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A Tiny 2021 “Best-Of” List

Here are are at the end of 2021 with no end to the pandemic in sight. Despite the trying times, people have been really creative in terms of finding ways to create entertainment! Movies have been released, some concerts (and festivals!) managed to take place, and a few artists have found inspiration and released some great new music! Some artists, however, have released… well… just music. No need for adjectives. It’s just kind-of “there”. Blah.

2021 was a strange year for music! Aside from numerous delays in getting records into our hot little hands, there have been some notable returns to the charts… most notably Adele and ABBA! Who would have believed that ABBA would release a new album in 2021? And it’s not half bad, either! It took them 40 years to get around to it, and for the most part it was worth the wait. Adele, on the other hand, only waited six years between albums. Maybe she should have taken a little longer and come up with something more interesting?

The production delays are really a drag this year. Add to that the chaos of the Covid-19 lockdowns and “stay-at-home” orders and its a wonder anyone had any new music to listen to as we all go back into lockdown for the holidays. Oh yeah: and the entire world is also impacted by major shipping disruptions and chaos because everyone is shopping on-line. Good God. No wonder streaming services are laughing all the way to the bank.

Remember last year, when I did a little “best of” list for 2020, I mentioned that I was excited for the new album from Marina? The first single dropped 2020, the CD was finally released in June 2021, but due to vinyl production delays the vinyl release has been pushed back until February 2022. It’s completely nuts. On a lighter note, I’m not too anxious about it. I’ve already pre-ordered the album and it’ll get here when it gets here.

If I were to sum up my musical tastes in 2021 with a single adjective, I think it would be soothing. I’ve noticed that, as I was attempting to make the attached Spotify playlist, I was tending towards songs that were soothing, calming, relaxing. I very quickly and easily embraced any music that felt like a hug, LOL. Don’t get me wrong, they are nearly all upbeat and up-tempo tracks (you know me: no slow songs ever!) but they all have a kind of “chill” vibe to them, despite the speed with which some of them are presented. Perhaps this is a reflection of the general stress of Covid in 2021? Or maybe it’s just because I was listening to some reggae earlier this morning? Hahaha! Let’s not over think things! 😉

Without further ado, here is my humble list of new releases from 2021 that made an impression (good or bad).

Honorable Mentions:

  1. You Said Strange “Thousand Shadows Vol. 1” Although technically released in 2021 (digital files dropped via Bandcamp on Dec 3, 2021) I haven’t gotten my hands on the vinyl yet, so it’s not on the year-end list, despite being easily 4½stars! My gorgeous red vinyl is on the way, but unfortunately it won’t arrive until January. It’s being co-released by two indie companies. I got the red vinyl edition from EXAG Records HERE and there is also a pre-order for white vinyl from Le Cèpe Records HERE if you like white vinyl (which I don’t). Both companies are also offering a standard black version. I have listened to the FLAC, and the album is awesome! I have the first single, Mourning Colors, on limited edition vinyl via my beloved Six Tonnes de Chair records in France (you can check out the super limited pressing of this single HERE) . Its has been on high rotation here and the exclusive B-side is a treat as well!
  2. Amusement Parks on Fire “An Archaea” I reviewed this album earlier in the year. I’ve really enjoyed this one. It’s an amazingly complex, noisy album (see my review HERE) but the vinyl has been delayed until next year, so it’s not on my year-end list despite also being a 4½ star album. You can order the CD or vinyl HERE!

Here is out list of new releases that we bought this year. The lists are in alphabetical order, by the way, not by preference! They are too disparate to actually choose which ones we prefer! Scroll down to the end of this post to check out a Spotify playlist that features some of our favourite tracks from each of these releases!

FIVE STARS: (albums we can listen to from beginning to end over and over ad nauseum, never skipping more than skip 1 song). This was not the best year for music, was it? There were no albums that I rated 5 stars. Not. A. Single. ALBUM. The only thing I rated 5 stars this year was this little indie-released 7″… which I absolutely LOVE!

  1. You Said Strange Mourning Colors (Six Tonnes de Chair, Psychedelic, limited edition 7″)

FOUR and a HALF STARS: (Albums we can listen to from start to finish but a few songs are a bit weak, but we likely skip at least 1 songs each time)

  1. Beachy HeadBeachy Head“, (Graveface) Shoegaze, 4½ stars
  2. Curtis HardingIf Words Were Flowers“, (Anti- Records) Soul/R&B, 4½ stars (We reviewed this HERE)
  3. Duran DuranFuture Past“, (BMG) Pop, 4½ stars
  4. FawningIllusions of Control, (Graveface) Dreampop, 4½ stars (We reviewed this HERE)
  5. Holy MonitorSouthern Lights“, (Blackspin) Krautrock/Psychedelic, 4½ stars
  6. Ladyhawke “Time Flies”, (BMG) New Wave/Pop, 4½ stars
  7. The MissionCollected” (Music on Vinyl/UMG), Alternative, 4½ stars
  8. Wailing SoulsBack A Yard“, (Greensleeves/VP Records) Reggae, 4½ stars

FOUR STARS: (Albums we can listen to all the way through, but we regularly skip more than 1 or 2 tracks)

  1. ABBAVoyage“, (Universal) Pop, 4 stars
  2. MotoramaBefore the Road“, (I’m Home Records) Post Punk, 4stars (We did a feature on Motorama HERE)
  3. Mt. Mountain “Centre”, (Fuzz Club) Psychedelic, 4 stars
  4. SaccadesFlowing Fades“, (Fuzz Club) New Wave/Psychedelic, 4 stars
  5. Various ArtistsThe Reverb Conspiracy Vol. 7“, (Fuzz Club) Psychedelic, 4 stars

Singles and EPs That we thought were strong releases and definitely worth having:

  1. Warm Drag “Butch Things”, 2-track 7″ single (Six Tonnes De Chair Records) Indie Rock, 4½ stars
  2. BlueboyJohn Peel Sessions 3.12.94” (2×7″), (Precious/Optic Nerve) Indie Pop, 4½ stars

JUST NOT OUR UP OF TEA: (Album we listened to when they arrived and just did NOT like… surprisingly, this year’s list is chock full of big names)

  • Mylene FarmerHistoires de Mylene”, (Stuffed Monkey/Sony France) Pop. There is really no excuse for a 5LP box set full of hits to be this boring. 3½ stars
  • Adele30“, (Columbia) Pop/Jazz. I dunno… listening to her crying to her therapist isn’t really my idea of a good time. I get it, I empathize and commend her for her bravery but I just don’t want to listen to it for pleasure. Out of 12 tracks I only rated 2 above 3½stars. I’m not disparaging her talent… the music was just bland and unexciting. 3½ stars
  • Saint EtienneI’ve Been Trying to Tell You” (Heavenly). Pop. Seriously WTF? Nothing of any interest on this bland, sleepy album of mostly instrumental-lite soundtrack music. Even lead vocalist Sarah Cracknell sounds bored on lead single “Pond House”, which is possibly the only song on the album that I actually liked, though there’s not much to it lyrically or musically. Perhaps this was a case of bad marketing? The album was being touted as a pop album and a return to form. It’s not. 2½ stars
  • Lumerians “Fuzz Club Sessions” Dishonorable mention #1 Oh man. I actually like Lumerians. I was really looking forward to this. Sadly, when it arrived I was treated to 4 tracks of long drawn out noisy chaotic nothing.
  • Skeletal Family “The Singles Plus 1983-85” Dishonorable mention #2 In the last 12 months, this is the second album I have gotten that is a retrospective of a “Goth” band. I’m not enjoying this trend. I’m not against Goth per-sey, but this is pretty dire. I can see the appeal if you were a teenager when it first came out, but I don’t think it’s particularly interesting to someone discovering it for the first time as an adult. What can I say? Every now and then, record club subscriptions fail you massively. (FYI: The other terrible collection was And Also the Trees.)

The 2021 album that I listened to most this year was definitely Duran Duran‘s “Present Tense“. Honestly can’t recommend it enough. I had such a good time listening to this album. With the exception of one or two tracks, I’ve often had the album on repeat during workouts. The CD contains a couple of bonus tracks that are not on the LP, and to be honest, these are usually the tracks I skip when listening via Spotify. The album sounds modern, but will transport you back to 1984 immediately (that bass! Those synths!!). Simon LeBon is in fine form, and the band is tight as hell. Do yourself a favor and give it a spin.

What about you? Has anything really been on high rotation at your house this year? Were there any albums that you particularly enjoyed? Did you agree with any of our picks? Did you disagree? Please let us know by leaving a comment below. Nothing makes me happier than a decent comment. 😉

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