We believe 2021 will prove to be a pivotal year for Stinkweeds. Along with our regular customers, who we appreciate to no end, this has been a year of new faces. With those new faces comes new tastes, conversation and responsibility to our customers. Our first accommodating change was to bring on two new members to the team, Zach and Caleb. These fellas bring with them a wealth of knowledge and, more importantly, an enthusiasm for music and sharing music. We’ve discussed our responsibility to act as guides for anyone looking to expand their world of music, while also allowing that person to shape their taste according to their own interests and experiences. Where the algorithmic suggestions of any streaming service is constantly trying to lump you into some category of listener, your local record store should be a place that relates to you as an individual. With so many new individuals, we’ve had to really think about ways to cover as many bases as we can. But, in true Stinkweeds fashion, we’re always going to look for that artist you might not have heard of. We believe music should be an exercise in creative thinking. It should challenge as much as it delights. Those who have recently made the jump from streaming music services to buying vinyl will find themselves paying more attention to what they’re listening to. You start to want more from your music.
We hope Stinkweeds can continue to be that place you turn to, to find new music, to get to know yourself and your tastes as an individual, to discover just how big of a world music can be. We hope this list can act as a jumping off point for anyone looking to expand that world as well as a new discovery for those of you already far into your own journeys.

From all of us at Stinkweeds, thanks for another great year and we’re looking forward to many more to come.

-Kimber, Lindsay, Dario, Zach & Caleb

Buck Meek – Two Saviors [Keeled Scales]

Buck Meek appeals to that love for loose delivery and unpolished/unfinished qualities you might find in a Bill Callahan, Will Oldham or Scout Niblett record. He leans into this on Two Saviors with rough edged production and elusive lyrics. The grounding is in just how good these songs are.
Buck Meek may be known to you as the guitarist for Big Thief. His contributions there often take the form of jarring guitar work, capable of filling the canyons of emotional space that follow Adrianne Lenker’s heartbreaking vocals and lyrics. Not needing to match that great depth, Two Saviors is allowed to breathe a little easier, almost never jumping above the energy of a late night conversation. But what he does within that dynamic is compelling and lovely and sad and all done with rusty sounds and seemingly unrehearsed performances. It strangely fits with the times. Aren’t we all feeling a little rusty and unrehearsed?

Vanishing Twin – Ookii Gekkou [Fire Records]

Just a perfectly realized psychedelic art pop album. It has the stylish nature of Stereolab, the shadowy haze of Broadcast, the layered hypnotism of Talking Heads and the “Whaat?” evoking curiosity of a Hugo Ball performance. While Vanishing Twin might not be breaking any new ground, they have clearly cultivated a strong sense for “feel.” These songs successfully pull you in and wrap you up in their vast and dreamy textures. You can tell when psychedelia is contrived when it leans more on the style of it all, rather than the abandonment of expectation and tried and true structures. There is no shortage of left turns on this album, but it maintains just enough style to keep our memory centers working in tandem with the parts of us that crave creativity.

Ashley Shadow – Only The End [felte]

This is only the second solo album from Vancouver musician Ashley Webber, in her almost 20 year career of contributing her voice and talent to multiple projects, including Will Oldham, Neko Case, The Organ and her twin sister Amber Webber’s solo outing, Lightning Dust. Similar to sister Amber’s output with Lightning Dust, she has put a half a decade between releases, but seemingly picks right up where she left off. The unassuming nature of Webber’s music makes it easy to forget that so much time had passed between releases but makes you hopeful that maybe so much time won’t be necessary for a third album.

Elori Saxl – The Blue of Distance [Western Vinyl]

On its surface, this is ambient music. Where this categorization breaks down, is in the strength of these pieces as songs, rather than just soundscapes. Underneath the repetition and looped found sounds is clear melody and structures that tell stories of changing landscapes and shifts from darkness to light. There is clear composition with beginnings, middles, ends and new beginnings.
Typically, ambient music takes a level of patience that some may find hard to muster. The music on Blue of Distance almost asks nothing of you. It just gives, but you will find yourself wanting to give back the attention that this music deserves. Writing this review, right now, has proven difficult as I switch from my desk to my couch, almost impulsively wanting to do nothing but listen to the lovely sounds coming from the speakers.

Joao Donato / Adrian Younge / Ali Shaheed Muhammad – JID007 [Jazz Is Dead]

This is as much praise for the album as it is for the amazing work that Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad have been doing with their Jazz Is Dead label. JID has been highlighting the talents of some of the great jazz artists from the 60s and 70s who are still with us. In some cases, recording the first works they’ve done in decades. They have released new albums from Roy Ayers, Brian Jackson, Doug Carn, Lonnie Liston Smith, Tony Allen and many others. Adding their own talent and taste, Younge and Muhammad produce these albums with a real appreciation for the past works of these jazz giants, blended masterfully with the new directions that jazz has taken in more recent years. What you end up with is all the youthfulness and innovation you would have found in any of these artists’ earlier works. Joao Donato’s career hasn’t really slowed down since his work with the popular Brazilian Jazz scene of the mid sixties, working with artists like Antonio Carlos Jobim and Astrud Gilberto. This new album pays tribute to his legacy and influence on the genre and the music that came after. Really looking forward to future releases from this label.

Hiss Golden Messenger – Quietly Blowing It [Merge]

MC Taylor writes songs that feel incredibly familiar, with a delivery that so nostalgic, you could swear it was playing at some pivotal moment of your life. It’s classic without being able to pinpoint any one particular influence. It’s as much middle America as it is bi-coastal. Taylor’s songs are new school, blue collar relatable and the arrangements could just as easily been conceived by Muscle Shoals Swamp rockers or the Wrecking Crew in L.A. It’s anyone’s guess why Hiss Golden Messenger isn’t pulling in the kind of attention that War On Drugs or Phosphorescent have achieved, but that’s all the more reason for us to share this music with you. Quietly Blowing It is a common listen at Stinkweeds and will almost always catch an unsuspecting shopper’s ear. I’m sure this is a common thing wherever Hiss Golden Messenger is played. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before it hits the big audiences. Till then, you might want to grab a ticket for February 14th at Crescent. This might be your last chance to hear this music in such an intimate setting.

Menahan Street Band – The Exciting Sounds of…
[Daptone Records]

You can’t talk about Menahan Street Band without acknowledging the movement they belong to. Made of members of bands like Antibalas, Charles Bradley, Budos Band, El Michels Affair, Sharon Jones and the Dapkings, these are big players in a movement that pays tribute to classic funk and soul music, in its many forms. Even though it has been 10 years since Menahan’s last release, these musicians have been busy keeping that sound alive. There is a scholarly element to their music. You could write your ethnomusicology thesis on this albums. Songs jump from Art Laboe “Oldies” to latin soul/funk to 70s exploitation film soundtracks, each done with a true sense for these genres. This isn’t half-assed imitation. This is music done by musicians who are truly imbedded in the genre.

Low – Hey What [Sub Pop]

If there were such things as Stinkweeds “Legacy” bands, Low would be first on that list. Since the mid 90s, they have been putting out exactly the kind of music that gives a store like ours a reason to exist. In fact, you can see footage of a 1996 performance at our Tempe location on our Youtube page! For many of us, this band shaped our taste, inspiring the sort of “that’s IT!” kind of reaction that launches you into new corners of music. On Hey What, the bands 13th album, they are still inspiring those reactions. While Low maintain the lush, understated songwriting and arrangement they’ve always had, more recent projects have begun to explore darker and heavier territories, including more abrasive, synthesized sounds and heavily compressed production. Comparing older albums to new, this may seem like a big shift. But, it all just makes sense, almost as if early works had implied such intensity. It’s not often that you find a band so unique and consistent over so many years. It’s been a great journey following their creativity and we look forward to what they come up with next.

Jose Gonzalez – Local Valley [Imperial Recordings]

It’s been 6 years since the last Jose Gonzalez album, but this one couldn’t have come at a better time. Gonzalez’s already intimate and personal approach to music gets an extra dose of cozy on Local Valley. His music has always felt like home, but this album seems to invite us into his personal space, somewhere on a coastline in Sweden, pastoral and quaint as you could imagine. He sings songs in all three of the languages he grew up with, making for an even more personal look into his story. Born from Argentinian refugees who fled to Sweden in the mid 70s, Gonzalez’s life and music carries many stories across many worlds. Whatever that world might be, he makes it feel like home.

Steve Gunn – Other You [Matador]

Steve Gunn has been very generous with his talent, sometimes releasing two or three albums a year for the past 15 years. There’s often a dreamlike quality to his songs, in that they have a familiar sound, pulling from 70s folk rock and jazz but seem to be filtered through a psychedelic haze. Although he’s not showy with his talent, Other You has no shortage of impressive guitar work, however always in the service of the song. Any rare guitar “solos” seem to blend into the environment created by the collective instrumentation. This makes for an album that can be enjoyed on many levels, by folks with a wide range of tastes. An absolute favorite interaction with Stinkweeds employees is being able to share music from the weirdos we love with those whose taste might be little more “middle of the road.” This is how we getchya!

Fruit Bats – The Pet Parade [Merge]

This is another Stinkweeds “legacy” act that we just can’t get enough of. Eric D. Johnson writes feel good songs about the bad things. His sense for verse and chorus could hold its own against any great power pop group, while still maintaining all of its delightful, folky sensibilities. Lately, he seems to be exploring territories of pop and disco, however never abandoning the acoustic nature of his music or the “sweater weather” vibes that are just so damn delightful. As catchy as it all is, Fruit Bats still feels like a band that belongs to you. There’s just something there that you know some others might not get right away. It’s music made for sharing, only because it’s such a great feeling to find those people who do get it.

Squid – Bright Green Field [Warp]

In a year with multiple excellent releases in the evolving post-punk scene (Shame, Idles, & Black Country, New Road to name a few) one album stood out, the debut from English band Squid. Bright Green Field’s 11 tracks are not always a comfortable listen; it plays with tension and catharsis, blending together a mind-boggling blend of punk, jazz, krautrock and funk. Ollie Judge’s screeching vocals can come off as exaggerated, but ultimately they add to the urgency and mania each track embodies. Songs like “Narrator,” and “Documentary Filmmaker,” start in one place and explode into hysteric bliss. Squid has easily made the top of the list of “bands to see live as soon as it feels right to be really close to people in a mosh pit again.”

Spellling – The Turning Wheel [Sacred Bones]

Oakland based artist SPELLLING has re-defined art-pop on her newest record The Turning Wheel. Equal parts Kate Bush and Disney princess, SPELLLING crafts unending, captivating fairy tales. The songs on The Turning Wheel are lyrically existential, dealing with the natural world and its juxtaposition to the human one of politics, race, and greed. The music behind the lyrics deserve applause too; SPELLLING employs a small army of musicians to help build her record, leading to a stunningly diverse array of instrumentation throughout the tracks. This album blends chamber pop with prog rock, fantasy with doom, and features some of the year’s best vocal performances, drenched in experimental greatness. Give it a listen or five to really make it click.

James Blake – Friends That Break Your Heart [UMG]

James Blake’s fifth album Friends That Break Your Heart sees him at his most sincere and straightforward. This ballad heavy album has some of the fewest number of guest features in recent years for Blake, but the stripped back nature of the tracks let James’s voice, lyrics, musical ability, and production shine.  While vocal effects are present on a few tracks, most of the record lets Blake’s earnest poetry of love and loss shine, with minimal space between the listener and the music. Songs like “Say What You Will,” and “Life Is Not the Same” exemplify this ethos, while still remaining some of the best tracks Blake has released since his debut.

Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg [4AD]

Another debut effort on this list, New Long Leg from London group Dry Cleaning, was a breath of fresh air when we needed it most. Dropping near the beginning of 2021, it was the soundtrack for many of us while receiving our first jabs, and it had the air of being the soundtrack to some hip “New-York art gallery” style parties in our near future. While that might seem like long ago and perhaps things didn’t go quite as expected, New Long Leg still holds the effervescent quality of being something unique and new-sounding. In short, it’s just cool. Lead vocalist Florence Shaw delivers her lyrics in a droll, almost uninterested manner that clashes with the noisy riffs and drum fills of a straight-up rock show. Surreal, artsy, and sometimes dance-y, Dry Cleaning’s first record holds your attention for 10 tracks and leaves you wanting more.

Spirit of The Beehive – ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH [Saddle Creek]

Philadelphia outfit Spirit of the Beehive’s latest album, ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH is a glitchy, acid-fueled journey of alt-psychedelia. While not so much a departure from their earlier work, Spirit just perfects their manic sound that lashes back and forth between utter chaos and melodic grooves. RIYL Animal Collective, Oneohtrix Point Never, Death Grips.

Roy Montgomery – That Best Forgotten Work [Grapefruit Records]

This album is completely untethered to any percussion. The feeling is purely visceral and in-the-moment. It has a sonic through-line of loose harsh plucking and down strumming a highly effected electric guitar, and Roy Montgomery’s baritone, Ian Cutis’esque vocals. It is both devastatingly beautiful and transgressive. His cover of The Carpenters ‘Superstar’ is just perfect.

Freelove Fenner – The Punishment Zone [Moone Records]

We had been eagerly awaiting Freelove Fenner’s next move since their debut album Do Not Affect A Breezy Manner. It took almost 7 years on the dot for The Punishment Zone to be released and it is incredible! It is a minimalist art pop gem. Caitlin and Peter own and operate an all-analog studio, and the studio has become a kind of mythical member of the band. The experimentation with recording techniques has shaped this album and really expanded their pallet of sounds. The whole album is cohesive and precise, but full of feeling. We love it start to finish. RIYL – Broadcast, Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, Robert Wyatt or The Free Design.

Rose City Band – Earth Trip [Thrill Jockey]

We’ve been listening to a range of country music for years, and are always on the lookout for rad modern takes on the form. Ripley Johnson’s work in Moon Duo and Wooden Shjips has always caught our attention, and his latest as Rose City Band is just as awesome! His take on country music is simply gorgeous. Earth Trip is lush and washed in a radiant summer breeze, but still rides a gloomy under current. His voice and guitar work are amazing, as always, but hearing it tangled up in the flawless pedal steel swells is stunning.

Guided By Voices – Earth Man Blues [Guided By Voices Inc.]

What can you say about GBV that hasn’t already been said? All we can say is… this is our favorite GBV album of 2021!

Patrick Shiroishi –Hidemi [American Dreams]

We have been following Patrick’s work for a few years now, and are always taken back by how inventive and fresh he always is! His latest album Hidemi is totally breathtaking. It is a solo, multilayer saxophone production. We recommend setting some time aside to listen with your full attention. Honestly, it’s impossible to sum up the depth and beauty of this album and the journey it takes you on, so dig in and feel it for yourself. Highly recommended!

Ada Lea – one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden [Saddle Creek]

Montreal singer-songwriter Alexandra Levy’s sophomore album one hand… became a heavy rotation listen in the shop when it dropped in October of this year. Right from the start with “Damn,” the album envelops you with its deep production, Levy’s dream-like lyrics, and varied song structures. One hand… details scenes and images that seem to be auto-biographical, but have an otherworldly feel. Each track blends into the next, and are so catchy it feels that the album’s 40-min runtime fly by. RIYL: Phoebe Bridgers, Wye Oak, Indigo De Souza.

Yola – Stand For Myself [Easy Eye Sound]

English ex-pat Yola explores country soul in bombastic fashion on her second LP Stand For Myself. Like her first album, Stand For Myself features Dan Auerbach on producer duties, recorded in the midst of the pandemic at Easy Eye Sound Studios in Nashville. Yola creates a sound all her own, a dazzling blend of country pop, soul, R&B, rock and Americana. You don’t have to listen long to hear her influences shine through; from Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Minnie Ripperton, and Tina Turner, but Yola’s sound is all her own. Tracks like “Dancing Away in Tears,” and the title track “Stand For Myself,” are statements of powerful vocal performances, cascading song structure, and layered country instrumentation. We can’t wait to see what’s next for Yola.

Flock Of Dimes – Head Of Roses [Sub Pop]

Head Of Roses is the sophomore release from Jenn Wasner’s (WYE OAK) side project Flock Of Dimes. The record is dark and introspective, much like a Wye Oak album, but with layers of complexity. Jenn is a one woman musical army with plenty of insight to share. Will sign up for anything she has to offer.


El Michels Affair – Yeti Season [Big Crown]

Melodic, hypnotic, soulful and psychedelic. This was certainly one of those albums that always sold anytime it was on the stereo. El Michels Affair makes modern, cinematic, soul music that is filled with enough twists and turns to keep things from start to finish, over and over again.