The month's essential releases...

January 2021 was - to put it mildly - an absolute rollercoaster.

Opening with the promise that things could only get better, it matched pandemic paranoia against an actual Far Right putsch in the United States.

In this country, appalling death figures saw the UK government reach fresh heights of ineptitude, with little to no difference in the public's voting intentions.

Music was a place of solace and a form of inspiration - at times, during that rocky month, it felt like all we had.

With January now at an end, Clash brings together the best albums from the month just gone.

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Goat Girl - On All Fours // REVIEW

‘On All Fours’ is the sound of Goat Girl stepping into their own. Produced by Dan Care, it’s a little less spiky round the edges than the eponymous debut - a statement equally strident, but considered in its stances and elegant in its rage.

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Fredo - Money Can't Buy Happiness // REVIEW

Perhaps his most focussed, revealing statement to date, ‘Money Can’t Buy Happiness’ is packed with detail. Fredo has never been so open, and this frankness is at first shocking – it’s a world away from his singles, for instance – but it also feels vital, and important. ‘Money Can’t Buy Happiness’ is our most vivid portrait yet of Fredo’s soul.

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Celeste - Not Your Muse // REVIEW

Celeste’s debut album ‘Not Your Muse’ is a collection of beautifully written songs about love. The London-based singer has found early success after winning the BBC Sound of 2020 and landing the coveted spot singing the album track ‘A Little Love’ on the John Lewis Christmas advert. Having already been branded as the next Adele with an Amy Winehouse edge, the expectations of Celeste are high, and she certainly has big shoes to fill. Whilst this will draw in listeners, the constant comparison may hinder Celeste’s journey of finding her own distinct sound.

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Anna B Savage - A Common Turn // REVIEW

This is a gem of an album. Personal, honest and highly emotive, it tackles big questions; but most of all, it dares to be vulnerable. ‘A Common Turn’ is undoubtedly one of the most notable releases of 2021 so far, marking a very impressive and well-earned return to music for Anna B Savage.

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Arlo Parks - Collapsed In Sunbeams // REVIEW

Reflective, intuitive and introspective, ‘Collapsed In Sunbeams’ is an immensely gripping debut. With no features, Arlo holds her own across all 12 singles and sets the bar high for those who follow.

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Kiwi Jr. - Cooler Returns // REVIEW

Many artists who’ve brought out new music during the pandemic have opted to look inward as a source of inspiration for lyrical themes. Kiwi Jr., however, have done the opposite. ‘Cooler Returns’ displays a keen eye for observation – both grand and quaint – as its myriad of tracks cohere together through a bond of musical influences old and new to form an album that’s invitingly optimistic, while also displaying intricacy and craftiness in abundance.

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James Yorkston And The Second Hand Orchestra - The Wide, Wide River // REVIEW

Fife-based genius James Yorkston pairs with old friend Karl-Jonas Winqvist’s Second Hand Orchestra for a vodka-splashed voyage down life’s wild, wide river. From 'Ella Mary Leather' (regretted only on ‘certain days of the year’) and 'To Soothe Her Wee Bit Sorrows’ study of pacification - he has flair for characterisation, painting a world within the skeleton of a song.

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Bicep - Isles // REVIEW

It’s a brilliant pick me up, a dazzling set of songs that tap into our innermost impulses. A colourful way to remember those good times, and one that is perfectly prepared for our eventual return to the dance floor.

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Jazmine Sullivan - Heaux Tales // REVIEW

Ending such a lengthy wait for new material was never going to be easy, but Jazmine Sullivan makes her Everest-like task look deceptively simple. A woman speaking her truth in poetic, soulful fashion, ‘Heaux Tales’ could be her defining chapter.

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Shame - Drunk Tank Pink // REVIEW

‘Drunk Tank Pink’ is a strange, surreal record, with no overarching theme or motivation - but is there anything wrong with that? Each track feels like its own ecosystem, tackling its own demons and fighting with its own musical journey. It’s certainly an album created with plenty of thought and various concepts tackled within its 40-odd minutes, leaving a sweet aftertaste, and the urge for an immediate re-listen.

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Sleaford Mods - Spare Ribs // REVIEW

Brexit, immigration, lockdown and the fight for the independent venues, it’s all in there. Never before has there been a greater need for the full Sleaford Mods treatment than there is now, and the goods are delivered with crisp urgency and precision.

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Viagra Boys - Welfare Jazz // REVIEW

The album can, in fact, be treated as a concept album about the capacity for change that lies at the heart of even the most hard-boiled and unsympathetic of men, the kind we meet straight away on ‘Ain’t Nice’ and ‘Toad’.

When ‘Into The Sun’ introduces us to a similar figure having a Damascene moment in which he realises the damage he has caused, we realise that we are, in fact, following a single flawed protagonist: an aging huckster who loves nothing but his dog, his drugs and himself. Travelling with this self-sabotaging antihero though his highs and lows, his relapses and revelations, as he rises above his basest impulses to pursue love and a life of peace is a hell of a journey in itself.

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