My top favorite albums of February were all of an adventurous, experimental nature. I also had a lot of highlights from the UK and from Australia. Like last month, most of these albums are from brand new bands/artists or from very established ones — not much in the middle. It was a very strong month overall, and 2021 is a wonderful music year so far.
In addition to the blog, here’s a playlist of some of my favorite songs from February.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, L.W.
The 21st century’s most consistently fascinating guitar rock heroes issue their third volume exploring microtonal music, adding in a greater diversity of rhythm and times signature to an already exotic sound, and still somehow making catchy, infectious tunes that are far more danceable than one expects from psych rock. Highlights: “Static Electricity,” “O.N.E.,” “See Me,” “Ataraxia”
Black Country, New Road, For The First Time
With an exceptionally innovative and confident debut album, this six-piece London band explodes its post-punk center to make loosely structured, elaborately arranged post-rock compositions that combine indie rock, jazz and bursts of klezmer in fascinating ways. Highlights: “Track X,” “Science Fair,” “Sunglasses”
Kizis, Turn / Tidibàbide: A Life of 4 Spirits in Motion P1
Algonquin two-spirit singer/composer Kizis makes experimental art pop via orchestrally supported electronics, supplemented by and infused with traditional indigenous songs. Her debut under this name, and as a trans woman, is utterly unique both in its musicality and its messaging. Highlights: “Side of the Road,” “Higher Self,” “Redbody”
Django Django, Glowing in the Dark
Their 4th album finds the band striking a delightful balance between the colorful electro-pop of 2018’s Marble Skies, with the art rock of 2015’s Born Under Saturn, bringing the guitars back in and favoring more expanded arrangements. Highlights: “Headrush,” “Spirals,” “Glowing in the Dark”
Tash Sultana, Terra Firma
The Australian singer and multi-instrumentalist pulls way back on the instrumental theatrics, on their 2nd album, and slows down, to reveal a beautiful marriage of folk and R&B. Highlights: “Willow Tree,” “Pretty Lady,” “Dream My Life Away”
Celeste, Not Your Muse
This 26-year-old English R&B singer/songwriter’s voice manages to evoke every era of soul music — and some vocal jazz greats as well — on her timeless and versatile full-length debut album. Highlights: “Tonight Tonight,” “Stop This Flame,” “A Little Love”
Edie, We Are the Ones
This Dutch-born, New York-based singer/songwriter offers a meditative, spiritually driven set of songs, set mostly to colorful electronica, with a couple of warm, acoustic tunes as well. Highlights: “Strip Down to You,” “All the Stories,” “The City and the Sea”
Altin Gün, Yol
An Amsterdam-based band of Dutch and Turkish musicians who make Turkish fusion music, the outfit’s third album is new wave-driven but still displays the band’s psychedelic roots. Highlights: “Yüce Dağ Başında,” “Sevda Olmasaydi,” “Kesik Çayır”
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Carnage
The depth and vulnerability of a still grieving, fiercely poignant Nick Cave is on full display on a surprise album also showcasing the musical talents of his longtime bandmate, violinist and multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis. Highlights: “Carnage,” “Hand of God,” “Albequerque”
Katy Kirby, Cool Dry Place
A simply produced, clever and playful, melodically adventurous indie folk debut from a Texan singer/songwriter with an excellent sense of songcraft and clever, imaginative lyrics. Highlights: “Traffic!,” “Cool Dry Place,” “Peppermint”
Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, Shyga! The Sunlight Mound
These Australian psych rockers’ 4th album exhibits exhilaratingly colorful instrumentation but feels sleeker and punchier than their previous efforts. It’s loud, busy, and frenzied, and super fun. Highlights: “Tripolasaur,” “Glitter Bug,” “Tally-Ho”
Julien Baker, Little Oblivions
The Memphis singer/songwriter and Boygenius member’s third album finds her empowering her confessional, heartbreaking songs with a muscular, guitar-driven indie rock sound. Highlights: “Faith Healer,” “Favor,” “Song In E”
Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, Hunter and the Dog Star
Musically, it’s an album they could’ve made in the late 80s when they were starting out, but the band’s 3rd album in this century radiates with the wisdom and maturity of their vintage. Highlights: “Don’t Get in the Bed Dirty,” “My Power,” “I Found You”
Femi & Made Kuti, Legacy +: Stop The Hate & For(e)ward
Fela Kuti’s son and grandson’s new albums come either individually or as a double set. Femi’s saxophone-heavy work is more traditional, while Made’s debut is feistier and trumpet-driven; both are as social justice-oriented as the Kutis have always been. Highlights: “Young Boy / Young Girl,” “Set Your Minds And Souls Free,” “Higher You’ll Find”
TV Priest, Uppers
Four friends who’ve known each other since they were teenagers in East London make a fierce, incisive post-punk debut that lands that somewhere between Idles and Protomartyr. Highlights: “Leg Room,” “Decoration,” “Powers of Ten”
The UK rapper’s second, more American-influenced album features a familiar sort of aggressive style on the first half and pivots toward a new, slower, more vulnerable second half. It feels more mature, and just as gritty. Highlights: “Dead,” “Mazza,” “Push”
Nana Yamato, Before Sunrise
The Japanese bedroom pop artist, formerly known as ANNA, debuts under her own name, playing all the instrument, and earns her place on punk record label Dull Tools with the sheer adventurousness of her craft. Highlights: “Fantasy,” “The Day Song,” “Leaving”
The Hold Steady, Open Door Policy
As literate as ever and perhaps even more story-driven than usual, the Minneapolis band continue to blend off-kilter, gnarly indie rock, with muscular, Springsteenian pop-rock. Highlights: “Unpleasant Breakfast,” “Heavy Covenant,” “Me & Magdalena”
If you’d like to hear just the best of the best, here’s a playlist with 36 of my favorite songs from January 2021, which includes one or two songs from each album above, and some great songs from albums that didn’t make onto my list too — Playlist: Highlights of February 2021
While we’re here…
Did you enjoy this article? Awesome! It was written by a white guy privileged enough to have time listen to like 40 albums every month and write a blog as a passion project, for free.
If you are white and you are also are privileged enough to have some time on your hands, or some money to donate, please check out some anti-racism resources and help fight the good fight.
Nerding out over music is fun, but let’s not forget that we live in a burning world that needs our help! Black Lives Matter.