Another year in isolation is good for only one thing: creative output. Indeed, any artist with access to a four track has amplified musical production over the past 21 months. Fewer shows, cancellations, the loss of elder songwriters, more zoom interviews and videos made at home. Grab a cup of coffee and your acoustic guitar.... it's time to channel your inner Bon Iver.
2021 brought us the return of Bleachers, an homage to 80's pop and Bruce Springsteen. Little Jackie also produced every upstart pop star's record in 2021. Perhaps no one made a more apt quarantine record than Bo Burnham, full of mockery but astutely precise in reflection of this bitter sweet shitty time. Damien Jurado remained prolific (and sad). Dinosaur Jr returned to form never lost. Drake sucks, Ye rules! Nada Surf snuck in some nice little songs for the lovers. RADIOHEAD Tay Tay Tyler War on Drugs & Weezer.
Maybe you saw a show or two and maybe some shows got rescheduled for 2025 or maybe your favorite artist died or maybe someone you loved became a COVID denier and sued a lady for $11. Strange days are these.
May the new year find you under a tree covered by headphones, poolside with the radio on high or rocking out in your car.
Here are the top 5 albums of 2021:
"I don't hate you, it's worse than that"
Break ups bring us some wonderfully insightful music. Our narrator's heart hurts which reveals itself through sorrow and more than a few FU's. The crescendo on "Man in Me" is an emotional rollercoaster that will evoke tears and heart palpitations all at once. These reflections are drenched in remorse with an undertow of hope. They leave us with a feeling that having gone through hell might get us a step closer to heaven (unsure if any of it exists at all). Isn't this a perfect sign of our times?
"There's a reason why I'm still living here though I can't think of it right now"
Lord Huron has consistently delivered quality song writing layered in acoustic strums and slide guitar shimmer. This record fades in on a scene of a ghost town littered with broken dreams and time gone too quickly. Each song invoking the years past with a nod more than a shake of the head. A long winding adventure through a myriad of emotions sonically present and distant in thought.
"Is it insensitive for me to say 'get your shit together', so I can love you"
Few have been as prolific as Aaron Dessner & Justin Vernon in recent time. From their recreation of Tay Tay's catalogue with a more sparse indie flare, to the extensive side projects, the production support and their primary projects; these humble kings just keep their head down and let the music speak for them. If only that was a sign of our times. Invite Anais Mitchell, Sharon Van Etten, Fleet Foxes, Tay Tay herself and slew of others to the party and you have a collection of songs that occupy an individual space. All songs underpinned by Aaron's piano and Justin's ability to compliment others with his vocal accompaniment.
"Parents wept through daddy's girl eulogies and merit badge milestones"
You won't see this one on many year end lists. People expect The Killers to blast them with 80's vibe bangers not a forlorn concept album about an opioid ravaged small town. Brandon Flowers narrates a place stuck in time; parents seeking solace in bars absent of factory work while their children over-dose on a daily basis. High School heroes living in tents off the lone highway, the way out visible but too far to fathom. Another day, another fix in a barbwire town with barbwire dreams. Lights won't illuminate the dance floor, more so, a fading hue with little light at the end of the tunnel.
"He hadn't seen you since the fifth grade now you're 19 and you're 5'8"
If 2020 was the year of Phoebe Bridgers, 2021 is the year of Lucy Dacus. The Boy Genius collective dominating the pandemic with home recordings that offer life shattering lyrics delivered in perfect pitch (the dichotomy alerting of present day confusion). "Hot & Heavy" brings our narrator back to the discomfort of lost love. "Brando" is a triumphant kiss off to someone seeking to mold a friend into someone they wish not to be (a misconception of cool, waived). "Thumbs" may be the most brutally revealing song ever written. Every track on this record is perfect in it's vulnerability while remaining self-aware. A triumph of the human spirit carrying us where ever we might be headed.
Until next year.... Thank You for Listening!