Kweku of Ghana, Ariane Roy, Jyocho, and Mæntra

Kweku of Ghana – Zone 6, Agege (Heavenly Sweetness)

So Kweku is the frontman of my #1 Afrobeat band of 2021: Onipa. This year, he released a new album under the name Kweku of Ghana, and so I was immediately drawn to it. Zone 6, Agege has a more traditional, folkloric, funky, reggaeish Afrobeat sound than the Afrofuturistic synthy Onipa. That’s neither a pro nor a con, as I love both sounds equally, but that’s just to set different expectations for when you listen to this. This is a beautiful, intimate, inspired, authentic album that truly speaks of Kweku’s roots and experiences, and it transpires in the music for one of the strongest albums this year for certain.

Ariane Roy – Médium Plaisir

In Québec’s forward-facing pop scene, we have but a few role models. Chief of which might be Klô Pelgag and her artsy take on the genre. In this 2020 review, I hoped she’d set an example for future artists to come up and explore this very sound. Well, wishes do come true, and Ariane Roy seems to me like a candidate for a new art pop caregiver. I feel like Ariane provides us with a tamer personality than Klô, but that subtlety is well appreciated. Médium Plaisir is a fantastic indie pop album with a few bangers—”Quand je serai grande”, Tu voulais parler”, and “Kundah”—and a bunch of great ballads.

助長 (Jyocho) – しあわせになるから、なろうよ (Shiawase ni narukara, narou yo / Let’s Promise to Be Happy) (No Big Deal)

I’ve been into Jyocho since their debut album, and while I don’t cover them every time they release an album, everything they put out since 2016 is just pure bliss. The band’s leader and guitarist, 中川だいじろー (Nakagawa Daijirō), will be known for old-time math rock lovers as playing in 宇宙コンビニ (Uchū konbini)! Jyocho is just a more folksy take on the genre, I guess, with a female singer and a flautist, which give it that unique flavour. So, しあわせになるから、なろうよ was released in 2022, and it’s still marvellous material, do not miss it.

Mæntra – Kundalini Rising

A pure blast of grind from the depths of death with members from Origin, Terrorizer, and Cartilage? Mæntra certainly deliver on their promise. Kundalini Rising incorporates industrial and atmospheric elements to their deathgrind sound, which I’ve rarely heard before, but it’s done to great effect here! Be sure to check this out if you’re in a pissed mood.