Live music is back! Celebrate by staying at home and listening to these albums

The best new LPs of May 2021

Sunshine might be a distant memory, but live music is back, so why do you want to go outside? As you start to browse the gig listings with a little more confidence, touch wood, here are some names to look out for. Not quite a baker’s dozen (those of us ever in the sourdough stage of lockdown are surely out of it now), here are our favourite twelve albums from May 2021.

Artist: Lambchop
Album: Showtunes
Label: City Slang
What is it? The 14th time lucky in Lambchop’s sonic explorations; an experimental triumph for Kurt Wagner and company.
L&Q says: “Here is a restless, dense, audacious and genuinely experimental record that, despite sounding not quite like anything the band have made before, nonetheless retains their personality and wit, retooled for another reinvention.”

Read Sam Walton’s full review here.

Artist: McKinley Dixon
Album: For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her
Label: Spacebomb
What is it? A bubbling jazz/rap hybrid album, worthy of the Kendrick and Kamasi comparisons, boldly learning how to communicate its heartbreak.
L&Q says:For My Mama is introspective hip hop at its best, a string quartet away from baroque pop bedlam, but without distraction from a vital new lyricist at its centre.”

Read Tristan Gatward’s full review here.

Artist: Squid
Album: Bright Green Field
Label: Warp
What is it? The disruptive, much-hyped debut album from Bristol-by-Brighton five-piece and L&Q cover-stars, shaking off its pastoral hue with a dystopian, futurist landscape. As Jools Holland might say: excellent.
L&Q says: “Squid have mutated their trailblazing compound of fast, motorik beats meets spiralling jazz-induced art-punk and repurposed them for wider territories that stay true to Warp’s historic constitution for post-genre music.”

Read Ollie Rankine’s full review here.

Artist: BABii
Album: MiiRROR
Label: Gloo
What is it? A deeply personal chapter for electronic pop journeyer – and one third of GLOO – about reconnecting with her mother.
L&Q says: “What follows is an electronic album entirely in BABii’s own image, but that brings to mind, in its willingness to take risks, SOPHIE’s own Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides as well as one of last year’s most sorely underrated experimental pop records, Eartheater’s Phoenix.”

Read Joe Goggins’s full review here.

Artist: Sons of Kemet
Album: Black to the Future
Label: Impulse!
What is it? A change in direction from Shabaka Hutchings and co., inviting vocalists into the now trademark Kemet sound for the first time.
L&Q says: “It makes for not just music that’s impossible to sit still to, but also a series of provocative expressions whose spectrum of silky clarinet to hard-blown sax are genuinely evocative of life in 2021.”

Read Sam Walton’s full review here.

Artist: Carter Tanton
Album: Carter Tanton
Label: Western Vinyl
What is it? A landmark third LP, reclaiming his perfectionist catalogue with even more detached vocals and lo-fi production than usual.
L&Q says: “At last allowing himself the room to make mistakes, to bask in the imperfections, to broach subjects he may have felt unable to dissect before, he’s made a self-titled album worthy of its name.”

Read Alexander Smail’s full review here.

Artist: St Vincent
Album: Daddy’s Home
Label: Loma Vista
What is it? A warm, power-pop reinvention for the ever-chameleonic Annie Clark – her most coherent and candid work to date.
L&Q says: “If 2017’s Masseduction was Clark’s Blue Velvet, a carnal, unsettling, strangely unknowable psychosexual thriller, Daddy’s Home is her Twin Peaks – a superficially warmer and more welcoming statement whose darkness is veiled by luxuriant, tactile arrangements.”

Read Luke Cartledge’s full review here.

Artist: Mdou Moctar
Album: Afrique Victime
Label: Matador
What is it? One of the pioneers of modern day Tuareg guitar music and desert blues, marrying poetic meditations and DIY communal spirit with unrelenting noise.
L&Q says: “it’s impossible to resist the magic created by this accomplished band. These kaleidoscopic compositions, both tender and tenacious in tone, are inspiring and rejuvenating.”

Read Zara Hedderman’s full review here.

Artist: FACS
Album: Present Tense
Label: Trouble In Mind
What is it? The Chicago trio’s groove-heavy, menacing and arena-ready album for a more awkward – read, interesting – alternate universe.
L&Q says: “FACS manage to hit the elusive sweet spot between genuine innovation and lean, fat-free economy – there are tons of ideas here, but they’re woven into the intricacies of each track.”

Read Luke Cartledge’s full review here.

Artist: Wiki & NAH
Album: Telephonebooth
Label: Wikset Enterprise
What is it? A strikingly leftfield record from everyone’s favourite nasally New York City rapper with Antwerp-based producer NAH, flicking between DIY psych and industrial coldscapes.
L&Q says:Telephonebooth is a punchy little album that makes quite the impact. Five years on from the breakup of Ratking, Wiki sounds as though more than ever he is in the right place – the weirder the music, the more he thrives.”

Read Cal Cashin’s full review here.

Artist: Black Midi
Album: Cavalcade
Label: Rough Trade
What is it? A hellacious follow-up to 2019’s much-hyped debut, plucked from the Windmill glow and into the Mercury spotlight. Now minus the improvisation, apparently.
L&Q says: “This is unlike anything Black Midi have done before, and quite unlike anything expected of them – as far as one can have any expectations of a band who consistently defy them.”

Read Jessica Wrigglesworth’s full review here.

Artist: Masayoshi Fujita
Album: Bird Ambience
Label: Erased Tapes
What is it? An album uniting Fujita’s many aliases, from acoustic solo recordings to electronic dub as El Fog and improvisations with Jan Jelinek, with a marimba.
L&Q says: “There’s a solid commitment on Bird Ambience to holding space, both for the intensity of dissonance and for a sustained tranquillity. This sometimes can feel deeply uncomfortable, but by the final two compositions, you feel like you’re floating.”

Read Cat Gough’s full review here.