The Sound of August 2021: This Month's Essential New Releases

Must-hear music from Billie Eilish, Leon Bridges, Chiiild, the Halluci Nation and more

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Aug 10, 2021

No matter how often you listen to a song, you'll never forget the first time you heard it. These 18 tracks may come from artists at a variety of points in their careers — from big-name stars like Billie Eilish to rising Canadian talent like Chiiild and homegrown artists like Game Genie Sokolov — but each song is rooted in the here and now. Here are the essential new releases of August 2021 — best experienced on Sonos.

Leon Bridges
Gold-Diggers Sound

The Texan R&B artist goes Hollywood on his third LP, Gold-Diggers Sound. Recorded at its namesake — a ritzy Santa Monica Boulevard hotel — the album harkens back to another era with a deliberate sense of timelessness. Bridges' scrupulous, speakeasy vocal stylings are kismet for co-executive producer Ricky Reed's glossy, sepia-toned soundscapes. Read our full album review.

Standout track: "Steam"
Lest we forget, the smooth crooner can also do one hell of a driving, mid-tempo jam that flourishes in his sensual groove pocket.
Megan LaPierre

Hope for Sale
(Avant Garden)

Having spent years working as a behind-the-scenes songwriter for the likes of Usher and J.Lo, Montreal's Chiiild — Yonatan Ayal, formerly known as xSDTRK — swaggers confidently into the spotlight with songs that touch on soul, rock, funk and heady psychedelia. For the most part, however, Hope for Sale can simply be described as pop. Learn more in our Summer 2021 cover story.

Standout track: "Hold on Till We Get There"
It inexplicably wasn't a single, but the widescreen pop anthem "Hold on Till We Get There" boasts strutting bass, atmospheric psych flourishes and an absolutely enormous chorus.
Alex Hudson

We're All Alone in This Together

Following his Mercury Prize-winning debut album Psychodrama, Dave's We're All Alone in This Together cements him as one of the most insightful, exciting voices in British music today. Widening his lyrical and musical scope, the sophomore slump is sidestepped with the help of James Blake, Stormzy, Snoh Aalegra and more.

Standout track: "Three Rivers"
Over plaintive piano, light drums and string accents, Dave delivers three verses of incisive historical retelling and examination of immigration in the United Kingdom through the decades.
Calum Slingerland

Billie Eilish
Happier Than Ever

While Eilish revelled in overtly scary imagery on When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, the things that stick out from her more-subdued sophomore effort are altogether more haunting. Now 19, the Gen-Z auteur trades trap for a jazz conduit to suit her world-weariness as pop culture's foil. Read our full album review.

Standout track: "Happier Than Ever"
A ukulele ballad — tracing a through-line from 2017's "party favor" and 2019's "8" — erupts into a blistering rocker to uncover yet another side of Eilish.
Megan LaPierre

Game Genie Sokolov

The Montreal producer's moniker couldn't possibly better suit her cheeky, exciting take on chiptune. On Renaissance, Game Genie Sokolov teams up with a cabal of collaborators whose vocal stylings help take her electronic compositions to the next level, adding in elements of R&B, pop and soul.

Standout track: "Girlfriends"
A glitzy '80s ballad serves as an ode to "girl-on-girl reaction," with breathy vocals, funky guitars and chiming background synths giving the new wave canon the lesbian calling card it never knew it desperately needed.
Matt Bobkin

The Halluci Nation
One More Saturday Night

Fresh off the electronic duo formerly known as A Tribe Called Red's recent rebrand, the pair kick off the project's next phase by compiling their last few years' worth of singles along with a smattering of new tracks. The result is a release that showcases their empowering production and endless trove of collaborators.

Standout track: "Ba Na Na" feat. Haviah Mighty, Odario, Chippewa Travellers
Guest spots by Haviah and Odario find all parties honouring their histories for a dance party bound to get everybody grooving and embracing their full selves.
Matt Bobkin

Brittany Howard
Jaime Reimagined

The Alabama Shakes bandleader showcased her range on 2019 solo debut Jaime by adding R&B, hip-hop, jazz and funk elements to her blues-rock sound. This new remix album further leans into the genre-bending by enlisting the likes of Bon Iver, Childish Gambino, BADBADNOTGOOD and Georgia Anne Muldrow for their take on Jaime's uplifting missives.

Standout track: "Presence (Little Dragon Remix)"
This relatively innocuous late-album cut is given a showstopping makeover by Swedish electronic group Little Dragon, whose pitch-shifting theatrics and trancy synths add dramatic heft to Howard's heartfelt declarations.
Matt Bobkin


Vancouver musician and tattoo artist Shannon Hemmett plays bass in ACTORS and makes similarly shadowy post-punk with the solo project LEATHERS. Her Reckless EP is four tracks worth of pulsing eighth-note bass, mascara-streaked goth melodies and '80s-worshipping pop sweetness. We recently spoke with Hemmett about her work as a tattoo artist.

Standout track: "Reckless"
Goth melancholia rarely sounds quite so sweet and pretty as on the title track from the Reckless EP, which features twinkling synths straight outta Stranger Things or a John Hughes movie.
Alex Hudson


If LUMP — the electronic project of Laura Marling and Tunng's Mike Lindsay — is a so-called "repository" for secondary material, this foreboding, fantastical sophomore outing is brimming with quietly genius detritus. From start to finish, Marling's vocals soothe while Lindsay's production agitates, carving out space for both a tea-sipping and toe-tapping experience.

Standout track: "Animal"
LUMP go fully hedonistic on the album's title track, energizing the pack with a sequence of rousing commands, upholding that they really "came here to swing dicks."
Allie Gregory

Tkay Maidza
Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 3

The third and final instalment of Tkay Maidza's EP trilogy further primes the Zimbabwe-born Australian artist for greater recognition. On Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 3, the daughter of a metallurgist and chemist deftly combines pop, rap, R&B and more for a confident eight-song set rife with potential and playfulness.

Standout track: "Kim"
Maidza and Yung Baby Tate trade lively verses on this club-ready, bass-bombed tribute to a host of famous Kims — Kardashian, Lil', Possible among them.
Calum Slingerland

(Hand Drawn Dracula)

Toronto musician Jesse Crowe covered a pair of Portishead cuts for last year's Class of T.O. video series, and they further their devotion with their fourth EP as Praises. Heavily reverbed vocals, keys and percussion conjure minimalism and psychedelia in equal measure. 

Standout track: "We Let Go" 
The venomous atmosphere starts early with industrial-tinged percussion, and only gets darker from there with Crowe's ominous sermon: "What constitutes corruption? Is it your way or none at all?" Distorted wails and looping keyboards make things more dizzying.
Matt Bobkin 

(Rich Man)

Born Raffaela Weyman, the JUNO-nominated Toronto singer-songwriter co-founded her own label Rich Man Records (after the Cher quote) in 2020, through which Gradience marks her first release. She follows 2019's Flashbacks & Fantasies with glam, buoyant synthpop that fully embraces camp — then strips it away to close on "Rules of Love." RALPH recently showed Exclaim! her favourite concert poster.

Standout track: "Tommy"
A poptimistic, funk guitar-driven song-of-the-summer contender that fully embodies the euphoric anticipation — and brutal humiliation — of a ravenous crush, demanding that your heart races along.
Megan LaPierre

Isaiah Rashad
The House Is Burning
(Top Dawg)

Isaiah Rashad laid his destructive lifestyle bare on 2016's The Sun's Tirade, and after a five-year absence that saw him walk himself back from the edge once more, The House Is Burning finds the artist closing the door on the flaming wreckage behind him, stepping toward hope in effortlessly cool fashion. Learn more with our album review.

Standout Track: "HB2U"
The album's pensive outro finds Rashad navigating the pitfalls of fame on his personal journey, before a psychedelic beat brings it home with his mantric repetition, "You are now a human being."
Calum Slingerland

(Grand Jury)

24-year-old Samia Finnerty sounds larger than life on the follow-up to her intimate indie-rock debut, 2020's The Baby. Scout transcends its predecessor's East Village haunts to newfound jet-plane altitudes. A precociously poetic ode to unconditional love, the singer-songwriter's trademark laissez-faire brushes of honesty and crystalline voice feel pulled by gratitude's gravity.

Standout track: "Show Up"
The EP's cinematic centrepiece has it all: vivid detail (the MUNA reference!), coming-of-age melancholia and a trembling-lip emotional core that blooms into a stadium-sized thesis.
Megan LaPierre

Ty Segall
(Drag City)

Sharing the name of his recently created studio, the surprise-released Harmonizer ushers in another collection of shout-along rock tunes from the prolific Segall. Distorted riffs and electronic pulses reign on the record, giving breadth to Segall's catalogue while also delivering more on what fans have come to love from the musician's storied catalogue. 

Standout track: "Whisper"
Segall invokes the disco ethos of Scissor Sisters on the album's second track, leaning heavily into its synthy foundations, and proving Segall can inspire frenetic dancing as much as anyone.
Allie Gregory

Vince Staples
Vince Staples
Staples' new self-titled release, produced entirely by Kenny Beats, is the most curt he has sounded in detailing his West Coast world, though it's an artistic choice than works in his favour. Largely mellow, mid-tempo production allows for a greater lyrical focus, an ideal match for this bleary summer of uncertainty. Learn more with our album review.

Standout track: "TAKE ME HOME"
As breezy as this song's guitar loop can feel, a chord change communicates irresolution as Staples ponders his Long Beach past and present: "These streets all I know / And there's no place like home."
Calum Slingerland

(Fat Possum)

California combo Wavves have spent over a decade dependably churning out catchy, nihilistic pop-punk, and Hideaway expands their palette with '60s classicism and even a little twangy country. But, ultimately, this is exactly what songwriter Nathan Williams does best: energetic, no-nonsense pop tunes packed into a runtime of under half an hour. Read our full review here.

Standout track: "Sinking Feeling"
Wavves have long been mislabeled as "surf rock" — presumably because their name is Wavves and they sometimes sing about the beach. But "Sinking Feeling" sounds like honest-to-goodness surf rock with its reverb-soaked, Ventures-esque guitars.
Alex Hudson

The White Stripes
White Blood Cells (20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)
(Third Man)

The defunct garage duo released their classic breakthrough album White Blood Cells in 2001, and this 20th anniversary edition doubles the tracklist with a live version of every song. It does what any expanded reissue should: offers some intriguing bonus material while mostly just reminding listeners how good the original album is. Revisit our 2001 review here, in which we called the album "a staggeringly simple achievement."

Standout track: "I'm Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman - Live at the Gold Dollar, June 7, 2001"
Switching between electric piano during the verses and explosive guitar during the choruses, this rendition of an under-appreciated White Stripes classic captures the controlled chaos of the band's live sets.
Alex Hudson

Listen to all of these standout tracks with our Spotify playlist.

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