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Favorite Releases of 2021: Brandon

Written by Brandon George

2021 was an impossibly good year for music. Monumental comeback records from some of the greats, and a lineup of new and up-and-coming bands that are only going to get better from here on out. In the interest of shedding light on even more of the wonderful acts this year, I stuck to music that wasn’t previously covered by Legends of Tomorrow for my list.

5. “Redd EP” by Whee In

Favorite Track: "Water Color"

How to Support: @whee_inthemood on Instagram

I’m not quite well-versed enough to say I’m a fan of K-pop, but every once in a while I’ll stumble on something from the industry that grips me with its sheer level of compositional consistency and production value. The latest example of this is Mamamoo member Jung Whee-in’s first solo outing, "Redd EP".

Drawing inspiration from acts like Michael Jackson and Ariana Grande, this EP is six tracks of meticulous Pop and R&B set to painstakingly crafted electronic auxiliary percussion. Tracks like “Water Color” show off bubble gum vitality, “Trash” plays around with a hint of delicious irony, “Butterfly (feat. GSoul)” shows off her ability to navigate a ballad.

If you’re looking for something light and uplifting, with stellar production, you really can’t go wrong with this record.

4. “Home, In a Way” by Terrible People

Favorite Track: "Derby"

How to Support: Bandcamp, @t3rriblepeople on Twitter

The latest album from Singaporean emo band, Terrible People, “Home, In A Way,” is a blisteringly fast, eighteen minute long journey through nostalgia, heartbreak, malaise, and the notion that things will be better next time.

Terrible People are that brilliant kind of band that can perform complex storytelling with brevity. Each of the songs, none of them longer than two minutes, enters and crescendos into increasing emotional clarity as the album plays out.

There is a standout moment, halfway through the grungy track, “Derby,” when I knew this album would make my list. The cymbals crash and everything fades except for a single guitar.

The singer mutters the phrase, “We’ll get them next year / win every game, home and away.” Then the band returns in full force, repeating the phrase until we know they believe it.

3. “Saccharine” by Pinkshift

Favorite Track: "Toro"

How to Support: Bandcamp, @pinkshiftmd on Twitter

You ever hear something and just think, “Oh, this is the next big thing?” Exploding onto the scene with “On Thin Ice” mid-2020, Pinkshift only grew exponentially in popularity, due in no small part to the continuous expanding of their musical purview.

By the time "Saccharine" dropped in April, it was clear that Pinkshift had a wide breadth of musical ground and were ready to go even further beyond.

There is a theatricality strung throughout these pop-punk ragers that surrounds them in a sense of epicness. The closer has an outro with so much kinetic energy it feels like the music has a palpable form every time the guitar signals its explosive coming.

It’s a spellbinding EP with infinite replay value that hopefully foreshadows even more from this phenomenal band that is hopefully paradigmatic of the scene in the coming years.

2. “For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her” by McKinley Dixon

Favorite Track: "Never Will Know"

How to Support: Bandcamp, @McKinleyDixon on Twitter

Having followed McKinley Dixon’s music since the first mixtapes available on Bandcamp, I can confidently say that Dixon is someone who unflinchingly bears his heart with every note and word.

His debut record on Spacebomb is a record about that needle, thin point between Black pain and Black joy, and more focally, Black healing. It’s about reflection and refraction, and filled with conversations about how people process and grow.

Here, Dixon’s repertoire as a poet, a vocalist, and a composer are on full display, as well as his impeccable chemistry with his band. From the jump, “Never Will Know” highlights just how in tune to the emotional pulse Dixon’s band are.

They combine and contrast with his flow on a dime, and give some of the most energetic passages of the year with only so much as drums, bass, and Dixon’s layered vocals. From the beautiful musicianship, to the heartfelt and profound lyricism, this is the kind of album that burns a permanent and growing impression on the listener’s mind.

1. “Growing Fins” by Growing Fins

Favorite Track: "Caelin’s House"

How to Support: Bandcamp, @growingfinsband on Twitter

The first time I heard “Caelin’s House” off of Toronto math rockers Growing Fins’ debut EP was five years ago in the back room of a winery. It was the kind of song that instantly grabs the listener with its jerky, synchronized guitars and rowdy vocals.

Within these explosive sections are hand-placed manifestations of emotional bombardment, the kind of honesty that makes other lyricists ask themselves questions about how transparent they’re being.

That’s much the experience of Growing Fins’ self-titled EP. Songs that crescendo with glittering guitars into moments inside of a moment intimate and warm.

All of this is wrapped in tongue-in-cheek song titles and exemplary production makes this EP one of the best of the year.

Were any of these releases in your top favorites from 2021? Let us know on Twitter @lgndsoftmrw!

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