Just a month late with this post, but right now time’s a relative concept, so I’ll take it. 2021 was another restless and disturbing year in many respects, but we’ve had some good music come our way to keep us engaged and happy, so let’s talk about what I’ve been listening to recently and maybe you can tell me what you’ve enjoyed in 2021 too.
It’s a pretty long list of albums this year. Many of the artists I follow devotedly came out with new releases, but, if I am to be honest, they didn’t all hit the spot for me. Good albums, but ones that I didn’t manage to connect with as much as earlier works. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves; let’s take a look at each of these in turn.
Normally, a new IDLES album is cause for celebration in this household. Crawler is a solid album, but maybe felt a little bit too much of a trip down familiar lanes. Still, you know I’ve got a new t-shirt, as well as the album. Staying with the UK for a little while, Shame have followed up their first album from 4 years ago with the excellent Drunk Tank Pink; one of the highlights of 2021 for me. Squid, of Brighton provenance, released their debut Bright Green Field and seasoned, by now, rockers The Coral came up with Coral Island, which seems more mature and less self-conscious than earlier work. Speaking of seasoned Brits, Damon Albarn‘s meditation The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows is quite the mood for an introspective Sunday afternoon. The collective known only as Sault have released NINE, not quite as punchy as earlier work, but flowing and poignant and relevant as ever. And, to round off on music from Albion, Little Simz punched a hole in my heart with her incredible with Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. Without a doubt my favourite UK album of 2021.
Taking the train across the Channel to Europe, we find ourselves with Paradigmes by La Femme on the radio. A bit disappointed with this, I think? It felt a bit flatter than earlier work, but still worthy of a mention here. A longer trip to the antipodes and we have Courtney Barnett‘s Things Take Time, Take Time. Beautiful work, but again… I found it difficult to connect with it as well as previous albums. Lorde‘s Solar Power, however, is smooth and eloquent and a welcome listen any time of the day.
A final trip across the Pacific, brings us to The Americas, with plenty of noteworthy albums to consider. Let’s start in Montreal with Godspeed You! Black Emperor and G_d’s Pee At States End! It’s dark, it’s moody, it’s wonderful. Billie Eilish released the wildly anticipated Happier Than Ever, which was excellent, but admittedly not completely up my alley. St. Vincent, whom I have a lifelong crush on, reinvented her musical style once again with the disco-vibed Daddy’s Home and The Black Keys went all delta blues with Delta Kream. Neither was exceptional, I thought, but I was happy to find comfort in the familiarity of the voicing. Matt Sweeney & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy brought us Superwolves and Cassandra Jenkins An Overview On Phenomenal Nature; each beautifully and, at times, painfully honest. Twenty-two-year-old Audrey Nuna gave us a liquid breakfast, which is an incredible debut and Jon Batiste, not quite at the opposite end of the age spectrum, WE ARE, which is full of style and great orchestration.
Before closing with my highlights of the year, I want to mention two reissues. Sharon Van Etten‘s reissue of her 2010 album Ten becomes epic Ten and includes covers of all of the original songs from some great artists; still the best song remains her own A Crime. It’s hard to believe that it’s more than 20 years since The Avalanches‘ Since I Left You, but I’m happy it gave me a chance to rediscover its magic.
So, perhaps to nobody’s surprise, the high points of my listening experience from 2021 were, in chronological order:
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis‘ CARNAGE. What beauty and sorrow these wonderful people are capable of distilling into their art. I’m ever so grateful for the company they’ve kept me and the feelings they’ve stirred in me.
Lana Del Rey‘s Chemtrails over the Country Club and Blue Banisters. There’s nothing to add to this. It’s Lana doing what she does best and I loved all of it.
So, there you have it. What tickled your earbuds this year?