Best of 2021

Happy New Year HME crew. I’m looking forward to what 2022 has to offer, but before then, one final post on 2021.

I’ve started to form a bit of a theory: are personalised end of year wrap-ups a bit like dreams? Everyone finds their own fascinating and everyone else’s immensely boring…

Anyway… here are my most played tracks of the year courtesy of Spotify and Soundcloud.

Soundcloud here

Animal – LUMP

As the final track will tell you, LUMP is the product of Mike Lindsay and Laura Marling. Laura Marling hardly needs an introduction, as one of the leading folk artists over the last 15 years. Mike Lindsay is best known for his role in the folktronica band Tunng, but has an impressive list of producer credits spanning pop, rock and R&B. Their co-creation is LUMP, which they characterise as both a mythical creature and a creative mindset that the pair invoke to create music together.

So, Animal; the talent of Laura as a writer and vocalist is evident throughout the album. Her vocals have a unique, instantly recognisable quality that work just as well in this more electronic setting as her usual acoustic folk. Similarly, Mike’s production quality is high. The music for each track (with the possible exception of Phantom Limb) is interesting to the ear, but without being jarring. Pairing those qualities is a tough thing to do. Contributing to this, some of the album is written in a 7/4 time signature – it gives it a sense of urgency, but never feels forced. The third single from the album, also titled Animal, is where this combination comes together best. The final single, We Cannot Resist, is another pleasing pop track (although slightly marred by the use of a gimmicky vocoder).

There is a lot to really like about the the album, which leaves me questioning why I like it but don’t love it. I think the answer lies in my favourite track on the album, Oberon. It is 2 minutes of beautiful, heartbreaking songwriting. The tenderness of the music and the lyrics feel perfectly in sync. This level of synchronicity feels within reach throughout the whole album, but the energies of singer and producer never align as well as they do there. This is illustrated by the final track Phantom Limb which immediately follows and seems to have been written in an intentionally discordant way. Maybe I just don’t get it, but it doesn’t land for me. That said, overall Animal is a really intriguing listen with a good number of really high quality tracks.

As a sidenote, I had the pleasure of listening to the Premiere of Animal at a Pitchblack Playback event – a blindfolded immersive album-listening experience – I highly recommend checking out their events if you are London or Auckland-based and see an event that piques your interest.

Photo credit: Christian Cargill