50. Alfie Templeman – ‘Mellow Moon’
What We Said…
If there is any artist at the moment that represents the future of British pop music, it is Alfie Templeman. Despite still only 19-years-old, the frontman has been regularly doling out material since 2018, continuing to build buzz and admiration almost every step of the way. But after a flurry of single and EP releases these last few years, he is now looking to cross the first major milestone of his career so far by delivering his debut studio album 'Mellow Moon', a record that showcases the rich and tender sound he has been cultivating for himself of late.
The talent and confidence that Templeman has exuded, despite his young age, has always been the hallmark of his work to date. But on 'Mellow Moon', it feels like he is finally bringing all of that charisma to the forefront and leading with an incredibly diverse and impressive initial collection. While it is coated in a bold and glossy pop sheen throughout, there are still plenty of numbers that see him search for a more rounded and distinctive direction, allowing him to find his true voice amongst such an oversaturated scene that regularly eats up so many others in his position.
He may only be at the beginning of his career, but Alfie Templeman is already making some huge waves with this one. It has this wonderfully accessible feel to it that sees him toe the line between mainstream appeal and more peripheral ideals, something that is always a welcome trait amongst artists like him.
49. Lady Bird – ‘WE’
What We Said…
Throughout the last few years, the UK's homegrown punk scene has been going through a bold and exciting revolution. With countless outfits emerging and continuing to impress to this day, there have been plenty of imitators looking to show that they also deserve a place at the table alongside these modern greats. But none have made an instant impact in the same way Lady Bird have, dropping one blistering anthem after another for the last few years. Now after plenty of waiting, they have dropped their long-awaited debut album 'WE', a record that continues their cacophonous streak to date.
The secret to their formula seems to be their nods to both the Britpop sound as well as a modern punk edge, giving them this distinctly British direction that looks to inject as much excitement and vigour as possible. Even after just a few songs into 'WE', you can hear the influence of Arctic Monkeys, Gallows, Shame and so many others threaded throughout their work. And while they wear their inspirations firmly on their sleeves from start to finish, Lady Bird have still managed to cultivate a unique and succinct aesthetic to pursue, something that churns out the goods again and again.
Politically-inspired and energetically performed, 'WE' sits as one of the more interesting and enjoyable punk releases of the year so far. The buzz behind Lady Bird has been at fever pitch for a long time now, and this new collection will only serve to build that momentum even further in the months to come.
48. Yard Act – ‘The Overload’
What We Said…
Over the last few decades, we have seen as the post-punk sound morphs closer and closer to its US cousin. While British acts like The Fall and Pubic Image Ltd first broke through in 1970s with their distinct brand of snarled vigour and robust grooves, New York quickly became the epicentre of the scene afterwards, with Paraquet Courts, Bodega, LCD Soundsystem and countless others breaking in recent years. But now, it has been returning to UK shores and emerging groups like Yard Act are quickly making their mark as they deliver their debut album 'The Overload', a record that sits firmly between the retro and contemporary guises of both US and UK post-punk.
After a number of hit singles these last few months, it is clear that Yard Act are traditionalists at heart, but also have this extremely progressive focus to their work. While many have compared the vocal style of frontman James Smith to heroes like Ian Dury and Jarvis Cocker, it is clear that he is looking to create his own unique brand of narrative delivery, never wanting to hide his distinctive West Yorkshire accent. It is this familiar yet original direction that makes 'The Overload' such an enticing listen, something that we feel has been explored before, but not with the same inventive finesse that Yard Act have garnered for themselves.
From the start, 'The Overload' feels like a record you would immediately want to hear again, just to catch all the lyrically eccentricities you may not have caught the first time round. They may have been drowning in a sea of buzz throughout 2021, but this new release proves that they are certainly not another flash-in-the-pan outfit.
47. Enumclaw – ‘Save The Baby’
What We Said…
While the infamous legacy of the Seattle music scene has been widely chronicled over the last few decades as the home of not just Nirvana, but the entire grunge scene movement as well, it has been a city brimming with exceptional possibilities ever since. But just a few miles south in Tacoma, newcomers Enumclaw have been looking to bring that formative direction roaring into the 21st century. After an enormous flow of praise for their debut EP 'Jimbo Demo' last year, they are now looking to cement themselves with their debut studio album 'Save The Baby', a record that unleashes a bright future from the start.
Although their sound is still very much akin to the raw and fuzzy guitar-rock sound that flooded 90s radio, Enumclaw have managed to create a broad and distinctive style that allows for so much atmosphere and emotion. Throughout 'Save The Baby', we are treated to a sprawling array of sombre yet explosive efforts that build a euphoric aesthetic out of a sometime subdued texture. This wonderfully juxtaposed element within their direction creates a vivid and explorative style that showcases them as a cohesive and succinct outfit, overflowing with adventurous and innovative ideas.
We may still be at the initial stages of their development, but the overall feel of 'Save The Baby' is a wondrous one to say the least. With such a fresh and enigmatic pursuit of shimmering and kaleidoscopic tones, we can tell this lot are going to be around for a long while yet.
46. Denzel Curry – ‘Melt My Eyez See Your Future’
What We Said…
Over the last decade or so, hip-hop has arguably become the most over-saturated genre in the world. With thousands of rappers and artists emerging each year, the need to stand out from the crowd has never been greater, leading many stalwarts of the scene like Denzel Curry to find a way out of their comfort zones and deliver something that will break barriers and people's interest simultaneously. Thankfully he has always been one step ahead of the curve as he releases his fifth studio album 'Melt My Eyez See Your Future', a record that builds upon his sound to date.
With a broad array of guest artists such as T-Pain, 6lack, Slowthai, Rico Nasty, J.I.D, Thundercat, and Robert Glasper appearing throughout, 'Melt My Eyez See Your Future' instantly marks itself as a diverse and adventurous endeavour. While holding much of that familiar Curry flair within its production, there is this genuinely intriguing vigour to his latest collection. Branching out into other sonic areas such as DnB, poetry, and jazz, he has delivers a release that never looks to rest on its laurels, and instead explores the wider range of his musical backdrop, creating an incredibly engaging listen in the process.
There was never any doubt that Denzel Curry would pull out the goods once again here, but 'Melt My Eyez See Your Future' feels like it's on another plain compared to his contemporaries. Inventive and brimming with creativity, he stands as one of the most impressive individuals to have emerged in recent years.
45. Arcade Fire – ‘We’
What We Said…
Over the last decade, Arcade Fire found themselves in a state of flux that divided their devout fanbase. After an incredible run of form that included their first three studio albums 'Funeral', 'Neon Bible', and 'The Suburbs', with the latter landing them Album Of The Year at the Grammys that year, they took a strange detour down a more disco-inspired route. The resulting 'Reflektor' and 'Everything Now' LPs just didn't have the same energy as before and many began to write them off entirely. But now it seems like they are getting back to basics with their sixth full-length 'WE', a record that looks to revive their formative selves.
From the very start, it is clear that they are looking to return to their infant sound. With its broad and atmospheric texture and progressive showmanship throughout, 'WE' stands as a strong and powerful return to their glory days, opting for warmer and more sparkling endeavours that only seldom see the synthesiser reemerging. Instead of trying to make a bouncing and upbeat array of lighthearted ditties, they have rediscovered their absorbing and alluring roots, delivering a record that not only stands up against their previous catalogue, but also sees them moving forward within their musical evolution.
For those that still fondly remember those early days of Arcade Fire, 'WE' is just want they have been waiting for. It tries to irradiate the last ten years of glossy material and gives another strong dose of rich and vivid compositions, all wrapped up within their fresh and distinctive direction.
44. Sunflower Bean – ‘Headful Of Sugar’
What We Said…
Ever since they broke through with their stunning debut album 'Human Ceremony' in 2016, Sunflower Bean have presented themselves as an indie-rock group that never looks to conform to the given nature of their scene. Regularly adopting broader and more luxurious soundscapes within their work, they have developed a style that brings a lofty brevity to their direction, best illustrated by their brilliant sophomore effort 'TwentyTwo In Blue'. But with four years passing since that release, they now return with their third full-length 'Headful Of Sugar', a record that continues that vibrant approach.
One of the qualities that makes Sunflower Bean such an irresistible group is their ability to create light and simple compositions that still manage to shine incredibly bright. Their rich yet laid-back demeanour is once again the hallmark of 'Headful Of Sugar', allowing them to breathe a sweet and sweeping texture throughout every track. While their exploration into the dream-pop and psychedelic aesthetics is more seldom seen on this new collection, they have created one of their most succinct works of their career so far as it swoons through a heady array of shimmering delights.
While the quality of music on 'Headful Of Sugar' should be no surprise considering their run until now, Sunflower Bean feel so much more at ease throughout this new album. Progressive and adventurous at almost every turn, it has a wonderfully captivating style that really holds your attention and invites you along for its enigmatic ride.
43. First Aid Kit – ‘Palomino’
What We Said…
Ever since they first emerged with their groundbreaking debut LP 'The Big Black And The Blue' in 2010, Swedish duo First Aid Kit have always looked to bring something new and interesting to the folk-pop arena. Usually incorporating broad and more euphoric textures within their work, their sound has been one of the most alluring to have arrived in the last decade, granting them a string of accomplished releases that have cemented their legacy even further. And after a few years of self-discovery, they are back once again with their fifth studio album 'Palomino', a record that builds upon that positive ascent.
After the release of their previous outing 'Ruins' in 2018, First Aid Kit used the eventual pandemic lockdowns as a chance to reach out and team up with other artists in their field. Working alongside the likes of fellow Swedish artists Thomas Stenström, Maja Francis, and Thåström during that period allowed them to venture into new and adventurous territory, something that has bled through into 'Palomino'. From the very start, their newest full-length is brimming with a bright and exuberant confidence that not only focuses on their formative direction, but also sees them deliver a robust collection of shimmering offerings as well.
First Aid Kit have always been one to break the mould amongst their contemporaries, but 'Palomino' presents itself as one of their most fascinating and captivating efforts to date. With such a strong and effervescent approach to their songwriting throughout, they are still very much on top of their game here.
42. Animal Collective – ‘Time Skiffs’
What We Said…
In the wake of their vibrant 2016 LP 'Painting With', Animal Collective did what they do best and chose to spend the subsequent years in and out of flux. With several members pursuing solo careers, the output for the band was reduced to a few EP releases and the visual collection 'Tangerine Reef' that kept the fire burning, but lacked a lot of the determined drive that we only seem to see when all four members throw themselves into a project. Now after a few years to get their bearings in place, they are back with their eleventh full-length 'Time Skiffs', a record that returns them back to the top of their field.
It has been no secret that Animal Collective's praise has been coming and going over the years, with the experimental nature of the group hitting its mark almost half of the time since they first started. But when things come into alignment, like on 'Time Skiffs', they remind us exactly why so many eagerly await their next release. While it isn't one of their records that explores bold and vivid textures, the warm and atmospheric nature of this new collection makes for an alluring listen as we find ourselves switching off the world around us to get a better sense of what these new songs are all about.
There is something undeniably compelling about 'Time Skiffs' that gives it such a powerful sound. It feels like we are entering a new dawn within Animal Collective's direction, something that is far more humble and intimate than their usual fanfare, but equal absorbing at almost every turn.
41. The Big Moon – ‘Everything Is Here’
What We Said…
After the enormous response to their breakthrough debut album 'Love in the 4th Dimension' in 2017, which went on to earn them a Mercury Prize nomination, The Big Moon were quickly pipped as the next big thing on the UK's indie-rock scene. With a triumphant wave of praise under their wings, they managed to rekindle plenty of that initial fire for their 2020 sophomore LP 'Walking Like We Do', and maintained a firm legacy over their direction to date. Now they are returning once again with their third studio album 'Here Is Everything', a record that looks to continue that proficient rise.
Featuring a pregnant frontwoman Juliette Jackson on the cover, it is easy to understand that 'Here Is Everything' feels very much like the next phase within their sound to date. But rather than force a cliched "rebirth" analogy down our necks, their newest collection is a more subtle and progressive approach to their musical evolution as they yearn for a more driven and atmospheric intention this time around. While there is still plenty of their core sound littered throughout here, the bulk of their newest release aims for a brighter and more euphoric angle as they push the heartfelt lyricism in their work to the forefront.
Stepping away from some of their more reliable formulas can be a bit of a gamble, but 'Here Is Everything' feels far more in line with how they have been growing over the years. With such a strong and vibrant approach throughout, they have returned with a bold and accomplished offering, brimming with sweet and effortless prowess.