Pop, rock, rap and more

Fontaines DC

Fontaines DC, 2020.
Fontaines DC. Photograph: valerian7000

There’s a current vogue for bands mixing arty punk with sprechgesang vocals, but Dublin’s Fontaines DC are a cut above, as evidenced by their blackly comic second album A Hero’s Death, a far more eclectic, direct and appealing collection than most of their peers could muster. They’re equally explosive and charismatic live.
Tour begins 29 August, Victorious festival, Portsmouth.

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis.
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Photograph: Charlie Gray

A 20-date UK tour in support of this year’s Cave and Ellis album Carnage, a stunning lockdown-composed-and-recorded collection that underlines once more the remarkable artistic purple patch Cave has enjoyed in recent years. He’s also a spectacularly good live performer.
Tour begins 2 September, Lighthouse, Poole.

Arlo Parks

Parks’ Collapsed in Sunbeams was one of the musical joys of the second lockdown, a debut album that seemed to unite critical and popular taste: empathetic, diaristic lyrics over a gorgeous soul-infused backing, sung in a lovely, airy voice. The accompanying live tour – delayed for obvious reasons – should be a treat.
Tour begins 5 September, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham.

John Grant

Produced by Cate Le Bon, John Grant’s last album, Boy from Michigan, cemented his reputation as a brilliant 21st-century variant on the confessional singer-songwriter: alternately witty and painfully acute, shifting from dark synth-pop to more traditional acoustic settings.
Tour begins 6 September, Alexandra Palace, London.

Hot Milk

Hot Milk, press image, 2021
Hot Milk. Photograph: Paul Harries

We’re in the midst of a fresh wave of pop-punk – less white and blokey, with less toilet humour, and more serious lyrical intent than the genre’s 90s/00s iteration. Manchester’s Hot Milk – who will also support Foo Fighters at stadium dates in 2022 – are rightly at its vanguard: their singles to date have coupled indelible melodies with ferocious power.
Tour begins 8 September, Cathouse, Glasgow.

Wireless festival

A late summer appearance of the festival that’s established itself as Britain’s leading rap/R&B event, complete with a fantastic bill: Future, Migos, Megan Thee Stallion, Saweetie and Meek Mill from the US, while Skepta, D Block Europe, AJ Tracey, Headie One and Chip among others represent the UK.
Crystal Palace Park, London, 10-12 September.

Parklife festival

Parklife festival 2019.
Parklife festival 2019. Photograph: Giles Smith/Fanatic 2019

Parklife shares some of its bill with Wireless – Megan Thee Stallion, Skepta and Young Thug appear at both events – but casts its net wider musically, to take in dance music from Four Tet, Peggy Gou, Jamie XX and Bicep, as well as a headlining slot for Dave. Pa Salieu, Mabel, Slowthai and Disclosure also appear.
Heaton Park, Manchester, 11-12 September.

Snapped Ankles

The sound of Snapped Ankles’ most recent album, Forest of Your Problems, takes in Krautrock, tribal rhythms, post-punk – especially the early-80s Fall – and a hint of electronica, but it winds up sounding almost nothing like anyone else: quite some feat, as is the fact their ghillie-suited live performances invariably ramp up the intensity of their sound.
Tour begins 11 September, Down at the Abbey, Reading.


There was something unexpected about the news that Genesis were to reconvene one final time, not least because Phil Collins’ ill-health means he can no longer play the drums: prog fans should be delighted by suggestions that the setlist includes Peter Gabriel-era epics alongside the familiar 80s hits.
Tour begins 18 September, SSE Arena, Belfast.

Scritti Politti

While the wait for the next Scritti Politti album becomes ever more interminable – it’s now 15 years since the last one – the band embark on a tour to celebrate the 35th anniversary of their pop breakthrough, the lauded Cupid and Psyche ’85, playing it live in its entirety: something they never did at the time.
Tour begins 21 September, the Waterfront, Norwich.

Bobby Gillespie – Tenement Kid

Bobby Gillespie’s memoir: Tenement Kid.
Bobby Gillespie’s memoir: Tenement Kid. Photograph: White Rabbit

The Primal Scream frontman wrote his autobiography in lockdown, retelling the story of his youth in Glasgow, his stint with the Jesus and Mary Chain at the height of their riot-provoking notoriety and Primal Scream’s rise from minor indie figures to fame with the dance-inspired Screamadelica. Who knows what it’s actually going to be like, but it’s quite a tale.
Published 14 October, White Rabbit.

Self Esteem – Prioritise Pleasure

Sometimes a song just chimes with the times: so it was with Self Esteem’s I Do This All the Time, a breakbeat-driven, spoken-word exploration of ennui and societal norms that ended up on, of all places, Radio 2. Expectations are thus high for Rebecca Lucy Taylor’s second album under the Self Esteem name: an accompanying tour kicks off on 1 November in Bristol.
Released 22 October.

Elton John

The latest leg of his mammoth farewell tour – thanks to the hiatus of the pandemic, it’s now scheduled to finish in 2023 – arrives in the UK. Reviews for earlier dates were ecstatic, as you might expect from such a practised showman’s last stand: the staging is classy, the setlist hit-packed and bulletproof.
Tour begins 30 October, AO Arena, Manchester.

Terminal V

The lineup of this year’s Terminal festival is a hugely impressive A-Z of underground house and techno talent: Ben UFO, the Blessed Madonna, Eats Everything, Honey Dijon, Jayda G, Nina Kraviz, Perc, Prins Thomas and Robert Hood – the latter both live and in his more disco-fied Floorplan guise – among dozens of others.
Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh, 30-31 October.

Soft Cell

Soft Cell, 2021.
Soft Cell. Photograph: Andrew Whitton

Soft Cell’s 2018 gig at the O2 Arena was supposed to be their grand farewell. Instead it led to a new album – *Happiness Not Included, their first in 20 years – and a series of live dates on which they’re performing their bleakly sleazy 1981 debut Non Stop Erotic Cabaret in full.
Tour begins 10 November, O2 Academy, Glasgow.

Damon Albarn – The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows

Albarn’s much-delayed second solo album – the first, Everyday Robots, came out in 2014 – was supposed to be toured with “orchestral instrumentation, electronics and piano”: instead, he ended up unveiling the songs on a solo Boiler Room performance and the Glastonbury livestream. Inspired by the landscape of Iceland, they sounded hugely impressive.
Released 12 November on Transgressive Records.


His career dates back to the birth of grime – he was a member of seminal collective Nasty Crew and his first mixtape came out 16 years ago – but 2021 has proved Ghetts’ year: an acclaimed major-label debut, Conflict of Interest, that stirred a string and brass section into his sound, and scored an entirely deserved Mercury nomination.
Tour begins 17 November, O2 Institute, Birmingham.

AJ Tracey

Early on in his career, the Guardian hailed AJ Tracey as “one of the best new acts to catch at festivals”: in the subsequent five years, he has become a key figure in UK rap’s takeover bid for the charts – five platinum singles, two Top 10 albums – as evidenced by the arena-sized venues this tour takes in.
Tour begins 18 November, Utilita Arena, Birmingham.

Taylor Swift – Red (Taylor’s Version)

Taylor Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version) album artwork.
Cover art for Taylor Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version). Photograph: 2021 Taylor Swift

The second instalment in Taylor Swift’s ongoing campaign of re-recording her entire back catalogue as a screw-you to her former label boss involves her fourth album, the first in her oeuvre to lean heavily into electronic pop. Her re-recording of 2008’s Fearless was greeted warmly: it should be intriguing to see what she does here.
Released 19 November.

Little Simz

Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, the follow-up to Little Simz’s acclaimed, Mercury-nominated 2019 album Grey Area, is due in September: the singles released so far suggest she hasn’t lost her justly lauded ability to meld tough rap with an innate sensibility for soulful pop.
Tour begins 25 November, O2 Institute, Birmingham.

Jazz, folk and global music

Various Artists – On Our Own Clock

The South African jazz scene has been enjoying well-deserved international praise thanks to recent releases from labels such as Mushroom Hour Half Hour and Ninja Tune. The latest offering from the country’s musicians comes in the form of this free-flowing collaboration with London players such as Theon Cross and Alabaster de Plume: an ingeniously creative use of lockdown Zoom sessions.
Released 3 September on Mushroom Hour Half Hour.

Dan + Claudia Zanes – Let Love Be Your Guide

Drawing on the rich tradition of folk protest music, husband and wife pair Dan and Claudia Zanes release their debut album as a duo, blending Haitian folksong with gospel and R&B to produce 14 stirring tracks calling for greater racial and social equality, prompted by the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.
Released 10 September on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Darbar festival

This celebration of the varied traditions of Indian classical music makes a welcome return for a weekend of performances. Tabla and jori maestro Sukhvinder Singh Pinky performs on a double bill alongside sitar player Roopa Panesar, while khayal vocalist Waseem Ahmed Khan sings from the Agra gharana school of music, accompanied by tabla and harmonium.
Barbican, London, 21-24 October.

Ashley Henry

London-based jazz pianist Henry produced one of the standout records of 2019 with his intricately-arranged debut LP Beautiful Vinyl Hunter. A deft live performer, he’ll be playing new tracks from his anticipated forthcoming album.
Tour begins 2 November, The Cluny, Newcastle upon Tyne.


Nihiloxica, 2021.
Nihiloxica. Photograph: Will Leeming

Ugandan drumming collective Nihiloxica bring their polyrhythmic battery to the UK for an autumn tour. Mixing traditions of folk Bugandan drumming with the techno sensibilities of UK producer Spooky-J, the six-piece group will be playing through their 2020 debut Kaloli, in a welcome, uninhibited return to the dancefloor.
Tour begins 5 November, Future Yard, Birkenhead.

EFG London jazz festival 2021

Following an impressive online edition in 2020, the EFG London jazz festival returns for its usual in-person offering in venues across London. Highlights include free jazz master Archie Shepp performing his collaboration with pianist Jason Moran, Let My People Go; poet and singer Moor Mother at the Queen Elizabeth Hall; and trumpeter Yazz Ahmed leading the BBC Concert Orchestra.
• Various venues, London, 12-21 November.


Lammermuir festival

Jeremy Denk.
Jeremy Denk. Photograph: Shervin Lainez

There are 37 concerts across eight venues in this year’s Lammermuir programme. Pianist Jeremy Denk is the artist-in-residence, with multiple appearances from the Gesualdo Six and the Maxwell Quartet; there are Monteverdi madrigals from the Dunedin Consort and works by Tansy Davies and James Dillon from the Red Note Ensemble.
Various venues, East Lothian, 7-20 September.

The Midsummer Marriage

Edward Gardner’s first appearance as the London Philharmonic’s principal conductor is devoted to a concert performance of a landmark in British opera, Michael Tippett’s irrepressibly lyrical masterpiece. The cast is led by Robert Murray as Mark and Sophie Bevan as Jenifer, with Ashley Riches as King Fisher.
Royal Festival Hall, London, 25 September.

Colin Currie Ensemble

Currie and his group have made a speciality of Steve Reich’s music, and their latest programme is devoted to the great minimalist pioneer. It includes the European premiere of Reich’s most recent work, Traveler’s Prayer, as well as one of his most hauntingly beautiful works, Tehillim.
Royal Festival Hall, London, 19 October.

The Cunning Little Vixen

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the CBSO.
Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the CBSO. Photograph: Benjamin Ealovega

This concert performance of Janáček’s radiantly life-affirming opera promises to be one of the highlights of Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s final season as the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s music director. Elena Tsallagova is Vixen Sharp-Ears, with Angela Brower as the Fox and Roland Wood as the Forester.
Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 16 November.

The Valkyrie

English National Opera launches its five-year plan for a new Ring cycle with the second instalment of Wagner’s tetralogy. Conducted by Martyn Brabbins, The Valkyrie will be directed by Richard Jones in designs by Stewart Laing. Matthew Rose is Wotan and Rachel Nicholls Brünnhilde, with Nicky Spence and Emma Bell as Siegmund and Sieglinde.
Coliseum, London, 19 November-10 December.


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