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The new normal has assaulted us with debates. Especially in the live music sector, like it almost always is, teetering on the edge of the precipice (one minute concerts, next minute cancelled). But there is one thing that is never disputed: the importance of songs. It doesn't matter if it's pop, rock or electronic. Whether on single, EP or album. If voices or autotune rule. Whether made by consecrated or emerging artists. Subject matter, anything goes. Music… make your choice, mix it up, it all saves us. The artists continue, with their own virtues and without much help, accompanying these times of turmoil. So it goes and they keep on doing it, from solo efforts to big, round records. Here are the 10 best Catalan musical releases of 2021.


10. Maria Hein: Continent i contingut

Maria Hein

Who brings us the pause that we need between daily case numbers and curves that refuse to flatten completely? The person you least suspect. For example, Maria Hein's debut album: the customary mother-of-pearl, minimalist production and a pinch of salt in her voice. It is reminiscent of other magical premieres, such as those of Maria Jaume or the first Núria GrahamAquell mes de març, a bittersweet lullabye! 


9. Ferran Palau: Parc (+ Joia)

Ferran Palau - Silvia Poch

Ferran Palau has slowly sifted out his sound to the point of making a song with the bare minimum: damped drums, whispers and melody. Not metaphysics or anything of the sort, but a consecrated formula: sheer Taylorism set to music… Paradox! As finely detailed as it is evocative. A grace without which it would be impossible to release two albums in one year and include songs like Amor.


8. AFFKT: The big picture


If you make electrònica and a German label releases it for you, it’s like playing on the wing and being trained by Pep Guardiola: go for it kid! The Mobilee label has put out The big picture, the continuation of the celebrated Sons of a thousand sounds, a less mental and more accessible album on which Valencian producer AFFKT is still playing in the layers: you don't need to know Alan Parsons Project or José Padilla to get your teeth into the lucidity of Zambomba or Adiós ayer.


7. Oques Grasses: A tope amb la vida

oques Grasses   ACN

Broadening your audience doesn't have to mean losing the interest of those who already follow you. There's space for everything in these discs; there's a lot going on. Those looking for ballaruga and fun without borders have Petar-ho. Those who want the emotions to burst forth have one of the best songs of the year, La gent que estimo (with the emerging artist Rita Payés, who also published Como la piel this year). Oques Grasses redefine what is commercial.


6. B1n0: bi


B1n0 has set out to create a dream team of Catalan pop voices. Over a borderless electronic foundation. They already did it with their eponymous album in 2019 and now are back with bi, improved, more versatile and more adventurous. Like deconstructed Latin with Tarta Relena in the anguished glitchy AHH (Marina Herlop). An EP of five songs, but many worlds.


5. Tarta Relena: Fiat lux

Tarta Relena - Sergi Alcàzar

The paths of experimentation are paved with thorns. It's hard not to get bogged down in frivolous aesthetics, convert boldness into outbursts, or worse, get more cynical than a Twitter argument. Aware of these dangers, the route taken by Tarta Relena must be properly appreciated: Fiat lux has doubled the bet made by Ora pro nobis (2019)... Garcia Lorca, traditional Georgian music and Afghan songs coexist with spoken word - sometimes lyricalist - and an electronic sound that is minimal, medievalist and ambient. All at once. That deserves respect.


4. Clara Peya: Perifèria

clara peya

At the point she has now reached, no one can doubt the quality and sensitivity of Clara Peya. What is amazing is that with each new step she brings in more subtlety and criteria in joining the two worlds that always accompany her: social transformation and vivid melodies. Perifèria is a new onslaught that was foreseen: goodbye to the turbulence of Estòmac and welcome to a striking and poignant beauty. Welcome also is the voice of Enric Vergaguer. Guts with new and beautiful shapes.


3. Queralt Lahoz: Pureza

Queralt Lahoz cantante - Sergi Alcàzar

Queralt Lahoz’s is one of those deceptive debuts: it sounds new, but it’s been cooking for years. Records, like any dish, need time and love. The Santa Coloma artist had already hinted at her spirit, pure but mixed, in the EP 1917 (2019), and before that also with 'De la Carmela'. Pureza is all of this rich past: bastard flamenco, urban and dance music.


2. Maria Arnal i Marcel Bagés: Clamor

Maria Arnal i Marcel Bagés -  Àlex Rademakers

Boldness is not the main engine of pop, which seeks to communicate in a way that - usually - is simple; but it should be appreciated when it is mixed with accessible music: this is the case of the Copernican revolution of Maria Arnal and Marcel Bagés on their second album. Clamor is play and risk, open-mindedness. Electronic pop with roots. A great way to advance the song concept.


1. Alizzz: Tiene que haber algo más


It's not the most surprising aesthetic, nor does it contain the most curated lyrics. But it takes the prize for uncovering, de-masking (not Covid style), from a producer who has been in the shadows for many years and who has exploded in 2021. From Castelldefels to the Latin Grammys. From being the brainchild of C. Tangana's El Madrileño to a nostalgic record of his own full of simple but catchy songs. This has been the year of Cristian Quirante, aka Alizzz. It's no small feat.

... and the honorable mentions

Joan Colomo Salvem

Making lists is crueler than selecting a football team. Everyone here has put the training in. But given that they have increased the number of members allowed per group in the Covid rules - not everything has to be bad - we mustn't commit so many injustices: honourable mentions must go to mythical performers like Joan Colomo and his Disc tristauteur hyperpop, and Joana Serrat and the (synthesized) Americana of Hardcore from the heart. A shout out for all that went into Cendres - Mineral by postrockers Böira and Life is Short But Wide from poppers Marialluïsa. Warm reception for the debutants, in the electroshock of CLARAGUILAR with Mistery is all or the folk of Alanaire's self-titled EP. And always welcome are those with finely-honed skills: the electronics of Talcö, Artificial island; bandas-bandarra La Ludwig BandLa mateixa sort; and urban sounds both popular and international Lildami (Viaje en espiral), Rojuu (Roku Rokuand Bad Gyal (Warm Up). We need you all, team.