetan Miracle Seeds - Inca Missles.

Sometimes you just hear an album and you connect with it right away! That was the case for me when I first heard TMS. Hailing from Dundee, Scotland, Jack McAfee's debut is a stunningly gorgeous work of sitar-infused slices of psychedelica. Jack wrote, recorded and produced all of the songs on the album with an assist on drums and recording from Robbie Wilson, who's the driving force behind Glasgow's brilliant, The Kundalini Genie, who's also on my list! Scot Rock is well represented this year!🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Mt. Mountain - Centre

I always find gems at the end of the year through other lists, this year it's Mt. Mountain! I've been spinning this one not stop lately! Really incredible album. "Hailing from Perth, Australia, Mt. Mountain deal in a sprawling, motorik psychedelic rock sound that journeys between tranquil, drone-like meditations and raucous, full-throttle wig-outs that’ll blow your mind as much as your speakers." ~Bandcamp

Sei Still - El Refugio

Every band gets compared to either, Neu!, Joy Division or the Brian Jonestown Massacre these days, right? Well Mexico City's Sei Still, who've recently relocated to Berlin, where Anton Newcombe lives, have chosen JD for their new record, El Refugio. Their first record El Camino, also brilliant, was filled with longer Neu! ish jams. They've changed things up on the new one, reflecting the times we're living in, with darker, tighter bursts of intense tension and release wiry tunes. Brilliant stuff! Can't wait for their BJM influenced third album :)

Kundalini Genie - HALF IN, HALF OUT

The incredibly talented Robbie Wilson, hailing from Glasgow, Scotland has had a big year, and he's not keeping it to himself! His band, Kundalini Genie, has put out their incredible new record, Half In, Half Out. He also played drums and helped record fellow Scottish musican, Jack McAfee's(Tibetan Miracle Seeds), incredible debut album. Is there anything Robbie can't do? Oh yeah, and Half In, Half Out was mixed brilliantly by RIDE's Mark Gardener. Speaking of which, stand out track, "While You Smile" has a breathtaking, shoegazy wall of sound, mixed with acoustic guitar, reminiscent of RIDE's epic masterpiece, Leave Them All Behind.

10 000 Russos - Superinertia

If any current band, and album, defines the chaotic vibe of the Covid era, it's 10 000 Russos. The Porto, Portugal based trio's new record, Superinertia, is a sonic maelstrom of kinetic psychedelia! Twisting phased guitar lines, courtesy of guitar wizard, Pedro Pestana, pulsating synths, Motorik drums beats ala Can or Neu! Mixed with politically abrasive, yet often funny lyrics shouted in a Mark e Smith fashion by 10 000 Russos' front man, João Pimenta, its a potent stew to get lost in. The band describe the meaning of 'Superinertia' as "a record addressing the “state of inertia that humans live in the West nowadays. It isn’t a record about the past or future. It’s about now.” This inertia, they say, is one deeply-rooted in the Western condition – in which ‘common sense’ masquerades political impotence, culture is largely dominated by pastiche and nostalgia and life itself is reduced to an endless cycle of work-consume-repeat." Enough said.

Rose City Band - Earth Trip

The ultra prolific Ripley Johnson is one of the coolest guitar players in the world. He has 3 bands, and they're all great and different from each other. His main band, Wooden Shjips, is the heaviest of the bunch. His band with his wife, Sanae Yamada, Moon Duo, is incredible as well. His newest project is Rose City Band, named after Portland, Oregon's moniker, the Rose City, where Johnson has lived for some time. Rose City Band is reminiscent of Sweetheart of the Rodeo era Byrds. Countrified guitars licks understated vocals along with Ripley's distinctive solos give the album a laid back vibe that's perfect for desert drives, or on a good pair of headphones in bed, or anywhere else for that matter!

Matt Berry - The Blue Elephant

Matt Berry is a jack of all trades. He's an actor well known for his work in The Mighty Boosh, and What We Do in the Shadows, but he's also a prolific musician, with ninth studio albums to his credit as well as writing music for film and television. His newest record, The Blue Elephant is a treasure trove of 60's era Sunshine Psychedelic nuggets. While the vibe is sunny, the music is complex. His work here borders on the experimental and imaginative in it's arrangements. Hints of Scott Walker abound! Cinematic, disarmingly funny, and sublime.

Sun Atoms - Let There Be Light

Jsun Atoms a fixture in the Portland music for over 25 years with his various projects, The Bella Low, The Upsidedown, Daydream Machine, Pete International Airport, Mother Mariposa. Now spreads his wings with his fantastic solo debut, as Sun Atoms. I say "solo" but one of Jsun's many talents has always been collaborations, and Let There Be Light is no exception. Featuring production and bass playing from the Dandy Warhols’ guitar pedal maestro Peter Holmström, and mixed by legendary U.K. producer, Stephen Street(The Smiths, The Cranberries and Blur) Atoms along with his fantastic new band has put together a dream team, and has the tunes to back it up. Imagine Nick Cave, Peter Murphy or Leonard Cohen singing over a super group made up of Tones on Tails/Talking Heads/ and Berlin era Bowie, and you get the idea. The album is groovy, funky, sexy, and ambitious. Atoms wonderfully playful lyrics come deliriously fast and fun on album standout, “Two Wolves and a Lamb Voted on What’s for Dinner,” over a fantastically slinky bassline. It's the sound of an artist who's fully realized his potential, and enjoying the moment. May it continue.

New Candys - Vyvyd

Venice, Italy's New Candys just exude cool. They look cool, they're music's cool, their videos are cool, their live show is cool, and they're super friendly, cool guys. Their new record Vyvyd continues the cool vibe with sharp production and atmospheric guitar lines. The music lighter than on previous efforts but retains an air of mystery. The melodies are the real stand out here, particularly on album highlight, the gorgeous "Begin Again" that features beautiful singing from front man, Fernando Nuti. Vyvyd is consistently strong throughout. Can't wait to see what these guys come up with next.

Mdou Moctar - Afrique Victime

I have to include Mdou Moctar on this list for his live show alone. The Nigerien, Tuareg guitarist, attacks his instrument with such power and ferocity it's almost scary. It's in total contrast to what seems to be a very gentle man when he speaks and the way he smiles. The new album Afrique Victime captures the rawness of his live show as best it can, with the epic title track as the centerpiece. His band, especially the incredible, prodigal drummer, Souleymane Ibrahim, really shines. But really you just need to see MM live if you can. It's truly a magical, spiritual experience.

Muun Bato - Paraphonic Vapors

Minneapolis-based Muun Bato's(pronounced: moon-bah-toe) second album, Paraphonic Vapors is a truly psychedelic affair. On certain tunes, like the trippy, 'Smoke Vision' with it's surreal lyrics, and lovely organ flourishes ala Richard Wright, it's very reminiscent of Syd Barrett and early Pink Floyd. You could imagine MB opening for The Floyd at the UFO Club in London in 1967. Elsewhere 'Overture/Golden Lyre', has a more modern post-punk vibe, but no less spacey and trippy. Early Echo and the Bunnymen and the Chameleons UK come to mind. Album closer, the 14 minute epic, 'Agamemnon / Super Fluorescent' floats along sweetly before climaxing in a dizzyingly kaleidoscopic freakout jam that's sure to be stunning when played live! Muun Bato's musicianship is tight yet fluid. Vince Caro's(Flavor Crystals) guitar playing is exceptional throughout, as is drummer, Andy Iwanin's intuitive stick work. Singer/songwriter, Joe Werner's gift for melody and unique vocal style make the album memorable and elevates it from your standard psych-rock fare, into a classic.

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