Album of the Month: February 2021


Image courtesy of Bandcamp

Adam Matos, Staff Writer

February has provided a much closer race for my self-proclaimed monthly trophy than January did; it honestly came down to the final few days of the month for me to fully decide on the worthy victor. I have listened to albums of almost every genre under the sun ranging from indie-pop to UK hip hop in search of a deserving winner. Many of these albums were from rather unknown artists as once again, aside from Madison Beer’s Life Support and The Weeknd’s The Highlights (compilation album, not in contention for Album of the Month), there were no mainstream drops this month. Additionally, we got two deluxe albums from mainstream artists this month, Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa and positions by Ariana Grande, but both were not in contention as they are deluxes to projects that have already been released. With these four popular albums out of contention you might wonder, “How are there so many contenders for February’s award?” Answer: I don’t know. 

As mentioned before, I listened to almost every genre you could think of and although there is a standout album from February that receives the award, many albums deserve a shoutout. To start, one of my most anticipated projects of February was EP2! by JPEGMAFIA. This EP was very concise at 7 tracks in 18 minutes, but for such a short album the quality just isn’t there. Going into February, I learned JPEGMAFIA (Peggy for short) was dropping and was very excited, but later disappointed. Peggy has been experimenting with a new form of hip-hop, dubbed by some as  “cloud rap.” This style is highlighted by autotune, sung lyrics, and, especially shown on this project, and overuse of brass instrumentals. JPEGMAFIA has seemingly lost his charm with this new style as his production and rap style has changed so much from his 2019 masterpiece, All My Heroes Are Cornballs. It’s a short enough listen and caters to a more watered-down version of Peggy, but I think the raw vocals and downright weird production on his past albums outweigh EP2! easily. A lesser-known artist, Mavi, also released a hip-hop EP, End of the Earth, with 5 tracks and a runtime of 14 minutes. Mavi, like JPEGMAFIA, had a relatively consistent album but chose to go for a more ordinary style of production losing the uniqueness of his 2019 project, Let the Sun Talk. “Town Crier” the last track on the album is the only one that lives up to the success that his previous works were while the other four tracks are astoundingly mediocre.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, two indie-folk albums released this month with Cassandra Jenkins’ An Overview on Phenomenal Nature and Katy Kirby’s Cool Dry Place. Both albums are from rather unknown artists but the latter has provided her first project this month and for a young artist, it is very promising. The guitar and vocals used on both projects are phenomenal and the lyrics and storytelling from the more experienced Jenkins are remarkable. I would recommend the songs “New Bikini” from Jenkins and “Eyelids” from Kirby to get a small understanding of both albums. The albums come in at 28 and 32 minutes respectively, so they’re a rather short listen compared to the majority of albums nowadays. Another short album, Sad Night Dynamite by Sad Night Dynamite released on February 26th, and it has some standout tracks such as “Killshot,” “Icy Violence” and “Krunk”. It wasn’t necessarily in contention but had some great tracks and was surprisingly consistent to round off the month. Sad Night Dynamite didn’t test any new waters in their first mixtape and uses the same guitar riff throughout the whole mixtape so it really didn’t have a shot at the award. 

Some albums that did have a shot, albeit small, were three critically acclaimed albums with a much more rock/experimental influence. The Weather Station’s Ignorance, Black Country, New Road’s For the First Time, and Mogwai’s As the Love Continues are all artistic albums that have post-rock and some punk/art-pop roots, especially on Ignorance. Ignorance was my least favorite of these albums, but the first track “Robber” was one of my favorites out of the three albums combined. Black Country, New Road’s For the First Time has grown on me a lot since first listening, but the tracks are simply too long. The album consists of 6 tracks while going on for about 41 minutes; this leaves an average of almost 7 minutes for each track. Although it is very good and consistent, I couldn’t bring myself to give the award to an album with a tracklist that most impatient listeners would deem ‘boring.’ Out of these three longer and more progressive works, Mogwai’s As the Love Continues was my favorite as it was the most sonically intriguing of the three. It is, however, a predominantly instrumental album as the only album with any lyrics is “Ritchie Sacramento”. This however doesn’t take away from the mastermind behind As the Love Continues since the guitar and percussion used on this project are some of Mogwai’s best. This album was my immediate contender for Album of the Month when it was first released on February 19th, but unfortunately, it experienced the curse of almost all experimental albums: there are essentially no lyrics to keep you entertained. 

 To conclude the long list of contenders are two more projects that each had a few standout tracks. The aforementioned somewhat mainstream Madison Beer’s Life Support along with the under Julien Baker’s Little Oblivions. Beer has released her long-awaited first album after delays that postponed the album from its release last year. She has expanded on her promising potential in the pop genre with this album and although it wasn’t one of the best this month, I am excited to see her next work. Baker, on the other hand, has been a consistent alternative artist for the past few years now and Little Oblivions capitalizes on her underground success with a cohesive and both lyrically and vocally amazing album. The tracks “Hardline” and “Faith Healer” are some of Baker’s best yet and although this album is nothing revolutionary in the indie rock landscape, it compliments her sound amazingly. 

With all of these great albums releasing this month, it is hard to believe that there is a clear victor. However, I have come to the conclusion, and I am positive that this album is the most deserving of all those released in February. This album comes from UK hip-hop artist, slowthai, with his sophomore project TYRON. TYRON hits on all of the notes that a good hip-hop album should: great production, solid features, meaningful lyrics, and impeccable delivery. slowthai has always been revered since he first burst out on the rap scene with his 2018 EP, RUNT, for his lyrical content and unique execution and flow. TYRON is the mastery of his sound and by far his more meaningful work to date. The first half of the album is a more hype and aggressive side of slowthai while the second half shows a more melancholy side of him. Both sides are seven tracks long, but have enough depth to provide an album of their own. On songs like “terms”, in the second half of the album, slowthai delivers a catchy beat with touching vocal performances from Dominic Fike and Denzel Curry. The lyrical content from slowthai, whose birth name is Tyron, and the dedication to his deceased brother on the track “feel away ” show a much more vulnerable side than we’ve ever seen of slowthai. “feel away” features James Blake and production from Mount Kimbie creating a power trio and, in turn, making a song that seems to connect the gap between life and death as slowthai attempts to feel away from the pain he experiences from his brother’s passing.

The album TYRON was what I was expecting and more from the English native and his British accent over catch trap beats such as “CANCELLED” seem to be earworms you can’t get out of your head. With a feature from Skepta on “CANCELLED”, the 2nd track on the project, and a feature from A$AP Rocky on “MAZZA” on the 3rd track, slowthai opens his project with a loud bang. slowthai has without a doubt put himself on the mainstream hype train with this project and has found himself placed among charts and top-tier playlists cementing himself as one of the largest on the UK hip-hop scene right now. If you don’t stay for slowthai himself, you, without a doubt, should stay for A$AP ROCKY who released, in my opinion, the best feature verse of the year so far on “MAZZA”. With such a deep change on slowthai’s music considering his last project, 2019’s Nothing Great About Britain, and the large gap between the styles in the first and second halves in this album, it is hard to believe that it remained so consistent. This project is without one of the best of 2021 and falls right below PARANOIA (Album of the Month; January 2021) as the second-best album of the year. However, this does not take away from the amazing amount of work and attention to detail slowthai has put into this project. One of the most interesting artists of the current rap landscape and new visionary, slowthai has released my undisputed Album of the Month for February 2021. 

slowthai released a public statement regarding this project saying “This album was created during a difficult time in my life. I am far from perfect but I’ve learnt a lot about myself whilst creating this album. I will continue to grow into a better person for myself and aim to be a reflection of what I want to see in this world. I hope this album can be the light if you’re in the dark, and to know you’re not alone. It’s okay to be yourself… …Learn, grow, aim to be better than you were yesterday.”