Karima Walker -  Waking the Dreaming Body

genre - ambient
for fans of -   kate kirby, gia margaret, virginia wing

Whether it is photography, film, creative non-fiction, dance, and sculpture, multidisciplinary Tuscon artist Karima Walker knows how to embody intuitive creativity. Waking the Dreaming Body was written, performed, and engineered entirely by Walker during the pandemic. She utilized a vast array of instruments like a synthesizer, guitar, piano, percussion, field recordings, tape loops, and her singing voice to create an ethereal dreamscape that is a spacious as the native Arizona environment. Listening to this record is akin to taking a long winding road trip through Walker’s home state as she shares her intimate thoughts with us along the way.

favorite tracks - reconstellated, softer, window i

Mogwai -  As The Love Continues

genre - post-rock
for fans of -  arab strap, godspeed you black emperor, explosions in the sky

British post-rock group Mogwai released their tenth studio album As The Love Continues right in time for the 25th anniversary of their first single. This eleven-track record features contributions from Nine Inch Nails' Atticus Ross and composer/saxophonist Colin Stetson. The album progresses into gritty instrumental tracks like “Here We, Here We, Here We Go Forever” and I even found myself loving the catchy chorus of “Ritchie Sacramento." As The Love Continues as a whole is a cathartic whirlwind with a few low points; Mogwai proves again why they are one of the most influential post-rock bands in the business.

favorite tracks - ritchie sacramento, pat stains, to the bin my friend tonight we vacate earth

Puma Blue -  In Praise of Shadows

genre - alt R&B
for fans of -  charlotte day wilson, strawberry guy, thesecondsex

The debut album from South London’s Puma Blue, a.k.a. Jacob Allen, is an insomnia-inspired, slow-burn sonic dreamland evoking an essence of a lo-fi Jeff Buckley with consistent crooning vocals wrapped in chill reverb. In Praise of Shadows is a record best consumed in the late hours of the night, but do not confuse it for a sleep soundtrack: the well-crafted songwriting structure, subtle beats, and R&B-inspired arrangements are best consumed with full attention.

Puma Blue recounts feelings of heartbreak in tracks like “Already Falling” which demonstrate his signature late-night melancholy vibe while balancing with the innate sensuality that is at the foundation of his sound. Though some tracks on In Praise of Shadows land stronger than others, I have never heard a Puma Blue song I did not like.

favorite tracks - already falling, sheets, oil slick

Black Country, New Road -  For the first time

genre - post-punk
for fans of -  IDLES, American Football,  HMLTD

Those who read my 2020 End of the Year digital zine will recognize this familiar name from spot #8 on my top songs of 2020 list. Black Country, New Road caught my attention with bombastic attention-grabbing singles like “Athens, France,” “Sunglasses,” and “Science Fair” so I was highly anticipating their 2021 debut record, For the first time.

The album opens with “Instrumental,” a booming instrumental post-rock track with threads of klezmer influence that precedes a re-recorded version of “Athens, France.” I loved the original recording: it was a cheeky bursting confession that left quite an impression but sadly, the album version cut some of the crude lyrics and curdling screams that made this track memorable. The lead singer said that they took the chance to re-record because “that the person whose perspective was on this song was most certainly supposed to be the butt of a joke, and I think it came across that that wasn’t the case, and that’s what made me most uncomfortable.”

The re-recorded singles show a restraint that was previously foreign to Black Country, New Road’s work. In my opinion, the tighter arrangements limit the messy, evocative nature of these tracks. It is a damn shame that they turned the “punk” down a few notches considering that we all need some loud post-punk music to accompany us during these trying times.

“Track X” rounds out the end of the record with a gentler and more sincere nature that is unexpected but balances their chaotic sound well.

For a first-time listener of Black Country, New Road, “For the first time” would be an impactful listen as it exposes the raw emotions of the cycle of relationships through their songwriting and visceral instrumentation. However, having heard and thoroughly enjoyed the original singles, I cannot help but feel disappointed by the impact it could have yielded without the changes. Nevertheless, make sure to give this record a spin when you are in the mood for a cathartic release.

favorite tracks - science fair, sunglasses, track x

Lost Horizon - In Quiet Moments

genre - dreampop
for fans of -  cocteau twins, dif juz, the jesus and mary chain

Lost Horizons is a collaboration between former 4AD and Bella Union record label owner Simon Raymonde and former Dif Juz member Richie Thomas. The two originally met during the late ’80s while both were at the emblematic London label 4AD but did not create music together until they released their debut album in 2017 after both the musicians were on a 20-year hiatus.  In Quiet Moments is impressively polished for a 16-track record with 16 featured collaborators. This feat could have been easily butchered in the hands of less experienced musicians yet Lost Horizon manages to convey a cohesive sophisticated sound that is reminiscent of the likes of David Bowie and fellow 4AD band Cocteau Twins. While I think some of the tracks sound a bit dated, there are others I have on repeat. Overall, there is something for everyone on this record which makes it one of the most interesting releases so far in 2021.

favorite tracks -  linger, unravelling in slow motion, grey tower