With January being an especially reflective time of year, I have spent much of the last week looking back over 2021 in music and rifling through my monthly playlists. Doing so, a distinct change in my listening habits quickly became clear.
Having grown up on a diet of indie/alternative guitar bands and their dishevelled skinny frontmen, ordinarily I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself looking back on a predominantly male orientated year of gig-going and listening simply by default. However in 2021, this trend was certainly bucked with women undeniably ruling the roost! Be it from the world of Hip-Hop and RnB to dark and indie pop, my top tracks were, for the large part, female led. The sheer variety and quality of music over the year has been astronomical and it has been an absolute honour to listen to so many female artists flourish personally and sonically.
Considering this discovery, I felt it was only right to start the year off with a roundup of some of the most wonderful, kick-ass women who have been blowing up my playlists of late and who I’m sure will only fly to higher heights over the coming year.
Kicking things off with the glorious ROSIE– a singer/songwriter whose ability to chronicle her inner-world throughout moments of emotional turmoil manages to hit me right in the heart on every listen.
Her 2021 album 20mg of Happiness is a beautifully captured, psychological deep dive into a breakup, a period of intense vulnerability and one that I have revisited many times since it’s release. There is a relatable fragility to ROSIE’s tone and lyrical content that is consistently underpinned by lush harmonies and the combination is simply perfection. I would massively recommend giving her album a listen and really sitting with the unfiltered, poetic content of her lyrics.
Anna B Savage
Anna B Savage’s album A Common Turn threw me through a total loop in 2021. It is one of the most hauntingly thoughtful and considered pieces of musical production that I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. There is something inexplicable about her whole persona. She is savagely* honest and her tracks seem to leap out of the speakers as if they are living, breathing entities. There is simply so much life injected into them that listening to her music evokes an almost visceral reaction.
I would like to highlight particularly her track ‘Baby Grand’ and it’s accompanying video- a collaborative piece created with her filmmaker ex-boyfriend about a moment in their shared history. The narrative storytelling both through his camera lens and her music combined is incredibly moving and to utter the word ‘art’ is simply the only real way to describe it.
*unintended pun oops
After watching Little Simz perform live at All Points East 2021 I became utterly entranced with her. Her music, style, attitude and sheer talent is so wonderfully unique and I couldn’t recommend her 2021 album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert more.
It’s instrumentally bold and expansive, consistently socially relevant with impeccable lyricism. Quite simply, a poetic masterpiece. Just like her persona, her music oozes with class and self-assurance- an artist performing at her very peak.
London based Matilda Mann is an artist who completely exudes emo-girl pop energy. Her EP Sonder is deliciously dark and grungey yet full of uplifting harmonies and quirky instrumentation. Her sound is a wonderful juxtaposition between her dulcet, husky voice and the pseudo-folksy harmonies that underpin it. Indeed, if any of you have been keeping up with the incoming return of the twee (think Jessica Day, Owl necklaces, Bastille era) I think Mann is the perfect musical embodiment of this.
On her EP, Mann explains, “Sonder means; the realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. For me, this was something I realised while in the middle of lockdown. I had all the time in the world to take a step back and see how other people lived their lives, in a way I hadn’t thought of before. I named the EP “Sonder” because each song was either written about someone else, or for someone else. All the tracks were written this year, and I was writing a lot for friends going through a hard time and trying to make a song they could relate to.”
She’s an incredible young talent who boast a certain effortlessness to her sound that is truly exciting and worth keeping an ear out for into 2022!
Last but definitely not least is Olivia Dean whose EP Growth was, for me, one of the most relatable and impactful musical collections during 2021. Vocally, Dean is completely stunning with a tone and timbre that effortlessly and seamlessly floats above any arrangement. However, what sets her more recent music offerings apart is the lyrical prowess and empowering message being delivered.
Notably, for anyone struggling with external validation, her track ‘Be My Own Boyfriend’ became an anthem for myself and indeed many of my friends who I introduced to the EP. It’s soulful harmony and eclectic, forward moving bass line make for a musically fun track but also a wonderfully tongue in cheek reminder of the choice to truly put ourselves first.
As an artist who seems to be ever growing in popularity, I am excited to hear what Dean produces next. From what I have seen so far, I have no doubt she will continue to strike that bliss point and look forward to following the journey.
Ultimately, these are but a few of the wonderful artists I have been listening to over the past year or so. Notable mentions going to the likes of Lianne La Havas, Mahalia, Circe, Phoebe Green, Orla Gartland, Nilufer Yanya and many many more who I can’t quite fit in! Here at AM we can’t wait for the year ahead and look forward to shining a light on many more wonderful musicians and their teams.
Words by Hermione Kellow
Photo © Apocalypse Music