This album has a lot of attitude, which it should given Kesha’s well-publicized legal battles. It’s fundamentally a pop album, with rock and country providing a gritty sheen.
ZZ Top, Afterburner
Eliminator has the bigger hits, but Afterburner is the better album.
Prefab Sprout, Two Wheels Good (a.k.a Steve McQueen)
Prefab Sprout is one of those bands about whom I knew without actually hearing their music. So it was nice to discover they fell somewhere between Yaz and ABC in their pursuit of a jazzy new wave sound.
TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain
I didn’t get TV on the Radio at first. The few excerpts I heard seemed unfocused and tuneless. But I picked up their albums from thrift shop to see if I could eventually understand. By then, I had listened to more hip-hop and R&B and realized the band is Black af. A decade and a half ago, my rockist collection had little room for Black voices.
Aceyalone, All Balls Don’t Bounce
I confess to sacrilege — I didn’t pay attention to the lyrics on this album. The beats are too damn distracting.
The National, Trouble Will Find Me
The National is one of those bands I like, but I would not consider myself a fan. I would seem demographically suited to be one, given the rest of my collection, but I just haven’t been convinced enough to jump in two-footed. But I do like Boxer and this album.
The Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin Companion, July 21
The vinyl version of this early promotional compilation was released as part of Record Store Day Drops in June 2021.
Drive-By Truckers, Plan 9 Records, July 13, 2006, Aug. 6
This live set is a scorcher. The full performance was released as part of Record Store Day Black Friday 2020.
Art of Noise, Noise in the City: Live in Tokyo 1986, Aug. 13
When the Art of Noise visited Japan in 2017 for a series of concerts, they discovered a concert from 1986 had been recorded for a radio broadcast. That concert is getting a limited release on vinyl and CD.
Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, Ramble in Music City: The Lost Concert, Sept. 3
Unlike the shows recorded at the Ryman Auditorium, the set list for this lost concert consists mostly of Emmylou Harris’ long time hits.
Metallica, Metallica (Deluxe Edition), Sept. 10
For the longest time, the self-titled Metallica album was the only Metallica album I owned. While I have filled out my collection with the albums leading up to the black album, I have nothing beyond S&M.
Jeremy Denk, Mozart: Piano Concertos, Sept. 17
Sure, I’ll listen to Denk perform the K. 482, i.e. Concerto No. 22 in D Minor.
Sugababes, One Love (Deluxe Edition), Oct. 1
I’m not sure if the album on the whole is really that great, but “Overload” is one of the finest singles to come out of the early 2000s.
Enigma, MCMXC a.D., June 23
If you missed out on the colored vinyl reissues from 2018, Universal Music Germany is repressing this album and 7 others, remastered audio and all.
On May 10, 2021, I received the second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. I had an appointment to get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, but on the day I was to drive 20 miles to get it, distribution of the vaccine was paused.
After weeks of wondering when I’d be eligible to get a vaccine, followed by another few weeks of battling for an appointment, I had little mental energy left to do anything but work and practice for my music lessons.
Record Store Day Drops happened, and I was actually dreading it. A large music shop in my neighborhood closed permanently, and I haven’t eulogized it yet.
After a year and change of a pandemic that is nowhere near close to ending, I haven’t put much energy into listening to music of the current year. I visit the thrift shops every week to discover the past, but the present has no allure for me.
TL;DR: I don’t have much to offer for this half-year list.
The one release to which I’ve listened with any consistency contains remixes of a song released more than a decade ago. I’ve been distracting myself with so much YouTube and violin practice that I have a backlog of unopened vinyl, including titles I bought on Record Store Day.
I hope the second half of the year is kinder than the last year and a half.
Here are my favorites of 2021, what few I could find.
Utada Hikaru, One Last Kiss EP: I haven’t cottoned to an Utada song this hard since “Be My Last”, and all the incarnations of “Beautiful World” on this EP makes a strong argument that it too is one of her strongest songs.
Anton Reicha, Reicha Rediscovered (Ivan Ilić): Reicha is pretty obsessive about interrogating the theme of L’Art de varier (The Art of Variation) to the point it’s almost maddening. But maybe that’s the point.
Yo Majesty, Return of the Matriarch: Earlier this year, I had a hankering to hear “Club Action” by Yo Majesty, though I had sold my copy of Futuristically Speaking … Never Be Afraid when cash got tight. So it was a bit of serendipity to learn the duo reunited to release Return of the Matriarch.
Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, Thanks for Coming: I actually don’t think this album is as good as it could have been. The trio’s self-titled debut EP is actually stronger, but it has enough attitude that I can’t completely dismiss it.
The older I get, the more I find music from the past I hadn’t yet discovered more interesting than the new.
Riz Ahmed, The Long Goodbye: Wow, a breakup record with an entire country. Amazing.
Laurie Anderson, Big Science: Oh, so that’s why Laurie Anderson is a BFD.
Kelela, Take Me Apart: I find indie R&B way more interesting than indie rock these days.
The Fixx, Reach the Beach: File under: an album I would have owned a long time ago if only I learned who sang those songs at the time I first heard them.
Linda Ronstadt, Mad Love: I’ve read the success of Mad Love allowed Ronstadt to record more adventurous albums, which makes me wonder what would have happened if she had done another new wave album.