Kero Kero Bonito discuss their favorite albums of 2021
Kero Kero Bonito have laid fairly low throughout the pandemic, releasing the "It's Bugsnax!" single in 2020 (from the Bugsnax video game), and this year releasing their second Civilization EP, which was combined with the first EP from 2019 as one vinyl album. Civilization finds them returning to synthpopland after successful experiments with shoegaze and indie rock. They just seem to get better, with a broader palette, with every new release. They did a little touring this fall, too, including playing the NYC and L.A. editions of the "Night of Fire" parties with Arca, Eartheater, Machine Girl, and more. You can listen to Civilization below.
As for what KKB were listed to this year, they've sent us a list of "ten albums from 2021 we love." They write: "We haven't tried to pick the objective best or rank them, because that isn't how music works, but ten that we think you should hear if you haven't, in no order. On that note, there are plenty more we could've written about, so shout out to Spirit of the Beehive, Injury Reserve, JPEGMafia, Fake Laugh & Tarquin, Rirugiliyangugili, Porter Robinson, Foodman, Kučka, Erika de Casier, Wave Racer, Spellling and many more for making magic pop music this year." KKB's Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled provided commentary for all 10 and you can read that, and listen to their picks, below.
KERO KERO BONITO - TEN ALBUMS FROM 2021 WE LOVE
Mr Twin Sister - Al Mundo Azul
Mr Twin Sister are in the game for the right reasons; they first released music in 2008, and this is my favourite thing they've ever done. On Al Mundo Azul, the sleek club deconstructions of producers like Morgan Geist and Jessy Lanza, MTS' indie band sensibility, and a casual internationalism (evidenced by its non-European scales and Spanish lyrics) sit together as if they always have. The result is sophisticated and formally precise but passionate and compulsive, and if you like any of the ingredients I've listed you're likely to get a lot from this record. - Gus
DJ Marcelle - Explain The Food, Bitte
Pure dancefloor tracks. One of the best to ever do it and a source of never-ending inspiration. - Jamie
Ceephax - Box Steady
Ceephax is an electronic music legend whose hyper-specific, often-imitated-but-never-bettered universe rewards investigation. His latest album, Box Steady, makes an ideal introduction as perhaps the most accessible window into his world of rave abandon, '80s home computer culture, hazy synth soundtracks and the odd medieval moment. Box Steady might also be Ceephax's phattest and most club-friendly album, its well-mixed extended tracks inviting club play and home immersion. My favourite moment of all is "Eurozone" which gently communicates Ceephax's vital humour while boasting a melody worthy of Larry Heard or Kraftwerk. - Gus
Dean Blunt - Black Metal 2
This is my driving album at the moment - it's beautifully produced and for me quite an emotional listen. Take note of the subtle bass lines and the way Dean and Joanne Robertson weave in and out of each other throughout. Shout out Kwake Bass. - Jamie
CFCF - Memoryland
Memoryland is a vaguely hauntological survey of 1997-2001 or thereabouts, an era half-remembered by our generation for PlayStation games aimed at twenty-something clubbers and stylised space age MTV idents. It evokes the era almost painfully, using modern tools to fold representative electronica styles (French touch, ambient drum 'n bass, lounge revivalism), alternative rock and more abstract soundscapes into a shiny tapestry more vivid than any pastiche. It's not just for '90s babies, but as a 29 year old who remembers Concorde flying overhead and Habitat inflatable chairs, Memoryland hits particularly hard. - Gus
Joy Orbison - still slipping vol. 1
Alive, precise, futuristic and a depth that brings you back again and again. Amazing artwork by 10 Foot too. - Jamie
Koreless - Agor
Koreless bided his time to craft his first album and it was well worth it. Agor develops the rhythmic, drumless formalism he's explored on singles, like the amazing "TT/Love" two-tracker, drawing lines between minimalist repetition, electronic dance music tropes and advanced in/human synthesis without giving too much away. Koreless bravely magnifies the structural qualities of music we take for granted in a way that reminds me of producers like Mark Fell, distilling their potency to explosive effect and locating the fold between pop and other musics, helping the rest of us see the path forward. - Gus
Klein - Harmattan
Every release by Klein is brimming with personality and this is no different. It’s zero compromise music which always inspires and motivates me. It also features Charlotte Church ! - Jamie
Perfect Young Lady - PYL DEMO AND ...
Perfect Young Lady is wilfully obscurant, though I'm pretty sure she's a Japanese woman who makes Casio pop songs and performs them karaoke-style with light choreography, accompanied by co-frontperson PSG ("Perfect Support Girl") and inspiringly low-key backing singers. Kitsch hypnagogic electro-pop is nothing new but Perfect Young Lady's vision is unbelievably well-formed; the vocal harmony at the end of the chorus in "ノン・カフェイン" ("No Caffeine") and wistful chords introducing "COLLECTION" demonstrate some of my favourite pop composition for ages, which makes destroying them with dreadful recording even more hilariously daring. That said, the arrangements are as colourful as the compositions, and PYL keeps it fresh by using relatively unheard keyboard sounds - no Casio SA-1 here. While I'm sure I'm losing some context in translation, I'm still amazed that the romantic consumer culture joke/tragedy of ostentatious bedroom pop resonates across continents, from Bromley to Tokyo. - Gus
Magdalena Bay - Mercurial World
This has received praise aplenty but I still want to talk about it. Mercurial World is Magdalena Bay's well-deserved breakthrough record, the move that took them from bafflingly specific cult appeal to international touring and high scores from both Anthony Fantano and Pitchfork. Magdalena Bay's palette is close to (and as polished as) corporate pop, but the difference is their sincere determination to make every song work for the listener, employing refreshing jazzy chord sequences and effortlessly kinetic rhythm tracks to powerfully straightforward effect. This is the best kind of pop music - that which doesn't just state what pop already is, but what pop could be. - Gus