April (Anna Pest) Top Albums Of 2021

April is the musician behind incredible deathcore project Anna Pest. We invited her to the blog to share her end of year list. You can listen to her most recent album “Dark Arms Reach Skyward With Bone White Fingers” on Bandcamp here and follow her on twitter here.

April’s AOTY playlist:

25. Black Swan – Repetition Hymns LP

Swelling, hypnotic, uplifting ambient in the vein of Stars of the Lid’s And Their Refinement of the Decline. It has a hissing, warm, sometimes slightly damaged analog texture similar to that of The Caretaker’s recent works – only here, it’s ostensibly modern western classical tapes that are being torn apart, sampled, layered, looped, and effected. This record is engaging and captivating both musically and sonically, and seems to live, breathe, and evolve in a way a digital ambient album with similar base compositions likely would not. I can see myself easily coming back to this anytime I’m in the mood for something relaxing. It feels warm and welcoming, like a big hug.

24. Blindfolded and Led to the Woods – Nightmare Withdrawals LP

An angular, dissonant, technical & wanton death metal tour-de-force, with incredibly heavy & clear production to boot. Deftly blends Gorguts-esque ugly, bendy chords & sour harmonies with a Cryptopsy-esque manic, brutal, bloody charge, and even has a couple eerie, delicate, contemplative moments to help break things up. A balanced, elegant package loaded with filth & devastating punch, and a ton of standout tracks. Fans of technical brutal death metal, dissonant black/death, and even modern mathcore & grindcore should all find something to appreciate and latch onto here.

23. Druida – Líquido LP

Lush electronic pastiches of airy synth textures, warped string & woodwind instrument melodies, and looped pitched percussion samples. Sounds almost exactly like the cover looks, and is just about as entrancing and mysterious. Tracks like “Vento Frio” and “Dreamer?” envelope and overwhelm with an amorphous, harmonically rich cacophony that sounds like something GAS might make if he was a little more percussion-oriented. On the other hand, the more melody-focused tracks like “Espelho” and “Cachoeira” are soothing and achingly pretty. A unique, ethereal, and beautiful sounding record. Don’t miss it.

22. Radio Supernova – Takaisin LP

I’m absolutely weak for the way this record blends the warm, summery haze of shoegaze production with the crystalline, delay-rich and wonderfully catchy lead guitar work of post punk. Also love the upbeat drumming and huge bass tone, which cut through the wall of sound and give these songs just enough groovy pulse to ensure that you’ll never be left gazing at your shoes. The track lengths are also generally on the short and punchy side (for shoegaze, at least), which is appreciated. Great spin.

21. Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert LP

On her latest full-length outing, Little Simz has taken the same class, elegance and intelligence that she displayed on her 2019 record Grey Area and elevated it to transcendental new heights. The production on this album is gorgeous and brilliant. Lush orchestral arrangements, crunchy layered percussion, warm, nostalgic vocal samples and smooth, flavourful basslines all come together to bring every track on this thing to life, and give them each a unique identity. To top it all off, we have Simz’s eloquent, powerful MCing, through which she explores themes of love, ambition, sisterhood, and resilience in the face of adversity. Throughout all the myriad moods and flavours at play here, Simz takes us on a moving and magical journey, and invites us into her world.

20. Lamp of Murmuur – Submission and Slavery LP

Black metal with some very present deathrock-inspired melodies, snatches of dark & enchanting gothic rock, and a metric shitton of absolutely killer riffs. The remarkably powerful and emotive dungeon synth interludes are the icing on the cake. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun with a black metal record on a first listen. Really great stuff.

19. Alpha Boötis – Jump to Alpha Boötis LP

Fun, relentlessly catchy, mostly-instrumental progressive metal with a ton of synthwave elements (duelling synth & guitar leads, arpeggiated bloops, pulsing synth basslines, saxophone, the works) and a slight power metal-esque flavour in some of the melodies. This is a really entertaining, pleasant listen from front to back, full of great moments and some very creative blends of sounds that I can’t say I’ve heard anywhere else. I also appreciate that each song brings its own share of unique flavours to the table. Some of my personal favourites are grandiose and epic opener “Jump to Alpha Boötis,” and “Serpens Nebula” with its syncopated, hyper-downtuned grooves.

18. Death Goals – The Horrible and the Miserable LP

Heavy-ass screamo with some skronky, panicky mathcore riffing, and a world-class lead vocal performance. I really like the melodies here. They’re very dramatic, tense and laced with dissonance while also feeling majestic, grandiose, and satisfying. It’s also interesting to see the breadth of the musical territory these folks explore; they deliver quintessentially hardcore songs (like “Exit Wounds” and the punishing title track) just as effectively as they do more sombre, melodic pieces, like brilliant closer “Nothing Left to Give.” Great clear, heavy production too. There’s just a lot to like here. Definitely give it a spin if you’re a fan of the style.

17. Blind Equation – Life Is Pain LP

Brilliantly diaoblical & unequivocally fun; a big, hearty chunk of shimmery, angst-ridden ear candy. This record consists of shimmery, effected chiptune melodies, hi-fi programmed drums that dance along the cusp of metalcore & cybergrind territory, and fuzzily distorted screams dripping with emotion. The melodies are relentlessly pretty, catchy, and delightful across the board, and remind me a little bit of acts like August Burns Red and My Bitter End. A great, unique little spin, and one I’m very happy I decided to pick up. Very excited to hear whatever comes next from this project.

16. Lorem Ipsum – Vivre encore LP

Chamber music that mashes avant-folk with elements of baroque classical, as well as melodies & visceral vocals reminiscent of screamo. The instrumentation and arrangements on this thing are pretty stunning across the board. We’re graced with anguished string harmonies, acoustic guitars that gently pluck & frantically strum, stormy piano arpeggios, even some percussive electronic elements – and everything is melded together with remarkable taste and finesse. These compositions are dark, intricate, rich, and full of drama, and every one manages to take the listener on a satisfying journey full of unexpected twists & turns.

15. Spiritbox – Eternal Blue LP

Spiritbox blast open the gates with their long-awaited and much-hyped debut album. This thing is loaded with bouncy, djenty grooves, huge, hard-hitting breakdowns, candysweet electronics, and melodic choruses the whole way through. It’s a real modernmetalcore-meets arena-anthem tour-de-force; a brilliantly catchy, juicy metal record for the new age. Courtney LaPlante’s ethereal singing is a major highlight here, and I also have to single Mike Stringer’s brilliant guitar work out for praise. It manages to be crushingly heavy, frantically noodly, or subdued & tuneful whenever the music demands it, and somehow also manages to avoid some of the more obvious modern metal clichés.

14. Knocked Loose – A Tear in the Fabric of Life EP

Knocked Loose have dropped yet another slab of massive, punishing metallic hardcore with A Tear in the Fabric of Life. Those evil death metal-tinged riffs that they started churning out on A Different Shade of Blue are back in full force here, the crushing breakdowns and beatdown riffs they’ve been unleashing since the beginning are just as present ever, and both Bryan and Isaac’s vocals sound more pissed off & fucked off than they ever have. But what really makes this record special, I think, is the way it plays with dynamics; it really knows when to push and when to hold back. There’s some very tasty, unnerving high-end squawk to offset the chunky bottom end, and the subdued moments make the hard-hitting moments hit even harder.

13. Rei Ami – Foil LP

Brilliantly fun, funny pop rap / R&B / trap oozing with personality. From dirty, bassheavy bangers to soothing, dulcet ballads, this record is loaded with sonic variety, and Rei manages to make her unique, playful, endearing voice work at every turn. I love the way she sounds here. Her voice is surprisingly quiet most of the time — just above a whisper — but she manages to make it sound so tuneful and sassy at the same time. She’s one of the best recent examples I’ve heard of someone taking what they’ve got and making it work, and I’m living for it.

12. Hong Kong Express – L.Y.F LP

Dreampunk pioneer David Russo takes his formerly-retired moniker Hong Kong Express out for yet another posthumous spin, producing results that are nothing less than stellar. These tracks are lush, layered soundscapes composed of nocturnal synth pads, crystalline leads, and distant, reverb-soaked vocal samples. Each track boasts its own set of sonic elements that set it apart and make it feel unique. “Humid Summer” works some East Asian-flavoured percussion & strings into the mix, “First Night Together” is laden with aching melodies and icy chord stabs, and “Amnesia Way” features trip hopesque beats and cinematic synth textures. Even with this sonic variety from track to track, the atmosphere remains consistently immersive, and deeply contemplative across the entire album. A beautiful, enveloping listen.

11. Dreamwell – Modern Grotesque LP

Screamo / emo / post-hardcore that leans heavily into low-gain, midtempo post-rock trappings and softer vocal passages. Really beautiful stuff. Reminds me of Touché Amoré in superficial ways and Casey in less-than-superficial ways. There are some unequivocally excellent songs on this thing, and the rest are all rock-solid growers that reward with repeat listens. “Sayaka” is an easy early standout with its winning chord progressions, infectious basslines, and dynamic traversing of aggressive & vulnerable territory. I also have to single out the lyrics on this thing, which are really well done across the board. A beautiful album, and one that I’m eager to continue exploring.

10. nightlife – New Low EP

nightlife have struck gold with the sound they’ve crafted on this EP, which combines a foreground of alt rock and alt R&B with elements of soul, funk, post-hardcore, and just a little djenty bounce. The result is quite unlike anything I’ve heard before, but now I’m thoroughly convinced that it’s something I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear. These songs are all catchy, pretty, atmospheric and delightfully moveable. The title track is a particular highlight, with its offbeat rhythms, huge, cutting bass sound, colorful brass stabs, and a virtuosic & playful vocal performance. If you’re like me and are always thirsty for that cool new sound, give this thing a listen. This is it.

9. Backxwash – I Lie Here Buried With My Rings and My Dresses LP

Backxwash follows up her bold & deeply inspired 2020 industrial hip hop opus God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It with another monster of a record. These tracks follow a similar formula to that which she established on the aforementioned album and her Stigmata EP – gritty, bass-heavy beats laden with cold piano lines, tortured guitar noise, texturally rich percussive elements, and twisted, hazed-out, ominous sample flips, all topped off with her absolutely huge vocal presence. Her lyrics are as vitriolic, visceral and passionate as ever here, and she belts them out with unprecedented confidence and infectious energy. Highly recommended for any fan of industrial/horror-tinged hip hop, or anyone who appreciates dark, bold, aggressive, cacophonous, forward-thinking music.

8. Lindsheaven Virtual Plaza & SkyTwoHigh – Imaginary Pathways LP

A gorgeous dreampunk album with pronounced rhythmic elements. Warm, melancholic pads conjure images of a rainy urban nightscape, as upbeat, textured downtempo drums & acid basslines bring energy and motion to the mix. Nostalgic synth leads trade off with delicate, effected pianos and dancefloor arpeggios. Beautiful melodies and enchanting atmospheres all over this thing, from front to back. Nocturnal chilltronica of the highest order. This was a wonderful listen. I’ll definitely have to check out the rest of LVP’s work; I’m sad to have only just discovered them now. RIP.

7. Tinashe – 333 LP

I was very pleasantly surprised by the range of different sounds and styles explored on this record, and how well it manages to pull everything off. From contemporary R&B, to dark, pulsing trap, to light, summery pop and back again, every track on this record excels at what it does, and Tinashe’s gorgeous, sensual vocals pull everything together with finesse and class. Crisp production, gorgeous melodies, and an absolutely otherworldly vibe from start to finish. Brilliant pop music. Massive opener “I Can See the Future” is a particular highlight and a real banger for the ages, and almost sounds like something J-Lo would have dropped in the late nineties if not for its heavy 808s and twinkly modern synth sounds.

6. Archspire – Bleed the Future LP

Damn, this album rips. Archspire have managed to do what I’ve always wanted to hear them do here – slow things down just a little bit, and focus just a little more on the hooks. And man, is this thing ever loaded with hooks. Every song features a diabolically orchestrated combination of rapid-fire guitar riffs built around tasty neoclassical melodic themes, absurdly tight drumming, and chattery, spitty vocals – and everything manages to be catchy and tuneful the whole way through, even when it’s at its most intense. Perhaps most refreshingly though, things aren’t always at their most intense. Some very tasty clean passages pop up from time to time, helping to break up the madness and give things just a little breathing room. This kicks my ass. Go check it out!

5. Replicant – Malignant Reality LP

Discordant death metal with some seriously ripping, groovy riffs, haunting harmonies, and a very subtle deathcore aftertaste. This goes really hard. The guitar work is mean as hell, managing to be eerie & unnerving and absolutely crushing all at once. At times, it reminds me of both Mastodon and Ingested – and of course, Gorguts as well. Even on my first listen, there were moments in literally every song that made me immediately stop whatever I was doing and pay complete attention. Whatever these guys are doing, it’s working. I’ve been hearing a lot about this record this year and I’m glad I decided to give it a spin. What an awesome fucking surprise.

4. Ashbreather – Ow, My Eye EP

I was shy about including this record in the roundup since I personally handled production on it, but it’s so damn good I had to throw it in. Ow, My Eye sees Montreal’s own Ashbreather playing with longer, more drawn out compositions, and integrating real string and brass instruments into their viciously catchy prog/sludge metal assault. The EP saves its weirdest and wildest surprise for last, though, with “Assablanca,” which features reggae-esque clean guitar squawks, majestic saxophone leads, and groovy odd time signature cadences. It’s pretty well as much of a psychedelic rock (or even krautrock?) song as it is a sludge metal song – but far more importantly, it is a fucking jam. An unexpected and delightful guest verse from none other than Lil B closes the track. A brilliantly chill way to close this otherwise quite in-your-face EP.

3. Bridge Burner – Disempath LP

Heavily black/sludge-tinged mathcore that just goes and goes and doesn’t stop. Unexpected switchups, unhinged vocals, and gloriously angular, ferocious riffs abound on this thing. There’s a great mixture of chunky, bottom-heavy nastiness, eerie, dissonant arpeggios & tremolo picking, and even some powerful melodic moments. Every song keeps you guessing, and things manage to feel fresh, varied and gripping the whole way through. The best part is that it’s consistent. There are moments when each song just seems more dynamic and devilish than the last, which makes it difficult to pick favourites. A must-hear for mathcore fans, and easily my favourite metal album of the year. Excellent, excellent stuff.

2. Black Country, New Road – For the First Time LP

Quite easily the most forward-thinking, unique and satisfying rock record I’ve heard in a very long time. These songs are so carefully and meticulously arranged, and full of little surprises. Each one is its own little sprawling post-rock/post-punk opus that travels between a variety of moods and themes, blends intricate rock instrumentation with poignant violin and saxophone melodies, and contrasts skronky riffs & jazzy dissonance with majestic harmony and plenty of delicate, subdued passages. Isaac Wood’s vocals, which alternate between anguished spoken word passages and some very pleasant, understated melodic singing, are a big part of what ties this record together for me, and his vulnerable, confessional, heartfelt, poetic, middle-class angst-ridden, and occasionally very funny lyrics pretty much seal the deal.

1. SeeYouSpaceCowboy – The Romance of Affliction LP

I was sure at first that this album would end up being my latest guilty pleasure, but after countless enthralled spins, it’s officially taken my number one spot. SeeYouSpaceCowboy have injected even more scenecore & emo pop elements into their sassy mathcore formula, and I am absolutely living for the results. This record has such a satisfying blend of brutal harsh vocals, unhinged panic chords, punchy, chunky breakdowns, swoop bang-worthy melodic passages and infectious clean-sung choruses. It takes me right back to 2009, and somehow, manages to feel just as fresh and exciting as the classics in this style did back when I first discovered them around that time. Every song on this thing managing to be relentlessly catchy and colossally heavy all at once. If you’re an unrepentant overgrown scene kid like I am, don’t miss this. It’s a lot of fun.

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