Best albums of 2021 so far

Top 20 Albums of 2021 so far

15. Abdon Mech – From a Bamboo Room

Nagaland singer-songwriter Abdon Mech broke into the scene in 2020 with the single ‘Again’. The single showcases everything that the musician has to offer—a great vocal range and great command over the acoustic guitar.

Abdon’s debut EP From a Bamboo Room does not feature his debut track. It has plenty of others that showcase his captivating songwriting skills just as well.

Shreya Bose describes it best, “Abdon takes the most relatable moments of angst and self-doubt; embellishes them with the gentlest glitter of guitar and turns them into introspective gold. His voice is a pleasurable baritone, but he is capable of turning on the tenor.”

14. Leo Boys – Homecoming

This is an extensive album—an ambitious and successful effort at uniting the community of independent artists. A celebration of the scene and the Leo Boys’s position in it, Homecoming goes out of its way to showcase hip-hop talent in the northeast. The album features some very exciting collaborations like Meba Ofilia and D’Bok (Khasi Bloodz) on the opening track ‘4 Aces’ and Shane Kharbuki on ‘Vito’, and more throughout the rest of the record.

Leo Boys’ sophomore album sees them stronger, perhaps because this time it is a group effort. From the 9-minute cypher in the second-half the album featuring five more rappers to the bonus track titled ‘Shoutout’ where they actually rap their love for all the contributors of the album, Homecoming feels very intimate and personal, as if you are now a part of their community and are in on their dynamics and shared struggles and achievements, just by listening to the album. By the time it ends, the Shillong rappers leave you feeling grateful for where Indian hip-hop has arrived and hopeful for where it is headed.

13. Tejas – Outlast

Outlast is Tejas’ third major release, or as he puts it – the last installation of his trilogy. On the first few listens, all his three releases, the debut EP Small Victories, his first full-length album Make it Happen and Outlast do not seem to be attached to each other in a way that they would be part of a bigger whole, apart from the fact that they are all made by Tejas and his all-time collaborators Adil Kurwa and Jehangir Jehangir. But hear again, and you can see the journey of a man reeling through his twenties and growing up to enter his thirties with confidence and grace.

Musically, with each release, Tejas proves himself again and again, first as a songwriter and now as a producer as well. All through the album, he, along with his collaborators, takes some risks and makes some unexpected choices, but these work very well all stitched together. Tejas talked about how all three of them made the album sitting in front of a computer, together in the same room. Listening to the final product now gives the sense of three friends just trusting each others’ gut and flowing freely through the roads of delightful experimentation, making something that is a very pleasant listen through and through.

12. Sanoli Chowdhury – A Distant Meadow

Listening to Sanoli Chowdhury’s A Distant Meadow is an experience of its own. Sanoli carefully plots a downtempo atmospheric journey on each track before resolving it with her smooth electronic guitar riffs and an equally solemn voice.

The Bengaluru musician’s father’s collection of rock albums influenced her to pick up the guitar. Perhaps a particular Joy Division track from her father’s collection influenced Sanoli so much that she decided to cover it and release it as a part of this EP. Her haunting and brilliantly chilling recreation of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is not even the high-point of this EP—that’s how good her original tracks are.

Listen to A Distant Meadow for a heady, meditative journey guided by Sanoli’s production chops, earnest guitar riffs and chirping of birds in the woods.

11. Aman Jagwani – This Place

Mumbai-based and Berklee-bred Aman Jagwani hit the ground running in 2019 when he released his debut full-length studio album, Essentially Entangled. It was a project that gave us a glimpse into the artist’s blossoming world of dynamic sonic landscapes. In 2021, the composer released his second album, This Place, to be received by eager ears.

This Place took his production abilities to new heights. Jagwani, who has a penchant for creating dreamy tracks that have the ability to envelop listeners, carefully walks the line between technical modern jazz and “accessible” rhythm, ultimately serving up the perfect background score to any time of any day. This Place also features a slew of collaborations with equally capable musicians like Anubha Kaul, Ron Cha, Jason Palmer and Milena Casado.

Experimenting with his new-found love for Cuban grooves on this one, Jagwani has revealed that the album’s title is a spin on the word “displace”. He hopes that the album will accompany listeners in their journey to their “ideal place”. With its textural tones and rich production, This Place is a valuable friend to have in these times.