15 songs we almost missed this year

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At first, “La Perla” by Sofia Kourtesis develops like a Polaroid photo of a white sand beach. It’s serious and thrilling deep house: synth waves, oceanic drum loops, feather light buzzes, the iridescent touch of piano keys. But when the voice of the Peruvian producer arrives, the track turns into something less perfect. “Tú y yo / En soledad / Igual acá / Tratando de cambiar / Tratando de olvidar,” she sings. (“You and me / In loneliness / Ditto here / Trying to change / Trying to forget.”) Kourtesis composed the song with water and his father, who was dying of leukemia, in the lead; he said that looking at the sea is a form of meditation. Between hope and melancholy, “La Perla” embodies mourning: the intermittent work of facing one’s own suffering, while exploiting fleeting moments of consolation when possible. ISABELIA HERRERA

This eight minute track from South Africa is a collaboration of singer Young Stunna and Amapiano producer Kabza De Small, from Young Stunna’s debut album, “Notumato (Beautiful Beginnings)”. It materializes slowly and methodically, with just an electronic beat at first, then hovering electronic tones and setbacks, then syncopated vocal syllables. Eventually, Young Stunna’s lead vocals come in, panting and more and more pushy, bouncing her lines out of the beat. “Adiwele” roughly means “the things that fall into place”; it is a grateful pride in his current success, but it is delivered as someone who runs towards even more ambitious goals. JON PARELES

“Bin Reaper 2” – one of BabyTron’s three very good albums released in 2021 – has several strengths. There’s “Frankenstein”, built on an excerpt from an old song by Debbie Deb, and the “Pimp My Ride” disco. But “Paul Bearer” might be the best. BabyTron is a laid back rapper from Michigan, and loyal to the rap scene that has been germinating there for a few years, he’s a hilarious, flexible absurd with syllables and also pictures: “Point it at his toes, turn his Yeezys to foam.” Runners, ”“ High as hell on the roof, dripping like a broken gutter. »JON CARAMANICA

For Colombian artist Mabiland, living with the injustice of anti-noir violence is so surreal that it resembles the worlds of sci-fi and neo-noir films like “Tenet” and “Oldboy”. On “Wow”, she draws comparisons with these cinematographic universes, offering a macabre reflection on those who have been killed in recent years: George Floyd, but also the five of Llano Verde, a group of teenagers shot in Cali, Colombia. , in 2020. On trap drums and a desperate looping guitar, the artist recalibrates his voice over and over again, oscillating between hoarse soul, high-pitched yelps, hurt raps and soft vocals. It’s a subtle lesson in elasticity, creating an expansive vocal landscape that captures her pain in all its depth. HERRERA

One of the year’s iconic rap stylists, Remble declaims as if he’s teaching a physics class, while emphasizing punching bags and delicate internal rhymes. Heir to Drakeo the Ruler, who was killed this month – listen to their collaboration on “Ruth’s Chris Freestyle” – Remble is lively and declamatory and, most disarmingly, deeply calm. “Touchable”, taken from his dazzling and wonderful 2021 album, “It’s Remble”, is one of his most remarkable, filled to the ears with gently terrifying swagger: and as you know, it is not refundable. . CARAMANIC

“Don’t Cry,” which Morgan Wade released in late 2020, gets straight to the point: “I’ll always be my worst critic / The world exists and I’m right in it.” “Wilder Days”, from her lovingly torn debut album “Reckless”, is about wanting to know the whole of a person, even the parts that time has smoothed out. Wade has a terrific, acid-steeped voice – she seems to sing from the depths of history. And while this song is about wanting someone you love to hold on to the things that caused them scratches and bruises, it’s really about holding on to that part of yourself for as long as possible. , then a little longer. CARAMANIC

There is a deep bluesy scream in the voice of Lady Blackbird – Los Angeles-based songwriter Marley Munroe – reminiscent of Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln and Billie Holiday. “Collage”, from her album “Black Acid Soul”, overlaps a vamp of acoustic bass and modal jazz harmonies, enveloped in wind chimes and Mellotron “string” chords. It’s a song about colors, cycles and trying to “find a song to sing that is everything”, enigmatic and gripping. PARÉLES

Recorded during the pandemic, “Meu Coco” (“My Head”) is the first full album on which Caetano Veloso, the great Brazilian musician whose career dates back to the 1960s, wrote all the songs without collaborators. “Anjos Tronchos” (“Twisted Angels”) is musically sparse; for the most part, Veloso’s graceful melody is accompanied by only one electric rhythm guitar. But its scope is great; the “twisted angels” come from Silicon Valley, and he sings about the power of the internet to addiction, to sell and to control, but also to delight and spread ideas. “My neurons are moving in a new rhythm / And more and more and more and more and more and more,” he sings, with fascination and dread. PARÉLES

The hypnosis par excellence of the year. Repeat it and separate it from the cruel year that was. CARAMANIC

“Hard Drive,” which features the lyrics that provided the title for Cassandra Jenkins’ 2021 album, “An Overview on Phenomenal Nature,” plays as Laurie Anderson transported to Laurel Canyon. With unhurried words and an occasional melodic chorus, Jenkins seeks to understand and heal people like a security guard and an accountant, who tells him “The mind is just a hard drive.” The music goes smoothly through a few chords as guitars and piano intermingle, a saxophone improvises on the periphery and Jenkins approaches serenity. PARÉLES

On “Zandaq”, Fatima Al Qadiri looks 1,400 years into the past to illuminate a vision of the future. Inspired by poems by Arab women from the Jahiliyyah period to the 13th century, the Kuwaiti producer arranges plucked lute strings, echoes of bird calls and twisted, dizzying voice spots, shaping a sort of retrofuturistic suite. The song taps into the ancient storehouse of melancholy nostalgia of classical Arabic poetry, considering the possibilities that emerge as they slow down and sink into desolation. HERRERA

Rising UK-based conductor Nala Sinephro plays harp and electronics, with an attraction to weightless sounds and meditative rhythms, so comparisons to Alice Coltrane are inevitable. But Sinephro has her own thing: it has to do with her fluid and contained improvisation on the harp, and the playing versatility of the groups she forms. His first album, which arrived in September, contains eight tracks, “Spaces 1-8”. On “Space 5”, she is joined by saxophonist Ahnasé and guitarist Shirley Tetteh; it’s a mosaic of one-track jewels, with the components of a steady beat – but they’re far enough apart and cushioned that it never sinks all the way to body level. Instead of nodding your head, you might react to this music by staying completely still. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

“Moonweed” is only two minutes long, but contains all the reverie and tragedy of a big screen sci-fi drama. (It’s a collaboration between experimental artist Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and film composer Emile Mosseri.) With its tranquil piano and slow gurgling galactic synths arriving like an alien transmission sent from the stars, the track manifests itself in both as terrestrial and astral happiness. HERRERA

Jazz drummer Johnathan Blake is used to performing as a backing musician in star bands; when leading his own groups, he also tends to field a great team. On “Homeward Bound,” his first Blue Note, Blake is joined by alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, vibraphonist Joel Ross, pianist David Virelles and bassist Dezron Douglas – today’s cats, basically. Blake has a swing feel that’s both densely powerful and luxuriously spacious, and he unfolds it here through a set that includes some awesome original tunes. On “Abiyoyo”, the South African folk song, he gently hits the drums, with a mallet in one hand and a stick in the other, while Virelles manages a similar balance, using the full scale of the piano but never too much. player. RUSSONELLO

Vertigo alert: Ran Cap Duoi, an electronic group from Vietnam, aims for a total change of scenery in “Aztec Glue” from their 2021 album, “Ngu Ngay Ngay Ngay Tan The” (“Sleeping Through the Apocalypse”). Everything is cut up and tossed about: vocals, rhythms, timbres, spatial cues. During its first minute, “Aztec Glue” finds a constant, minimalist pulse, even as voyeuristic vocal samples jump all over the stereo field. Then the bottom falls; it wobbles, slams, races, contracts and undergoes sporadic accelerations. It continues to find a new near-balance in a loop, spinning faster, but it doesn’t end without a few more surprises. PARÉLES

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