3 albums you may have missed in 2021

Every year, music produces albums upon albums upon albums, more than I could ever keep track of. It is a combination of blessing and cursing; I can’t listen to them all, but that means there’s always a surprise waiting for me to find out. If you love music like me, you might be in the same boat. As we begin our journey into 2022, I’d like to take a moment and highlight some albums from 2021 that may have slipped your radar, and which I think you should pay attention to.

Arooj Aftab is a Brooklyn-based Pakistani singer and songwriter, who had a 2021 banner with the release of her album Prince Vulture. His music blends jazz, folk, electronic and Hindustani classical music styles into a haunting sonic tapestry, all anchored by his silky, melismatic vocals, with lyrics in English and Urdu, the national language of Pakistan. His latest work received critical acclaim throughout the year, garnering numerous ‘Best of the Year’ positions and two Grammy nominations, including a ‘World’s Best Musical Performance’ nod. for this song, “Mohabbat”. “Last Night”, with reggae influences, is another choice cut and a rare rhythm track on the album. Aftab’s star is rising fast, and if that’s something you’re interested in, I highly recommend keeping an eye out for her on her new label, Verve Records.

Marissa Paternoster usually finds herself shredding and screaming leading the Philadelphia punk trio Screaming Females. She has previously released solo work under the name Noun, aesthetically not far from her main gig, but on her latest project and first under her own name, Paternoster stretches out, giving more room for new textures to emerge. rise, and for his voice to take on a softer center stage. meter of peace was conceived remotely during the pandemic lockdown and features a trio of fellow musicians supporting her, including Cincinnati’s own Kate Wakefield who lends her cello talents through the album. Songs can take on a slower pace, as on the buzzy “Sore”, with Paternoster’s vocals and Wakefield’s cello weaving around each other in long, swapping tones, or the more stinging “Black Hole the electronic drums pulsating against the lyrics feeling trapped in a dark space without a certain someone. Paternoster is a versatile performer, and this album is a captivating sheet in the output of her longtime punk band.

Finally, for those looking for a moment of sublimity and comfort, I draw your attention to promises, a collaboration between British electronic producer Sam Shepherd, aka Floating Points, the London Symphony Orchestra and jazz icon Pharoah Sanders. Sanders heard of Shepherd’s work in 2015, and years later, after forming a friendship, the idea for this album took hold, Sanders’ first studio album in over a decade. Shepherd played the electronics and arranged the acoustic parts to be played by himself and the LSO, with Sanders the voice of the lonely wind, bringing his instantly recognizable saxophone styles, his playing still skillful and nimble even into his 80s. Shepherd’s introductory figure is musical rock around which his synthesizers, Sanders’ saxophone and LSO strings revolve, the unit exchanging swells and patterns throughout the 46-minute piece. promises is a tender and ethereal place where time stands still, a musical resting place for all who want to enter; the kind of place that I think always holds a welcome invite, especially now.

With those 2021 releases in mind, next month we venture into the new 2022 releases. Hope you join me there and see what there is to discover next.