2021 is taking us through the Summer with pulsing music. Here is a playlist with some of the best songs of the year so far, as we ask ourselves, “Are we there yet?” The musical highlights from 2021 (so far) include Genesis Owusu, Cassandra Jenkins, and Squid.
Genesis Owusu’s groundbreaking debut album, Smiling With No Teeth is the hip-hop, techno, video game music you need to dance to. The standout songs include, “The Other Black Dog,” “Don’t Need You,” and “Smiling with No Teeth.” He relates the concept of the ‘black dog’ as a euphemism for depression to his experience with being subjected to racism. The lyrics are both liberating and contemplative. He was heavily influenced by the video game, Jet Set Radio Future and will be touring in the US for the first time in 2022.
Cassandra Jenkins’ poetic, impressionistic album, An Overview on Phenomenal Nature is a reflection on life, that ebbs and flows with the magical sounds of the saxophone. It only becomes more fulfilling on repeat listens. She took a lot of voice memos from strangers and recorded everything as inspiration to make sense of the change around her. The album title was taken from something a security guard told her at an art exhibit at the Met Breuer in New York. She explains in an interview with Stereogum, “There’s a lot of humor in that for me- the idea of offering some objective truth, when we’re really sharing something about our completely subjective point of view.” Cassandra Jenkins was recruited by David Berman to play as the guitarist with his album for Purple Mountains. Berman tragically died by suicide, just days before the tour would begin. Though she only knew him a short while, her memory and grief around this loss are articulated in the songs, “New Bikini” and “Ambiguous Norway.”
Bright Green Field is Squid’s debut rock album and it sounds both urgent and scary. The five musicians (Ollie Judge, Anton Pearson, Louis Borlase, Arthur Leadbetter, and Laurie Nankivell) write all of their music together and jam it out in a collaborative way. The song, “Narrator” was in part influenced from Bi Gan’s dystopian film, A LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. The song gives us an unreliable narrator to question and meditate on. The whole album is experimental in the right way and denotes the feeling of a medieval, dystopian environment. The anxiety riddled throughout this music is a cathartic escape, strange enough to leave you coming back for more and more.