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.
Duran Duran makes it a point to make each album sound distinctive, but that’s often meant the band would run away from the fundamentals which made them famous. FUTURE PAST, as the title indicates, finds the band embracing its past while still facing forward. Generations of bands in their wake is proof enough they were onto something enduring.
Adam Neely said his goal was to be the Neil deGrasse Tyson of music theory education, and I say, he already is. But he can also write. If you had to file Perihelion in a section of a record store, jazz would be as a good a fit as any, but it wouldn’t be a complete descriptor of what Neely and drummer Shawn Crowder do.
Sugababes, One Touch (Deluxe Edition)
One Touch has grown on me over the last year, and the previously unreleased demos on this deluxe edition would have fit well on the album proper. I didn’t even mind the remixes on the second disc.
Spandau Ballet, True
I picked up this album on vinyl a long time ago, but I hadn’t really listened to it since. So I gave it a few plays on Spotify and grew to like it enough to want it on CD.
ZARD, BEST ~Request Memorial~
ZARD has always existed on the periphery of my Japanese music fandom. I had a sense they would be too mainstream J-Pop for me. This compilation showed up in the thrift store, and yes, it’s quite mainstream J-pop but not cloyingly so.
I couldn’t really get into Billie Eilish’s second album, but I really like the one her brother made.
Mikami reset her post-fra-foa solo career in 2018 with a second debut album, confidently titled I AM Ready! This album looks like a continuation of its predecessor’s brighter sound.
Kronos Quartet, Long Time Passing, Oct. 9
Subtitled “Kronos Quartet and Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger”, this album looks like a follow-up to 2017’s Folk Songs, with fewer Nonesuch label mates collaborating.
Tears for Fears, The Seeds of Love (Deluxe Edition), Oct. 9
This album didn’t take off in the same manner as Songs from the Big Chair, but I liked it nonetheless. The 4-disc super deluxe edition is tempting, but I’m fine with the 2-disc version. I don’t need the vinyl reissue because I bought it the first time around.
Sam Amidon, Sam Amidon, Oct. 23
Amidon returns to mostly traditional material on this self-titled album, described as “the fullest realization to date of his artistic vision.”
Mr. Bungle, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo, Oct. 30
Mr. Bungle goes back in time to re-record their first demo tape.
U2, All That You Can’t Leave Behind (Deluxe Edition), Oct, 30
I really liked this album when it came out, mostly because Pop was insufferable. I revisited it with the vinyl reissue and found it doesn’t age well. I will probably still get some version of this deluxe edition.
Duran Duran featuring Andy Wicket, Dreaming of Your Cars: 1979 Demos Pt. 2, Oct. 30
The first set of demos with Andy Wickett on vocals featured embryonic versions of what would become Duran Duran canon. On this follow-up, “Tel Aviv” is the only recognizable title, which doesn’t mean it sounds remotely familiar. Colored vinyl is already available for order, but a CD release is slated for October.
Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball, Oct. 16
The deluxe edition of Wrecking Ball was released during Record Store Day. This reissue serves up just the album and is available as part of Rhino’s Rocktober series.
Peter Gabriel, Secret World Live, Nov. 6
I couldn’t make the leap of following Paula Cole’s solo career, but her backing vocals on this live album is the real highlight