I will start this review by emphasising that this is indeed my take on the albums released in 2021 so far. At the time of writing, it is only March, but when there is good music, time means nothing at all, as you put on your headphones and dive into a new record. Forgive me for the cliché, but incessant lockdowns have meant that simple pleasures, like enjoying music through your headphones, have come to mean a lot more. With artists unfortunately having to postpone tours and festivals, we have been lucky enough that they have decided to devote their energy into producing new and exciting records. The records that I am going to be discussing have been, as you might expect, played on repeat. Having little patience meant that I stayed up for all of the releases and listened to each album with a building sense of anticipation. Whilst I have missed the pub, brunch dates and the like, what I have certainly missed the most is gigs. The countdown. The journey. Standing in the queue (well, sort of). Being part of the crowd. All of the emotions, at once. You get the gist. And so, if you choose to listen to these albums, please know that I have been mentally standing at venues for the past three months.
#1 Who Am I? – Pale Waves
If you look at my Spotify stats, this album crops up again and again. It is the album I wish had soundtracked my teenage years. Quintessentially Pale Waves, with an Avril Lavigne influence. It would be apt to say that this album presents itself as cutting-edge pop-punk. Who Am I? is the kind of album that makes you want to dismantle the patriarchy like pieces of Lego, whilst you stand there, black eye-liner in hand, ready to take on the world. Like Heather Baron-Gracie, the band’s lead singer, you embark on this cathartic experience. The record deals with the pain of love as much as it deals with the highs of it. In ‘Tomorrow’ we form a vision of hope and aspiration, and in ‘Easy’ we let ourselves be consumed by the idea of love. Another one of my favourite tracks, perhaps with the most prominent Lavigne influence is ‘You Don’t Own Me’. It’s angsty, it’s fiercely independent, and on top of that it has some raw, yet beautiful lines, such as ‘I’ll be your biggest mistake.’ ‘Who Am I?’ forces us to ask questions about current society and the effects it has had on expectations of sexuality and gender, and of ourselves. When Baron-Gracie sings ‘I thought I wanted magazines / To validate me’, we become acutely aware of the previous idealistic standards we might have held against ourselves. Overall, this is a 10/10 record and if you haven’t already, I’d download and crank the volume up.
#2 For Those That Wish To Exist – Architects
As a fan of rock, I have slowly branched out to exploring the metal scene, and having not listened to a great deal of Architects’ discography prior to this record, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Yet, here I am, reviewing it, since it navigated its way into my top three album choices. Having had no live music for over a year now, I also seized the opportunity to grab some tickets. This aside, I think that the collabs work well on this record, and I absolutely love it. The opening track, ‘Do You Dream Of Armageddon?’ feels like entering a trance, with its gentle, lucid distortions. Some of my other favourites on the record include ‘Discourse Is Dead’, which feels like a perfect mediation between lighter rock sounds combined with metal vocals. It appears to be a commentary on the polarisation of society as we know it today – a sea of miscommunication and complicated debates. Even though this track asserts itself as a critique of society, it also acknowledges the need to dissociate from it: ‘So sing us a sad song / So sing us to sleep’. We want to have our voices heard in these debates, but also want to feel detached from them. This record also feels like Architects have used Bring Me The Horizon as an influence – in a good way. ‘Little Wonder’, which explores similar themes to ‘Discourse Is Dead’, is a track that again, caught my attention. This track features Royal Blood’s Mike Kerr, and even though I wouldn’t call myself a Royal Blood fan, their vocals feel seamless. ‘Little Wonder’ emerges as an alternative rock track, rather than as metal, clearly demonstrating Architects’ experimental nature on this record. We get the impression that, as much as we want to dissociate from the current world, we are also complicit in it. If you want metal, alt. rock, and an album to blast through your speakers, then Architects serve up just that.
#3 SUCKAPUNCH – You Me At Six
Much like the Architects’ record, You Me At Six have decided to take an experimental route to create this album. SUCKAPUNCH is undoubtedly a rock album, but with subtle nods to the genres of dance and hip-hop. Whilst feeling very You Me At Six and paying homage to their previous records, SUCKAPUNCH marks the beginning of a new era. The album explores relationships and loneliness, as well as attempting to understand the self. The composition of the album is well-executed and we are launched straight into the alt. rock track ‘Nice to Me’, which, for want of a better word, SLAPS. It cries out to be played live and I imagine, once venues finally open, will form an energetic start to the gig. Moving on from the opening track, my other favourites on the record all appear in the same section of the album: ‘Adrenaline’, ‘Voicenotes’, and ‘Finish What I Started’. I think what stands out most about these tracks, is that they are easy to relate to. Many of us know what it is like to feel alone, but also know the agony of missing someone you are in love with. We swiftly move from ‘A life of dependency’ in ‘Adrenaline’, to ‘slipping through your fingers like a bad decision’ in ‘Voicenotes’. It is this kind of honest, emotional songwriting that elevates the status of a record and why SUCKAPUNCH sits firmly within my top three (for now).