Thursday 30 December 2021

My albums of the year (2021)

It’s been a long time coming but it’s that time again, folks… I’m sneaking my albums of the year post out *just* before the new year. My diary is already filling up with upcoming albums from the likes of Wet Leg, Gang of Youths, MICHELLE, Orlando Weeks and Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard but for now, I’ve been reflecting on the records that I’ve spent the past 12 months with. The albums that have filled me with joy, made me cry, brought me to tears and been a comfort in this crazy year. A completely self-indulgent list of my favourite records of the year, which I hope that you’ll love too - there’s a little bit of something for everyone here.

After highlighting 40 (!) albums last year across 6 (!) posts (entirely thanks to the free time furlough gave me…) things are a little bit more reserved this year - a ramble about my top 5 albums, followed by a list of 20 more albums (in release order) that have moved me in some way this year.

Without further ado, my albums of the year… and don’t they look lovely?!

1. The Staves - Good Woman (buy/stream)

Since it was released back in February, there has been very little doubt in my mind about my favourite album of the year. Sure, it had a bit of a head-start on most of the other records on the list, but Good Woman immediately burrowed itself firmly into my heart, and has been stuck there, and in my headphones, ever since. The record was (Spotify informs me, as well as my record player) my most-listened to of the year, and The Staves my most listened to artist. Their Nottingham gig in October was my first show back since before the first lockdown - they've really been the soundtrack to 2021 for me. 

As always, there is something utterly transformative about those sisterly harmonies - pure magic. I've loved their previous work but this record really spoke to me, just a trio of good good women being the best. They've also got a pretty ace team around them on this record. Good humans all round. 

Favourite tracks: Best Friend, Good Woman & Failure (but genuinely all of it) 

2. Johnny Flynn & Robert Macfarlane - Lost in the Cedar Wood (buy/stream)

In the past couple of years, my interest in and love for the natural world has increased dramatically, with furlough offering up more time to get into the garden and to go on walks locally. As my curiosity has grown, I've been seeking out writing on nature, and was unbelievably excited earlier this year to find that one of our best natural history writers, the great Robert Macfarlane, was releasing an album with one of my favourite folk artists, Johnny Flynn. A masterpiece waiting to happen, surely. 

As I expected, the pair did not disappoint - Lost in the Cedar Wood is something to treasure and an album I will love for years to come. It arrived at exactly the time I needed it and perhaps could most appreciate it. My favourite line, from Enkidu Walked, describing my experience of the past two years - "the birds have my heart and they won't give it back to me." When two brilliant writers come together to make art it was never really in doubt that it would be something truly special... 

Favourite tracks: The World To Come, Bonedigger, Home and Dry & Ten Degrees Of Strange.

3. The Vaccines - Back In Love City (buy/stream)

It truly is the year of The Vaccines, right? While every social media post that I've attempted to do about this album has tested my patience in trying to tag several health organisations before I can find the band, I've spent a lot of time loving their new record this year. In fact, when Back In Love City was released back in September I listened to little else for a few weeks. Soundtracking my bus journeys to and from work, I was finding something else to love with each listen. Back to back listens of the record confirmed what I already knew - they're one of my favourite bands and I have a lot of love for this record. This live performance of Paranormal Romance with an orchestra is one of my favourite live videos of the year.  

Favourite tracks: Wanderlust, Jump Off The Top, Back In Love City & Paranormal Romance

4. Tom Rosenthal - Denis Was A Bird (buy/stream)

Now for the album that has probably made me cry most this year. The latest from Tom Rosenthal isn't quite the upbeat and quirky music that you might expect from him, but this record is stunning. The album looks back on the passing of his father, taking on various guises - at once mournful, reflective, beautifully nostalgic and full of pure joy. It's clearly a really personal record for Tom, but arrived at precisely the right time for me - a week or two after I lost my nan a few months ago. Music helps me to navigate situations and this record will always make me think of her, and it brought me a lot of comfort this year. The video below will probably make you cry, but is a beautiful watch. 

Favourite tracks: I Went To Bed and I Loved You, Little Joys & Not A Catastrophe

5. Self Esteem - Prioritise Pleasure (buy / stream )

Would it be an album of the year list if this one wasn't on it?! You probably don't need me to tell you how brilliant Prioritise Pleasure by Self Esteem is, but I will anyway. The singles were all pointing towards it being a great album, but I don't think I was prepared to love it quite as much as I do. Fucking Wizardry is, as I said at the time of release, a fucking bop. The record is undoubtedly an instant modern classic, and fully deserving of all the end of year lists and praise that it is receiving. Rebecca is a true force of nature.

Favourite tracks: I Do This All The Time, Fucking Wizardry Prioritise Pleasure

Arlo Parks - Collapsed In Sunbeams
Django Django - Glowing in the Dark
Flyte - This Is Really Going To Hurt
Low Island - If You Could Have It All Again
Billie Marten - Flora Fauna
Fryars - God Melodies
Merpire - Simulation Ride
Maja Lena - The Keeper
LUMP - Animal
Villagers - Fever Dreams
Big Red Machine - How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?
Liz Lawrence - The Avalanche
MarthaGunn - Something Good Will Happen
CHILDCARE - Busy Busy People
Public Service Broadcasting - Bright Magic
Bess Atwell Already, Always
Ada Lea - one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden
Sam Fender - Seventeen Going Under
Voka Gentle - WRITHING!
Fleet Foxes - A Very Lonely Solstice

Well done (and thanks!) for making it this far... if you like what I do here on cool music and things, a friendly reminder that I have a Ko-fi page here where you can show the blog some support!

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