Albums of 2021, what were the finest?

December 15th, 2021

Keeping up a well trodden tradition of one blog post a year here it is, my favourite albums of 2021. It’s been an interesting year for albums. I don’t know whether a lot had been stored up through 2020 because of the pandemic but it seemed like there was a constant stream throughout this year. Some good, some pretty bad. But this post isn’t bothered about the bad things.

As always I’ve kept a record of my favourite songs from albums released this year. You can listen to my playlist here. It’s an eclectic mess of a playlist but that’s my thing.

So, here we go. In reverse order my favourite ten albums of 2021.

10 – Hannah Peel Fir Wave
If you like ambient soundscapes then you’re going to like Fir Wave. The whole album is an interpretation of Delia Derbyshire’s work with the BBC Radiophonic workshop. There has been quite few things this year to mark the twentieth anniversary of Delia Derbyshire’s death, not least the excellent BBC documentary The Myths and the Legendary Tapes. But this album stands out as a great tribute in that it takes the music even further.

9 – Bachelor (Jay Som & Palehound)Doomin’ Sun
If you’ve followed my albums of the year lists before then you might have a vague recollection that I think Jay Som is one of greatest guitarists in the world. This collaboration with Palehound is excellent. Really heartfelt songs which are catchy. You can’t ask for more than that. Stay In The Car particularly has a lot of the 90s about it. It’s good, go and listen to it.

8 – Mdou MoctarAfrique Victime
Mdou Moctar is often described as the Hendrix of the Sahel. I reckon that’s because he plays the guitar and people can’t think of any other guitarists. He doesn’t sound anything like Hendrix. I reckon the more familiar Tinariwen have done loads to promote music from the Sahara to European audiences and Mdou Moctar sounds similar. But he is from Nigeria and I have no idea if he considers his music to come from the same genre. He’s coming to Birmingham next year and I’m going to see him.

7 – Magdalena BayMercurial World
This was a late addition to my albums of the year. I noticed it in a load of albums of the year lists but hadn’t actually heard of them. It’s really good. At first listen it comes across as lightweight synth pop but there are little bits in there where you can tell they’re trying to inject a bit of tension that shouldn’t be there.

6 – Kaidi TathamAn Insight To All Minds
I had no idea who Kaidi Tatham was until I went to see Nubya Garcia in November. She was really enthusiastic about her recent remix album, which is fair enough, it’s good. She played Kaidi Tatham’s version of La cumbia me está llamando and I thought I’d make the effort to find out who he is. Apparently some people know him as the UK’s Herbie Hancock. It seems a bit reductive but this album is epic, and yeah, it does have a lot of Herbie Hancock in it.

5 – Theon CrossIntra-I
What do you get if you mix the tuba, jazz and hip-hop? Intra-I, basically. Theon Cross is an ever present part of London based jazz. He’s a member of Sons of Kemet, he appears on albums by Nubya Garcia, Kano, Moses Boyd and Emeli Sande. He’s everywhere. His second solo album is easily one of the best albums of the year. It’s undeniably a jazz album but covers so many different genres that just aren’t jazz, you would barely notice.

4 – SquidBright Green Field
I’ve been waiting for Squid’s first album for two years. Ever since I didn’t go and see them at Future Days back in 2018. people have told me in too much detail what I missed. I don’t really know what post punk means. Shouting? It’s a bit shouty, but pleasantly shouty.

3 – LowHey What
Over the years I’ve never really been sure how I feel about Low. That’s not strictly true. Generally I’ve found them a bit dull. This album is a notable journey into lo-fi Americana, a relentless listen and not at all dull. This would have been a strong contender for my album of the year but it’s been a busy year.

2 – Dry CleaningNew Long Leg
I love Dry Cleaning. Florence Shaw’s observations on life are just funny and relatable. They’re not a million miles away from the Sleaford Mods but just much easier to listen to. Rather than relying on fairly standard backing tracks they are a really tight band that in many cases are just going for it behind a woman talking about bouncy balls. This is the content we want.

1 – Little SimzSometimes I Might Be Introvert
In 2019 Little Simz made one of the best albums of the year (Grey Area) but I didn’t really notice it until it was too late to add to my list. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is a very different album. It’s almost cinematic in scale. Not just scale in terms of 19 tracks but also scale in terms of production. Every track just sounds enormous. It’s been a great year for Little Simz. Although she has obviously been held back in touring just seeing how much her tickets go for you can tell she is going to end up being really really famous. She also had Venom used in the soundtrack for Venom: Let There Be Carnage. It might have been the serendipity of having the film name in the title of her song but it was also by far the best part of a terrible film. Ignoring my adhoc film review, go and listen to this album.

That’s my list.

One of things that is also worth mentioning is that 2021 has also been a year of really good remix albums. I mentioned Nubya Garcia’s SOURCE#WEMOVE but there was also GoGo Penguin’s GGP/RMX, Jazz is Dead’s Remixes JID010 and Caribou’s Suddenly Remixes. Are there always a lot of remix albums? I’m not sure whether I include remix albums in my list but there are all worth listening to.

Until next year.


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