The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Quietus Charts

Music Of The Month: The Best Albums And Tracks Of April 2021
Patrick Clarke , April 30th, 2021 07:10

Here are the ten best albums and the eight best singles of April 2021, as selected by tQ's office staff

I've recently found myself listening back to The Soft Pink Truth's Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase. A lot. I only realised recently that tomorrow will mark a year to the day since it was released. At that time, peak first wave, it was the only music that made sense, so overwhelmingly beautiful and intense as to lift me up and away from the banality and terror of that time.

As I get back into that record, it feels more powerful still having been such a coping mechanism for me last year. The cover of my LP seems to have a certain shimmer I never noticed before. I can now feel it becoming the type of record I'll look back on as definitive, the type of record with which I can categorise my own life.

The other album I've been listening to a lot recently is Ultrapop by The Armed, its blinding intensity forming the soundtrack to a very different time, full of newfound hope and recurrent anxieties. It might be my favourite album of the year so far, but I can only guess as to whether it'll achieve the kind of personal immortality that I've recently granted that Soft Pink Truth album.

Who knows, maybe one of the pieces of music we've compiled for you below might one day be that kind of record for you? At the very least, we hope you enjoy at least something you come across below as much as we have over the past month. If you find anything you love, or have done so via tQ in the past, please do consider becoming a paid subscriber. Perks include exclusive music, essays, podcasts, and an expanded, hours long playlist of the best music we've covered on the site this past month. You can sign up here. Otherwise, keep reading for the best music of April 2021, as selected by tQ's office staff.
Patrick Clarke


The Armed - Ultrapop
(Sargent House)

The online cult of personality that The Armed have built around their music is a great deal of fun. Fans buy billboards in Times Square and commission murals in their honour, postulate conspiracies and theories in Facebook and Discord groups as they solve the puzzles the band have been laying for them across their career, and generally have a wholesome time. It's a mark of The Armed's deftness and intelligence that their fandom can remain both obsessive and inclusive at the same time, never bordering on the weaponised toxicity that has scarred 'Stan' culture elsewhere online. What elevates The Armed from the enjoyable to the essential, however, is the extraordinary strength of their art. The driving force behind all their fans energy is music that feels genuinely vital. Ultrapop as the band's Adam Vallely (almost certainly a pseudonym) explained to me last month, is an attempt to take the intensity of the hardcore music the band grew up on, and by injecting it with modern pop's forward-facing maximalism, up its energy even further still, emerging with a brand new genre from which the album takes its name. In the process, they’re gleefully undercutting the hypermasculine nonsense that can sometimes dog heavier music. Sneer at their ambition if you will, but they've succeeded in that mission. Ultrapop is as bold, dynamic and addictive an album as you'll hear all year.
Patrick Clarke

Lisel + Booker Stardrum - Mycelial Echo
(Luminelle Recordings)

Mycelial Echo, the long-distance collaboration between Lisel and Booker Stardrum, is above all a feat of production. Though both have carved out their own corners in experimental music — Lisel (the solo project name of Eliza Bagg) as a classically trained avant garde singer-producer and Stardrum as an electronic musician and producer — their pairing has pushed each individual’s work beyond predictable progressions, beats, or vocal hooks.
Amanda Farah, read the full review here

Dry Cleaning - New Long Leg

With New Long Leg, I think Dry Cleaning have put away childish things, and as for the production, the imagery, the craft on display: they’re all the better for it. To start, there’s certainly more time to fill here. Shaw’s formerly rapid delivery now allows for instrumental breaks, encouraging Maynard and Buxton to build loftier soundscapes. A two-minute pause in ‘Every Day Carry’ envelops the listener in the band’s own biosphere, completed by Shaw’s references to the flora, fauna, fatbergs, and firearms that have all been accumulating in her lyrical repertoire since the heady-days of 2019.
Nancy Collinge, read the full review here

Claire Rousay - A Softer Focus
(American Dreams Records)

A snowdrift of long, languorous organ notes. Whistling tones, like swallows arcing through the sky. A rustle of foley. There’s crackling, crinkling – it’s hard to tell exactly what is going on, but there’s a sense of activity, things happening – real things, somewhere in a real place. A flicker of light. Then the whole edifice collapses suddenly, like the air has been sucked out. There’s a breath, the music takes a beat. Then into the clearing – and I mean that literally: picture a forest clearing, or like clearing a desk, just sweep all that clutter out the way – a voice rises up. “I’m trying not to miss you.” It’s Rousay’s ‘own’ voice – but rendered alien, synthesised into virtual life with the familiar stepped trill of autotune software spinning gothic melismas from that third syllable: “not”. A cyborg, rococo refusal.
Robert Barry, read the full review here

Guided By Voices - Earth Man Blues
(Guided By Voices Inc.)

Keeping up with Guided By Voices releases requires the kind of commitment and stamina embodied by frontman Robert Pollard during their typically three-hour long live sets. For the fans, the sometimes unevenness of their output is worth persisting with for both the obvious joy that Pollard takes in his creativity, and the chances that the latest release might mine a seam of pure gold. Such is the case with their 33rd album (and third pandemic release), Earth Man Blues. Purportedly, but in fact rather loosely, a rock opera tracing the development of a young ‘Harold Admore Harold’, this is their best album in decades. Packed to the hilt with gorgeous melodic flourishes and irresistible hooks, there isn’t a subpar moment amongst its 15 tracks. ‘Trust Them Now’ hits hard like an American power-pop Buzzcocks. ‘Sunshine Girl Hello’ serves up a brilliant vocal performance from Pollard, bookended either side by snippets of what sounds like some lost, great 60s pop tune. Let these tunes into your head and your heart and you’ll be singing them for weeks.
Sean Kitching

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - G_D'S PEE AT STATE'S END!

Split into four tracks – two twenty-minute passages of dense instrumentation with equally dense titles (the record opens with ‘A Military Alphabet (five eyes all blind) (4521.0kHz 6730.0kHz 4109.09kHz) / Job’s Lament / First of the Last Glaciers / where we break how we shine (ROCKETS FOR MARY)’), and two shorter cuts – G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! is ironically the group’s least dystopian record to date. Church bells chime under layers of driving guitars and militaristic drums, and amongst the AM radio static that fills the background, there’s birdsong and, whisper it, a sense of hope. As the album’s opening track comes to an end, it’s punctuated by distant explosions; they could be gunshots, but also, they could be fireworks.
Mike Vinti, read the full review here

Les Filles de Illighadad – At Pioneer Works
(Sahel Sounds)

It’s been four years since the last full album by the excellent trio of Fatou Seidi Ghali, vocalist Alamnou Akrouni and Amaria Hamadalher, and so this live album is very welcome, more so since the rolling guitar rounds of Tuareg desert blues feel at their finest with an audience, and don’t much suit being shoehorned into studios. Recorded in New York in 2019, this set starts with the pace-setting ‘Surbajo’, picks up through ‘Eghass Malan’ to the album’s centrepiece ‘Telilit’ that crackles with constrained energies. There is much to enjoy in the control in the raptures of Les Filles de Illighadad – they are never explosive, but loose vocal flourishes or low-end percussion upon the form.
Jennifer Lucy Allan, read the full review here

Årabrot - Norwegian Gothic

Norwegian Gothic, the band’s ninth album is as dynamic and unpredictable as ever, stuffed with squalling sex and death anthems that could career off the rails at any moment. Like every Årabrot album, Nernes has roped in a revolving cast of musicians, this time including Lars Horntveth (Jaga Jazzist), cellist Jo Quail, Tomas Järmyr (Motorpsycho), Anders Møller (Turbonegro, Ulver) and Massimo Pupillo (Zu), but Park’s influence slices through the noise. Squeezed in amongst the nods to punk, black and industrial metal, anthemic choruses push Årabrot’s sound into new dimensions on ‘Kinks Of The Heart’ and ‘The Lie’, in the snakelike grooves and synths of ‘The Rule Of Silence’. It’s like sherbet for Swans fans.
Dannii Leavers, read an interview with Årabrot's Karin Park here


Tucker has innovated a novel way of processing signal on XMIT, cutting and splicing segments of speech into time-stretched non-sequiturs, a disquieting technique used to effect, for example, on Simon Fisher Turner’s outing, entitled ‘OCT’. ‘ABII’ with Astrud Steehouder elasticises the album’s most classical vocal elements, whilst orphan electrics are set to gurgle and bray in the background. Nik Void’s contribution, ‘ILN’, is the record’s most straight-ahead knees-up, an analogue, heavyweight raga built for the world’s abandoned dancefloors. At its best, XMIT nods adroitly to Radiohead’s woofer endangering ‘Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors’, and adeptly advances the wild forward/backward vocal simultaneity of ‘Everything in its Right Place’.
Ryan Diduck, read the full review here

Nick Hudson – Font of Human Fractures

There isn't really anyone making music like Nick Hudson at the moment – grand, romantic and overwrought (in a good way). Last year we praised his work as part of Brighton-based band The Academy Of Sun, The Quiet Earth for its "richness and lavishness", and this follow-up, Font of Human Fractures, is no less full for being a DIY, self-released, solo affair. That this is so defiantly unfashionable and of the now is its greatest strength, somehow combining the vocal dexterity of Brett Anderson with the sonic invention of later-period Coil and the dramatic oddness of Marc Almond – an unholy trinity that pretty much ticks all of my boxes and desire for the kind of high-tension sonic flouncing (in a good way) that feels so sadly absent in these times. This is best heard in the superb Surkhov's Dream, a gothic duet between a disembodied spoken word vocal and sung elements that dance like the ghost of a chorister, all backed by film noir strings and a ponderous (in a good way) gothic pacing. And, let's face it, few would have the panache to write a song about Italian film director Pier Paolo Pasolini from the perspective of the Alfa Romeo implicated in his murder. - Luke Turner


Emma-Jean Thackray - 'Say Something'

The first single from Emma-Jean Thackray's forthcoming debut LP Yellow is a scorcher, a whip-smart piece of beautiful neo-jazz with a smattering of Brainfeeder chaos.
Patrick Clarke

Iris – 'To Be Mine (is to lose your mind)'

A gleaming, shimmering rainbow bolt of crystalline hyper-pop from Norwegian singer Iris that manages to step seamlessly into the space opened up by Danny Harle and Carly Rae Jepsen's collaboration of five years back while simultaneously conjuring up the best unmade Stranger Things plot twist ever.
Robert Barry

Sinead O'Brien - 'Kid Stuff'

As a writer, Sinead O'Brien's been among the best of her generation ever since she emerged a couple of years ago, but on new single 'Kid Stuff' she proves she's got the musical chops to match. 'Kid Stuff' is a bracing, bona-fide masterpiece of an accessible alternative pop single that refuses to compromise her artfulness and ambition.
Patrick Clarke

Girl In Red - 'You Stupid Bitch'

Snotty-nosed sapphic pop punk from Norway with a Stranger Things-sized chorus and Cure-esque verses.
John Doran

Doja Cat - Kiss Me More (Official Video) ft. SZA

Doja Cat's gradual transformation from lo-fi hip hop novelty act to laidback slinky disco princess in the mold of Anita Ward or Diana Ross is now complete. In its own way, 'Kiss Me More' is as simple – and as addictive – as the viral hit 'Mooo!' which made her name but somehow playing it straight has only made the experience of listening to Doja Cat's song all the more strange and oneiric.
Robert Barry

Zoee - 'Microwave'

There's something undeniably addictive about newcomer Zoee's brand of woozy lo-fi pop. 'Microwave', from her forthcoming debut record, comes doused in hazy DIY art school aesthetics and is beguilingly wonky.
Patrick Clarke

Scalping - 'Monolithium'

The Road To Hell is paved with three decades' worth of attempts to combine heavy metal/noise rock and techno/acid house, which is why Bristol's Scalping should be congratulated, not just for doing so without soiling the bed but for actually producing music that's thrilling to listen to.
John Doran

Mabe Fratti ft. Claire Rousay - 'Hacia El Vacio'

This cut from Guatemalan-born, Mexico-based experimental cellist Mabe Fratti is exquisite, little inflections of edgy synth adding a simmering unease to Fratti's sublimely dark playing.
Patrick Clarke