Fall 2021 Music Preview
Since DC's shift from a hobby blog to a polished-up, regularly-maintained site way back in the winter of 2020, I've managed to stay on top of new releases well enough, and write about albums as they've dropped. This domain change happened a couple months before the pandemic hit hard, and when my professional workload lightened that spring, I suddenly had hours of extra time for music research, listening, and writing. I am reluctant to label anything in the past year-and-a-half a "bright spot," but for a while there, I got to play the part of a real music journalist. And I loved it.
About a month ago I reopened my classroom to throngs of squirrelly 8th graders. We're now rocking full school days at full capacity (yikes!) and as I suspected heading into this school year, I no longer have the time nor the energy to write like I have been for the past number of months. Teaching middle school is an intense gig, mentally and physically (and often emotionally), and after managing classes all day and looking over student work most evenings, I just can't bring myself to do much typing.
A couple weeks back I was skimming over my spreadsheet of fall releases, bright yellow with highlighted favorites, and I realized that won't be able to crank out "Recommended Listening" posts at my typical clip. At least, as long as my job exists as it does now. So instead, I slapped together this seasonal preview piece - a first for DC! Below, I've detailed a handful of albums I am really excited about, with a few words of description about each. They are listed chronologically, mid-September through mid-November, for your browsing and revisiting ease. I've listened to 9/16 of them from start to finish already (many of them multiple times), and to pieces of the rest, so I feel pretty good recommending them to you all.
But know that this writeup was finalized on Tuesday, September 21st, so I'm sure that there are many more excellent albums coming out this fall which are yet to be announced, or that I simply missed. Like, I am already thinking of a great one coming out in mid-October that has yet to be announced. So maybe you just wanna treat this preview piece as a launching off point - a place to start your new music discovery before you explore on your own.
Go ahead and bookmark this post, follow the featured artists on socials, preorder albums on Bandcamp - whatever, really! Hope y'all have a happy, safe, music-filled fall, and if you know anyone in the biz who is looking to hire an under-qualified but super eager and enthusiastic aspiring music journalist, hmu.
Artist: Cucina Povera
Album: Dalmarnock Tapes
Words: Vocal loops recorded while the artist was holed up in a dingy apartment during a 2017 snowstorm, this claustrophobic setting resulted in some beautiful constructions. It came out a couple weeks ago, so check it out now (though cassettes are sold out).
Artist: Henning Schmiedt
Album: Piano Diary
Words: Sorry, but there's no way I'm letting a piano-based pandemic album slip past me. I'm all over that shit. This album of intimate recordings is already out, too, so give it a listen.
Artist: Pêtr Aleksänder
Label: Moderna Records
Words: Thanks for turning me on to this album, A Closer Listen. I totally would have missed it otherwise. A stunning piece of neoclassical music moving between soft minimalism and gorgeous peaks, the duo + string trio's work is totally captivating. And it's streaming now, as well.
Artist: DoomFolk StarterKit
Album: SunFaded (Instrumentals)
Words: The last of these albums released at the time of this post, it just came out today! I heard it for the first time last week while my wife and I were preparing dinner, and we decided together that this guitar-centric album would be our cooking soundtrack for the season.
Artist: Macie Stewart
Album: Mouth Full of Glass
Words: Whew! The arrangements on this one are just spectacular. I've always appreciated Macie Stewart's music as one half of Ohmme, but when their solo album was sent our way last July, I fell in love with it instantly.
Artist: Hayden Pedigo
Album: Letting Go
Label: Mexican Summer
Words: Here's the first album on this list I have not heard all the way through, but here's what I know: 1) I love the two singles, 2) My bud contributes synth, and 3) the album cover is amazing. Guess I'll see for real this Friday.
Label: The Orchard
Words: I've long been a Bedouine fan, and anticipate that her next album will be just as good as her first two. Azniv Korkejian's voice and guitar balladry is simply unmatched. Any Portlanders gonna hit her Pickathon + Topaz Farm show in a couple weeks?
Artist: Xenia Rubinos
Album: Una Rosa
Words: Speaking of Pickathon, Xenia Rubinos absolutely ruled the 2017 fest. It's been a long five years since Black Terry Cat, but all of the singles on her follow-up absolutely rip. Can't wait to see her perform live again someday.
Album: The Formation of a Cloud
Label: Music Company
Words: I know barely anything about this album, but have enough sense to bookmark everything that Music Company puts out. The AU label only releases gold.
Words: Have only heard two songs, but assuming it's gonna be AOTY.
Label: Mexican Summer
Words: The best music is recommended by friends, and when my IG blew up a couple weeks back with Petunia announcements, I knew that the album had to be special. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy last week, and it's just as good as I had hoped.
Artist: Patrick Shiroishi
Label: American Dreams Records
Words: It's hard to put into writing how moving this music is, both sonically and thematically. Featuring layered saxophone, heavy in some moments and light in others, Shiroishi's album is a tribute to his late grandfather and his life after being released from a Japanese-American concentration camp.
Artist: Tim Linghaus
Album: memory sketches II
Label: Schole Records & 1631 Recordings
Words: Technically not a solo piano album, as a few other instruments and extra flourishes find their way in, but if pillow-soft modern composition is your jam as the days grow darker, look no further.
Artist: Natalie Jane Hill
Label: Dear Life Records
Words: Here's another album I know nothing about except for its Bandcamp description and two released singles. But everything I've read/heard so far has me super interested, and Dear Life typically features pretty impressive artists. This album has all the markings of a great one!
Artist: JJJJJerome Ellis
Album: The Clearing
Label: NNA Tapes
Link: https://jeromeellis.bandcamp.com/album/the-clearing?label=1547924804&tab=music Words: An absolutely epic double-album, and highlight of the season. Ellis' melodic spoken word pieces and phone call interludes weave together themes of speech dysphoria, Blackness, and musical creativity. Across The Clearing, the artist confidently states and defends his thesis, and the album is a must-hear this November.
Artist: Plïnkï Plønkï
Album: Psalms for a Sunken Moon
Label: Piano and Coffee Records
Words: I fell in love with Plïnkï Plønkï's Pangur Din back in 2019, which led me down the Piano and Coffee rabbit hole - a wonderful adventure for sure! I was so happy to learn of their follow-up release, which was officially announced yesterday. Featuring perfect end-of-season sounds, it prepares us well for winter nights to come.
And that's it, y'all! Though my publishing rate looks to drop off for a to-be-determined length of time, I'll still be listening in, and anticipate sitting with so many more excellent releases during the months ahead. Feel free to reach out if you'd like, and keep following along for the occasional post. Thanks for reading, and happy listening.