I can’t say I expected much from 2021 given how Generation X has turned out to be such dumb fucks, but I didn’t anticipate those expectations should have been lower. If the current trajectory holds, 2022 can already go fuck itself.
At least we got a new ABBA album out of the deal.
ABBA, Voyage: When Frida sang the opening notes of “I Still Have Faith in You,” I hadn’t realized how starved I was to hear that voice, those voices. Voyage also pulls off the remarkable feat of picking up exactly where the band left off in 1982, practically ignoring the musical developments that came in the wake of ABBA’s hiatus. It makes sense for the virtual live show. Why let 2022 intrude on 1982? It’s also remarkable how the band’s lyrics are darker than I remember. But I was 8 years old the first time I was an ABBA fan, so a lot of that subtext would have been lost on me.
Duran Duran, FUTURE PAST: ABBA shows how you can take the past into the present. Duran Duran takes the future into the past. Duran Duran has always tried to run parallel with the contemporary, but on some albums, they skew too heavy on relevancy. (I’m looking at you, Red Carpet Massacre.) With FUTURE PAST, Duran Duran embraces its past self, grounding all the experience of a 4-decade career into the fundamentals that make their signature sound.
Deafheaven, Infinite Granite: Yes, I’m far more into post-rock than heavy metal, so the fact this album embrace more of the former and less of the latter does not disappoint me in the least. Toward the end of the album, we do get treated to the scream vocals.
sungazer, Perihelion: Adam Neely is correct when he says recorded music has been too de-valued to be a reliable income source. As much as I love this sungazer album, I’m not going to complain if the next one takes years to arrive, if it ever does.
Utada Hikaru, One Last Kiss EP: I don’t think I’ve spun an Utada Hikaru song this much since “Be My Last”. I also love that all the remixes of “Beautiful World” are distinctive enough to withstand repeated listening.
Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, Ramble in Music City: The Lost Concert: Glad to hear it’s lost no longer.
Jam and Lewis, Volume 1: There’s a melodic turn at the end of the chorus on “Happily Unhappy” that pretty much encapsulates the longevity of Jam and Lewis. Volume 2 reportedly includes the pair’s biggest collaborator, Janet.
MONO, Pilgrimage of the Soul: I seem to like every other MONO album since Hymn to the Immortal World. Couldn’t get into For My Parents …, The Last Dawn or Now Here Nowhere, but I’m all about Requiem for Hell, Rays of Darkness and this album.
Helmet, Live and Rare: I have only the first three Helmet albums in my collection, but this live album makes me wish I had seen them live.
FINNEAS, Optimist: Sorry, Billie.
Some other favorites from the past year:
Yo Majesty, Return of the Matriarch: Q: Will sex, God, and titties continue to be a part of the Yo! Majesty brand? A: Anything less is uncivilized. It’s time to be free.
Lil Nas X, MONTERO: Given the amount of time I spend in thrift shops, I have a bias against streaming-only releases. For the price Columbia is charging for downloads, I may as well wait for a physical release. I like this album, but downloading FLAC files from Bandcamp is the closest I’ll consider owning a digital release. I’m old that way.
Perfume, Polygon Wave: Yeah, this was really a maxi single. But I couldn’t stop playing this one either.
CZARFACE / MF DOOM, Super What?: To be honest, I don’t own very many MF DOOM albums, but man, that was a 2020 loss that affected me more than I expected.
Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, Thanks for Coming: This album is good, but I have a sense that it could have been phenomenal with a few more tweaks.
I bet the metal fans hate this album. Since I’m more of a post-rock / shoegazer fan, I find it brilliant. Also, gutsy. It takes bravery to risk change that alienates a portion of your fan base.
I sold this album when cash got short, but “Foolish” is one of those songs that just pop into my head for no reason. So on a recent trip to the thrift shop, I welcomed this album back in my collection and discovered how well it’s held up since its release. Yeah, it’s a bit long — as albums of the CD era are wont to do — but the best bits overshadow the filler.
Gang of Four, 77-81
This sprawling boxed set of Gang of Four’s first two albums contains a full live album, an EP of singles and a cassette tape of early demos.
I bought the vinyl version back in March, but I also wanted to pick up the CD boxed set as well. The packaging is stark but beautiful. My only objection is the digital downloads that accompany the CD set. The sides of the digitized cassette are not broken down by track. But I have to admit, that is punk as fuck.
Jam and Lewis, Volume 1
Yeah, it’s about damn time Jam and Lewis took top billing. There are singers of whom I probably would never have heard if they hadn’t worked with Jam and Lewis.
Cyndi Lauper, True Colors
Similar to ZZ Top’s Afterburner, True Colors followed an immensely popular album, and while its predecessor had more hits, this album is the better collection of songs. Despite incredibly corporate covers of the title tracks in subsequent years, the original has some daring arrangement choices, particularly the fake ending with just percussion, an underrated technique in pop production.
Jeff Mangum, Live at Jittery Joe’s
If you are a fan of On Avery Island or In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, there is little you’ll find objectionable on this solo live album.
Camper Van Beethoven / Cracker, The Virgin Years
The compilation was only made available as a promo, but it’s one that ought to get an official release. As the title indicates, it compiles tracks from two Camper Van Beethoven albums and two Cracker albums, all released by Virgin in the late ’80s and early ’90s.