Always remember: work is a means to an end. The things that are not work are the most important things in life. For me, music is one of those things. I like the challenge of distilling a year’s worth of music into six favorite albums. I believe that 2021 was not a great year for music; as Sting recently shared, there has been too much music that wants to remind us of our problems without offering us solutions. Here is some music that tried.
1. Pinegrove – Amperland, NY
Taylor Swift is not the only artist this year to re-imagine earlier material to great effect. Ostensibly a soundtrack, this is really a greatest hits collection — with all tracks recorded and revisited — from a truly great band that wanted to give us all a lift with their melodies and messages.
2. Idles – Crawler
Idles make this list two years in a row. When punk bands are at their most vital, they produce volumes of great work in quick succession. This is a worthy contender for any album of the year list.
3. The Weather Station – Ignorance
Of all of the music that was released this year, this album probably has the best chance to be lovingly remembered. It is a masterpiece of music in the Laurel Canyon tradition, in a year that saw Joni Mitchell win a Kennedy Center honor as well as a year that sorely needed music to help us heal. This album will do that. Bravo.
4. Sturgill Simpson – The Ballad Of Dood & Juanita
I’m one of those folks who feel that Sturgill Simpson rescued country music from the Insinkerator. This is a brilliant album, with Willie Nelson along for the ride. But my favorite track is Sam. I suspect it might become yours as well. It’s one of the finest songs released this year.
5. Abba – Voyage
Is this Abba’s best album? No. Does it matter? Absolutely not. Voyage was a gift of melody — a warm embrace, really — to a world that needed it, and it couldn’t have been better timed. The two lead singles got all the headlines, but there is more depth to the record than those. Here’s another superb song that you might have missed if you haven’t already listened deeper:
6. Wet Leg – Chaise Longue
Technically Chaise Longue isn’t out yet, so I suspect you might see this record on the 2022 list if the rest of it as good as the four tracks that have already been released. If you miss music that is not only catchy, but that will make you smirk (think Devo or the B-52’s), then I suspect this record will bring a smile to your face. The world needs a lot more music that can make us smile. Here’s to 2022. Cheers!
Happy holidays to you and yours!
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