Unwind with our favourite releases from 2021.
2021 was a challenging year for musicians, particularly in Australia. But that didn’t prevent some great local and international acts from putting out quality albums. Throw on one of our favourites at your next holiday get-together, or if you just want to relax in the sun with some tunes.
When Emma Donovan and The Putbacks get together, good things happen. Having previously released two albums together, the funk and classic soul-inspired band pair perfectly with Donovan’s powerful and moving vocals. This album feels like a crescendo in their relationship, a perfect blend of tight, natural instrumentation and lyrics with an important message. Under These Streets will have you thinking as much as it’ll have you moving – Donovan muses about her Aboriginal heritage and cultural barriers on a silky bed of psych-laced funk grooves. Perfect for any summer occasion.
Another local group, Melbourne soul quartet Hiatus Kaiyote have a reputation for making albums that are as nuanced and delicate as they are complex. This is due to the band’s impressive chops brilliantly blending with vocalist Naomi “Nai Palm” Saalfield’s sultry voice and candid lyrics. Their latest release, Mood Valiant, feels more restrained than previous albums, and the result is a brooding, slow burn that makes you forget where you are. Tracks touch on Saalfield’s childhood and struggles with breast cancer, but the album never feels too heavy. It has an airiness about it that, if you shut your eyes, makes you feel like you’re floating in a sensory deprivation tank. Essential unwinding energy is sewn throughout this one.
There are an endless amount of adjectives that describe the eclectic catalogue of work that Melbourne psych-rockers King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard have put out. If you focus on Butterfly 3000, one of their releases from 2021 (and 18th album) you’ll find a playfulness and stripped-back simplicity that the group isn’t normally known for. The album is upbeat and subtly experimental, driven by non-stop percussive grooves and synth melodies. While it doesn’t offer much in terms of ground-breaking creativity, the familiarity is comforting and it’s a great listen to relax with.
If you’re looking for something light, groovy and tongue-in-cheek, it’s impossible to go past Silk Sonic’s debut. A collaboration between Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, the album draws perfectly on 70’s funk grooves and ballads to create a sonic soundscape that features as many hilarious one-liners as it does impressive moments of instrumentation. There are plenty of pop hooks perfect for a party, as well as slower songs that you can unwind to with a glass of wine. An Evening With Silk Sonic feels like the light-hearted remedy for what was another heavy year in the world, and it’ll leave you feeling elated and carefree.
As the name suggests, Bittersweet Demons is an exercise in melancholy and examining some tough topics from positive and negative perspectives. Despite the heavy subject matter, The Murlocs manage to bring an upbeat energy to tracks that have classic rock influences woven throughout. Front man Ambrose Kenny-Smith layers harmonica over reverberated instrumentation that the group has refined over the years, and the result is a sound that’ll remind you of listening to your Dad’s records as a kid. Nostalgia is always comforting, and Bittersweet Demons’ old-school warmth and familiar lyrical content will make you feel right at home. Perfect for your morning coffee in the sun or a glass of wine before bed.
Photography: Facebook/Silk Sonic