The Wrap Up: October 2021

Updated: Nov 2

Major releases from Coldplay, Lana Del Rey and Sam Fender covered in a busy October.


As we somehow enter the final quarter of 2021 already, there's no sign of a quiet end to the year in sight with massively anticipated albums from big hitters dropping this past October.


Coldplay and Lana Del Rey were two of the names that stood out (for very different reasons as you'll read below), while there were big indie rock releases from Sam Fender and Parquet Courts. Add to this some under the radar gems from Grouper, Explosions In The Sky and illuminati hotties, and you've got yourself a pretty sweet month.


We'll be taking a look at all of the aforementioned below, as well as naming the best tracks of the month in the E/O October Mix before casting our eyes towards what November has to offer.


As always, there's no shortage of music to dissect, so let's get to it.


October Album Reviews





Music Of The Spheres - Coldplay


Oh boy.


It looks like someone got a little carried away here.


The days of passable Bends-era Radiohead pastiche that made Coldplay a household name throughout the noughties are now a distant memory, which beggars the question as to what exactly remains. Who or what are Coldplay in 2021? You're likely to be a lot more confused after listening to Music Of The Spheres.


It may seem somewhat cruel to poke fun at Coldplay in this day and age when you consider the endless tidal wave of mockery this seemingly decent bunch of lads have been pelted with since as far back as the late nineties, but honestly Chris Martin & co. have done themselves no favors here - when the bastardized space opera that is Music Of The Spheres presents a series of emoji labelled soundbites and whatever the hell 'Biutyful' is in total earnest, it's all but impossible to take this thing seriously.


Get past the emoji tagged fluff (we get a planet, stars and inevitably a loveheart among other silly bits and pieces) and outright cringe (you've really got to hear this to believe it) and there's something resembling a concept album here. Martin infuses the band's twee synthpop with galactic overtones and ties it all up in a bow with the sort of vague and blandly universal themes that he's been safely getting by on forever - "We're all human", "You are my universe" - you get the gist by now.


While there's nothing inherently harmful in tracks like 'Higher Power', 'Humankind' and even Justin Vernon impersonation '❤️', the only people likely to enjoy these 41 minutes in any meaningful way are those who were already converted to the mildly pleasant banality of Martin's church many moons ago.


2.5 / F


Best Tracks: N/A


Listen on Spotify




Blue Banisters - Lana Del Rey


Originally slated to arrive in July, Lana Del Rey's second album of 2021 arrives this October just seven months after the release of gothic fairytale Chemtrails Over The Country Club.


While Blue Banisters was always going to be hard pressed to best LDR's first record of the year, the eighth studio album from the 36 year old New Yorker continues her rich vein of form with a relatively brighter and bluesier collection that contrasts nicely with its 2021 counterpart.


This time around, Del Rey enlists a wide variety of producers and musicians (breaking her previous two album partnership with Jack Antonoff) to dream up a symphonic jazz canvas for her to paint her classic Americana imagery and melancholic self portraits atop.


Banisters once again presents Lana at her balladeering best, with the grandiosity of 'Blue Banisters', 'Arcadia' and 'Nectar of the Gods' showing the iconic songwriter still reveling in her post Rockwell high, but this hour long 15 track run doesn't quite sustain its momentum to the level of its two predecessors despite the highlights scattered throughout.


In the end, Blue Banisters will go down as the inferior of the 2021 duo, but this fact in itself only speaks to the level that Del Rey is operating at right now.


7.5 / B


Best Tracks: 'Blue Bannisters'/'Arcadia'/'Nectar Of The Gods'


Listen on Spotify




Sympathy For Life - Parquet Courts


Parquet Courts seventh album fares best when the band stick to their classic garage rock jams over bemusing detours into flat ambient electro territory throughout Sympathy For Life.


Multiple lo-fi indie bangers dropped in recent months showcased prime PC with a hint towards a more accessible radio rock sound, so while tracks such as 'Walking At A Downtown Pace' and 'Homo Sapien' sound just as infectious and melodic on the final product, it's a shame to hear the drum machine backed bleeps and bloops of 'Marathon of Anger', 'Plant Life' and 'Trullo' drag the record down by way of uninspiring departures for the usually rock solid quintet.


The overall result is the most peculiar collection of their discography - an uneven attempt that finds the band cranking out some undeniable rippers while also indulging experimental tendencies that feel like Parquet Courts attempting to become something they're really not.


This mixed bag of tricks provokes an almost anxious tension to Sympathy For Life in not knowing what you're going to find behind the next door on this scatter shot tracklist - but the amount of wasted space throughout these 45 mins means that's never quite as fun as it sounds.


5.5 / D+


Best Tracks: 'Walking At A Downtown Pace'/'Black Widow Spider'/'Homo Sapien'


Listen on Spotify



Seventeen Going Under - Sam Fender


On a powerful sophomore album, Sam Fender conducts a rich baroque rock orchestra to match the towering scale of emotions the North Shields songwriter traverses over a spirited 50 minutes.


Seventeen Going Under cannot be faulted for passion and musical execution, although it's a mixed bag lyrically - Fender thrives when he writes thoughtfully of home and recounts nostalgic memories of youth, but things gets clunky when the 24 year old attempts to address socio-political issues of the moment, as evidenced by the well intentioned but awfully on the nose rant of 'Aye'.


Still, it's easy to forgive these small missteps throughout a pure and heartfelt journey that convincingly demonstrates the continued emergence of Fender as one of mainstream Britrock's most promising young stars.


7.0 / B-


Best Tracks: 'Get You Down'/'Paradigms'/'The Dying Light'


Listen on Spotify




GOODGOODNOTBAD



You know how this works by now, GOODGOODNOTBAD is where I get to give you some extra quick takes on stuff I've been listening to this month that hasn't gotten the full review treatment! This is my way of including some more quickfire recommendations for all of you that are well worth checking out.


These albums can either be: Very Good, Good, Not Bad or BAD. So with that being said, what else is out there this month and what's good?


The self-assigned genre of ‘tenderpunk’ that Californian lo-fi rockers illuminati hotties ascribe themselves has never been more accurate than on thrilling sophomore album Let Me Do One More. Populated by irresistible guitar hooks and makeshift melodies delivered with effortless cool and the zany comical touch of Sarah Tudzin’s quirky lyricism, Let Me Do One More should bring illuminati hotties’ endearing DIY slacker punk to a wider audience if there’s any justice.


Post rock titans Explosions In The Sky return to the soundtrack album on their latest record as the Texan natives draw on the vast beauty of the mountain ranges, iconic rivers and spectacular landscapes of Big Bend National Park in order to craft a spellbinding score for a PBS nature documentary on the geological behemoth in West Texas. Big Bend is an understated and eloquent version of EITS with classic touches from the band's past throughout, as epic instrumental rock arrangements are intertwined with low key acoustic guitar and piano laden pieces on this stirring tribute to their home state.


The haunting atmospheric beauty of Grouper is as resonant and transfixing as ever before on Shade, a collection of songs recorded over the past fifteen years by Liz Harris. A riveting anthology comprised of typically hypnotic ambient folk soundscapes, Shade is an ever so welcome reminder of the bewitching intimacy Harris possesses at the touch of her fingertips or whisper of her voice.


Check out these three releases ranked below and let me know whether you thought they were good, bad or indifferent:



Very Good

  • Grouper - Shade


Good

  • Explosions In The Sky - Big Bend

  • illuminati hotties - Let Me Do One More


Either/Or's October 2021 Mix



The 18 best tracks of October, curated by yours truly for your aural pleasure.


James Blake - Coming Back (feat. SZA)

Mitski - Working For The Knife

Cooks But We're Chefs - Kodama

Black Country, New Road - Chaos Space Machine

Parquet Courts - Homosapien

illuminati hotties - Cheap Shoes

Jack White - Taking Me Back

IDLES - The Beachland Ballroom

Snail Mail - Ben Franklin

Martha Skye Murphy - Stuck

Big Thief - Change

Explosions In The Sky - Woodpecker

Grouper - Ode to the blue

Bon Iver - Beth/Rest (AIR Studios - 4AD/Jagjaguwar Session)

Sam Fender - Paradigms

Elton John, Stevie Wonder - Finish Line

Lana Del Rey - Nectar of the Gods

Phoebe Bridgers - That Funny Feeling




Listen to Either/Or's October 2021 Mix


November's Most Anticipated Releases



05/11


Radiohead - Kid A Mnesia

Snail Mail - Valentine


12/11


Courtney Barnett - Things Take Time, Take Time

Damon Albarn - The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows

IDLES - Crawler

Silk Sonic - An Evening with Silk Sonic

Taylor Swift - Red (Taylor's Version)


19/11


Elbow - Flying Dream 1


For reviews of the above and much more this November, subscribe and follow Either/Or on Instagram and Twitter! Thanks for reading.

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