The Best Albums of January 2021

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Best Albums of January 2021

Well, it looks like it’s going to be one of those years. You know, like last year, but potentially even more exhausting, though there’s potentially a light at the end of this tunnel. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping ourselves occupied with new music, and in just one month, 2021 is proving to be a contender. As much as 2020 had to throw at us, musicians came out the other end with some spectacular new music, some of it arriving without warning. We assembled 10 albums that comprise the best of January 2021, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed it only gets better from here.

The Body – I’ve Seen All I Need to See

(Thrill Jockey)

What We Said: On their latest studio release, I’ve Seen All I Need To See, The Body pursue a path that leads deeper into their impenetrable wall of distortion. These eight tracks are not a straightforward delivery system of harsh noise, but rather serve as the pulse for various twists and styles all grounded in distortion. – Michael Pementel

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Patricia Brennan – Maquishti

(Valley of Search)

What We Said: The simple pathways taken to explore different outcomes of producing sound is elegant and rather sophisticated. The patience of it must have taken to form these works is impressive in itself. – Konstantin Rega

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Pearl Charles – Magic Mirror


Sleepless Dreamer, the dreamily twangy debut album by Los Angeles singer/songwriter Pearl Charles, captured a kind of vintage sepia-toned romanticism that’s by no means new in indie-folk circles, but whose hues felt a little deeper and more richly saturated in Charles’ hands. But those who took to the Linda Ronstadt and Fleetwood Mac influence of that album might be a little taken aback by the sugary bubblegum pop of “Only for Tonight,” which is all dressed up in ABBA’s sequin jumpsuits and driven by funky clavinet. It’s the bubbliest moment on Magic Mirror by far, but it’s also indicative of the infectious 8-track grooves that Charles brings to her sophomore album. For Charles, however, it all feels like a natural, if more joyous and flamboyant permutation of the talents she already displayed on her debut. These songs just sparkle a little bit brighter, and it’s hard not to be won over by a pop record that feels this warm and inviting. – Jeff Terich

Casper Clausen – Better Way

(City Slang)

What We Said: Better Way, Clausen’s first proper solo album, feels as much like the work of one of the architects behind electronics-heavy post-rock outfit Efterklang as it does an art-rock artist with more stadium-sized ambitions. – Jeff Terich

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Moor Mother & billy woods – BRASS


What We Said: These songs feel as much like hallucinations as statements of intent. Their beats dissolve and dissipate as often as they boom and bap. The hooks aren’t the focus, and the realm is murky, but every word here leaves a mark. – Jeff Terich

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Palberta – Palberta5000

(Wharf Cat)

What We Said: While Palberta’s approach maintains its shifty and off kilter vision on Palberta 5000, there’s a marked new brilliance in the band’s grand design, a display of their obvious expertise in winning melodies and powerful song structure. – Patrick Pilch

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Portrayal of Guilt – We Are Always Alone

(Closed Casket Activities)

What We Said: The nine tracks on We Are Always Alone are always surging with violence and dripping with venom, its half-hour of industrial-grade hardcore enough to purge the darkness from anyone’s soul. – Jeff Terich

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Shame – Drunk Tank Pink

(Dead Oceans)

What We Said: The band are just as rowdy, their riffs taut as ever and their rhythms just as punchy, but these songs feel less rigid. Shame already had the anthems, but now they’re exploring what lies beyond the boundaries of those shout-along choruses. – Jeff Terich

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Terminal Bliss – Brute Err/ata


A who’s who of Virginia punk and hardcore—featuring current and former members of Pg.99, City of Caterpillar and Iron Reagan—Terminal Bliss arrive ready to punch holes through drywall bare-fisted and human cannonball through cinder blocks. The group’s debut is all of 11 minutes long and it’s unrelentingly ferocious, driven by pure menace and hostility, as if they found a way to harness bile-tongued animosity as a clean energy source. Highlighting any specific track as a standout is almost beside the point; once Terminal Bliss get going, they don’t stop until there’s nothing left in the tank and the engine block is on the verge of meltdown. It’ll take a lot out of you, but those 11 minutes are invigorating as hell. – Jeff Terich

Tribulation – Where the Gloom Becomes Sound

(Metal Blade)

What We Said: Gloom has a level of immaculate sonic richness and execution that makes the idea of Tribulation crashing the mainstream with pitchforks and torches seem not only plausible but likely. – Jeff Terich

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