What a year, huh? By the time the earth finishes its latest run around the sun next month, some will cheer while others jeer—and, speaking of and for the latter, how could they not? The New Year’s Eve festivities broadcast on the TV networks are guaranteed to be stocked with lowest-common denominator acts and alleged “artists” who place an emphasis on spectacle, not craftsmanship. If it’s country-themed, the bland brigade will be out in full force. If it’s pop-oriented, well, it will be Autotune hell. It almost makes me yearn for the days of Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians.
My tongue is slightly in my cheek there, obviously.
Between now and then, there’s much to do as it pertains to this blog, including my take on the forthcoming Neil Young and Crazy Horse album and at least one Fogelberg Files entry, not to mention a few Delayed Plays—albums that, for one reason or another, I didn’t spotlight when they were released, but would’ve if I’d had the time and/or were aware of them. Also on tap: my annual Remember December celebration, in which I share my top posts of the year and, more importantly, unveil my much-ballyhooed Album of the Year.
Last year, as those with elephantine memories can attest, I named my top pick this very weekend. This year, however, I’m pushing the ceremony back to mid-December, as that will give me and mine time to book the banquet hall, mail out the invitations, and arrange hotel rooms for the esteemed honorees. (I jest again, folks.)
Anyway, there were many good to great albums released in the first 11 months of the year. I’ve whittled down what was a fairly mammoth list to 20 contenders; these are albums I’ve returned to time and again throughout 2021 and recommend to any- and everyone. (Some may not be household names, but don’t hold that against them; in a better world, they’d be at the top the charts.) In alphabetical order, and with links to my original reviews, they are:
- Jade Bird – Different Kinds of Light
- Jackson Browne – Downhill From Everywhere
- Sara Bug – self-titled
- Elizabeth & the Catapult – sincerely, e.
- Fretland – Could Have Loved You
- Calista Garcia – A Beautiful World
- Charles Wesley Godwin – How the Mighty Fall
- Richard Haswell – With the Changing Light
- Susanna Hoffs – Bright Light
- Natalie Jane Hill – Solely
- Cassandra Jenkins – An Overview on Phenomenal Nature
- Jillette Johnson – It’s a Beautiful Day and I Love You
- Durand Jones & the Indications – Private Space
- Shelby Lynne – The Servant
- Charlie Marie – Ramble On
- Dillon Warnek – Now That It’s Over
- Paul Weller – Fat Pop (Volume 1) Deluxe Edition
- Jane Willow – Burn So Bright
- Joana Serrat – Hardcore From the Heart
- Southern Avenue – Be the Love You Want
A slew of archival releases also perked my ears this year, including ones from the Beatles, Roberta Flack, the Salvation Army, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young. I’ll name the best of them, too.
See ya soon.