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From discomfiting footwork to genre-busting hyperpop, here are the best albums of August 2021

Now we can all be together again, here's your soundtrack

Festivals are returning and we can all be together again, but that doesn’t mean we’re short of pandemic-response albums this August. From chance collaborations to surprise returns, here are eight of the best records you can comfort yourself to while your mates get drunk in a field listening to The Kooks. Who’s the real winner?

Artist: Desire Marea
Title:
Desire
Label:
Mute
What is it?
An extraordinary introduction to the world of KwaZulu-Natal born, multi-disciplinary artist Desire Marea, lacing together glitch-pop, laidback R&B and infectious dancefloor fillers with exalted operatic vocals.
L&Q says:
Desire is a truly singular record. One where the varying styles incorporated shouldn’t co-exist as harmoniously as they do.”

Read Zara Hedderman’s full review here.

Artist: Jana Rush
Title:
A Painful Enlightenment
Label:
Planet Mu
What is it?
The veteran Chicago footwork producer’s second record in three decades, stretching the genre to its darkest, most experimental extremes.
L&Q says:
“Rush continually breaches the limits of her past work (and good taste) by putting revulsion, baseness and discomfort to use – with truly affecting results.”

Read Dafydd Jenkins’s full review here.

Artist: Dot Allison
Title:
Heart-Shaped Scars
Label:
SA Recordings
What is it?
The first album in 12 years from a landmark artist of ’90s trip-hop/downbeat electronica, best known in her tenure fronting One Dove.
L&Q says: “20-odd years on from her moment in the zeitgeist, Allison has returned with a record every bit as crepuscular and dreamy as her earlier outings.”

Read Sam Walton’s full review here.

Artist: Villagers
Title:
Fever Dreams
Label:
Domino
What is it?
A fifth full-length album from the alarmingly consistent Conor O’Brien as Villagers, with his most rich and dense sonic outing to date.
L&Q says:
“Carving out a dexterous paradox of illusion and reality, Fever Dreams really is ‘something bigger’ – something fuller, more refined and more accomplished – than O’Brien has attempted before.”

Read Charlotte Marston’s full review here.

Artist: The Bug
Title:
Fire
Label:
Ninja Tune
What is it?
Pioneering dancehall/dub/grime producer Kevin Martin’s first album as The Bug in seven years, with his trademark sound and style levelled-up against the new incendiary dystopia.
L&Q says:
“Career-best stuff, this.”

Read Luke Cartledge’s full review here.

Artist: Lingua Ignota
Title:
SINNER GET READY
Label:
Sargent House
What is it?
A label debut from the classically-trained multi-instrumentalist Kristen Hayter, uncomfortably dissecting the God-fearing Christianity rife in her home of rural Pennsylvania.
L&Q says:
“Despite its theological bearings, this is no self-indulgent enlightenment project.”

Read Tom Critten’s full review here.

Artist: Devendra Banhart & Noah Georgeson
Title:
Refuge
Label:
Dead Oceans
What is it?
A meditative haven forged between friends, drawing from the New Age subcultures of the 1980s which connected their childhoods from Venezuela to California.
L&Q says:
“Fluidly and beautifully weaving together a trellis of woodwind and strings, with floaty, weightless synth drones, Refuge is an ambient gem that marries the two very different compositional angles of its composers.”

Read Cat Gough’s full review here.

Artist: Fake Laugh & Tarquin
Title:
Fake Laugh & Tarquin
Label:
Republic of Music
What is it?
An experimental modern pop record more than the sum of its parts, with echoes of SOPHIE, Charli XCX and Django Django. Also an oboe.
L&Q says: “Shimmering with tracks that bubble and bounce between emotive floor-fillers and melancholic indie, the self-titled record is a jigsaw puzzle of reflections about our oddly-shaped world.”

Read Sophia McDonald’s full review here.

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