The Sound of September 2021: This Month's Essential New Releases
Must-hear music from Lorde, Drake, Cartel Madras and more
Published Sep 14, 2021The elusive "fall album" is a quality bestowed to a rare few records, ones that merge the jubilant abandon of its summer counterparts with the contemplative edge of something more wintery. It's a quality that fits many of these recent releases, whether long-delayed works by international superstars or early statements from emerging talents. Here are the essential new releases of September 2021 — best experienced on Sonos.
a l l i e
Four years removed from breakout debut Nightshade, a l l i e's Tabula Rasa is a testament to taking time for creation in a world that now often demands the opposite, gathering a trusted group of Toronto collaborators old and new for an even more enthralling look at her R&B artistry.
Standout track: "Coop"
While laidback vocals and darting keys work to detail a state of "fight or flight mode," rich vocal arrangements and understated drums make for a meditative musical environment.
Amyl and the Sniffers
Comfort to Me
Amyl and the Sniffers are caustic and joyful, and their new record splits the difference between emotional exorcism and blistering rave-ups, never once dropping in BPM or spirit. They tackle shitty bar politics, guardian angels, misogyny, sex, violence and love in an endlessly entertaining burst of punk fury.
Standout track: "Guided by Angels"
The album's opener is also its crowning glory, a rager with all the emotional heft of a glacial ballad. Hearing Amy Taylor sing of the angels on her body, you'd swear you feel them too.
Toronto four-piece Bad Waitress fill their noisy tracks with punk fury, as squalling guitar distortion goes toe-to-toe with thundering drums and singer Kali-Ann Butala's blood-curdling howl. And yet, as the band display in some of the quieter moments in the album's back half, they're as comfortable in quiet reflection as they are in circle pits. Read our recent interview with Butala about cannabis, and check out our full No Taste review.
Best track: "Strawberry Milkshake"
Lyrics like "Straw, strawberry shake / Put it in my mouth" and "Sweet, sweet ice cream / Dipping down my chin" have never sounded so ominous as on this thundering garage rock banger.
Big Red Machine
How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?
It's not so much that Big Red Machine add up to more than the sum of their parts — it's that all of the parts are so good. Bon Iver's Justin Vernon lends his impassioned falsetto to songs anchored by the National member Aaron Dessner's mournful piano chords, while Taylor Swift and Fleet Foxes bring their all to their guest appearances. Read our full review.
Best track: "Renegade" (feat. Taylor Swift)
Aaron Dessner largely produced both of Swift's 2020 albums, and she returns the favour by contributing a tenderly scathing love song that channels the crossover appeal of folklore or evermore.
(Hand Drawn Dracula)
Toronto artist, producer and Candle Recording Studio co-founder Josh Korody's sophomore album as Breeze — he's also one half of the duo Beliefs and releases gritty electronic music as Nailbiter — relishes in its own disarray. Using Madchesterian roots to find direction, it collaboratively envisions a technicolour future for the local scene. Read our full review.
Standout track: "Come Around (feat. Cadence Weapon)"
"You really did a number on this one," Korody repeats over the howl of synths, psychedelic guitars and spitfire percussion only matched by the featured MC.
Fire is an incredibly crushing effort from UK producer Kevin Martin: an immense, burning set of songs for a world that increasingly feels ready to burst into flame. Leading the way through his monstrous, menacing electronics are a skilled group of vocalists — Moor Mother, Flowdan among them — who all torch the mic.
Standout track: "High Rise (feat. Manga Saint Hilare)"
Militaristic drums and unsettling synths score stirring verses of lower-class life in UK tower blocks: "They don't understand us down here / They can't step one foot down here."
The Serpent & the Tiger EP
(Royal Mountain/Sub Pop)
The third and final instalment in the Calgary sister duo's Project Goonda EP trilogy finds Contra and Eboshi fully realizing their hip-hop vision, packing 10 tracks with so many well-executed ideas, the only way they could possibly go bigger is if they finally drop that highly anticipated debut album. Read our full review.
Standout track: "DRIFT"
Throw the old idiom aside — this high-flying hit is all about sex, drugs and hip-hop. Both sisters absolutely demolish Dom Dias's beat, and a list of best lines would look identical to the full lyric sheet.
Indigo De Souza
Any Shape You Take
Indigo De Souza makes music that embodies the clear-eyed glint and warm embrace of a good friend. On Any Shape You Take, the Asheville-based songwriter's vibrant, grungy sophomore album, tough love and genuine tenderness go hand in hand — it's an album about breakups and breakdowns that's never anything less than kind and understanding. Read our full review.
Standout track: "Darker Than Death"
"Darker Than Death" moves steadily, a slow burst of feeling that pulses with thick, fuzzy guitars and icy keys. It's as honest and emotionally rich as any hot-blooded punk anthem.
Certified Lover Boy
Drake has long been too big to fail, and his sixth official album doesn't stray from his well-worn blueprint for success: lyrical barbs for contemporaries, an enjoyable group of guest features and a dazzling production palette. However, a seemingly mended relationship with Kid Cudi and responsible co-parenting raps are welcome surprises. Read our full review.
Standout track: "7am on Bridle Path"
On his latest named for time and place, Drake is "aimin' straight for the head, not aiming to please" in dressing down a rival believed to be Kanye West.
Bug Eyes/Tony Speaks! EP
Dry Cleaning's New Long Leg is one of the best things to come from the UK in recent years, and the band's spoken-word post-punk hasn't lost any of its delight on this two-song single. The two tracks lean into the slower side of the band's oeuvre, as Florence Shaw calmly speaks magic into the everyday.
Standout track: "Bug Eggs"
The single's A-side is where the real wonder lies, an effect-warped riff falling across the steady beat like willow branches as Shaw sings of being a "toasted teenage peanut."
Stunning and Atrocious
The Montreal art rockers have been in their current four-person formation for years, and the first album from the not-so-new lineup finds their well-honed live chemistry sounding just as alchemical in the studio. Stunning and Atrocious is an experimental concoction of psychedelic textures, bedroom pop yearning and arena rock payoffs. Lead singer Matt Rogers recently showed Exclaim! his favourite music T-shirt.
Standout track: "Losing Time"
On an album bursting with ideas (at a whopping 14 tracks), "Losing Time" ends the collection by finding power in post-breakup self-sufficiency, moving from skulking verses to jubilant choruses with a kaleidoscope of shimmering instrumentation.
Woman on the Internet
Irish singer-songwriter Orla Gartland continues to embrace a DIY approach by releasing her long-awaited debut LP on her own label. She co-produced the record to highlight her insistent rhythmic sensibilities (comparable to the likes of HAIM) with a penchant for 5/4 time signatures and raw delivery of insights from the chaos of her twenties.
Standout track: "More Like You"
Gartland tackles parasocial relationships and Instagram-induced envy with a starkly bright, anthemic approach — driven by spacious, glistening synth loops and wistfully echoing vocal stacks.
If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power
Halsey (née Ashley Frangipane) has always resisted the pop star label with their sprawling concept albums but probably remains best-known for featuring on that 2016 Chainsmokers earworm. Collaborating with Nine Inch Nails's Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, they get what they want — and extravagantly explore the heavy repercussions of it.
Standout track: "I am not a woman, I'm a god"
While this entire fourth LP serves as Halsey's rightful artist statement, the propulsive "I am not a woman, I'm a god" is its titular summary.
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