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3 Albums You May Have Missed In 2021

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Every year in music produces albums on albums on albums, more than I could ever keep up with. It’s a combination blessing and curse; I can’t possibly listen to them all, but it means there’s always some surprise waiting for me to uncover it.. If you’re into music the way I am, you might be in the same boat. As we begin our journey into 2022, I’d like to take a moment and point out some albums from 2021 that may have slipped past your radar, and that I think you should lend an open ear to.

Arooj Aftab is a Brooklyn-based Pakistani vocalist and composer, who had a banner 2021 with the release of her album Vulture Prince. Her music blends jazz, folk, electronic and Hindustani classical music styles into a mesmerizing tapestry of sound, all anchored by her silky, melismatic voice, with lyrics in English and Urdu, Pakistan’s national language. Her latest work won critical acclaim throughout the year, securing numerous “best of the year list” positions and two Grammy nominations, including a “Best Global Music Performance” nod for this song, “Mohabbat.” The reggae-inflected “Last Night” is another choice cut, and a rare rhythm-forward track on the album. Aftab’s star is rising fast, and if this perks your ear, I definitely recommend keeping an eye on her over at her new label home of Verve Records.

Marissa Paternoster is usually found shredding and howling at the helm of Philadelphia punk trio Screaming Females. She’s released solo work before under the Noun moniker, aesthetically not far off from her main gig, but on her latest project and first under her own name, Paternoster stretches out, giving more space for new textures to rise up, and for her voice to take a mellower center stage. Peace Meter was crafted remotely during pandemic lockdown, and features a trio of comrade musicians backing her up, including Cincinnati’s own Kate Wakefield lending her cello talents across the album. The songs can take a slower pace, like on the droning “Sore,” with Paternoster’s voice and Wakefield’s cello weaving around each other in swapped long tones, or the peppier “Black Hole,” the electronic drums pulsing against lyrics on feeling trapped in a dark space without a certain somebody. Paternoster is a versatile artist, and this album is a captivating foil to her longtime punk band’s output.

Finally, for those searching for a moment of sublimity and solace, I turn 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 Shepherd’s work in 2015, and years later, after forming a friendship, the idea for this album took root, Sanders’ first studio album in over a decade. Shepherd performed the electronics, and arranged acoustic parts to be performed by himself and the LSO, with Sanders the lone wind voice, contributing his instantly recognizable saxophone stylings, his playing still adept and agile even in his 80s. Shepherd’s introductory figure is a musical rock that his synthesizers, Sanders’ saxophone, and the LSO’s strings orbit around, with the unit trading swells and motifs across the 46-minute piece. Promises is a tender, ethereal place where time stops, a musical resting ground for all those willing to step inside; the kind of place that I think always holds a welcome invitation, especially now.

With these 2021 releases in mind, next month we venture off into the new releases of 2022. I hope you’ll join me there, and see what’s next to discover.

Evan Miller is a percussionist, lover of sound, and is probably buying too many cassette tapes online right now. Evan got his start in radio in 2012 at WWSU at Wright State University, where he was studying percussion performance. He followed through with both endeavors and eventually landed a lucrative dual career playing experimental music at home and abroad, and broadcasting those sounds to unsuspecting listeners Sunday nights on The Outside. Maintaining a connection to normal music, Evan also plays drums in bands around the area, and hosts WYSO's Midday Music show. When not doing something music-related, Evan is most likely listening to podcasts or watching food videos at home with his cat.