The Best Albums of September 2021

Best albums of september 2021

Summer’s over, folks, and that means some of us can look forward to dressing in layers and carving pumpkins and getting used to carrying around an umbrella again. And the last deluge of new music for the year. Yeah, year-end season is just around the corner, and there’s no reason for us to get into that now, but September alone has delivered an incredible amount of great new music, enough to stack up 15 of our favorites into this monthly list while still having a few other recommended favorites that we didn’t get around to mentioning. These are our favorite albums of September, but by no means should you feel like you need to stop there.


The Body & Big|Brave – Leaving None But Small Birds

(Thrill Jockey)

What We Said: Maybe this isn’t technically a folk album, but The Body and Big|Brave trace its lineage back to the present while carrying on a tradition of compositions as living and changing things, finding revelatory reinvention in songs that long outlived their creators. – Jeff Terich

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Carcass – Torn Arteries

(Nuclear Blast)

What We Said: These are songs that simply rip for their own sake, a document of a band more than 30 years after their debut sounding as focused as ever without losing sight of the fact that what they do is really fun. – Jeff Terich

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Dummy – Mandatory Enjoyment

(Trouble in Mind)

There’s something undeniably joyful about the psychedelic pop that Dummy makes. The L.A.-based group thrive on hypnotic pulses, dense arrays of guitar and synth and the kind of playfully otherworldly textures of Stereolab or Broadcast at their most dreamlike. But it’s rhythm above all that makes their music so mesmerizing, a sound that’s made for movement as much as daydreaming or simply drifting into space, as displayed in the hard-driving dance-kraut jam “Final Weapon,” or the pristine shoegaze pop of standout “Daffodils.” Within the keyboard drones and scratchy guitar chords are perfect pop songs, the kind meant for discovery on left of the dial broadcasts rather than algorithmic playlists. – Jeff Terich


Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

(Age 101)

What We Said: It’s as much a classic soul album as it is a hip-hop album, which only speaks further to the duality that defines the album. Trying to boil Little Simz down to just one thing more than ever proves both elusive and reductive, and the results are both ambitious and unpredictable. – Jeff Terich

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Low – HEY WHAT

(Sub Pop)

What We Said: [T]he maximalism of HEY WHAT leaves more room for brightness and even optimism, its distorted and texturally jagged structures rendered in perfect harmony with the space and possibilities that surround them. – Jeff Terich

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Mac McCaughan – The Sound of Yourself

(Merge)

When I spoke to Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan earlier this month about some of the song highlights of his career, he had a tendency to point toward the songs he recorded with outside collaborators as the moments that stood out most to him. And on his new solo record, The Sound of Yourself, a lot of those moments crop up, whether it’s his collaboration with Torres’ Mackenzie Scott on the smooth ballad “Burn a Fax,” or the Yo La Tengo-backed pop gem “Dawn Bends.” But it is called The Sound of Yourself, after all, and above all it’s a showcase for Mac McCaughan not as punk singer or indie rock songwriter but as a versatile and curious artist capable of delivering abstract instrumentals and infectious rock songs alike. -Jeff Terich


Militarie Gun – All Roads Lead to the Gun II

(Convulse)

The tags on Los Angeles post-hardcore outfit Militarie Gun’s Bandcamp page include “dischord” and “amrep,” and it’s not hard to imagine the band members’ record collections containing a few Cows and Fugazi records. The second EP from Militarie Gun this year is harsh, explosive and pissed off, Ian Shelton’s voice on the verge of shredding with every bark that comes from his throat. For how abrasive and acidic this is, however, All Roads Lead to the Gun II is also a lot of fun, the kind of punk record that makes total destruction sound like an ideal leisure activity. But it’s not until the title track, closing out the EP, in which Shelton’s knack for hooks is at its strongest, the rare slow-chugging noise rock bruiser that harbors its share of earworms within its shrieks and scrapes. – Jeff Terich


Moor Mother – Black Encyclopedia of the Air

(Anti-)

What We Said: Black Encyclopedia of the Air finds Moor Mother in modes both playful and pointed, but it’s also by far the most accessible album she’s released. Collaborator and producer Olof Melander helps to provide a sonic counterpoint via downtempo grooves and boom-bap-via-jazz-fusion keyboards. – Jeff Terich

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Prolaps – Ultra Cycle Pt. 3: Autumnal Age

(Hausu Mountain)

What We Said: This is the kind of music that, after hearing so much music in a year of so many different approaches, thrills you to pieces. It feels like there’s a little bit of everything here, from the spirit of punk and heavy metal to reggae and dub rhythms to the macroscopic scalar work of prog epics and psych jams and midnight DJ sets. – Langdon Hickman

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Rivers of Nihil – The Work

(Metal Blade)

What We Said: The Work is exhilarating, but it’s also heartfelt. Beyond the technical prowess the band showcase, The Work is a stunning exploration of perseverance. – Michael Pementel

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Andy Shauf – Wilds

(Anti-)

What We Said: These fleshed-out sketches, delivered in raw basement tape form, get us even closer to the addictive warbled yarn magic that makes Shauf’s flawed characters even more human. – John-Paul Shiver.

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Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Emile Mosseri – I Could Be Your Dog (Prequel)

(Ghostly)

What We Said: I Could Be Your Dog (Prequel) provides a wealth of highly refined and defined movements, and it’s exciting to imagine what Smith and Mosseri deliver with the second part. For all of the floating sensations the album provides upon first listen, giving into the flow of the music offers an opportunity to recognize that these talented creators want to take you somewhere. – Adam P. Newton

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Smoke Bellow – Open for Business

(Trouble in Mind)

Somehow in the 21st century, post-punk became shorthand for Joy Division theft, but during the era when Joy Division were actually releasing records, most of their peers weren’t so tied to a narrow aesthetic. Young Marble Giants, The Raincoats, The Slits, Au Pairs, The Mekons, The Pop Group—all bands of similar backgrounds, releasing records within a year’s time that all sounded very little like one another. Baltimore’s Smoke Bellow offer the best kind of reminder of post-punk innovation and unconventionality on Open for Business, merging Afrobeat polyrhythms, heavy dub basslines and playful guitar jangle—with occasional horns!—to create something that feels punk as fuck even when it never fits into any easy or obvious format. It’s an expression of music as possibilities, joyful and defiant in its subtleties. – Jeff Terich


Sonido de la Frontera – Sonidero Guerrillerra

(Three One G)

San Diego trio Sonido de la Frontera craft a sound steeped in many generations of Latin American culture, their uniquely beat- and bass-driven take on a classic cumbia sound updated for contemporary dancefloors through booming soundsystem beats. It’s neither a strictly traditional nor iconoclastic take, their melodies alternately featuring Norteño accordion or shimmering guitar, as on highlight “Galaxia,” while the bass beneath is heavy enough to rattle trunks 60 miles north of the border. Sonidero Guerrillerra showcases a reverence for a classic sound while finding new ways to carry it into the future, broadcasting the sound of the border for a new age. – Jeff Terich


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