My Top 5 Albums of 2021

5. Cool Karaoke Volume 1 – Boy George

The last time I listened to a whole Boy George album (and enjoyed it) was way back in the early 1990s when he released The Martyr Mantras under the name Jesus Loves You.

I can’t remember what it was that inspired me to listen to Cool Karaoke Volume 1 but I’m glad I gave it the time and attention it deserves.

The album is mellow, mature, melancholic and surprisingly moving.

Boy George’s voice sounds richer and more emotive than ever; there’s something so soothing about this collection of songs.

The album even has a fantastically 80’s-sounding duet with Kim Wilde, which feels like a gift to those of us who were around back then!

4. Crooked Machine – Róisín Murphy

It’s rare for remix albums to be this good, but Crooked Machine is the perfect companion piece to its parent album Róisín Machine, which was one of my favourite albums of 2020. Who knew we’d be treated to a gift as great as this in 2021?

Here’s what albumism had to say about Crooked Machine:

Far from a “remix album,” this is a reimagining and reworking of the “machine” in all of its unadulterated glory. Barratt has been given free rein to stay true to Murphy’s house and disco roots, whilst revisiting the early ‘90s with a dash of techno. It’s almost like being stuck in some incredibly colorful musical vortex with one foot firmly planted in classic house and the other in the future of dance music…Róisín’s “machine,” crooked or not, is a transformative voyage into what dance music should be: creative, collaborative, unaffected and all night long.

3. Future Past – Duran Duran

As the title suggests, FUTURE PAST is a sublime fusion of classic Duran Duran with modern flourishes. This is one of their best records.

For those of us who were around when Duran Duran first emerged in 1981, it is remarkable that forty years later they can still sound as fresh as they do here.

FUTURE PAST is one big funky, loud and fun party.

Spectrum Culture said this about the album:

If Future Past doesn’t go down as a Duran Duran classic, it will at least be remembered as a solid entry in the equally solid streak that gave us All You Need Is Now and Paper Gods. With large choruses, a high-polished sound, collaborations with younger musicians and enough confidence to fill an arena, what more could you want?

2. Pink Noise – Laura Mvula

While Laura Mvula’s Pink Noise may have an 80s plastic aesthetic, complete with retro beats, sparkling synths and drum machines, her voice sounds as magnificent and as organic as ever; a truly wondrous instrument that shines through the shoulder pads and lip gloss. You’ll even hear echoes of classic Jam and Lewis which is never a bad thing. This is truly a sonic treat for your ears that deserves your attention.

The Guardian said:

Mvula channels both Janet Jackson and Grace Jones with verve. “Give in to the feeling!” she sings on the title track…There’s a lot of letting go happening here. Suffering from anxiety, dropped by her record label in 2017 after two Mercury-nominated LPs, Mvula was overdue some fun. This album is it – in thrall to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the bass here is all spank, the keyboards all acrylic, with room for Mvula’s Jamaican heritage and chorister’s soprano. Got Me is audacious, not least because of its shameless recycling of Michael Jackson, but also because of its frank come-hithers. With all this shiny surface comes depth, too – the hard-won emotional content of these songs is all Mvula’s own.

  1. Magic Still Exists – Agnes

This has to be my favourite album of the year; it’s the one I’ve had on repeat the most and featured in more playlists than any of the other new music from 2021.

Not heard it yet? Think disco revival, a mixture of Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia crossed with Róisín Murphy’s Róisín Machine with echoes of ABBA and Donna Summer and you’ll come close to what this record sounds like.

Here’s what The Guardian said:

The Swedish pop star’s long-delayed fifth album embodies the platonic ideal of pop disco, steeped in Gaga (invigoratingly stern vocals about freeing one’s mind and body), Abba (piano stomps and trills), Donna Summer (the thumping 24 Hours) and Queen (melodramatic balladry). It transcends pastiche on the strength of her songwriting (you could swap almost anything here on to Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia) and the going-for-broke intensity of it all.

Listen here:

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