Now Sound: EOY More Favorites from 2021

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ISC Team
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Another strange year in the books. In 2021, we finally begin to crawl out of this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. It hasn’t been a smooth transition by any means, but we’re so glad to be returning to some semblance of normalcy.

This summer, we were able to return to listening to music together in a communal setting. Our dedicated listening residency at Neuehouse was easily the highlight of our year and we’re so thankful that we were able to listen with all of you in a wonderful space provided by Neuehouse and soundsystem by Commonwave hi-fi.

New music was a big focus for us in 2021. While the In Sheep’s Clothing collection has largely focused on classics and rarities, our new “Now Sound” series allowed us to highlight all of the incredible new music currently being put out into the world. Once again, instead of putting together a ranked year-end list (FYI we would never put rankings or a quantifiable number to music), we’re using this opportunity to share even more releases that you might’ve missed the first time around. Consider this more of a “when in doubt, listen to this” collection than a “best of” list…

Thanks to everyone who has been following along and supporting us so far. Come by the shop on Fairfax if you’re in town! More listening parties to come in 2021…

Further Reading: EOY Reissues & Comps https://insheepsclothinghifi.com/reissues-comps-2021/




Merope – Salos

Merope’s ‘salos’ is an atmospheric and other-worldly listening experience: a spellbinding ambient folk album that feels both ancient and contemporary. The seven tracks, recorded together with a chamber choir, are inspired by Lithuanian folk songs and woven together with strings, flutes, lush synths, and warm melodies. The record feels expansive, simultaneously delicate and deep. Sink yourself into this sublime soundscape. – Radha




Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg

London post-punk outfit Dry Cleaning’s dazzling debut delivers on every level – masterful musicianship and boundary-pushing lyricism. Florence Shaw’s stream-of-conscious songwriting takes you through a playful journey of her mind; the lyrics are wry, frank, comedic, and preoccupied by themes of disassociation, escapism, and complex feelings of anger, revenge, and survival. Her characteristic spoken-word delivery is delightfully catchy against the backdrop of fuzzed out surreal instrumentals. A pleasurable listen all the way through – an instant classic. – Radha




Suzanne Kraft – About You

With a deeply impressive discography that ranges from boogie-not-boogie to forward thinking contemporary new age, we’re quite familiar with Diego’s versatility and genre hopping between releases. But he really outdid us this time here. About You is as dreamy as they come, a hazy, gazey, and intimate indie pop record that sweetly explores new love, and the heartbreak that follows when it becomes blighted by unexpected distance. The classic SK magic is all still here, just in a wildly new form. It’s really exciting to hear him step away from the dancefloor and ambient territories we’ve come to know him by and to deliver this phenomenal expression in modern pop and shoegaze. AOTY? – DM




Loveshadow – Loveshadow

Amsterdam’s Music From Memory continues their streak of breaking exciting new artists with this debut LP by Bay Area-based duo Loveshadow. With Anya Prisk on vocals and songwriting duties and Izaak Schlossman on synth, bass, and percussion, the pair offers a striking blend of 80’s-informed new wave. Across eight tracks they explore sultry euphoric pop with sprinkles of DIY synth-funk and ambient downtempo, often recalling greats like Kate Bush, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Elizabeth Fraser, yet simultaneously sounding uniquely their own. A dreamy, lush, poppy dance record that has barely left my turntable since it’s release. – DM




Amaro Freitas – Sankofa

The Brazilian pianist Freitas drew the title of this exquisite jazz trio album from a symbol in the Ghanian adinkra writing system. It depicts a backward-facing bird, and Freitas first noticed it at an African fair in Harlem. “The symbol of the mystical bird, which flies with its head back, teaches us the possibility of going back to our roots, in order to realize our potential to move forward,” Freitas wrote in the release notes. Sankofa is Freitas’ third album in five years, and it’s a stunner. Across eight new pieces that run anywhere from three- to eight-minutes, each occupies its own galaxy in the pianist’s creative universe. Bassist Jean Elton and drummer Hugo Medeiros have been members of the trio since its birth, so it’s no wonder the band is locked in, and the eloquence with which they present these sonic ideas is obvious from the first note. – E. Little




Chuck Johnson – The Cinder Grove

As the relentless pace of our social-media driven lives combined with the need-to-know urgency of pandemic and vaccine information, too many days were spent wrestling with reams of data flowing through our psyches. Bay Area guitarist and composer Johnson’s breathtaking ambient album for Vin du Selecte Qualitite was the salve, a floating quartet of pieces that average eight minutes apiece and swirl with energy. A master of dynamics, Johnson composes works that manage to simultaneously explore stasis while injecting it kinetic energy. – E. Little




Nala Sinephro – Space 1​.​8

London based composer, producer and musician Nala Sinephro, first full length record Space 1.8 is a meditative masterpiece. From the first moments of the first track Space 1, you’ll find yourself a captive listener and drawn into the new words weaved together by Sinephro. Jazz sensibilities are at the core of the tracks, and the honey-toned melodies make this album perfect for home listening. – Tana




Kit Sebastian – Melodi 

You can hear the beautifully eclectic musical palette of duo, Kit Martin and Merve Erdemtgat in their latest release Melodi. Both members are record collectors, and their taste for lesser known gems is part of what makes this 10-track release so much of an adventure. Erdem, who’s originally from Turkey, sings mostly in Turkish and the sweetness of her voice is the perfect counterpoint to Martin’s lush rhythms. This record is a must for lovers of Anatolian psych rock, tropicalia, and the romantic side of library music. – Tana




5AM – Pre Zz

We’ve been longtime fans of Japanese underground heroes Powder and 5ive (one half of Cos/Mes), so when news arrived of a full LP of “band” material, the project quickly became one of our most anticipated releases of the year. Produced in collaboration with friend Andry, Pre Zz “captures the moment of changes — Pre something — as like before a sleep after a long stay up.” The music sounds, without exaggeration, like nothing else — with a natural warmth and charm that few electronic albums achieve. Each element, from Andry’s loose, unconventional vocals to the waves of white noise and synth pads, feels lovingly handcrafted and honest. “You never know if a song is bad or good. It’s strictly the mood” reflects Andry on late night groover “Today.” Well, from your friends at In Sheep’s Clothing, these ones are all good! – Phil




Pavel Milyakov & Yana Pavlova – Blue

Moscow-based artist Pavel Milyakov is best-known for his techno trickster alias Buttechno, but looking through his full discography it’s clear that the electronic artist is capable of much more than punishing rave techno. This recent collaboration with Kyiv-based singer Yana Pavlova presents yet another side of Milyakov diving into experimental indie rock zones comparable to HTRK or Blackest Ever Black. Fuzzy bass, minimal guitar loops, saxophone from Alex Zhang Hungtai, and dark, ambient textures are recorded in purposefully DIY fashion with mic noises, clicks and other sonic imperfections altogether painting a very real scene of “troubled summer days (and nights).” – Phil




You’ll Never Get to Heaven – Wave Your Moonlight Hat for the Snowfall Train

Sneaking in, quite literally, at the end of the year via esteemed hybrid reissue/new music label and distributor Seancé Centre is the 3rd full length in a decade of work from Canadian duo You’ll Never Get To Heaven. Composed of Alice Hansen & Chuck Blazevic, the two musicians reunite on “Wave Your Moonlight Hat for the Snowfall Train” after a 4-year hiatus that saw Blazevic dive deep in crafting a new sound for the duo with the output from his solo project Slow Attack Ensemble. Well-practiced on the fretless bass and delay systems that make up those beloved Slow Attack records, Blazevic’s return to YNGTH – to say nothing of Hansen’s lullaby-reminiscent vocals and unique synth work – make this record their most honed in album to date. – Jonny




Frog of Earth – Frog of Earth

Released at the beginning of the year but still fresh to our ears as a favorite is the lowkey, self-titled debut LP from Ireland based graphic designer, and producer Frog of Earth, aka Mel Keane. Released on Ireland-based label wherethetimegoes, Frog of Earth is Keane’s first attempt at a solo endeavor. A strong debut, Frog of Earth offers organic ambient that exists in its own sensory planet, similar to the early architects Eno and Hassell and modern contemporaries such as Montreal electronic producer Ramzi. Throughout the album’s nine tracks, Keane brings his Frog of Earth to life with evocations in experimental ambient, deconstructed dub, field recordings, and modern classical. – Jonny




Dean Blunt – Black Metal 2 

When the first Black Metal was released in 2014, it kept hold of my curiosity exactly because I had so much trouble describing it to others. What I was able to communicate, however, was that I loved it. His albums offer journeys that feel like they have little reason but so much rhythm and rhyme – minimalist rock/soul odysseys that tow a seamless line of interest all the way through. I actually wasn’t aware that Black Metal 2 was in the works; getting constant notifications on my phone has become a maddening part of the way society operates. Still, when I was notified about this release, I quickly forgot about my annoying devices. With high hopes going in, I have been loving Black Metal 2 with each listen, and Blunt remains an artist that I will continue to follow wherever he may travel. He feels free, and allows that to fuel his prolific creative muse. – Bryan




Claire Rousay – A Softer Focus 

Claire Rousay’s output this year has been impressive. Everything she’s released in 2021 has been striking, but A Softer Focus stands out. In fact, I became a bit obsessed with this album, even purchasing one of the test pressings (which I don’t usually do) directly off of her Bandcamp. (I appreciate the way she has approached her commerce and her online community.) A Softer Focus seamlessly flows from one track to another; as the second track, “discrete (the market),” starts, it feels like an extension of the first. As I listened more deeply, I started to realize that A Softer Focus has much more vibe than perceived on first listen – and that the album is more visual than 90% of the films I watched in 2021. Though can’t quite recall how I discovered Rousay’’s music – probably one of my late-night Bandcamp pressure hunts – I’m glad I did. – Bryan

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