Albums Of The Year: Wolf Alice, ENNY, Jeff Rosenstock, Ben Böhmer, Zuzu and Maisie Peters

We're back with another batch of albums from The Mic's Albums Of The Year list, featuring our thoughts on 2021 releases from Wolf Alice, ENNY, Jeff Rosenstock, Ben Böhmer, Zuzu and Maisie Peters. Keep an eye out for the full list at the end of the week, but for now, enjoy the sneak peak!


Blue Weekend - Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice’s third album Blue Weekend stunned and captured me, undoubtedly becoming my favourite album of the year immediately upon its release in June 2021. The genre-shifting nature of the album takes listeners through a musical study of imperfect friendships and relationships which, as a young adult, I could relate to. Wolf Alice have truly shown a new certainty and conviction in their artistry, track by track- I found Blue Weekend volatile and exciting. With 90s rock influenced Smile, followed by melodic Safe From Heartbreak (If You Never Fall In Love), synth-dream How Can I Make It OK?, to punk track Play The Greatest Hits displays how Wolf Alice have accomplished a portrayal of vulnerability and emotional story-telling through a series of unique song styles. Finally, lead singer Ellie Rowsell’s sharp and melodic vocals on tracks such as ballads The Last Man On Earth, Feeling Myself and Lipstick On The Glass are beautiful and haunting, which makes this my standout album of the year. The exhibition of confidence, instrumental extravagance and lyrically challenged tracks, makes Blue Weekend as a multi-faceted masterpiece that I could not help but fall in love with. Kira O'Boyle


Under Twenty-Five - ENNY

I treasure ENNY’s Under Twenty-Five for a multitude of reasons. Not only is it a touching album, but she inspires artists and fans alike. South East Londoner, rapper, and singer, ENNY produces soulful and head-bopping tunes, and is on the rise in the UK scene. This album discusses Black British identity and the phase of growing out of adolescence - themes which I resonate with and ENNY musically encapsulates. The viral Peng Black Girls uplifts and 'gasses up' Black Women, and eloquently explains the discourse of the stigmatisation and suffering of Black Women in society. Her South London dialect compliments this ode. It imprints a ‘homey’ and mutual effect. The lyric “We gon’ be alright ok” emphasises this discourse, and that Black Women will still outshine discrimination. Every song on the album has a personal significance to ENNY. It is as if she is telling us thoughts from her diary; wanting to escape from pressure and escape London- a city, she argues, fuelled with gentrification and poverty. These thoughts are intertwined with elements of dance music, gospel, RnB, and alternative hip-hop. My favourite track on the album, Under 25, is a song that has touched me. It talks about reaching a new and confusing chapter in one’s life and struggling through adversity. Being tied down by parents, working, being at university, wanting to chase our dreams. ENNY reassures listeners that everything will be fine no matter what path is chosen. The last song of the album, Revision, may have been an early recording and features ENNY freestyling amongst a supportive congregation; demonstrating how her musical career is only just beginning. ENNY’s soundtrack of adolescence is thrilling. It is comforting yet upbeat, and something I will genuinely cherish. Fidji Gomis Mendy


Ska Dream - Jeff Rosenstock

There’s really only one word that captures Ska Dream - exuberant. Although it’s a covers album with somewhat of a tongue-in-cheek concept (and punny song names to boot), the album lands far from being a joke but still strongly in the category of good fun. Rosenstock makes a real attempt at ska- punk here, deliberately trying to avoid any suggestion of “NO DREAM with trumpets”. The retooled instrumentals, with a largely similar-sounding set of vocals, turns the original up-tempo punk tracks into chilled-out, summery songs that transform head-nodding into head-banging in the final chorus rendition. The background adlibs and the multi-layered vocals in the chorus, as well as the album's tendency to bring in rock instrumentals under ska tones established in the verses, creates a brilliant sense of community. The final product is an album that takes the best tendencies of Rosenstock's approach to punk and reapplies them to an oft-overlooked subgenre with gusto. It's almost enough to make me forgive the rap section on SkrAm! - almost. Hal Hewlett



Begin Again - Ben Böhmer

Ben Böhmer has soared to the upper echelons of deep electronica since the release of debut album Breathing in 2019. A poster boy for Anjunadeep events worldwide, Ben has crafted one of the scene's most recognisable and revered sounds. The release of sophomore album Begin Again has only raised the bar. From the outset, Begin Again radiates euphoric melodies and beautiful soundscapes, curated by a producer at the top of his game. Despite being born in the midst of the pandemic and being torn from his fiancé, the album is far from cliché. In fact, rarely has a deep electronica album felt so cohesive, so introspective and so personal. An immersive experience for the listener, tune into any one of the eleven masterpieces to find yourself whisked away to another world. Böhmer lays his emotions bare throughout, yet leaves the melodies to do the talking. From the chilled Revelation, elevated by an outstanding feature from PBSR to the energetic Escalate, Begin Again is not only an album of range, but a powerful, enriching and uplifting piece from start to finish. Ben set out to create a project that "tugs on the heartstrings of listeners". He has gone above and beyond. Tristan Phipps


Queensway Tunnel - Zuzu

The defining feature of Queensway Tunnel is the emphasis on Zuzu's Scouse dialect. Not only that, but her immense pride to be Scouse. From naming the album after the tunnel between Birkenhead and Liverpool, to refusing to mask her strong accent whilst singing, Zuzu is the only artist who could have made Queensway Tunnel. For me, that’s what marks her out as a standout artist. It is an album that captures themes of growth, acceptance, closure and embracing your imperfections and emotions, even if these feelings are sometimes irrational. Queensway Tunnel is one of the most honest albums I have ever heard, and on top of that, it might also be one of the best debut albums I've ever reviewed. Gemma Cockrell


You Signed Up For This - Maisie Peters

On her debut album, Maisie Peters perfectly sums up what it means to be traversing young adulthood in the 2020s. You Signed Up For This feels like it was handmade for university students, as the singer-songwriter pours her heart out over distinctly young-adult based issues, from young love and heartbreak on tracks such as John Hughes Movie and Outdoor Pool, to jealous exes on I’m Trying (Not Friends) and Psycho. All the while, this lyricism is supported by irresistibly catchy instrumentation, as well as the slick pop production one would expect from an album released on Ed Sheeran’s record label Gingerbread Man Records. Perhaps the best example of these qualities exist within the album’s title track. As the opening song on the record, it acts as a manifesto for what to expect throughout the album’s runtime. As the opening lyric of the song suggests, this is an album for being “20 and probably upset right now”, and Peters can rest assured knowing that she has successfully conveyed that set of emotions, at least in the opinion of this 18 year old. Ali Glen

 

Edited by: Gemma Cockrell and Joe Hughes


Featured image courtesy of Wolf Alice via Facebook.