A short glimpse of this summer in music

Five albums that defined summer 2021.

With life returning to a more or less normal shape, summer 2021 was an eventful one in every sphere of society. We as fans got to reap the fruits of what artists had been creating over the past year and a half of COVID-19.

The Off-Season – J. Cole

Released May 14, 2021

J. Cole’s The Off-Season was long awaited, and it did not disappoint. As one of the most praised figures in hip hop, this album is an improvement on all fronts from his last project, KOD. With his first release since 2018, J. Cole made his return to form with this project. It leaves behind any memory of KOD, a project that left fans and critics with mixed feelings. This project is bolstered by Cole’s confident and assured delivery, appealing storytelling, and the triumphant instrumentals using many samples throughout the album. The Off-Season marks the first time Cole welcomed different artists to feature on his songs since Born Sinner in 2013. This adds a new dimension to the work that was missing from his previous records.

Trial track: “l e t . g o . m y . h a n d”

SOUR – Olivia Rodrigo 

Released May 21, 2021

From a Disney star to one of pop’s most promising young talents, Olivia Rodrigo’s ascension to fame was immediate. The hype around SOUR was immense with all three of her singles reaching the Billboard’s top ten songs chart. Two of them even sat at the number one spot with the worldwide hits “drivers license” and “good 4 u.” On SOUR, listeners get a glance at a deep hurt. Tender lyrics of torn feelings towards an ex-lover make Rodrigo a compelling narrator and most of the record’s success is due to this. The instrumentals are most of the time either mellow and charming piano and guitar ballads, or Paramore-influenced bangers. As a whole, SOUR is one of the defining records of the summer.

Trial track: “good 4 u”

CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST – Tyler, The Creator 

Released June 25, 2021

Two years after his Grammy-winning masterpiece IGOR, Tyler, The Creator came back swinging. CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST marks The Creator’s sixth studio album, and brings him back to rapping form. DJ Drama is featured all across the record with ad libs in a DJ Khaled fashion, but Drama is actually pleasant. Tyler Baudelaire, his alter ego for this record, raps mainly about travel, and pinpoints love as the main thing missing from his life now that he has reached mogul status as an artist. The production is absolutely stunning, as you would expect from a Tyler, The Creator project. Tyler surpasses himself on every beat by always adding a lot of layers to the mix. This album contains a strong mix of hard-hitting tracks and laid-back beats that see an honest Tyler rely more on storytelling. No matter what direction he decided to go in, every track on the record found a way to keep it interesting for the listener.


Vince Staples – Vince Staples

Released July 9, 2021

Vince Staples waited until his fourth studio album to release a self-titled record, which was most appropriate considering this new project might be his most introspective body of work to date. Staples, known for being a curious name in hip hop, has a style that stands out from your average rapper. His past release, Big Fish Theory, flirted with the lines between hip hop and house music. On Vince Staples, he continues to stand above the pack with clever one-liners and by opening up about himself, which all makes for an inviting listening experience. Production-wise, Staples plays it pretty safe here by using basic yet captivating trap flavoured instrumentals. The record’s short length makes for an album that is easily approachable.

Trial track: “TAKE ME HOME”

Sling – Clairo

Released July 16, 2021

Sling now marks the first record since Clairo’s 2019 breakout debut album, Immunity. Sling is a complete departure from the sound that got her bursting onto the scene. This new album adopts more of a singer/songwriter approach, one that builds off of the gentle and languid sounds of her debut project. The album’s production comes from none other than Jack Antonoff, a renowned producer whose influence is likely responsible for this sudden change of pace. Antonoff does a great job at making the most of a talented Clairo, with sounds that complement and hug her strengths, tying listeners into the album. A large portion of Sling is dedicated to Clairo’s dog, Joanie, which is also the name for one of the tracks. Sling’s best quality is this level of intimacy, and while it is simple and not too flashy, this is in the best way possible. 

Trial track: “Amoeba”


Graphic by James Fay


“The best part of hockey,” 3ICE seeks to deliver an entertainment-fueled product

Picture this — you’re at a hockey game featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers with players like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The third period is winding down, the game is tied, and you whisper to the person next to you “I hope we’re gonna get to see some overtime.”

What’s not to love about overtime? 3-on-3 play is arguably the best thing in hockey right now — any game that has the extra frame is pretty much must-see-TV for fans. The teams’ coaches throw out their best players on the ice and the excitement commences. When a game heads to overtime, you are bound to see some highlight reel plays.

3ICE is a brand new summer hockey league that will kick off in the summer of 2021. It is strictly 3-on-3 play that CEO E.J. Johnston describes it as the most exciting way to play hockey.

“We’ve got all the best parts of hockey,” said Johnston. “It’s all the speed, dangles, creativity that fans want. It makes the rink that canvas that lets these players that are artists really show their stuff.”

Johnston partnered up with Hockey Hall of Famer, Craig Patrick, to create the new professional league which is totally independent from the NHL.

“[When it comes to creating the league] the wheels started turning legitimately about two and a half to three years ago,” said Johnston. “Going to the three-on-three camps of the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils, and watching the NHL overtime format. At first I felt that three-on-three was a gimmick but it did not take me long to be on board after watching a couple of games.”

In its first season, 3ICE will have eight teams, consisting of six skaters and one goalie with substitutes travelling with the teams in case of injury. The league will play mini tournaments in eight different cities over the summer. Games will be two eight-minute halves of running time, with a four minute intermission to clean the ice. Johnston says the thing that sets them most apart from traditional 3-on-3 hockey is that there will be no penalties — if a player commits an infraction, it will directly result in a penalty shot.

“Our product is going to be very snackable,” Johnston said. “We’re going to pack about seven games in a three and a half hour broadcast. It’s a great way to spend an evening out.”

3ICE has already confirmed that they have television broadcast deals with CBS Sports in the US, while in Canada their games will be broadcasted on TSN and RDS.

What hasn’t been confirmed is who will be playing in this league, as 3ICE has not secured any players yet. However, Johnston says that they do have some names in mind as comparables for the type of players they are aiming to attract as they have been talking to multiple agencies.

“He is an ex-NHLer, that no longer has a contract,” Johnston said. “I like to point to a guy like Conor Sheary. He’s a third liner playing 13-14 minutes a night but is the first guy over the boards when the game goes to overtime. [Our ideal player] has also played for three or five years in the NHL.”

Johnston also said that players nearing the end of their careers in the NHL but would still like to play once out of a contract like Jason Spezza and Corey Perry would also be great fits for 3ICE.

In terms of which eight cities will host the inaugural season of 3ICE, Johnston said that it will be up to the fans. Fan engagement will be a big part of the league, including voting on which cities will host, helping to design jerseys, and will even be able to weigh in on video reviews.

We genuinely want the fans to be a part of the process,” said Johnston. “We want them on the business side and the on-ice side. We’re trying to create what we call ‘the biggest locker-room in the world.’”

When it comes to which cities will be hosting these mini tournaments, Johnston mentioned four Canadian cities as potential candidates — those being Montreal, Toronto, Halifax and Quebec City. However, he said it will come down to wherever they garner the most interest from official votes that they will release to the fans sometime within the next two months.

Johnston said that the league has a lot of potential for expansion depending on how successful their first season goes.

“In our plans are things like expansion into Asia, Europe, the women’s game,” said Johnston. “We’d like to see our version of the Little League World Series where we’d have [intercontinental play].”

Graphic by @sundaeghost

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